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New Times: Box = Tops!

March 03, 2011

Box = tops!
Despite rain, Box City rocks!
March 2nd, 2011


A unicycling fire juggler entertains the damp crowd at Box City, a New Times art event on Miguelito Court that employed five Meathead Movers trucks, each with a different theme.

It’s Friday, Feb. 25, and it’s sort of raining, but I’ve got a couple Pabst Blue Ribbon beers in my pocket and I’ve just arrived at Box City, an event organized by New Times Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach.

Tucked away on a dead-end street in an industrial park, there’s a carnival atmosphere at Box City. People clamber from one themed Meathead Movers van to another.

My first stop is the Japanese teahouse truck, where I kneel on the floor as a kimono-clad Amy Asman, a staff writer for the Sun, our sister paper in Santa Maria, serves me tea and wasabi-coated peanuts. Lit with tiny tea candles and Japanese lanterns, with fresh bamboo shoots decorating the wall, it feels nothing like sitting in a moving van. It would almost feel relaxing—except a guy in a gorilla suit wearing an orange safety vest is sitting across from me, glaring.


A Japanese teahouse served traditional green tea and wasabi-coated peanuts.

“You guys couldn’t find a panda costume, huh?” I ask.

“We gave up on pandas,” grunts the gorilla, whose name is Bo.

I finish my tea and saunter over to another truck filled with Cal Poly wrestlers, as well as Meathead Movers co-owner Aaron Steed.


Cal Poly wrestlers provided sports action with wrestling demos thoughout the event.

“Hmm. It’s starting to smell like a gym in here,” I say as a couple of grapplers go at it, slamming each other against the padded floor of the van.

“And yes, we do have insurance,” quips Aaron as one of the wrestlers careens off the wall after a particularly hard takedown.

I get to the collaborative art truck just in time to see Julian Smalls stringing colorful Christmas lights, and I’m there when he adds the last string, blowing the fuse as the truck goes dark. Even so, I jump up into the truck, grab a paintbrush, and attack the virgin canvases tacked to the van walls. By the end of the night, I imagine my contribution will be wholly obscured by subsequent “artists,” but for now my mark remains.


SLO native Julian Smalls ran the San Luis Art Supply-sponsored collaborative art truck, where attendees were invited to co-paint two large canvases.

Off I go to the movie truck, which is screening Barbarella, the 1968 Jane Fonda cult classic. The popcorn maker is shooting sparks, threatening to burn the joint down, so I hop out and head to the KCPR dance party truck, which is really thumping.


A small but enthusiastic throng of revelers gets its groove on in KCPR’s dance party truck.

Too crowded!

I’m just wandering around when I see New Times photographer Steve Miller telling Schwellenbach she should have parked the trucks downtown.

“It can’t be downtown,” she says. “The idea is you find this weird, totally cool fucking thing in an out-of-the-way place. We want an event that’s off the grid. This is cool! If only 10 people show up, then 10 people get to experience a really cool fucking thing.”

She’s such a potty mouth! But she’s right. Part of what makes Box City cool is that it requires some effort, but the payoff is awesome. I mean, come on! Did you see a fire-juggling unicyclist on Friday? I didn’t think so.

There are two more Box City events: March 25 and April 1. Watch New Times for details and then be prepared for something super awesome!

Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Keep up with him via twitter at, friend him at, or contact him at

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