I’ve been going to the fair since I was a little kid. Nothing profound there but I have always been somewhat mystified by the experience and I look forward to it every year. It had been a few years since I had been and I was really bummed to miss it last year so I made sure I was up for a trip this time around.
The fair is always different depending on when you go, how often you go, who you go with and how old you are. I used to go a lot and with a variety of people be it friends, family, girl friends and (now ex)wives. There were a few years that my Dad was involved in the tractor pull and I was able to get in for free whenever I wanted. That was always a tough decision for me just out of high school, is getting in for free worth the risk of embarrassment of telling your friends that your Dad is in the tractor pull? Yes it is. Besides, no one ever cared and I was just an asshole post-teen who was still embarrassed by things my parents did. I am glad I am never having kids because I would end up with a conservative young republican kid who thinks that comics and video games are ‘gay’; then when I told him that we don’t use that word to describe things because, in addition to the term being derogatory and offensive, it can not be applied to interests as interests are not animate and cannot have a sexual orientation he would slap me in the face so he could laugh about it with his cheerleader girlfriend.
I went for concerts occasionally too. Some local shows and some bigger acts. I was once almost run over by Ben Folds in a golf cart. Those are the memories you cherish. It is also sort of cool when you are sitting there with a group of people bitching about how long it is taking the next band to come out and then they smile and nod and then get on stage and play their set. Awesome. Moreso when your buddy was unsuccessfully flirting with the hot lead singer who turns out to be married to the guitar player which explains much better why he had spent the last 20 minutes looking really smug and amused.
I’ve also been to the fair for dog shows. I had a girl friend who was in dog shows and we went for that a few times. It is like watching Best In Show on Old McDonald’s farm. Trying to go ride rides afterward becomes a challenge. ‘Hey can you watch my enormous golden retriever while I go down that 50ft slide in a burlap sack?’ Awesome.
Most people go to the fair for rides. I like those too, but I really go for the full experience, the exhibition halls, the crazy shows, the vendors, the people watching, the food and then the rides. I went last night with my girl friend and my best friend and I found the night to be a lot of fun but also sort of muted and understated by way of excitement. I am not sure if it is just that I have been so many times over the years or if it is that I am getting older, or a combination of both or neither but the fair has lost a bit of magic for me and it was not quite as magical of an experience. That I was operating on maybe three hours of sleep probably did not help.
We got there around seven and I wanted to check out the halls and all the display things before hitting up the rides. I also had a list of things I planned to eat which stemmed less from a real desire to eat all those things and more from having listed the things I liked to eat at the fair and it then becoming a challenge.
I got a corn dog right away. I did not get the foot long version because I was trying to pace myself and I wanted to start out slow. I then followed up by tracking down the cart that does the fried desserts. They had a three for 10 special so I got fried oreos, a fried twinkie and a fried moon pie. The twinkie was awesome. When I say awesome I mean like a thing from heaven. The oreos are a bit much and they gave us four. I ate two and my girlfriend ate the other two. The moon pie was awful and I didn’t finish the whole thing. If they had used the banana moon pies I think it would have been different but the chocolate made the whole thing way too rich, which is really saying something when you are talking about something deep fried in hot oil.
We went to the exhibition halls next and looked at the arts and crafts. The items found here always run the gamut from great to god awful. The baked items were horrifying as we are approaching the end of the fair and god only knows how long those things have been sitting out. The apple pies looked more emaciated than Christian Bale in the Machinist. The photo part was really amusing as some of the pieces looked professional and artistic and some looked like they just snapped a shot of their daughter in a sun dress at best and a LOLcatz pic at worst. There isn’t anything wrong with those kinds of pictures, but you should dive into the family album for something to enter into a photo contests in the best of circumstances. When the photo you enter is aging worse than a meth addict you should probably just wait until you have something new for next year.
The exhibition halls really kind of disappointed because I remember seeing them with a certain wild-eyed wonder when I was younger. I am not sure if all the shiny gadgets being pushed by hucksters and the sorts of people you don’t want to leave your children alone with were cooler back in the day or if I just have a better appreciation for the value of a dollar than to waste it on badly hewn homemade clothing or glittery hard plastic 50 Cent and Wutang pendants, but I found the items to be underwhelming even for comedic value. Even the Pro-life booth, which in the past has had video playing and huge posters of aborted fetuses, was low key and sort of respectful. Of course, there were plenty of religious and political booths to be had including the newly minted ‘Teabagging’ movement. I would make a joke about how hilarious it is that people who oppose the rights of homosexuals then use the name of a typically gay activity to describe the nature of their protests but MSNBC has been mining that particular gold for weeks now and the vein is pretty tapped. So I will take the high ground and not conjure any images of these people expressing a desire to dip their man bits into someone else’s mouth. Oops.
The religious groups at the fair really annoy me. I don’t particularly care what religion someone else is. I have my own spiritual beliefs and while I am willing to talk about them with people I don’t think that shouting those beliefs into a PA system is going to do any one any good. I also don’t appreciate being asked if I am going to heaven while I am trying to find a good price on an Indian Taco. When I answered ‘oh sure,’ I didn’t appreciate the follow up to be ‘how do you know?’ I wasn’t upset he didn’t get that I was quoting Bill Murray’s character in Ed Wood when he was getting baptised but I think it is fairly insulting to ask someone something like that. Of course the point is that I am either supposed to fire back an angry ‘how do YOU know?’ which would then lead to prostelatizing for 45 minutes or I am supposed to break into tears and confess that I don’t know an I need him to tell me. Also, he got my attention by referencing my Red Sox shirt. So right there he has answered his own question. Had I been wearing a Yankees shirt, then sure my acceptance into heaven would have been called into question, but as it was the question was just redundant.
So after I realized I didn’t want to spend the amount I make an hour on an Indian Taco, I got a pizza on a stick and a cheeseburger. We stopped by the beer garden so my buddy Jeff could ply himself with alcohol and then it was off to the Midway.
Ride tickets have never been cheap but I am kind of surprised they don’t have a second line for ass raping because they might as well finish the process they started with the ticket prices. We got our tickets, which are put on a handy scan card so you don’t have to fumble with the things while waiting in line and went out to find a ride.
The first ride we went on was pretty basic. It takes you up really high and then drops you really fast. Then you get off and go about your business. It looks and sounds pretty tame unless you are so afraid of heights that you are in serious danger of wetting yourself when on a 10 ft step ladder. I kicked off my shoes because they were slip ons and I have the sort of luck would involve me getting the nickname ‘Left Shoe’ forever more and we were on our way. I have been on this sort of ride before. The scariest was the Big Shot on the top of the Stratosphere in Vegas. That was scare mostly because before the ride started I noticed a helicopter a few hundred feet below us and I realized I had really fucked up. One thing that this ride did differently than the others is that rather than launching you up in the air at mach speeds it just made its way up lackadaisically. This made it much worse because you had a lot of time to see where your body will end up if things go wrong. We reached the apex and Jeff said ‘Now look straight down!’ I suggested that he spend some quality time with himself and his privates and clamped my eyes shut like I was facing down a Nazi firing squad after trying to blow up Hitler. Then we dropped and I screamed like a girl and stopped then screamed again because it took a lot longer to reach the ground that I thought it should. Then it was over and we wandered around to some other rides.
The next ride we went on was the Zipper. This is a perennial favorite at fairs and carnivals all over the country and my girlfriend had never gone on it. The Zipper straps you into cages and spins said cages around while the whole ride spins. There is a lot of spinning. When I was younger I remember the Zipper being tall and imposing. Now it looks like you could probably go ahead and fall off the top of it and not die. Sure you would break something but we aren’t talking about instant and absolutely certain death. I’ve gone on this ride more times than I’ve had years on earth but it was scarier this time. I am not sure if it was because it was my girlfriend’s first time or if I have become some kind of pussy but it was more intense than ever. For Jeff’s part, the third wheel legend reared its ugly head and he was left at the gate having a shouting match with the ride operator regarding the ‘no single riders’ policy. He ultimately went up with an 11 year old boy. We had been pulling for a hot single girl but you take what you can get. Such is the plight of the single rider.
The rest of the rides were sort of a blur because I had to keep my eyes shut for most of them as they had more strobe lights than a questionable basement rave. Standing in line, however, we noticed a disturbing trend. Teenage girls can’t seem to help but to have their titties hanging out. I would normally not be one to complain about the public display of boobs but when said boobs are attached to a 15 year old, I have to respectfully ask they be housed in more modest accommodations. There is nothing worse than looking down at perfect, enormous breasts struggling to burst free from the oppressive confines of their Fall Out Boy T-shirt and then looking up to get a better look at their owners only to find that they belong to someone who was born the year you graduated from high school. I think that if we can’t convince these girls to wear burlap sacks around everywhere then they should at least be required to wear some kind of badge announcing their age. I don’t think it is fair that I have to feel like a pedo every time I see a low cut shirt or shorty shorts.
The fair is an odd place. There is a lot to see and take in and there is a wide variety of people there for a wide variety of reasons. Reflecting on the loss of magic, I looked over and saw a little boy sleeping in a red wagon his parents were pulling around and I remembered what it used to feel like as a kid to go to this glittering place with crazy things and crazy people all around. I remembered the excitement I felt and just how I excited on the drive in when I saw the ferris while shining in the distance. It is easy to get cynnical about this sort of thing when you are paying exorbinate prices for things that you don’t need or might make you throw up or when you are standing in line for a half an hour for maybe a minute’s worth of thrills but there was a time when it was magic and wonderful and I think that is what keeps me going back to the fair. It may just be nostalgia but it is my nostalgia.