Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Having a Fair Time.

"Mom, can we go on the rides now?"

" a little while. We're going to the craft pavilion first. Your dad wants to see the model airplanes and bottle cap collections and I want to look at the quilts."

"Then can we go on the rides?"

"Well, then we're going to look at those precious baby farm animals."

"Geez, Mom. How about after that?"

"Well, hon, after that, we'll probably get a corn dog, wait in a long line for scones and then watch the demonstration of Ginsu knives that can slice through a condominium and those wonderful insoles which make you feel like you're walking on a cloud of silky tapioca."

"And then?"

"And then we'll get free hearing tests and shopping bags and then I suppose you can go on the rides...but only Kiddie Land."

Was that a strangers' discussion I happened to overhear? Was it dialogue between my wife and one of our daughters?

Nope to each. It was a composite discussion between my mother and six-year-old self, featuring each obstacle which stood between walking though the turnstiles at the Western Washington State Fair and feeling the wind in my hair as an un-drug-tested ride operator controlled my destiny with his grimy lever hand.

Who doesn't love the fair? What's not to savor about finding yourself occupying that perfect spot where the combined essence of wood chips, onion burgers, animal poo and cotton candy assumes permanent residence in your olfactory archives?

When you're little, it's almost too much. You're assaulted from every angle. The food, the prizes, the games; every sense is beckoned for instant gratification and I think that's why so many kids actually hop, rather than walk. Check it out next time you go. They hop.

By the time I was old enough to walk around unsupervised with a couple of buddies, I couldn't contain myself. I was accompanied by some guys named Kevin, Jeff and Terry, but in reality, I was a lone wolf that day, especially after laying my eyes on that huge, stuffed Tony the Tiger.

Come hard could it be to knock over three milk bottles? With every failed throw, I lusted after that fake feline with increasing zeal. I wanted to burrow my face into its unnaturally orange body and tuck it triumphantly under my arm while continuing on to sample the fair's remaining delights.

Alas, my quarry proved elusive due to the crooked nature of the milk bottle game, and to exacerbate matters, I had spent everything I had on this foolish endeavor. I would walk silently behind my cronies for the remainder of the afternoon, penniless, bored and shamed.

Another memorable moment occurred when I viewed the fair through the eyes of a young adult. When I've mentioned my ex-girlfriend in prior posts, I've used such adjectives as insane, crazy, clinically insane, batshit crazy, BundyGacyDahmer insane and I'll-bet-she-wouldn't-find-me-in-Belarus crazy.

Same girlfriend.

From the moment I parked my car in someone's front yard for seven dollars, she became fixated on purchasing a personalized memento of our fair experience, and finally settled upon a calendar featuring a large picture of the two of us. Here was her reasoning, and it's all going to be one word because she talked really fast:


I did. And it was.

After standing in line for about an hour and finally nailing the perfect pose, we walked around for a while and left. Every day subsequent, after I sleepily gazed at that calendar and was instantly jolted awake, the only memory associated with that thing was going to the fair just to get it.

I really don't mean to be negative about the annual extravaganza in Puyallup. I've had some fabulous fun with great folks, and I''ve usually possessed the discipline to hold onto my money for more than the first twenty minutes.

And when I take my kids, we hit the rides first.


  1. Your fair experience is magical! I love your tales.