Hi. It’s just me – and the Big Blonde, of course – and we’re going
to the fair now and as well breaking a long silence. The two
events – going and silence – must be connected, because I just put them in the same sentence. So there. I must be in charge.
A lot’s happened in the past Fair Year (the mysterious year that stretches from Fair to Fair, from Could-Still-Be-Summer to My-God-It’s-Almost-Fall.) And actually, we’ve already been to the fair once. We took nieces and nephews and neighbor kids the other night in the pouring rain and all they wanted to do was eat and ride on rides and shovel money into the grasping hands of the carnies who man the gyp booths. And have fun. Cold, pouring down rain, seven to ten year-old kids. You get the picture. My grand-niece held my hand as we strode through the wall of neon foods. My twin grand-nephews clutched their stash of posters and gyp trinkets as if gold, holding hands with Oona. Nick the kid rode the toughest rides and supervised us all, since seventh grade gives you a responsibility, it turns out, one deeper than I’d remembered.
But now, for our second day, we’re going with adults alone and the darker secrets of Modern Living or even the farming secrets of the Pig Palace will not elude me. As for the world of gyp and fear, believe me, I’m up to date on the Octopus, the Whirl of Death and the Shoot-Something-That-Looks-Easy-But-Isn’t in a futile attempt to win the giant Spongebob doll. I’ve been there. I’ve had fun. But now is the second day and the fair calls. The Mystery calls. If you need me, I’ll be somewhere in between Egg Artistry and the Swine Gate.
Because our fair is far to the North of the lower forty-eight, it is a late fair compared to the Southern ones and, inevitably, it’s all about Halloween. This year, the giant pumpkins take up a quarter of the Hall of Agriculture and one of them weighs – get this – over eleven hundred pounds. The odd thing about it – the great whitish, yellowish thing subdued by its own immense weight so that it seems to melt into the concrete floor – is that its Grower disqualified himself from the annual competition because he had discovered a tiny flaw, a hole in the thing, a hole so small that Judges might easily have overlooked and so awarded him the Grand Prize. He said that he’d won so many other years before that he’d decided to give Others a chance or two. The new winners, in the nine hundred pound range, also looked collapsed under their own immense weights, their ribbons adding little to their gravitational demise.
We got to the fair around three in the afternoon and the attendant populace seemed stunned in the sunlight and warmth, under the great mountain Tahoma in the Puyallup Valley. At four o’clock the teeners began to arrive in force and the Midway began to resound with the chilling shrieks that make the fair more than what it is. There is something comforting in this, I realized. The fair without the sex and screaming is not really a fair. It’s just an exhibition.
As I’m sure I pointed out last year, the fair can seem to be largely a sexual ritual of some kind. Among the staid exhibits, but especially among the Whirling Dingdongs of Death, swirl the voluptuous bodies of teenage baby girls with virtually no clothes on, topped with cowboy hats, or garish pirate hats or other souvenir headgear. Their boyfriends -shaved heads, multiple earrings, dressed inevitably in baggy black -clutch feverishly at them, steering them toward night and neon light and screaming fun. This year they’ve all bought the skintight bellbottom jeans cut so low that they, much like the Giant Pumpkins, seem drawn toward the earth with some huge sexual finality. Their outthrust naked stomachs, their breasts exposed in Target tops, the sleeves gathered high on their little shoulders to bare more flesh. The day is warm and school is finished for one more monumental day. Pregnancy lies only dimly ahead. The sun is going down into the Magritte-green sky and the twisting neon lights of Fear and Death hoist themselves up into the coming darkness. The night is young.
We visit slabs of bees and cases of slugs devouring equally slimy boleti, slugs of the Northwest, mushrooms of the Northwest and reach finally the Grange displays, a whole
hall of sloped agricultural layouts, each Grange responsible for filling five hundred or so square feet of space with neatly organized displays of their fruits and vegetables, their
agricultural heritage fast disappearing under the mighty surge of suburban sprawl seeping out from Seattle and Tacoma. Our local Grange in Mystery Island is the Gig Harbor Grange, an old creaky building now bounded by a golf course and a traffic light, once a lonely outpost at the head of Wollochet creek, where salmon now need human protection to spawn. The grangers have bravely lined up carrots and plums and apples and found a theme to wrap it all around and at the top have placed mason jars of bright green and yellow and red jams and jellies so that lights shine through them in a beautiful display of something so touching I can barely look too long. I sit down on one of the log benches and scribble notes, avoiding the glances of huge fat white guys in black tank tops who are desperately trying to organize their kids into a move on the sluggish indoor pool where the Demonstration Chinook Salmon swim aimlessly over the copper bottom of tossed pennies. In the Old Days, copper was one of the most valuable things in the Old People world. Big beaten sheets of it were made into three-partioned artworks of immense value and meaning lost to us now, like the teeth of beavers lost.
We eat fried clams and halibut and chips, we drink Doctor Pepper without fear, we have a corn dog and a scone, we ingest the curly fries, all on the way to the Halls of Hapless Animals, lined up in rows, caring little for us. There are rabbits of every description, birds so many that their cages form an avian weir to herd and trap humans. Game birds painted by opiumated Chinese. Bunnies and squabs and cavys and nice 4-H dogs lying peacefully on benches to be viewed, their owners sitting beside them ready to answer questions.
(Unlike them, Molimo and KK, our two puppies, sleep in the Suburban in someone’s front yard in Puyallup, a few blocks away, where for five dollars your car, with puppies, sitssafely under the watchful eye of nice people from some school or
other. ) Percherons in beautiful stalls turn their gigantic butts to us, cows ignore us, goats eat in spite of us, llamas do not spit even at us, even once.
We traipse to the Hall of Hair, also known as the Hall of No Eye Contact or the adjoining Hall of Sewing, Lounging and Pain Relief. Divorce is ripping our adult ranks, did I mention we were adults? Don’t we have problems? Well, I guess we do. Last year’s Barbie is this year’s divorcee.
We are nearing the Hall of Modern Living and in fact we have entered the all too human area of the Great Fair. Healing creams and wellness crystals and lounge beds and massage pods and Saunas and hot tubs, tv knives, fair hair, stop smoking, heal, rest lounge. Hedonism seems to be the order of the day, care for the self. There seem to be no booths for Calvinism, for restraint, for punishment or discipline or pain.
Outside, the huge grandstand has filled with humans and Styx or something like it plays loud and the huge crowd of bell-bottomed and tattooed hedonists scream and lights flash. It is dark. Then it is very light. Kick drums boom, Munch-like screamers scream. It is dark. Then it is very light.
In the Hobby Horse Hall ( the Hall of Tristram Shandy) comes a great moment, one in which the full power of the great Fair Mystery descends upon me like a Giant Neon Screaming Hammer of Shrieking Delight. It’s a huge hall of compulsions, filled to the brim with people’s need to collect Hello Kitty paraphernalia, the pressing need to fill a whole case with watches, or bees or stuffed penguins or polar bears or miniature automobiles, or – in the past -shoulder pads. That wonderful board of shoulder pads is gone now, but Garfield is alive and well, thousands of him crammed yellow into the case next to the Elvis memorabilia. There are the rocket guys, the telescope guys, the ham radio guys and most of all, those kings of Nerds, the Model Railroad Guys. Out in the middle of all these cases of dolls and guys, the N-Gauge railroad makes a big oblong loop. The little trains roll through the little scenery. As usual, I stand and stare too long. The Big Blonde is already over among the dollhouses.
The dollhouses are deep, as usual, but I’m about to turn back to the beloved trains when my eyes are whacked over their little eyeball heads by the Best of Show winner, a stunning three-quarters-of-an-inch-equals-one-foot model of an old country train station. The left half is as it was eighty years ago and its right as it is today, that is in complete and derelict disrepair. In the pristine left-hand half, a lonely miniature child sits crumpled on a bench, weeping and awaiting, presumably, some miniature human or other picking him up and taking him somewhere. On the right-hand side, the side of the modern world, an old man supported by a young couple points across the modeler’s timeline divide and remembers something we cannot hear, probably because sound based on three-quarter inch to the foot ratios tagged to decibels and frequencies would be beyond quick.
A little card tells you only that on a disturbing model day eighty years ago, a lonely orphan took the train to his new home. Above are many telephone wires and bulbous crows. All it needs is music, but scaled music would be pitched very high (or low) and gone in a second. Or last forever. It all depends on where you start.
In other words, scaling is a deep subject. Things can be hidden in the spaces between scales, simply because there must be spaces between scales, otherwise there would be
only one scale and this cannot be true. The grand-nephews and nieces’ father is in jail, meth is suspected, murder is accused. The little ones cling to the Big Beautiful Blonde’s hands in the rollicking fair night. The scales are of divorce, of murder, of accusations and fear, of little kids who need help, of the love that knows no reasoning, of fun, of this fair, of this summer, of this fall. The Big Blonde knows that these kids need to remember this awful year as the year they had a lot of fun at the fair, on one whacky night at least. A scale away, the adults are divorcing and arguing and posing and whining. She and I have fun no matter what scale we’re in. We know where to look for fun. We have our picture taken in the black-and-white booth and, as every year, the woman who runs the booths remembers us. We laugh and chat. It’s the fair. We should have jammed the kids in the booth the other night and had their picture. Next year we’ll remember. Next year.
In my long unpublished novel called Beaver Teeth, the ending sequence involves a madding ride on what can only be a model train commandeered by Squilimuk Indians that’s driven down into a narrow gorge called Gorgeville on the Squilimuk River, between the two warring towns of Beaverteeth and the City of Midden, the site of the Imaginary Casino, (where Imaginary Creek flows into the big river.)
When we drove to the fair for the second time, we went right through this place, although it has different names. A railroad runs through it, of course, and the afternoon we drove, I saw sun on the Great Mountain misnamed Rainier reflected in the great standing swamp pool with dead snag old cedars poking out above the bright green algae. I saw my ending for the first time, truly. I saw where I’m going and where I’ve been, both in the book and without. Not bad for the Fair Mystery, because we hadn’t even got there yet, but thinking about it later, which is now, it all seemed to me to do with scale.
We closed the place down. We drove home below half a moon, as if the Chainsaw Sculptor of the Night had neatly cut it down the middle. It was only half the fair, the adult half. I looked back on the kid half with more pleasure than I’d thought, back there in the other scale, in the pouring down rain.
OK, I want to direct your attention to a couple of things: one is the Firesign Theatre Blog, the Fireblog where several of my long stories reside. There is no discussion group function, it’s a read-only site, but it links back here where the chatter is. Tom O’Neill and Brian Westley have done a beautiful job building it and I want to see it flourish, but it will probably never have any contributions from the Other Members of FST, sad to say.
I hope youll become a member of this site and contribute writing of any kind, long or short. We have so many talented people who write and photograph and paint and link for us here, but I’d like to mention especially that Robert G. Margolis has an odd and wonderful story in progress in the Discussion section of the preceeding Mary Two Names posting. Heís decided to keep it there and not continue it on this posting. All the discussion groups on every Home Page Story are filled with interesting writing, jokes, gossip, pictures, links and meanderings from all of us who contribute here and we’d all love it if more join in. We have no rules and no themes, we’re just a kind of blog community based on nothing more than conversation and art, such as it is.