Tuesday, August 9, 2011


We the Female Peonage concluded yesterday that it would be a most excellent idea to attend the fair in our fair county, as neither of us had seen a demolition derby, admission was a dollar with a canned good, and the bright lights, fabulous people-watching, and aromatic greasy food was to be had.

As the Marquess is a better planner than yours truly, she had a bag of donated items that merited dollar bills from the rest of the masses in line with us and inevitably ran quite the hustle.

We covered quite a bit of ground, feeling bad for the ponies doomed to equestrian Dante-ish fates of walking in circles for hours carrying small children, watched a bemulleted cover band play hits from the 60's, wondered why people collect such random things and display them at the fair, and chortled at the promised exotic delectables that, according to the website, are straunge and unusual dishes not to be found easily in Clevelandia. Maybe it's that I grew up certain ethnic in Parmastan, but judge for yourself, denizens of the rust belt, if these sundry delights are as obscure as birds' nest stews and potions of dragon's tongue.

The livestock were many and while I went down on a frequent basis to the southern part of the state where my relatives have farms, in true city slicker fashion I'm a bit skittish around animals bigger than me or that smell. My parents took me to a pig farm in Indiana when I was probably six years old and I remember smelling like pig just from being there, and it took my mom hours to wash that smell out of my hair. That and being scared of the bulls at my great aunts. Those things were mean, and so were the chickens, understandable since their overlords would eventually eat them. It makes sense.

Insert obligatory Alice in Chains reference here

The county fair makes you remember that yes you are in Ohio and no it's not like your almost-hood in Clevelandia or your concrete-towered place of peonage. The music is country and classic rock, not reggaeton, the t-shirts are emblazoned with Pantera and patriotism, not Tupac, though bad tattoos transcend all age, ethnicity, and culture. The tchotchkes sold are of the American Flag/Stars and Bars/"Native American"/Harley Davidson/Military/etc kind.

I get tired of and a bit creeped out by the hagiography and personality cult of the current president that I see around me but I was equally disconcerted by the number of stands and t-shirts selling bumper stickers about the president being a commie and how much illegals and people on welfare suck, and don't take away my guns. These were not really differences of policy issues, but a cultural againstness that I recognize yet don't quite understand.

I tend to get overanalytical even as I'm entertained, wondering what the the stories of the carnies are, wondering what the freak show girl twirling the snake thinks of the gawkers, wondering what the stories are, what people's lives are like when they're not on stage or trying to get you to throw darts at balloons.

Still, this made me laugh:

Punk rock birds

The obligatory Freemasons

Mechanical cows

Pop culture ephemerals

Lots of the carnie kids had tip jars for their college funds.

Gonna smash it up til there's nothing left...

Is the demolition derby the blue-collar equivalent to the the games played in Roman arenas, with the masses in the stands, the anticipation of chaos, the adrenaline surge of watching collisions, and the quasi-bloodlust exhibited when the tires have blown out and the engine is smoking and the crowd yells "hit him again!"

Pectorally exaggerated Robert Plant

People are strange when you're a stranger.

Rides of Spinny Doom

Pretty lights

But I had a great time, devoured a delicious flurry, savored the atmosphere of the fleeting, and was glad to get out on a weeknight to do something different for a change.


Randal Graves said...

I'm quite jealous that I didn't get to join you guys, this looked to be muchness of enjoyability.

The Towering Slab needs a punk rock bird.

Anonymous said...

it helped me to get my head around the cultural gap when I came to see how recently most folks were back on the farm, the split is between the cosmopolitan and the rest, tho this is now more about mindset than geography, and ghettos can have their own smalltown smallmindedness.
never count out the tribalism, bad ink and all

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I can't remember potato pancakes when I grew up, but I was in Washington, D.C.

Nice pics!

Mary Ellen said...

I've only been to a State Fair once, in Illinois when my kids were little. I loved it, not so much for the animals, but for the "people watching". I wish I had a blog back then...but that was in the olden days when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and Barney and Fred Flintstone were butting in line with Bam-Bam and Pebbles.

thatgirl said...

Maybe we can find some punk rock pigeons somewhere.

I find the tribalism of the urbanistas just as codified as those they deride. It's interesting how much people on both sides of the aisle are so much alike.

It was a long time before I realized that other people didn't grow up familiar with poppyseed rolls and pierogis. Still, it was amusing to see our regional cuisine cooked infinitely better by our grandmothers, marketed as something weird and exotic. It's not like they were serving the blood pudding or anything.

People-watching is fantastic. When I worked at the zoo, it was the same thing, though I probably would have gotten fired if I took pictures of all the characters that came through.

Ah yes, the olden days before the Internets, when one had to dial a phone and flip the record over. I got the tail end of that, but not for long.