THE STATE FAIR
It’s hot and humid, there’s sweat on your face and running down the back of your leg and the front of your t-shirt is wet and getting wetter and everyone is walking around with misters and miniature handheld fans in khaki cargo shorts and bikini tops and his-and-her airbrushed t-shirts and custom embroidered baseball caps and it’s loud because of the hawkers and millions of screaming kids and Top 40 hits and the PA system and the sound of tractors racing somewhere off in the distance and it’s generally an overload of all the senses; the opposite of deprivation, everything at once, an outdoor simulation park the purpose of which is to, at least originally, celebrate food. Not any or all foods, specific foods. Regional foods from a VERY specific state. And not just the corn dog or lettuce head or pork on a stick itself, but the whole culture around which and from which and through which these foods come to life. Including but not limited to the people who make and grow and sow and harvest and cook and prepare the foods, the animals out of which the foods come, the animals into which the foods are made, the land and trees and fields and rivers and lakes from which the food is harvested, the diners and restaurants and carts and stands and shacks and wagons from which the food is sold, and the machines and tools and techniques using which the food is prepared. A mountain man rendezvous, a renaissance fair, a smörgåsbord of fountain sodas, funnel cakes and butter statues. Everything, all of it, fried. 4-H Valhalla, open air stalls exhibiting the largest pig, a pig so big it can’t stand or move it just is, multi-generational farm owning and/or ranching families and stylist professionals blow drying and teasing and primping and coaxing and washing and and coloring and hoof trimming and shit collecting and feeding and watering the best-in-show edition of Noah’s Ark. The smell of shit, bedazzled rodeo jeans, supremely capable six year olds in tucked-in chambray denim shirts. Fortune tellers, camel rides, hypnotists, folk dancing, drag racing, dunk machines, stand-up comedians, overflowing trash cans, trans-fairground gondola rides and rides, so many rides: the Pirate Ship, the Ali Baba, the Double Shot, the Freefall, the Kamikaze, the Hurricane, the Helter Skelter, etc. Lost kids. A dude with a tropical rainforest bird on his shoulder. The lady wearing a living python. Strollers, golf carts, the smell of cigarette smoke, spilled Pepsi, a pile of melting ice cream on buckled pavement in the shade of the tree next to some grass, Segways and wheelchairs and slow moving rascals and golf carts leaning heavily to one side. Ancient ATMs featuring four dollar transaction fees. The promise of a real Philadelphia cheesesteak. Pork on a stick, snickers on a stick, churros on a stick, butter on a stick, fill-in-the-blank on a stick. Blue ribbons, red ribbons, white ribbons, yellow ribbons, green ribbons, orange ribbons, purple ribbons, brown ribbons. And awards. Some crowns. Gum stuck to your shoe. Disappointing slushies. Local art. A museum featuring wooden spoons and only wooden spoons. Turkey leg in your teeth. Sunburn, dead phone, lost sunglasses, long shadows. Every style of shoe, every tattoo, every hat, every tribe.
A sea of humanity, an endless and confusing and possibly optimistic in its honesty and humility and lack of self-awareness parade of, in this case, Californians.