Oct 12, 2008

"I Stole Your Hoodie And Traded It To A Carnie For $2 And A Handful Of Ride Tickets."

That was the quote of the week that sums up the entire Fair Experience, as far as I can tell. I couldn't do better, and I owe it to the one and only Vulgar Wizard, as spoken to my daughter in the Corn Maze. (Yes, it actually WAS cut in that pattern, which was very cool but you couldn't tell even from the observation bridge in the middle but at one point VW decided we were traveling down an antler which was cool.)

It's Fall, and that means the Fair has come to town, and around that august occasion occurs several birthdays and now is the long downhill slide to the New Year. It never ceases to amaze me how fast it goes once you reach October. The wind starts to catch a slight chill, promising cold to come. The leaves begin turning, the grass stops growing, and my daughter gets older.

14 now. A teenager in word and deed and, were I to cut her in half and count her rings, years. She got her first 'real' iPod yesterday for he birthday, a sleek little black thing no longer than my finger and as thin as a whore's promise, all uber-modern matte black. I remember trying to tote around a Sony Walkman cassette player slightly smaller than a paperback book. *sigh*

But this isn't going to be a lament post. It's going to be about the Fair, that strange occurance that haunts and disturbs me and makes me smile a little, all at the same time.

Every year I promise myself I will go the evening they begin setting up and snap photos of the rides in black and white--empty, skeletal, half-built shapes against dark skies. Hints of Something Wicked This Way Comes in the brooding shapes, the hulking trucks. I also see myself shooting very close focused photographs of carousel horses with their flared nostrils and wild eyes, the wear of thousands of hands and feet on their fiberglass bodies. Well, this time it snuck in on me and was assembled and causing traffic-flow troubles for two days before I even knew it was here.

Every year I promise myself I will go at night with camera and tripod and take stunning long-exposure shots of the rides--colourful blurs, smears of light against black skies so vivid you can hear the delighted screams of the children on board. Then every year the reality strikes me--parking twenty minutes away so I can cross two lanes of traffic and walk into the fairgrounds carrying thirty pounds of awkward equipment so I can set up and try to snap photos in between masses of people who might well have a hankering to steal my very expensive camera equipment. That's not even mentioning the copious amounts of dust that will work it's way into every nook and crevice of my camera and lenses.

Sour grapes? Not necessarily. Just...a reality check, I guess. The sensible me taking control and shaking me gently by the lapels.

This year was a bit different, though. Instead of simply avoiding the week-long traffic hazard that is The Fairgrounds I actually got involved. A little. I entered three photos in the adult division photo competition, one each in the Colour: Animal, Colour: Person and Colour: Other categories, and swept the boards--second place on each one. I was actually quite pleased with myself, and didn't even let the harpy-like shrews running the door this evening ruin my mood when I went to reclaim my 8x10 glossies.

The other involvement was my daughter. A few years ago she, like her father, got wind of the fact that unless you're going there for the shaky and thrown-up-overnight thrill rides (I've always been partial to the Ferris Wheel) there's not a lot for you to do at the Fair other than hand your money over for cheap trinkets, plastic geegaws and goldfish in very small bowls. Browsing the surprisingly sizeable fair catalog we saw they were also having, sandwiched between show rabbits, goat agility and tractor-driving competitions, a pet show.

Mind you, a PET show, not a dog show, but the entry was free and we figured it'd be fun. We bathed and very lightly groomed Belle and entered her in the Non-4H Dog competition, Large group (any dog over 18" tall. Yeah, we had that pretty easily.) Not exactly the down-and-back of an AKC show but my now fourteen-year old got in there and walked Belle around the ring, answered questions about her and in general made us very proud.

(That's Humpty and his partner Dumpty behind her in 4-H green, the professional and utterly unbiased (*snort*) judges.)

When the dust had cleared they'd won first place in her division! *G* I know, I shouldn't gloat; it's not truly fair, us bringing a pointed AKC registered sighthound to a local pet show. It's equivalent to bringing a .357 Magnum to a fistfight, but I can say this: we weren't the ONLY ones who brought their show dogs to the ring. 'Nuff said. They then proceeded to lose to a five-year old boy with a horribly ill-mannered French Bulldog, whose owner was the shrill grandmother shouting directions from just over the little rope divider, but Humpty and his brother decided to ignore the outside interference AND the elegant, relaxed, impeccably well-behaved Borzoi in favor of the cute little boy and gave him Best of Show and accompanying trophy.

Me, I'm just tickled as hell that my ultra shy daughter got up there in that ring in front of a MASS of people and showed Belle. Proud? You could say so.

Fourteen years and another Fair has come and gone. Now all that remains is three more birthdays (Mrs. I and one nephew in late October and VW in December,) Thanksgiving, Xmas and New Years. It'll be easy as falling down a greased slope, I can say that for certain, having already felt my feet come out from under me. Me, I'm ready for some cold weather, for the turn of the season and the promise of a new year ahead.

Next year's Fair I'll get some photos, too. I promised myself.


Joan of Argghh! said...

I never looked that good at 14! She's slim and tall already. Poor Papa...


Irrelephant said...

Joan, I'm sure you were a lovely creature when you were 14, you're just being modest. *s* Honestly though, she comes from a tall family but wide, too. I'm not sure HOW she's avoided the wide part but if she hangs onto it I'm going to have to start chaparoning with my .45 on my hip. This I'm certain of. *g*

meno said...

I had something intelligent (no, really) to say, and then i looked at your pictures. HOLY SHIT indeed.

Your dog is beautiful, and so is your daughter, good for her.

Congrats on the 2nd place sweep, that's pretty cool.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Happy Birthday to your beautiful girl! And congrats on the dog show! Woof!

Rayne said...

I miss going to the country fair in Chester where I grew up. Actually I miss going to any 'real' country fair. We've lived in cities for so long now that the summer fairs are really just vendors and rides and some tents. Not what I would call a 'fair'. Where's the oxen pulls and tractor pulls? The cow pie bingo? Running into people you've known for forever?
The quilts, the pies, the ridiculously huge vegetables?
I am so homesick today...
Congratulations on your grown up girl getting out there! I don't know if I'd be brave enough.
The 'shrill grandmother' comment made me smile. There is always one, isn't there?

Shao said...

Yay! She's turning out like her dad and not the 'other one.'

Gordo said...

By the pricking of my thumbs .... I really have to read that again. :-)

Fairs can be a lot of fun. One of these years, I'll get around to entering something in the photo competition. Congratulations to Weerelephant. I vividly recall my first time in front of a crowd. This Christmas pageant shepherd forgot all of his lines. ;-)

Clowncar said...

Congrats. A proud papa and an award winning photographer!

We have the State fair here. I enjoy it. But I'm easily amused. Give me a corn dog and a beer and I'll happily people-watch the day away.

Irrelephant said...

Thank you for the compliments, meno! I finally feel like I've got enough skill to deserve compliments on my photographs. *s*

*big smile* Keep your fingers crossed, Mona--next week she's (Belle, not Weerelephant) traveling to Austin, TX to compete in a huge Borzoi Specialty event there, under a very skilled handler. With luck she'll return with her full championship earned!

Rayne, there really is, especially down here. *s* I'm glad I could bring back a little of the flavor of the country fair for you, though truth be told ours is a shade on the gentrified side. I'd be sad to see the livestock shows leave it.

So far so good, Shao! Thank GAWD.

Gordo, every time I read it the first few chapters make me long so desperately for a childhood that I really didn't have--that of a country boy in a simpler time. As for Weerelephant I'm STILL bursting with pride. It took me well into my 30's to come out of my shell. She's way ahead of dear old dad on that account.

CC, I used to hang out at the local Mall for the same reason, and stopped because it was getting sort of sad. Half-naked desperate teenage girls looking to hook up with anyone old enough to buy beer or wily enough to score some dope. Granted, the Fair was mostly the same way. *G*

Now if you want some really strange people watching, try a dog show. Granted there's less beer and corn dogs...

Vulgar Wizard said...

That was the best weekend I've had in a very long time. Thanks!