Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Slim's Greatest Hits: Vol. 1

From time to time, I intend to reprise some of my old columns for your reading enjoyment.
Here in the Phoenix area, October means it is time for the Arizona State Fair. The following column about the fair was published on Oct. 16, 2005.


The Arizona State Fair started Friday, and I asked a young colleague if she was going. She wrinkled her nose and said no; it is too noisy, too crowded, too messy, too crude for her tastes, she said.
And I thought, gee, those are the reasons I like the fair.
In our postmodern, homogenized society, our entertainment seems to have been given over completely to technology. It is impersonal, sterile, passive.
Sure, the fair is quirky, flawed, unsophisticated, hopelessly tacky. In other words, it’s like me.
Go to a mega-theme park and you are nothing more than a consumer. Go to the fair and you are a real person talking to another real person about how he grew a 385-pound pumpkin. You just won’t see that at Legoland.
For all the clutter, confusion and cheesy attractions, state fairs remain popular. Probably the most famous of the state fairs is the Iowa State Fair, an event so popular that it inspired a Broadway musical: "Les Miserables," I think it was.
So I encourage all skeptics to take another look. There are still people who can make butter out of a cow, but where else will you see somebody making a cow out of butter? Where else will you find a booth that sells 14-foot fishing boats that can be folded flat and stored under your bed? Where else can you see hundreds of livestock, thousands of crafts and food items, all the products of folks who might be your neighbors?
I’m talking about folks such as Helen Spangler and Debbie Young. I don’t know either, but I bet they both have big, fat husbands. Spangler won eight blue ribbons for cakes. Young took home five blue ribbons for bread-making.
Nancy Asper only won a third place, which I would protest if I were her. Her "Most Outlandish’’ entry was a cake that looked exactly like a cat’s litter box — one badly in need of cleaning, at that.
The fair is all about stealing a kiss from your sweetie when the Ferris Wheel stops at the top. It’s about eating foods dripping with fat and not feeling guilty. It’s about winning an enormous overstuffed animal and then realizing you have to tote it around for the next three hours.
It’s about petting a rabbit, mooing at a cow (admit it, you’ve done that). It’s about giggly girls flirting with the boys and grandpas spoiling the kids with trinkets.
It’s about recognizing all the ordinary people around you and realizing that you fit right in.
It makes me feel sad for my young colleague, who seems to have forgotten that sense of wonder in the ordinary.
Messy, loud, crowded, tacky? What’s not to like?

1 comment:

Matthew Self said...

-2 points for using the term "post-modern" to describe non-State Fair life. There is nothing more contextually post-modern than a deep-fried Twinkie. I believe Lyotard would have referred to it as a classic "libidinal intensity."