By Mark David Blum, Esq.
I got a chance this year to scratch off an item from my bucket list. A Fair and a half ago, I stopped going and ended my life as a Fair Rat. Simply, I had run out of things to do and the walking around all day in hopes of finding something to write about became more of a chore than a love. Working the midway was one item left on my bucket list but I had been unable to make that happen. Then the Saturday morning before this year’s Fair, Lady Galaxy, an old and dear friend from the Fair, contacted me and asked me to help her run her show at the Fair for 12 days. She was retiring, this was a last minute booking, and she had no help but her husband. “Please please, pretty please”, said she.
Of course, I agreed. I am a big fan of her performance and had always wanted to work the midway. Galaxy had been given space by Strates; not the Fair. Dan O’Hara refused her a spot. I quickly wrapped up some personal and professional issues, and by Wednesday afternoon, I was settled into my new digs on the midway.
What follows is a diary of my experiences, observations, and unraveling as I descend into the lost world of chaos and confusion; a universe completely foreign to the one in which I normally reside. As I come through the other side, I can now say I have completed something I always wanted to do … and fully intend to never do it again.
Without further ado … 2011 Rat Tales:
I am a Fair Rat. Since the first time I set foot on the fairgrouds back in 1989, it was love at first sight. Then, one year, I got a job at the Fair; the kind of job you can only dream about. I drove a golf cart around 10 hours a day every day of the Fair supervising work crews. You havent lived until you have seen the Fair from inside. The two years following, I also found work at the Fair and was able to blog my day to hour experiences with the weirdness and disneyland atmosphere that is the Fair.
Unfortunately, my essays from 2003-2005 have been lost. Some of those tales were included in a book by Judith Rivette titled State Fair Stories. Five of my favorites were included.
Below are my tales from years 2006-2009.
I took off 2010 because without a job at the Fair, it was extremenly difficult to actually see the Fair because you cannot experience the ambiance and joie d'vie that is the Fair until you stop moving and let the millieu pass you by.
This year I got a job. It is a cool job down on the midway area. My hostess is an artist who has a helluva craft and puts on a mesmerizing show. I have been begging her for years to come back to the Fair and she agreed. I am going to be working for her as her humble servant; solely for the opportunity to gather up a whole new perspective and batch of Rat Tales for 2011.
You can only pray you can enjoy the Fair as much as will I. My tales will bear that out.
Rat Tales 2006
Rat Tales 2007
Rat Tales 2008
Rat Tales 2009
In but a few short hours, i will step out of reality and the world, and enter the high spin zone; i will become one with the Fair and have a vantage point where my eyes will be on all of you as you pass by. my fingers will be flying across a keyboard as your presence is recorded in perpetuity. for now, however, i am relishing the last few moments of sanity and normalcy. see you on the other side …
August 24 at 8:59am
Attention Shark Hunters: you can find your favorite shark camped near gate 10; at the entrance to the midway. stop by, see some great art and a good show, and who knows, you might even get blogged. they moved the Top Spin across from us, maybe i will be able to keep count of how many people puke their guts. BRING ON THE FAIR. Templeton calls attention Shark Hunters: you can find your favorite shark camped near gate 10; at the entrance to the midway. stop by, see some great art and a good show, and who knows, you might even get blogged. they moved the Top Spin across from us, maybe i will be able to keep count of how many people puke their guts. BRING ON THE FAIR. Templeton calls
August 24 at 12:54pm
welp, i am here inside the hallowed grounds. tent is set up and i have nothin to do for the rest of the night but drink tequilla and watch the fair be born. see yas in the morning …
August 24 at 5:52pm
it is morning of day 1 of the fair. last night, neither rain nor wind nor thunder nor lightening nor construction would keep this shark from his appointed rounds. the fair is here boys and girls. get off your asses and come on down. it doesnt get any better than this. (unfortunately there is no wifi for me so my fair stories will be posted after the fair ends). see yas!
August 25 at 8:47am
today's three top Fair tips ...
August 26 at 10:34am
first ... the bacon snickers deep friend thing ... dont. seriously; just dont. take the four dollars it would otherwise cost you and set a match to it. it is gross beyond description … August 26 at 10:35am
second, if you want to maximize your experience on the Top Spin ride, make sure you take all your fat friends with you. i spoke with a carnie operator who told me the number of times the bench actually flips over and over depends on the weight of the people seated. i actually watched and kept count and watched the number of spins range from 2 to 6. … August 26 at 10:37am
Mark David Blum third, make it a point to see Lady Galaxy and contribute to her art. she is retiring forever after the Fair. …
August 26 at 10:38am
ok Mr. George Kilpatrick Newinspirationforthenation .... thank you for sharing your precious time with me today. i assure you it made the fair an even better experience.
at your request, i spent the $6 and bought the kahuna burger. bottom line is that as a hamburger, it is awesome and totally excellent. the donut is a waste, a gimmick and the sugar clashes with the rush of tastes that come from a fully loaded burger
August 26 at 7:41pm
today's Fair tips
August 27 at 10:45am
first, i challenge you to a game. for my gamer friends, this is aka as a hunt for easter eggs. there is a game played in multiple locations on the fairgrounds where players get to toss red rubber balls into number holes (you hear them .... ball one, ball two, etc). many of these balls end up on the midway and sidewalks and if you can find one, consider it a prize. i collect them every year. already i have four balls
second, if you are so drunk that you are dropping your pizza frite on the ground over and over and picking it up and still eating it, and are raising your cup of beer and toasting every joke made, it is time to stop drinking. you have had enough,
and finally, the kahuna donut burger is all hype. the burger part is the best burger at the joint. the donut is just stupid and adds nothing to the case. in fact, the sugar kinda detracts from the great tastes. instead, if you want good food, go to the international building and find the New York Deli. they have the best sandwiches and if you do go, ask for the owner and tell him the crazy lawyer he had lunch with yesterday sent you
today is my daughter's first official day away from home and at college. i wonder how she is doing. i pray her life is amazing and they tell tales of her for generations. as she begins this next journey of her life, i just want her to know i miss her and love her and cant wait to see her again
August 27 at 10:51am
since we are all completely cut off from news and information about the world, i would love it if someone could provide me a weather update about the looming storm. it would be nice to be able to plan out the rest of the day and tomorrow
August 27 at 10:53am
LADY GALAXY’S LAST HURRAH
by Mark David Blum, Esq.
on Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 3:43pm
Actually, I would never be so insulting as to refer to anything Lady Galaxy does as being her last. She loves her world and her work and gives so much of herself to her art that I doubt her announcement yesterday that this Fair is going to be her last performance. She is giving up her art and is taking up a new cause: To minister and feed the poor.
Ever since I met her back in 2003 at her first appearance at the Fair, I knew I had met a special person. My friends range from retired police officers, to white and black hat hackers, to business owners, to radio and television personalities, to gangstahs and hood rats. All these people have one thing in common and which both attracts me and holds us together in friendship. They are just plain ‘cool’ people. Their outlook on life is healthy. They do not have any preconceived notions of prejudice.
Obviously their education, affluence, and lifestyles are very different. But each is a smart cookie and witty enough to hold my attention to keep me coming back to further our friendship. Don’t think for a moment that friendship doesn’t require work. It does. But for the few folks I have grown close to over the years, they have all had the same quality; they stimulate me intellectually. Also, most of them are married people without children by choice, the men all have pony tails, and they have dogs and other sundry critters.
Lady Galaxy is one such special person. As I said, I know her a lot of years and have grown to admire her more and more. I preach about liberty and freedom. It is what I fight for so vigorously in court. I extol the virtues of small government and living life off the grid. I had always felt I was such hot shit when it came to upholding these very basic but fundamental principles of life.
Nohing however in my life prepared me for Lady Galaxy. While I blather on endlessly about freedom, she lives it and has lived it most of her life. In her world, the only rules that matter are her own. She goes where she wants, does what she wants and when she wants to do it. It is obvious she has a strong moral center and a heart of pure gold. But m’Lady Galaxy is a true free spirit. I cant say I envy her because I don’t think I could ever let go of the conventional world as much as has she so as to be free and able to enjoy a life of such true luxury and liberty.
I have always admired artists and teachers and musicians because they have skills and talents that elude me completely. As far back as Jr. High School geometry class when I couldn’t draw a straight line on the chalkboard with a ruler and a compass to my being completely tone deaf and unable to carry a tune, I have come to learn my artistic limitations.
Lady Galaxy is everything I am not. She is a true artist. As you watch, she can create a painting of whatever scene or ambiance you desire. Her medium is spray paint, loud music, a show and a party. She draws an incredible number of people who come just to watch her work. Whether she sells anything is secondary to the incredible amount of talent that she brings to her presentations. For that, she has earned my awe and complete respect.
But what makes Lady Galaxy special and above the rest is her complete abandonment of what most folks would consider a conventional lifestyle. She used to live in her van. Her home was in the woods or wherever she would end up. Her life has been comprised of working Fairs and other gatherings from coast to coast. While there are a few hundred other artists working, most of what they do is street corner painting. Lady Galaxy invented the concept of putting on a show while she does her art.
Yesterday I learned the sad news. Her knees are giving out. Her wrist, back and other parts of her body are surrendering to her creeping age. Young at heart, none of us can escape the slow creep of growing old. So she announced that this Fair is her last appearance as an artist and will not be doing this type of work anymore.
Lady Galaxy’s next great adventure of her life is going out to hit the streets and minister to the poor and feed the hungry. She is going to share her godly spirit, that gift that drives her creativity, with Americans who are suffering. Lady Galaxy wont be asking for money or alms or even a bed. She just wants to give of herself to the needy and asks nothing in return but the joy that comes from doing good.
Many people will say that those who say they are done and will quit the Fair for this that or the other reason are lying to themselves. There is something about the Fair that once it gets into your blood, you cant leave it. During the past 24 hours here on the Midway I have spoken to a lot of Strates folks and learned of their travels and experiences as they travel the country. Most of the Strates employees themselves are from North Carolina but I have met folks from as far away as Endicott New York to the Navajo reservation in New Mexico.
The bottom line is always the same. It is the Fair and once you are bit by the bug, you are finished for life. The Fair will always call. Amazingly too, they all know Lady Galaxy, by sight and even the color of her tent. They all treat her with great respect. The mere mention of her name brings hushed and respectful tones.
So as I get to spend these last days with Lady Galaxy and her wonderful world of art, I am going to truly wonder if she is going to hang it up forever. Yes, age is painful as you move into its middle sections and a rock is not as comfortable a pillow at 40 as it is at 20. Nothing is more blessed than bringing comfort and food to the hungry and hopeless.
Still, something tells me that she will be back. Lady Galaxy will one day make her return to her art because I doubt she could go an extended period without it.
In her chest beats the heart of a lioness who would give her last pennies to help a stranger. That kind of honor and love just doesn’t exist much in our current society. I feel that no matter where she ends up …ministering, feeding, or just living her life as a free spirit … that Lady Galaxy will bring happiness and peace to anybody with whom she comes into contact.
She has changed my life and I think I am a better person for having known her. My blessings and prayers are with her as she works on a different future. It is the greatest of privileges to be able to spend these last moments with her as she leaves one life and prepares to head off to the next great adventure of her life.
MORNING DAY ONE: THURSDAY
by Mark David Blum
on Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 4:05pm
I arrived twice at the fairgrounds yesterday. First, I came in to drop off my stuff for the 12 day run. Then I had to leave to finish up the last of my appointments and letters and emails before I could finally just let go of reality and duty and begin to become one with the Fair. Finally in the late afternoon, I came back and came in; never to leave.
It has been nearly two Fairs since I have tread upon these grounds. Apparently I did not miss much and not a lot is new. Yes, the entire midway is rearranged. Yes, they are selling things like stuffed artichoke hearts, bacon wrapped snickers, and some kind of artery clogging donut/hamburger thing. But the same is the same. Fair employees are just as arrogant and power mad as always. Strates employees are cool but their management is all attitude; and a bad one at that. As I said, everything that is different remains the same.
Last night was fun though. Just being back in the fairgrounds was a hard step for me. My last Fair, 2009, ended abruptly with a hospitalization. Last year, I just didn’t have the stomach for it. This year, who could say no to working for Lady Galaxy. Throughout all the chaos of setting up, watching Strates construct the monstrosities that will terrorize the midway, and the 100 little battles, struggles, and malfunctions, the enormity of all started to settle in. Spending two hours with the coolest electrician who worked for almost two hours to get us lights and sound reminded me just how things are different here. (Tip of the hat to PeeWee). (Now if I could stop the breakers from blowing, I might be able to enjoy some light and tunes).
About ten o’clock last night, I had enough. I was tired. The warming effects of tequila had calmed me. It was time to get the one night of rest I was probably going to get the entire duration. So, I sealed myself up tight in the tent, ignored all the busyness and construction going on around me. I tuned out the trucks, tractors, tunes, and tumult, and slowly drifted off into a Templeton dreamland. I was out cold and in a very deep and comfortable sleep. (For those who remember, this time I had a cot. No more sleeping in the mud for me).
Then came 3:00 a.m. Down came the rain; harder and harder. Rain on a tent is magnified a 100 fold so it sounded like a freight train was pounding on the tent. I prayed no leaks were ruining my stuff, and turned over and tried to drift of to sleep. Then came the thunder … and the lightening. BOOM . CRASH. Over and over; and the rains fell harder and with more focus.
By 4:30 a.m., I was done trying to sleep. I got up, grabbed my shower stuff and walked through the rain and the puddles and the thunderclaps and headed into the shower. Well if there is one thing the Fair does right, that is its showers. I cant speak for all of them, but there is a favorite place I like to go where the water pressure is fast, hot, and will peel several layers of skin off of you. Mmmm, just the way I like it. I finished my business, returned to a now half flooded tent, got all my stuff packed up and off the floor, and then wondering wtf I was going to do now.
COFFEE! I am situated at the extreme far corner of the fairgrounds and all my favorite coffee haunts are a 15 – 20 minute walk – in the rain. I don’t think so. That was when I noticed the lights were on at the West End Grill. Dodging falling rain hard as bullets, I made my way over and asked the guys I saw there if I could get a cuppa joe. “We don’t work here, we’re just setting up a radio station.” (At THIS hour?) They showed me where the employee was at and I ordered up two large javas. While she was fetchin mah coffee, I asked what radio station was setting up. She told me B-104. I sneered like I caught a whiff of pig shit; an emotion she quickly shared. So I took my coffee, dodged the falling bullets and made it back to a relatively safe harbor.
It really is hard to ruin a Fair. But a serious rain downpour can kill it dead. No customers. Misery for everybody who works here. Nothing to do but sit and hope you stay dry. Primarily, you pray for sunshine.
Well sunshine, thus begins this epic journey of one lawyer’s descent down into the rabbit hole. I cant wait to see what is next.
LATER THAT MORNING: DAY ONE
Nothing. The skies are overcast. My hostess Lady Galaxy came fully prepared with coffee and bagels. (Train ‘em right, I say). Then the chaos of first day routine set up, and then … nothing.
One thing about the midway, and something about which I fully understand, there really isn’t much to the midway in the morning or even the afternoon. Most of the passers-by are moms and kids. Dads are probably smart enough to stay home. Beyond that, most of the folks are small groups just wandering about aimlessly. They aren’t buying, they aren’t stopping, and they certainly aren’t riding.
The rain has stopped and there is a nice humid breeze blowing. I am in full Fair regalia just waiting to see a familiar face. I tried to say hi to the world by walking to the Time Warner exhibit to get online and do the acebook/email/syr.com thing. The walk time from the extreme far end of the fair all the way to the far other end
of the fairgrounds is going to be enough of a chore to break me from my internet addiction. Once or twice a day is going to be enough. The world will just have to wait.
Until next time, … cruisin’ to the tunes.
Still, there was a couple so enamored with Lady Galaxy’s work that they saw at the Erie County Fair, that they wanted her to make them a special picture … one downloaded from the internet. But Lady Galaxy was so busy in Buffalo that she never got around to doing the picture for the couple.
At eleven this morning, day one, the couple showed up at Lady Galaxy’s booth. Apparently they drove all the way from a Jacuzzi suite hotel room they were staying at just to get Lady Galaxy to do the picture for them. They even brought their own canvass.
Well of course Ms. Galaxy was more than eager to do up their picture as requested. As she was in the process thereof, the husband and wife both stood watch and took multiple pictures of the picture in progress.
The best part … at one point the husband was taking a picture of Lady Galaxy doing the picture and the wife was taking a picture of the husband taking a picture of Lady Galaxy. I asked if they wanted me to take a picture of the wife taking a picture of her husband taking a picture of Lady Galaxy.
Obviously I didn’t have a waist pack to put the money in. Lady Galaxy had an extra. It is baby blue and has a little stuffed monkey attached to its front in a very strategic place. Let’s see how many jokes we can make of this.
OK so like watching an artist work can be a lot of fun for the audience. For those of us who are behind the artist waiting for her to finish and to help her with her conversation with the crowd, we employees are having way too much fun. At one point, a Michael Jackson song came on the speakers and the two of us helpers were doing our best impression. My buddy was trying the hat flip onto the head. I tried moonwalking but failed miserably. It wasn’t until I tried the crotch grab and WOOHOO, that I slipped and fell hard on my ass. At least I put on a good show to back up Lady Galaxy.
Note to self: No more Michael Jackson impressions.
It is a quiet morning this first morning of the Fair. People are already set up, the grounds and facilities are spic and span, and nobody is awake but me and one convicted pedophile whom I met when buying some coffee. Nice guy; shared a cigarette and his tale of woe.
The tent is still wet and has that moldy ‘smells like ass’ aroma from Wednesday night’s storm. Temperatures are tolerable in shorts and a couple tshirts … and even barefootin. I don’t yet know what the Fair holds in store for me today but if it is anything like yesterday, I may eat a gun to escape the boredom. Lady Galaxy puts on a great show. But if you have seen one ethereal moonscape or landscape with icey waterfalls, you have seen most of them. She is the star. I am just her humble slave meaning I sit around and when not doing my Michael Jackson impression, I really need something productive to do. Just ‘being here’ is going to get very tiring very quick. This is especially so since Lady Galaxy’s DJ is not on scene and instead we have been listening to the same playlist of songs from Galaxy’s IPad over and over. But then again, I could be home dealing with chaos and crises.
Today is the day that my youngest child heads off to college. I so wanted to be there and go along for the ride and be miserable as we moved all her crap into her dorm room. A couple days ago, I was informed by my owners – my wife and daughter – that the trip to college is going to be a girl’s only event and I wasn’t welcome. That really hurt but I understood. I don’t know if five or ten years from now whether I will feel guilty that I wasn’t there to bring her to college. Today, I just woke up with a hole in my heart from sadness yet at the same time I am so filled with joy and hope that she lives an amazing life. Today, as she starts the next great adventure of her life, she has my full throated support, love, and prayers. Now, if I can only get her to skype me once in a while just to let me know she is alive.
Well, time to guzzle some coffee, pay a visit to see a man about a horse, see if I can bum a cigarette from someone who is not a pedophile (which may not be easy with Strates personnel), and get the tent organized and cleaned up in preparation for a new day of the same-o, same-o.
Oh, and to the person or persons who decided to throw a significant number of metal somethings into the back of a box truck parked behind my tent after hours when I was trying to doze off … THANKS A LOT --- (mumblemumble asshole).
KUDOS TO YOU
I have not wanted to say anything nice about Dan O’Hara’s administration of the New York State Fair since he took the job that I wanted so much. Every chance I have had to take a shot, I did not hesitate.
Kicking and crying I am grabbed and dragged into the O’Hara fan club. The remodeling and reorganization of the International Building was a pleasant surprise. This is the building where all the different foods are with the long tables for group eating. Now, the eating area is on a platform with round and square tables that give the impression of far fewer seats. Foot traffic moves far easier and the walkways are wide open. There is also a wine court … though I think it is overpriced and gives very little product for the money spent. But, you can bring food and eat whilst you sip.
I chowed at a table with three total strangers. One was a woman who refused to engage. Another was a first time fair worker for Time Warner. He couldn’t stop complaining about all the hours he had to talk at the fair and when he got home his wife didn’t understand why he didn’t want to talk to her. Dude, it is only day 2.
The other person at my table is the owner of one of the food concessions … New York Deli. He sat with the most delicious corned beef sandwich that made me regret my own choice of something Middle Eastern. As he sat, we chatted about the new organization of the International Building. He told me that despite it looking like there are fewer seats, in reality there are more. The concessionaires actually counted. Not only are there more seats, but the room is quieter and far cooler in temperature. It actually is a fairly good place to eat and I recommend it.
My next trip down, I am getting me one of them corned beef sandwiches. They looked awesome and the owner was a cool dude to chat with.
Also, I was talking to him because of his involvement with the Tim Horton’s chain. This morning walking down part of the fairgrounds, I saw the sign about a burger with a donut for $2 at the Tim Hortons booth. I was surprised that this way overhyped meal was so inexpensive. About a half hour later I passed another eatery with the giant hamburger with all the fixins in a donut for $6. OK, I figured someone is gaming me; not that I intended to eat anything from either vendor.
When the Deli owner told me of his involvement with Tim Hortons, I told him about the price discrepancy. He explained to me that Hortons was only selling a giant hamburger sized donut. Fair management even summoned Hortons down to explain and modify their signage.
Just another hot lazy hazy crazy day at the Fair.
Lady is on Fire; so are her paintings.
So while walking, I passed the national guard exhibit which has set standards and publishes results and requirements for pushups and pullups. It was nice and syuprrising to see an air force officer (probably a ROTC lieutenant) meet and exceed the pushup goal. He did 50. I cant. Can you?
Saw a guy so drunk it took two troopers with an incredible amount of patience and kindness to walk him out despite his crab walking.
The there were the six kids with lost kid tags escorted off the midway by troopers. There is obviously room for a lot of jokes; especially given the race of the children. For me, the only real question is who in their right mind would have six kids and why would you dump them on the midway. If you want to get rid of your kids, there are easier ways. But in all seriousness folks, how do you lose six kids? Is that even possible?
I don’t know if James Strates read this or even cares, but his experiment with rearranging the midway did a great disservice to many vendors. Even though Strates spread out their big draw rides, the crowds were still centered around a common square leaving anybody working on the periphery screwed out of a large possible market. Free money for Strates but those who do the hard work to make him look good are ignored without remorse.
Lady Galaxy is an amazing heart. I was telling her my daughter had left for college yesterday and that I was not allowed to go along for the trip. It was going to be a mother-daughter thing and I didn’t fit either of those criteria.
All I could do to participate in my daughter going off to college was to sit by the phone and wait to see if they made it safe and that my wife later arrived home without problem. Fortunately, all went by their plans and the day, from what I ‘hear’, was stressful and annoying. Perhaps for the sanity of all concerned it is better that I stayed 250 miles away. I love you Courtney and already miss you terribly.
Anyway, back to Lady Galaxy … my daughter and her best friend since preschool days were accepted to different universities in different parts of New York State. Madame Galaxy can do her art on any non porous surface. To demonstrate, she pulled out a paperback sized hard cover book with a couple hundred blank pages in it. The goal of the book is a form of diary. She, Lady Galaxy does the art on the cover of the book making it an original and precious piece of art. Then, what happens is that the two or more folks involved, write notes and things to say to each other and then keep sending the book back and forth. I thought what a great way for my kidlet and her friend to stay in touch. And lemme tell ya, the beautiful waterfall design on the bookcover makes the gift all the more special. That I secured something from Lady Galaxy before she and her performance disappears from the earth is priceless.
DAY THREE, WHAT DO I SEE? (thus far)
by Mark David Blum
on Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 4:37pm
I see the sun this morning. Of all the past three mornings I have woken up on the fairgrounds, it has been either raining or overcast. Today, there is this bright orange orb rising in the sky with the awe inspiring passion of a Lady Galaxy original. I love the sun.
If I am not mistaken today is Saturday. The reason I know this is because I actually had to look it up. Here on the fairgounds, especially if you work here, you can lose track of day date and time. This fete can be accomplished even without the aid of chemicals, herbs, or liquor. Just spend enough time here and time itself seems to all blend in together. I will say that as the evening drags and you do find out what time it is and then realize you still have five or six more hours of work still to go before you can even think about going to bed, that can really dig at your core and test your metal.
Yesterday, George Kilpatrick, a dear friend and the King of ALL Media; especially here in Syracuse and who has been sitting in this week for Jim Reith on WSYR afternoon talk show …. George called me for a fair update shortly after 5:00 p.m. While on hold waiting for the great Mr. Kilpatrick to squeeze me in, I heard the debate was going on before my arrival on the subject of tattoos. For the record George, and I was going to say this on the air, I have a tattoo. My daughters have tattoos and I think some of the hottest women I know have tattoos. Methinks Mr. Kilpatrick needs to mellow some and realize that a tattoo is not about the tramp stamp or the Mike Tyson look alike contest. A tattoo is a personal marking of personal importance that only has relevance and value to its host. You have to respect the art. That being said, considering some of the ‘art’ I have seen on display here at the Fair, some people shouldn’t have tattoos and others shouldn’t be doing them. It can get downright ugly.
The Fair, and what keeps bringing me back, is a state of mind. It is not about the food or the rides, or that Nazi bastard James Strates. The Fair is the perfect example of the Taoist take on the world. It is about just being in the moment, enjoying the ambiance, the sights, the smells, the swamp of humanity into which you have thrown yourself. The Fair is about being at the Fair. You have to really read Charlotte’s Web and meet Templeton the Rat to truly understand it. His words, in the movie, done lovingly by Paul Lynde (google it) say it all. The Fair is a veritable smorgasbord of experiences. Instead of asking yourself what you want to do and where you want to go and what you want to see at the Fair … try asking yourself … ‘how do I want this experience to be?’
I know, this is starting to sound like I been hitting the bong too much this morning. Rest assured only caffeine is coursing through my blood system – that is what can get through my clogged arteries. As hard and out there as it sounds, the Fair cannot be summed up by an event or observation. It has to be lived, to be experienced, and for goodness sake people, let go and live.
There is one piece of the world I would love to get my hands on. News on the impending storm. I have no idea how hard the wind is going to blow tonight or how many inches of rain are going to fall and make my tent smell like ass all over again. Talk about facing your Qi.
The official rule of the midway and concessionaires who work there alongside the rides are bound by the rule that as long as the Ferris Wheel is running, we all have to stay open. So far, that close time has been long after midnight. Once the midway does shut down, it does so fast. You have never seen booths close up and people disappear as fast as when that ferris wheel finally stops.
Then it is miller time. I set up my bedroom, unpack for the night, clean up and chillax for a while until I doze off to sleep. Nothing – not the trucks, the street sweepers, the cleaning crews, the workers, the construction, the voices of dozens of late night workers, or the pounding of sledge hammers on steel disturb me from a deep sleep that comes from a day of labor on the midway.
But, last night I was just tortured. Forget they moved a booth and did some major work around my tent last night, nothing disturbed me until a fly found me. Every time I would doze off, he would land on some part of me, waking me instantly. A frickin fly shouldn’t have that kind of power and control over my life. Yet, of all the chaos and crap of the Fair, it is a humble little fly that can ruin the night for even the biggest baddest of sharks.
The midway-esque food stand next to Lady Galaxy sells, among others, those giant elephant ears that you see people carrying around. These elephant ears are the size of monster truck tires. I have seen couples buy one and eat it together at the same time as they walk away. The funniest though was the father who bought one, sat down with his five kids in a circle and all of them chowed down on the elephant ear at the same time. The scene was reminiscent of a drum circle or a peace pipe ceremony in an Indian Chief’s tent. All six of them ate at once, working their way toward the center.
I woke up this morning to see a couple of booths next to us gone. Overnight I didn’t hear a sound as apparently the concessionaires tore down, packed up, and left for places unknown. As a result, Lady Galaxy is the beginning and end of the Fair. She is now the last thing a fairgoer coming or going from Gate 10 will see as they come in or leave the grounds. It is definitely something you want to do because with her looming retirement, this is your last chance to get one of her prized art works. Two more couples drove in from as far away as Buffalo and elsewhere just to see Lady Galaxy one more time and to get one or more of her works. People are buying them in multiples because the art is so cool and once its gone, it is gone for good. Hope to see you here. Waive to the Shark if you stop in.
We will talk more after tonight's hurricane hits. Life in a tent on the midway should be a blowout.
today's fair tips
August 28 at 7:35pm
dont come. wait until tomorrow
tomorrow's fair tips ...
August 28 at 7:35pm
first, if you think the milk bar is a great idea in today's economy, think twice. at 25 cents a cup, it takes 36 cups to make a gallon thereby costing you $9.00 per gallon for milk. for that price, i had better get dancing girls
August 28 at 7:37pm
second, mommas dont let your babies grow up to be snookies. you would be amazed at how many 14-17 year old girls are kinda chunky, wearing clothes two sizes too small and revealing, have black hair parted on the side, and have that jersey shore attitude.
August 28 at 7:38pm
last, the biggest rip off at the fair is the clown in the cage. even if you win, you lose. you get nothing for the money you spend. at least if you give it to me, i will thank you instead of insulting you\
August 28 at 7:39pm
Salvatore Lanza Just go to fair with me. I promise you a good time.
August 28 at 8:11pm
Mark David Blum Sal, why dont you come to the Fair and let ME show YOU a good time, honey
THE GREAT 2011 STATE FAIR HURRICANE
by Mark David Blum
on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 6:10am
So, ask me how I know that the rains started at 4:30 this morning. One of the few things that can wake me from a deep sleep is a hard rain falling on a tent. This is especially so when I am expecting hurricane force winds and torrential rains. At least that was the message I got repeatedly from multiple sources last night. On the flip side, we were also told that it was just going to rain a little and no real wind.
That may have been the case at 4:30 with just a light rain but by 7 a.m., it was pouring. By noon the wind was filling the tent like a sailboat and I watched helplessly as the tent moved more and more away from the wind. Everything is soaked. There is at least one inch of water everywhere in the tent. The carpets are like bathtubs. It is a complete and utter mess. Every couple of minutes I have to get up and reset the tent poles, tighten the ropes against the sides, keep jumping up to do stupid shit. Why am I doing this, you ask? Because Lady Galaxy and her husband have evaporated. They left for what was supposed to be a half hour sojourn to pick up supplies. So far, they have been gone for more than four hours.
I have changed socks four times, shoes twice, and shirts twice. I wont dare change out of my soaking wet jeans because it might look a little weird on the midway seeing a guy in one of the booths taking his pants off. As much I don’t care that people see me naked, in this cold wet atmosphere, I would be more concerned with a George Costanza moment and the embarrassment of cold water shrinkage. So I remain in my jeans. My shoes of course being as wet as they are makes changing socks a waste of time and effort.
Eventually the tent began to parachute up and away with each gust of wind. Despite the tent weighing many more hundreds of pounds than do I, it took me probably longer than it should have to learn that my fat ass is not going to stop the tent from flying away just by standing and holding it down. I almost got a serious Mr. Toad’s wild ride as the tent nearly took me with it. Fortunately, all I got is a wrenched and sore back from fighting the wind.
Lady Galaxy did come back, took one look around, and said ‘fuck it’; closing for the day. We worked to seal the tent up tight and she drove off leaving me with nothing to do on a rainy windy miserable day. I could have gone home or to a friend’s house or even gone off to see the rest of the Fair. The better idea was obvious … take a nap, which I did for nearly four hours. It was probably the best four hours of sleep I had in the past few days. I woke up at 6:00 p.m. just in time for breakfast. Coffee and a philly cheesesteak sammich were the perfect meal. I just had a hankerin and went for it. Then a walk to Time Warner to put up my Fair Tips, check out the butter sculpture, see Safety Town, learned that there is frozen cheesecake on a stick and pepperoni on a stick, and meander back to put these words on paper.
The midway is trying to reopen. Rides are open but few if anybody is bothering. It was funny when they first started up the top spin ride. The carnies (jocks – operators) were watching the seat as it rose up in the air and then … flipped over. It was at that moment that a day’s worth of water that had gathered in the seats all came down to earth all over the operators. I couldn’t stop laughing as they scattered. But I am the guy who tried to hold a tent down by sheer will against gale force winds.
In all the chaos of the rain and wind, WSYR sent its KING OF ALL MEDIA, the Great George Kilpatrick down to the fairgrounds to get the official word from the fair to broadcast in the morning. Being that I was sitting in the tent as the rain fell, I heard George was here and so I went down to find him. Standing like a drenched and lost cat, George was standing near Gate One and after a few pleasantries, he told me he came to get stories to put on the air. The problem is that at 7:00 a.m., there is nobody of any real importance at the Fair. I told him I was about the closest he was going to get to an official person at that hour. So when he went on the air, he used the term, “unofficial sources”. James Strates ordered the midway to be open and that was all I knew and that is what I shared.
After, George I walked around as he was hunting stories. First, we came upon the Chevy Court area and noticed young females sitting in the bleachers in the pouring rain. We walked up and George began quizzing them. Apparently these three, ages 18-22 came down at 5:30 a.m. to get front row center seating for the 2:00 p.m. concert by the band Allstar Weekend. C’mon girls, AllStar Weekend? Really 5:30 a.m.? For the record: if you are going to come into the fairgrounds before 8:00 a.m., just tell them at the gate you are making a delivery and there is no parking or entry fee (or so I heard). Later in the day, I met a friend of the parents of one of the girls who were later joined by a couple others and they were tweeting and facebooking the experience all day long.
I then showed George the newly designed International Building and even he was impressed. As we walked and talked, I explained how there is a whole world apart from the fair that exists behind the scenes … and just to make a point I stopped at a random booth and got George a cup of coffee without any money changing hands. That is what Fair people do – we look out for each other. George did his interview thing and while we were talking with the owner, a friend of his came over with a golf cart. With Mr. Kilpatrick complaining about his knee, I asked the golf cart driver for a lift to Gate 10 to show him Lady Galaxy’s tent to which request, the driver was kind enough to oblige. George and I sat and I showed him Galaxy’s stuff while we waiting for Mr. Dan O’Hara, the Fair Director to come find and rescue George so George could get the official word on the Fair for the radio. He left, I laid down to nap. But of course, as he was driving out, George was kind enough to call me and say thanks … making me get out of bed AGAIN and put my dry socks into the wet ground so I get to my phone.
As things stand now, tomorrow morning, everything in the tent is going to be thrown out because it is so ruined from water. Lady Galaxy is going to start with new stuff. Tonight however, the tent is probably going to smell like ass. Have you ever smelled wet carpet? Tomorrow morning will probably be the most miserable; because everything will be wet and cold. Cold is terrible first thing in the morning as you rush to dress just to run across the street to use the bathroom.
But, as they used to almost say on Saturday Night Live with John Goodman, Chris Farley, and George Wendt … raise your glasses folks … THUH Fair. Aint nothing like it.
by Mark David Blum
on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 6:33am
People ask me why I put myself through this thing called ‘The Fair’. It is a long story synthesized down as follows: I first came upon the New York State Fair when my wife and I first moved here to Upstate New York back in 1989. Like most folks, we were casual users of the Fair and would come and eat and listen and leave. Year after year, we followed the hype and did the walk and walk thing.
Then one day back in 2003, I was given an opportunity to work at the Fair. ‘Work’ meant just that. Even for a lawyer, ‘working’ at the Fair was so totally inconsistent with my usual work parameters, that even I was shocked. The real shocking part was that I was being asked to work garbage detail. Specifically, I was given a golf cart and a work crew of people who emptied trashcans and swept up sidewalks and my duty for 12 hours a day was to drive around and make sure my peeps were doing their jobs. Yes, I had to lend a hand on occasion, but hey even I can get my hands dirty without whining.
Two things came out of that job. The first was that I got to meet just about everybody who is anybody at the Fair. But the best part was sitting in the golf cart, which I would drive and park strategically where I knew my crew would pass by to see if they were doing their jobs or if they needed help.
I don’t know if you can imagine it, but what if you came to the Fair and someone handed you a golf cart and said ‘go, see you in 12 hours’. Where under normal circumstances, people would tire and couldn’t get to or wouldn’t want to see places or sites, I was there zip zip zip. While fairgoers would sweat and suffer in the congested walkways, I got to sit comfortably in a golf cart and just watch. That experience opened my eyes to a whole world that exists here at the Fair and which is unseen to the casual visitor to the Fair.
The other lesson I took from the experience was how much more fun a person can have at the fairgrounds and during the Fair than the simple fare offered to the casual fairgoer. There is, after all, a few thousand people who work and live on the fairgrounds and whose efforts make the Fair work so smoothly that their presence goes relatively unnoticed. Sitting on that golf cart made me one with the Fair and coming back as a mere tourist has been a boring droll experience – about which I have written tomes.
Every year since, I have tried to get a job at the Fair. It is a mix of my love for camping with my desire to spend my vacation time as far away from work and the world of law as I can get. Working at the Fair and with the crowds is so unlike a court room or lawyering that I can (almost) completely forget the world for a couple of weeks. No news, no calls, no letters, no wearing a fancy suit, no grouchy judges or niggling opposing counsel. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work and the people with whom I deal. But we all need a mental health vacation and I take mine at the Fair.
One thing you can be sure of is that I don’t do this for the money. The offer I generally make Fair vendors is that in trade for room and board, they can have my time. Simple: house me and feed me and I will be your humble servant throughout the duration.
Admittedly I am a very picky person. I refuse to sit and work one of those food booths because of the chaos and the heat. I wont work inside one of the buildings because I need the fresh air, cooler temperatures, and well, I just need to be outside and not locked in a cocoon of a building. I want jobs that enable me to move about, put me under minimal supervision, and give me the chance to absorb the craziness found among the meandering milieu. That has both given me some fascinating work experiences and kept me from working as often as I would like. In fact, since my first job back in 2003, my current job is only the fourth company for which I have worked and this is the fourth Fair I have actually worked. Though I am Fair Rat through and through for the past 22 years, the Fair is losing its luster if my only way to enjoy it is to follow the crowd about the fairgrounds nose to ass of the person in front of me.
The one place I have always wanted to work was on the Midway. Obviously over the years, I have made friends with many carnies, jocks, and other midway workers. Their job looked like such fun that I figured it must be crazy to even just stand there and take tickets from riders. I tried and tried; going so far as to contact James Strates himself but alas, I could never find the right kind of job. Actually, I never found any kind of job so I almost gave up on the idea.
I met Lady Galaxy in one of my early jobs at the Fair and had the chance to hang out with her and get to know her as a person. Since then and over the years, I would occasionally come upon tales of her travels and experiences and smile and not really give it much more thought. After all, she boldly declared that she was never going to come back to the New York State Fair. So we never really communicated but she does know of me and my adoration for all things ‘Fair’.
When she suddenly decided … and I mean suddenly as in last Saturday … four days before opening day … to bring her show back to the NYS Fair, apparently I was one of her first calls. She needed to get her show together and needed help. Clearly she must have tried every one of her friends and colleagues and groupies and literally scraped the bottom of the barrel if she called me and begged me to help her out. But of course, m’Lady. The deal was the same. A place to sleep on fairgrounds and meals and expenses. Oh, and I asked kindly if I could a ‘sponsored by’ sign up because I too deserve to eat. We had a deal and I have been here ever since.
Now, imagine if you will being a lawyer and working in the starched shirt windbag profession whose idea of hard work is a dramatic backswing on the ‘T’. Shedding my shark skin and re-costuming as a fair person is an easy transition for me. Apparently doing and dancing and prancing about a midway booth is quite shocking for those lawyers, court workers, cops, clients, and other related personnel who have only seen me in ‘lawyer clothes’and wearing my lawyer game face. The looks on their face is priceless.
The other fun question is: “Are you really a lawyer?” ‘Hell yeah’ is my normal response followed by a quick interrogatory (as I did with a ten year old boy yesterday). ‘Don’t I look like a lawyer?’ The kid said ‘no’ and I asked why not? He said it was because I wasn’t wearing a suit. “Would you wear a suit to the Fair?” I asked. He said hmmm like well I guess yer right. The point is made; when I am not lawyering I don’t gotta look like a lawyer and I have the freedom to live my life to its fullest. I would like to think I am a larger personality than just what I do for a living. The best analogy is my tattoo: I have a shark tattoo because well, lawyers and sharks are euphemistic blood brothers. The tat even has written ‘El Tiburon’ etched about it. I want another tattoo and every idea provided me all involve a lawyer related scheme. One of my favorites is a scales of justice tipped of center with my initials being the weight to throw off the balance. Pass – there is more to me than just being a lawyer. That is the same argument about my working at the Fair and making a clown of myself in front of starched shirt crowd with whom I come into contact.
Working the Fair is not all fun. In fact, it makes for long hard hot dirty days. For example, as I have learned, the midway has to be completely open for business, rain or shine, hurricane or heatwave, by 10:00 a.m. No vendor, ride, or concessionaire is allowed to close their shop until the lights on the Ferris Wheel go out. That is the carnies clock. You work until the Ferris Wheel tells you otherwise which can go until midnight or even later, like last night where we were ‘on’ until nearly 1:30 a.m. Not until that moment can I even think of resting my weary aching old man bones. This all sucks for me because I am a very early riser and tired as I am, I still wake up between 4 and 5 in the morning. So sleep will have to wait until I am dead.
Let me tell you, working on your feet in the elements and being on the go non stop really hurts. Your feet, your calves, your legs, your back, your shoulders, your hands, and your digestive tract are all very mad at you for pushing them as hard as you do. Last night when I tried to sleep, my feet hurt so much – nothing specific, just a nagging pain on the bottoms of my feet that drove me nuts and wouldn’t let me get comfortable enough to drift off. I know that once I get through this wall … get past the pain … I will finally cross that magic line and become one with the Fair. But as any long distance runner will tell you, first you have to take the pain and get through it before the endorphin buzz kicks in. I really hope it hurries up because I am really in pain and want so much to move beyond it and finally start to enjoy the experience.
Alas but I lack a God Spider and a overbloated rat watching my back and putting my name up in lights, I have to pass from the dark into the light. ‘Some Pig’ aint gunna cut it when people are talking about making shark sushi after the Fair.
Well enough of that. Today it is just rain rain rain. I wonder what wonders await me today. It certainly didn’t start right having lost $20.00 somewhere between my tent and the place where I got my morning coffee. It is raining too hard to even bother going out to hunt for missing money. Let me tell you, for a Jew that is a real quandary.
2011 STATE FAIR STORIES – BUTTS, AFLAME
by Mark David Blum
on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 2:03pm
Like Lloyd Bridges in the movie Airplane!, I gotta tell you that I sure did pick the wrong time to quit smoking. Actually I quit smoking in March and have been doing quite well; only bumming a couple cigarettes a week. That was a tremendous drop from more than a pack a day for whoknows how many years. Lined end to end, I have smoked hundreds and hundreds of miles. Since March and for very good reason unless I want to spend the rest of my shortened life hooked up to an oxygen tank. It is not the future I envisioned. The doctors told me I had beginning stages of COPD and I had to quit because I was not going to get better but would get significantly worse if I kept smoking. So I just did; allowing myself the occasional treat because I really do enjoy smoking. Besides if you smoke a butt every few days or so, you get quite a buzz.
As I was saying, I picked the wrong time to quit smoking. There used to be a time that there was an unwritten code amongst smokers in that we would give a butt to anybody who asked; friend or foe, stranger, homeless person, anybody. It was just done. Oh yeah, and a light too. You would give a cigarette before you would give a quarter.
When I quit smoking but would be having fits, I would search and hunt until I found a smoker and then I would ask if I could bum one. Nope. Them days is over forever. Methinks it has something to do with the ten dollars people pay for non Indian cigarettes. Apparently people bumming cigarettes has gotten so prolific that the smokers I do know, when they go outside to inhale, only take the one they intend to smoke and so that they don’t get their pockets picked clean by bums like me. Of course, my friends, bless their souls, are all enablers and willingly offer me cigarettes without my even asking. I have been good; mostly so.
But the Fair is totally different; as if it wasn’t way out there in every way. Here, everybody smokes. Every Fair employee smokes, every vendor smokes, 90% of the crowd smokes, and of course the folks I work with smoke. Lady Galaxy does not smoke but her husband does. The problem is that he is generous to a fault. If I ask him to leave me a butt for the night when they leave, he gives me a damn pack. I don’t want a whole pack, I want one. Give me a pack and I will smoke a pack. Give me one and I am a happy guy.
Some alcoholics can never touch another drink. Others can control themselves and have that occasional beer. I would like to think I am that kind of smoker. I gave up smoking but allow myself the occasional drag; even if it is just the ace. But here, not only is someone giving me beer, but is actually pouring whiskey right down my throat. When the Fair is over, I am going to have to quit smoking all over again. That, more than anything else, is really going to suck. While I am certainly not ungrateful, it would be better for me if everybody wasn’t so generous and beneficent. underlying it all, I think people are shoving cigarettes in my face to ply me for free legal advice. Does that make me a cynic?
The last butt to be mentioned here is the guy who walked up to me while Lady Galaxy was doing her work. The guy saw the sign that says ‘Sponsored in Part by Mark David Blum’. He asked me if I knew Mark Blum. I said “kinda” and asked if the guy knew Mark. Admitting he had been a client of Mark’s, he then proceeded to tell me about his case and Mark’s representation. I asked how long since he had seen Mark and the guy said ‘about a year’. When I asked if he wanted me to deliver a message to Mark for him, the guy said ‘nah’ and walked off. The way I see it, if the guy didn’t recognize me the guy he was talking to as his lawyer and the guy he was talking about, that more than anything explains why he had to have a lawyer in the first place. As tends to be the case with persons like him, I will probably see him again; so long as his money is green.
No No, Nanettes at the 2001 State Fair
by Mark David Blum
on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 6:39pm
On midway, 2 young girls, 12-14 years old, not so much Snookies but more like JWoww, suddenly stopped walking side by side and in synch broke out into a little dance.
Brace yourself … I quote,
“Oh don’t you touch me there,
(drawing a square surrounding the region of their breasts to genital region)
this is my no no square,
keep your hands away from me.”
And then they kept walking.
I am still not sure which hit the ground faster. My jaw or the wine slushie in my hands.
2011 STATE FAIR STORIES – DAY UNKNOWN
by Mark David Blum
on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 6:51am
I don’t know what day today is. I think it is Monday but beyond that, Ihaven’t a clue as to the date or even what is going on the world. Have they captured Ghadaffi? I don’t know. Frankly as much as I might be curious, I really don’t care. This is the Fair and it is so far removed from reality that I wouldn’t want something like hard news to ruin the buzz of living in an alternative universe. God bless Templeton and his little grey cousin I saw scurrying around the West End Restaurant this morning.
The pain is almost over. Like a runner, the first few days of the fair are just pure pain. Long hours, aches and pains in places God did not intend, and no sleep. Saturday night before the hurricane hit, my feet hurt so bad I just couldn’t get comfortable for more than an hour. Hopefully by the end of the day today, I will have hit that wall and can finally forget the pain and just get high on the moment and the crowds and the experience. If not, then I will just let the tequila keep doing its wonderful job.
Last night because I had napped so much during the day, I was awake and bored most of the night into the early morning hours. At one point I was among a handful of people actually awake and moving about when I had the distinct pleasure of passing by a tent where the people inside were clearly doing it like they do on the discovery channel. Instead of being a gentleman and meandering off, I stood there and waved over every passer by I saw and told them to “shhh” and listen to what I was listening to. O was it difficult to keep my mouth shut and not cheer and egg them on. But at woman’s "magical" moment, which she shared with the entire world at full volume, someone (who shall remain nameless) blurted out "9.56". That did it. We all took off running erupting with laughter.
HOLY SHIT is it cold this morning. Cold wet damp and just plain miserable. But the misery was short lived; solved mostly by a hot shower, hot coffee, and some hot company for breakfast. Now, the sun is shining, the wet stanky mess is gone, my feet are freed from their moist swamp known as my shoes and last pair of socks, and I can again hide behind my sunglasses. Oh does that sun feel good. Warmth. t has been 36 hours since I was warm and it is a good sign for a good day yet to come.
Overall the day went quickly, we were steady busy. People are just mesmerized by Lady Galaxy’s work. Several thus far admitted they have collections and have followed her for years. Because of illness, we have been very shorthanded and I been working hard for every dime I am not being paid for the privilege of being here and seeing the world from this perspective. Stand behind an artist sometime and watch them work and watch their fans drool over their work. “Fascinating”, would say Spock.
The most fascinating customers were a couple who came and said they bought Lady Galaxy’s very first painting the very first time she started her career at the NYS Fair. Now, the couple have a painting from Lady Galaxy’s farewell tour. To them, it was a momentous event. Galaxy even wrote something special on the back.
Oh, and as to fat people and the Top Spin, the record is now seven flips. Bring help.
One last shout out to all those insane and crazy people who with so much love in their hearts, brought me socks yesterday. That was just too funny and much appreciated.
2011 State Fair Draws First Blood
by Mark David Blum
on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 6:57am
The Fair finally crossed that line and drew first blood. Since 1989 when I first discovered this place after moving here from Berkeley, I just acted like the California boy that I am and proceeded to meander about the fairgrounds barefoot. Nobody said anything. Well, nobody official did. Many people would turn up their nose at the mere thought of their flesh touching the fairgrounds. For me, it is as natural as, well, being natural.
Then along came Dan O’Hara who outright banned barefootin at the Fair. I protested the only way I could. I walked barefoot in open defiance of the rules. (No barefeet in the buildings and you cant get in the gate barefoot). Only twice have I been told to put on shoes by Fair workers and not once by a cop. I think cops are more fascinated by my tshirt than my barefeet. They cant process the conflicting images.
Well I have stepped in and nearly stepped in a lot of stuff over the years. I have a keen eye and good sense of where and what is safe and relatively pain free. All my life I have been a barefooter and 21 of the last 22 years, I been-a-barefootin at the Fair. The Fair and I have lived in harmony with each respecting the others. Kudos too to the clean up crews. They do good work and I know how hard is their job.
Today, the Fair drew first blood. While making an adjustment to the tent, I felt like I stepped on a sharp stone that wouldn’t let go of my flesh. It happens and when it does, you just rub the foot against the other foot or leg and get rid of the offending pebble.
Little did I know that instead of a rock, what I had stepped on and which was stuck in my flesh was a small shard of glass. Still I went through the whole process and by the time I realized what I had done and pulled out the sliver, I had sliced up my leg and was bleeding from the puncture wound on the other foot. All is well and I am healed, but I sure soaked a washcloth with all the blood from the razor slices.
Fine. So that’s the way it’s gunna be? Score: Fair 1, Mark 0. Game on.
Today's Fair Tips:
August 30 at 6:57am
first, if you are going to stand around and hang out and chat with your friends (which is a good thing), or you are sharing what you bought, or are just having a bite or a drink, PLEASE get the f--- out of the way and stop standing around in a bunch at a dead stop in the middle of a walkway. if causes huge backups that is REALLY annoying. get off the road if you cant focus on doing your job; shuffling along from place to place
August 30 at 6:59am •
second, definitely go to the African Village and eat the Jerk Chicken dinner. it is awesomeness and fullness beyond compare. the flavors are perfect, the portions healthy including fried plantains and veggies. and you cant beat the back beat blues that grind out from the stage while you eat
August 30 at 7:01am •
finally, dont look for me today. duty calls me today to be off the fairgrounds for the next 24 hours. so there will be no observations today since i will be taking a brief timeout. death before dishonor.
August 30 at 7:05am
MAJOR NEWS FLASH: Mark David Blum WILL BE RETURNING TO THE NYS FAIR THIS AFTERNOON AND STAY FOR THE DURATION.
August 31 at 7:02am
it has been rightly pointed out to me that my milk story may not be completely accurate. i warned against purchasing the milk because at 25 cents for a six ounce cup, the cost of the milk was $9 per gallon; or some of the most expensive milk in the world. at the same time, i have been told that even the largest least expensive bottle of water on the fairgrounds is 22 ounces and sells for $1. apparently milk is less expensive as for the same $1, you could get 24 ounces of milk
August 31 at 7:05am
Ladies Day Fair Tips
August 31 at 4:53pm
first, ladies ... please think about your shoes. high heels, platforms, big heavy boots. they dont work at the fair. they look ridiculous and i am sure they hurt after the first mile or two
August 31 at 4:54pm •
second, if you are going to give your money to one of those guess-it guys. weight age birthday -- i will never understand why women dare their weight to be guessed. dont you ladies like to keep that information private? first you let the... guesser write down a number he later announces, and second you get on a scale in front of a few dozen people showing everyone your real weight. i dont get it. i didnt think women did that.See More
August 31 at 4:55pm
Vicki Cole You men need to toughen up - I'd make whole day and then some in my 5" heels...I can even run in them - didn't say it was pretty - but it has been done!
August 31 at 5:33pm
2011 State Fair: Reborn
by Mark David Blum
on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 4:59pm
So last night when I got home, one of the first things my wife did was take me into my daughter’s room and show me how empty it was. The drawers were empty, the closet bare, everything – gone. It was a melancholy sight.
But fret not as Mark saved the day. I found a little trinket being given away somewhere in the Center of Progress building and I was able to share it with my Mrs. to ease the pain of our kidlet being gone. It was one of those plastic fetuses given away by the Right to Life group. I said, “honey, it is OK she is gone. I brought you a new child to raise and nurture.”
Thankfully she laughed.
… and this woman has stayed married to me for more than 23 years.
2011 State Fair Ninja Hit Squads
by Mark David Blum
on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 5:00pm
Ninja hit squads are roaming the midway. I urge caution. Several Fair employees living and working down on the midway have bought themselves those plastic swords, pistols, knives, plastic uzis, phsers, light sabers, and other weapons of murder and mayhem. While on break, they sneak up on each other and “kill” someone. Seriously, there are carnies roaming the midway with murder in their hearts as they stalk their next prey. I am still deciding what weapon I am going to choose as I prepare myself to do battle later.
If your goal at the NYS Fair is to see REO Speedwagon, Jerry Springer, Alec Baldwin, Bruno Mars, the Cake Guy, the 6pm parade, any of the human, animal, and vegetable demonstrations and competitions, or even catch an alleged glimpse of Eminem, then do not get a job on the midway. Seriously, despite the time spent at the Fair, I missed the entire event.
September 1 at 6:35pm
2011 State Fair Stories: Shhhhh, Lawyer Thinking
by Mark David Blum
on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 6:33am
Yes, I had to leave the fairgrounds Tuesday to deal with real world clients Wednesday morning. Fortunately the parties settled and I was able to get back home, repack laundered clothes and reorganized other bags leaving me at least ten pounds less crap to drag to the Fair. I rode the Shoppingtown bus (the cost of which rose 75 cents from last year) back to the fairgrounds and then took the tractor driven tram all the way around to near Lady Galaxy’s home. I had never ridden the tram but it worked to save me miles of walking schlepping baggage. (Is it not true that your baggage is always weighing on you, regardless of your efforts to avoid it?)
What is good news, in addition to the weather, is that both Lady and Her beau have healed and are in top form. That means less work for me and more chances to be an observer instead of a participant. Also awaiting my return is a new buddy; Niko. One of them is his owner and he now hanging out with us and he and I have become buds.
Apparently I cant stop petting him and he refuses to make me do so. He sits right at where my right hand hangs from my chair so it is almost unconscious that I find myself petting him endlessly. Oh, and Niko enjoys fried calamari a helluva lot more than do I.
What is not good is how returning to the Fair hit me. Being home and in the world; functioning normally, sleeping in my bed, slippers – mmmm, and resting in peace and quiet instead of the endless beat of disco really had an impact upon me. Though I was gone from the Fair for but a brief respite, the return thereto was hard.
Wednesday never ended. The midnight shut down hour didn’t come for hours after its due time. Getting back into the rhythm is not as easy as it might appear. There were hours when I felt I wasn’t going to be able to survive the night, let alone the remainder of Fair. Even as Wednesday slid into Thursday, the physical pain grew, the stress intensified, and by 4:30 p.m., I was ready to call it quits and just go home. After all, this is not my life and I don’t have to do this. I volunteered which means I can resign without remorse. ’t going to be able to survive the night, let alone the remainder of Fair. Even as Wednesday slid into Thursday, the physical pain grew, the stress intensified, and by 4:30 p.m., I was ready to call it quits and just go home. After all, this is not my life and I don’t have to do this. I volunteered which means I can resign without remorse.
But no, I can handle this. I can tough this out. It is just work and this just the midway. Is is not brain surgery and I am not charing into gunfire. Though I cringe at the thought of going through the end of the Fair and the long hard hours it means, ‘quitting’ is not an option. First, I made a commitment and a promise to be here and help. Second, what would you think of me if I just up and quit. What would that say about me as a person? … as a lawyer?
I have been trying to dissect the problem and I think the issue is one of quiet. At home, it wasso peaceful; so very quiet. Just the calm endearing conversation between husband and wife. Not even an hormonal teenager screaming obscenities to ruin the calm.
Here at the midway and unique to my experience here at the Fair is the screaming blaring disco beats coming from half a dozen stereo systems intermingled with high pitched screetches from the upside down ones on the Top Spin. Before, either I was in a more sedate area or would be in a noisy area for but a few minutes. Now, it just goes on and on; the same damn hyper jams on steroids blaring the same loop of tunes over and over. It just doesn’t end. The noise is relentless and comes at you from every direction.
Then the lights go out on the ferris wheel and that serves as the signal to the midway that we are officially closed. Faster than you can suck down a cup of milk, all the tents and rides are shut down, closed up, and the midway is a ghost town. But until that magic moment, the noise is so thick you can almost see it. Drink enough tequila and you can.
That is what makes the mornings so nice. Even though I get to sleep around 2:00 a.m., I still wake at my normal hours of between 4-5 a.m. Nobody is around. Not a soul is moving. A few cleaning crews are here and there. But the midway is quiet and slowly comes awake as the hour nears 10:00 a.m. when everybody has to be open again.
I miss being able to have a conversation that doesn’t involve shouting into each other’s ear. That more than anything is probably the source of my sudden dislike of the environment. It will be nice to again be able to just calmly talk and not yell. Having to get up and walk across the tent when every muscle is aching is a pain in the ass just to hear some stupid comment made by someone.
All I know right now is that I have seven more hours of mad screaming chaos before I get the same number of peaceful calm.
Until then, CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
2011 State Fair Stories: Opening Day Labor Day Weekend
by Mark David Blum
on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 7:44am
It is the Friday of Labor Day Weekend and the beginning of the end of the Fair. It also the day that the culmination of my hard work, training, and knowledge of the business is put to its’ first big test. Eight days, 14 hours a day, and around the clock monitoring and observation I have worked. Yes, I have made mistakes; three to be exact, and every one of them is remedied. I can even almost work the ipod.
Today I get to open. By myself. Lady Galaxy will of course be here doing her thing and setting up her operation. But someone has to open the business itself and make it presentable to the world. Today is my day. I have been tasked and am being trusted to do it all by myself. Make no mistake; I live to be tested. This is just another of life’s hurdles that I too shall overcome. I fully intend to get the job done in record time with no errors. In addition to passing this milestone, I am really hoping I get a pat on the back.
(I will let you know how it goes).
Opening Day Lessons ...
September 2 at 10:23am
Lesson #1 of Opening a Midway business: Do NOT sweep up the inside of a tent when the flaps are still down and tied. You only create a dust storm that engulfs you and from which there is no escape. I already need a second shower and it is not yet 8:00 a.m.
Lesson #2 of Opening a Midway Business: Do NOT write about the above mentioned dust storm while sitting in aforesaid cloud.
September 2 at 10:23am
I did it! Woo hooo! Nothing broken, all done well and on time. Here I sit waiting for the world to come get me. So long as they don’t ask me to paint, this should all work out well
Opening day is going well. I am hitting on all four c...ylinders and died from exhaustion by 6:00 p.m. but wasn’t relieved until 7ish giving me the chance to babble with you. The day’s rush has been controlled and you would think I have been doing this for years. Of course, now that I am getting good at it, Lady Galaxy retires in 3 days.
September 2 at 7:28pm
2011 State Fair Stories: The Rest of the Story on the Top Spin
September 2 at 7:11pm
While the rest of the media has focused on the little incident with the Top Spin yesterday, i was across the street watching the unbelievable. people were hanging face down for 3-4 minutes; which must have hurt like hell ...
September 2 at 7:12pm
apparently the ride operated as it was intended. one passenger's harness was not right and tripped one of 80 sensors on the ride stopping it in place. the bench is supposed to spring loose when that happens but the shut down happened as just the right moment that there was perfect balance and so the bench hung there face down.
September 2 at 7:14pm •
normally during that part of the ride, it is when you hear the most screams as people get the sensation of about to fall on their face. the screams suddenly stopped and it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
September 2 at 7:15pm • LikeUnlike
then the ride let go and everybody got off.
September 2 at 7:15pm •
i hear that Strates has been trying to sell the top spin for about ten years. apparently it is a very old machine. he was apparently asking a million but accepted 480 k from a german company. check out top spin on the web; they have a cool website with new rides.
September 2 at 7:16pm
the ride is too heavy to travel over the road ... you will need a train if you want if for your own collection
September 2 at 7:21pm •
oh, and when some big shots in suits came by to see the machine today, they wanted the carnies to put them in the machine and hold them in the position that last night's riders experienced. again, rumor has it that Mr. Strates ordered that the inspectors be held in that position for as short a time as possible.
September 2 at 7:31pm
Almost every year at every Fair I happen to be where someone is in need of urgent medical attention. It probably happens because I am here so much and moving around that it is more of an issue of statistical probability than any sense of destiny. This morning, a woman walking down the sidewalk fell flat on her face. She said she was unable to get up. I called 911, provided comfort, and attended to a couple minor issues; standing watch over her until paramedics arrived.
… and no, I did not give her a business card. I am not that kind of lawyer.
September 2 at 7:19pm
2011 State Fair Tidbit: What is it with those ginormous stuffed animals everybody is carrying around with them? I mean like c’mon … really? What do you do with them? Where do you put them. I asked one woman and she said had no idea where she was going to put the one she was carrying; but that it was her fifth. These things are bigger than shamu. I don’t see the attraction.
September 3 at 6:46am
Dustin H Wahrendorf Attention is the attraction...
September 3 at 6:47am
Mark David Blum i think it is the thrill of the hunt over the high of the kill. but what price glory?
September 3 at 6:50am
Dustin H Wahrendorf Well, for me, nothing beats that sarcastic clown at the dunk-tank down at the midway,...he is really funny, calling some of the girls throwing the ball at him,..."fatty and chubbs", etc...he is brutal
September 3 at 6:53am •
Mark David Blum brutal yes, but a collosal waste of money. i mean liike ... you give up the money and then what? you win nothing. you get nothing for your cash. just walk a little further and give me the money instead. also i have tried to get into that clown cage for half a day to let cops come get me to raise money for charity. i bet they would line up to the grandstands for a chance to get Mark the Shark. (I am in negotiations with the paint ball people to be a live target next year for the same purpose).
September 3 at 7:01am
2011 State Fair Tidbit: Did you know there is a chuckwagon strategically placed on the midway that feeds carnies only. You would walk right by it thinking its an ordinary food stand but its location dissuades you from doing so. They wouldn’t serve me breakfast because I didn’t have carnie ID and they didn’t recognize me. I remedied that situation and look forward to a taste at a later time.
September 3 at 6:47am
2011 State Fair Tidbit: It is so hard to be here far away from the wife and children. Everywhere I go, I see couples ... people in love walking hand in hand, talking nice to each other, and being with their mates. Walking behind them by myself heightens the loneliness and makes me more homesick by the moment. It is a beautiful thing to see a happy couple. I just feel so alone. I wanna go home. waaaaaaaaaaa. Two more days!
September 3 at 6:50am
Loraine Molina Now that's real !!!! Good man
September 3 at 7:11am
Salvatore Lanza Stop it. I go to the fair alone too. My wife absolutely hates to go. I cover more ground alone. I can't stand the whining from my wife and daughter. I got to toughen you up some more.
September 3 at 8:40am
Mark David Blum oh honey, i am so far ahead of you. my mrs. hates the fair more than does yours i assure you. my kidlet is a rat like me. i dont need to cover more ground cuz this aint a game of mileage. it is a marathon, not a sprint. the fair is not about what is here, but being here. trust me my friend, on the subject of being a Fair Rat; Though she may not be a spider, I know an artist who will tell you I am ‘Some Pig’.
September 3 at 8:44am
Mark David Blum and it is not about my wife's inability to be at the fair, it is that i havent seen her in days and i miss her scent, the sound of her voice, and the comfort of her presence in my world.
September 3 at 8:44am
Folks, for ten years Lady Galaxy has been making a living doing her art. In two days, she retires permanently. Do not miss this chance to get a once in a lifetime piece of art from a true artisan. People are coming from all over the State to get one last chance at her art. I have seen one woman break down in tears from the healing power of one of Nikki Galaxy Hartman's works and how it healed a mother/daughter relationship. She does amazing work. Dont let this ship sail.
September 3 at 6:57am
2011 State Fair NEWSFLASH. Seriously folks, time stamp this because you heard it here first. It will be on the news by tomorrow. Sunday September 4, 2011, Lady Galaxy has been commissioned to design a 36” x 48” 9-11 memorial as a gift to the Baldwinsville Fire Department and which design shall hang in the middle of the Fire Department’s own 9-11 memorial. ...Showtime will be at approximately sunset-ish. Don’t miss this spectacular piece of art somberly remembering those who sacrificed and those who still do. The piece being done was retired and is now being resurrected. The piece is titled ‘In Our Hearts Forever’. Lady Galaxy had vowed never to do the painting again until she had the chance to donate it. Now, she has.
?2011 State Fair Stories: Most Beautiful People Around
September 4 at 7:04am
By Mark David Blum
I am not referring to the hot young women in their shorts, tight shirts, and glowing with estrogen. As I have been repeatedly advised, they are all someone’s daughters.
Instead, when I speak of beautiful people I refer instead to those ...souls whose compassion, patience, and giving nature that makes them so truly beautiful inside and out. I have met people whose lives and careers away from the Fair has them working with brain injured patients, mental health practitioners, and nurses. I have also met the wonderful people who give so much of their time and energy to escort old, disabled, handicapped, and others who need help. They endure the heat and stress as they escort people around the fairgrounds; enabling those needing the most help to enjoy some of life’s pleasures. I have to confess I lack the character skills to engage in this type of Lord’s work. You don’t see these folks neither. Instead, you just see the person they are helping. You look. You gawk. You stare and then quickly look away. What you don’t see is the person who is investing time and money to stand at someone’s side. We should all take a moment and give thanks that such generous people are out there. May we never need their services.See More
September 4 at 7:05am
It is the last Sunday; the next to the last day of the Fair. (Heidi, rescue me. Get me the hell out of here). For me, it is the end. When the Fair goes to sleep tonight, I shall do so in my own bed.
September 4 at 9:59am
Big Bottle Bust at New York State Fair, 2011
meanwhile, we do nothing for our nation's homeless and hungry. if a guy has to pick through trash to scrounge nickles for food, we arrest him? are you serious New York? the fair has absolutely NO structure for recycling or composting. they throw away everything. and what do the cops do? arrest peole for doing what our government wants them to do – recycle
omfg ... i got to sleep in my own bed last night. i am wearing slippers, walking on carpet, wearing my comfy robe, and slept until 9 this morning. i havent slept that last since i once went to sleep at 8:30. State Fair stories, the continuing version will have to wait until later today or tomorrow. sorry folks, but batteries need recharging and the body needs time to heal.
Monday at 10:00am
i must be crazy. last night as i was being driven home from the Fair, i watching it pass into the distance and thought i was finally freed from it's evil grasp. but as the night creeped on and the morning came to light, i have this creepy urge to get back to my tent. while i was there, all i wanted was to come home. now that i am home, i want to be back at the fair. everything i complained about i miss ... the noise, the food, the people, the pain, the mess, the .... Some Pig, eh?
Monday at 10:31am
I love the smell of spray paint in the morning (and afternoon and evening and all through the night).
Monday at 10:32am
2011 State Fair Stories: The Midnight Creep
by Mark David Blum
on Monday, September 5, 2011 at 10:59am
when tonight i go to sleep
through me doom will slowly seep
the morning sun may tan me deep
but the day that comes does the midnight creep
the fair will end
the lights go out
there i will be
moving slowly, hesitatingly
hiding the sadness
the midnight creep is here for me
at midnight tomorrow, its all over for me
its back to the world of law and disney
the sights and smells and tastes and glee
slipping forever into history
it started in a few hours ago,
that nearing creeping dread
it battered and banged and howled in my head
it struck me hard as i prepared for bed
i felt it upon me
a heaviness enveloping
the end of the fair comes
the midnight of the morrow doth creep
but from now until then
i wont hide in my den
i refuse to cackle like a hen
ITS THE LAST NIGHT OF THE FAIR
and i am going to enjoy it to the end
and when midnight upon me creeps
and my weary bones drip with grease
one small thing will save my cheese
353 more days until i again trash my knees
2011 State Fair Stories: Famous State Fair Weight Loss Diet
by Mark David Blum
on Monday, September 5, 2011 at 4:11pm
Since the first time I began to write of my life as a Fair Rat, it has been a tradition to prove that you can eat gobs and gobs of the crap they sell as food at the Fair and still lose
weight. People worry so much about the calories or fat of a particular item. Let me say that without fail, year after year, I have proven my State Fair diet has actual results. This year, I went to the doctor hours before I came to the fair. I weighed in at 190. This morning I weighed in at 181.5lbs. Yepper, I lost 8 and a half pounds in just under 12 days proving once again the miracle of my diet plan.
You too can benefit from the Mark Blum State Fair Diet. Send $49.95 and I will email you the complete Mark Blum State Fair Diet Plan. Who knows ... perhaps you too can lose those extra pounds you fought so long.
*(No representations are made about the current status of my cholesteral or BMI. Consult with a physician before starting any diet).
**(note too the utter lack of fiber and roughage).
(in no particular order, I ate at least everything listed below during the course of the Fair)
Bagel w/ cream cheese
2 slices midway pizza
Pirate’s lemonade … rum and lemonade. Not too bad; sweet and went down too fast.
One deep fried bacon wrapped snickers bar -- blech.
Egg and cheese sandwich
loaded fries – cheese, bacon bits
elephant ear fried dough
still more coffee
bagel and cream cheese
best fries at the fair at the Haddock Paddock; simply the very best.
fully loaded philly cheese steak sammich
and even more coffee
jerk chicken dinner, fried plantains, veggies, and rice.
egg, sausage, and cheese breakfast sandwich
shepards pie (beef n smashed taters)
fried calamari (no, I did not choose it, it was given to me)
sweet potato fries
Grilled chicken sandwich
Sausage and peppers and onions sammich
Applebees hamburger with bacon and cheese and all the fixins
Egg cheese and sausage sammich
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
2011 State Fair Stories: Fairs May End. The Stories Go On
by Mark David Blum
on Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 7:34am
The reality is that I have more material about the Fair than I was able to get written and posted on the internet prior to the Fair’s conclusion. Also for political reasons, I had to keep my fingers shoved deep into my pockets and far away from a keyboard prior to the end of the Fair. You never know who is reading your words but you always have to assume that everybody is or could be. The reality is that I have more material about the Fair than I was able to get written and posted on the internet prior to the Fair’s conclusion.
Ferinstance, I want to raise a stink about harnesses. Specifically I want to go on record about how strongly and deeply angered I get when I see a child wearing a harness being walked like a dog. Such a sight goes through me like a knife and immediately rips at my core. Should I go up and pet the child and say “good boy” … or should I punch the parent in the face for being lazy. For many years, I just relegated myself to saying something rude and insulting out loud to the parent until my wife finally got me to stop. (She also got me to stop yelling out of the car “you’ll be sorry” whenever I would pass a wedding … or honking my horn when someone was on the downswing about to tee off at a golf course).
I always advise people to skip pregnancy and children and get a dog instead. Most folks say ‘haha’ as if I am kidding. My love, or actually lack of love for children is universally known. I have written horrible things about them all over my website archives. Make no mistake, I love my own children and grandchildren. But as a temporary situational status in life, I just detest children.
As a parent though, I know that you don’t put your child on a leash. That is so wrong and offensive on so many levels. Nobody said parenting was supposed to be easy. Keeping track of your kid in a crowd is part of the job. You cant just tie your kid to a tree while you go into the saloon to knock back a couple. It is your job to worry, and chase, and if you get really lucky … lose your kid at the Fair. (Careful cuz the Staties are real good at finding lost kids and getting the kids back to their owners).
Kids in leashes is wrong. I will never stop saying it and never stop publicly objecting to their use. In fairness and in full disclosure, I just put a very new and potentially good friendship on the line with these words. At the same time, if you cannot speak your mind and heart freely to your friends, then they probably aren’t really your friends.
Friday night Labor Day weekend at the Fair, I was alone for a bit at the booth and a couple young 20 something goth dudes came up and were blathering something about the art work. Then one of them flashed me a 1x2 foot sign that said … FREE THE CHILDREN. The other guy then flashed another similar sized sign that said … END THE HARNESS. They started telling me about their disgust seeing the use of harnesses on children. I stopped them and told them I couldn’t agree more with their cause. They told me they were flashing the signs every time they saw a harnessed child. I gushed about how proud I was of them and urged them on in their campaign to end this very evil child torture device and social menace. There is hope in the next generation.
Children are not dogs or horses. They are not to be leashed. Shame on those who treat a child with such disrespect.
2011 State Fair Stories: Rat Droppings
by Mark David Blum
on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 2:46am
The following are a few short observations and thoughts than made their way into my notes but which by themselves are unworthy of their own headline. Hence, in the tradition of Templeton the Rat and being a Fair Rat myself, I leave you these droppings.
First, lady … I couldn’t see who you were, but why in the world would you do something that terrified you so much you obviously needed a fresh pair of panties when it was over. I was walking at night and passed the childish amateurish pathetic little roller coaster that Strates brings to its midway. Coming from one of the riders was the loudest most blood curdling screaming that went on endlessly throughout this woman’s entire ride. Whether she was on the downhills, the curves, the little up and down bumps, or the inclines, this woman was screaming like Freddy Kreuger was slaughtering her in a slow obscene manner. This woman was dying a loud painful death. Her hollaring never took a breath. Those of us walking by on the road below were all stopped in our tracks and looking up to get a look at this poor woman. When we made eye contact amongst ourselves, we busted up laughing. Why, pray tell, if you are so damned afraid of these rides, would you ever get on? But the bottom line is that it was a silly little third grade coaster. Screaming like that should be saved for facetime with Jason or Michael or even Chuckie.
Second, all you folks who went to the big name concerts and saw the big draw shows, but who still never made it to a Lady Galaxy performance missed out on something special. The best evidence of that came Saturday night of Labor Day weekend. It is a general rule that the midway stays open and everybody is open and working on the midway until the lights go out on the Ferris Wheel. That is the official timeclock for midway operations. Five minutes after the lights go out, booths, rides, and concessions are closed and locked up tight and the place is a ghost town. At the same time, convoys of vehicles descend into the fairgrounds to clean up, resupply, and do other work that cannot be done during the day. Lady Galaxy’s booth was at the entrance to the fair at Gate 10; the entrance for all the trucks. Saturday night, when the rest of the midway had gone to sleep, Lady Galaxy still had an audience of a couple hundred folks watching her work. The orders wouldn’t stop so she didn’t stop. She even did her trademark two paintings in seven minutes. The crowd loved it. But, because we were still open and had a crowd, the trucks couldn’t get into the fairgrounds. They were backed up to the midfield. It was great. She rocked that place! No other entity or band or performer stopped the Fair cold in its tracks and kept them all awaiting her. Nobody is that good; except the now retired Lady Galaxy.
Third, George Kilpatrick may strenuously disagree, but I think tattoos can be beautiful art and when done right and worn right, seriously are grande and wonderful statements. It matters not men or women. What matters is what and were and how. After 12 days sitting in one spot at the Fair, let me say I saw so much ink that I have earned the right to voice some opinions. Ladies, I love your art. You had the best images and comments out there. The guys too had some cool stuff. But I am still partial a woman with well worn ink. It tells me something about her. Anyway, I saw two kinds of ink that need discussion. One is the kind like the guy who had his whole face inked up like a skull. It was hideous. It really looked like a skull, was probably prison art, and the guy probably fixes motorcycles for a living. Seriously, how drunk do you have to get to have your whole face done up in a skull? The other class of tattoo that needs comment is what I call the frat boy splat. Basically, you can see that the frat boy spent several hundred dollars for a black squiggly design with curves and sharp edges and it looks like crap and is an embarrassment when compared with the real art that is out there. You gotta love the needle for tats to work. You cant do it on a dare or to show off today’s muscles which will be tomorrow’s fat. Remember, tats are forever. They should be a part of you. Make them so.
Because I promised to mention them in my essays, I would like to make mention of the West End Grill. I had coffee there every morning of the Fair. Great company, good coffee, and a damn fine place to be.
Fourth, during the Fair, I met a vagabond couple who were homeless by choice; which is fine. But they also had two dogs. One day I was sitting there in a tequila induced haze and pondered the life of dogs living with homeless people. What is the dog thinking? “Do I really need this?” “I can do this by myself. I don’t need to be owned.” “Eating out of trashcans does not require a leash and collar”. I dunno; it was just weird. As a lover of dogs, I feel for them. Like children, they don’t have the luxury of choosing their lives unless they run away. I feel for a homeless dog the way I feel for a homeless child. The dog didn’t have a choice. But, dogs are property and can be treated as such without remorse or ramification.
Finally, twas the season of gift giving. My youngest daughter has a friend she has known since preschool and they have been tight and close over the years. This year is the first year they are apart as they went to separate universities. Lady Galaxy proclaimed she can paint any non porous surface. She had a wonderful idea; doing one of her designs on the hardcover of a book filled with blank pages and can serve as a diary or messenger. It is intended that my daughter and her friend can keep in touch by writing to each other and sending the book back and forth. Emails, text messages, and facebook are all mediums for quick communications but each loses the words and shared moment in a very short time. The book will be forever. My wife thought it was such a great idea, we bought another one for another friend. I was able to pay Lady Galaxy back with a piece of my own art. I gave her an autographed book called State Fair Stories written by Judith Lamanna Rivette and which has therein five of my stories that I publish here online. The book came out the year after I met Lady Galaxy and probably has a tale or two reflecting my first meeting her. Of course being writing is my art, I had to put some of my best wording in the dedication and I hope Galaxy enjoys it as a piece of her history.
Some 2011 State Fair Videos You Might Enjoy
Lady Galaxy Hard at Work (and me hardly working; in red shirt)
More Galaxy (and me with my monkey)
It has been several days now and my body is returning to normal. My legs and feet no longer ache. The muscles in my arms and back are not as tight. I have slept enough to call it ‘even. I am now home and returning to my normal routines.
Now that I can cross ‘work on the midway’ off my bucket list, I search to see if there was any lesson or epiphany that comes out of all of this. Other than meeting some really cool people like Elise or the Fried Dough Guy next door or Jay or the shimmy girls trying to get me to Florida, the Fair was just that – the Fair.
Other than a good hard look into myself and setting myself up to be the butt of every joke (an American tradition of always demeaning those perceived to be on a higher social rung), it was a fascinating experience to watch a true artist at work. She showed me that real art takes pain, suffering, blood, misery of all kinds – and the more of it, the better the outcome. From over her shoulder, I watched Lady Galaxy almost nonstop for 12 days. She has an amazing mind.
But now, the Fair has ended as fast as it appeared. The grounds are empty. Garbage gone. Not a sign of anybody. Everyone has moved onto their next show. As must I. So, I bid you all farewell and see you when the Fair returns … maybe.