Tis the night before the Fair
And my work is finally done
It is time to imbibe
And wait for the sun
The day ahead holds promise
Fun and games galore
Old and young and in between
My favs are the ones dressed like a whore
I will spend the next twelve days or so
Buried in much and mire
Watching a true artist work
Amazing. You have to admire
There is still work being done
Around the clock they will go
Hammering and trucking and cleaning the grounds
While I work on getting low
So dear ladies and fine gentlemen
and others among you too
If you should happen to meander on down to the fair
Make sure you stop by and say “boo”.
And on that happy note
I close this little tale
So much to eat and experience
The joys of being at the fair
Is something that will never fail
Day One of the Fair
What a long and tiring day. Day one of the Fair is very hard on the mind and body. There are technical failures, dealing with the “jesus factor” (jesus Christ, why didn’t I thin of that), exhaustion beyond imagination especially if you are not used to 17 hours on your feet. The last two hours before the lights went out on the Ferris Wheel at midnight were the longest of the day. (That is how fair employees know to shut down the midway; when they order the lights off on the ferris wheel). This morning I am not sure if it was the leg cramps that woke me and then I heard voices outside or the other way around. Either way, in the last 48 hours, I have slept a total of seven.
Why then do I suffer so voluntarily? I cant help it. One woman I know manages five group homes for the disabled and she takes her vacation time working behind the counter at a restaurant at the Fair. I know an RN who since age 14, has worked the Fair. She too uses her vacation time to do so. There is a commercial real estate developer I have me who likewise spends his free time sweating at the Fair. One woman is coming back to work Sunday after having surgery today. People from all walks of life leave their normal lives and choose to exhaust their vacation in the ghetto. (“Ghetto” is euphemism where the fair vendors all have their RVs parked). The experience of the Fair is in our blood.
Eighteen long dirty sweaty and at times boring hours is a long time to stand on your feet. My sleeping quarters abut the trailer used by Strates to power the midway. It is a loud diesel generator that runs 24/7 and from where I sleep, sounds like a Mack truck idling loudly in your bedroom. It is that close and that loud.
But this is the Fair. There is no pain, no inconvenience, no chaos can deter you from having a good time. It is who we are and what we do. The craziness that comes is either entertainment or a momentary hurdle to overcome in truly enjoying the Fair. At its core, the Fair is long hours of doing nothing. Who could ask for more of a vacation? You see friends, you make new ones, you put on a show, and generally disconnect from the world.
For a first day of the Fair, yesterday wasn’t all bad. In fact, a good day was had by all.
Listen young lady, if you are going to be a 15 year old girl and come to the Fair wearing a bright pink t-shirt with huge “FREE HUGS” lettering on it, don’t be so damned offended when I open my arms and ask for that hug. I had no intention of hugging this stupid young thing but her reaction was priceless.
Listen, if you are going to ride the Top Spin, the best thing is to take all your heavy overweight friends with you. The number of spins the chair makes is dependant upon the overall weight of the total tonnage in the seats. Yesterday’s record number of spins is seven in a row. The least was just two. If you are going to spend the money, at least get your money’s worth
So I got myself two red rubber balls yesterday. That is a difficult fete to accomplish at the end of the midway. There is a game before you head out of the games and rides where players toss red rubber balls into holes in hopes of winning worthless garbage. If you don’t play, you have at least heard it … “ball one”, “ball two”, “ball STFU already”.
People who do play this game have the tendency to hit the wooden sides of the game and the ball bounces out into the road. Every year I search for these misguided balls because they bounce and roll and are hidden everywhere. Every year I collect these balls and have enough to start my own game. For the first day of the Fair, to get two of them, that is what I call “score!”.
I read all the swooning about the butter sculpture by the local medial. What I saw was a grotesquely underfed cow who moreso reflected the current state of the economy and cant afford feed than any Olympic bovine. Sorry folks, but yogurt may be a new economic staple and the First Lady may be all about dietary control. But, we need our cows fat. They provide more meat and more milk and are historically fat. The fatter the better. In the butter sculpture, that concept is lost upon the artist.
I had this very evil idea this year. My intentions were to gather a group of peeps, pay for them to all sit down at one squirt gun table game. (Shoot water at a target and first to do whatever, wins). My goal was to film the game as my folks sat there and when the “go” signal went off, everybody was to turn their gun on the carnie working the game. I wanted to film it and upload it onto youtube. As I searched around for the perfect target, I noticed all the squirt gun games have limited mobility guns. Apparently I am not the first buffoon to have this idea. Owell, next ….
I am working on a special project for all my loyal readers. There are a couple technical glitches still to overcome, but at some point, even if it has to be a day or two after the fair, you will all be in for a special treat
Day two of the Fair (Friday, I think)
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
So Thursday while doing my morning doodies, I spy across the street from me, a gaggle of State Police interrogating and surrounding a carnie in front of the Top Spin. Then a group of apparent super specialists arrive; one of them in a full mountain climbing harness. The questions continued for quite a while and the carnie was really sweating. But for reasons unknown, the cops eventually left the kid alone and drove off.
Meanwhile, the mountain climber suddenly appears out in the open about half way up the ride and is up to his waist in the gear box that makes the chair turn. Hey, you gotta get your entertainment where you can find it.
I spent the rest of the day waiting for something to happen at the ride. Last year’s freeze was trippy to see. I warned my kid ahead of time to stay away from it because I didn’t want to trust her lift with it.
Several years ago when I worked at the Fair, next door to me were a couple of real cool dudes selling that crap junk toys garbage that people insist on overpaying for. These guys knew everybody down on the midway. One night, the three of us amigos and a couple others who joined in went down to take the night off. It is easy to win games when the carnies let you play for free as much as you want and all of us walked away from the game booths carrying some monster prizes.
But, one of these dudes, would not get on a ride. He was dig-your-heels-in-the-asphalt adamant about never setting foot on a ride. It wasn’t that he was afraid. Rather it was his years of experience watching the rides being put together and knowing the people who are doing it.
It took a lot of beer and prodding but we coerced and conned his ass into getting on to the most mundane ride we could think of – the Pirate – the boat and swings back and forth higher and higher. (A ride, I might add, which is noticeably absent from this year’s Fair).
The ride slowly picked up speed and swung up higher and higher. I swear to god the carnie was nearly hiding under his seat screaming the entire time. We made sure to sit on opposite corners from his and his date and we saw him absolutely freaking out; especially during that moment of weightlessness before the descent.
That made for the most memorable moments of my history of working the Fair.
It would seem the lesson learned is that you just have to close your eyes, pray, and hope for the best.
find a dime, give a dime.
during my journies yesterday, i passed by the game booth where people insist on pitching dimes to win plates and glasses. what do i know? as i got past, i spied a dime on the ground. (a Jew can find money anywhere. i even find it in the woods when i go camping). i turned around, put the dime on the counter in front of a player and wished him good luck.
A highlight from Thursday night at the fair was the young teen girl wearing to hot pink shirt with huge letters that was writing, “hug me”. I told you in previous writings her response.
Today first Friday of the Fair, the next gen came along with their own version of the shirt. Seriously, I don’t know who dresses some dudes or whether they even look in the mirror before they walk out of the house (a problem from which I too suffer). The goof was wearing a t-shit that said in huge block lettering, “FREE FUCK-ING HUGS).
Guys, this is not how we get even with the snooty princesses. We let them continue their obvious destiny and be birthin lotsa babies in a trailer park.
I was eating a great pastrami sandwich at the deli in the international building and while seated with six of my newest friends and total strangers, I couldn’t help but snoop on their conversation while I enjoyed being off my feet and in the cool shade and ate one of the best sandwiches at the Fair.
Across from me sat an couple of folks about fifteen years older than I who were discussing their daughter’s new beau. For about a half hour, these two whined and complained among themselves about how this boyfriend does nothing but whine and complain all the time. I wanted to point out the irony but was too engrossed in the hypocisy.
as of this Saturday morning, the record number of spins i have witnessed on the top spin is 8. it is going to be tough to beat since most rides only get 3-4 spins on average. remember, bring all your fat friends. weight makes the difference.
Saturday in the Park
It seems to be the one fact I always overlook when I make a commitment to someone to work or be at the Fair. That precious little problem is that it hurts; it really really hurts. Whether it is moving and lifting and bending and using muscles that have been dormant since last year’s Fair, I ache. I am a trial lawyer used to being on my feet for hours in a court room but that aint nothing like being on your feet 15 or more hours in a Fair booth. It isn’t my age that is showing (although I am looking old). Rather, a rock is a harder pillow at 50 than it was at 20.
When I started reading my stories of years gone by and looking for interesting ones to share with you in the month leading up to the Fair, I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. I would flashback to all the experiences of Fairs of yore. As I read last year’s tales, I noticed that most of what I did was whine and complain and bitch and focus mostly on how uncomfortable I felt and how much I hated doing what I was doing. Next time I accept this job, I hope someone clobbers me over the head with a cast iron frying pan.
Yesterday the weather was hot but people were spending not. Every vendor I spoke to, regardless of what they did or sold, was complaining about low numbers and low volume of sales. It is the same old story, same old song and dance. Every year, the story is the same – it starts slow and by the end of the Fair, they all do well.
Everybody forgets Jesus Christ day. This is my nickname for the first day of the Fair. It is Thursday – the day you spend most of your waking hours saying, “Jesus Christ, I cant believe I forgot this.” “Jesus Christ, I cant believe that happened.” “Jesus Christ how did look what broke” “Jesus Christ, I am not making any money and am handing money out left and right.” It is the Jesus factor that every fair vendor lives with every first day of every Fair. We did. So the first day is chaos and disappointment. Friday and Saturday is when you start to find your rhythm. Then you get to a day like today, Sunday, when everything should be humming along nicely. We will see.
At least I can thank the good Lord for Ibuprofin and antacid.
My collection of red rubber balls is growing. Scored three more yesterday and I still cannot figure out how they are getting as far down the midway as I am finding them.
Also, my balls are no longer just small and red and bouncy. As I was sunning myself in the early morning as we reptiles tend to do to warm our cold blood, I saw a baseball go rolling down the middle of the street. After waiting for what I expected to be was someone chasing the ball, nobody came and I got up and walked over to where the ball stopped its journey. Understand, a baseball is not a normal traveler on the pathway. So I retrieved the ball and stood out in the open just tossing it up and catching it waiting for its owner to show up. Nobody ever did.
Now, to add to my collection of baseballs – thrown first pitch at a Chiefs game as President of the Manlius Chamber of Commerce, a ball signed by Tommy LaSorda, a basketball and football signed by SU teams, I have a baseball that I wrote on it and dated it as the 2012 New York State Fair. I love my balls.
Yesterday was the day Strates went to war on me. First, they park a big truck next to my tent in the morning with the truck’s exhaust pipe aimed right into the tent. It took me a few minutes that I was about to die from carbon monoxide poisoning and I had to get the hell out of there.
Then, as Bill Maher says, came “New Rules”. No more bare feet were allowed on stage. No more shirts without sleeves (my lawyer shirt). No more sitting unless I am working (which I have learned can include surfing the web and sending texts.). No more fun.
The rule is that there now new rules. I come to the Fair to escape rules and live a free life. I found a someone with whom to hang who like me, shrugs off rules. Now, I got rules I have to live by and they are not enhancing the Fair experience. It is funny that I have a shirt and shoes at the entrance to the tent that I put on and strip off depending on which direction I am headed.
Oh, and as a last thought about yesterday, I am keeping all the money I found walking around the midway. Friday I found a dime, gave a dime. Saturday, I started contributing to my retirement fund.
Today is Sunday. It will be a beautiful morning, a miserable hot afternoon, and beautiful evening, and a great night at the Fair. If you gotta be somewhere, make that where the Fair.
I came out of my tent Sunday morning and to my sudden dismay, I saw that the guardian angel of every fair rat, the great Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web, had set up shop right outside my front door.
No, she didn’t write, “some pig”. I am not “some pig”. I am a total pig, not just a part thereof. Yet, I am strangely comforted knowing she is here. To a fair rat, Her very presence means the world. There is no doubt in my heart, she will find just the right words.
“Crunchy”. No Templeton.
I am sure she will do something wonderful like “Exceptional” or “Outstanding”, or just ‘A Damn Fine Lawyer.”
Whatever she decides, I am sure it will be “wonderful”.
I just hope i dont have to carry her around in my mouth)
Did I tell you I snore? No, really. I thought somewhere along the way I must have told you that I snore; loudly. Not all the time, but I am a very seasoned and skilled noise machine under the right circumstances.
At the Fair, sometimes I am sorta kinda apprehensive to be sleeping in a tent so close to nighttime traffic. People walking by could get quite a treat under the right circumstances; such as being dog tired every damn day.
I remember back in 2004, on the last night of the fair. A young man came up to me and introduced himself. I couldn’t figure out why until he explained he was the guy with the leafblower.
Apparently he had heard that “someone” asleep on the fairgrounds was bitching and complaining (who would do such a thing) about the racket and chaos that goes on after hours when all I –er- the someone just wanted to get some sleep. That person complained about all the trucks and laborers and most importantly the guys with the leaf blowers who came through cleaning up the area. In one of my, er umm, that author’s tales, was a gentle suggestion that no matter how long or hard you try to blow a piece of paper, if it is wet, it is not going anywhere. Standing there working it for an extended period of time if pure futility and really annoying to someone trying to sleep.
On the last night of the Fair, he came up to me, and said he was the guy who was driving me nuts at night. I asked him how he knew it was me, let alone that the particular tent was occupied. He laughed. The snoring.
I know there was a point to this. Wait … oh yeah. Having a huge diesel generator and engine running 15 inches in front of my face masks any snoring. It masks sleeping too but at least when I am unconscious, nobody knows – not even me. (Don’t be fooled. Two days now I have slept almost six hours which is about normal for me).
Being a Fair vendor can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. You have a hard enough job to do, long, boring, and labor intensive hours await you day after day. The last thing you want are people to keep coming up to you asking to buy stuff you OBVIOUSLY don’t have.
For example: there is one food vendor near me, one of them small doo hickey joints in the middle of the walkway that advertises in BIG letters all over that it sells, “deep fried twinkies”, “deep fried oreos”, “deep fried snickers”, “deep fried reese’s”, “deep fried s’mores”, “hot dogs”, and “corn dogs”.
When you approach the window to order, you see a sheet of 8x11” orange color paper that says, “ WE DON’T HAVE ANY , “deep fried twinkies”, “deep fried oreos”, “deep fried snickers”, “deep fried reese’s”, “deep fried s’mores”, “hot dogs”, or “corn dogs”. Sorry.
I still want to know how the Indian Village thinks it can declare itself a drug and alcohol free zone. While definitely a laudable goal, who do they think they are fooling? Our nation’s most secure prisons are not drug free. How can our State Fair’s Indian Village think that it is clean, dry, and sober?
While meandering through yesterday I spied for the first time, a kitchen and café within the Village. That was new. Being the adventurer that I am, I went in and frankly asked the young lady behind the counter for something local and native. I wanted to try something new. So I got soup and scoon bread. Very good; both of them. The soup was a kind of corn soup with beans and meat but the corn was not like you imagine but rather what appeared to be small balls of popped corn. It had the same appearance but the flavor of something doughie.
The soup kitchen had a wonderful cool shaded screened in porch area for dining. I was treated to several conversations going on around me about life on the various reservations. I did learn that, according to a couple young ladies, that you do not need a drivers license on the reservation and everybody drives whether they are licensed or not. There was also the usual politics and life discussions. A visit well worth the dime and the time. But with all the smoking and coffee, don’t tell me the Village is drug free.
Speaking of food: I went to one of my favorite places for dinner; the Haddock Paddock. I guess it is an open field where haddock run free and munch on grass. Over the years, I have repeatedly endorsed the Paddock’s French fries as being the best of the Fair.
This year, it was a great disappointment. They were soggy and lightly fried and were as exciting as turtle racing. I withdraw my endorsement. They have lost their edge. The rest of the meal was so-so but the entertainment was worth the price of admission.
I sat at a table watching the Fair meander by and some elderly old farmer gentleman sits down next to me. It becomes clear that he is deaf as a 2x4. I ask him what he does and he says he shows horses and rides tractors in the daily parade. I ask him what kind of horses and he tells me he shows horses. I tell him I have a client who shows ponies to which he inquires what kind of ponies do I show and how many do I have. I remind him louder that I have a client who has a horse farm where they stable and show ponies. He asks me where my horse farm is. I tell him again it is a client’s and it is near Skaneateles. He asks me what it is like to live out near Skaneateles. This went on for a while but it made for some great dinner conversation.
I think we need to have a contest to find the best French fries at the Fair. We should not let businesses submit their fries for judging but rather we should crowdsource the project by people posting up where they found good fries and we can all go around and test each other’s recommendations until we find a winner. If you wont help me, I will have to do it myself and I really don’t want to eat that many fries.
It is Monday. It is gorgeous. And I am about three hours away from having serious pain in my feet and legs until I can finally lay down again at midnight.
Hope to see you at the Fair. Where? I said, THE FAIR.
Rainy Days and Mondays Always …
… set me free.
Based on the luck of the draw, I have managed to work 3 different places that were very sensitive to weather in one way or another. Rain is the main enemy and I watched rain and flooding destroy now two vendors (one of which was trashed two years in a row).
I don’t understand why people are shocked and stressed out when these acts of a loving God ruin everything for which they have planned, spent, and worked. Over the years, my Rat Tales are laden with stories of downpours and floods. The Fair gets hurricane remnants and even an occasional tornado.
Yesterday afternoon, I watched first hand as Lady Galaxy’s hard work was ruined by weather. Because of the nature of her performance and the display for sale of her wares, the running rainwater ruined everything inside. My heart breaks for her and today I will be covered in gooey wet muddy rainsoaked carpets and tarps and various this and that’s. My own sleeping bag was soaked through and through but they are made to be warm notwithstanding water.
Over the years I have slept in a lot of inclement weather. I have slept in heat so sweltering that sleeping naked inside the tent on the street is not unheard of. The windstorm that comes in the middle of the night and blows down your tent while you are sleeping naked is a whole nuther experience.
The first year I slept at a vendor’s location I started with an army cot which for reasons unknown to this day, in the middle of one deep night’s sleep, decided to tear and I want head first into the ground while in a dead sleep. I responded by bringing in a large air mattress instead. Well the rains came and the inside of the tent, then situated on dirt, had the consistency of toothpaste. It was muddy and gross. Barefoot was the only safe way to move around. I could feel a small amount of electricity in the water; a small electrical charge. Everything was ruined and had to be thrown away. The Fair promised some hay for the ground but that never happened.
That year was also the year of the great NYS Sheep Dip Lake. A road drain got clogged and flooded out several businesses; including the where I worked. The water was nearly knee deep in parts of the roadway. Vendors working next to me had blow up toys among their merchandise and we blew up a few of the toys and put them on the lake and would bet on the outcome of races. They only thing that pissed me off was the occasional golf cart that insisted on driving through the lake and making a wake that only increased the damages to the tents and sheep barn. That night, I could have rivulets of water running underneath my air mattress.
So it has been and so shall it probably ever be that there will be rain at the Fair. If you are not able to withstand a rainstorm, then you need to reconsider your presentation and design. Me, as the fool who comes in to work little for room and bored, does not lose anything in these catastrophes. My heart truly breaks for people who I see work so hard at their chosen career only to see hours and hours and labor destroyed in a few minutes.
But for me, rains and mud and devastation have always resulted in me having a lot of free time with nothing to do. Last night, after we triaged the situation and stabilized it until morning, with nothing to do but not be there so Lady Galaxy and her beau could commiserate in privacy.
Me, I made it to the African Village and had my very favorite fair dinner – jerk chicken with plantains, cabbage, rice, and ginger beer all while listening to some great blues and Motown tunes blaring from the nearby stage. Seriously, this delicious dinner is enough for two people and is the blue ribbon award winner for taste and exotic. In the few hours I meandered around, I saw “the Fair” with the exception of the art exhibit which I will probably do later today Tuesday or tomorrow. It was a nice place; a light rain was falling, someone fairly interesting was playing Miller Court, and attendance was light but busy.
The other little “incident” was another 20 year first. Due to the weather and a special project I am working on (for you, my loving readers), I was out video taping me walking around in the rain. You know; splashing in puddles, squishing mud through my toes, and just walking on wet rainy pavement. After I got about a half a block from Lady Galaxy’s tent, I was stopped by a client. Being out of my element, I honestly didn’t recognize her but she eventually made her name known and we chatted shop and life for a while.
As we blathered, I noticed two Staties divert their course of patrol and end up standing right behind my client and me. I ignored them and we continued our chat until its’ natural conclusion and I turned to head back.
“Excuse me Sir”, said the Trooper who moved around in front of me. “Where are your shoes?” “It is Fair policy to wear shoes”. My client, well clued in on my barefootin tradition, watched in amusement as I laughed and tried to explain to the clearly bored copper that I had been making a video and my shoes where over ‘there’. I had to tell him several times before he realized that there was nothing to see here and he should just move along. I am not Ed Kinane. Laughing and skipping all the way back to the tent, I couldn’t stop smiling. I have walked barefoot past hundreds of troopers over the years and not once did any of them say anything other than to cast a weird glance.
Today is supposed to be sunny so there is hope all the wetness evaporates and aids to the overall humidity. A few hours of miserable work and then I get to stand around on aching legs and feet enjoying the best show on earth.
Be here. I am sure it is better than where you are.
I cannot express how relieved I feel this morning not having woken up in a tent on the Midway when the outside temperature is 44 degrees. That would have really sucked. The quick dress and block long sprint to the bathroom / hot shower would have been hell. Instead I woke up in my own bed and donned the Holy Robe of Terry, meandered the few steps to the little boy’s room and then dove face first into my own special coffee blend.
Since 2003, I have been writing Rat Tales. Year after year, I attempt to explore the New York State Fair and bring out some of the hidden glitter and gold that makes up the human condition. I have worked everywhere from garbage detail to political booths to last year and part of this, on the midway. From those vantage points, I was able to get a view of the Fair and its’ social psychology unavailable to the fairgoing public.
Last year I was given the rare chance to work the midway. This year, that same midway business gave me a chance to come back and continue the experience. Actually the goal is not to “work” the midway or anywhere else. Rather the goal has always been to trade a few hours a day for room and bored and be able to use that location to get out into the Fair to do my thing. I don’t need the job or the money so I don’t take these jobs for the work experience or the pay. So last year when the chance came to see the world as a carnie, I jumped at the chance. Lady Galaxy was kind and giving enough to open her house and let me be a pain the ass just so I could have the chance to see her world and the world around her. One and a half seasons was enough of that for me. This was especially so since the midway and especially Galaxy’s location was at the far end of the fairgrounds resulting in my being isolated from the rest of the fair world. It was almost self defeating because I was cut off from so much. If not for Monday’s rainstorm, I wouldn’t have seen three dog night, visited the African Village and ate a wonderful meal, and got the chance to listen to some rockin blues.
So mid afternoon yesterday, I bid Lady Galaxy ‘goodbye’, bought a sausage sandwich, and left the Fair for home. Lady Galaxy has her career and her goals of which I am clearly not a part. I have my own career and responsibilities. The carnie experience is now part of who I am and who I will ever be and I have Lady Galaxy to thank for that. If not for her giant heart and cool dude sidekick, I could never have wiped off another item from my bucket list. No, I am not done with the Fair and I will be back in a day or two; but I will do so as a tourist. I like being a lawyer. I don’t want tot be a carnie. But I love the Fair and will find a way back in a different metamorphosis at a different location hopefully far closer to Times Square or even Miller Court. Maybe just maybe I will chance to work administration so as to see the Fair through the eyes of its supervisors.
I cannot close this tale without making special note and giving a very special public thank you to Carmen Davoli and his amazing big hearted widespread family and associates. The Fair to me would not have been even close to tolerable if not for these good people and their hospitality. This is a great group of people and anybody who comes into contact with and gets to know any of them should consider themselves blessed. I don’t know how I can thank them for all the little and large things they did for me. Carmen is the Godfather of the Fair. One day I hope he will make me an offer I cannot refuse. If not, then perhaps I can make him one. It would be an honor and a privilege.
Rat Tales are not yet concluded. I arranged for a meeting with a professional writer and film producer on the Midway where we will further our talks about making a television show or a movie or a documentary or writing a novel based on Fair life. Obviously I have a lot of material; both real and imagined and we have begun talking and shopping the idea. Also I am making my own independent short film just for you folks. I shot a bunch of footage and after a day or two of editing and learning how to work the computer programs, I should have a nice little treat to present.
No, Rat Tales will never end. They cant. I am a Fair Rat and the Fair is in my blood. I don’t mind the work, the slop, the misery, and the chaos for a chance to be a part of the Fair. Few indeed are those among the vendors and workers at the Fair who are there not for the money. The goal of the Fair is to separate people from their money. My goal has nothing to do with that. It is about my art. If the right job comes along that enables me to again do my art, then I am there.
Just as Lady Galaxy has to paint and Kathy Kellish has to play and sing, I have to write. The State Fair is a place where finding material about which to write is like shooting fish in a barrel. I cant help it. It is the muse whose tongue wiggles in my ear until I get all the words I can down into writing. I hope you have enjoyed the pictures I have painted thus far.
Hurricanes and the State Fair
The timing of hurricane Isaac pounding the New Orleans / Mississippi coastlines brings back so many memories of hurricane Katrina. In a moment which fills my heart with pride, the year Katrina hit, Jeff Kramer (formerly of the Syracuse Newspapers and locally known playwright and humorist) with me as his sidekick worked together at Miller Court during the State Fair and raised more than $16,000.00 for the American Red Cross Relief Effort in New Orleans and the Gulf coast.
It started out when Kramer, then posting up for the Post Standard, was fresh out of California and new to the psychosis that is the Fair. His daily columns were reflective of his assimilation into both the world of Eastern philosophy as well as the Zen of the Fair. He lost his virginity to Santa Claus and later kidnapped and held hostage the jolly fat man – while at the Fair.
One day, Kramer meandered into the arts building and found the room where the quilters and other such artisans showed their best efforts and competed amongst themselves for prizes and recognition. I am sure they hoped to make a few bucks as well. Kramer’s take on the experience was underwhelming and his mockery of these fine ladies and their labors of love in a column resulted in some very harsh letters to the editor.
Among those letters was one written by a vendor who opined Jeff should be drowned in barbeque sauce and have fair sausage thrown at him. The quilters wanted a state fair version of a public tar and feathering.
Let Jeff and I forever disagree, but when I read that letter having coffee in the morning at Miller Court, I said he and I should do just that – get tar and feathered. It would be a great way to raise some money for the Red Cross. (At the time I was a big fan; having been recently assisted myself by them during a fire).
To his credit, Jeff was able to get a spa company to donate a spa and move it out front to the walkway near the Time Warner exhibit. Jeff also convinced the dinosaur bbq restaurant to donate bags of sauce and bags of sausage bits. Peter Capuccelli sanctioned the event, Jeff advertised his wish to atone for his sins and offense to the quilters, and one morning he sat in the tub in a tshirt and shorts and let people make donations for the privilege of tarring and feathering. I say “we”, but it was Jeff who raised a crap load of money and did suffer some sauce in the eye and burning pain (until I could get some water to him to rinse out). There he sat … for I don’t recall how many hours … while people gladly handed out cash for the privilege of pouring gunk over Jeff’s head.
At the end, a golfcart was arranged to pick us up, parade Jeff in an attached trailer slowly through the fairgrounds toward the horse barn (where there was a shower). It was so funny to see the faces and hear the comments as we drove slowly through the throngs.
While Jeff is showering, I was counting the money. When he was finally cleaned off, he started having a fit. In packing his bag that morning, he brought two shirts and no pants. Yes, there was Jeff Kramer in all his glory wrapped only in a towel – and he had no pants.
These were the days of now ancient technology and I called everybody I could think of who was or might be at the fair to help find a place that sold pants – any kind. Nope, nothing.
One of the reasons I admire Jeff is what he did next. Realizing he was stuck in the middle of the fairgrounds with no pants, Jeff decides that he is just going to walk out of the shower and right out Gate One to get back to his car. I call “bullshit” … and watch a man wearing only a towel around his waist walk from the horse barn, down the midway, through Miller Court, and right out Gate One wearing nothing but a white towel wrapped around his waist. Deliberately walking several steps behind him, not a single head was turned nor comment uttered about the white whale of a man walking around the fairgrounds wearing nothing but a white towel around his middle. It was unbelievable to see and experience this absolutely non event. People just didn’t care or their brains signaled, “no, you did not just see that”.
Once Jeff was gone, I gave the money to the Red Cross booth and explained why he was wearing a towel.
What is truly sad is that no matter how good you are or how hard you work, you can never fully alleviate suffering. As they suffered down in New Orleans seven years ago, they suffer again. All we can is be there for each other as we are all in need from others at one time or another. I don’t care what the GOP says; we built this; each of us on our own and collectively. We are in this together and we live or die together.
Barefootin` at the 2012 State Fair
A video by Mark David Blum, Esq.
"Watched it all the way through. One of the more entertaining things I've seen in a while." (Lauren Crosby, LaFayette College, 8/29/12)
"This film promotes the spirit of freedom-loving Americans everywhere who resist through protest of conventional footwear the creeping totalitarianism that insists on "no shoes, no service." Watch this engaging film and thrill to the pedestrian revolt it inspires." (David Coryell, Professor of Screenwriting, Indie Film, Film Noir, and Documentary, Newhouse School of Journalism, Syracuse University, 8/30/12)
"Great job Mark, this vid is a blast! And...slightly disturbing too." Keith Kobland, Reporter, Channel 9 News, ClearChannels Communications, Syracuse New York, 9/1/12)
... and for you Old Schoolers or if you are simply hungry for more ...
Rat Tales 2011
Rat Tales 2009
Rat Tales 2008
Rat Tales 2007
Rat Tales 2006
(Rat Takes for the years 2003-2005 were lost. there are no Rat Tales for 2010)