Rat Tales 2013
by Mark David Blum, Esq.

Prologue (8/21/13)

President Obama, you have to Get Off the Bus at the New York State Fair. I know you are a busy guy going about the business of State as your travel about in your Presidential Motor Coach. At the same time, you cannot forget that it was us, New York, that helped in a large way to drag your campaign across the finish line – twice.

Spending precious moments at Henninger High School is a wonderful gift to the children and citizens of Syracuse. Showing off your basketball prowess at a Midway Carnie game would be a gift to the entire State of New York. Shaking hands and slurping down a sandwich that would make the First Lady seethe would do so much and send a loud message that would be heard from Buffalo to Brooklyn.

I drove around the fairgrounds today watching the Fair going through the process of being birthed. Based on things I saw and didn’t see, I get the feeling that the Fair and the State as a whole is feeling an economic malaise. We are hurting. If your message is about the importance of investing in the future, I can think of no better place for you to walk that walk than the State Fairgrounds. If you do, don't hide in the Empire Room. Get out and mingle. We all need to hear from you Mr. President. Tell us here in the heart of New York at our annual celebration right down the road from where you will speak, that we have a reason to keep going.

President Clinton has been here. I saw him twice. Do you want to make part of your legacy a snub to the entire State of New York? Your love and message to the children are important. Your presence at the Fair would speak volumes to all of us; not just the rich folks in Manhattan and a very small controlled audience here in Syracuse.

Please Mister President, do this much: If for no other reason than to share your love with the entire State.

Rat Tales 2013

It’s Too Damn Early for This

First, I have to say that it is just too damn early for the Fair. For it to be Fair Time again signals that a cold north wind shalleth sooneth blow. It is a warning that summer is about to end and that a seven month hibernation will shortly begin. Summertime is wrapping up the last of its’ tan and taking in the last pool laps. It happened so fast, and now, poof, the warmth and green is over. Soon the colors shall explode and then stick season and then worst of all, white white and bitter cold. (I already have seen more than a few trees started their peep thing and I am NOT happy about that. The only peeps I want to see are the ones signaling the coming Spring).

But it really is too damn early because it is the morning of the first day of the fair (8/22/13); the morning when I needed to rest and build energy to attack the mileage and milieu that awaits me. Instead of sleeping, I woke at 1:15 a.m. and here I sit wide awake and my mind rushing from food to food. Wide awake in the wee hours thinking of the Fair the Fair the Fair. Bah.

Last night my Mrs. mocked me. She asked when I was leaving this morning and I mumbled something about 10 or 11. “Yeah right” were her approximate words. She posited I would be showered and out the door by 5 oclock this morning just to have coffee at the fair. The quiet of a Fair morning is indeed a delight and before the throngs hit; the ability to sit and have coffee and share the peace of the dawn with a few other stragglers is a true Fair treat. But since I am not working there and am spending my nights in a warm comfortable bed with a warm comfortable woman at my side, why would I have any reason to be at the fair so damn early?

Here I am, though. Almost 2 o'clock in the morning and I am wired. I wanna get on the road. I can feel it is here. I can almost smell and hear and see the chaos. Ironic is that I bet more than half the people who work behind the scenes (and there are several thousand of them) are still awake from yesterday busting their asses to get the job done. Bedtime is still about 30 hours away. With no disrespect, let me just say “better them than me”. Though admittedly, if asked, I would go running in a moment.

While it is too damn early to head out there yet, there will be mornings I do indeed have my coffee at fairgrounds cuz I can get in and out before the Fair opens no charge. Today is not going to be one of them. Eventually I intend to crawl back into bed and find a quantum of solace.

For now, it’s just too damn early for this. Templeton, get out of my head! Summer, baby, please don’t let me go. I need you. I will miss you.

See you later.

Rat Tales 2013: Opening Day

One of the hardest challenges I find when writing about the Fair is trying not to repeat what has been done. Avoiding writing the same stories on the same subjects while faced with the same subjects is not easy. Trying to gain a fresh perspective or using different eyes proves itself a constant battle.

Yesterday, Thursday August 22, 2013, was opening day of the Fair. Wanting to beat the crunch I expected at opening time and the “just in case he does show up” security nightmare, I went out to the Fairgrounds at 9:00 a.m. For your benefit I stayed until 10:00 p.m. and pushed my face into places I don’t normally and twisted myself up to try and catch a different wave.

The first day of the Fair is the day I actually have to “do” the Fair. I have to walk every inch, look in every nook and cranny, see what is there, what is not, what should be, and what should not. The next eleven days now are not about seeing the Fair. Now that I have “seen” it, I can experience it. Yes, there is much still to be seen but I focused on the new and the old.

What the Fair 2013 will be known for when historians one day write its' obituary will be that this is the year of the “Camel” Fair. It began with the removal of Dan O’Hara. Installing the current Director was Albany’s process of taking control of the Fair away from local and moving it to the State. Specifically, most of the policy changes and modifications at the Fair are being made by Darryl Aubertine and the Department of Agriculture and Markets. Mr. Ryan has been quietly working behind the scenes reconstructing and rehabilitating the infrastructure; remaining mostly out of sight and quiet as a mouse. He is no Fair Rat, that is for sure.

It has been posited that a Camel is a Horse built by committee. The Fair definitely is showing some camel. More and more, it looks like little more than a giant swap meet with some interesting food and music. But to see a genuine celebration of New York and to create fun for hundreds of thousands, there has to be something more to the Fair than just a façade.

The best example of the Camel phenomena, perhaps just its’ toe, is this year’s butter sculpture. First, clearly the artists themselves worked hard on this project and put a lot of thought and energy into its’ creation. Nothing about the butter sculpture should reflect negatively on the artists. Kudos to them for the effort.

Rather, as does all art, this sculpture certainly drew out emotions. It is itself a creation of a committee – a husband and wife. You can see in its every cut and curve, another attempted representation of another facet of New York … from Niagara Falls to Manhattan, and nothing but ice skating in between. It is so reminiscent of any piece of legislation that comes out of a committee. It has on it so many little add-ons to satisfy each committee member, that you end up with a huge camel in tow.

Listening to the conversations around me and inside my own head, it was obvious that in an effort to be all things to all people, the butter sculpture is nothing to anybody. What is presumably a cow was more commonly referred to around me as a sheep or a goat (or the most anemic anorexic cow on earth), is holding up an ice cream cone presumably symbolizing Lady Liberty’s torch, and is crowned with what more resembles Jesus’ thorny crown than that found in New York harbor. On the back side, Niagara Falls is obvious but the rest of it? Maybe they were thinking Adirondacks but it looks like a pile of manure.

The butter sculpture does deserve at least one thumb up in that this is the first sculpture in many years that actually deals with the subject of New York.

But the butter sculpture is a perfect analogy for what will be shown in coming essays, this year’s Fair is a ship of the desert lost at sea.

(Also, there is a camel in the children's petting zoo near the grandstands).

Rat Tales 2013: Hump Day

The first day of the Fair any year is ‘hump day’. You work like a dog both experiencing the pain and sweat of a long hard work day coupled with system and product failures everywhere. The Jesus factor kicks in all day – ‘Jesus Christ, why didn’t I think of this or why did that have to happen or I cant believe this didn’t work.” You work hard and you hump it through the misery.

It is a hump to get over technical difficulties and yesterday was no different. From something as simple as a woman throwing an egg and cheese sandwich back in the face of her server because it didn’t have enough cheese on it to the 2pm Salt-n-Peppa technical meltdown and 30 minute late start disaster at Mil – Chevy Court, there were some serious humps to overcome.

Perhaps the biggest hump was the pure lack of money. There were no people at the Fair. What people there were did not seem to be standing in lines to buy stuff. In all the years the Dinosaur has occupied the center of the Fair entrance, yesterday was the first time ever that I walked by the front of it during lunch time (2:30) and there was not a single person in any line – eight windows with pretty girls in company tshirts, no waiting. Not even a Statie in sight. Remember, this is the dinosaur – normally with lines 24/7/12. They fed the President yesterday. I was flabbergasted and am still kicking myself in the butt for not taking a picture for posterity etc.

Major vendors who have been there for years are gone. Time Warner has abandoned its building and set up a tiny 10x10 tent near the sheep barn. No more giant TVs to watch SU’s season opener. No more free internet access from computers. No more giant fans just to cool off on a miserable day. A spa company sits there now; just a hump to overcome trying to get out the door. Time Warner also got humped because right next to their puny 10x10 tent is another 10x10 tent selling Direct TV.

Someone also forgot to hump it selling rental space in the Center of Progress building. An entire row seems to be missing. Also apparently unable to get over the hump were the various State Agencies that have been seen there in the past years. Their presence was a good idea and brought State government down to the People. My State Assemblyperson was there yesterday humping handshakes with veterans. But those looking for the jampacked madhouse that used to the COP, better hump it to another Fair. Also, there were so few fans at the grandstand concert, you could see all the seating empty and not even lighting coming from the stage. Yes, the screeching was unavoidable but the fans just didn’t hump it down there.

Humped too are the folks who come to the Fair for the rides and fun of the Midway. Someone forgot to tell Mr. Strates to bring some rides. Someone at Strates made a chaotic and dysfunctional layout. If you can find five rides you want to hump it to, I would be surprised.

But who really got humped was me. As I humped it and slogged it through melting heat, pouring rain, and knee deep mud, I became aware that some of the infrastructure changes had closed down some of my usual fun stuff. Gone is my secret entrance to the backstage area. Gone is my parking spot – or so they thought (bwahahahah). Gone is the seating area in the wine tent near the Coliseum. Gone; but never to be forgotten.

So I am off to hump it another day. Gotta love the fair. It’s almost as good as getting humped for real and at times, better.

Rat Tales 2013: Wine Wine Whine

Meandering about the Agriculture Building, I happened upon the NYS Wineries Association who were providing samples of one of the ‘Best of Show’ Reislings. I don’t like sweet soda pop but I did inquire about which won the Best of in the Reds.

I was given a list of all the entrants and how they placed. Swedish Hill won best overall winery. Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards had the Best of Show red. There are a few hundred other entrants but these two are relevant for what follows.

When I got the list I made the decision to find a bottle of the Hazlitt later and try it. Search though as I could, no wine tent had the Hazlitt winery. But I really wanted a bottle. Alas, ….

The day yesterday at one point was as hot as the surface of the sun; or at least it felt that way to my bare feet. I was hot and I was tired and so for $2, I hopped on the tram and took a slow train ride around the fairgrounds. As I did, that was when I and the others spied the huge blackness of storm clouds coming our direction. The wind picked up, the temperature dropped more than ten degrees in a moment, and the dust devils and blowing dust were amazing; and blinding.

That was the point the Fair announced that a storm was coming and urged everybody to get indoors and into the buildings for safety from lightening and winds. I, however, am not an idiot and would never be trapped inside a building with 100,000 of my closest friends on a hot steamy muggy day.

Instead, I found the wine tent next to the International Building. It was a solid structure and I figured a cool place to ride out the storm. Finding a table, I situated it perfectly and set about the process of whining and wining myself.

Swedish Hill was there in that tent and I went over with my list and found that their Viking Red was scored very dry and had won a gold medal. Red was what I wanted and so I bought a bunch and sat there consuming large amounts of it as the rain fell and the wind blew.

For all you cowards who ran home after the storm or because of it, the storm lasted as long as it took me to drink a bottle of the Viking Red. Best eleven dollars I spent at the Fair in a long time. Thank you Swedish Hill. (I have the whole list if you want me to pdf email you a copy for your own sampling choices).

Rat Tales 2013: Rat Droppings

What follows are some minutiae and observations worthy of your consideration

First, LADY, if you stand more that six feet tall in bare feet, why in the world would you wear a white catsuit with six inch stiletto heels to the Fair? Were you on crack? I am surprised your didn’t fall and crack your skull. Folks, be sensible. Dress as outrageous as you like; I love the show. But even the good Lord knew his limitations (resting on the Sabbath).

Second, while I never agree with the Best of Show at the Art Exhibit, this year’s presentation was particularly anemic. While again I disagree wholeheartedly with the judge’s decision; more notably was the lack of competition. Where in years past there were hundreds of submissions on display, this year barely shows a couple dozen. To me, the Best of Show goes to a painting titled, ‘Crazy Dog’ by Ken Burke (who did win 3place amateur). To me, this painting brings out a range of emotions from outright laughter to feeling the batshit craziness inside the dog’s head. I loved this piece and hope you all get a chance to find it.

Third, most of you folks who live here year round, should be used to driving on slippery roads where your vehicle has little if any traction. We all know how to handle these conditions and normally get through our lives without too much problem. Not so yesterday on the infield track area after the rainstorm. Mud was literally above my ankles. Watching people driving through this muck and mud was quite entertaining. Most were driving sideways and sliding into near misses with parked cars. You would think everybody would remember winter driving skills and not gun their engines or drive so fast, they had no control. Oh, and if yours is a hot rear wheel drive sports car, I don’t care if you are a law student, at least say thank you to the lawyer who pushes your ass into a parking spot.

Last, while the local drive by media is focusing all its’ attentions on the stupid donut chicken sandwich at the Fair, I found da bomb! It is called the Bacon Bomb and it, my friends is artery clogging awesomness. A picture is posted. It is thick and filling and spicey and yummy. $8 is a bit over the top but worth it just this once. Enjoy!

Rat Tales 2013

Trivial Pursuits

Here is my question to you:

While waiting endlessly for Salt-n-Peppa to take the stage, her DJ came on and starting playing some mixes and scratches of Hip Hop and Rap songs that have been well known over the past couple of decades. He was warming up the crowd. We was dancing and singing like the old age goofs that we are.

Right in the middle of it all, he played ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynard Skynard. Everyone around me started looking at each other. All these middle aged white people did not understand why Sir Whatshisface on stage would throw that song in with the likes of Shaggy and Beyonce.

I know.

I know the connection of Sweet Home Alabama to the genres of Hip Hop and Rap.

Do you?

Rat Tales 2013:

Best Damn Cock at the Fair

During some Facebook chatter about the Fair, a dear friend Kathleen Gallagher engaged me in the following colliquoy:

Her: How are the chickens
Me: tasty, so far. if you meant the live ones ... can you be more specific? because "chickens" is a large word. there are hens and there are cocks. which do you prefer or doesn't it matter?
Her: The ones at the fair that are alive. Check the blue Cochin hens if you get that way though the cocks and Roos are my fav

So, out of love and admiration for a dear friend who lives a few States away where living free or dying means something, I set off yesterday Friday 8/23/13 in search of the best cock at the Fair. After all, isn’t that something you would do as a matter of love and friendship.

Every step I took after I walked in was focused on one thing: Find Kathy the best cock I could at the New York State Fair. Her only apparent condition was that the cock was alive. I hear that a lot from women.

Well I found the motherlode, or should I say perhaps, the pant load of cock (if you will) at the NYS Fair. Of all places to look, I brought you several samples of cock.

For example, you will see the totally cool California cock. Long haired hippy freak. I thought he was hot and loved his mop. Definitely a cock I could snuggle up to.

Then there was this Hair Band cock. You know; one of them styles from back in the 1980s. But I gotta tell ya, that was a nice piece of a meat. Hopefully you enjoy this cock as well. Note though he is a bit bashful and likes to hide his face. Maybe he is just one of “them” who sees himself as just a cock and little more.

A personal favorite and one with which I could relate was the Cock of the Walk. Baby, not only is this bird a Swaggering Cock, but he fits everything you ever imagined in one. I brought you some cock video to show you him scratchin and clawin his way up.

But for your dear Kathleen, I had to find you the perfect cock and while I searched high and low, I found it. Two cocks just for you. There are not your typical cocks either. These are straight up non-white cage fighting cocks. I brought you video of these two each trying to show the either who is the cock and who is the hen.

Last, but not least, I could not close this Tale without showing a woman really getting into eating cock.

Thank you Kathleen. Until your comments, I had never before given a single thought of finding the best cock at the Fair. It was fun. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Rat Tales 2013:

Daisy Dukes and Cowboy Boots.

So OK, it was hot yesterday afternoon. The temperatures were not oppressive like Thursday but when the sun was out from behind the clouds, it was hot. My poor wretched feet can vouch for that having walked miles on the superheated lava flows called roadways.

So yeah, it was hot. Yes, I know that Toby Keith was hitting the Grandstand. I get it that you ladies wanted to strut your stuff for the men, the women, and well for your own enjoyment and self esteem. If ya got it, flaunt it. But all ya’all were dressed alike. I was always under the impression that women don’t want to look like others. Either the jeans were long or short, but boots and hats were staples. Black shirts too didn’t hurt.

The one guy proudly displaying the Confederate flag high in the air as he marched toward the grandstand was a fight waiting to happen. A few years ago, Staties threw out fairgoers for wearing Hells Angels jackets and colors. Why didn’t they throw out the racially offensive flag bearer? Both were guilty of the same GTFO offense – “not what you are doing, but what someone may do in response to seeing what you are doing.”

Back to the ladies: The mix of sun and country music resulted in a sea of beautiful butts crushed into daisy duke shortie short shorts but the women also had on thigh high cowboy boots. Every now and then, it was topped off with a straw cowboy hat.

Boots and daisy dukes don’t work. Daisy dukes themselves are a gift to mankind; most of the time – and you know who you are. The mix of cowboy boots seemed ridiculous. Either you want our eyes on your ass or you want to look like you just cleaned a barn. If you are going to show off that ass, then don’t take my eyes away from the nice buns to the stupid boots.

You city slicker girls weren’t fooling anybody either. You aren’t normal cowboy boot grrlz so instead you have these just above the ankle sorta cowboy boots. Them and daisy dukes are just an embarrassment. Please don’t; cuz you are fooling nobody.

I truly thank every woman at the Fairgrounds who highlights her highlights. As a man hidden behind sunglasses, the eye candy cannot be ignored. Much effort is obvious that women do dress to impress. Even the ladies who don the Syracuse uniform – overweight in spandex pants and a tshirt or sweatshit cover. As outrageous as they dress in Manhattan, nobody there would be caught dead in this uniquely Syracuse fashion.

Show me your daisy dukes. Kick off the boots. Get barefoot. Get cool.

Rat Tales 2013

Rat Droppings: Tidbits and observations (day 2 - 8/23/13)

First, let me say that so far, the State Police have been awesomely cool, patient, tolerant, and peaceful. I have yet to see a confrontation. At yesterday’s 6:00 p.m. parade, one Statie did bump into a lady causing her to spill her beer. A gentleman would have offered to replace it but the Gray and Purple knight was working and unable to do so even if he wanted to. You could see on his face his embarrassment.

But the Statie I love the most is the one I met in the men’s room. Throughout the Fair, I have been seen by dozens of cops and officials and not a one has mentioned a hint about my bare feet. Yesterday, in the men’s room in the International Building, I was at a urinal doing what I had to, bare feet and all, and up next to me pulled a Statie who proceeded to do his business. He had to see my feet and my shirt. I can only imagine what he was thinking and even tempted to do. But he was cool, kept his stream steady and his eyes where they belonged – on my feet. We finished, washed up and went out separate ways. Dood.

Next, I did stop in the new Dairy Birthing Center across the street from the Fair’s coolest restaurant, the West End Bar & Grill. As I walked in and then walked out and looking at the newborns outside, I could only think of one thing. They need to change the name of the exhibit to the Veal Manufacturing Facility.

Last, I warned you people that I had a nerf gun and if I see you before you see me, I may fire. Yesterday I arrived by bus (Get On the Bus) and was searched by some teenager who annoyed me because he was searching. Suddenly, he yells “gun” … “nerf gun”! Is that legal? Can we let him in with it. I advised the gentleman that there plenty of folks inside carrying all kinds of weapons like this all hunting each other. I been using the nerf gun for years and they were going to have to pry it from my cold dead hands. They let me by; probably because they weren’t looking for nerf guns. I know they weren’t looking for alcohol neither.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: the big clock tower at Chevy Court. FIX the damn time. The Fair covered up only one of its several sides. The others are showing 2:15 as if time stopped. Surely somewhere amongst the best of New York is someone who can fix that clock. It is a reliable and necessary landmark.

Rat Tales 2013

You, Toob

Movie News: Last year, you all remember my ‘Barefootin`’ music video of the barefoot life at the New York State Fair. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IpzMYCJCrk&feature=youtu.be

It had critical reviews. Among them were, "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)

This year, 2013, I have a new film project. I have been gathering footage that by the end of the Fair, should be at least as entertaining. Oscar or SAMY award material it may not be. But I am confident it will put a smile on your face.

So if you see a lawyer filming you; it aint you and don’t worry. I am engaged in any professional activity. Well, a professional Fair Rat, but not a lawyer. Trust me.

Rat Tales 2013

Banging One Out for the Fair (Sat 8-24-13)

Saturday, was a total bust. Here and there, entertainment was busted out for the public by the Fair. For reasons I will never understand, there was a walking grasshopper and some kind of mop head muppet wannabe. Whether they were crowd pleasers, I cannot say. I just questioned their connection to New York. What message was Darryl Aubertine sending?

There are these three young men wearing blue shirts and circulating around using water jugs, cooking pans, and wooden stools as percussion instruments. They put on an upbeat show and its worth it to stop, drop, and roll for a few. Definitely don’t forget to ti.

Alas but what busted my day was a drug overdose. I wish people whose drug was alcohol could handle it better. It is a pain the ass to rescue someone, get them home, and then get as far away as possible. Drunks are nasty and mean; regardless of how nice you are. Drunks are everywhere at the fairgrounds and are mostly relatively harmless. Sometimes, they drink too much and things get ugly. When it happens to a friend and you are the one nearby, you gotta step up and intervene to help. It is Fair etiquette. Though banged up and bruised, I did my good deed.

Rat Tales 2013

Who Farted?

I understand we are living creatures and part of our processes by which our body takes in nutrients and expels waste products is through the release of gas. Methane gas, to be precise. I get it. Humans fart; we all fart. We do it often, daily, and in varying manners; from silent to marching band. No matter how you do it, it blows. Worse still, it stinks! (What is the hardest thing to do in a new relationship -- the first kiss or the first fart?)

I also understand the fairgrounds are a wide open air space with ten gazillion people, tons and tons of the most disgusting food and people imaginable, and lots and lots of jiggling and wiggling of greasy gobs of slop moving through intestinal tubing. At some point we all end up having to fart. It is natural and part of the process and we do it, and thanks to the background noise and breeze, we can normally get away with it sans shame.

But damn, yesterday … someone really dropped a bomb. I was walking around getting “b-roll” footage for my Fair video paying more attention to what as showing on my camera, when all of a sudden, like a sausage sandwich in the face, I got hit hard by this most godawful of smells. Cow shit, horse shit, chicken shit, camel shit, and people shit – there is shit all over the fairgrounds. None of it even raises a nose hair compared to what hit me.

Someone yesterday at the fairgrounds really needed to either take a monster shit or find a job with the defense department. They are walking chemical weapons of mass pain and suffering.

The inhale, the smell, all brought me to a halt. I couldn’t stop myself. “Who Farted, Goddammit!?” Ugh, it was disgusting. And it up was still upwind. The more I walked and deeper into the cloud of invisible poisonous gas I disappeared. It wouldn’t stop and it was getting worse. My breakfast from three days ago was threatening to pay a return visit. My eyes were watering. Skin was slowly melting off of me. My olfactory was all fuckedery. My mouth runneth over and over discussing the horrific blob of aroma enveloping the midway.

Then, just as quickly, the pain ended, the air cleared, and I could breathe again.

Whomever you were: Please don’t do that anymore. The rest of you: Please remember there are human beings, … women and children and the disabled are lower to the ground… out there and behind you. Please don’t fart. Spare us the pain. If you must fart, there are barns, bathrooms, and the Fair Director’s office for such things.

Rat Tales 2013

It’s All Good

The Fair has gotten better. Crowds on Saturday and Sunday were large enough to pleasure even the most stalwart of vendors. Everyone I spoke with, friend and foe alike, all recited the chant of how well things were going.

Everybody was at the Fair. I warned you people that if I saw you first, I had a nerf gun and may fire. So far, I tagged at least 6 clients; firing on 4 and letting two go free. Shot one with my nerf gun right in front of the State Police. Shot another and my load went right down a woman’s cleavage. How I love the Fair, let me count the ways. One opposing counsel who is also a Captain the military, in full combat gear with his shiny thingamabobs on his shoulders actually surprised me. I should have shot him too.

Lawrence Moten (“Mr. Socks” from S.U. Basketball, back in the old days when there was such a thing as the Big East) was present too. When he marched in Friday’s 6:00 p.m. parade, I thought to myself ‘ok, so he stopped at the Fair and was marching to say thank you to his fans.’ Then yesterday, I saw Mr. Moten again working a booth at the Fair. I didn’t get close enough to see if he was charging for autographs and while I had the chance at a photo, I felt it unfair to take one. But the question still remains: Why is Moten here – not that there is anything wrong with that.

Time Warner may be hoarding my money by not having a big display, but National Grid is sure out there hogging up a large spot next to the swine barn. There is a demonstration and be careful, cuz there is a loud bang in the middle of it – at least there was when I went by. I didn’t see the show but there was a crowd, so someone must care about electricity.

Also rumored good but which I did not see are the two dog shows. Yes there are not one, but two separate live dog acts on the fairgrounds. (Dead dog acts probably wouldn’t draw very well). One is over by the kiddy ride land near the West End Restaurant and Bar (hoorah). The second dog show is by the horse barn near the outside main road. Though I saw neither show, both had substantial crowds so I assume someone must actually like dog tricks. I seen enough dog tricks already to last me a lifetime.

Last, things are picking up because I found my first red rubber ball. It is an annual hunt of mine, gamers would call them “easter eggs”. There is a game, a couple of them actually, that is sort of like red rubber ball bingo. You pay money, you throw ball, you get a line, you win prize. Many of those balls bounce out of the box and out onto the fairgrounds. Most are recaptured and returned. A few escape. I hunt them as I meander about and usually find about a dozen. It took me four days just to find my first. Now that I have it, I know there are more out there.

Seven more days of this. I love it.

Rat Tales 2013

What does a bored Fair Rat do for fun?


Rat Tales 2013

I’m Bored.

The past couple of days nothing has really been of interest at the Fair. It rained Monday. Yesterday was just blah. I did have some fun with a friend over age 60. We were having coffee and I said he should come to the Fair with me. It was senior citizen day and he could get in for free. First he laughed, then he hit me. Apparently he is having problems with accepting the fact he is over 60. I whined and cajoled telling him how hard I had to work to get into the Fair for free and just because he is an old man, he can stroll in for free. Bah. He refused. Wimp.

I did want to note that while the Fair says ‘seniors’ are 60 and over, Centro is not so compassionate. For them to offer a discounted rate, you have to be 65. I will however commend Centro in that I have yet to arrive at the bus pick to or from Shoppingtown where there hasn’t been a bus waiting. Yes, I stood a few times but never once stood in a line waiting for a bus to come. THAT is a major improvement over years past.

But what I really wanted to tell you was that I am really bored. It is 6:00 a.m. Wednesday the 28th; the 7th day of the Fair and I am bored. Later this morning, I have to be in family court for a knock down drag out slug fest that is going to go all 15 rounds. I think it would be cool for me to get all gussied up in my work clothes and leave early for the fairgrounds. I have a friend who owns a restaurant and I can sit and have coffee at the fairgrounds before court. The funny part will be the looks on their faces when they see me in work clothes and not in play clothes. I bet they don’t know how well I do clean up. That is this morning’s agenda. Want to meet me? I should be at the West End Restaurant by 7:30; assuming I can get through the gates without paying.

Tonight is date night. The Missus is emerging from her cave to spend one evening at the Fair. She hates the Fair which is fine – more for me. Dinner and a show, we call it.


Rat Tales 2013


I know that while in Syracuse and environs as well as on the grounds of the New York State Fair, I am standing on American soil. It is New York earth. This State of one of the United States.

So, as I approach Gate 1 of the Great New York State Fair (which has removed its name from the Marquis out front), I spy with my Fair Rat eye the below picture.

I get the American Flag. The New York State flag as well should be there. But the question I have is when were we invaded by Canada? Why is the Canadian flag flying? Why is it flying at the same height as the New York flag? Why would a sovereign nation like Canada allow its flag to stand below that of another nation? None of this makes sense.

It would be one thing if the Fair showed the flags of all the nationalities represented in New York. Like the UN (in New York, btw), the Fair could recognize all the nations of the world. It doesn’t though. The Fair only foists up Canada. Why, query I?

Oh Canada, what the heck are you doing here?

Rat Tales 2013

Holding Court

This morning I announced that I had court later in the morning and it was going to be an ugly situation. But dangit, the Fair is in town. So my idea was to leave home early – about 6:30 a.m. and go to the fairgrounds where I can sit and have coffee and breakfast with some friends. Seeing me all gussied up and purty would be mind blowing to them given how they know me only in a lawyer ugly shirt, do-rag, shades, and stumbling about. It was a fun time and had some great conversation. Getting through security was a major PITA but I got all the way in without paying and crossing lines otherwise prohibited me.

When the magic time arrives, I saddle up, take the long way out of the fairgrounds (because it is fun to drive around and see stuff from a moving vehicle), and drive into the City. As I sat in the hallway awaiting my case to be called, I was mentally trying to transition from life on the fairgrounds where reality is nowhere to be seen to life in the courthouse where reality is as serious as a heart attack.

But my fair muse was with me. She said to me … HAY IDIOT, why don’t you see if you can write up a list of how life in Family Court is like life at the Fair. Sounded like fun and so I scribbled for a few minutes and make the following comparisons:

All about the children
Seething, tired, stressed out parents
The cost; oy vey
Lawyers messing everything up
Judges/Mgmt making bad decisions
Cops cops everywhere
Weird looking people
Weird looking clothes
Wrong shoes
Some folks don’t know how to behave
Lots of chaos, long lines, huge delays
Some real pigs
Incredible amounts of bullshit
Parking is a bitch
Too many civil service people
Too many people, period
Waste of money around every corner
Gotta search your stuff before entry
Definitely not user friendly
There are plenty of clowns
Lots of games of chance
People fart walking by
Occasional fistfights
Not enough seating
Strangers stick their nose in your bizniz
Someone wants to take the kids in a different direction
Someone wants more money
Barefootin` is not allowed* (we’re workin on it)

Rat Tales 2013


Another video from the Fair.


Rat Tales 2013

The Empire Strikes Back

Ahh, date night at the Fair. Who could ask for more than to be with your favorite gal strolling and meandering about the fairgrounds. My bride of the past more than quarter century absolutely hates the Fair. This is good because it means more Fair for me (and less money spent cuz someone who shall remain nameless likes to snarf up every kind of food, free or otherwise).

Once a year, however, I push the princess bride out of her hovel and make her come to the Fair. It is generically referred to as ‘Date Night’. I try and show her a good time but all she wants to do is see the cows and drink their chocolate milk at $9.00 a gallon. Nothing else interests her; until she saw the Fireball in action. Beyond that, to her the Fair is a big pile of steaming boring manure.

This year, we did something on date night that I have never done before. We meandered over to the Empire room, checked out the menu, and said ‘why not’. I have never been to the Empire room for any reason at any time but once about 10 years ago when I HAD to pee. You have walk another 3.2 miles inside the building to find the restrooms. (Another story for another day).

We were seated with a perfect view of merging milleu moving in and around and out and about. But we were seated; comfortably I might add and in the shade. The missus got up in search of something and in her absence the waitress appeared.

The Empire room has a full service bar and I took full advantage of the full service bar ordering a full service favorite. I also, just for purposes of this review, ordered the entre called ‘meat and cheese sampler’ because it was supposed to be a presentation and representation of New York -- and because I wanted finger foods while deciding on dinner. I later learned the sampler is tied for the most expensive item on the menu and only one of three prices in double digits. The dish is a complete disaster; it is something you bring to you a funeral or to a social function for someone you really don’t know. For $13.00 you get 3 slices of 2 kinds of salami, 3 dips of different cheeses, four blackberries, 14 grapes, and 3 crackers each of three different kinds. Yeah, it was pretty cheesy; pun intended.

I had a long conversation with the waitress about the dish. She had to know I was disappointed. But, she was also kind enough to ask me what I though should be added or changed about the dish. Rather than make an off-the-cuff remark like "a refund", I truly wanted to give the question some thought. It was a challenge. Something ‘New York’ to kick a New York meat and cheese platter up a notch; hmmm. After much thinking and more than one inquiry if I had decided, I finally said that I did have two suggestions – both New York oriented. One, a couple three chicken wings should be included. Wings are as unique to New York as is Lady Liberty herself. The other change or addition I thought would be a daily change-up of something ethnic. New York has a wide and diverse cultural mix and a meal befitting the quality of the Empire Room and for what it charges, should mirror back at the Fair that part of New York. Also a changing item is incentive for people to come back.

The waitress stopped to write down my suggestions. I graciously gave her a business card to use. Then I refused to repeat my ideas. She was puzzled. I said that, “your boss could make a lot of money off my ideas and I should give them away for free?” She comp’d me a libation and we are now friends for life.

Otherwise, the Empire Room menu is more of a reflection of the fairgrounds than New York or the Fair. It has everything the midway does except pizza. Offensive was the 3 shrimp for $10.00 cocktails or $3 oysters and $2 clams. This is Syracuse, not Manhattan.

The bride and I found two items we both enjoyed dearly. The prices of all the other menu items are midway comparable with the added benefit of ambience. It was a fun experience and I am glad I took a step into the rich man’s world.

Ahhhh’lll be baaahhck

Rat Tales 2013

if you are planning on going to the Fair today and are taking the bus, PLEASE don't be like the mystery rider from yesterday. PLEASE DONT FART. omg, the bus was packed. someone just couldn't wait. the poor kid next to me was dying. I went on a rant. Started hollaring about being how crowded the bus was, I felt like a jew being told I am going to the fair but they were really just gassing us. the lady in front of me was laughing hysterically. the kid to her side had his shirt up over his face. I swear someone was trying a new chemical agent. one woman threw up -- twice. please. seriously. don't EVER do that again

Rat Tales 2013

Bieber Fever

It was the Bieber that made us all nuts last night. Having a snort at Cahoots, I was joined at my table by 3 “Syracuse-esque” women and their 205 teenage children and friends. Also, the Bieber was there. The Bieber was a large framed poster of the Bieber looking totally, well … Bieber. One of them won it at some game booth and they now proudly owned ‘The Bieb’

Like the animals headed to the Ark, the teenagers and kids disappeared in clumps leaving only us old fat adults sitting around gossiping about every daisy duke and cowboy boot that walked by. The Bieber just lay there and didn’t say a word.

Eventually my guests bid me goodnight, got up and meandered off to probably eat more food. That was when I noticed the Bieber was still at the table. My friends forgot the Bieber.

No way was I going to let that happen. That woman was so proud she was a Bieber winner and probably not until her teenagers arrived did she learn what the Bieber is all about. I grabbed my bag and the Bieber and took off in a quick meander toward the cluster of my former tablemates. Catching up with them and almost breathless, I said “here, you forgot your Bieber.”

Then a discussion of the oddest sort erupted. They were arguing with me saying that they didn’t want the Bieber. I was trying to remind them that the Bieber is theirs. They have to take it. But they didn’t want the Bieber. Nobody wanted the Bieber.

I really started to feel poorly for the Bieber and didn’t know what to do. In my hands, I held the Bieber and his owners didn’t want him. One of the ladies in the group told me to give the Bieber to the first young girl I see. At that moment, a 60 something walked by and I handed her the Bieber and said, “here this Bieber is for you.” She took it, looked at me weird, and walked away. Handling the Bieber was like the kid’s game of ‘hot potato’. Anybody who touched the Bieber had to get rid of it any way they could. That Bieber was hot, I tell you. It burned me. Got me a momentary touch of the Bieber fever. Thankfully, I passed it on.

When at the fairgrounds folks, be careful. There is a Bieber out there working his way around. Don’t let him fall into your hands. If you do suddenly end up with possession of a Bieber, do as you wish. I recommend you get rid of it as fast as you can lest you too be stuck with Bieber fever.

Rat Tales 2013

What is Real at the Fair?


Rat Tales 2013

Humans of the 2013 Great New York State Fair


Rat Tales 2013

Snoozin and Loozin

Two days ago, Syracuse University played its’ first football game of the season against Penn State. The matchup of these two particular teams coming off the off season they each had almost begs that the game between them be titled, “The Pervert Bowl”. While both schools hopefully cleaned house, the stigma and Sandusky/Fine affairs will outlive most of us.

Most importantly however is that college football season started. This means I get to spend many weekend hours holding my breath, crossing my fingers and toes, and in the end watch the home team drop chance after chance to get back to the top of their storied history. Based on their football team’s performance this past decade, the Syracuse University Hill has been renamed, “Heartbreak Ridge”.

Still, as it does every year on the last weekend of the Fair, Syracuse college football season started. It used to be that nearly everyone gathered at the TimeWarner display and watched the game on their 500 inch televisions. With the complete absence of TimeWarner and their bevy of bodacious TVs, the hunt for a location to sit and watch the game while still being at the Fair proved a slight challenge. TVs were found at Davoli’s Trackside, the Empire Room, and the WestEnd Restaurant. If there were others on the fairgrounds, I missed them but have no regrets. Davolis and the West End are the beginning and end of bars and restaurant food at the Fair. Everything else is a cheap knockoff.

My first inclination was to offer the appropriate bribe to the appropriate consigliere so as to assure myself a front row center seat in front of a TV while in the shade and up against the bar. The last thing I wanted to do was stand around peeking over and around other people to try and catch a glimpse of the television and the occasional chance at being seen by a waitress. I made my arrangements and was all set to spend game day in a proper game way.

The night before the game however I heard a passing comment on television at home that the Fair was going to show the game on its big Jumbo-tron in Chevy Court. Now THAT would be the place to be. Huge wide open comfortable area, lots of shade and soft earth, tables, chairs, and food and drink everywhere. Although neither the Fair nor the leak had proof of the Fair’s intentions on their websites, a few telephone calls resulted in a confirmation that the Fair did indeed intend on showing the Syracuse game on the ginormous television.

Plans cancelled, apologies offered, and I gave up my treasured bar stool so I could enjoy the time at Chevy Court. Arriving about a half hour early, I caught the last refrains on Irish folk dancers doing their final number on stage … and then for the next half hour I waited for kickoff.

I sure did get lucky too. The lack of marketing by the Fair of their intentions to show the game resulted in a near empty Chevy Court prior to game time. I found a picnic table, right up front at the edge of the shade but still in the shade. The table was abandoned except for one man who sat at the end guarding his little Caesar’s pizza box as if it held the Sacred Chalice itself. He never turned his head and his eyes were riveted on the screen. Also at the table was a weird lady whose kids apparently were burning through her life savings at the midway. A few others came and went. For the most part, this table was mine and I spread myself and my stuff around to make it appear as though I had five people at the table instead of just little old me.

Right at 3:30, the game came on the TV. Yes the game came on, but some overpaid likely union employee of the Fairgrounds forgot how to turn on the volume. For the entire first quarter the only noise heard (other than the occasional cheer from the gathered) was me jabbering and whining away about the lack of sound. How could it be that so few folks actually wanted to see a major match up between the two powerhouse Pervert U’s? By the start of the second quarter, the tech crew solved the volume problem and there was audio to accompany Syracuse as it went down in flames.

Syracuse came out and did what they always do. Nothing. With a new coaching staff, a new quarterback, and apparently still following the old playbook, all I saw play after play was an attempted run up the middle. The woman at my table just wouldn’t stop yapping and flapping her mouth as if Coach Schaeffer could hear her. Over and over, all I kept hearing was, “how come there are no blockers?” “Why do they keep running up the middle with no blocking?” This woman was a self proclaimed expert on the appropriate number of blockers that should be in play with each run. Me, I wanted to smack her in the head with a pizza fritte but instead, I pretended that her opinion was important and just smiled and played along as she lobbed more bombs than President Obama is threatening to unload on Syria. If there was an award for best of show for loudmouthed knowitall, the vote would have been unanimous and I would have personally stapled it to her forehead.

Quarterback Drew Allen did impress me despite the ridiculous play calling. This kid has a powerful arm and with a touch more accuracy, could end up bringing multiple Syracuse crowds to their feet – a feeling not felt since Donovan McNabb. When he threw the ball, the distance and ‘almost’ factor gave me great hope for a future good season.

But that damn coach. Over and over; run up the middle or short side sweep. Play after play, the same damn thing and the same damn comments about blockers from the crazy lady. It got old. I got bored.

Clearing off some space on the bench of the table, I finally decided to put myself out of my misery and lay down pretending to be asleep so that yapping mouth would direct her technical critiques elsewhere. It took about 30 seconds of fake sleep to turn into a real nap and when I woke up, it was well into the third quarter. I must have slept an hour on the bench.

Fighting my way back to consciousness, I saw the score hadn’t really changed and Syracuse still hadn’t turned to page 2 of their playbook. Slowly, inevitably you could see it coming. Syracuse Orange was about to get juiced, squeezed, and smashed. The last two minutes were exciting cuz like every Syracuse fan, I found the hope they could pull off a 2 minute drill and score the winning touchdown.

Alas despite my love and desire, my hoping and dreaming, Allen threw the ball away. It was if he was saying, “hey Penn State, your perverts are more heinous than ours. Here, have a win. It doesn’t matter because your team is out of competition this year. So have a win on us. We still get to take on the ACC and return to being the cock of the walk.”

All that planning, all that work to get the best spot in the house in front of the biggest TV in the house, and it ended up being a snoozer. It wasn’t just the nap; the game itself was just boring. I will defer to the experts like Mike Lindsley, Brent Axe, or that yapping poodle at my table to explain why Syracuse so badly sucked and the game was a technical knock out.

Me, I am just glad I got to spend another day at the Fair. I did it in style and I even got a nap.

Lastly, the Fair does not stop for Syracuse sports. Despite carrying the moniker of being “New York’s College Team”, the Fair showed Syracuse no respect. Even though they showed the game, there were constant annoying sound checks prepping for the 8:00 p.m. concert from the stage overriding the game volume. The 6:00 p.m. parade with its bands and noise and machines did not hesitate to drive around Chevy Court in the third quarter. Whether Syracuse won or lost, the Fair show had to go on and the Fair delivered another night of orgasmic pleasure.

So, even though I snoozed and we loozed, it was still the Fair and that is something even Ms. JawFlapper couldn’t block out of my mind.

Rat Tales 2013

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
empty stalls
scattered throughout

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 my 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
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 again I do the midway creep

Back to the MarkBlum Report

It is always a far better thing
to have peace than to be right.
But, when it is not,
or when all else fails

P.O. Box 82
Manlius, New York 13104
Telephone: 315.420.9989
Emergency: 315.682.2901
E-mail: mdb@markblum.com

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