By Mark David Blum, Esq.
It is part of my annual trek. Visiting the New York State Fairgrounds the day or two before the Fair opens is part of my overall experience. To see the animals and products coming in and filing into their usual spots just warmed the cockles of my heart. The Fair is coming, the Fair is coming.
But the Fair is never really the Fair until the arrival of Strates Shows. Not until the train and never ending caravan of trucks and tractor trailers bringing in bits and pieces of the midway and rides do the fairgrounds truly begin to transform into a real Fair. Under cloudy skies and a brisk breeze, the parts of the whole arrive and unload, piece by piece, as many as the drops of rain that lightly fell over the fairgrounds.
One by one, the bolts are tightened, the wires are connected, the pieces attached, and the labor is cussing and sweating as they attack a looming deadline. Game booths are being built and stocked and you can almost hear the money floating out of your wallet as your children beg for “just one more try, please dad.”
(If the arrival of Strates is the birth of the Fair Nation, then the afterbirth is piled up high behind the fairgrounds; a nice view from the Potato Porch. An enormous pile of scrap metal, construction debris, and even a tin boat are all awaiting your view).
This year holds special promise for me as I have been in touch with Strates Shows. I even got to speak with “Jimmy” himself. (No, no the son). Our last conversation was that I was going to meet up with him today, Tuesday at the Fairgrounds. After pacing in circles until I could stand it no more, I ran out the door and straight to the Fairgrounds. Driving right up to the Strates Shows HQ, I began asking for “Jimmy”. I was introduced to a man younger than me and I again introduced myself as the lawyer he has been talking to.
His response was that I must have been speaking with his Dad. He then told me his Dad was in Buffalo and wasn’t due in for a few hours still.
I drove around for a bit, taking it all in, sharing hello’s with old friends and driving over tent poles (and making apologies and restitution). The Fair hasn’t started and I am already $20.00 in the hole. Trying to organize my day, I called ‘Jimmy’ and asked if he knew when he would be arriving. We chatted some and then he asked me if the train had arrived.
Not knowing if it did, I did mention that all the major rides seem to be in place on the midway and are being set up. We set a later time and I drove out. As I was leaving, I passed Strates HQ one more time but this time Jimmy the Younger was occupied, so I approached one his Lieutenants and said that I just got off the phone with the “old man” and he wanted to know if the train arrived. The guy walks away and I can hear him saying into his walkie talkie, “Why is Jimmy calling THIS guy to find out if the train arrived.” I laughed as I drove off clearly leaving his crew with the impression that I gots me some ‘juice’.
When I returned later in the afternoon, I went directly to Strates HQ and up to the hiring window and said my name and that I had an appointment with Jimmy. The woman behind the bullet proof glass (not that she herself is not bulletproof) said, “he’s right there.” I looked over my left shoulder and saw three older men talking. “What color shirt is he wearing”, I asked. She again, and louder said “HE’S RIGHT THERE.” Over my right shoulder walked a man who fix exactly the image I had of the gruff strong old carnie. Right out of the textbooks, he is a man who has been there and done that and makes no apologies. I smiled and ran right up and told him that I am the crazy lawyer who has been annoying him.
His exact words said it all. “Stand down.”
‘Stand down’, I did. He lit a cigar as thick and long as my arm and went back to directing the creation of his magic kingdom. I walked around some admiring the erections before me and then just plopped on the tailgate of my truck until he came on over. We chatted some about ‘stuff’ that I cannot yet disclose and I left him a special treat. I printed out my favorite Strates essay and suggested he take some time before bed to read it. There can only be one.The Hypothetical Man: "It Wasn’t Me". Tomorrow afternoon, I will get his review.
One thing he did suggest is that I get some pictures of the Fair being erected. He said folks love to see pictures of that. Having only my cell phone camera, I did the best I could and put some up scrolling for your viewing. (A suggestion from Jimmy Strates is a command to my ears).
All this, and the Fair has not yet even started. Oh boy oh boy, what a wonderful world this will be.