I was driving up SOMO yesterday when I got this deep nasty whiff of Lysol. It wasn’t coming from inside my van, but from across the street where the carnies were unpacking the North Florida Fair. A person can choose to be disgusted, reassured, or both, but it is a fact. Windows up, 45 mph, Lysol. I imagine that’s what jail smells like.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about the fair. I suppose it started as a way to celebrate the harvest before winter and then slowly but inexorably– like all social institutions– it sank to the lowest common denominator. Why do the cattle ranchers get a booth, but not the chicken farmers and so on all the way down to the Sleestak who guesses your weight or sits in the dunk tank.
Poor people love the fair. They save for it. They make special arrangements to attend and to have enough cash to enjoy it. Check Craigslist right now and I bet you can find all sorts of marginally working power tools and Barcaloungers for sale, somewhat stained but not easy to see. I haven’t been in many years, but I expect it is the same. The middle class may take a swing through the fair on a Friday evening in search of some romantic pastiche, but the real fair money comes from the outlying edges of the county, and the subsidized housing complexes. Poor people have it hard, they need a reason to celebrate and the fair is a reason.
I do like the lights, and that a field can be transformed overnight into a place with customs all its own and a culture unfamiliar. The carnies? That’s where they live, it doesn’t matter what town they are in. When you go to the fair you go to their town. Fairtown.
I never liked carnival rides. I can confidently say I have never, nor will I ever ride a roller coaster. More so, I can’t imagine why anyone would,especially at the fair. Stinking, greasy rattletrap jalopy Ferris wheels and Yo-Yo’s? I think not.
And yet, to walk the midway and win your girl a goldfish or a Def Leppard mirror is a sweet thing. I might not touch anything, but I still kind of want to go.