Monday, August 25, 2008

Airbrush with Death

I will probably be a bad parent. I realized this seated at a plastic picnic table in a cloud of barbecue smoke next to the revival tent at the Duchess County Fair this weekend. My dad was eating something called ribbon fries, which were a fascinating potato chip/french fry hybrid, arranged into a nest and deep fried, then, in the parlance of Denny's, covered and smothered. Things have advanced by leaps and bounds in carnival gastronomy since the last time I attended the fair. Blooming onions, a veggie tempura tent, thirty flavors of italian ice, a gourmet coffee cart, a middle eastern tent, and a panini hut stood all Queer Eyed among the hot dog, hamburger, frozen banana spots I remembered.

But anyway, my point here is that I will be a bad parent. We used to come to the Duchess County Fair every single year, in addition to the Orange County Fair, and the Westchester County Fair, and other, smaller fairs my mother remembers only by the smell. We didn't have a whole ton of money growing up, and my mother was telling me yesterday that, since we didn't go to camp or anything like that, going to the county fairs was a cheap-ish way to fool us into thinking our summers rocked.

But, god, did I buy it hook, line and sinker. I waited all summer for the fairs. I wanted to pet cows and then eat burgers. I loved crane machines with an almost romantic intensity. I wanted to investigate the wares of every single virtually indistinguishable jewelry/leather goods purveyor in search of the perfect accessory (under $5) that would be lost under the back seat of the van on the way home, if not before, near the skee-ball games, or possibly in a porta-potty. I was resolved to figure out how that one plumbing company with a booth in the 4-H hall got their magical free-standing faucet illusion thing to work. If only I could've airbrushed my entire wardrobe with my name, I would've been in heaven.

Because I am classy, I still love the county fair despite the realization that it is probably the world's most expensive way to be trashy. It's four bucks to huck a dart at a balloon and win a Chinese finger trap. It's fifteen dollars to get your name airbrushed on a trucker hat. It's $2.75 for a very large pickle, sold by a dour-looking girl from a stand shaped like a giant barrel. It's free, though, to watch an ambling crowd of sweaty people doing ugly things in front of each other, like eating corn on the cob or applying sunblock to their aging cleavage. I love it.

But here is why I am going to be a bad parent. Pretend I am my mother, the valedictorian of her high school class, a world traveler, a musical theater enthusiast, a crossword completer, a Masterpiece Theater watcher (seriously, the show is apparently still on the air and has an audience) , and I have three children and few liquid assets, and they want to go to the Marlboro-clouded, mullety, sausage-scented, packed to the gills county fair, and they will cry when they don't win at least four stuffed animals that will be thrown out in two years when you force them to clean out their closet, and they will demand cotton candy and then try to hold your hand while they are all sticky, and one of them will be having a bad time for no discernable reason, and you will run out of quarters to give them for that game where the quarter runs down the little ramp and you try to get the thing to push more quarters over the edge no matter how many rolls of quarters you brought, and you don't relish the car smelling like cow ass for the entire ninety minute drive home.

If I were my mother, I would go upstairs and watch TV and finish a bottle of whiskey. This, obviously, is an indicator of poor parenting skills, although it is also an indicator that if my theoretical future children want to go to the county fair, I will be inclined to do so.

But so help me god, if they start begging to see a community theater production of "The Pajama Game," I will turn that car right around. Do not make me come back there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

fcoMy summers were similar. Replace the county fairs with the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey, where for 2 glorious weeks each and every summer, my mother would indulge every one of my whims. We too, had little money, and my mom, who worked as a bank teller, saved every penny all winter, so that every summer we could escape the humidity of our Philly row house and sleep by the ocean, listening to the waves pound the jetty as we drifted off. If I ever have kids, I hope I can be a selfless and make sacrifices like my mom. Thanks for making me remember that.

10:56 AM  

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