Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fair to Middling

Here are some idle observations on the 2007 edition of the Illinois State Fair. I'll try to return with something you can argue about later in the week.

The Jobs Americans Don’t Want to Do
You can consider this in relation to the immigration debate if you like, but it’s really just an observation. The carnival ride employees who appear to be of Mexican persuasion are friendlier – or if not, at least more cognizant that they’re dealing with children and not livestock – than their Caucasian co-workers. Some of them even smile.

On the other hand, the gruff white man operating the swing ride was huffing-about because the children in line didn’t appreciate the stress he was under as the ride’s lone operator. And when my daughter fell in the moon walk, something that would seem to be acceptable in a giant air pillow, the disgruntled woman working the flap yelled in: “No slipping!” Let that be a warning to your children.

Giant Swindle
I may have mentioned this when blogging on fair’s past, but one of the biggest rip-offs in the fair is the Giant Slide. It will cost you $3 to bump down the oversized, playground ride. I’ve always said that the Giant Slide should be a loss leader for the State Fair, a great bargain to lure people through the gates and then on to all of the other overpriced fare. Considering that maintenance costs on a ride powered exclusively by gravity have to be minimal, they could charge a buck a ride and still come out ahead.

Indolent Boys, Indolent Boys, What Cha Gonna Do
It used to be that the state troopers stationed at Gate 11 would come out and direct traffic on Sangamon Avenue during periods of great congestion. Due to decreasing fair attendance, heavy vehicular loads haven’t been a problem in recent years.

But you could still observe them in action when an ambulance approached or departed the grounds. A trooper would man the intersection to halt the east bound traffic and keep the north- and south-bound lanes clear. This year, perhaps due to the heat, they eliminated that duty as well. In fact, the only time I saw a trooper step out of the gates was to stop traffic so the governor’s motorcade could enter the fair without slowing down for the stop sign.

All idleness aside, the police presence in the carnival area was reassuring. I felt comfortable that any acts of civil disobedience would be squashed posthaste. It made the seediness much less threatening.

Good God, What is That Smell
There’s an indescribable stench that radiates down the center of the carnival area. It should be dealt with or the reputation for wholesome, all-natural entertainment that carnies for so long have worked to achieve, could be in jeopardy.

On a Positive Note
After parking cars for the past ten days, I feel comfortable in saying that fair goers, as a rule, are polite and friendly. Even those that looked as if they might disagreeable or ornery exchanged at least perfunctory pleasantries as I extracted the first of many, many dollars that would be liberated from their wallets during their fair adventure.

Who said Germans don’t have a sense of humor?
The highlight of my car parking duty happened on Saturday. During the late morning downpour, I parked a blue SUV. As the rain drenched me, the driver, who had apparently descended from one of the Germanic tribes, rolled down his window to pay and said in a perfect Rainer Wolfcastle accent, “If you’re not careful you might get wet.” That he then didn’t pull out two AK47s and mow down everyone on our lot was a bit out of character, but probably better for business.

A Pecan, for Example
When my son and his friends exited the Frog Hopper ride, one of his buddies’ moms asked him if the ride “tickled his tummy.” “Yeah,” my son replied, “and it tickled my (another area of his body where the sensation was pronounced)s.”

Shameless Promotion
Here’s my Sunday AM column on the great tradition of letting people park their cars in your front yard. And here’s another article I wrote on a very talented musician.

Blue Ribbon Day
Although the fair is rife with competition - from fattest pig, to tastiest pie, to fastest dirt car - what they don’t have is a best blogger contest. But the Illinois Times does. And voting is now closed. Since any groveling will be for naught, I’ll be a standup guy and ask you to vote for one of my more worthy fellow bloggers.


Conrad Bain said...

The "no slipping" thing was laugh out-loud funny.

nancy said...

"Conrad Bain" is laugh-out loud funny too. Sad that I immediately knew who Conrad Bain is (was?...did Mr. Drummond die yet?)

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Do you remember Conrad Janis, who for my money was the superior late-70s, early-80s, sitcom father? He was also an accomplished musician.

russ said...

William Conrad - pound for pound the greatest of all Conrads.

As for that smell, you could have dedicated an entire post to that stench and still wouldn't have done it justice. Good times.

Bain said...

Without Googling, wasn't Conrad Janis the father of Mindy on "Mork & Mindy?"

Occula said...

Hey, Dan -

I also loved "no slipping"! Sorry we didn't see you - we parked at the APL for quick getaway from the grandstand (and also because we got our kitty there).

I wasn't sure you'd popped back by, so I wanted to make sure to recommend more drive by truckers: "Bulldozers and Dirt," "Lookout Mountain," or "Uncle Frank", perhaps. A great many of their songs are 'story' type narratives like that.

I was happy to see your comment about dbt. And to note that you also like Tom Waits and Wilco. bravo.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

eBain, you are correct. And Janis could act circles around you. All you had to do was react to Coleman's precociousness. Janis had to maintain an incredulous demeanor for an entire act when Williams would go off on one of his other-worldly,cocaine-fueled harangues. That Mindy's dad never punched Mork in the throat is itself a testament to Janis' discipline as a thespian.

AKA Mearth said...

WOW! I don't want to derail this thread, but all the Mork and Mindy talk got me curious to reconnect with my old favorite show. I didn't remember that both Jay Thomas and Tom Poston were regulars . . .

Laura said...

Well, in defense of the white carnie (not that they need a spokesman), there was a really nice one operating the Dragon kiddie roller coaster in Happy Hollow. We were at the fair both early and late on Friday and he was pleasant the entire day, talking to the kids, giving them high 5's, and apologizing to the ones who had been waiting in line for a long time and just missed getting a seat because it filled up. He also re-arranged my 3 year old and 7 year old who were riding together so that the bigger one wouldn't squash the littler one. And he was quite pleasant about it - I'm sure he wouldn't even have minded if someone slipped getting off the ride. So here's to you, Mr. White Roller Coaster Operator Guy.

Now on to Conrad Bain - who's up for a game? In '6 Degrees of Separation' style, connect Conrad Bain to Andy Dick (although its not 6 degrees). I think Mr Drummond is dead but if he wasn't I bet he and Andy Dick would be fast friends.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Okay Laura, here’s my guess.

Conrad Bain starred in a series with Dana Plato. Dana Plato once shared a needle with Andy Dick. Two degrees! Am I correct?

Laura said...

Dan, while that's not what I had in mind, my guess is it probably is correct.

Anonymous said...

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