Santa Maria Sun / Humor
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 20
A kid at heartThis geezer has a love affair with the fair
BY ARIEL WATERMAN
I have officially become a geezer! I know, because I love going to the fair. I’ve been to Renaissance fairs, job fairs, and, before I married my Brit, I had a few love affairs. But state and county fairs were something only kids and geezers attended. Well, now I’m one of them—and happily so.
My grandparents owned a dairy farm in Spokane, Wash., and the annual state fair was a big event for us all. There were contests to be entered for quilt-making, pie-baking, and jams and jellies. I loved following my grandma through the aisles of the exhibition hall to view the entries and “tsk” or “ooh” with her over her competition.
Once, at age 5, I lost track of her and reached up for her hand. I walked along, clutching her fingers, until she called out, “What are you doing?” To my horror, I had grabbed the wrong hand, and a total stranger was staring at me like I was some Martian who had just attached itself to his fingertips. I moved faster than a cat on a marble floor!
There were horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and poultry to pet. I would come out of the stalls smelling like a stableboy who’d fallen in a pig sty and washed up with sheep dip! But I loved it.
There were rides to be ridden, and my favorite was the Mouse, a small cart that fit only two people, one in front and one behind. It raced up and down and around a track like a mouse in a maze. My cousin Kevin and I were best pals, and we rode it as often as we could wheedle the price of a ticket, a whole 25 cents, from our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
We discovered Kevin’s fear of heights when we rode the kiddie Ferris wheel and he loudly squealed, “Get me out of this damned thing!” Coming from a 4-year-old, it was pretty entertaining for all who heard it—except his poor, embarrassed mother.
At age 7, I attended the granddaddy of fairs, the Seattle World’s Fair, where my granddaddy had a food booth. He was a delight to watch as he’d entertain diners with funny insults while serving up sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and fries.
One night he brought me a three-foot-tall purple and white dog I named Big Ben. This thing was as big as me, and Grandpa told me he’d won it playing Lucky Strike. I think, now, he probably bought it from one of the carnies, but I don’t care and neither does Big Ben, who now resides in my grandson’s bedroom.
The best part of the World’s Fair was going up to the top of the Space Needle with my Aunt Lorna and Kevin, now 6. You guessed it! As soon as he looked down, he loudly squealed, “Get me off of this damned thing!” It’s funny to think that he is now a minister and pastor who married my husband and me. He still hates heights, though.
The Arizona State Fair was my go-to throughout high school. I had grown up and now went to the fair for the rides and concerts. The fairs of my childhood were filled with shows by country stars like Hank Snow, Freddie Hart, Porter Waggoner, and some blonde named Dolly Parton. But now I went to hear the Righteous Brothers, Moody Blues, and the Monkees playing at the Phoenix Coliseum, an ovoid building that confused anyone entering or exiting.
One night, my friends and I came out the wrong side and could not find my car. After an hour of frantic searching, we decided to try the opposite parking lot where, in the dim distance, sat my lonely Ford Galaxy. Well, at least we didn’t have to sit in traffic!
My taste in rides had also evolved. The Gravitron was cool, as people lined up, backs to the wall, and the room began to spin. Then the floor dropped out and you were pinned to the wall—weightless! What a high! My boyfriend Tom and I rode the Himalaya, spinning around a track and screaming, “Go faster!” Then we’d do it again backward, as Tom marveled about the ride operator, “You do realize that our lives are in the hands of a 16-year-old, right?”
Tom persuaded me to go through the Fun House. Big mistake while wearing a denim maxi-skirt and tube top! I got trapped in the spinning barrel, too scared to walk through. I entertained a gathering crowd as I rolled fanny over teacups, clutching my tube top, while Tom desperately tried to drag, push, and pull me out. Ah, good times!
Then, for years, I stopped going to the fairs. I was too busy and too hip. Fairs, after all, were for kids and geezers. Then I found the Mid State Fair in Paso Robles, and my love affair with the fair began anew. Memories of my childhood flooded over me as I meandered through the craft and baking exhibits and livestock barns, filled with familiar sounds of moos, baas, clucks, and oinks. I savored the smell of hay, animals, and cow patties!
Now I work at the fair as a ticket seller and have gotten to know the real fair people who work so hard to make the Mid State Fair special for all who attend. The grounds and bathrooms are beautiful and clean, the ticket and ride lines move smoothly, and people are friendly, funny, and helpful. I am honored to be one of them and, like my grandpa, hurl funny insults at people buying tickets from me.
“One adult and one senior,” said a gent, pointing to his wife. “She’s the senior!” I countered with “Really, ma’am? Which high school and why are you dating this jerk?” We all roared and they headed inside giggling and ready for fun.
Last year, I took my grandson, the Britween, to hear his favorite group, Big Time Rush, filling my ears with tissue against the blaring music and screams of prepubescent girls. God, did I do that at the Monkees concert so long ago? I rode the Crazy Mouse and Gravitron with Britween last year and was scared to death, not for him but for my sorry, old ass!
What happened? I became a geezer, that’s what! This year Big Time Rush returned, and so did we. Britween rode the Crazy Mouse and Gravitron with friends his age, and I rode my new favorite ride: the Footsie Wootsie, a super, vibrating foot massager that costs a whole 25 cents! Wheeee! m
Ariel Waterman rides the Footsie Wootsie as often as possible. Send rolls of quarters via her editor, Ryan Miller, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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