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Wednesday
Oct272010

Where it Begins

This is my first blog post.  Ever.  It will be readily apparent to all that I don't know what I'm doing at this point, but hopefully that'll change with time.  My initial plan is to post something once or twice a week from my backlog of work--most of it previously published--with an occasional injection of something more recent. I also plan to invite submissions from others, subject to arbitrary conditions which will change whenever the whim takes hold of me.  My content will be varied, but will mainly consist of politics, humor, economics, philosophy, profane flights of fancy, twaddle and gratuitous smackdowns.

Bottom line is that sometimes I've got stuff to say, and sometimes that stuff actually has structure, nuance, subheadings and other detritus sufficient to be stretched into article length.  By the time that much effort has gone into what started out as a jumbled collection of thoughts, experience has taught me that it's no great thing to be in a position to have all that work either get published or not depending on what an established gatekeeper had to drink the night before.  So be damned to them, I'm publishing it myself.  All of it.  Even the ill-advised pieces.  ESPECIALLY the ill-advised pieces.

This first bit is some fun I had a few years back after a visit to my local county fair.  The magazine I wrote for back then lacked the stones to run it, although the word was that it had everyone in their office giggling like fools.  Hope you enjoy.  SMS

Life Among the Cave-Dwelling Guano Eaters

            For the past 15 years or so, I’ve proven adept at avoiding the county fair.  This perfect record came to a dead stop last summer when my wife arranged to have our nieces (ages 1 and 4) and our nephew (7) come stay with us during fair week, thus obligating me to take them.  She did the same thing again this year, signaling an intention to turn this into some kind of tradition.  How I must love that woman–particularly the other 51 weeks of the year.

            I tried looking into a few preferable alternatives.  But cyanide capsules proved exceedingly scarce in my home town, and I chickened out at the last minute when it came to swallowing a bullet.  So last night, it was off to the county fair.

            The fair always puts my professed anti-elitism to the test.  I don’t think myself better than other people but–here’s the thing–I don’t think the characters one encounters at a county fair are, in the purest technical sense, actually people.  Given that I see them only at the fair, I’ve developed a theory over time that these are, in fact, vaguely humanoid life forms who, as the fair winds down,  withdraw to their lairs deep inside abandoned local mines, where they subsist off mercury-laden ground water and bat droppings until the following August.

            From the standpoint of a taxonomical survey, these Cave-Dwelling Guano Eaters (CDGEs) can be further broken down into a few subspecies.  The first of these are the Shirtless Guys (SGs).  These are–sadly–men, typically  between the ages of 18 and 80, who insist on going around shirtless.  I used to simply assume that this was heat-related.  But last night, it couldn’t have been more than 70 degrees, yet there was no noticeable abatement in wanton acts of shirtlessness.  I have a couple of helpful tips for anyone who, for whatever depraved reason, may be thinking about emulating the behavior of the SGs: (1) If you have any doubt whatsoever as to whether or not you have the body for it, you don’t.  Don’t do it.  (2) If you have no doubt as to whether or not you have such a body, and are in fact supremely confident that you could serve as a model for a modern re-creation of Michelangelo’s David, you’re mistaken, by which I mean, “delusional.”  Don’t do it.  For the 10% of us fair-goers who are not CDGEs, it is difficult enough to choke down fair food whilst downwind from the livestock barns without malodorous, sweaty oafs brushing past us in all of their shirtless glory.  It’s quite enough that most of you look–how to put this tactfully?–revolting even when fully clothed.  For the love of mother and country, please cover your shame!

            Then there are the Swearing Loudly Guys (SLGs).  These guys are often, but not always, shirtless.  The following tautology is helpful: All Shirtless Guys are Swearing Loudly Guys, but not all Swearing Loudly Guys are necessarily shirtless.  Now, I’m no prude.  In fact you’d be hard pressed to find someone more appreciative of quality four-letter poetry than yours truly.  But having not been raised by the Dung Throwing Baboons of Morocco, I’m at a loss to explain how and at what point it became socially acceptable to drop F-bombs in an area densely packed with small children, and to do so loudly enough to disturb the folks working swing shift at the neighboring sawmill.  It can sometimes take up to 12 seconds to spot your first SLG at the fair.  He will often materialize before you’ve even entered the gate, as occurred last night.  Try as I might, my two hands could not cover the six ears of my nieces and nephew.

            Next are the Unabashedly Pregnant Teenagers (UPTs).  I’m still reeling from the sheer numbers of these I saw last night.  These are girls young enough not to know who N-Synch was who are showing off their growing bellies with in-your-face flair.  I guess I’m officially an old fart.  I don’t feel that old, but when I was a teenager, there was still at least something of a stigma attached to being knocked up before you could drive a car.  Time was that even legitimately pregnant females who were married and in their twenties and thirties wore modest, belly concealing maternity clothing.  This is clearly no longer the case.

            To the UPTs, I offer the following: A grateful nation appreciates your efforts toward addressing the projected shortfall of license plate stampers and freeway litter patrol personnel that would otherwise be dogging us 20 years from now.  And really, who’s to blame you for taking full advantage of the wonderful maternity benefits Wendy’s offers to part-timers working on their GEDs?  However–and please don’t think I’m trying to throw cold water on your self-expression when I say this–you might consider limiting the Marlboros to a pack or so a day, at least during the last trimester.

            No overview of CDGE archetypes could be complete without touching upon the Public Altercation Guys (PAGs).  These individuals wander about in search of a fight, which is viewed (apparently) as a Supreme End In Itself..  I was only at the fair for 2 ½ hours, yet saw the aftermath of two fairly spirited rows.  Following the first, a guy was conspicuously displaying cuts and bruises covering his face and torso.  Would you believe he was shirtless?  He was actually carrying his shirt, which looked like a bloody rag.  The second one ended with a guy being led away by the local constabulary.  He had just gotten into a dust-up in the kiddie ride area.  Did I mention he was swearing loudly as he was being led away?  Another blurring of the lines between different CDGE taxa, I suppose.  The cops in this instance showed near superhuman restraint.  I don’t think I could have been in the presence of this particular SLG/PAG for more than a few seconds without coming up with some sort of pretext for deploying one or more of the tasers/guns/batons/pepper spraying devices in that nifty belt the cops wear.

            Folks, if you want to start a righteous, traditional Hybernian bar fight involving broken bottles, airborne bar stools and reconstructive dental work, you have my blessing.  I’ll even take you to the ER and buy you a drink after they’ve stitched you back together.  But if you start a scrap next to the spinning teddy bear ride which results in a knocked over cotton candy stand, you’re just a puke.  I hope you get raped in prison.  Oh, and fighting in front of little kids ranks a few notches below loudly swearing in front of them, although PAGs seem perfectly inclined to do both simultaneously.

            Finally, there is Can’t Decide Whether to be a Tweaker or a Drunk Guy.  I only saw one specimen of this particular strain of CDGE, but my survey was admittedly quite limited.  My experience with past fair attendance leads me to believe they are far more abundant than what I witnessed this go-around.  This fellow was 5' 11" tall and weighed all of 145 pounds.  He looked to be about 45, and so was probably around 30.  He was hanging off of various people, some of them startled strangers, and attempting to engage them in some sort of intriguing discussion about . . . I really can’t say for sure.  Trouble is, the lingua franca of my home town is the Western Oregon Redneck dialect of American English.  I’m no linguist, but I believe Mr. Can’t Decide was attempting to communicate with the locals in the relatively obscure CDGE language known as Spittleholler.  An added distraction was his propensity toward sloshing beer on the clothing of those who were trying to decipher whatever it was he was saying–loudly.  While it’s purely speculative at this point, I believe whatever it was involved a fair amount of cursing.  He was threatening to take his shirt off and start a fight.

            I felt a strong urge to helpfully suggest to Mr. Can’t Decide that had he not ingested enough crank to explode the heart of a sperm whale, it would not have been necessary for him to drink so much beer in an attempt to bring things into balance.  But my Spittleholler was too rusty to get the point across.

            Well, I’m signing off for now.  Stay tuned for next month, when I’ll be reporting on my forthcoming visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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