- Lemonade. Man, there’s nothin’ like cold, fresh-squeezed lemonade on a hot day. I actually got two, because they were so good and also because Li’l’ Duce drank about ¾ of my first one and then dropped chili dog fragments into the rest of it. Perhaps I was being unfair; perhaps the chili dog fragments would have actually enhanced the taste. I really didn’t give it a decent chance. But my point is, mmmmm, lemonade.
- Some people, and I do not necessarily exclude myself from this group, will pretty much eat anything if you put it on a stick. Examples of stick-based foods available at the Minnesota State Fair (which is, by the way, also called “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” – no, really!): hot dog on a stick, corn dog on a stick, pickle on a stick, egg roll on a stick, Belgian waffle on a stick, alligator on a stick, pork chop on a stick, coffee on a stick, corn on the cob on a stick (winner of the coveted Most Prepositions in a Foodstuff award for 2005), cheese on a stick, crab on a stick, and, I am guessing, cinnamon sticks on a stick. The Star-Tribune’s guide to the fair is called “fun on a stick”. I think this mania for stick-mounted concessions should be applied to various other commercial endeavors, because apparently anything is more enjoyable when skewered with a wooden kebab. Thus I am seeking venture capital from investors pursuant to my two new businesses, DVD Rental on a Stick and One-Stop Financial Services on a Stick.
- Likewise, fried foods that are not normally thought of as being fried are in abundance at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. The whole scene resembled a Scottish pub with better dental care and different, though equally thick, accents. Aside from innumerable fried meats and cheeses (circumstance prevented me from obeying my girlfriend’s demand that I try deep-fried cheese curds, but I did pick some curds up in Wisconsin and will try and replicate the experience at home), there were also such life-ending favorites as deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried candy bars, and deep-fried Twinkies. (The guy selling the latter item had an amusing rap to push his product, which culminated with “Get your Twink on, Minnesota!”). It’s actually probably for the best that I didn’t get the curds; by the time we left the fair, just walking around in the open air, swimming as it was with billions of vaporized dough and oil molecules, made my entire body feel like a teenager’s face.
- Speaking of teenager’s faces, they are normally sullen, bitchy and bored-looking as well as festooned with body oil and acne. But you have never seen sullen, bitchy, bored-looking teenagers until you have seen the sullen, bitchy, bored-looking teenagers who have to sit around the livestock pavilions all day during the state fair. Farm kids all, having driven for hours to spend one weekend out of the whole year in the only big city for hundreds of miles, clearly want to be making out on city buses, drinking fortified wine, and spending their college funds at the Mall of America, and what are they doing? Sitting in a huge barn watching cows fart.
- The livestock pavilions are extremely interesting to me, though, since I’m not a sullen, bitchy, bored-looking teenager. I grew up in the suburbs where you never saw life bigger or wilder than a dog whose owner left him out overnight, so I’m still absurdly fascinated by farm animals. Li’l’ Duce likewise seemed to enjoy the animals – well, most of them: the poultry fascinated Shauna and I, but Annie just seemed as bewildered as the chickens themselves. And the cattle was, well, let’s just say it was a tad too natural for all of us. Not being required, as were all the farm kids, to watch cows urinate for hours on end, we decided not to do so. The goats were fun, the sheep were Annie’s favorite, and the pigs – what few of them remained after a big show and competition and the ever-increasing need for bratwurst on a stick – were tons of fun. Or, actually, half a ton of fun – the champeen “Biggest Goddamn Pig in the Whole Fucking State” award went to a gargantuan hog with calico markings and a stupefying 1,050 pounds on the hoof. It didn’t do anything but lie there and try to sleep in about the same fashion a man weighing 1,050 pounds might sleep. If Wu had this pig, the entire camp of Deadwood would have been history by 1875.
- Annie is very enamored of balloons. In fact, we are already planning her commitment ceremony to the balloon we got her at the fair. Two groups were handing them out: the Democratic Party (“UNION PROUD” balloons) and the Republican Party (elephant-logo balloons). Being the good pinkos that we are, Shauna and I went out of our way, backtracking halfway across the fairgrounds, to make sure we got her a UNION PROUD balloon. Someday she will appreciate the sacrifice we made for her. By then, of course, unions will be extinct and we will all work for Halliburton in exchange for six cents a day and a handful of stale Spanish peanuts. On a stick.
- I got a big earful of Minnesota Nice while we were looking for a parking spot. The State Fair parking is in peoples’ yards, lawns, and driveways, in the neighborhood where my girl grew up, and we drove around for a little while trying to get a good deal not too far from the entrance; when we would ask someone how much they were charging and turn them down, they would respond with a chatty “Oh, that’s okay! Have fun at the fair!” and like as not direct us to another house that was charging less money. This is in marked contrast to my home base of Chicago, where, if you turned down someone’s parking offer as too exorbitant, you would get a response along the lines of “Yeah, well, fuck you. I hope the fair catches on fire and your whole family dies.” Or just a bag of shit thrown at you.
To recap: fairs are fun and I’m glad I live in a country where, for some reason, you can see the likeness of a Dairy Princess runner-up carved out of a 90-pound chunk of butter.