High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Come to the FAIR!

So M has been out of town for a week. When he planned this trip, he told me he'd be back early Wednesday morning. "Oh good," I thought. "That gives him a recovery day before we leave for Minneapolis." I was attached to Wednesday. I had made plans for having the Laptop repaired on Wednesday. I was at one with Wednesday.

The problem, of course, is that the M would return in the wee hours on Thursday. Having been corrected, I wondered if this would be sufficient recovery time before the Minneapolis jaunt. It is unlcear whether or not I vocalized these concerns to M or not. However, M was most surprised when I asked if we needed anything for the car trip.

M: Car trip?
C: Grunt. Fair. Funnel cake. Newfies. Tomorrow.
M: That's tomorrow?
M: errr . . .

So we got off to a latish start Thursday, further enlatened by stopping at McDonald's in its liminal state. Under the best of circumstances, McDonald's needs, at the very least, a shaman, a seclusion hut, and a full complement of bone rattles to achieve the transition from breakfast to lunch. Not only was this McDonald's fresh out of all of the above, it appears also to have been built on sacred Native American ground.

Once well and truly underway, we hit lousy traffic and torrential rain to carry us out of Illinois and into Wisconsin. Unperturbed, Iknit knit and knit some more, and we listened to the Podcast for the farm (the first I've heard and interesting enough that I'll probably listen in the future).

While that might sound idyllic and and blissfully uneventful for us, it ignores the fact that, during the whole trip, I was waiting to hear whether or not my medical anthropology class would carry. The overwhelming sentiment was that it would not, but I'd know for sure by Tuesday, Aug. 23. At 3:00 Friday, Aug. 26, it was "probably not" canceled, but might be canceled on Saturday. On Saturday, supervisor asked if he should end the suspense and cancel it. I gave a weak "Hmmm . . . probably." This prompted him to rejoice and say "The Dean didn't cancel it! Aren't you pleased?" Now faced with a syllabus, assignments, and a lecture to write in under 48 hours, I said, "Fuck it, I'm not coming back until Tuesday." And so I canceled the first meeting of the only class that has any chance of being any fun to teach.

We arrived at Cape A & K around 7:30 and were immediately plied with wine, pizza, and dog drool. A showed me her stash of Umbilical Cord hats and hesitantly revealed her first attempt at a sock, which was not nearly as bad as she made it out to be. We knit and chatted and played with the doggie until we were all feeling sleepy. At this point, K's phone rang. We should have taken out the caller right then and there, but tragically we did not and K remained on the phone until 4:30 AM while the rest of us slept more or less blissfully. I stumbled out of bed fairly early for me and managed to evade the Lucky-Nose-Ass-Crack-Steep-Stairs convergence.

The nominal reason for our visit was the fact that Great Big Sea was playing at the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday. It became clear Saturday morning that A had fair fear and had somehow envisioned M and I wanting to camp out at the gates and spend 18 hours with most of the population of the Twin Cities. She was much relieved to hear that enough time to sample the fine artery-hardening food and pet some animals would do us just fine.

K tragically had to return to his drudgery, leaving him unable to accompany us for Cute Newfie viewing. We left a message for a friend of A, hoping he could use the ticket instead and headed Fair-Ward. The organizers of the Minnesota State Fair clearly wish that no one would attend. They're safe in that wish, because they have built it, and they have come. Parking was definitely an exercise in finding The Great Egress. We were led on a merry chase to a block at which we were not allowed to turn. Foiling that, we made our way into a maze of twisty passages, all alike, all manned by people in orange vests waving wildly and incomprehensibly. But the real wacky came as we drove past about 15 people so equipped before finally coming to one who appeared to want to sell us both parking and admission tickets. We then drove 2.5 feet forward and yet another person took the just-purchased tickets from us. Very. Very. Odd.

Parked and ticketed up, we lifted our noses to the sky and headed for the food and baby animals. Our noses, strangely, led us to the "little farmers" experience, where kids could tend resources, ride around in bitchin' mini-John Deere tractors, toting actual (if miniature) bales of hay, and turn in their produce for goods and services at the grocery store at the end. It was pretty cute (and I can think of big people who need these lessons), but we were the eensiest bit out of place.

We headed out again into the heart of food, trying to remain undizzyed by the variety of corn dogs available under different names. Our first stop was for Lingonberry ice cream, a tasty but not particularly remarkable purchase. We then headed for the horticulture section where we wondered how, exactly, seeds are judged as prize winners. We also saw, and I am neither making this up or (for once) being sarcastic, some bitchin' seed art. There was a wall of contest winners, including: a strikingly realistic portrait of John Bolton with the (seed) caption "Seeds of Destruction"; a 3-D Box of W-O's, which also had funny and well-aimed (if surprising) anti-Bush slogans; a really cool portrait of Johnny Cash in shades of black; and, my favorite, a fairytale picture of chicks (literal, peep peep chicks) driving a coach pulled by bunnies. There were also horrible scarecrows. Let us never speak of them. A and I also felt that it was rude of the woman at the corn desk to show off so blatantly by knitting a very complicated sock without even looking. Bitch.

We made our way lazily toward the Miracle of Birth building, which was easily the coolest at the fair. There were wee piglets, pink and pretty, snoozing in the shade of their mother (this just in: pigs are big). There were baby chicks and ducks going PEEP PEEP PEEP, thus fulfilling their function admirably. There was a charming donkey, name of Burrito, who loved having his ears scratched. There were tiny sheepie sheeps frisking about. And there were two calves (one so recently born that its poor mother still had schmutz clinging to her behind) with beautiful black and white hides and shocking pink noses.

Continuing in our wanderings, M tracked down a deep-fried Milky Way bar (surprising in its deliciousness) and A and I shared a rootbeer. At this point, our funnelcake levels were getting dangerously low. We wandered past an arcade and discovered skeeball. It should go without saying that I had to play a few games. Between A and me, we secured plenty of tickets to obtain a memento for K, which I'm sure he cherishes.

Our search for funnelcake was fast becoming urgent. We ventured into the food court, which seems de trop at a State Fair and yet yielded the desired fruit. We obtained a funnelcake for sharing, along with an icy cold glass of milk. Proceeding outside, we found a convenient wall for leaning and A and I spent equal amounts of time stuffing our faces with deep-friend goodness and feeling each other up. This, no doubt, was the most titillation many of the fine Minnesotan folk had experienced in some time, but it also served to keep us (largely) powdered sugar free. We also marvelled at the sheer number of spaghetti-and-meatball-dinners-on-a-stick walking by.

We then ambled toward the grandstand to see the exhibits inside. M identified a deep-fried Twinkie source and stepped up to the plate. Dreadfully disappointing after the positive reaction to the deep-fried candy bar. There was no telling where the batter ended and the cake began. Furthermore, it was nasty and hollow, leading us to assume that the central whippped fat and sugar had gone to join its oily brethren in the depths of the deep fryer.

The inside of the grandstand proved to be too hot and too boring to contain us, so we decided to head for the Poultry Building, which paradoxically held rabbits, actual poultry (ducks, chickens, turkeys, pigeons), and sheep wearing little clan outfits and baaaaing furiously. (This noise is hilarious in person. It's possible that there was giggling and loss of dignity.) Seriously, many of the little guys were freshly shorn and had a canvas blanket covering most of the torso with a matching canvas----wimple?----covering the whole head with cut-outs for the eyes. We were unsuccessful at gathering information that would have helped us to determine if this was some kind of recursive postmodern performance art or simply an ovine fashion statement.

Somewhere along the way back to the grandstand, cheese curds were obtained. Alpaqitas were observed and declared cute. As instructed, we did not touch their moptop heads (despite incredible temptation), which are not shorn along with the rest of them because the wool doesn't regrow as quickly.

By this time, we needed to head for the grandstand for the Newfies. When I bought the tickets, they were for Sawyer Brown and Great Big Sea. I'd never heard of the former and didn't really envision the latter opening for someone, so the timing and composition of the concert remained a bit of a mystery. At one point, we had entertained showing up late and skimping on Sawyer (who was listed first). Fortunately, we didn't, because our boys were very prompt. In fact, we were still making our way to our seats when they came on with "Donkey Riding."

By the beginning of the third song, A leaned over and confided "The clips on their website don't really do them justice." At the beginning of the next she said in tell-tale smitten tones, "I like his hair" (apropos Alan, purveyor of Beautiful Rock Hair). They played for about an hour and a half, and I think this performance was the best of the three times I've seen them, although an open-air concert is subideal acoustically. They were going home the day after and, as promised, pulled out all the stops. The best part of the concert was an apparently impromptu 80s medley starting with Video Killed the Radio Star, going into Sweet Dreams, then into Summer of '69, and finally culminating in Run, Run Away. At sunset, they put up big video screens on either side of the stage, giving us great views of the on-stage shennanigans.

They announced the release date (Oct. 11) for their next album, which will comprise traditional Newfoundland songs exclusively. And after that, Tour! Hurray! Alan said they'll be in Minneapolis around February or March, which means Chicago slightly before, most likely. M and I are also thinking we could head Calgary-ward and visit the Canuckian outlaws while taking in a concert.

We stayed around to hear Sawyer Brown's first couple of songs ("Six Days on the Road" and "The Race is On") before deciding that he might be the dancing dynamo in the unfortunate hat, but he really lacked any kind of hook to keep us. We headed back toward the car where, I swear, they'd put up signs identifying sections in the interim. Arriving at Cape A& K by a clever back route, we avoided most of the Fair Exodus.

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