image from seattletimes.com
Blackbird on Barbed Wire
Everybody knows the dice are loaded,
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed,
Everybody knows the war is over,
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
My Japanese friends still remember when the Puyallup Fairgrounds
were taken over by the U.S.Army in 1941, & converted to a
Japanese-American relocation camp, with barbed wire & searchlights
replacing the carnival rides, food booths, barns, & garden halls. There
were no rodeos held there for five years. At its peak, the camp’s 30
acres housed over 7,000 detainees. I still think about it whenever I
attend the Fair.
Back in 1900 it was just a County Valley Fair,
then for decades we just called it the Puyallup Fair;
now it has the title of Washington State Fair,
runs 17 days, & hosts over a million visitors--
becoming a glitzy throbbing star of fairs,
capping its midnight closures with 10 minutes of fireworks.
I really dislike huge crowds, so even though I make an annual trek
to the fair, even people watching becomes tedious when the crowds
are so thick you can’t see your feet. One year I went by myself, entering
as soon as the gates opened at 8:30 am. knowing full well that I would
be able to prowl about with my camera, wandering like a wraith, snapping
great images of sunlit carnival colors, empty booths of chance with their
huge stuffed animals hung like swinging meat, & at rest shining ferris wheels.
My three daughters loved the place, as most children do; now they take
our grandchildren there to SillyVille to stand in lines for 30 minutes to
enjoy a 5 minute ride on the Whirling Teacups,
The Great Wave,
Fancy decked-out ponies,
the Tiny Tot Railroad,
the Lil’ Coaster, &
the bumper cars.
“If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.”
The adult thrill rides are legendary, the tall classic wooden
the Wild Cat, like a sleek
bullet train, or if you can
stomach the spinning rides, just hop aboard
the Monster, or
My personal favorite is the Extreme Scream,
a 200 foot vertical tower with
chain-driven rows of seats
that chug slowly to the top
before dropping 180 feet in
After the rides one has to troll the savory
smoky food booths, because the overpowering
smell of fresh hot scones, elephant ears, fry bread,
cotton candy, tacos, spicy BBQ & Earthquake Burgers
draws you as if you were a starving refugee.
When night falls, after retrieving a jacket from the car, you skip along,
dance & jig to rodeo horns, calliope pipes, several canned Carnie
chanties, thrilling to the blending of screams of delight & barker’s
bellowing, & the colorful blinking of circus lights embedded on
everything like massive costume jewelry.
Ring the bells that can still ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in--Leonard Cohen.
Posted over on Imaginary Garden with Real Toads