Friday, September 18, 2015

Blackbird on Barbed Wire

image from

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.
--Leonard Cohen

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.”
--Leonard Cohen.

The adult thrill rides are legendary,       the tall classic wooden
                                                     Giant Coaster,
                                                 the Inverter,
                                   Super Loops,
                                 the Wild Cat, like a sleek
                    bullet train, or if you can
stomach the spinning rides, just hop aboard
     the Matterhorn,
                   Star Ship,
                           Zero Gravity,
                                  Wave Swayer,
                                       the Enterprise,
                                              the Monster, or
                                                        the Spider. 

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
three seconds.

                   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.

Glenn Buttkus


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Glenn, you took my breath away with the description of the fairgrounds being used as a Japanese relocation camp. That reminded me of the PNE grounds in Vancouver, where the same thing happened, and the people were housed IN THE ANIMAL STALLS, and their houses, property and businesses all taken away by the government. Sigh. Then I went on to enjoy your description of all the fun and excitement of the carnival, which was a stark contrast - how soon we all forget those earlier injustices. I was glad to be reminded. Thank you.

Ella said...

Wow, Glenn-amazing and haunting-as it should be! I love both journeys and am so happy you joined in! Your ticket was a time travel descent from haunting to happy!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the history lesson very much. It was exciting to see the fair through your eyes and to know you went early to get some (I bet) great pictures.

Anonymous said...

Love the shape and feel of this

X said...

When I was young we used to have an amusement park here in town. I grew up on the coasters and tilt-a-whirl. When I was a teen it left, moved to a place it could make more money. I miss it. I love people watching, there does become a critical mass when you cant focus long on a subject. You spread yourself too thin - and there is no real appreciation. You know. Ha.

Anonymous said...

HI Glenn, so great to see you here in the lily pads — great broad strokes here, novelistic accompaniment (a big big guitar) for the bird signing here on the wire -- Leonard Cohen, yes, but he's just the imago of the mystery inside history -- the song in the story -- the carnal joy of carnival which the speaker revisits like a happy ghost. Loved it.

Hannah said...

I love the shape you employed and the bit about people watching...painted so clearly, that feeling of close proximity. Excellent write!

lynn__ said...

I felt like I was there in all the glitzy zaniness of the rides and lights and people! What happened to Japanese citizens on those same grounds was unconscionable. But what exactly are elephant ears (edible)?