Sunday, July 27, 2014

welcome to sweden

it was 100+ degrees yesterday.  what better weather for a trip to the california state fair.  i don't think anna and i have missed a date with the fair since the start of our relationship.  maybe in the early days we didn't go to the fair.  anna for years actually worked at the fair as a representative for the construction firm she was employed at.  the business was backyard sheds.  anna's boss would often get prime real estate at the fair grounds and contruct a couple of large and awesome sheds to lure customers in.  there are people whose prime motivation in going to the state fair is to buy stuff.  the late writer david foster wallace called in the essay about the illinois state fair, 'a supposedly fun thing i'll never do again,' called these people, 't-shirt people' because they often bought and wore t-shirts that read, 'zero to horny in 2.5 beers,' at the state fair.  sometimes i would keep her company as she womanned the booth.  invariably, it seemed, the men who would lurk and sometimes buy sheds would ask me questions about relative shed construction.  when i directed their queries toward anna these men would be nonplussed because a young woman was a veritable fount of all sorts of constructions knowledge.

that was the 90s.  maybe times have changed for the better.  triple digit temperatures are too hot for anything much less trekking on asphalt among tens of thousands of others at the state fair.  i said we've not missed a fair in many many years and we were not going to miss the 2014 california state fair.  it was the only time we could go this year.  last weekend we just returned from a holiday.  the week before that were the preparations for our holiday.  this weekend was the last weekend of the fair.  hence, we toughed it out.

the local newspaper, the sacramento bee, wrote an op-ed piece critical of the fair as being the same old-same old.  duh!  that is why we love the fair.  the california state fair is a showcase for the state's agriculture -- a multi-billion dollar business -- and features like the state's counties.  my favorite of favorites attraction is the counties exhibits where each participating county builds a diorama highlighting its charms.  there seems to be fewer counties participating.  i didn't count how many dioramas there were at this year's fair but the number of participating counties numbered somewhere around a couple dozen.

the state fair has a comfortable scuzziness that i love.  i dig the carnies, the barkers, the crowds, the food vendors, the rides, the attractions, the bands, the neon, the long-running monorail train that lifts passengers 30 or so feet into the air and takes them on a tour of the fair grounds.  i am older now.  i try to take it slow.  i try not to rush things.  but one only has so many hours in this life.  i spent maybe 10 minutes at the fine arts exhibit.  i like looking at the paintings, videos and sculpture made by california artists.  i had to rush thru it because i had to catch up with anna et al.  but before i left the exhibit i leafed thru the folder containing the bio notes of the artists.  one artist, richard n. longo, whose painting of dilapidated roadside attraction i found quite charming, was brief and in very big font that said his education and little else.  i liked longo's matter fo fact and brief CV.  i liked his painting.

earlier nick and i stood under the meat-eating sun [image courtesy of a poem by dylan thomas] to watch two motocross stunt riders do somersaults and handstands as they leaped into the air via a very steep ramp.  the ease by which these riders performed their maneuvers had me thinking they do these tricks all time and could perform them in their sleep.  yet the thrill of their performance was fresh for me and nick.  we both cheered these two riders like idiots at a depeche mode concerts.

people watching is a bloodsport at the fair.  you wanna see human life at its most variable go to the state fair. 

we met our great friends, b., c. and their son j.  we rounded out the evening at the midway. nick and j. rode a few of the rides. nick is becoming braver as he gets older.  summer time night and the lights of the midway can take your breath away.  we ended the night at the rodeo grandstand where we sat and watched the fireworks conclude the day at the california state fair.  the rodeo grandstand was our little secret for many years to watch fireworks.  i think it was b. who first led us there a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.  back then it was only us at the grandstand.  now there are scores of people.  the bleachers are not crowded by any means but there are scores of people who have the same reason as us for being there.

we got home and we were wide awake.  first we had to shower and wash off the dust and scunge of the fair.  then we watched a little TV.  anna DVR'd a couple of episodes of the new sitcom welcome to sweden starring greg poehler as a hollywood accountant who moves to stockholm in order to be with his swedish partner.  the show is goofy, sweet and funny.  the best part, for me and anna, is that the characters speak swedish  -- with english subtitles. we don't know swedish at all but i can recognize many of the cadences and intonations of the language.  also, the show is shot in sweden and we recognize many many features of the summer home the characters stay at and the city of stockholm proper.  i think of sweden as a kind of second home.  or home away from home away from home.  i've lived with anna -- who is swedish, her mother is born and bred in sweden -- for so long that i think of myself as swedish.  why not.  i am a citizen of the republic of poetry.  i am a citizen of the world.  all the countries of the world are not alien to me.  but for sweden, well, it shall always have a large part of my heart.  summers in sweden.  might there be more in our lives.  but do they have state fairs?   


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