Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Like The Price Is Right

I like the Price Is Right. It is a throwback to an older era in TV. A game show. Audience participation. A big shiny wheel to spin. Prizes. No carnivals come around any more. At least not the carnivals with real carnies. Every carnival I have seen in recent years seems to have more "respectable" people there. They have local people selling the food usually. Someone that owns a food trailer and just goes to local events. I actually don't mind that part. I figure the food is safer.

But I miss the real carnival people. The last time I saw REAL carnival people was at the Manassas Fair in the early 90s. They didn't have real freak shows, but they had some damn strange things: there was a tent you went into and it was supposed to show the evils of drugs. It was a guy strapped in a chair with IVs coming out his arms. He would shake his hands and head and drool. As you passed him, he would look you right in the eyes. It smelled horrible cause the guy was sweating in the thick heat of Northern VA. It disturbed me. People were taking their little kids in there gleefully to show them the results of drug use. The thing gave me nightmares. I can't imagine how a 5 year old would react in the middle of the night.

When the carnivals used to come to my hometown, they would get local kids to help them set up. They always seem to choose the pot smokers. I went by there to see my friend once and he told me not to ride anything because the carnival guys were stoned, he was stoned and he was sure something was going to fall apart or fly off into the night.

I really wish authentic carnivals could come back, but I'm sure they would so offend the current delicate American sensibility, they would never be allowed. But I feel deep down we Americans need some carnival like entertainment. That is why we go to amusement parks in droves. Of course, it's not the same, but there are still elements of those old carnivals: you can still win those hugs stuffed animals, still ride rides (that hopefully won't break down), still get carnival food. Then of course there are the lights. Lights on the rides, lights line the edges of the game booths and food carts. Lights, lights, lights.....There is that thrill of unexpectedly coming upon a carnival at night. Spinning blinking lights in the middle of a field that is usually vacant.

We were in Martha's Vineyard this summer and at Oak Bluff, they have a beautiful old merry-go-round that has been restored. It is inside, sort of. You can see it from the street. You just have to walk in a few steps to get the full effect. The animals on the merry-go-round are not shiny and fancy like the ones you see in contemporary parks and there weren't as many lights. But this merry-go-round was special, very old fashioned. The horses had real hair for manes and tails. There was some game where the kids would try to grab something as they went by and a barker with a mike would announce a winner. I think the winner got to ride again for free. The breeze created by the merry-go-round was gentle and smelled of old stores that sold pickles in barrels. There was the charming sound of wood creaking. And people being unusually nice as we all crowded in and watched the wooden animals spin round and round. It was such a nice diversion in this high tech, no attention span world.

This reminds me of Krack the Dragon. In Krakow Poland, there is a magnificent castle on the hill. When you have seen all you want to see of the buildings, you can exit through the "dragon's cave." You enter into a turret and walk down lots of very narrow, uneven steps. The stairs are so narrow that there is no way you can turn back to pass someone. You have to go on. This thought occurred to me because I'm very claustrophobic. You pass little windows that you couldn't shove a cat through and then the windows disappear and it gets darker as you descend further and further underground. Finally you come into a cave that is extremely slippery and poorly lit. Seems there were white arrows pointing the way out. Once out, you meet an enormous, gorgeous dragon statue on the edge of the river. It's really beautiful. Krack the Dragon is up on his back feet with his head up in the air. About every 30 seconds, fire shoots out of his mouth. We all stand around excited waiting for him to breath fire again. When he does, there is a happy murmur that moves through the crowd. It doesn't matter for the moment we that we all speak different languages.

I don't think Krack breaths fire on Mondays so be warned if you go looking for him.

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