There’s no time like fair time

Published 3:02 pm Friday, October 5, 2018

By: Sam Griffin

“We’re only young once,” declares my friend John Andrist, “but we can be immature forever.”

That is a profound reminder, to which I constantly aspire.

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And at no other time—‘cept maybe around Christmas—do the toes of the barefoot boy within stretch so earnestly to burst free from size 12 shoes than when the circus or fair is in town.

Parades come close, but they lack the full baptism of the senses that circuses and carnivals provide. Politics, they say, is the art of the possible, not of the actual—and so are fairs and circuses. Maybe that is why so many boys and girls of all ages are drawn to both.

There for a brief while, wrapped in the wonderful din of surging engines, the clatter of calliope music and the shrill shrieks of terror and delight; all tangled in glittering spangles and sparkling and whirling colored lights; all glued together with strange and exciting smells—there for a moment all things are possible and magnificent, bigger than life.

Adults may deride the idea, but once inside, there is no antidote, no defense regardless of age.

For some, it may be simply the smell of sawdust and the layers of paint which brighten the colors and cover the chips on the rides and caravans. Or it could be the mystical music of the midway that is so different and yet so much the same, from town to town, from decade to decade.

It could be the drone of a barker’s voice, drumming up the business for the 987,573rd time in his career—or so it seems. Or maybe it’s the subtle wink of the pitchman’s eye, as he admits, privately, of course, it’s all a great farce.

Others are stimulated by the smell of cotton candy, of caramel apples that snatch fillings out quicker than any dentist—of orange drinks and coffee, of hamburgers and frying onions. Frying onions and a light breeze—the entertainment equivalent of shooting birds over bait.

Kids of all ages, from 3 to 93, ride merry-go-rounds, scream from the cages in the loop-de-loop, climb out wobbly-kneed and sometimes green—but usually grinning. After all, they’ve endured the worst that any fiend could devise—and survived. Cause for celebration!

Still, others are captured by the pungent, dusty and familiar smell of the livestock ring—or the anxious eyes of a youngster intent on showing a calf or pig raised from birth. Or maybe it’s the walk through the exhibit hall, meeting friends and neighbors, watching people watch people.

The lights whirl and dip, flash and spin with the music, in time with the roar of generators and engines, mingling sawdust and noise and people wonder in a grand crescendo. Finally, the lights dim, tired feet shuffle through the dust, the show comes down piece by piece, just as it went up, and it’s usually sufficient to last until next year.

Most of it wasn’t really real, of course, but it was bigger, better and grander than life there for a while.

Plenty of time to be mature later.

Plenty of time to act one’s age—whatever that’s supposed to be.

But not while the fair or circus is in town.

Time is properly suspended.

Scents of the season

In the spring, it’s gardenias. In mid-summer it is ginger lilies, a few four-o’clocks and a variety of sampagitas from my friend, Bing Cruz. And in late summer and early fall, it’s night blooming jasmine.

That’s what time it is now, night-blooming jasmine time, the second crop of flowers—the bonanza, the mother-lode. Shortly after full dark, the little green-white trumpets of the most heavenly of all plants open and perfume the air. The backyard is so thick with the heady fragrance that one can almost feel it on the skin.

Little sphinx moths—the ones that look like hummingbirds—work themselves silly.

As dawn breaks, they go back to sleep, hoarding their perfume until dark.

By tonight, it will all be gone, I suppose, probably until next summer.

But if I could bottle fragrance in my backyard and share it with you, I would.

‘Scuse me. I believe I’ll go out and get another whiff right now while I can.