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Sunday, October 22, 2006

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Southern Signs of Fall

Growing up in the north, with its fleeting summers and epic winters, the first chilly days of autumn always ushered in a certain sense of melancholy, if not outright despair. It took years for my brain to quit associating the turning of the leaves with impending doom, but I am finally acclimated to epic summers (with heat as brutal as the deepest and most abiding snow) and fleeting winters (a bi- or even tri-annual occurance called "Snow-Day", triggering mass hysteria and looting in the supermarkets).

The last couple of years I have notice myself getting excited--exhilarated, even--at the first nip in the air. Autumn has become my favorite season. Mid-October to December is like one long festival here, building momentum with Halloween, peaking with Thanksgiving, sustained through Christmas and finally winding down on New Year's Day. The kick-off is the State Fair, to which I took my two older sons yesterday.

I heart the State Fair. To me, it is a microcosm of America. The lights. The crowds. The excess. The crassness. The sweetness. It's teenage farmboys in wrangler jeans and straw hats. It's a little goth family eating pink cotton candy from a bag. It's a fat black baby sucking on a bottle of coke. It's two Mexican guys in shearling coats lined up at the Old West photo booth. It's rednecks with mullets and white boys with dreadlocks. It's a middle-aged dad holding each of his teenage daughters under his arms as they fly in slow motion over the midway on a bungee cord and the P.A. system blasting Coldplay's "Yellow" and me getting choked up about it. It's the lemonade vendor who wants to charge me three bucks for an empty cup and it's the stranger who gives us a dozen ride tickets on her way out. It's a deep-fried twinkie and a staggering amount of pork.

As with the full-scale version of this country, I am more of a gawker than a participant. I am too timid to ride anything but the merry-go-round or ferris wheel. I am too carb-conscious to eat the twinkie, too skeptical to shoot the cans. My pleasure is entirely vicarious. I'm strictly in in it for the people-watching. And the people I love to watch best of all are my boys. They were beside themselves the whole time. My five-year-old, coming down the Super Slide, looked like one of those old Life magazine photos of pilots doing Mach-3. His eyes were popping out of his head and his mouth was set in a wrap-around grimace. Oh shit, I thought. Then he hit the bottom, and screamed, "That was WICKED!!" My seven-year-old could not be deflected from the games this year, as in past years. I finally relented and let him pick a floating duck, for which he "won" a cheap plastic sword. He pulled it out of the plastic wrapper like it was Excalibur in the anvil, he was so pleased with it.

I did join them on the Monkey Maze, which had a maze of mirrors to get through. No way were they going in there alone. One thing that characterizes our annual excursions to the fair is the relentless drilling I give the boys on stranger safety. I make them memorize my cell phone number. I quiz them on who to approach for help if they get lost. The first thing we do inside the gates is fill out i.d. bands and I point out all the police officers. It's a wonder they are able to have fun at all after I get through with the briefing.

Anyway, there we were running like hamsters through the Monkey Maze, banging into mirrors, and although there was a stampede of children ahead and behind us, I had each of mine firmly by the hand. My eldest, behind me, seemed to be hanging back a little. "Come on!," I shouted. "Stay together!"

"HEY!" I heard finally. "HEY!" "LADY! You've got the WRONG HAND!"

Poor kid. Now I have to expand my drill to warn my children about people like me.

Another rite of the season I get a kick out of observing is football. In the south, that means principally college ball, and in this state, it means the Southeastern Conference and the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, a.k.a. the Hogs. My husband is a Hogs fanatic. I have never seen an American football game of any stripe outside of television. I would like to go to one, but not to watch the game. As with the state fair, it's the cultural trappings that fascinate me. I especially like the food. I would probably be perfectly happy to attend the tailgate parties without ever entering the stadium.

I try to follow the game, but I'm just not wired for it. There's too many things happening on the field at once, and so many interruptions. It's not a patriotic bias; I'm the same with hockey. Baseball, I can grasp, because it's very linear. Man throws ball, man hits ball, man runs, team scores. Football seems to be all over the damn place.

I do enjoy listening in on the post-game commentary, however, much to my husband's irritation. I find their earnestness amusing, and I like to interject my own take on things.

"What happened out there today, Coach?"

"Well, Bob, there was a football game. There were a lot of guys chasing a ball on a field. One guy would get the ball, and the other guys would all jump on him. Then there'd be a commercial break."

"Describe the scene in the locker room, Jim."

"Rampant homoeroticism, Bob. Flagrant ass-slapping."

Curiously, my husband has yet to invite me to accompany him to a live game.


(Calling the faithful: today's post at Finslippy is soliciting recommendations of good, underexposed blogs. Just so you know. Because I'd hate any really good bloggers to go unmentioned.)

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Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

i heart you! what a fabulous piece. i love the fair and the football commentary. wish i were there. i want to try a funnel cake and a deep fried twinkie........

9:12 AM  
Blogger ducklet said...

you are very kind. and i don't know if i mentioned this, but i was birthed in arkansas, and i prefer your memories over my own. i think i'll assimilate them. i miss the snow days most of all, however, from my time living upstate new york. i'd rather my god smite me with feet of snow than heat of satan.

10:52 AM  
Blogger K. said...

B, no I didn't know that, but somehow not surprised. Sometimes I think life is just a really low-budget film where the same players and sets keep getting recycled over and over. You know, like where the taxi driver from scene 2 turns up in scene 8 as the security guard.

You may help yourself to my memories, since I am always rummaging around in your dreams anyway.

I can't do cold anymore. It's taken me ten years just to thaw out.

11:13 AM  
Blogger ShariMacD said...

'HEY!" I heard finally. "HEY!" "LADY! You've got the WRONG HAND!"

As a fellow mom who's always doing things AT LEAST that ridiculous, I have to say that was pure gold. Thanks for making my day! And thanks for visiting my blog. It's a gift to find a sympatico soul, and I can tell you're one. I'll be visiting regularly!

9:57 PM  
Anonymous jen lemen said...

i left my linklove the other day. now let's see if miss finslippy has the good sense to take so much good advice.

should she come by for this post any day soon, she's in for a real treat.

you're even writing brilliantly in the comments!!!

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this piece excellent much.....

9:01 AM  
Blogger zulhai said...

I am commenting only as a response to your masthead, as I have, in fact, nothing of value to add. I enjoy the wry, tongue-in-cheek sensibility of your posts, and am in total accord about the danger of housework destroying the soul.

9:16 AM  

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