The Midway Fair

by Andrew Patterson

G and I had just ditched a Thanksgiving dinner to watch the sun set over Shad Bay. We were driving back into town, trying to decide how to extend our little runaway. As we deliberated, to our right we saw bright lights flashing in Exhibition Park (one of those bizarre catch-all stadiums/conference centers, built just beyond an industrial park at the edge of the city). Towering over the tree line was a Ferris Wheel.

“Check it out” I said.

“Oh man, we should go” said G, as her eyes caught the bright lights.

“Do you want to?” I asked.

“Sure.”

I pulled into the massive parking lot; there were hundreds of cars filling the lot. We parked and deliberated. How much were we willing to spend? Five dollars? We agreed, five dollars seemed totally reasonable for an entrance fee.

After waiting in line for a few minutes we approached the kiosk in the convention center. A cursory glance at the admission prices told us it would cost us at least three times what we were willing to pay, depending on how much time we were planning on spending inside the gates. We approached the Ticket Atlantic representative. We did our best to sweet talk, but this woman, with perma-smile and growing hatred for us, was utterly impenetrable. It was time to leave.
Heading back to the car, we ran into an acquaintance leaving through the exit. She was carrying a stuffed lion.

“I’ve never won anything in my life!” she greeted us.

After some explanation and speculation, she insisted that we could probably just walk in the exit.

True enough, we slid into the stadium undetected. A strange smell met our nostrils: french fries, horses, popcorn, public washrooms; we were in.

We wandered through the sports stadium, somewhat aloof, taking in the sights and dodging children running wild, then found our way to the outdoor portion of the Midway Fair. The sights and sounds brought back so many memories of those special summer afternoons spent in mall parking lots, testing strengths and accuracies, eating hotdogs, feeling nauseous, etc.

Lights buzzed everywhere, people in the booths of yellow and pink and silver ranted all at once, enticing the crowds to try their slightly crooked games. Wires ran beneath our feet. Children were screaming, we giggled and pointed at all the strangeness so familiar. The occasional sound of mechanical clunking and jarring came from the rides.

Excitedly, we assessed each ride in order to decide how to spend our agreed-upon five dollar stipend. I felt so estranged from everything and everyone; How did I end up here tonight? I kept getting caught starring at people.

As we approached the back end of the parking lot, amidst the cacophony of carnival sounds, a noticeable pulse grew more and more distinguishable. There was a trailer parked behind one of the tamer rides with a sign that read ‘Office’. I could see a hand moving in conversational gestures behind the open blinds.

Two speakers sat above the office emitting a familiar song: Ginuwine’s Pony.

Firstly, this song was almost certainly a large part of my music vocabulary the last time I went to fair (circa 1997), as it was played at the Junior High School dances; it was perfectly suited to my nightmarish nostalgia trip that was happening.

Secondly, it was an astonishing case of inappropriateness that somehow worked. There are so many times when I am abhorred by musical decisions (especially in a really public setting) but this was one of those rare instances where it was fucking perfect.

There I was: surrounded by gleeful children, young teens trying to act tough and parents traipsing around looking exhausted; and blaring over the loud speakers was a song that has always seemed incredibly sexy and menacing at the same time.

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