By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Keith May1. Look, you already know about the Fair. You've been there. You don't need a map. You don't need narrative. You've been going since you were 2, in a stroller or on your daddy's shoulders; then attached to a sibling's hand; then rushing mad and free in guffawing bunches of friends from booth to ride to food stand and throwing up on the Hurricane; then walking hand in hand, dead earnest, with a girl or guy you're dying to impress; then—I'll start projecting for you here—walking hand in hand with a wife or husband you either don't have to impress anymore or whom you've given up on impressing; then pushing the stroller or hauling your own baby on your shoulders; then yelling at the kids to stay in sight; then letting them go wherever the hell they want, since you can't keep up with them anymore; then coupled alone with your wife or husband again (or the new friend you met after the divorce), slacking off on the rides now and spending more time at the wine plaza or watching the 7-year-old-ballerina shows ("Hey! They're pretty good!"); then frankly dogging it, the pavement hard on your joints, wearing sweaters in the summer heat, watching nostalgia concerts that are nostalgic to people 30 years younger than you; then being pushed in a wheelchair and, doctor's orders, unable to eat 90 percent of the food whose smells waft right into your memory cells and call up the feeling of being 2 and pushed in your stroller the first time you went to the Fair.
2. The theme of this year's OC Fair is "We're Spicing It Up: A Salute to Peppers." There was a story in the Los Angeles Times about the considerable time and effort people put into choosing this year's theme. They like to be agricultural. They like to be traditional. They like to be "Californian." I appreciate all this, but nobody ever cares about the theme of the Fair. The theme could be "A Salute to Wet, Smelly Dogs" and people would still come, and why? Because it's the Fair, man, and everybody goes to the Fair.
3. On July 14, 1789, a Parisian mob entered the notorious but almost empty prison at Bastille, releasing seven prisoners, among them an aging, decrepit Marquis de Sade, in a demonstration of power that came to symbolize the revolution's goals of liberté, egalité and fraternité. The French Revolution, despite its tragic consequences—among them the Reign of Terror, the terrible toll taken by the Napoleonic Wars, the restoration of the egregious Bourbons, and many more bloody revolutions throughout Europe during the next century—is regarded as one of the great historical touchstones of progress and enlightenment for Western Man. Exactly 211 years later, on July 14, 2000, the OC Fair opened. I invite anybody who feels an idea coming on to write me—Cornel Bonca, OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627—to try to make some connection here.
4. Overheard outside the Fair, while waiting for the gates to swing wide on opening day, from the mouth of a 4- or 5-year-old boy, trying to make conversation with, evidently, his baby sitter: "Guess what? Yesterday, my dad got out of jail!"
5. Overheard inside the Fair, at a picnic bench, from the mouth of a 50-ish woman to, evidently, her husband, as he eyed the Australian Battered Potato food stand across the way: "If you eat one of those things, you're going to be sick as sure as I'm standing here."
6. An Australian Battered Potato costs $4.50. It sounds like a potato that has been beaten up by an Australian, but it is in fact a sliced potato that is fried in what appears to be the same yellow, muddy batter used for fish and chips, except there's no fish, just chips. It's topped, if you give them an extra dollar, with an enormous quantity of nacho cheese sauce and ranch dressing. So what we basically have here is starch fried in fat and carbohydrates, topped by fat and carbohydrates, and topped by fat. I'm no expert, but I'm guessing there is about 40 times the daily allowance of cholesterol in there, too. They put about eight of these things on a paper plate, which immediately begins to cave in from the weight as well as run through with cheese whiz and dressing. You tend to eat Australian Battered Potatoes rather quickly because they're great, and you don't want the whiz and dressing to drip off the plate. As a consequence, though, bloating ensues, as well as a certain man-there's-grease-draining-down-my-throat sensation, followed by the desire to sleep. This is where my idea of the Rest Center comes in, which I hereby submit to the Fair Operating Committee without any desire to profit personally from its implementation in the future.
7. What the Fair really needs is a Rest Center. It could be housed in that huge cowshed where they currently hold the Festival of Stuff You Can Buy at Kmart or whatever it's called. The Rest Center would be a place where those who are exhausted, bloated from food, sick of the noise or recovering from throwing up from a ride could repair in a cot or, for those willing to pay an extra buck or two, a comfortable hammock with a TV and a remote. You could stay as long as you like, and helpful staff would stand nearby, dispensing Alka-Seltzer tablets, bottled water and soda crackers.