Pigs! Pigs! Pigs! They're Porkin It up!

And 26 other observations about the Orange County Fair

14. Sun block. Do you use it? You better. I feel sorry for the Fair's public-address announcer, who goes over the loudspeaker every hour or so in a heroically cheerful voice saying things that he must realize not a soul listens to, so let me suggest that the PA system could be profitably used to make the following announcement, repeated until we get it through our thick skulls: "Sun block is a fact of life in the 21st century. It's now necessary to protect your skin from what by any previous era's definition (including the era of the French Revolution) would be normal, healthy sun exposure. The sun is no longer the source of life; it is the cause of melanoma. And the reason for this is ozone depletion, which is caused by massive amounts of chlorofluorocarbons launched into the atmosphere by aerosol cans and refrigeration units and which world governments are not even close to controlling because they're in the pockets of terrible rich old men who, in the deepest and hardest-to-fathom sense, truly don't give a shit. So, please use sun block to ward off the hazardous consequences of ultraviolet rays invading your epidermis. It won't do anything to help the ozone layer—for that, contact and send as much money as you can to the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the Environmental Defense Fund—but it will certainly do something for you. And that's what this country is all about."

15. When you go to the Fair for any length of time, even when there are 30,000 or 40,000 people there, there's always one stranger, or sometimes a whole family of them, whom you keep running into over and over in line at a ride, strolling toward the pig races, ruminating over the purchase of a funnel cake. The third or fourth time, you make eye contact—"Hi, isn't this weird," etc.—and then an hour later, you see them again. I had noticed this phenomenon before, discussed it with others who enthusiastically confirmed it, and was all primed for it to happen this year. And it didn't. I never came upon the stranger who would become familiar. (The clown on 8-foot stilts doesn't count.) The phenomenon didn't hold. Which set me back a little bit. It led me to believe that my whole modus operandi might be wrong, that walking around the Fair noting my "impressions" and "observations," that taking a notebook out periodically to write things down was wrong, that if I couldn't see the same stranger over and over again, I was somehow on too self-conscious an observational register to note what was really going on at this most unself-conscious and freeform of American pastimes. And then I thought, stop this David Foster Wallace crap and get on with it.

16. The second night of the Fair Concert Series was called "World-Class Rockers" and featured one motley crew, I must say, among them Randy Meisner, the fourth most-important person in the Eagles; Denny Laine, the third most-important person from Wings; and Spenser Davis, the first most-important person from the Spenser Davis Group. Also included was the guy who sang lead vocals for Toto and a bunch of still long- and wavy-haired guitarists who looked like they once were in Journey or Loverboy—guys who used to get laid a lot but don't anymore. I walked in as Meisner was finishing his hit "Take it to the Limit," which he can still sing, even the high keening stuff at the end. Then the band went into "Hotel California," with the Toto guy singing lead. The Toto guy ("Hold the li-ine/Love isn't always on time . . . whoa, whoa, whoa") sounds almost exactly like the guys from Foreigner or Boston: he has a thin, swooping, gymnastic, enthusiastic party-boy yelp, but he really shouldn't be singing "Hotel California." Neither should the woman—Rosalee, I believe, was her name—who sang "Me and Bobby McGee" be singing "Me and Bobby McGee." It turned into a KLOS nightmare, to tell you the truth, and after the concert, I was ready for the Center for the Miserable.

17. The Center for the Miserable, like the Rest Center, is another idea I proffer to the Fair's head honchos without any desire for compensation. It would be housed in one of the big sheds that currently sell heated spas, aluminum siding and stuff like that. It would consist of a large space sparsely furnished with comfortable chairs, cots and hammocks and be run by a kindly staff who would offer copies of the Book of Psalms, point out the rugs and incense in the Meditation Corner, offer counseling, and generally be there for the alienated, the angry, the troubled, the sad. The Center for the Miserable is based on the principle that the Fair has just about everything human beings desire except a place to go when you just don't feel festive, when the (financial, peer, existential) pressure to have a good time, to be up, now that you've paid for parking and admission and waded through the lines and suffered the heat and are finally here, goddamnit, is just too much and you just need a place to chill. In fact, for the young, it could be called the Chill Palace, to remove the stigma the young (who are more susceptible to miserableness than anyone) might experience if they'd had it up to here with the Fair but didn't want to say to their friends, "You guys go ahead. I'm going to the Center for the Miserable."

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