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

And 26 other observations about the Orange County Fair

She also said that there's a second "angel" hovering in my life: an innocent young woman who respects me too much to reveal her adoration of me currently but whose intensity of passion is so strong that she won't be able to hold back for long and will confront me with the truth in—two months. This part was interesting, and not (just) because I'm some easily flatterable nitwit, at 41 clearly in the middle of the journey, who would go all a-flutter at something like this. Lina could not have known that I'm an English professor who would be returning to the classroom in—two months. There's a mythology about male English professors that says they're the charming, sensitive fantasy objects of aspiring co-eds, and it is about 12 percent true. More than a few of my former teachers and colleagues have taken advantage of their ability to recall Elizabethan love songs or Scott-and-Zelda stories at just the right moment to enthrall a 21-year-old girl. And even the ones who don't fool around with students will admit that flirting with Eros is one of the things that makes learning happen. Lina, hand floating above mine, may have picked up on some of the casual stuff running through my mind, like, "Hmmm. I wonder who it could be?" because she suddenly raised her voice and, adopting the vernacular for the only time during the reading, said, "Don't you go there!"

Now, of course I'm not going to go there. Of course. Of course. In fact, I told my wife about the whole thing when I got home, and she listened with the serenity of someone who has no doubts, who long ago, in a discussion of the aforementioned English-professor mythology, told me, "Don't you ever become a clichť." I don't intend to become a clichť, but the tempting daydreams of a man in crisis, ebbing as it is, are usually as disappointingly obvious as the Carmen/Shania poster I eyed but didn't get, opting, you may recall, for the Backstreet Boys. A consolation poster that I lost, by the way. Don't know where it went.

23. The Everly Brothers still rock. Though I walked into the Arlington Theater late and pissed-off (because a parking attendant didn't accept my press pass and actually had the gall to say, "That pass doesn't do anything for me," which I was going to turn into a whole "observation" until it occurred to me what a snobby thing it is to complain about not getting in free to the Fair), I got happy pretty quick. They did a cool, minor-key version of "When Will I Be Loved"; they sang "Bye Bye Love," "Lucille," "Wake up Little Susie" and a gorgeous "Let It Be Me." I was reminded how, after Elvis, they were the biggest white influence on the Beatles. The influence on Simon and Garfunkel is obvious, not to mention Marshall Crenshaw and Matthew Sweet. But it was when they sang "All I Have to Do Is Dream" that I realized why I was swooning. It was the girl signing for the hearing-impaired at the side of the stage. I'm not sure why they employ signers at rock concerts—it seems a kind of mockery, if you think about it. Most signers are proficient and unobtrusive enough, but this one couldn't help herself. She loved the Everly Brothers, and her signing so took on the rhythm of the music that she was essentially dancing, her whole body reinforcing what her hands were saying, especially when the Brothers E. sang "Gee-ee whiz," which I don't imagine has a sign-language equivalent but which she conveyed by elegantly stretching her hands over her head like she was bringing a star down from the sky. Talk about glad animal movement.

24. When you're late to a concert at the Arlington Theater because, say, a parking attendant wouldn't let you in because your press pass didn't do anything for her, it may become necessary to get into a crowd groove. A crowd groove is a mental state in which you walk at a fast, consistent pace, often against heavy Fair foot traffic, but manage never to bump into, let alone touch more than the sleeve of, any passersby. You have to concentrate, you have to have good short- and long-range vision, you have to be able to anticipate openings in the crowd flow, and you have to be there when they open. You must be a gazelle, and when it works, it's a sight far more satisfying than going on one of those herky-jerky stomach-hurling contraptions that necessitate a visit to the Rest Center.

25. Though it wasn't advertised, on the morning of July 18, physically and mentally handicapped people arrived at the Fair in droves. Scores were in wheelchairs, some were in walkers, and one I saw was totally prostrate and had to be wheeled in on a gurney. Hundreds of the ambulatory walked around in little bunches assisted by group leaders. There were self-stimming autistics, a few of whom wore football helmets to protect them from banging their heads with their hands; there were child schizophrenics; there were lots with Down syndrome; and there were hundreds who seemed mildly mentally retarded. As the day proceeded, I found myself labeling, as humans, I'm afraid, are wont to do. There's a retarded person, that's a non-retarded person, she's got Down syndrome, he's a guy who looks normal but has a weird smile or gait. As morning heated up into afternoon, as people glazed over with the effects of sun, bloating and noise, I found that it was getting more difficult to tell the handicapped from the unhandicapped. It made for some strange moments as I stared at people, waiting for telltale signs. This may not have been my own personal thing, either. Lots of people seemed to be staring at one another, wondering, "Which kind are you?" This intenser-than-normal interest that people found in one another, an interest that seemed, all in all, more sympathetic than not, was gratifying. So gratifying that I didn't mind when I myself was mistaken for a retarded person—by a retarded person, granted, but still. She grabbed my sleeve and said, "Come on," as in, "Let's get back with the group." After I politely disengaged myself, I walked into a restroom, looked into a mirror, and realized that at certain angles and at certain moments—in certain overstimulated, bloated moments, and with just a tiny slackening of facial features—I can pass for retarded, particularly when I'm wearing a baseball cap.

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