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

And 26 other observations about the Orange County Fair

26. One guy I identified as mildly retarded bought a ticket and walked into the Hall of Mirrors, located in the kiddie zone. He walked through with absolutely no humor, no affect, no sense of surprise, delight or disturbance. He negotiated the maze carefully but with aplomb, and he walked out showing not a single flicker of emotion—just went on to the next place. It occurred to me that for him the whole world might be a Hall of Mirrors, and so the "entrance" and "exit" of this particular instance of it at the Fair were entirely arbitrary—didn't mean a thing.

27. During my visits to the Fair when I brought my boys, it was always an uphill thing to get them to go on the rides. They'd point and say, "Yeah, I wanna go on that one," and my wife and I would ask, "Are you sure?" and they'd say, "Yeah, let's go!" and they'd withstand all sorts of pressure from us as we'd bend over them and say, "You know, if we buy the tickets, that's it—we can't sell them back. Are you sure you're ready to go on the Bees?" Then they'd stand in the lines with us, and as soon as it was time to get on, they'd stiffen, balk and say, "No, I don't want to go," and if we made any stink about it, they started looking so sheepish (because even 2-year-olds know when they're being cowards) that we'd immediately back off and say, "It's okay, it's okay, we'll save these tickets for another day. Let's go to the petting zoo!" But one day, my little one decided to board the Bee ride, a kiddie-zone attraction that gently sends you around and around and a little up and down in a yellow-and-black-striped bee. To deepen our surprise, he insisted on going by himself, in his own bee, so I climbed in the one behind him. And so we went around and around. I could barely see the back of his head, since he's so small, but my wife's delighted face showed that he was cool with this new experience, and so I was free to look around. At the Fair. At all the people at the Fair. And from up in my bee, things on the ground looked wonderful. A big sea of people, sun-blocked and not, handicapped and not, pretty and not, in-crisis or not, acquainted with the French Revolution or not, melancholy and manic, dreaming of excitement or rest, bungling their beans, scarfing grease and carbs, inspired to glad animal movement, dads in or out of jail, walking through their own particular Halls of Mirrors, managing for the most part to avoid the Center for the Miserable, and all, for the moment, part of this one great good democracy of flesh.

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