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

And 26 other observations about the Orange County Fair

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.

8. A sign taped to the window of the Australian Battered Potato stand reads—I swear—"A percentage of each sale goes to cancer research." Good try, I say, but heart research, Mr. Australian Battered Potato owner—how about going with heart research?

9. Children under 4, and many children over it, dance when they have sweet things in their mouths. Watch them. They'll be standing there, whining, "I'm hot" or, "My feet hurt," and then they're handed ice cream, cotton candy or a piece of funnel cake. Within seconds, they're rolling their shoulders around and moving their feet to an irresistible internal rhythm. Something feels good inside their bodies, and they're impelled to broadcast the news. William Wordsworth, the great English poet who happened to be an early strong supporter of the French Revolution and who came up with a famous line to describe the liberating energies of the time ("Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive!"), also came up with a good line to describe the gestures of happy children. He called them "glad animal movements." It could be that glad animal movement —I'll go out on a limb here—is the origin of all dancing.

10. Overheard next to a barbecue stand, spoken by a fed-up wife pleading to her husband, who was evidently speaking to his broker ("It's down what? It's down what?") on his cell phone: "Not here, Glen! We're at the Fair!" My sentiments exactly. People shouldn't be allowed to talk on cell phones at the Fair. You can't help but look a little snotty talking into them, for one thing (and looking snotty is anti-Fair), and you can't Open Yourself to the Experience when you've got a finger in one ear and you're stooped over trying to hear what your broker is saying. Now, the Fair is by nature an anachronistic thing with a terminal Eisenhower administration vibe. The ideal Fair in the collective imagination is one in which people walk around in bobby socks and white dress shirts and it's Iowa and rural electrification is still so new that the lights on the Ferris wheel against the night sky are like (use Judy Garland voice here) something out of a dream. It is vital to the spirit of the Fair that its anachronistic qualities be preserved. Which is why they should have a bucket at the entrance where everybody has to dump their cell phones and why they should also get rid of those booths that try to make themselves look like legitimate little office fronts with the fancy counters and fake wood-grain backdrops and don't sell you good, old-fashioned American stuff (tennis shoes, canned pears, Australian Battered Potatoes), but rather sell services where you end up walking away with nothing but a credit-card receipt and a contract that some electronic something-or-other will start working when you get home. All that high-tech business is not legitimate Fair fare.

11. This is legitimate Fair fare: Black Jack, the 3,250-pound steer (height 6 feet 2 inches, length 11 feet, girth 11 feet), who, for a $1 fee, will let you see him stand there in his stall, chewing on straw or alfalfa or whatever it is steers chew on. The stall advertises him as being "10,000 hamburgers on the hoof," and I don't doubt it. My wife walked in and exclaimed, "He's as big as an SUV!" My 5-year-old son said he looked "like a wall." My 2-year-old son, with the alliterative directness that often arises from pure, virginal perception, announced, "He has horns." We marveled for a while in silence, and then we strolled down the road to scarf on huge, messy barbecued-beef sandwiches. Barbecue sandwiches have to be eaten quickly because the bread, I'm afraid, doesn't hold up against the sauce. As a result, bloating ensues, followed by that man-there's-grease-draining-down-my-throat sensation, followed by a desire for Alka-Seltzer and horizontality in a hammock with a thick pillow and a portable CD player spinning Eine Kleine Nachtmusik ($2 charge) at the Rest Center.

12. One morning, before the crowd thickened, I couldn't help but hear a Fair staff member yell out, without any sense that he was violating rules of Fair decorum, "Goddamnit! Son of a fucking bitch!" as he was transporting what appeared to be a two-gallon pot of beans, poorly secured with plastic wrap and rubber bands, from one Fair site to another in one of those little carts. The road was bumpy, and the beans were spilling over. He could have stopped his cart, re-secured the beans, and gone on his way, but I got the feeling that he felt diminished at having to transport food in the first place—he looked like he signed on with the idea of running the Kamikaze, not doing this woman's work—and wasn't going to give anybody, not least himself, the satisfaction of doing a good job. So he rumbled on—beans running copiously, miserably down the side of the pot—looking like a solid candidate for the Center for the Miserable (see No. 17).

13. At the Picture Palace, where you throw darts at balloons in the hopes of winning a poster ("Bust One You Win!"), I did well and was given the opportunity to choose among the following posters: Lakers Championship 2000 (Kobe with his legs wrapped around Shaq), Britney Spears (pre-breast growth—or job), the Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, Tupac ("Only God Can Judge Me"), Pokémon (Ash, pointing, with his mouth open), Eminem (zits, scowl), Korn on motorcycles, and a very great picture of either Carmen Electra or Shania Twain in a black leather mini-skirt and thigh-high boots inviting me, if I didn't mistake her body language, to have sex with her. Though I was prompted to stop at the Picture Palace because of Carmen/Shania, it was the Backstreet Boys poster I ended up taking away, partly because with Carmen/ Shania, I knew my wife would be disappointed in the obviousness of my fantasies and partly because I still can't get "I Want It That Way" out of my head. Their startling experiments with facial hair notwithstanding, their egregious contribution to the American popular myth of romance notwithstanding, their packaging notwithstanding, not to mention the considerable critical acumen of our own Rich Kane and Buddy Seigal, the Backstreet Boys made "I Want It That Way" into a really good song, and everybody knows it. I suspect that they'll be playing the Arlington Theater on the Summer Fair Concert Circuit in the year 2008, but that's okay. As Bob Dole used to say, "That's what this country is all about."

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."

18. The ChOrizo Breakfast Burrito, which you can get at the big white-and-blue food stand opposite the Home and Hobbies Center, costs about $5, weighs about 2 pounds, and stuffs a large flour tortilla with eggs, cheese, potatoes, chorizo and chile sauce. Nothing else I ate at the fair gave me the this-is-delicious/I'm-bloated/ there's-grease-in-my-throat/I-want-to-go-the-Rest-Center succession of sensations as reliably as did the Chorizo Breakfast Burrito.

19. After Day Four of the Fair, my wife first uttered the term "Fair Belly" in my presence. As in, "You better watch it. You don't want to get a . . ."

20. I'd like to talk about Chaos now. Chaos is a theory in physics; it's what's happening to NASDAQ stocks as we speak; it was the Russians in Get Smart (though spelled differently); and it is, we can all agree, what prevailed during much of the aftermath of the French Revolution, particularly during Robespierre's bloody Terror. It is also the name of the ride—the one non-kiddie ride—that I decided to endure at the Fair for purposes of journalistic completeness. I considered the Kamikaze, but I'm not an idiot. I should say here that I have an easily upsettable stomach. As a child, I had a long history of vomiting on the Angeles Crest highway going toward Big Bear. My honeymoon—otherwise lovely: we had Paris, and we'll always have Paris—was marred by a most choppy trip across the English Channel, two godforsaken hours of which I spent throwing up bile in a stall.

Chaos is a ride in which you strap yourself into one of about 12 small compartments that are attached to the edge of a large horizontal disk that revolves, first slowly and then faster, then, still revolving, rises at an angle until it reaches about 80 degrees. As the disk angles up, each individual compartment commences to spinning on its own axis as well. When Chaos is at its height, there are two kinds of vigorous circular movements going on, random screams, violent metallic groans from the machinery and loud blasts of heavy metal (e.g., Van Halen's "Poundcake"). The lungs feel crushed and the sense of disorientation is completely and totally unfun. The thing goes on and on and on, and it was as I stumbled away from Chaos that I first conceived of the idea of the Rest Center.

21. Since there is currently no Rest Center, the next best place is probably the Wine Plaza, though post-Chaos, I wasn't in the mood for wine, and the Andean band that was playing, as good as it was, seemed a tad too sprightly. So I went into the Home and Hobbies Building. The Home and Hobbies Building is soft and serene. There is no music playing, so all you hear is the susurration of mild suburban couples appreciating the prize-winning embroidery, stuffed dolls, quilts and homemade fruit preserves on display. (First Prize for Fruit and Fruit Juice, Applesauce Division, incidentally, went to Michael Grant of Garden Grove, who used the Water Bath A-20 Method, incorporating apples, apricot brandy, brandy, apricot jam, sugar, brown sugar, allspice and cinnamon into his recipe. Despite my troubled stomach, the double brandy shot caught my interest, and I asked how I might try Mr. Grant's recipe, but the Home and Hobbies attendant couldn't tell me how to get ahold of a jar.) Everything looks pastel, including the clothes and faces of the people at the booths. The only smidgen of anxiety I noticed was from the long line of women standing outside the glass doors of the building, waiting to go to the bathroom.

22. Lina is the psychic who told me about my life one morning. She informed me that I had the choice of a palm reading ($5), a psychic reading ($10) or a full-on tarot reading ($20). I went for the middle, not knowing if the Weekly would cover me for the tarot reading. Lina sat me down and touched the back of my hand for about nine seconds, then removed her hand but kept it hovering above mine for the rest of the reading. "Whatever I tell you," she began in an absolutely no-bullshit tone that seemed utterly immune to people who use her gift for their own petty entertainment, "you must not hold it against me personally." Fair enough, I said. Then she started talking in a rush, as if the aura of my hand had burst into some kind of supernova, and within 10 seconds, I realized this woman was no hack. She knew, for instance, that my life has been "in crisis for the past six or eight months" (seven, actually, and "crisis" is the word; if I knew you better, I'd talk about it) and that the crisis, slowly ebbing, has left me in "a state of limbo" for the past two months. (Again, nailed it.) She knew that I have in my life a woman who will love me until I die. (True again.) She told me I had three kids. (Two, actually, but the woman who will love me until I die often lobbies for three.) She said that I am currently waiting for some important papers in the mail that will have some bearing on my immediate financial future. (Bingo.)

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 cliché." I don't intend to become a cliché, 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.

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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