Fair is Foul, Foul is Fair

THE TURNSTILE SUCKS us up and spits us into the stimuli. The fairground's map unfolds like a color-coded anatomy of America: simulation, competition, practicality, privilege, innocence, indulgence, violence, etc. Everyone blithely underdressed and eating without utensils, everyone a demigod, walking as if constituting her own traffic flow, yet pulled by some magnetic force.

Everything behind glass is automatically popular, from socially retarded veterinarians performing surgery on orphan pets to refrigerated butter sculptures of dairy princesses spinning proudly on pedestals, looking ever inward. In the swine barn, the state's largest boar, Sir George, dreams of liberation through slaughter until a giggling boy slaps his mucus-coated snout. We do a few aisles in each barn, hop-scotching around piles of fresh bodily waste--admitting that, as pure physical act, bestiality is plainly doable.

In the Ag-Hort Building, a blue-ribbon beet braves the scrutiny of lesser peers, a scarred pumpkin flashbacks to its unhappy youth, dried seeds and grains compose themselves into the Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

Outside again, we'd do well to lose all but one sense at a time; the five we're given overload and the fuse box flips--as when touching an infertile ostrich egg while watching a green helium balloon escape from a girl's grip, or tasting a metallic blue lollipop, smelling a mustard-smothered Pronto Pup, hearing siblings bicker about loose change for the arcade.

There's action beneath the action: facades over facades. A family betrays its domestic wars outside the Modern Living building. A couple enters a photo booth and never returns. Next to a trash can, a fried cheese curd makes love to a napkin in the late afternoon heat.

Eleven Canada geese flying in a V overhead think they're glimpsing some strange purgatory. Then we're up there too: The Skyride carries us gloriously over the proceedings as the final smiling words of the young female attendant reverberate in our heads: You behave in there now. On the Mighty Midway strip, slit-eyed carnies seduce passersby with come-hither fingers and slogans: Tweety for your sweety? All around, teens stand among their own without purpose, except to sniff one another's hormones and awkwardly puff cigarettes.

The mother of all rides is called Evolution, and it places an average-sized human in roughly 20 positions previously unachieved by the species--thus the name.

Toward night's end, saturated brains gaze at the not-unsubstantial pyrotechnics display against the black backdrop above as if it were just another bag of mini-donuts.

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