Barkers and colored balloons
You gotta love it. There’s just something about the atmosphere—the flashing lights, the rickety ‘70s stands with bad airbrush art, the sweet aroma of cotton candy, fried sugar bread and beer wafting in the evening breeze. For many it conjures memories of childhood and the whole world suddenly becoming one’s own oyster.

Once an adult, however, you are more aware of the tawdry, con-artist nature of the whole affair—because now you’re the one blowing the money or haggling with some mangy punk over your kid’s prize—"He won the skateboard fair and square, not the 25-cent Powerpuff mirror, mother&$%.”

Now you know that, from the moment you walk into the Silver Dollar Fairground, you are fresh meat for the grinder.

Regardless, one has to forget about being ripped off and just have fun. Watch the sad organ grinder’s monkey grub quarters, or the sad-eyed ponies walking in tight circles strapped with bawling children, or the sad sharks circling the goldfish bowl or the sad lumberjack who tosses three axes at once 20 feet into a bull’s-eye then spends another 30 minutes telling bad jokes before climbing up a tree.

Or maybe take a rest from walking and sit in the grandstand, where tonight the speedway is rocking and you can experience loud cars running into each other with your own eyes and mouth full of dirt and exhaust fumes. Perhaps a loose tire will fly into the stand and kill somebody, and a group of sad clowns will run the corpse away in a honking toy ambulance.

I like watching the carnies—the one whistling and taunting passerby into taking a basketball shot into an under-sized oval rim—"three more balls for five bucks, all you gotta do is get more arc"—or those strung-out meth freaks sitting behind the wheel of a large, dangerous ride looking completely disinterested and likely to send you hurtling to your death.

The fair is different from what it used to be. Now it relies on a few thrill rides as main attractions [and the ones I rode were indeed fun]. But what about the incredible human curiosities of the past—the freak shows or the traveling oddity museums? I say bring back those old-school elements to mix in with the new boy band prize crap.

And leave the animals alone; let the human freaks take back the fair.

Weekly props
1. West Coast Finals
2. Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists
3. Gallery Horse Cow (Sacto)— “Art Cars 2002”
4. Wayne Hancock at Duffy’s (6/20)
5. Stop Fast Track