In case you haven’t noticed from the obvious signs like sweltering heat and the never ending musical rendition of “Turkey In The Straw” blaring from the truck of the ice cream man, we are in the middle of summer!
Some call these the dog days of summer but I prefer to think of them as the JoJo the Dog-Faced Boy days of summer. JoJo was a carnival oddity popular in the 1880’s who had a condition known as “hypertrichosis” which did, indeed, make him look like a dog. A spooky, ugly dog. But I digress.
When I was growing up, summer meant fairs, and fairs meant freaks. Over the years I attended quite a few fairs and in the carnival sideshow area I saw a lot of freaks.
I saw The Rubber Boy who blew up his stomach with a tire pump; The Human Pincushion who impaled his body with numerous pointed objects; and The Wild Woman of Borneo who started off as a regular bikini clad woman and then “transformed” before our eyes to become a wild, primal, bikini clad woman.
I’ve also seen animal oddities including the two headed goat, the calf with six legs, and the 3-eyed frog. I’m glad I got to experience all of these freaks of nature, because witnessing them did a lot to form my persona, especially my tendency to be gullible.
I’m glad I saw the freaks but you can’t see them any more. In many places, fairs have been replaced by “fests” and sideshow freaks have been replaced by a dunk tank with the mayor in it.
Both fairs and fests feature the same cuisine, dedicated to giving you a heart attack sooner than later. They both have funnel cakes, lemon shake-ups, and something-on-a-stick; but food is not the drawing card for me. I want to experience something different at a fair/fest but I don’t like the carnival rides. Most carnival rides involve disorienting motion which then leads to lunch expulsion. It is also disconcerting to know that they were assembled overnight by workers with more tattoos than teeth.
The only thing that draws me to a carnival is the freaks, and when you take them away, the carnival becomes a festival. Then the festival becomes a street fair, and the street fair will feature mimes and in the end, nobody wins.
In my opinion, if you want to see America make it to the next century in one piece, bring back the carnys, because nothing says freedom like a 500 pound hermaphrodite and a midget sword swallower. We owe it to our kids lest they never get to see another Lobster Boy.
This, of course, is just my opinion. What’s yours?