There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight of walking in the noisy street, and being the noise.
So we hopped on our bicycles and pedaled our way to the Sonoma County Fair. I rode with Christine on the back of her tandem, thus earning the right to call myself a stoker, as well as having the sort of fun usually reserved for ten-year-old kids…nearly effortless mobility with someone else being cautious and attentive for you. It was already getting hot when we arrived at the fairgrounds, and a line had formed, and in the air there mingled sweet cloying smells of caramel, buttered corn, fried foods, and fudge. We locked our bikes to a fence, paid our admission, released our bags for a brisk search by an almost apologetic guard, and entered a great hall filled with cheap consumer goods being hawked by carnie types. There were knock-off designer sunglasses from China, dog grooming tools, hair ornaments, key chains, bumper stickers, tee shirts, potato peelers, and everything else from miracle juicers to miracle cleaning cloths.
Chris was craving something fried and cheesy, especially if it was on a stick. I think she consumed a corn dog somewhere along the line, but she finally had to buy some nachos in order to get that cheesy Velveeta experience. Donna and I shared strawberry lemonade and corn on the cob, and there were free scoops of vanilla ice cream over by the livestock exhibits. We saw cattle being washed and shined, enormous dairy cows, well-groomed goats and pigs, the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses, and plump hens a’laying –- winning egg count so far was a dozen in two days.
I am here to tell you that there are still quilting exhibits and prize-winning pies, amateur paintings adorned with blue ribbons, and earnest displays of crops and dairy products, the Bounty of the County. There are palm readers, poets, and all-purpose painkillers, storytellers, seamstresses, and feisty senior citizens proffering campaign buttons and petitions to sign. There are tattooed couples getting too much sun and girls named Savannah raising rabbits. There are amusement park rides and gardens with themes and rocky road fudge if you want it.
It was a direct step into mainstream Americana and the antidote to elitism. As Monte and Chris pointed out, once you are walking around eating food on a stick, you realize you fit right in here.
But the highlight of the fair by far was a toothpick sculpture of San Francisco, a testimonial to the beauty of a vision made real, even a slightly eccentric one. Created by Scott Weaver over a period of 35 years with 100,000 toothpicks and Elmer's glue, the 9-foot tall model encompasses all the famous landmarks of his city, such as Coit Tower and the Wharf, along with touching elements of his personal geography, such as his grandmother’s house.
It is transformed into a Rube Goldberg-like kinetic sculpture when he inserts a ball at certain entry points and narrates as it rolls past key locations -- he calls it Rolling Through the Bay.
And no further affirmation is needed. It’s a beautiful, wacky world.