Thursday, July 7, 2011

California Gold

California is known for healthy living and ...well, plastic surgeries.  But as we came to the gate of the annual summer fair,  along with other potential weaponry of mass destruction, we chucked our notions of natural or artificial beauty into the waste buckets.  We walked into a dusty patch of land by the ocean but smells like the barnyard looking for deep fried everything.   Bacon, brownies, funnel cakes, Oreo cookies, ice cream, you name it.  Into the thick batter they went and out of the fryers they came triple sized, grease dripping, and artery clogging facts forgotten by the eager fair goers. The threat of throwing up on rides afterward seemed to only heighten the excitement.

This wasn't the place for yoga mamas who pack on a pharmacy of vitamins, supplements or allergy medications every time they lift off from home central.  Dusts mixed with sweat, rancid perfume with jalapeno sauce took over from avocado cucumber facial cream and aroma therapy scented candles. High heels, make up or anything delicate would have looked as out of place as a lipstick wearing pig flying over the white house or capital hills.  Not that there would be anything wrong with that as we learned from election campaigns and candidate debates.

We stopped trying to look beyond the sea of people or to part it, riding the tides that pushed us forward passing islands of stalls instead.  Once we gleamed onto the promised land flowing with food and drinks we exited following the pillars of smoke and others who looked hungry. We ordered a plate of deep fried Oreo cookies each the size of my fist, cobs of corn, gallons of lemonade, and barbecued turkey legs fit for Goliath to swing as baseball bats.  We rested our tired legs and chatted about politics and the state of economy, taxes buckets and national debt ceilings, in case the record heat and the abundance of grease haven't completely clogged our minds and shorted our circuits. 
Foot long hot dogs and sides of pork


The six o'clock sun dove towards the ocean through the thick curtain of fog floating just above, soon getting all red in the face like an overinflated balloon.  Silhouettes of palm trees and the Ferris wheel reached high enough into the deepening blue sky you could feel they leaned over you for a peek at all the excitement and yelling.   Shadows formed and air cooled when we found a courtyard with less people and more music, coming from impromptu stages.  The band was on maximum volumes and it felt good, as if balancing the excess from everywhere else, while setting up contrast in excessive beauty.  The last golden ray of the sun reached the lead singer's tender face, full of dream and longing, dotted with tattoos and piercings, contorted one minute, still another, like morning dew smoothing onto the inexplicable wrinkles of a young leaf.  She stepped to the microphone, breathing life into chrome and steel. Behind her, the guitarists draped in tattered jeans, spiked hair and tattoos leaped across the stage drumming out chords that transcended differences.

People slowly poured into the courtyard and as they did they paused to listen, to lock eyes with music and to respond and connect. Besides me a dark skinned young mom held the hands of her curly haired toddler, belting out tunes of her own. Next to her a group of beefy college kids swayed with music under their backward baseball caps while giving each other imperceptible nods. Even further a subdued Asian family let it loose, clapping and moving to the rhythm.  Everywhere I saw worried faces like my own and carefree faces I once knew. I saw the skinny, the curvy, the misfit, the entitled, the beautifully scarred and the delicately strong.  Their faces shone from the evening light and perhaps also the grease in the air, their bodies sang, their voices danced, they are the real people of California.

If there could be an instant, a moment in time, when you are simultaneously hopeless and proud, happy in sorrows, empty yet filled, leaping while standing still, I found it then as I thought about beer, bathrooms, jobs, bills, loneliness, faith, joy, but most of all people.  A salty sea breeze came and waltzed with night blooming flowers hanging over the edges of balconies above the stage.  Wind rustled up leaves and carried over fits of laughter and screams from those on the rides, while everything began to take on shades of gold, amber or chocolate.  The sun dipped further into the now nearly navy blue pacific for her evening splash, taking an early but glamorous leave.

The rest of us stayed.  We moved to the music, moment by moment, tearing free from shadows and thoughts.

15 comments:

  1. Great prose, as usual. And I love the picture of the hot dogs. They made me hungry.

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  2. I could smell the carnival from here.

    You made me want my favorite fair food...the funnel cake.

    Nice writing as always.

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  3. Made me excited for the Iowa State Fair! We are going back for our granddaughter's birthday that falls right at fair time! As great as you made your fair sound, the Iowa State Fair is like no other, CNN has called it a state fair on steroids! Can't Wait!

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  4. OMG - not how I imagine California - I love your writing...

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  5. Oh wow. Lovely! And did you say fried brownies? Nom Nom Nom !

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  6. Reading your words made me feel as if i was with you at the fair... perfectly selected descriptive words... all my senses were tickled... you have a fantastic writing style... I enjoy your posts... You are one talented writer....

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  7. Definitely a very different voice, but you hit it well, and the style is still very much yours.

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  8. You do know how to convey the sights, sounds, and feeling of summer. Beautfiul! (Except for that deep fried hamburger--ugh!) :-)

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  9. Wow, you completely nailed it. Loved the trip, I can almost taste the hotdog at the back of my throat!

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  10. A great post with a moving conclusion. I love how you came across as a part of the event and also somehow apart from it.

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  11. The beginning made me think of our state fair which I haven't attended in years. And then the end was so beautiful and uplifting!

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  12. wish I could've been think - I think I might be a natural California girl, altho minus the plastic surgery ;)

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  13. Great post! Your sights, sounds and smells remind me of all the summer and fall fairs I've attended through the years -- don't go much anymore, but at one time we wouldn't have missed the opportunity to wander around and get lost in the crowds. But all that deep fried stuff? I saw on the TV news recently that one "delicacy" this summer is deep fried butter! I can't imagine that. Yuck!!

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  14. Thank you all for your encouragements.

    ...and yes those deep fried goodies were amazing!

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  15. I grew up in California and this made me a bit homesick! I love the crowds and the diversity of fairs or other large gatherings. I enjoy watching people. There is a gift to being part of a group like that, yet still free to be yourself in the sea of people. Nicely written!

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