Monday, September 26, 2016

Up the Lake: Childhood Fair Years- Part 3

The game in question was trout fishing.  

There was a shallow swimming pool type area heavily overstocked with heavily overfed trout.  Snagging was not allowed, and none of the fish being kept in the piscine concentration camp ever looked interested in eating anything.  The tackle and bait supplied probably didn’t help matters.  Fishing poles were given out, but they were reelless. At the end of the tied on string was a small hook featuring an eraser sized piece of either raw calamari…or dry caulking.

The sum total of our fish winnings was far less than the number of Rambo knives we took home.

Again, hindsight being what it is, never having to travel home with a large smelly fish in the car was probably a blessing.

Interestingly, what moved into the same general area the fish had been in was a contest with equal or greater penalties for winning.  It was a GIANT truck trailer filled with felled logs. Some lucky Fair attendee who could guess how many were in the truck would be the recipient of the whole shebang.  This was one case where we feverishly sabotaged our children’s entries.

“Why yes, I believe five is an excellent guess.”

The other part of the Midway we spent some time on contained the rides.  I remember multiple trips on bumper cars, and occasional forays into classic carnival “spin till you vomit” type rides, but not much else stands out. I think we invested more of our day in arguing with the game runners.

There were a couple of attraction based adventures that are worthy of reliving, both involving “haunted” houses.

We went through one of the “dark rides” over and over again one year.  Not that it ratcheted up scares anywhere near the one that would later almost set my sister’s head on fire.

It was a series of barely mobile bits of Halloween costumes that would wiggle about or shift slightly towards us as we passed “enhanced” by a flashbulb or strobe light.  Each event was separated by the most horrifying thing on the ride: nasty old army blankets on clotheslines.

The reason for our multiple returns was an enormous quilt of tickets tucked behind an electrical conduit just inside past the first turn.  Skip stretched further and further out of the car each time we entered but they remained tantalizingly out of reach.

In desperation one final attempt was made before the ticket expenditures to ride the stupid thing were going to rapidly cancel out any net profits by snagging the stash.

I stayed outside to keep watch, but more importantly to increase the unoccupied “landing space” in the ride vehicle.   Skip hopped out of the car on the first turn, grabbed the tickets and then gave chase throughout much of the ride.  With a final leap and a pull from Nick, he got back in at the last minute.  When the car came back out into the sunlight, they exited and we all took off to return to “spin till you vomit” land.

The second Haunted House adventure had no vehicle, and I was on the outside again.  In this case, if I had gone with them, the adventure would have nothing memorable about it.  Sometimes, being a big ole wuss pays off.

It was a typical, small, low end, and somewhat crappy walk through haunted house. Occasional poppy uppy things would show up to startle the Fair attendees who laid out some hard earned (most of the time) tickets.  When Nick and Skip exited, they found me on the floor laughing. The reason for this state was that on the outside of the tiny, fake castle shaped, plywood enclosure was a pair of loudspeakers connected to microphones throughout the attraction.

Every startled reaction was broadcast across the Fair Ground.

Armed with this knowledge, Nick and Skip said, “Listen this time,” and proceeded to have far more manly reactions, using a series of various accents, and many not approved for prime time words.   Viewing themselves redeemed, we left that section.

Of course, with occasional behavior like this it was inevitable that someone would get thrown out of somewhere at the Fair over the years.

Of course, with the way life tends to treat me, I ended up being that someone.

In the Eighties, video game arcades would appear absolutely anywhere possible. This included in a tent, with plywood only covering about half of the grass and mud on the floor at the Rhinebeck Fair.

It was similar to the way that slot machines at the airport do not depend on repeat business, and are therefore rigged with far worse odds than a machine in a permanent location, such as a casino.   The video games in this temporary setting had the difficultly levels ratcheted up far beyond where any self respecting arcade owner would have them.

I used to be a decent Berzerk player in my youth.  However, this day, the chants of, “Got the humanoid, got the intruder!” came far faster than I was accustomed to.  With each zapping, I’d say, “Damn.” and hit my fist down next to the fire button.

Note, I did not say “slam” my fist down next to the fire button. I was frustrated, but there was no chance of damaging their machines, or myself. 

Therefore I experienced a shock far greater than any haunted house on the Fairgrounds could produce after my third life winked out and I heard a voice behind me say, “I was waiting for you to do that…out.” The attendant was pointing to a grime covered sign blending into the wall on the back of the tent that said, “Do Not Hit the Machines.”

Although the likelihood of the machines being damaged by all of their electrical connections lying in the mud was infinitely greater than my wuss level machine pummeling, I was told I was banned from the arcade for the duration of the Fair.

Nick and Skip were still laughing at me about this when we left that afternoon, at all of our weddings and well beyond.

Exhausted and starving from our early morning begun day of Fair shenanigans, our folks would stop along Route Nine on the way home to feed the horde again.

We always stopped at an Italian restaurant…

Unless it was a Chinese restaurant.

Oddly, I remember  both on different years, yet I also remember both in the same kinda A-frame shaped building right next to an old graveyard we’d run around in to blow off some steam before and after eating.

Either the place changed hands, or I was so tired I had no idea what I was eating.

It wasn’t the place we’ve passed every year that was a combination Chinese Restaurant and Bowling Alley.  As I could never imagine wanting to hurl a sixteen pound ball while being weighted down by various Asian dishes, the longevity of that joint has always astounded me.

I know there was soup involved; because one of the Joes was helping my sister eat her’s when she was around three.

This isn’t unusual. A friend described it best as “Jeff has three sides of his family, his Mother’s side, his Father’s side, and a whole other branch with the last name “Up the Lake.”  While we wouldn’t dream of mixing age groups during our free range Fair time, in general there was constant mass parenting, and mass older brother and sistering.

Back to the soup…which was too hot.

Instead of encouraging her to try the bowls of the other two bears, he told her to blow on it.

Which she did…

At full force as if she were blowing out the candles on a centenarian’s cake…

Sending hot soup across the table and all over my face…

Yielding another Fair story people laughed at me about the rest of the day, at our weddings and well beyond.

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