Labor Day just passed, which effectively means that summer has ended and school has started. It’s one of the few times of the year that I’d rather be back home than here in California. The sky turns royal blue, the wind starts to pick up the first scents of Fall, there’s fireworks on the river, and to top it all off, there’s the World’s Fair.
The World’s Fair is what your grammy calls the local county fair. It’s very international and cosmopolitan, if the far corners of the world only contained 4H clubs, funnel cakes and pumpkins larger than Fiats. A county fair is by design a humble, quaint thing, and it’s because of this simple design that they are grand.
I love the World’s Fair. Someday, we’re going to go to it. It’s infinitely better than the LA county fair. If there’s one thing that’s true about LA, Blue, it’s that it doesn’t do quaint very well. They try, but the LA county fair reminds me of this scene in Wayne’s World, where Wayne and Garth sign on with a sponsor to broadcast their basement show. They keep the basement, but put it in a studio and fancy up the show with sound effects and production values. The whole thing is instantly ruined. Wayne knows it. Garth knows it. We know it. That’s the LA county fair.
The World’s Fair is the real deal. I haven’t been in years, but I’m sure it’s the same as it’s always been. The same games with the same cheap glass decals for prizes. The same horse shows. And oh, the rides. I’m sure they’re exactly the same.
The rides at a fair deserve special attention, Blue. They bring them in on trucks. They fold out like big metal spiders, and then the ride operators put them together like they’re a nightstand from IKEA. There’s always a few tame, groundbound rides like the Scrambler and the funhouse, but everyone flocks to the ones that are built up.
Every place has a Ferris wheel. So a fair has to up the ante. They don’t just have a Ferris wheel that goes around in a circle. They have a wheel that goes around in a circle, except you sit in a little iron cage with rusty screws aimed right at your temple. The iron cage doesn’t just sit you. It flips you, over and over again. To make it even more fun, the person operating this astronaut simulator is laughing maniacally at your pleas for help. On a few occasions, he might even give you an extra twirl. Just because.
So go with me back to 1996. The World’s Fair had a new ride in town. The Superloop. The Superloop was exactly what it said it was. A track that looped and looped over and over again. Me and a friend were determined to discover if the loop was indeed super, so after a quick bout on Street Fighter II Turbo, we dropped in our requisite tickets and hopped on the train.
The sex offender/ride operator closed the cage to the train and we started rolling back and forth on the track, building momentum to start super looping. It was at this time that we realized we had exactly zero restraints on our bodies except for the door, and as we climbed higher and higher, the door started to look less like a door and more like a window. We were super terrified.
The next two minutes of my life involved fifteen loops. All of which consisted of my hands pinned against the roof of the train. My arms were steel pistons, locked in place. I don’t know if I would have fallen off that train, but it was a possibility. And when falling out of a steel cage headfirst is a possibility, there is no point in exploring what ifs. You stick to what you know. And that’s the roof.
When the ride stopped, we exited. On the way out, the ride operator looked at us and nodded his head, as if to say, “Well done. You survived.” We felt like kings of the world and went to go play fruit bingo.
Happy belated Labor Day, Blue. Someday, we’ll go to the World’s Fair. And stay firmly on the ground eating funnel cakes.