As you know, we’re coming upon the time of year when signs for county fairs start springing up on power line poles, billboards and empty fields. For the past two years I’ve gone to the great big Wilson County fair and each time I left a little let down.
Though it’s all the way out in the bush of Lebanon, it never seemed to have that down home country feel that I remembered from my childhood–in Canada.
And don’t get me started about the Tennessee State Fair in Nashville. In all twelve years that I lived there I never once went to the state fair because I was afraid I’d be murdered. It’s for that reason that I always paid for gas at the pump with my debit card, too. Seriously, up until maybe last year.
In the area where I live there are enough small town county fairs–or agricultural fairs, as they’re many times called–to fill every weekend from now until October. My Indian reservation has its own fair, too, in mid-September every year. One of the first ones is held in a small town about a fifteen-minute drive from here called Napanee.
Maybe you’ve heard of the town. Napanee is where the great big superstar Avril Lavigne was born and raised. (I mention this only because every article I’ve ever read about her–too many to link to–mentions this fact. It’s kinda’ like how everybody was told, ten years ago, that Shania is from Timmons and how she reminds us, whenever there’s a new album coming out, that she grew up eating mustard sandwiches.)
It’s really a sweet, quiet, unassuming town but, like my friend Noreen and I concluded recently, it very consistently seems there’s never anything going on.
Unless it’s fair time, and you haven’t lived until you’ve watched a demolition derby at a county fair.
I used to be pretty much oblivious to demolition derbies–you know they’re everywhere out here, right?–but now that I’m living back here in my homeland, miles and miles away from former entertainments like Traxx and (sob) the Chute, I’ve chosen to embrace this part of my rural heritage.
Yet some things never change: the time-manager in me suggests you bring a book or a couple magazines or maybe a podcast or two that you’ve been saving for just such an occasion, because the amount of time they spend towing dead cars off the "playing field" may very well be longer than the amount of time actually spent derby-ing.
Yes, you run the risk of looking like a nerd but, trust me, these are your alternatives: watching the teenagers flirt or ignore each other, and watching the boring-as-hell straight couples bore you to hell.
Scoping the crowd for gays is pretty much fruitless, and yet I offer you this. The fact that you’re there by itself proves there’s a chance more of us might be there. And don’t forget (like I tend to) that the gays out here in the weeds tend to be more Brokeback than Dreamgirls.
In fact, I think I may have found a couple gay guys in that Napanee crowd. Neither one wearing a wedding ring, the two sat side-by-side up in the bleachers, casually mixed in with the crowd–yet there was something about them that seemed undeniably one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other. I kept glancing up to them (nonchalantly, yes) and I truly believe I received a couple suspicious-looking glances back.
Can you believe who I’ve turned into? Just a couple months ago I was beating the horniest of gays back with a stick, if I happened to show up a few minutes late to open the store, and now I’m exchanging furtive glances with unwed menz at county fairs!?
Oh, well. So is life.
The rest of the crowd tended to be unwittingly entertaining (but seriously, you have to bring a book). A couple rows ahead of me sat a man–a real live farmer, I suspect–wearing denim overalls. I thought to myself, "He has probably no idea the message he’s sending out to … well, probably only me."
Earlier in the day I passed a teenager who had a hanky hanging out his back pocket. Again, I was only left to my own thoughts: "I’m likely the only person here who’s figured out how much of a kinky pervert you don’t even realize you are."