I believe that when our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was on the cross, hanging off the fresh cedar while being in the most intense pain possible, that when he cried out “Why have you forsaken me?” he wasn’t doubting God—I’m convinced he glimpsed the future and saw the hordes of Oklahoma women spending money hand over fist on overpriced rustic crucifixes and other mostly Christian ephemera at An Affair of the Heart.
Oklahoma’s bi-annual arts, crafts, collectible and powdered chili-mix extravaganza—sponsored by Braum’s, in case you’re wondering what that smell is—returned to the Bennett Building at the State Fairgrounds this past weekend, with an ocean of “Can I speak to your manager?” hair-dos as far as the eye can see, pushing rental-carts full of metal windmills, life-like baby dolls and so many bootleg Thunder shirts. So many.
An Affair of the Heart, I was surprised, is remarkably close to the horror and sci-fi conventions that I used to go to, but I suppose, with the television stations offering constant coverage, it’s on a far more socially acceptable level – a mixture of city and country coming together in a consumer festival that brings out the best rest of what Oklahoma stands for, from blind patriotism to unwavering faith, as long as you have a ten-dollar bill to pay the admittance fee, you’re in.
The biggest hit this year, I’m guessing, were the scads of cheap t-shirts that lined the convention center, often at a price of three for ten dollars. Brandishing witty sayings like “Saddle Up Sista!” or an ubiquitous rebranding of Jesus Christ as a Coca-Cola logo, these wearable goods were definitely where it was at this Affair. The sheer amount of aforementioned unauthorized Thunder gear and appropriated Native wear, usually featuring a bedazzled elderly Indian giving thanks to the Sun, were equally and appropriately mindboggling.
But I am happy to report that, what I expected more than anything else—those tacky yard furnishings—were also more than abundant, up to and including outhouse toilets that say “Blessed” on their backs and tin-can armadillos that are just begging to be kicked by young toughs walking home from school. You could often hear the rattling of a metal sign echo down the hallway, crashing like thunder above the many argumentative conversations between wives who’ve spent too much money and their Carhartt-wearing husbands who’ve just about had it with the “whole damn thing.”
As with many Oklahoma traditions however, covert—and some not-so-covert—racist materials were also available for those types that want to make America great again, from stereotyped Native weapons, including plastic tomahawks, bows and arrows, to more than enough duped copies of the long-banned Disney film Song of the South—all that was seemingly missing was the Old Paris Nazi flag merchant. But it’s all in good fun, right?
Meanwhile, dominatrix-designed black leather horses swung from the ceiling as so many discount chips were dipped in miracle sauces, the most pronounced being a wide assortment of different chili-mixes from all across Oklahoma, and even some from Texas. Spicy dips, pepper-jellies and hot seasonings were also available to sample, but always with a sign to let you know to keep your sausage-like fingers aware that lunch is for sale elsewhere.
Speaking of lunch, State Fair eateries that served corn dogs and lemonade were the second most popular places to munch that day, with the first being the sad Ziploc-wrapped bologna sandwiches and soggy rippled chips that were eaten on the benches and picnic tables that lined the arena; ladies ate quietly as they looked at their cell-phones, running through the memorable pictures of the day, like when they met the c-team from KOCO Channel 5 News a few minutes earlier.
As I sat down for a moment to look over my own recorded memories, an intimidating crucifix shone down upon me, while over to my left a carved wooden sign offering a “Prayer for President Trump” was displayed, and to the right, car garbage-bags with the words “Jesus” and “Faith” sprinkled all over them. As a pair of women argued over who’s going to watch their invalid mother next to a purely Oklahoma duo of a sign that read “Live, Laugh, Love” and another one holding a massive machine gun, I imagined Jesus returning, angrily brandishing a whip on the merchants in the area.
Or, you know, maybe he’d cash in too. This is Oklahoma, after all, and we love that shit.