Carnival of Souls: $2 Tuesday at the 2019 Oklahoma State Fair

In the not-too-distant past, whenever I had written about the usually beloved Great State Fair of Oklahoma, it had always been about, primarily, the infamous fair food and how much of it could I stuff inside my body. But now, I feel like I am somewhat of a different person and, as I keep learning, many of my experiences, personal or public, don’t need to be purely edible.

So, as I returned optimistically to the fair for the 2019 season—now with the amazing ability to steadily walk long distances without constant rest-stops and oxygen-drops—I decided to take part in everything that I had always wanted to do at the annual event but, for one reason or another—mostly weight-related, of course—never could.

I made the trek from my house on down to the fairgrounds, circa May Ave. and N.W. 10th St., where I entered easily-enough through Gate 2 sometime around 3 p.m. The heated-up aroma of horse manure, rancid grease and bodily odor was a welcomed scent that I remembered fondly as I passed the threshold, the seated gate-worker scanning my complimentary ticket in the ramshackle tent.

Looking at the signs on the ticket booths, I guess it really didn’t matter that my ticket was free as this was $2 Tuesday and, soon, the admission lines would stretch far down to the street and beyond; but, when I got there, it was still a relatively peaceful scene, or at least as serene as the State Fair possibly could be on a Tuesday afternoon.

Over to my left was the moving oddity of a mobile home that was carved out of a hollowed redwood stump. It was something that, previously, I was deathly afraid I would have gotten stuck somewhere along the slim middle, the jaws of life needed to pry me out; now, however, I effortlessly glided through this utterly boring misuse of one of the most majestic trees in America, the sweat of the family in front of me lightly spritzing my face upon exiting.

As erotic belly-dancers taught non-erotic amateurs how to shake what their mothers gave them, I walked by Dan’s Indian Tacos and lamented the amount of disappointment I felt in their frybread years ago, sure that the recipe hadn’t changed one bit and, to be honest, wasn’t in the mood to do it all over again.

What had changed, surprisingly, were the size of the stuffed animals contestants won as plush prizes playing the crooked carnival games; as big as a grizzly and twice a crimson, there was no way anyone without a good sized truck-bed were getting these Sooner bears home tonight or any night.

As the classically pro-Trump shirts urged me to get the Hell out of America if I don’t “love it,” a spook-house ride that featured both Freddy Kruger and Edward Cullen, along with Frankenstein, Medusa and the American southwest—man, would that make a great movie—on their outdoor art, throughout the years was really the only ride I had ever wanted to take at the fair. Perhaps later?

Forgive me, but I forget the names of the consumer-themed buildings that surrounded me; the first one that I toured seemed to consist mostly of mattresses, hot tubs and corn dogs—it was quite arousing, actually—while a different building housed mostly cars and trucks, including automobiles that were seemingly made to make me believe that, if a man were truly rich and driven enough, he could become the Batman.

About halfway through, I decided that it was time to dine on something, my stomach growling quite audibly. As I had promised myself only one meal for this very fair visit, I had better make it memorable; having had so many of the deepest-fried foods throughout my fair-going life, there was really only one must-eat that I have never tried and, for some reason, it had truly haunted me because of it: a slice of pizza with a scorpion topping ($10).

While the full-color picture on the side of the kiosk made me think it would be a thick cheesy slice with a king scorpion, complete with a poison filled tail, delicately set on top, instead, it was just a greasy piece of pie with two miniscule scorpions somewhere on there, the bulbous tips of the tails gone. Regardless, it was a mostly disappointing meal, the rubbery taste of the terrible pizza counteracting either of the dried arachnids’ sanitized stinging power of crunchy death.

The main reason that I really wanted to come to the fair tonight, if you must know, was that one of my favorite bands of rock and roll past was playing: the Grass Roots. Say what you want about the typically lackluster fair entertainment, but at least once year, they really do tend to knock it out of the fairpark, from acts like soft-rockers Air Supply to funk-hounds Morris Day and the motherfucking Time.

The Grass Roots were a late 60s group, primarily known for tunes like “Midnight Confessions” and “Live for Today,” both of which they played ably as various period-friendly burnouts, used record store owners and former local musicians danced like drunken fools off to the side of the seated audience. Other one-hit wonders like the Box Tops and the Buckinghams were also on the bill, playing to the crowd with plenty of good banter and great tunes.

As the cotton candy-scented cloud of vape smoke grew heavier and golden rivers of spilt beer sloshed on my shoes, I decided to make one more lazy circle around the now-bustling evening fairgrounds; it’s demonic song calling out to me, I decided to make a final stop at the haunted house ride, popping my pathetic amusement-land cherry once and for all.

Showing my wristband, I was admitted past the mock-up of Jason Voorhees and sat in the second slick car that pulled up to the loading area, two young girls seated in front of me; as we slowly moved through the hacky darkness where barely-animatronic representations of Leatherface, Michael Myers, and other cinematic horrors electronically screamed and slashed as the lights hypnotically flashed, sort of.

Usually this is the one ride in horror movies where something horribly Satanic goes wrong, leading to the drained bodies of a few dead teens found in a ditch by morning-light; as the automated cart headed for the exit doors and back out into the night, I figured this trip was an absolute bust—until a faceless entity howled into my ear, drawing me in the total fright I so craved. They saved the best and, let’s be honest, only scare, for very last.

My nerves jangling, as I walked out of the main gates and started back home down May Ave., I made sure to keep my eyes open and alert for any and all robotic serial killers, hideously deformed mutants or, one can truly hope, amorous Grass Roots groupies wanting a little sweaty action down in the Big Town, $2 tip generously included.

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