Summertime can be the best time of your life from the ages of 5 to 15 then again when you're a parent. There's a nice stretch there where if they don't sell beer, you aren't going. But there's not denying that carnival season it is as American as apple pie, baseball and be offended by things you read on the Internet. The real questions is how the PC police hasn't come in and snatched up the carnival for some injustices that wouldn't be apparent to 90% of us unless it was blasted on television for three straight weeks preceding its arrival.
Carnivals are a melting pot of people. Old, young, poor and not as poor, all come to enjoy the rides, games and lights. There are strange activities that seem like nonsense when put into an everyday situation and that's what makes carnivals fun.
My favorite game is the ring toss. Not just any ring toss, you see, but one where the prize is a knife. The ridiculous Bowie knife is shown prominently hoping you waste your hard (or not) earned money trying to win it. I'm sure people have done it, but I may not see it in my lifetime. You get a huge bucket for way more money than your time is worth and you go at it. It's obligatory to toss a few at the knives you have only the slightest of hopes to win. Odds are good you'll end up with a shitty pocket knife that will roll around in the trunk of your car until you go to trade it in.
There's of course the games of chance that skirt the eyes of the PA government which for whatever reason allows you the responsibility of high stakes gambling, but won't let you smoke pot. Anyways, the games vary only slightly and usually rely on a spinning wheel. My favorite of course is the same that PETA has a myocardial infarction over, the mouse game. You put your quarters down on a shape, color or whatever and watch the wheel go round and round then suddenly a mouse appears and frantically runs into a hole. Whatever the hole it goes down wins. You win money, hurray!
But let's not kid ourselves, the real highlight of the carny are the games of skill. I mean who doesn't love winning an 80's photograph of a half-naked woman in a sopping wet NASCAR t-shirt just by popping a few balloons with a dart? Or attempt to drain buckets with a basketball that is only slightly smaller than the hoop for a saw dust stuffed Spongebrian. The carnival is the only place you'll find people eager to put down large sums of money for a whoopee cushion.
Beyond the games are the rides. The rides are unique pieces of Americana. When you're a kid you can't wait to hop on the Sizzler and smash carelessly into your friend. I mean you really tried to crush in their pelvis. The swings, fun house or even the bizarre tiny roller coaster make a child glow with excitement.
Although I was stuck on the flying saucer once for nearly ten minutes. In case your asking, I did vomit once I got out of it. While inside though it was like watching a strobe light ceiling crawl.
But as an adult things change.
You can't believe the idiots that get on some of those things. I mean, the risk of being sick or injured is way to high to step aboard that rickety Ferris wheel. We spend our entire childhood risking our lives without even realizing it, but when we age its like we are taking the blue pill. The only solution is loading up on booze and hoping we don't puke on the other patrons. It's not because you'll get kicked out, but because you might get your ass kicked.
Speaking of things that change dramatically as we age. The food. Oh that delicious, not so nutritious, menu. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, turkey legs and the I'm not sure what it is, but it's fried thing are all off the charts horrible for you, but lure you back in. As a kid you don't care, you'll burn that shit off in hours, but as an adult. Well, there's not enough Tums in the world to get you past that second slice of carnival pizza.
My advice. Load up on the Pepcid and stop being a bitch. Get that fried dough down your throat.
Of course what is a carnival without the people? Nothing, because your average person won't operate a carnival. I imagine it's surprisingly lucrative, but you don't get meet that person. Nope, you get to meet the heroes behind the stage. Nomads that go from town to town bringing their brand of fun and a fleet of Winnebagos. Do you think their are drug fueled orgies when the lights go down? Drugs for sure, but the rest I'm not so sure about.
They entice you with their awkwardness and drag you across the coals to win a prize for your date or your kids. Either way your ass is getting up to that booth and you are both money and pride on the line. In any line of work you'd tell them to go fuck themselves.
The ride operators are a different breed. They rarely, if ever, utter a word beyond "buckle up." A vape pen in hand, they have three buttons; green, yellow and red. As the ride goes they lean out and glance out at the people daring them to make eye contact. When the ride is over that's where the real power over children emerges.
Also, tickets are antiquated. I understand there is a carny currency to follow, but just do the damn wrist bands. All day riding at carnival is both a nightmare and the only way to go. If you thought paying a mint for a framed GNR poster was bad, imagine trying to ride the merry-go-round for the fifteenth time.
The last thing I want to ask is this. Has anyone in their right mind gotten a tattoo at a carnival? I mean is that really a thing or is that thing a front for drugs? I couldn't even locate a picture, but I promise they exist and I'll never understand why.