Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.
New Orleans, Tulane Homecoming
The thing about a carnival at night, well, it’s the smell. The smell of popping corn, of hot grease, the sweet smell of a cotton candy machine, the sour of the overexcited crowd … but over all of it the burning of ozone – thrown from the high voltage sparks of the hurling metal motors, copper coils and sparking brush gaps, overseen by the barkers and attendants and maintenance men – addict thin and covered with bad tattoos.
The yelling, the tinkling music – short old familiar tunes played over and over – the clanking machines, the screams of the children.
It’s like walking into another world, you stumble gap-mouthed, clutching your little string of cardboard tickets. Memories of carnivals past – of young couples, and getting sick on the tilt-a-whirl – because the carnival is timeless. That’s the point, isn’t it? – a cheap alternate universe. Step right up, step right up, we will sell you, if not something better, at least something a little different.
Sometimes you see one moving down the highway. The rides folded into compact nests of metal, all peeling paint and bright signs. The little buildings collapsed onto themselves, the same workers now driving the trucks – headed for the next dying mall parking lot, or vacant field on the edge of some sad town, or like this one, a special day at a university – the kids enjoying something different on the same grass they walk across every day.
A hot dog, please, and a funnel cake, and a coke and a beer, and a big cone full of cotton candy please, please please – I’ll throw the ball at the milk bottles and win a stuffed bear, or sit in the seat and get thrown in the air.
Hope all those bolts are tight.