Baron Dave Romm (barondave) wrote,
Baron Dave Romm

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State Fair, Day 1 hour 3

I went to the Minnesota State Fair. I like going opening day because ticket prices are lower and the hucksters haven't used up their spiels. The Fair technically opens at 6am, but few of the breakfast/food places are open then. Usually, it takes until noon or 1pm until the sea of people is too much for me to handle. I arrived at the U of MN park-and-ride lot about 9am... and it was crowded. Lines of cars waiting to park. Hordes of orange-flag waving minions directing traffic to the proper row. I don't recall that many people, mostly kids, in previous years. The bus to the Fair was crowded, standing room only. The bus driver felt compelled to remind everyone of the bus number, which U of M parking lots we should be sure to be dropped off at, and where to pick up the bus on the way back. Either someone is extra Minnesota Nice or crowd control was a problem last year.

The first thing I always do is get All The Milk I Can Drink. Milk was a dollar this year, up from fifty cents, and the milk comes down from pipes overhead, not the knee-height spigots of bygone years. So I had two whole milk, one chocolate and kept the cup; cargo pants are good for many things.

The Poultry barn advertised rabbits. Cages and cages of rabbits, which suddenly turned into roosters and ducks. Cute rabits, unlikely roosters, drake looking ducks. I understood 30s cartoons a lot better.

I always try to eat something I've never had before, but I was hungry. All the breakfasts involved eggs and sausage, and sausage doesn't count as food. Eventually the "authentic fish and chips" place called to me, and I had fried clams and chips (french fries) onto which I dumped packets of lemon juice. Big mistake. The clams and chips were okay, though nothing special, but on top of three glasses of milk and with my stomach expecting breakfast, it just didn't sit well.

Wandered to Heritage Square, the old-timey mini-village with a frontier printing press and root beer floats. I wanted to see if The Cane Shop had any more train whistles. I have three of their wooden whistles, each a different size. Alas, they were down to one this year, and one that I have. Looked around, went to the printing press, and popped out of the square.

One of the advantages of being early: The Skyride was 50 cents off. It's been years and years, so what the heck. Yikes! I'm not used to being suspended in the air anymore. I used to love that sort of thing, and now I was holding on and trying not to shake the gondola. The view was spectacular, as advertised, and I did wind up on the other side of the Fair.

"Hi Dave!" says a familiar voice. I look around, and it's Faud (sp?), the Palestinian-born owner of Falafel King who I met twenty-five years ago when he was just starting out, with a restaurant called (I think) Napoli at Lake and Lyndale (now a Falafel King). I haven't talked with him much since I moved out of the neighborhood circa 1983. His memory is extraordinary; we say hello now and again and he always remembers my name even if years go by between meetings. He's got a Falafel King in the Food Bldg. I promise to drop by (which I do, later, but he doesn't see me wave).

I wander to the DFL booth and get a "I Support Hillary Rodham Clinton" button which I wear for the rest of the adventure. The DFL is making a big push to unseat a ridiculously bad GOP congressman named Kline. I don't live in the district, but maybe i can have her candidate on Shockwave. As always, I point out that the show is science fiction, so the topics should include science funding and futurism. I leave my card.

Up the street to the Technology Barn (Okay, the Wonders of Technology bldg) to watch the kids play with new software, and I explain how an iPod works to a lady who's trying to push the IBM equivalent of BOINC. "You know, we've discovered 43 new folds of protein this way." Sure, fine. I'll stick with SETI@home (and/or BOINC, if I ever figure it out).

Petted a millipede. It had 240 legs (someone counted) and was big (for a millipede; maybe 8") and black and felt very dry. I didn't take the demonstrator up on his offer to hold the millipede, theough the person who did agreed that it felt like velcro.

Outside the Education Bldg, several kids are playing fiddle. Or trying to. The sound system isn't working and mostly they just noodle around. Kids from (I'm guessing) about 5 to 14 are playing, and pretty well. The sound system gets turned on, the school-ma'arm asks if everyone is still in tune, and they play. They are quite good, for kids, but it was more interesting watching them fiddle around, and I head to the Fine Arts Bldg. JJ introduced me to this part of the fair a few years ago, and the paintings are pretty good overall. But my heart wasn't in it.

The Merchandise Mart was missing some old friends and had nothing for me.

Finally wending my way back to the Food Bldg, I wave at Faud (who's far too busy to see me, but he's smiling) and get something I've never had before: Walleye on a stick. Not worth the $3 for the small amount, but it made a good ephemeral souvenir. The crowd of people is thickening, and I have to wait while for the swirl of people to let me close to the exit to escape.

The International Bazaar was also missing some of old friends. I bought my wallet there, many years ago, and was thinking of buying another from the same place: Gone. Most of my Celtic Harp CDs come from there, and I liked to listen to some live harp music before picking up a CD: Gone. The Caribbean place with the plantains was gone. Still, the place with the Andean flutes and such was there. Last year I got a great Peruvian CD. A guy was playing a flute, very well, and pointed to the middle of three CDs he had for sale: "Very relaxing." Well, I wasn't really into that. The first CD was the one I got last year ("Great Hits" by Atahualpa) and the third was another CD by Atahualpa, so I got that.

A few booths away is someone new. This is why I like to go the first day: They were still fresh, demonstrating their frogs and cricket sounds. Wooden objects with ridges down their backs, like stegosauri, which come with wooden mallets. You run the mallets up the ridges and it sounds like a cricket or frog, depending. Each animal was hand carved, so each made a different sound. They were carved to look like the animal they sounded like. You had to hold the object just so and just the mallet properly and I never was as good as the sales people, but I'm a sucker for this sort of sound effect and I got three. I can do a really nifty jungle for the next Shockwave production!

Winding down, I stop at the MPR booth and pick up two CDs: "Comfort Keepers" and "All Songs Considered". Unlike every other place at the fair where I've spent money, they charged tax. The Midday radio program was being broadcast live. I finally got to see what Gary Eichten looks like. He was interviewing Amy Kloubachar and someone else about the new laws that went into effect Aug 1, including one making choking your wife a felony and reducing DUIs to .08%. They wanted questions from the audience. No one volunteered, so what the heck. I went up, introduced myself on the air and said, "Have you played Texas Hold 'Em yet?" The law changed, allowing bars to play the game as long as it wasn't for money and prizes didn't go over $200. (I've now playeed twice.) Neither of the guest did, but claiming they wouldn't know how.

Went down the street, had a last glass of milk; the brave styrofoam cup had lasted more than three hours. Looked at the alpaca booth: no alpacas. Decided I didn't need any Elk or buffalo jerky. Left the fairgrounds (getting my hand stamped Just In Case) and took the bus back to the parking lot.

Couldn't find where I parked. Annoying: This rarely happens. Fortunately, I wasn't too far off and found it; indeed, I must have walked nearly right by it the first time. *whew* Dumped frogs and crickets and CDs in the very hot car, opened the windows, and drove home.

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