the 1981 Tennessee State Fair
PT - 9
Breakfast. I waved to Priscilla, "Hi, Priscilla." She was
spraying her driveway. She waved back. Maybe I could get
something going with her. I hadn't seen her up close yet. 1
was afraid of seeing her up close. Randy was talking about
buying a couple of highstrikers. The highstriker is that
contraption you hit with a hammer, and, if you hit it hard
enough, it pushes a lead weight up to ring the bell, but the
lead weight rarely gets up to the bell. He said we could
make $ 1,000 in a weekend. He was starting to get the money
craving, and I was starting to catch it from him, because
there's nothing else to catch down there. So he was saying
we could make $1,000 if we bought highstrikers and the guy
only wants $475. The guy who wanted to sell the strikers
lived in a trailer next to Randy's truck. He wanted to sell
everything. He even wanted to sell his trailer. He said he'd
throw in the highstrikers and the house trailer and the
congo bars and the widgets, and we could have the whole
thing for $2,000.
So Randy said, "What do you want just for the highstrikers?"
He said, "$475." I said I was not so sure but I was
beginning to get the idea: maybe I should buy one. I
could make a lot of money at Washington Square when I got
back. Or I could go down to Canal Street to the flea market.
I'd wear sunglasses. It would be a good chance to make fun
of macho men. I could get behind the highstriker and say,
"Hey, big boy, got your eyes full? Take a quick look. Want
to win a prize?" But I could never think of what prize to
give. I felt it had to be a good prize. Randy said, "Oh,
give them junk. They don't give a shit; they just want to
lose their money." So I walked down to the midway, and I saw
people indeed did want to lose their money. The big guy who
ran the highstriker hit the bell before anyone came into the
fair, so he knew how much strength it took, and then he
adjusted it. If a bigger guy came he could just reach under
and adjust it. Nobody ever rang that bell. Nobody ever won
any of the junk ashtrays.
I gave up on the highstrikers and walked up the midway and
came across a most insidious recording coming from one of
those white milkshake trucks where they sell milkshakes out
the back. These people lived with this recording day and
night. And it ran slightly slowed down, so it was even
weirder: Walk right in. Let's all have one now. How
many please? Cold, sweet, refreshing. Everybody have one.
Come in. Come right in. By golly, you'll like this all
right. It's so good you'll be surprised. How many?
Come in everybody. Let's all have one. How many please?
Yeah, you'll like this all right. It really is good.
Everybody's entitled to one. Come right in. It's cold,
sweet, refreshing. So smooth and sweet. So rich and creamy.
How many please? Yes sir, yes ma'am. Come right in, you're
next. We made one for you. Come right in and have one. Here
you are. What flavor do you like? We made your favorite
flavor. Cones and shakes for everyone. Come right in. Walk
right in. This went on from ten in the morning 'til one in
the morning. These people worked with it all day.
I felt assaulted by the carnival and went up on the hill to
rest under an elm tree. It was very warm, and I kind of
dozed there. That particular day I watched nine-year-old
boys practice pick pocketing: one would stick a piece of
paper in his back pocket and the other would walk up and
bump into his friend and grab the paper and go, "Oh, excuse
me, sir!" and then he'd say, "Did you feel it?" "Yeah, I
felt it... you better try again."
I went down for my cocktail hour... five o'clock ... life
was beginning to be a holiday ... put down the back gate.
Randy started trying to get me drunk during the cocktail
hour. He thought he could get me to geek so he could take my
picture. Wanted me to go into the pit with the snake. So I
did get a little drunk, and I said I'd give it a try. We
started over. When we got there Maurice said that if I had a
subconscious fear of the snake it would pick up on it and
might bite me. So I said, "I'm not going in there." I don't
know my subconscious because it's subconscious, so I figured
there's no sense taking a risk. While we discussed this a
sonic battle began. The Giant Himalaya had its sound up so
loud that no one could hear the B. J. Reed show. So Maurice
turned the B. J. Reed show recording way up. And then the
Pickled Punk Show couldn't be heard so they turned theirs
up: "World's strangest babies ..."
And "I can't get no satisfaction . ..," coming from the
The cacophony was driving me completely mad, so I walked off
the fairground and got lost in suburban Nashville. 1 didn't
know where the fairground was, and a cab came rolling by me
slowly, making a hissing, raking metal sound and pulled to a
stop. The old guy behind the wheel said, "I lost my brakes.
I was coming back from the airport and I lost my brakes."
And I said, "Well, how do you get back to the carnival?" He
said, "Well, I'll give you a ride." So he gave me a ride
without brakes back to the fairgrounds.
To be Continued