The carnival surprised, but did not enwonder. It did not float out of the night, puff itself into tents, and waft eternal music over empty cornfields that filled the sky with electricity. Ray Bradbury could do that, but they worked at it here, in the light of day with old town grit and costumes.
The event was news to me, tipped off on my way to buy cheap tools with my Harbor Freight coupons. Really cool, the neighbors say. Free wine tasting. I’m skipping wine these days but could always do with cool, though the Georgetown brand of not-quite-steampunk, noise band, grunge art vibe strikes me as trying a little too hard. Still, it’s nice to see activity up and down Airport way, shops always closed weekends now open for the special occasion.
The cause celebre is the power tool races. Reminding me of the local institution of SmashPutt, two two-by-four channels allow tricked-out and modified power tools to race to the end, where the speed is absorbed by piles of stuffed animals. An assortment of saws, drills, and other implements powered by low- or wall-current electric motors tears down the track, launched and collected by costumed artist-makers in hard hats.
The crush of people makes viewing the track impossible, but at the end I can see the chewed-up remains of the buffer toys. The emcee announcing the launch, then the electric-driven sound of torque and mass hurtling toward me, telegraphs more than what could be seen. The devices feel powerful. I am glad physics will tend to keep them on the ground, in a straight line.
Everyone, it seems, is eating a relish-piled hot dog, which I am strangely neutral about: I don’t really want one, even though I am hungry, and am not especially repelled by knowing what’s in a hot dog.
Airport Way is a gentle throng, though walkable for the lack of SUV-style strollers. Kids are allowed to walk, or the younger ones held in cloth slings by their dressed-down mothers. Everyone has the expression that they are on the lookout for something cool.
A couple art cars fit the bill. Seattle has a few dozen of these: street legal B-movie rejects that appear in annual parades and other civic expressions of joie de vivre.
The ostentation is perfectly matched to the 1970s body. The inversion of monstrosity into parody deserves a collector’s plate.
This thing is hardly three inches off the ground. The runningboard pipes connect to a radiator in the cargo bed. The rust is so prominent I can feel old cattle gates just by looking at it, smell the cindery smell of rust in the prairie rain.
Turning south, I hear a kid’s voice shout moddorsycles! Shiny new ones are on this side of the street, chopper-style handmades parked opposite. Yes, motorcycles! says an approving male adult voice.
Then the carnival.
This is the kids’ area, which includes a shooting gallery. Kids squirt tempra paint into ketchup cups, load them onto a springloaded metal contraption, pull a cord and have the paint hurled at paper on the far wall. The kids yip with pleasure or seem utterly confused. Walking by the steel ball later, a new group of kids is inside, delighted.
An aside of social commentary: I note that, for a collection of weirdos and oddballs, there are very few that meet the physical stereotype. So few morbidly overweight people with bad hair and the keen, chittering voices that you know they use when playing their elaborately-ruled card games I wonder where I am. The women are thin, even the punk ones with spiked hair. Most look like the women in yellow, to the right above.
Then, a guy who makes things out of vacuum cleaners.
Then the best thing in the whole show: Captain Flash’s Save the Unicorn Video Game.
Captain Flash has my eternal respect. Often genius is to do something so obvious nobody can make the leap. I liked video games as a kid because they were surreal other worlds. These kids have always known video games, but now are seeing reality warping surreality to a new level of the surreal. They don’t get it. Fortunately, I live in a town where parents see such challenges as building character instead of threatening. I should have given him some money.
It’s not a big street fair carnival, and just beyond Captain Flash the street opens to traffic again. It’s here that a genuine Land Yacht has taken refuge, under the overpass.
The woman is representative of those on display. So is this dog:
Heat and cold intermingle as the clouds smother or release the sun. Here it is hot, and it gets hotter when I see this:
For some reason I think of Texas: standing in parking lots with the sun beating down, the air heavy, the drone of fans. Here there is just the gentle crush of people, the smell of mustard, bands practicing nearby.
In all the hubub, the place keeps its run-down ecumenical quality: the record and comic book stores are still open, and the indoor beach volleyball place attracts spillover from the steel kids ball. Across the way are the typical booths of people selling honey and handicrafts. It’s different in that it’s what you expect for this kind of difference. We have come to the point that any gathering must have half its purpose be selling something, which is the same everywhere you go. Here, though, is a disdain in selling. You don’t have to spend much of The Man’s money, and you’re mostly buying the experience, the guy’s costume who made it and is selling it to you. Cash only, please.
Still, no complaints. I walk past the Georgetown Brewery biergarten, comprised of metal riot barriers closing off a section of asphalt, past the punks in skirts, past the small stage where someone misplugs something and blasts us with jet-engine feedback for a split-second, which is enough. The town is waking up, the sun coming out. The whole summer is ahead.