The title of today's post is a tribute to the great Levon Helm, who passed away last week; it's also a fitting lead-in to the boss' latest Buzz contribution. A lost set of car keys, paying several times market value for some cheap stuffed animals, it's all part of a good night at the carnival (believe it or not). By Steve Siciliano
In the spring of each year a traveling carnival comes to town and for a week takes over a field on the eastern edge of John Ball Park. I grew up three blocks from that park and when I was a kid I would spend a months’ worth of allowances on games and rides, cotton candy and bags of popcorn, hot dogs, peanuts and elephant ears.
Last Saturday Barb and I were planning a quiet evening—the Tip Top for a beer then a pizza from Vinnie’s. Things changed when Siciliano’s staffer Sarah Derylo walked into the tavern.
“What are you doing tonight?” she asked.
“Nothing,” I answered.
“I’m meeting Doug and then we’re going to the carnival,” Sarah said. “Why don’t you join us?”
“No,” I said.
“Why not?” Sarah asked. “It’ll be fun.”
“No,” I said again. Carnivals, I told her, were for kids.
A few minutes later Doug Dorda joined us. We had a pint of Crooked Tree and then another. After the third, going to the carnival didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
We parked our cars on a side street and began walking through the quiet neighborhood. As we got closer to the park I began hearing the familiar cacophony—the calliope music, the muffled din of the crowd punctuated by occasional shrills of ride-caused screams. As we got closer still I saw the high rising Ferris wheel. When we walked into the bright lights of the midway I suddenly became a kid again.
For the next half hour the goal of acquiring a collection of colorful stuffed animals became the only thing that mattered. I tried shooting basketballs through a hoop and tossed softballs at stacked pyramids of milk cans. I threw darts at balloons and when two popped I proudly presented to my wife a green frog and a purple cow. When I popped another ballon with a concentrated stream of water from a toy rifle I won another stuffed prize, a pink poodle, and yelled with delight.
With Barb clutching her prizes we strolled through the midway. We walked past the Fun House, the kiddie rides and on to the Ferris wheel. On the way I stopped at a concession stand a bought a bag of caramel corn.
We had to coax my wife onto the Ferris wheel. When the car began moving upward she scrunched down in the seat and pulled her jacket tight over her head. Every time the car was at the apex, Sarah, Doug and I tried unsuccesfully to get her to look at the bright downtown lights of the city.
After the Ferris wheel, Barb, Sarah and Doug went for a ride on the Zipper. My wife was terrified of the rather innocuous Ferris wheel but thoroughly enjoyed the Zipper. While they were riding I walked to another concession stand to buy a hot dog and it was then that I found that I had lost my car keys. I bought the hot dog anyway. It tasted so good that I bought another.
The next morning I straightened out the wads of bills in my pockets and tried to determine how much the carnival had cost me. Fifty, maybe sixty dollars and a lost set of car keys. A fair price, I thought, for an hour of becoming a kid again.