Monday, October 26, 2009

A Very Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a magical kingdom far, far away, there lived a beautiful-but-neurotic queen, a handsome King, a prince, a princess, and all manner of magical creatures (Unicorns, Elves, and Malamutes among others.)  There was singing in the meadow, dancing in the enchanted wood, and mirrors that could not reflect cellulite.  But alas, shortly after the births of the young prince and princess, the Fairy Godmother charged with their care and protection developed a terminal case of Goblin Flu.  She was forced to take FMLA and even had to pay for Cobra, leaving her penniless as Cinderella herself, until she was dropped by her HMO and became even poorer than Cinderella's mice.  And so the Fairy Godmother found herself in foreclosure, her magical powers dwindling faster than her 401k, and her pumpkin carriage repossessed  by the dealer.  The Fairy Godmother wished upon her stars for a Change She Could Believe In.

But instead of Change, she got Changelings.  The Ogres at Fox and Hound News reported that at tall, thin Black Man from Another Kingdom seemed to have stolen the beautiful, laughing, royal children and replaced them with two precious but wicked trolls who wished only to socialize the Kingdom and run up the Royal Debt.  (So said their sources.  They report.  They decide.)

Alas, the Fairy Godmother turned into a toad and died while waiting for the Health Care Reform Spell to pass.

Meanwhile, the beautiful-but-neurotic Queen Ophelia, having let her children watch too much TV, eat non-organic food, and play unsupervised in the Castle cul-de-sac, barely noticed the Change.  The Prince, for instance, only got beastly when very hungry or very tired.

The Princess, though, made even the wicked stepsisters cry.  She broke glass slippers, smashed mirrors on the wall, turned princes into toads, and made six out of seven dwarves her bitches. 

And so the Queen ruled her castle, bereft of her Fairy Godmother, oft-abandoned by her King (who had to work late hours now to sustain the Kingdom's economy), and disillusioned with her Black Knight ("it's just a flesh wound!")  ("I'm invincible!")  (YES WE CAN!)

Queen Ophelia faced many challenges: the Bean Sprout Blight, the Witches' Strike, the Great Pumpkin Famine, and especially, How To Entertain the Changelings.  The Changelings went to school; they played soccer and tee ball and violin and ballet and gymnastics and learned to ride Unicorns.  They played in the Toy Vaults and explored the Magical Forest behind the castle, they learned Elvish and read many, many fairy tales.  They even had Wii Joust and Rock Band of Merry Men.

But they were BORED.

They wanted to go to the Fair.  The King was busy, as many of the Dukes, Earls, and Barons of the kingdom were without heat.

The Changelings wanted to go to the Fair.  Not Jack's Jumpin' Beans or ElfSpace or McMinotaur's.  THE FAIR.

Against her better judgment, the Queen acquiesced.  She had ridden into battle many times, after all.  How epic could this journey be? 

Fast-forward five hundred years. Facebook has replaced the carrier pigeons of old.

It was 2009, not 1509, and THIS distressed damsel had graced the Arena of Dorton and the Complex of the Hunt Horse many times, oft without the accompaniment of her Knight of the Dinner Table.

Becky Pennington Powell Becky Pennington Powell Going to the fair RIGHT NOW, flying solo, sans co-pilot, with both troglodytes in tow. Who's with me? Come ON, it'll be FUN!

 (Yeah, this post pretty much writes itself from here on.  ME, my tendency toward injury, my navigational disability, my spastic, adorable children, large crowds, fair workers, and livestock.  Did I mention I'm a GERMAPHOBE?  The potential for disaster is immediate and imminent.  I mean, do I even need to keep writing?)

Did you know that  the North Carolina State Fair made the 2008 list of Top 50 Fairs?  Uh...aren't there only 50 in the competition? I'M SO PROUD OF US!

#24 North Carolina State Fair - Raleigh, NC
October 16 - October 26, 2008 - Attendance: 765,067 - Powers Great American

In Medieval times, fairs were a venue for merchants to barter, sell, and trade wares.  Often, activities like bear-baiting, dog-fighting, witch-burning, and other theatrical acts would entertain the masses of commoners.  The good people would feast on cabbage salad, onion soup, and roasted chickens.

Each year in North Carolina, as in days of old, there are fantastic animals (world's smallest pony), exotic foods (chocolate covered bacon), and dizzying entertainment.  It's "A Whole Lotta Happy."

It's irresistible.

And so the Queen, like many of her minions, would forget the bellowing, noxious crowd of human, livestock, and bacteria of previous years' fairs and return each year like Knights to the Round Table, like Democrats after Bushes: confident, optimistic, full of hope.

Now, gentle reader, fast-forward to 2010 (Hang with me.  Fairy tales often involve time travel), in which I, contemplating taking my children to the fair by myself, read a letter from my self of 2009.  (Have you read The Time Traveler's Wife?  It's AMAZING.)


Your Majesty, the Queen of  Mommytown; Head of the Dinner Table; Enforcer of Chores and Violin Practice; Ruler of Two Small Children:

In obedience to your Highness' commands, and with submission to superior judgment, I will say whatever occurs to me in reference to the attendance of State Fairs, both those already discovered and those that may be discovered hereafter.

Inasmuch as the number of colonists who desire to go thither amounts to NEARLY ONE MILLION, I humbly beseach you to consider the following advice when planning your next quest for that Holiest of Grails, the Deep Fried Twinkie.

1.  Parking your carriage will be difficult.  Spaces fill up fast, even for pumpkins.  If necessary, have yourself hobbled in order to obtain a handicap placard.  OR bring a troll, as they ALL have them.  This will allow you to park in Section 10, which is RIGHT next to the ferris wheel.

2. When the farmers in the livestock area say that the area is closed, do not attempt to go Sir Gawain on them and stealth your way in so you can see the cows with your kids.  There will be shit.  Lots of shit.  The farmers are just trying to protect your jeans.  (YES I SAID JEANS.  It went past the shoes, people.)

3. Do not take the $3 gamble on shooting a target in order to win your 6-yr.-old a SpongeBob toy.  Despite your military training, you are not good with a water pistol.  You will not win the SpongeBob and your child WILL NOT UNDERSTAND.  YOU GAVE THE MAN THREE DOLLARS.  WHERE'S HIS PRIZE?

4. DO spend $10 on the purchase of said SpongeBob.  They are for sale in multiple locations without your having to shoot anyone or anything.  AND any stuffed toy purchased at the fair will ensure that the children sleep on the drive home, a thing more sought for than the Holy Grail itself.

5.  The Turkey Shoot is not as gruesome as it sounds.  Contrary to the horror that was your initial conception, the participants are not shooting at live turkeys squawking and running around scattershot, feathers a-flyin', within the confines of an enclosed pen.  I repeat, THEY ARE NOT SHOOTING LIVE TURKEYS.  They are shooting targets in hopes of winning a frozen turkey breast.

6. It is not necessary to throw yourself and your children to the ground if you should find yourself walking unawares past the Turkey Shoot at the commencement of firing.  You will hurt your children and embarrass  yourself.  (PTSD IS REAL, PEOPLE.)

7.  Those giant turkey legs that EVERYONE seems to be feeding on (a fact which bolsters my argument for the TRUE nature of the Turkey Shoot) are horrifying.  They look like barbecued toddler legs.  Your husband will want to get one if he goes with you next year and you should stop him.  This stuff is a medieval sort of carnage and mayhem and a powerful argument for vegetarianism.  (Have you read The Omnivore's Dilemma?  It's AMAZING.)

8.  Fair people are WEIRD.  The workers especially.  The attendees in general.  It will get very crowded and noisy.  If you just imagine that your are surrounded by fairies and not fair-ees you may avoid that panic attack.  Breathe.  BREATHE.  Just not in the poultry exhibit.

9.  The poultry exhibit will prompt an immediate and brutal asthma attack in your oldest child.  Bring his freakin' inhaler next time, m'kay?

10.  If your child is having an asthma attack, find a police officer.  Their sheriff stickers are almost as good as albuterol and will help to distract him from his inability to breathe. 

11. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT engage in the pull-up contest at the US Marine Corps booth.  You will win and will only deprive them of a perfectly good USMC T-shirt that you'll NEVER wear and you'll have to listen to them try to recruit you.

12.  Don't put Bridger on the kiddy roller coaster.  Despite his assurances to the contrary, he will NOT enjoy it and he will blame you for letting him ride such a scary thing.

13.  Some things are fried that should not be.  It is against the laws of nature to deep fry Ho-Hos, Reese's, Twinkies, green beans, pickles, or cheesecake.  (Again I refer you to The Omnivore's Dilemma.)  But dear God is it all so good! 

14.  Keep close watch over your children. If YOU can drag your kicking, screaming, hissing child off the Midway in plain view of law enforcement without arrest and apprehension, so can a pedophile.

15.  Did I mention fried Twinkies?  AND--there is FRIED.  CHEDDAR.  Nom nom nom.

16.  Leave your Coach (handbag not pumpkin)  at home and wear a sturdy backpack with quick access to hand sanitizer from either side.  Do not be afraid to go double-fisted with the Purell.

17.  The trees at the fair, though not technically a ride, can be enjoyed for free:

 18.   Remember, the fair is FUN.  No matter how lost you get, how much trans fat you ingest, no matter how dirty your boots and ruffled your plumage, the fair is fun.  Their are racing pigs and a Field of Dreams, magic shows and performing poodles, cotton candy and caramel apples, folk music and mobile robots.  There are the same animals that frequent the stories of Anderson, Grimm, and Aesop  that you don't ever get to see up close in the Kingdom of Cary.  There are sights and smells and sounds that transport you far away from the Castle of Camelot with its National Debt, its Civil Wars, its Plagues and Disillusionment.   And there are Fairies astride magical unicorns.

May you all live happily ever after.  At least until next October, when GOD BLESS, WOMAN, HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING?  DO NOT EVER TRY DOING THIS ON YOUR OWN AGAIN!  EVER!

I remain,
With the sincerest loyalty and respect,
Your Majesty's humble and devoted
Subject and Servant,
This 22nd day of October, 2009.