Ode to Ray B.

At least once a year the carnival came to town. Right after school started. While fall made itself known. They’d set up in the park, in front of the towering cottonwoods, where the grass barely grew.

I entered kindergarten when the population of my town was barely twenty thousand. We weren’t a suburb. Our first fast food emporium was a McDonald’s when I was eight or nine. The next biggest town was Reno, some thirty miles north with not much at all between save for a lake called Washoe that goes dry every decade or so.

No internet, no cable, no cell phones, not even a VCR. We got a microwave oven when I was sixteen. We eventually obtained a pushbutton phone. The closest place to buy a comic book was a few miles away. Closest place to buy a record was miles further. Andy’s Smoke Shop was downtown, next to Cactus Jacks on 395. Main Street. Easy on a bike, not on a skateboard.

I read, listened to records and rode my bike all over the goddamn place.

I was seven or eight when I allowed myself to be strapped into a ride called The Hammer.

It was painted bright red, white and blue. I thought of Evil Knievel. I’m sure the kind of oversight in place now didn’t exist back then while we still hear about people meeting their maker to this day on these things.

I was walloped by color and sound.

Crazy. The cockpit restraints fit way to loose and it reeked of vomit and beer. Two rocket nosed capsules at either end of a spinning steel beam some sixty feet high that swung both forward and backward while each two man compartment rotated three hundred and sixty degrees simultaneous but opposite.

It began to rain. We came over the top, the velocity of the arm I’m riding slamming rain on my face and into my eyes. The only break I get from this is while I’m speeding towards the dirt in front of the Cottonwoods.

It was a fucking nightmare.

I’ve barely stepped on a ride that might shake my tree since.

The high desert turns cold very quickly. Warm afternoons become a windy wet snowfall before the the sweat on your neck dries. I’ve sat in snow on the Fourth of July.

Most of us were perfectly happy to visit the carnival, nevermind the weather.

Rows of booths, games and food to make you shit like a goose, festive lights, smells of cotton candy, popcorn, corndogs and mustard. Dust and desert wind. Tiny glass bowls filled with bright colored water and goldfish destined to be discovered belly up within a few days.

People from Silver City, Virginia City, Minden and Gardnerville.

There were fistfights between bikers and cowboys. Elderly couples wandering with mouths open and eyes empty. Children with sticky faces and hands. Not much to compete with the sensory impact of a small town carnival. I never cared fuck all for the games or the prizes. The rides were suspect at best.

Drunken carnies missing fingers and teeth operating the Feris Wheel and The Hammer had long since sealed my deal.

Unidentifiable potential, almost tangible, hung like the possibilty of a storm on a cold, summer Sunday after mowing the grass. Wind blows strong, brush and weeds whistle. Giant clouds moving like starships over the Sierras.

I kissed a platinum blonde girl named Nicki from Reno once. She tasted like fruity lip gloss and bubble gum. She wore a light blue top and tight white pants. She had boobs. I touched them. Then I wrote a poem.

Red and yellow bulbs float in aromas of hot grease and sweet candy. Fudge and caramel. Pink, blue and green from the aisles in the center offering everything from blacklight posters to garish mirrors with a variety of liquor logos and ubiquitous cheap ass stuffed animals.

Cigarettes, drugstore cologne, Avon perfume and sweat

A poetry of chaos.

One year, sixth grade, I managed to win a sort of golden red Iron Cross on a chain. I was more than pleased while it clanked on my school desk and aided me in setting a record for demerits.

Department stores used to smell like the textiles they sold. These days every square foot of retail space is perfumed to enhance the shopping experience. Back then, I could smell the automotive department from home & garden. Last time I was in an auto parts store it smelled like an auto parts store. I was pleased.

Monday morning on the bus going up the highway, like it was never there.

Talking to people that can’t or won’t hear me is an arduous task. It just happened a few nights ago and it fills my gut with so much frustration it’s unbearable. I can’t stand not being understood. I can’t stand speaking truth to the mistake when the mistake lacks dexterity to hear even basic honesty and sincerity.

At this point, what to do?

Walk. It’s useless. It becomes a spiritual deficit. Too bad.

I’m not sure, but I think that’s why we all like the color blue.

“By the pricking of my thumbs / Something wicked this way comes.” -Will Shakespeare

Drinks for my friends.

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