It's a rather windy Tuesday night in mid-October, and I have just spotted yet another attraction at the Arizona State Fair that I can't drag my buddy B-Boy to just yet. Tonight, B-Boy's all about Weird Al Yankovic, who's about to start performing inside Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
My friend Ishtar is equally excited for the show, which surprises me. B-Boy's always leaned toward the "geek chic" side of the spectrum, so he's naturally inclined to dig a dude with crazy hair who plays accordion and parodies pop hits. But Ishtar's a relatively serious person, but she literally jumped up and down at the prospect of seeing Weird Al.
And she wasn't the only one. In the weeks leading up to this show, almost every person I mentioned it to exclaimed, "I'd like to see Weird Al!"
So here we are in the Coliseum with about 5,000 other people, waiting for Weird Al to come onstage. Tonight's agenda: See Weird Al; eat the crappiest fried food on a stick we can find; pet some stinky barn animals; go on some rickety rides; puke; buy a big, inflatable Batman (for no particular reason); and then go home. The Fair is the pinnacle of lowbrow culture, and we want it all, baby. First, we've got weirdness.
When Weird Al comes onstage, he opens his show with a polka medley of pop tunes, "Polkarama!" from his 2006 album, Straight Outta Lynwood. Among other things, the medley molds hit hip-hop tunes like "Candy Shop" and "Drop It Like It's Hot" into witty, white-bread jams.
A die-hard sci-fi fan, B-Boy's thrilled when Weird Al performs "The Saga Begins," his ode to Star Wars set to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie," complete with stormtroopers dancing behind him like those look-alike models from Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" video. B-Boy knows every word to this song and sings along. Ishtar says she's jealous of the people in the arena who know all the words to Weird Al's songs. I can't stop laughing long enough to say anything.
By the time Weird Al finishes his two-hour set, it seems he's performed everything everybody wanted to hear, from "Amish Paradise" and "Smells Like Nirvana" to his Michael Jackson spoofs, "Eat It" and "Fat." He even performed "You're Pitiful," his parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful," which Blunt's label (Atlantic Records) insisted he yank from Straight Outta Lynwood at the last minute, causing a delay in the album's release. Fittingly, Weird Al removes layers of T-shirts while singing the song to reveal one that reads "ATLANTIC RECORDS SUCKS."
After the show, B-Boy, Ishtar, and I head outside to smoke, where we run into circuit bender Corey Busboom and Andrew Jemsek of local indie duo Haunted Cologne. We also meet up with B-Boy's sister, nephew, and a few other people. Everybody's talking about how awesome Weird Al was.
Eventually, we meander down the midway until the smell of puke fades into the aroma of animal dung and then into the foul olfactory mystery that most people describe as "smells like ass."
But, like most mystery reekings described as "ass" for lack of a more specific simile, this isn't ass. This is delicious death: fair food. We can't decide what to clog our arteries with first.
Eventually, I decide on a corn dog. B-Boy and Ishtar get deep-fried Polish sausages. Two of our other friends brave the deep-fried cookie dough and the deep-fried Twinkie. Then we all stand around in enthusiastic awe at the nastiness of what we're eating. We know the food is crap, and that is why we buy it. It's part of the whole State Fair experience. Where else can you get virtually anything on a stick? (Well, except beer, as one of my friends pointed out. Where the hell are the beer-sicles, anyway?)
We're all feeling a little queasy by the time we're done eating, but a few folks in our group want to go on some rides. B-Boy's sister and I start singing the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster" at the same time, and we both change the chorus from "Rollercoaster of love" to "Rollercoaster of bleeaargh!" Our unplanned synchronicity sends us into fits of silly giggles. Weird Al has rubbed off on us.
At this point, B-Boy, Ishtar, and I say goodbye to the rollercoaster riders and try to walk off our nausea. Of course, the best way to kick a sick feeling is to go see a giant pig.
It costs a dollar each for us to see the "World's Largest Pig," a 980-pound boar that's lying in the bottom of an industrial trough full of hay. As soon as I see the supersize swine laying on its side, I exclaim, "Holy crap, look at the size of its balls!"
B-Boy was out of earshot when I said this, but as soon as he walks up to the stall and looks down at the pig, he exclaims, "Look at the size of its nut-sack!"
Single-minded minds think alike.
Ishtar expresses pity for the poor pig, trapped in this stall, with a bunch of assholes gawking and oinking at it all day in the Arizona heat. I feel kind of bad for the animal, too. I joke to B-Boy and Ishtar that we should run around the fairgrounds and free all the animals. McDowell Road needs some elephants trampling down the sidewalk.
We head for the "1,000-pound alligator" tent.
This also costs a buck, and it's apparently a big attraction, as we find ourselves crammed into a single-file line with a bunch of other people, staring at this massive alligator that's not moving. Somebody asks if it's alive. The carny gets out a long metal rod and gently prods the alligator so it'll move. "This is our ancestor," Ishtar tells me. "They sound like dinosaurs when they growl. Hey, where's B-Boy?"
I turn around and B-Boy is nowhere to be seen. I joke, "Maybe Jesus took him up in the Rapture."
Ishtar laughs. "We've been left behind!"
The teenage dude next to me looks seriously offended. I so want to say, "Yes, that means Jesus must've left you behind, too," but I don't.
When Ishtar and I make our way out of the tent, we see B-Boy standing off about 20 yards, smoking, and looking miffed. "Dude, where'd you go?" I ask.
"I just felt bad for that alligator, the way that guy was poking it with that stick," B-Boy says. "Like, 'Dance, monkey, dance!'"
Then B-Boy saves us from a serious moment by affecting his best barking carny voice and shouting, "Come see the amazing giant, one-eyed trouser snake! It's always around, and it's never down!"
Ishtar and I start cracking up.
We decide it's time to leave, so we wade through the crowd (taking care not to step in vomit) and make the trek to my truck through the parking lot (taking care not to step on any smushed piles of horse dookie).
As for our "agenda," well, it was all done except the puking.