Friday, May 27, 2016


One time, in the really small town
of Troy, PA, at the Troy Fairgrounds,
a carnival traveled through and set up
camp for a few days. Everyone knows 
how they go  -  southern-state license
plates, cars and trucks all noisy and
filled, rumbling into small town after
small town along the way as they follow
the good weather and the new season
north. 5-days here, 7-days there. These
traveling crews are good; they set-up
and later break-down the equipment  -
things like ferris wheels and roller 
coaster set-ups, mystery tunnels, 
whips, bumper cars, all that stuff  -  
plus the little stands and things for 
ticket-takers, cashiers, food and 
popcorn and cotton-candy, etc.
Sometimes tunnels of love, other
times, freak shows and animals.
They're usually down and dirty, 
these folk. Up here, in New Jersey, 
now when I see them they really 
stand out  -  throwbacks to another
era, sleeping in cars and vans, or
tents on the ground, cooking over
little barbecues, their accents and
attitudes reeking of other places 
and times. But, that's up here and
now. These guys, in 70's Pennsylvania
countryland, they sort of just added to
the mix, fit right in, got drunk and
brawled with the locals. It's kind of
a defining difference, to this day. We
still get traveling circuses, and these
carnivals, blowing through up here 
now, on parking lots or grassy, 
corporate fields. But nothing ever
matches anything else. A bunch of
fools on tar, sleeping around and
probably not even allowed to sleep
on their premises, instead having to 
go to one of those motel places or
hotels. Same junk all the corporate
queers frequent. There's just no
place left in this modern world for
renegades, and no one understands 
the word anyway. You know how, a
long time ago, milk was 'homogenized'
and became a product? Same thing 
is now everywhere with people.
In this Troy  -  not the Troy of
Greece fable, not Troy, New York  -
this little Rt. 6 whistle-stop pass-by
place, everything different was
immediately noticed. People were
like hawks, noticing and getting
set to dive upon, new license plates,
different faces, wanderers or travelers
all of a sudden around. There were
people like Mrs. DuBois, an in-town
self-appointed bigwig whose husband
ran the Troy Baptist Church. And his
name really was 'Chauncey'. She was
all righteous and unforgiving and just
felt that she owned and controlled
everything of others. In her own
head anyway  -  most other people
were just onto to her as a 1940's
leftover and out-of-date fairly useless
buffoon. Female buffoon, whatever
that's called. She'd know and notice
everything, about who did what and
with whom. These new carnival
people drove her plum crazy. (A
sidelight to this, I always thought, was
the idea that it must be completely and
annoyingly difficult to be a town-Minister,
to whom many looked up, and listened
to, yet to have a wife of whom everyone
else thought only the worst things about.
How difficult it must have been to break
through, to stop people from 'niceties'
and from the small lies that go into
pretending things are OK). These guys
were anything  -  and their companion
women too  -  anything but the church
social types. The only other going
enterprise in town  -  for nastiness, I
mean  -  was the Troy Hotel. It was a
four-story, looming white, old rooming
house, resembling an old mansion. I
knew of it firsthand, from staying there
on my first few solo trips in, and once
others too. It was 'Men Only', by policy,
unless you were one of the working girls
who had tendencies there. That was
overlooked. It was filled, usually at the
bar with roustabouts, roundabouts, losers,
drunks, local itinerants, travelers on the
road, and  -  during the times of the
seasons  -  hunters. Hunters loved the
place. It was like a men's club, a stag-bar
with local babes for the picking if needed
and enough passable jungle-grill food to
keep the alcohol sopped up in your belly.
I'd gotten a bunch of stitches in my head
there once, well, not the stitches, that was
the next morning, but the need for getting
them. The hospital in this dump of a town
was right next door and behind, but it didn't
open for 'stitches' until 10am. Damndest
thing, that was. I just had to wait around
like 8 hours with a rag wrapped around
my head. The police station was right
nearby too  -  also found that out.
As it was, this carnival week, as far as I
knew, went uneventful. It wasn't actually
a week. I don't think the Troy area had
enough to carry it for more than a Friday
through a Tuesday, for breakdown and
travel. Farmers are always busy, and/or
tired too. They don't get out much. It's
the wives and the kids that do. The kids
get wild, the teen ones I mean. This is a
new Nirvana for them  -  unfettered and
wild. The wives just keep along with the
tinier tots and little kids. For them it's
just fun. All around, the place was, in a
Troy sense, rockin'and a'reelin'.  It came
and went  -  lights and crowd, flirty kids,
flaming tryouts for liust and love, all
that stuff, things to talk about for a
long time later, memory book and
diary stuff. There really wasn't much,
but for these country folk thereabouts,
it was big-time lights and action.
The carnival guys, they all just shut 
down when finished for the night and 
went and got drunk enough at the Troy 
Hotel to tell each story of the night over 
and again a few times  -  what they'd seen,
how this or that one looked at them, where
they went off to. It was ritual. Then they'd
go to wherever it was they went for the
night. From the fairgrounds (now a sewer
treatment plant, that old, field) to the
hotel, and back, was walkable. When sober
anyway, maybe ten or twelve minutes off.
Now, by contrast, up in Elmira, at the
beginning of each August, there was
the Chemung County Fair, at the 
fairgrounds by Eldridge Park. It was
often combined, at the same time, with
the traveling circus  -  they'd come 
through, from the rail siding nearby,
with their elephants and lions and tigers,
all from their Wintering grounds in
Florida, and set up in conjunction with
the carnival people too. It was a little
bit redundant, yes, since Eldridge park
always and already had smaller-scale
versions of those rides and things, but
this was a full, week-long, Two weekends
included party, for the whole surrounding 
area.  They get big-time music acts too, 
big-enough anyway. One year they had 
both Tanya Tucker, then a young and 
upcoming female country singer, and 
Glen Campbell. One year, in a rock
music vein, I recall, something called
'Black Oak, Arkansas  - which was a
raggedy, rough and raw 70's rock group.
It was all bigger-time by far than the
piddling Troy Fair, and it drew all
different people, a whole other mix.
Bikers, brawlers, stevedores, bums 
and pikers too.  It was, like, if you
were shopping career options, or
trying to decide on what to do for
the rest of your life, you'd go there
for it to help you make a decision.

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