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Thursday, July 15, 2010

And For Another Dollar I’ll Show You How to Make Millions While Working from Home

I lived in many small towns growing up – my father was of the opinion that a moving target was harder to hit.

As the continual outsider in a world where kids knew each other from birth, I was forever new. I didn’t know about David wetting his pants in kindergarten, I didn’t know that Bonnie’s mom had taken off with a traveling salesman, and I didn’t know where the old Schmidt place had been before it burned down.

Wherever we went, I was a freak.

Eventually, this came to appeal to me; and I went looking for other freaks, both real and imagined.

I had missed the era of circus sideshows and bemoaned the fact: “Siamese” twins; the Dog-Faced Boy, the Mule-Faced Woman – all of these people were an outward expression of “different”. My obsession with human oddities was further spurred in one town by a friend’s father, who had a bootlegged copy of “Freaks”, a movie starring a cast of, of course, circus freaks.

In my naively inquisitive and guileless head, there was nothing better than watching a limbless man roll a cigarette with his lips.

Years of migration and being the “odd one out” lent a morbid streak to my curiosity. I regularly envisioned myself having been born without arms, how I would use my bare feet and overcome my affliction to become Homecoming Queen, go to Juilliard on a scholarship, and make a living repeatedly filling Carnegie Hall with the adoring fans who came to see the Armless Wonder of the World.

Of course, I also imagined myself covered in hair, growling at the world and flinging excrement at it for five bucks a head.

So you can imagine my delight when, there on the Minnesota State Fair’s Midway, land of carnival rides, mini-donuts, and ring-toss carnies, my brother and I discovered an exhibit proudly declaring itself to contain The World’s Fattest Man.

The gaudily painted canvas outside of the exhibit depicted an enormous man standing next to an elephant, dwarfing various farm animals, while sucking the meat off a turkey carcass.

Our little eyes glittered with excitement.

And we got in line on a hot August day to see The World’s Fattest Man.

The funny things is that I got in line to see one thing, but experienced quite another: it was my first time at having been swindled.

And to further emphasize the realization, I had asked for it.

We filed in, me, Kevin, and perhaps 20 other people, in through the tent flaps, the stifling humidity of the bare earth filling the space. Sitting in a recliner and surrounded by whirling, oscillating electric fans, The World’s Fattest Man never looked up from the book he was reading.

Kevin hissed in my ear as we filed past the sweating man. “The World’s Thinnest Fattest Man!”

And that’s when it hit me, one of my first real moments of clarity: Had I really expected The World’s Fattest Man to be standing in here astride an elephant, sucking down a whole turkey and spitting out the bones?

I had paid two dollars, looking for something new, only to discover something really new: that sometimes you can’t tell, by looking, who the freak is.

And in this case, the freak was me.


Simply Suthern said...

LOL. This brings back memories of going to the county fair. We saw the woman turn into a gorilla. It was dissapointing to say the least. Kinda like the 4 ft man eating chicken from the Little Rascals. Never went to another sideshow.

For the price of a bus ride you did get the bathing suit cover up sideshow. More than you expected, eh?

Actually living in the same town all your life has become the freaky thing to do now.

Gotta go, I have a lunch date with the bearded lady

Pearl said...

SImply, now that you mention it, I saw the woman turn into a gorilla, too! ZAMBORA, the Ape Woman!

a Broad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pearl said...

a Broad, that was a heckuva scary movie in its own way!

Oh, and I removed the second comment. It was the same as the first except noted your difficulty with eblogger and the comment section. :-)

Anonymous said...

Pearl...You Freak!


Sarah said...

We are all a little freaky and some are smart enough to make money off of it.

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Love the post.
We take our kids to the State Fair every year and once they wanted to see the world's smallest man or something like that (I can't remember now, there were a number of other oddities). I too felt like a freak when I left the big canvas tent. I think we got off a little cheaper though with a dollar entrance fee.

Douglas said...

My older siblings tried to convince me I was a space alien. I keep waiting for my real family to return for me.

Fred Miller said...

Everybody loves the normal freaks: The World's Tallest Midget, The Stripeless Zebra, and The Bearded Man. Me? I'm The World's Laziest Workaholic.

Pearl said...

Amen, Sweet Cheeks!

Sarah, and aren't we all on display in one way or another? Of course, the Elephant Man would beg to differ...

Something Happened, I think those exhibits are ripe for some sort of grad student to hit up the people leaving to measure their reaction to either the "display" (whatever that display may be) or themselves, post-display.

Douglas, but Mom DID like you best. :-)

Fred, I shoulda seen that one coming. :-D

Cheeseboy said...

I'd have to say, this was so well done. I was captivated by it's entirety.

And I wonder what my fat uncle was doing in Minn. back in the 80's???

lisleman said...

good lesson

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Kevin Musgrove said...

This reminds me of the disappointment of going to see The Two-Headed Giant in the Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not booth on the promenade in Blackpool. Even at the age of eight I knew that the rather unconvincing wax mannequin under the green lights wasn't the real deal. I think that was the basis for my life-long interest in politics.

Warty Mammal said...

What a beautifully written entry.

You might enjoy "True Stories," in particular a segment in which the Lying Woman tells her date a long bullshit yarn about having been born with a tail, and how the tail ends up in the Smithsonian, and blah de blah de blah.