The Other Kind of Carnival

The carnival’s in town this weekend.

I’m fond of carnivals of all kinds, and I was excited to see the rides and booths being set up.


It took a couple days to set up, but when they started turning on all the lights even before they were ready to open, it felt like summer had officially begun.


And once they opened for business, there were the hucksters and pleasures of the midway, with a winner for every game.


And there was the food: the obligatory slushies, fried sausage with onions and peppers, chicken on a stick, cotton candy, and fried dough with powdered sugar. In such delights, the carnival is something like the pure and concentrated essence of the idle, out-of-school sense of the adolescent summer.


Still, though, as some have consistently argued and demonstrated, the carnival is sort of a safety valve, a place for release (all those unhealthy foods) and inversion and risk. It’s a place for family fun wherein the appeals from the booths are sometimes sleazy and where it’s best not to think about just how old and rusted and dirty and rickety those nighttime rides appear in daylight.


The carousels of scooters and boats are safe enough. Beyond them, there’s an instance of my favorite carnival institution: the fun house. (Click on the photo for a larger version.)


Here, it’s called “razy Ivan’s Pet Motel,” and as you can see from the painted decorations, it’s old, deeply idiosyncratic (I love how the running, pointing child echoes the pointing pose of the gentleman with a lampshade on his head), and a little scary: check out that face on the entrance door. And once one looks closer still (again, click for a larger version), it takes a turn into deep bondage-fantasy weirdness, with a leashed human carrying an oozing slice of pizza in his mouth escorted by an upright eye-rolling dog, and — well, you can see what’s going on, and there’s far too much there for me to even begin to adequately express.


What’s perhaps most remarkable, though, is best seen when approaching the fun house from the other direction.



Oh, dear.


The Other Kind of Carnival

4 thoughts on “The Other Kind of Carnival

  • June 10, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Love the pictures, Mike. It’s fascinating what you will find if you actually take the time to look. Carnivals, fairs and festivals are a big thing around here. From June through September you can allways find a good Catholic festival and since this is area has such a rich German heritage you are certain to find an Oktoberfest celebration every weekend from mid September to November. Needless to say Summer and Fall is a great time to be in Cincinnati.

  • June 12, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Rob, if I can find an open long weekend in the fall, I might have to come up and see this Oktoberfest for myself. Of course, doing so would necessitate getting PFC Nestor involved, and possibly even tracking down Sergeant Johnson, just to make it feel like a real reunion. You drink out of two bottles at once, Ted’ll shotgun, I’ll talk like a wookiee, and SSG J will laugh at it all. Sound good?

  • June 14, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    I think we would have a better chance winning the lottery than all those things happening at once. I’d just settle for two out of three! 🙂 Honestly, there is always a room open in my house for you. Just name the date and I’ll be waiting. Maybe some day we will work it out. Oh yeah…in December a new member of the family will be arriving!

  • June 14, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    Congratulations, Rob! That’s great news!

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