It’s Labor Day Weekend 2008 and the Hawks are playing their first ever county fair gig. We’re excited and apprehensive. We believe in America. We love fairs. Corn Dogs, the Demolition Derby, Funnel Cakes and Ferris wheels. But will they love us? Will the fair goers embrace us as we long to embrace them?
August 30 is clear, dry, and hot as we hit the 5 north and roll onto the mysterious exit to 99. There’s a lot of corn growing, and grapevines and almond trees, newcomers to these parts, where cotton and alfalfa are the deposed kings. It’s 104 at the Fresno County line. Paul L texts his brother Anthony, lyricist of Hecker Pass: “its 104 at the Fresno county line.” Anthony texts back: “desolate there?” We hit a Fresno Starbucks, refresh ourselves in an artificial climate as reliable as a McDonalds shake, hit the highway, through Merced, and up to Mariposa via the Plainsburg cutoff. Into the foothills forested by native and 2nd growth evergreen, into Mariposa town. It is indeed Labor Day Weekend, the last blowout under summer sky. Lots of bikers prowl the short Mariposa main drag. RW almost hits one by accident right off the bat. That pisses the dude off of course and words are exchanged. But it’s cool. Most bikers live their lives to be annoying assholes. Why else jack the exhaust up to deafening levels? (note of dissension from Paul L: hey, man, I rode a Triumph 650 for a few years, and I’m here to say that there’s nothing like pulling out of town in a rumbling pack of big machines. You’re with your people, you’re living the life, and the civilians that have to show up to the computer on Monday morning can feel the noise a little. It’s not going to hurt them)
We follow the cars down the winding road to the Mariposa County Fair grounds, sneak past the line of pickups and SUVs into the lot. With a little help from the Rotary Club volunteers we find the Amigo Dance Slab, an indeed wide stretch of plain concrete at the edge of the dusty fair grounds, and start to unload. It’s pretty alienating to be here at first. There’s a big bald guy with a laptop playing aggressive techo drum beats and calling square dancing on top of it. What the hell is this? An elder cadre of square dancers decked out in colorful dresses and bolo ties dutifully march to this futuristic disembodied beat. There’s a real disconnection here. The music and the dancing make no sense together and yet there it is happening right in front of us. Next they’re square dancing to hip hop and urban grooves. And then the line dancers come out. They’ll all got black pants, white tops, and black hats. Uniformed uniform dancing. Wow.It all makes sense if you’re from these parts. Country life is pragmatic, not romantic, and not yearning for times past, unlike urban folkies like ourselves. When fiddles were state of the art, that’s what you danced to. If you can get a guy with a laptop to play kickass beats, who cares if the fiddles are banished to the folk clubs? If you have to plow 160 acres, are you going to pick the quaint old tractor or the air conditioned gleaming monster combine? A swamp cooler or full AC in your new suburban monster house? And satellite TV is sweet. Kill the old ways. Kill them dead.