State Fair, Part 493:28 PM
by Rudolfo Carrillo
Imagine for a second it is the future and you leave the Earth behind. Your spaceship is well-equipped though, and it is easy enough to make contact with your handlers back at the watermelon ranch.
Maybe one day, when you've started to lose track of the distance between Lomas Boulevard and Jupiter's inner moons, when the days melt into one long dream of calabacitas, you decide to give headquarters a bell. You ask them if it has been raining lately. When the words, "yes, a lot" crackle and hiss through your specially designed bio-engineered headset, you reply, your sense of time and space kindly reconnected. And you say to the folks in Burque, who are just about a billion miles away by now, "Have you all been to the State Fair yet?"
That is a supposed vision of the future, just to sorta float around the idea of ubiquity, sabes? Besides being the preeminent event in this town three-hundred years from now, it is a well-known fact that the fair is a culturally weighty aspect of our beloved military outpost in the desert. Among citizens, visitors and wanderers, it remains a source of many highlarious and culturally relevant anecdotes.
With that in mind, here are some vignettes, highlighting over forty years of engagement with the gaudy and sublime moving object that rises up yearly from semi-trailers, champion vegetables and twangy guitars echoing in the rodeo hall.
The old man would set aside three days to see the fair. It was good as hell to get away from Gallup. We would stop at the Dairy Queen in Grants for lunch. In nineteen-seventy-five we crested Nine Mile Hill while Kung Fu Fighting played on the radio.
We had a room at the Hilton and drove over to the Fairgrounds in the morning. The other Rudolfo liked to park the car under a big mulberry tree behind the Wine Cellar, which was a bar in Fair Plaza. He said it was a special parking place that belonged to his mysterious business partner. He called this man Sabu. That wasn't his real name and he wasn't from around these parts.
I ended up eating way too much fry bread to compensate for the anxiety such knowledge brought. I refused to get on the tilt-a-whirl with my brother and sister because I felt weird. But I was okay with all of that. Later on, I met a gal named Lisa at the hotel swimming pool. We shared a cigarette and she told me all about California. Her mother had an Arabian horse.
Some friends of mine at art school thought it would be really ginchy to enter some of their work in the fine arts competition at the nineteen-eighty-six New Mexico State Fair. They wanted to show off the idea that not all artists in New Mexico were painting pictures of this or that church or elsewise carving eagles and cutthroat trout out of tree trunks.
One fellow, a formidable sculptor by the name of Stanley Olivarez, submitted an intricate, highly crafted kinetic sculpture. The only reason I can't describe his work in more detail is because of Rob Hawkins. Hawkins' submission caused me to forget about any other work of art on display at the fair that year.
Hawkins had been trying to get into grad school and was known for coming up with ideas that were guaranteed to infuriate his professors. So, Rob asked if I would drive over to the fair with him to deliver his piece. We parked under Sabu's tree and Hawkins opened the trunk.
He grabbed a dirty old basketball, the right half of a rotten pair of Converse All-Stars and said, let's go dude. Inside the exhibit hall, Hawkins set the ball on the shoe, filled out the paperwork and winked at the judges on the way out. He won a second place ribbon for that concoction. Olivarez got top honors and sold his work for some decent feria, but I still can't remember what his sculpture looked like.
They used to have a paint-ball booth on the midway. Some dude dressed up in a gorilla suit would come out of nowhere and folks would shoot at him. I went to the paint-ball booth with Rob Hawkins after he picked up his award, after a camera-jockey from the local newspaper took his picture.
Hawkins looked me over like he was trying to decide whether he could trust me or not. He bought thirty rounds of paint-balls with his award money. Then he let loose on the gorilla suit. He said between clicks that he had been rejected by the MFA program at UNM. After about a minute of that, the dude in the gorilla suit ripped his mask off and told Rob Hawkins he would come over and kick Rob's ass if he kept aiming for the head. Hawkins gave the finger and zapped the dude right between the eyes.
The chase that ensued followed along, past the Asbury Cafe and through Villa Hispana across San Pedro and over to Sabu's secret parking spot and magical mulberry tree. "Kung Fu Fighting" was playing in the background. Rob Hawkins climbed up into the tree and disappeared in flash of postmodern mumbo-jumbo.
His former target wandered back to the midway office, took what pay was coming to him and spent the rest of the day wandering though the fair eating roasted turkey legs and tiny donuts.