There’s no State Fair credit card that gives you points.

There’s no special card that lets you cut line, .that gives you special access.

There are no tiers here.

It’s just a lot of us all at once.

I had to do - sorry, was presented with the opportunity to do the Lip Balm Revue twice this year, instead of 12 times, and this did not reflect any dissatisfaction with my performance. On the contrary. It was done out of deep respect and gratitude for the toll last year took, and also a desire to whip some people out of the office and make them step up.

But when the call went out to do a show on the opening day and talk to someone about the new stuff at the Fair, I said YES, because this isn’t the military and one ought to volunteer for things at work to show you want to pitch in. We haven’t enough people to fill the paper and we haven’t enough to fill the stage. It’s work, dammit, and a man works!

Also, it meant I didn’t have to go to the office.

The old familiar drill. The drive to the U to go to the parking lot to catch the shuttle bus. Everything was packed. No spaces. Of course: the morning crowd hadn’t left yet. But I knew I could find something on the street, and found a meter that charged . . . hold on, all you people in big BIG cities - $2.25 for four hours.

Caught the bus. Years and years of this drive, the busway view changed now - more student apartments, the old abandoned industrial buildings renovating one by one, the great grain elevators still standing silent and empty like monuments from a bygone civilization. Up the ramp; the view presents itself - the rides, the Grandstand, the Space Tower. You are dropped right back in the world of the Fair as if nothing had happened between today and last year. Walk to the gate, and smile.

There’s always this delightful sense of “once again, into the breach” when I step under the arch, but this year it was something different, something . . . deeper. I can’t explain and you’ll snicker at the pretentiousness, if you haven’t already. I don’t want to say it felt like the last time I would ever go there, because how the hell do I know and what sort of thing is that to say? But it was, well, an odd and not unpleasant sense of disengagement. Floating. Relief.

I don’t have to work at this any more.

For years and years the Fair has been work, and I say that as a good thing. I’ve been sent there to blog, to do video, to come up with stories, to perform. It goes back to my City Pages days, when apparently I wrote a good story about it. Prior to that, I was a civilian who saw it like everyone else. One year a girlfriend with whom I’d broken up a week or so again just showed up at my door and wanted to give it another go and we promptly decamped for the Fair. In ’78 I went there with the First Great College Love. In the early-mid 60s I went with my parents, and never forgot the statue of Fairchild, which summed up all the wonder and fun of the great city down the long road from Fargo.

The statue is still there. It’s all still there. There are few constants and untouched items in life at this point, but that damned gopher in the carny-barker outfit is still there.

Now I don’t have to work any more. Only three shows, and they’re not work. Last year I fretted over my initial performance on the stage, wondering what I would say, practicing my bits - we Facebook Livestreamed and Tweeted and Instagrammed and ahhh, who cares. After four days I had it down and the gig ran on rails.

This year it was like doing the 13th show from last year’s run, instead of the first show of a new Fair.

There wasn’t any new Fair left. It’s all one Fair now. The people pushing strollers were born the year the girlfriend came back. The little kid who answered the trivia question has no idea she was born the year I shot my first video for the newspaper website.

I didn’t practice anything. I made a few notes, sat on the bench behind the Startribune Fair HQ, and just watched the people and the gondolas. Then it was time, and I stepped up on the stage.

There are people queueing to buy T-shirts, people walking past in throngs, screams from the rides, music from the band at Cafe Caribe, the competing voice of the weatherman from the adjacent TV station booth - tap the mike and say “hello, hi” and you might turn four or five heads. So I wave a fluorescent yard stick and crack the mike and boom it:


And that, my friends, works. Everyone cheers! Everyone agrees because it’s true. It’s a perfect blue day in the state I love, and I get to tell everyone I love it. Came here as a child, and found Oz; half-century later and change and I’m on stage by the newspaper for which I always wanted to work, waving a yardstick, wearing the Red Owl T-shirt of my generation, giving away lip balm.

It’s like the best possible thing. It isn’t work anymore. It’s just joy. The only thing I wish was different was the schedule. Three days?

Three days?

I feel like I have ten to give. Not 12! That’s nuts.

But ten? Yeah, I could do that.

In the Agriculture building, something that made me tweet "Deification ceremony underway"

It's actually part of a themed display - not just Prince, although he has the Holiest of Holy spots. Also Frances Gumm:

Long-legged Dorothy is not happy about ending up back in Oz after she'd grown up and slimmed down and gotten a job as a runway model.

From the 4-H Scarecrow competition:

Sir Uff Da, the Minnesota Nice Knight.

Now, here's something you need to know: a Minnesota baking legend just celebrated her 100th birthday. Everyone knows her.


She deserves more than ending up as a DOOM Mod skin.



Well, who hasn't

We start out in a bar, where the bar girls are complaining that the men having a stag party aren’t paying attention to them.

They josh him about how horrible marriage is, and they look forward to his inevitable divorce. ha ha because the ol’ ball and chain! Hey - what if this is really about how she’s the monster, and this is a tale not about husbands compromised by a metaphor for communism, but fear of female sexuality? Because it has to be a metaphor for something, right? It’s 1958. Everything is repressed so anxieties come out in odd ways.

On the way home from the bar, the Husband-to-Be, Bill, sees a body in the road. He slams on the brakes!

But . . .

Yikes. Well, he’s covered with smoke, and the next time we see him he’s a bit different.


ALSO a monster. But mostly it’s the married part, because he’s part of an invasion force that needs to breed. However, their advance work sucked and they can’t get the details right, like driving with lights at night, or making small talk.

Honeymoon night is time for the friction-assisted marital relations to produce offspring

She catches on pretty fast: there’s some wrong, and that gives the movie its dread Anyway, I’m not here to recap the thing, but highlight some of the look-and-feel aspects of a 1958 film.

Okay, stage shot for a downtown. Did they buy it at the time, or just factor in “well, it’s a movie.”

Interiors: “Gosh, I’d love to live in the mid to late 50s, everything was so jet-age and modern and cool!”

Not everything.


When your budget is low, hire a really good lighting man:

Wet down the sidewalk:

The smallest, cheapest details - but they add up.

Eventually we realize that he’s not the only one who’s a recently married monster:

So it’s that Invasion of the Pod People thing. It only takes half an hour before she figures it out without doubt, and learns she has no idea who she can trust. It’s not flashy or thrill-packed, but it has a strange subdued confidence in itself that’s persuasive.

You're thinking . . . cheesy title, no stars. . . probably just rote 50s sci-fi?

Not really. For one thing, it's nicely shot, and nearly all the shots show some careful attention to the lighting:

The idea that anyone might be in on the alien's game gives every shot a sense of dread:

The ending has more FX than you might expect . . .



. . . and it saves the really ooky stuff for the last few minutes, guaranteeing the audience remembers it.

No classic, except it almost is, and it's not because they didn't try hard enough, or shot too low. It's successful in every sense, but doesn't rise above the genre high enough to set it in the top tier.

I still watch it every few years. That has to mean something.

That'll do, I hope. See you around.



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