Was that the anticipated result of this assignment? A blog post about how weird and tacky the State Fair is, and some photos of creepy religious things and maybe also a picture of a fat person eating funnel cake?

Compared to last year's Worst.Night.Ever., this summer's Discomfort Zone was just kinda... underwhelming. We went to all the sex clubs and learned that they're full of very nice people, and we made both Ned Lannamann and Erik Henriksen ride a bicycle (which is pretty funny if you know 'em), and Ezra listened to some crappy music and Sarah Mirk accidentally flirted with a pickup artist and Marjorie Skinner set up a tent. It was all very entertaining the first time around, but the 2011 reboot was pretty tame—and the apotheosis of this year's failure to generate actual discomfort was Blogtown's collective decision to send me to the state fair.

Look: I grew up in the Southwest suburbs of Portland back when the Southwest suburbs of Portland were awesome. I know you moved here like 20 minutes ago and don't believe it's possible, but they really were. (If it seems like some native Oregonians carry a chip on their shoulders, all I can say is that watching your home transform from someplace beautiful into someplace ugly will kind of do that to you.) Tualatin and Sherwood hadn't yet metastasized, and if you lived outside of town you probably had plenty of land, and everyone had rabbits and horses and chickens and goats and cows (one family had llamas, which was regarded even by us sixth graders as a ridiculous affectation). And every summer, whichever mom drew the short straw loaded up the van and took everyone to the state fair. I mean I have probably been to the Oregon state fair at least 20 times in my life, maybe more. I was in 4-H, for fuck's sake. (Guinea pigs. Don't ask.) And... you guys know the fair has bunnies and stuff, right? And BABY PIGS? It's like you stocked the briar patch with carrots and bourbon before throwing me into it. Oh, and one of my favorite childhood authors was in there too. Good. Grief.

But I had some assignments to complete.


"Do you hear the screaming? That's the concert."

The ratio of tweens to adults at the Selena Gomez show was probably 4:1—lots of moms trailing tittering packs of very, very excited little girls, some of whom were dressed like regular children and some of whom were dressed like tiny prostitutes. (I now understand why I'm an extra large at Forever 21.) Ms. Gomez herself was wearing some combo of princess dress and whore shoes, and she had two backup dancers in solid-colored smock/dress things whose sole purpose seemed to be to make Selena look even more glamorous in comparison. All of the songs sounded the same, even the one Selena proudly announced that she "co-wrote." Maybe it's been a long summer on the state fair circuit, because her low register was fucked, but she bopped around the stage like a champ. "She is just adorable!" said a nearby mom. The only thing remotely discomfortable about this was that the presence of two youngish, childless adults caused slight consternation among some of the other adults—the palpable distrust of the woman in the photo above is about par for the course when you're a 28-year-old taking crowd shots at a Selena Gomez concert. (She also might've just heard me say "Lotta trim at this show!" to my extremely uncomfortable male companion. Not sure.) Overall, though, considerably less discomfortable than sitting through Serena Gomez's recent foray into acting, the truly excrable Monte Carlo, which I ALSO had to do for this weird cultural obstacle course that passes for a job.


"Come on, sir. It's not television. I can see you."

So said the host of the Cutest Show on Earth, exasperated, when her repeated efforts to incite the crowd to give a "round" (move your hands in a circle!) of applause got little response. Her show was in the shade. It was fucking hot out. Everyone was just glad to be sitting down. The show consisted of making little kids in costumes pretend to do circus things, like walking on tightropes, or beating elephants with bullhooks. It was not discomfortable at all—except, again, for the vague concern that we looked like child predators. But really, it was no worse than spending an afternoon reading Lolita alone at the park (i.e. my Sunday afternoon, no joke).

Next on the Discomfort Roster was the World's Most Diffident Hypnotist, who mumbled unremarkable jokes while a a bunch of audience volunteers pretended to sleep on folding chairs behind him. It was completely baffling.


Then we went to the big crafts barn-thing (I am GETTING to the baby animals, patience), which was full of display cases full of candy you couldn't eat, and elaborately decorated cakes, and tables set according to standards that are obsolete everywhere but the fair. (There was also a huge display of Lego art—I've got photos that Erik Henriksen will be critiquing tomorrow.) In the "Oregon Writers section," I was surprised to see Colene Copeland, one of my favorite authors as a kid—she wrote chapter books about pigs and their cat friends! who talked! One of the highlights of the fair every year was checking to see if she had a new book out. And she did. So I bought it. The book is called Yes I'm 12 and You're Fired, and she wrote it for her now-deceased husband, and if you can read the back copy text without choking up, then you're a braver soldier than I am. (I actually totally recommend her books for any parents with little-to-medium kids. They're great, Charlotte's Web-esque stories about a pig who is raised as a pet until she has to move out to the barn to live with the other pigs. And the other pigs are mean to her. The covers alone!)

Here's another token creepy religious picture:


The end. Now I'm gonna post a bunch of pictures of cute animals.