Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Carnies are back in town!

This weekend is the annual Almonte Fair. What I recall in particular from the one or two occasions on which many years ago I attended the event is the pie contest in the Agricultural Hall (built in 1869); and that the fair ground rides were specifically designed for small children only. As a result I have never been terribly motivated to return. The fair grounds are ideally situated along the Mississippi River.

Of more prominent recollection is the insinuation of the "carnies" when they first arrived to set up camp. The Superior Restaurant (where the local businessmen regularly foregathered each morning for upwards of 35 years to sip coffee and put on the nosebag) was noticeably visited by this collection of foreign, unkempt men with a decidedly laborious look. I don't recall ever having shared even a "Good morning!" with any one of them, so distant were they in every respect. They screamed nomadic. They were a strange lot but patently dedicated, oozing intransigence and fleeting dedication.

"Carny" is thought to have become popularized around 1931 in North America when it was first colloquially used to describe one who works at a carnival. The word carnival, originally meaning a "time of merrymaking before Lent", came into use around 1549.

Though I am certain none of us curious on-lookers would have said as much, I suspect each of us secretly wondered about the magic of the lives of these odd people. So unique were they in every respect that they instantly inspired the most unusual fantasies of liberation, wanderlust and peculiarity. I suppose that's what a circus is all about, a combination of youth, frivolity, excitement, anonymity and athletic challenges.

There was the recognizable allure of their costumes and appearances generally. There may even have been a lascivious element to the scandalous look of the carnies. They aroused the elemental motives of the animal instinct, contaminated by their glaringly obvious lowliness and novelty. It was however an occupation redolent of the fragrant of expertise and talent, reminiscent of classics such a the French clown Pierrot.

There were those who profited by their looks for other than purely athletic reasons. Some visibly made a career of innuendo.

The more modern expression of similar "artistry" is what routinely characterizes the Cirque de Soleil where appearances readily transcend the pornographic description by substituting its unequivocal entertainment value.

Cirque du Soleil ("Circus of the Sun" or "Sun Circus") is a Canadian (Québecois) entertainment company and the largest theatrical producer in the world. Based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and located in the inner-city area of Saint-Michel, Montreal, it was founded in Baie-Saint-Paul on 7 July 1984 by two former street performers Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix.

The commercial appeal of youth and oddity of appearance has permeated other traditionally outbound duties. The colour and singularity of drama has no apparent bounds.

The intoxication includes some of the most historic cultures as well.

And jewellery naturally.

The closest I came to running off to join the circus was in the summer of 1968 or thereabouts when I went to Toronto to raise money for Creation 2 theatre company directed by Louis Capson. In the same breath I remember my first attendance years afterwards at a performance by Cirque du Soleil on LeBreton Flats in Ottawa. Ironically I was a mis-fit part of that performance as well.  Quite without my prior knowledge or consent, two members of the troupe suddenly grabbed me from my seat in the audience and tossed me into the air as part of their act. The actors had such obvious control of me that I didn't worry for my safety.  The greater desperation arose from the unpredictability of life and its seeming relentless histrionics.

Creation 2 Theatre Company

I won't be going to the fair this weekend.

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