Labor Day Weekend: Loud And Quiet
The 2010 Demo D at Columbia County Fair
Every year the Columbia County Fair in Chatham, New York is “over Labor Day.” It began as usual this year on Thursday with the demolition derby. The people’s favorite and last year’s big car, 8-cylinder champion “Bomber” let it be known in advance that he wasn’t going to show up for the event. Saddened that this marked the end of an era, the end of a standing tradition, your Bloguero phoned and sent an electronic message to “Bomber” (yes, he is online) that your Bloguero wanted to know wtf was wrong with him. If he could sit in the car without actually hurting himself, he had an obligation to his fans to compete. Guilt apparently does not work on Bomber. He replied laconically that he had gone out on top. No apologies. No explanation. His non-entry made the Demo D a non-event for your Bloguero. So ended one of your Bloguero’s many country traditions: go to the “Beer Tent” for an hour Thursday afternoon and then proceed in a slightly altered but still somewhat upright condition to the grandstand to witness in person the deafeningly loud, smoking, smashing, squealing Demo D. Breathe the smoke and fumes and burning rubber. Some degree of being anaesthetized is always advisable for admission. It’s that toxic. Your Bloguero didn’t go this year. But not to fear. Just because your Bloguero stayed away, you can be sure that thousands of others were simply unaffected by Bomber’s ignominous defection, if they even knew about it. No. They couldn’t care less. They were carrying out their usual rituals without the slightest concern about who the “drivers” (I use the word advisedly) might be. And they had a great, deafening time. As usual. And today there are many totally smashed cars on trailers or in vacant lots waiting for the crushers.
Every year the Spencertown Academy puts on the quiet antidote to the deafening Demo D, the Festival of Books “over Labor Day.” So, of course, your Bloguero arrived on Saturday afternoon to witness it. What your Bloguero wrote about this event in 2006 remains the case:
I was overwhelmed by the number of homeless books and people selecting them to bring home. It wasn’t quite like visiting the morgue, though at first I thought it seemed like rows of dead books, a price tag tied to each of their big toes. No, it was more like an orphanage for the mute or a dog pound. The lucky, cute ones are retrieved, lugged to a new home, and end up on a shelf or under the bed, or God forbid, in the trash. And the unlucky ones, what happens to them? What happens to great ones initially purchased as required reading, ignored for semesters, always resold, eventually tattered, on their last legs, trying to look cute at this sale, trying to avoid the land fill?
I didn’t bring anything home. …
I left the sale sad and confused and depressed. I really don’t have room. If I were a book and could talk like one, maybe I could have consoled some of those great novels, Tolstoy and Dickens, for example, who were left behind, the ones whose time has finally come. “Look,” I would have said. “It’s disgraceful. Readers aren’t what they used to be. They cannot appreciate someone as wonderful, as loving, as well crafted as you. It’s not your fault. And owners aren’t what they used to be either. They won’t keep you. That, too, is not your fault. In the name of feng shui or elimination of clutter or God knows what other golden calf, they’re cleansing you without a thought. It’s a really rotten business. It’s not like the old days when once you found a home they respected you and kept you until an estate sale.”
Your Bloguero told one of the people running the event that he really didn’t need to bring home any more books, that he had enough, thank you. It was a curse, really. She said, “Well, buy some today and you can bring them back by donating them next year.” “Oh,” said your Bloguero, “I should think about this in a different way, as if I were only renting the books.”