Revelations from the state fair, Vol. V

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Every Labor Day Weekend, I spend Friday through Monday working at the local state fair as the PA announcer, a position that requires not just a lot of talking, but a lot of walking and a whole lot of preparation.

It’s one of the most fun jobs I’ve had in my life, and I look forward to it every year. One minute I’m heading over to one of the small stage areas to double-check times or check out an act I hadn’t seen before; the next, I’m inside the administration building chowing down on a loaded baked potato piled high with every ingredient known to mankind.

(Trust me, when it comes to fair food, one needs to pace oneself.)

As has been tradition here at Triple R, I always share some of the things I’ve learned from each fair, because it’s not just an enjoyable work experience – it’s a learning experience, to boot. In the past, I’ve learned the most despised candies in the universe;  why environmentalists hate truck pulls; and even the best time to “smell” the fair.

So what nuggets of wisdom did I glean this year?

  1. The threat of a hurricane drives up Friday attendance. There was a lot of talk about whether or not Hermine would make it to the New Hampshire coast, and when. We were anticipating getting hit Sunday and Monday, the latter half of the fair, which is why I think our Friday ticket numbers were off the charts. As it turned out, Hermine never even made it, and we had a stupendous weekend all four days!
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  2. sandtasticSand used for sand sculptures is not normal beach sand. As Sandtastic Sand Sculpture Company’s sculptor (pictured) explained to me, the sand they use is comprised of faceted grains, which help the sand to wedge together and stick to itself. Conversely, beach sand is worn smooth from being tossed in the water and therefore is much more difficult to work with.
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  3. Speaking of sculpting…chainsaw sculptors use specially-designed chainsaws. I was chatting with Ben Risney, whose chainsaw
    risney-1
    (Click to enlarge)

    carvings are masterful, when he told me that some of his smaller chainsaws are custom-designed, industrial-grade. His larger saws are standard chainsaws, but the smaller ones, like the one pictured, have an angled bar and run at twice the RPMs of a normal chainsaw. The primary benefit of using a saw with such high RPMs is that the cuts are so smooth, he rarely needs to sand the sculptures once they’re completed! You can see Ben in action and more of his handiwork HERE.
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  4. “Battered Savs??” Who knew? corn-dogs
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  5. Some folks take their fried foods way more seriously than others. I was walking along a pathway when I overheard two young women chatting behind me. The conversation went something like this:
    “So, so sad.”
    “Yes, it is.”
    “Such a sad situation.”
    “Things like that just shouldn’t happen.”
    It was at that moment I realized they were talking about a piece of fried dough that lay on the ground; perfectly elliptical, not one bite had been taken out of it. I shed a tear, as well.
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  6. Saw blades are high-tech pieces of equipment. One of the many attractions at the fair this year were the Axe Women: Loggers of Maine, featuring championship women loggers competing in axe throwing, log rolling, cross-cut sawing, and a number of other events. I learned that their crosscut saw (bottom photo) is made in New Zealand of a special metal alloy that is strong and smooth – but is extremely sensitive to moisture; in fact, if the blade is not kept properly oiled, under very humid conditions it will start rusting within 30 minutes.
    axe-2  axe-1
    axe-3
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  7. Deep-fried pickle chips are superior to deep-fried pickle spears. This is not a decision I came to haphazardly; I spent a number of years researching the merits of each. You’re welcome.
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  8. dino-2 Dinosaur costumes are a lot heavier than they look. Really high-quality costumes, I should say. I had an opportunity to chat with John and Chance Bloom and their family, who run (among other things) a business called Dinosaur Xperience – which brings a walking, talking T-Rex right to your event.
    Chance told me the lifelike suit is 80-100 pounds, and contains a metal cage around the  head and thorax, which allows for

    dino-1
    Yes, even dinos need ID.

    electronically-controlled motion and sound. She can tolerate about 30-40 minutes inside the outfit before she needs to get indoors to cool off and re-hydrate…so thank goodness her husband and their 4 kids are all part of the act, helping her!

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Well, I hope you enjoyed this little review. It’s amazing the things one can learn at the fair – and spending so much time at this one allows me ample opportunity to discover things I might never notice otherwise. And for writers, learning and observing is crucial!

Until next time, have a good week! (and seriously, let me know your thoughts on the deep-fried pickles!)

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Some examples of Ben Risney’s work, which were featured around the fairgrounds.

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Poetry Friday: Throwback Summer concludes in “Stride”

Let me just tell you.. I am SO glad I didn’t need to come up with anything too long or witty for today’s post – I simply could not have done it.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllJust before 3pm on Thursday afternoon, I was ripping out part of our garden when I apparently disturbed a yellowjacket nest. I was promptly stung about 8 times, primarily on my scalp. Not fun.

Then, after my wife came home from work, we were eating dinner when the crown on my right front tooth fell out – and rather than relax for awhile, I was on my way into the city half an hour away to get to a pharmacy for crown repair cement. Doubly not fun.

And this is all happening the day before I begin a long, 4-day weekend as the PA announcer for the local state fair! Triply not fun.

I’ve been trying to maintain a positive attitude about all this (hey, at least I didn’t have a serious allergic reaction to the stings, right?), but in all honesty, I’ve had enough. I’m exhausted, and my bed is looking really good right now.

So with that said, I can now present the final installment of my Throwback Summer series, which started when I discovered my old high school journals and other papers in my parent’s attic.

Today’s poem was written in my college Creative Writing class, and I was still trying to get a handle on free verse at this point. I really liked rhyme and structure and that sort of thing, so free verse took some getting used to. And unlike most of the Throwback Summer poems I’ve shared here, this one isn’t too bad. Yes, it has its faults, but compared to everything that has come before…I think it holds its own…

Stride (poem)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane – it’s certainly been eye-opening for me, to recall what I was writing and doing back then. And it’s quite a relief, to know that my writing has gotten (marginally) better! Speaking of writing, Penny Parker Klostermann is hosting Poetry Friday today, so please stop by and check out all the links and fun!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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How I saved a butterfly, told the story in 10 words, and ended up on a blog

Just goes to show, one never knows from whence inspiration might come…

DMC_ColorMichelle H. Barnes over at Today’s Little Ditty is holding her “Ditty of the Month Challenge” writing prompt, and this month’s challenge follows her interview with children’s poet/author Diana Murray. Diana challenged blog readers to write poems based on unlikely heroes, and it took me nearly all month long to discover I was the hero I would eventually write about.

Our family was at a local farm over the weekend, and while inside the gardener’s shed I discovered my subject, having a very difficult time trying to get out of a plastic-sheeted window. When I got home, I wrote a haiku about it -and today, Michelle is featuring it on her blog! I hope you’ll stop by and check out my poem along with all the others…there are some very good poems there, written by many talented folks.

And by the way, I’ll be wrapping up my Throwback Summer series this coming Friday, with another one of my early free verse poems, that I wrote in my college Creative Writing class. It’s verbose and overdone, but not half-bad – so please come back  and let me know what you think!

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Poetry Friday: Throwback Summer takes a 180 turn…

…into Not-Quite-So-Bad Land.

As you might have heard, I’m sharing some of my old high school poetry each Friday this summer – and yes, most of it has been painfully horrendous.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllBut as we’re coming to the final stretch of this series (I anticipate wrapping up this trip back in time the first week of September), I’m now sharing a couple of poems I wrote in college. And although they are not the best poems ever written, they are nowhere near as vomit-inducing as most of the previous ones I’ve subjected you to.

(In other words, if you were expecting another “Ode to a Dishrag,” prepare to be disappointed)

Today’s poem was one of the first free verse poems I ever wrote. (The very first one was actually published!) It was written for my college Creative Writing class with Dr. Joyce Thomas, at Castleton State College, Vermont. I recall revising it a number of times, so I think  this was the final version. If you don’t mind mixed metaphors, verbose lines, and obvious connections, read on…

The Performance

Houselights down:
the sky grows increasingly dark
pinholes of stars shrouded
by clouds fully drenched with water;
giant sponges
floating in the otherwise barren atmosphere,
waiting to be squeezed by some giant hand.
A burst of light, center stage –
a short flash of lightning illuminates the earth below,
the black, India-ink sky turns to a dull gray.
The celestial sphere appears as an oyster shell.
Two more bolts spotlight the event;
……….Act I, Scene 1.
Hesitant only for a split second
lightning’s comrade enters stage right,
jarring the thoughts of those already attentive.
The deep baritone voice of the leading man
echoes throughout the auditorium;
more loud rolls of thunder echo each other,
flowing over grassy hills that provide proper acoustics.
the curtain of soaking rain
drops from the proscenium
to a captive audience lost
in bewilderment.

The show begins.

– Matt Forrest Esenwine, 10-20-88, Class: ENG465

This is one of those poems that I’d really like to shave down and rewrite…but I have so many other more pressing things to do I’m sure it’ll never happen! The one thing I like best about this is the fact that I was able to combine a narrative with some poetic imagery and internal rhyme, even if it was quite amateurish and clunky.

My professor (a published poet), knowing how bad most of my poetry had been up to this point, seemed genuinely impressed that I had somehow knocked this out onto paper. With her encouragement, I soldiered on and wrote many, many more truly horrible poems in-between a handful of publishable ones. I like to think that I have now turned that ratio on its head…but that might just be me being delusional.

Ready for some more poetry? Much better poetry? Then please visit Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads for today’s complete Poetry Friday Roundup!

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Poetry Friday: The worst poem ever used as a writing workshop example (yes, Throwback Summer continues!)

journals - high schoolI have been amazed – in both good ways and bad – at the amount of poetry I’ve come across while poring over my old high school journals, which were discovered earlier this summer in my folks’ attic.

Most of it was horrendously bad – but at least I was writing, and that practice helped hone my poetry skills, vocabulary, and my sense of humor. This is why I encourage people to #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading – if we’re all supposed to dance like no one’s watching, with carefree abandon, we should apply the same principle to writing, yes?

So today, I’m sharing a poem I wrote in April 1985, and although I didn’t plan to use it as an example during my free verse poetry workshop at the New England SCBWI conference this past spring…that’s exactly what happened.

I was explaining different types of poetic “voice” (Lyrical, Narrative, Dramatic) and made mention of two types of dramatic voice: mask and apostrophe. Mask voice is when the poet speaks from the point-of-view of an inanimate object or animal; apostrophe, on the other hand, is when the poet is speaking to an inanimate object or animal.

(Speaking to a specific person might be considered apostrophe, but would most likely be deemed lyrical voice as opposed to dramatic voice, since lyrical poems are spoken in the first person…it’s a bunch of technical, poetic mumbo-jumbo that only academicians fret over, so don’t worry if you’ve already forgotten what we were talking about.)

Anyhoo…I was explaining apostrophe (the poetic voice, not the punctuation mark) and the following poem suddenly popped in my head – and this was before I even discovered it hidden away between old, empty jelly jars and a dust-covered Air Hockey table at my parents’ place. Yes, it’s a rhyming poem, but it uses apostrophe in a most ridiculously overblown way, elevating a kitchen cleaning product to Shakespearean heights.

Even now, I look back on this and chuckle…it wasn’t the greatest poem ever written, but I’ve read a lot of poems that were worse, written by adults who should know better:

Ode to a Dishrag

O limpy piece of terrycloth,
Stained from last night’s chicken broth,
How I love to hold you, thus –
I clean pans and you don’t fuss.
And tho’ you soak in many a sud,
Ne’er do you complain of the crud.
You don’t mind the soggy bread,
Burnt-on Spam of which I dread),
Bits of egg and moldy cheese…
You put up with all of these.
Coffee grinds, potato skins,
Parts of fish – like eyes and fins –
And then, of course, there’s pots and pans
That always seem to stick to hands.
All these things you clean with care;
You touch things I wouldn’t dare.
So if I never let you know,
Dishrag, how I love you so!

– Matt Forrest Esenwine, April 11, 1985

I’m honestly not sure what kind of “poetry” I’ll be sharing next week, but I only have one or two more weeks left of my Throwback Summer – so your brain can rest easy knowing that by the time the kids are back in school, (slightly) more tolerable poetry will be coming your way here at the ol’ Triple-R blog.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllSpeaking of back-to-school, Julieanne at To Read To Write To Be has today’s Poetry Friday roundup, and is as excited as a person can be as she prepares to venture forth in the new academic year. So head on over and check out all the poetry links and fun!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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Poetry Friday: “Ode to Lint,” a Throwback Summer lost classic

poetryfridaybutton-fulllYes, this poem had been lost for a long time…and had I not stumbled upon it in my parents’ attic, we all would have probably been better off.

If you have somehow not heard, I am sharing bits and pieces of my high school journals this summer, having come across a huge stash of old schoolwork while cleaning out my folks’ house, in preparation for its sale.

Back in June, I wrote about the initial discovery, and just this past Tuesday I explained why it was inevitable that I ended up in careers involving writing and advertising. Today, I’m sharing another one of the chestnuts I wrote in my English journal during senior year…and although it’s far from stellar-quality, it is probably the best-written poem I’ve shared from my journals so far.

You be the judge…

“Ode to Lint, II”

What is this, that I do see
floating past, in front of me?
Small dust speck, or puff of hair?
What is that thing flying there?
I reach out, it comes to me,
hardly larger than a flea;
I look close, I analyze.
Staring hard, I scrutinize
and attempt (as best I can)
to discern this work of Man.
Oh, too hard to contemplate!
Leaves my hand to impend fate.
What is that, that I do see
floating past, in front of me?
Small dust speck, or puff of hair?
What is that thing flying there??

– © 1985, Matt Forrest Esenwine, 4-4-85

Now, you have not known this until now, but I’ve done you the great service of not sharing most of the horrible poetry I wrote back then. Yes, yes…hard to believe, considering the subterranean level of quality of most of it. But true.

I had a penchant for trying to elevate the most mundane, ridiculous objects into flowery, verbose poems – so consider yourself fortunate that I have not shared my “Ode to a Stool,” “Ode to a Desk,” “Ode to Crust,” “Ode to Dropping Socks,” “Ode to Slippery Shoes,” “Ode to a Deep Thought,” or – what just might be the worst of all – my “Ode to Lint, I.” That’s right, I wasn’t happy with just one poem about lint; I apparently felt the subject was worthy of two, at least.

For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head on over to Books 4 Learning. And be prepared…there’s a whole lot more mediocrity coming your way next week, right here!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Throwback Summer continues: “The Inevitability of Advertising”

As I mentioned at the beginning of summer, I recently came upon several boxes of my old schoolwork, hidden away at my parents’ attic which I’m cleaning out in advance of its sale.

While it’s nostalgic to look back at these journals, projects, and tests – and a bit disheartening, knowing my childhood home is going to be sold – it has been enlightening for me, as well. I have been able to read so many things I’d forgotten about, that I can now look back on and realize how they played a role in me developing into…well, me.

Scan_20160718 (4)
Wow, what happened? Before the contacts, before the braces, before the male pattern baldness…I was a high school senior 3 1/2 months away from graduation. This photo was taken by Mrs. Jencks, my English teacher, in Feb. 1985. Considering how straight-laced I was, I have no idea why I look so stoned.

Since I have been spending my Fridays sharing some of the >ahem< “poetry” that I was writing in my journals back then, I thought I would share something that foreshadowed my other career: advertising.

I began working in radio right after my college freshman year, and I’ve been writing, voicing, and producing commercials ever since. It’s no wonder I do voiceover work for a living! (If you’d like to learn more about that aspect of my life these days, or would like to know how I might be able to help you with your advertising, please click HERE.)

I loved writing and acting before I had even entered high school, and in addition to poetry and short stories, I developed a fondness for advertising. I owe this to the genius of Stan Freberg, whose old radio shows and commercials I had grown up listening to, thanks to my dad.

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(click to enlarge. But why would you??)

By the time I was in high school, I was writing and voicing (and sometimes pre-recording) the morning announcements and living the dream in drama club. Reading a steady diet of Mad Magazine, Cracked, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while watching British comedies like Monty Python and the under-appreciated The Goodies carved my sense of humor into what it is today.

Looking back on all this now, I completely understand why I made up fake advertisements for some of my journal entries, like this…

And since I made reference to “Loc-Tite” doorknobs, I figured I’d resurrect the product for what I think was a Creative Writing class project. I didn’t fool around, either – this thing was poster-sized:

Scan_20160718 (3)
(click to enlarge. Again, I have no idea why you would)

That’s right, kids – we didn’t have Photoshop, we didn’t have scanners, we didn’t have selfies. This selfie, in fact, was probably taken by one of my parents on my old 110 camera, which was then brought to a Fotomat and developed in time for me to cut it out and paste it, and — whoa, hold on. I think I just hit old age. Pass me the Geritol.

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(click to enlarge. But you should really know better by now)

Anyway, even though I can tell I was trying too hard to be funny, I can completely appreciate where this style of humor came from. Like I said, too many issues of Cracked magazine and too many episodes of Fawlty Towers.

And a big, big influence from Stan Freberg, who I referenced earlier. He still influences my copy writing to this day.

Oh, and then there was this masterpiece journal entry from Feb. 1985, just a few days after that horrible photo of me was taken…

And yes, these were journal entries.

While some teens were pouring their hearts out in belabored free verse and others were writing about partying over the weekend, I was there making up fake advertisements, ridiculous rhyming poetry, and concocting word puzzles.

Somehow, I graduated as valedictorian. So the moral of the story is, if I can do it, anyone can!

(Stay tuned…more dubious-quality poetry coming up this Friday, when I feature “Ode to Lint!” And yes, I’m totally serious!)

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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