Is there such a thing as a Halloween haiku? Hmmm…not sure. But why not??
As you may know, I am the live announcer for one of the local state fairs, which means I spend 12+ hours each day wandering the fairgrounds, reminding attendees of all the events taking place: 4-H Sheep show is coming up at 10am in the Hood Arena! Be amazed by the Hypnosis and Magic of Marko, with 3 shows today at 5, 7, and 9pm! If you’re looking for the restrooms, they are easy to find…
Well, you get the idea. Anyway, each year I am amazed at all the things I learn and affirmations I encounter. The first year, I mourned the loss of patriotism. I have also written about giant robot dinosaurs and the most despised candies in the universe.
Last year, I shared the best time to smell the fair. (And yes, there IS a “best time!”)
This year’s fair, which took place Labor Day weekend, was no different in its ability to educate and enlighten. Here are my Top Ten tidbits:
1) There is STILL no better single food item at the fair than the loaded baked potato.
Yes, I love the deep-fried Oreos, giant glazed donuts, and steak ‘n cheese subs (the latter two of which you can get combined, by the way – steak ‘n cheese on a donut!?! Seriously!)…but there is nothing at all like this potato, which features chili, cheese, bacon, broccoli, salsa, sour cream, and jalapenos all piled on top of one enormous spud.
It cost me $13 and every bite was worth it.
2) If you are good at doing one job, be prepared to do every job that is similar to that first job. I am a voice artist and have experience doing recorded voice work (commercials, narration, etc.) as well as live announcing, such as what I do for the fair. However, when the announcer for the tractor pull didn’t show up, guess who was pressed into service? And when there was no announcer for the super-modified tractor/truck pull, guess who got the call? And when the fair needed someone to announce the daily parade that meandered through the fairgrounds, guess who was tagged? After a 55-hour weekend, my voice was crying Uncle.
3) Environmentalists hate tractor pulls.
5) A lot of people in this world do not walk straight. This probably seems like an odd sort of observation, but on more than one occasion I found myself in back of a person I started to walk past, only to have him/her veer in front of me. I would then attempt to cut over to the other side to pass them, only to have them veer back in the other direction. These were not drunk fair-goers, either – they were just drifters, sort of like that car in front of you on the interstate that you’re not quite sure if you should pass or just keep a safe distance behind.
6) Anything can be a breakfast food. One day I overheard a gentleman say to his wife, “Yes!! Turkey legs! Right over there!” at which point he quickened his pace in the direction of said turkey legs. Now, this scene wouldn’t be all that unusual except for the fact that this was at 9:30 in the morning. Not that I’m judging, by the way. I’ve eaten chili, lasagna, and General Tso’s Chicken for breakfast – so it’s nice to have the validation.
7) Hornets are bad-ass.
8) Kids can have the most adult conversations if you let them. Two young boys, who couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old, were walking among the animal exhibits, near the pigs and cattle. One said, “I could never kill an animal!” The other replied, “You EAT animals!” The first one retorted, “Yeah, but they should be allowed to live!” To which the second one responded, “Well, then, you’ll need to find something else to eat.” Right or wrong, carnivore or vegan, these two friends continued their conversation down the path as I turned and walked in another direction. I would love to have known how this little debate ended.
9) Concepts like conservation and environmentalism are totally lost on some people. After watching a demonstration on wildlife conservation at the state Fish & Game Dept.’s building, the ground was littered with flyers from the demonstration. Irony at its worst.
10) The best new fair food item is not something you may be able to order at your local fair. That’s because this is a unique offering by one of our fair’s longtime vendors and supporters, Pat’s Apple Crisp & Cider Donuts. What did they do, and why is it better than anything you’ll taste all season long? Take a look:
That’s a warm cider donut topped with French Vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, cinnamon/apple streusel, and whipped cream. If the loaded baked potato is Heaven on a plate, this is your halo.
You’ll notice I started and ended my list with food. Because really, that’s the best way to enjoy a fair, isn’t it? I hope to
eat consume devour learn more at some of the fairs I’ll be attending with my family.
Have you ever had an unusual learning experience at your local fair? I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to share your story in the comments, below.
And remember, when it comes to eating fair food…you can only eat so much. PACE YOURSELF!
Educator and writer Carol Varsalona has done it again! Following her Winter Poetry Gallery from several months ago, Carol has put together a wonderful look back at the spring season – a blending of words and images she calls the “Spring Symphony Gallery.”
The reason I’m telling you this – as if you haven’t guessed by now – is because I am very happy to be one of the contributors to this gallery! You’ll find metered poems, haikus, all sorts of poetry partnered with photos and other images that bring to life the feelings and emotions of the spring season. (You’ll also find my haiku about wild strawberries)
I invite you to spend some time scrolling through the gallery! And many thanks to Carol for putting this all together. It’s been a lot of work on her part! If that’s not enough poetry for you, be sure to visit Katie at The Logonauts for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!
I also invite you to check out this past Tuesday’s post about my family’s trip to Maine. What do dead seals, bikini tops, Curious George, and VeggieTales have in common? Our vacation! I share some of the highlights using some of the most memorable quotes I heard over the course of the week…so you’ll have to read it to find out!
The family enjoyed a nice, relaxing, and predictably short week in York Beach, Maine and returned the weekend before the 4th of July – which meant spending most of this past week catching up on work (voiceovers to be done), writing (another children’s book manuscript complete and a new one begun), and prepping for the long weekend (aka, cleaning the house).
Once the weekend finally arrived, we managed to find time to pick strawberries, can 10 jars of strawberry-rhubarb preserves, make a big batch of strawberry sauce, bake two pies and a fruit tart, catch the fireworks display Sat. night, and spend Sunday with my folks.
Needless to say, fitting a blog post into all this mayhem was a challenge I simply was not ready to accept! I value my family time – and as important as my blog is, there are other things more important.
Anyway, now that I’m back, I can relate to you my Maine experience. We go up to York Beach each summer, and although it’s just over an hour away, it feels like it’s another world; we live, breathe, and eat the beach, and for someone like me who loves the ocean, it’s hard to not want to stay!
With kids, it’s always a new experience. I shared our exploits from our trip last year, but this year was completely different: our 5-year-old son is now old enough to climb up to the loft bed, splash in the water without fear, and walk the shoreline without having to hold my hand. For her part, our 22-month-old daughter can sleep in a regular bed, interact with her world more, and vocalize precisely what she wants – an ability at which she excelled superbly and excessively, as you’ll see.
Rather than just list some of the things we did, though, I thought it might be more fun if I recapped our vacation via quotes. So I made an effort to write down things I heard that I thought captured the essence of our vacation. Here are my top 10!
“At first, I thought he was my friend – but he wasn’t, so I smacked him.” We were barely 5 minutes into our sojourn to the Land of Moxie when my son uttered these words from the back seat. He was responding to a question from my wife about a spider he thought was crawling on his leg. Turned out it was actually a tick, which is why he smacked it. Had it been spider, it would have no doubt found a home on his knee and taken a little nap, to his joy. But ticks are no friends of ours, so I pulled over and removed it – and then resumed our trip.
“I want Anna!!!” While all the world is in love with Queen Elsa of Arendelle from Disney’s “Frozen,” our daughter is a fan of Princess Anna. Granted, she’s only 22 months, but she is already one of the movie’s biggest fans and already has somehow managed to learn that insidious “Let it Go” song. Consequently, everywhere she goes, if she sees Anna, she wants Anna – and tells us, loudly. This was a quote that resurfaced throughout our entire 7 days.
“Eva!” Speaking of Disney, I have to wonder if the person who repeatedly called out this name one day along the beach realized the scene they were re-creating (click the link and jump to 1:07 to hear what I mean). I’m sure whoever it was, was looking for a daughter or wife – but their voice sounded remarkably like Wall-E!
“I just saw a bikini top!” Now, here’s where you have to realize not everything you hear means what you think it means. At a place like the beach, one is bound to see bikini tops. When one is married, it’s probably not a good idea to mention said bikini tops. In this case, I was telling my wife about some of the images our son and I had seen in the clouds – and I did, in fact, see a pair of triangle-shaped clouds connected in such a way that they looked exactly like a bikini top, complete with straps. Clouds or not, however, blurting out this particular phrase to one’s wife is not something I’d suggest anyone do.
“I want cweam. I want CWEAM!!!” On a short trek into downtown York (15 minutes walking distance), our Royal Highness Her Majesty overheard her mother and I talking about our plans: we’d stop by the park, then they could play at the little beach area, and maybe we’d get some ice cream before heading home for dinner. As soon as she heard the words “ice cream,” she announced her opinion of our plans in her sweetest yet LOUDEST voice possible.
“Is it dead?” This was the question a woman asked me after I waded into the shallow water to examine something floating like a log in the waves. It was dark brown with white blotches and at first I thought it might be a dog, until I realized it was a dead baby seal. Several people had seen it from the shore, but apparently no one had felt compelled to investigate until I came along. My reply to her question? “Well, it’s missing the upper third of its body, so I’m thinking that would be a “yes.” Don’t mess with sharks, folks.
“Curious George isn’t a monkey.” My son said this so matter-of-factly, I couldn’t help but be proud of him. We were at York’s Wild Kingdom, a zoo located right in downtown York, and were visiting some of the monkey cages when he told me his revelation. Monkeys, you see, have tails; apes do not. He and I both learned this fact courtesy of the folks at VeggieTales, and thanks to Bob & Larry, we’ll never forget it:
“I want duck! I want duck! I want duck!” Once again, our daughter exhorting us to help her attain her goals. In this case, it was a seagull she saw along the shore – but telling her it was not a duck did not seem to matter. As far as she was concerned, it was a duck, and she wanted it.
“Is it 6:00 yet?” I can’t recall if it was me or my wife who said this, because we had been living at the cabin for four days already and had yet to get a good night’s sleep – not because of the accommodations, but because the 5-year-old would be in our room, jumping on us, every morning at 6am. On second thought, that’s not entirely true; one morning, it was almost 5:30. Oy…
“That was pretty awesome!” As we were walking along the main road that leads from our cabin to York Center, our son held up a wet, slimy little stone to a woman passing by. It surprised all of us – her, probably most of all – but we quickly learned what it was: his very first baby tooth! We had known his two front bottom teeth were loose, but didn’t realize how loose. We told him we were very proud of him for wiggling it around long enough to pop it out – and that must have given him the impetus to pop the other one out an hour and a half later! That evening at dinner, he sprung this quote on us…and we had to agree. It was pretty awesome.
This will be my last blog post of the month, as the family is packing up and heading off to my remote office starting tomorrow:
Yes, it’s that time of year again when we head off to York Beach, Maine – just over the border, but a million miles from home. In fact, I wasn’t able to post anything earlier this week because I’ve been so busy trying to get us ready for the trip while wrapping up a big radio commercial project I completed for the New Hampshire Association of Broadcasters and simultaneously writing query letters and a new picture book manuscript.
Believe me, if anyone needs a vacation around here, it’s me!
But before I get to today’s Poetry Friday offering, first things first: I need to share a photo of the lovely lady about whom I wrote last week. She just turned 17 years old, and I surprised a lot of folks with that last line.
Cleo has enjoyed a long life of mousing, playing, and generally keeping us all in line…and I worry if she’ll make it to 18. If she doesn’t, we’ll probably find her either on the bed or in the bathtub – her two favourite spots. (What is it with cats and bathrooms??)
Now, then, for today’s poem: something I wrote last year, shortly after we got back from our first trip to York Beach. Interestingly, the poem has less to do with York Beach and more to do with my own memories of visiting the local shoreline as a child two or three times each summer.
The first seashell
I ever found
on my own
still whispers to me
when I hold it to my ear.
at that candy shop
where you could watch them
make salt water taffy
all day, still spins
like a shiny new motor.
And above my head,
atop my bed, The Jolly Roger –
that faded black plastic flag
I won at the arcade
down by the boardwalk –
…….It’s been a long time
…….since we’ve been to the beach,
…….but Dad says
…….this year might be the year.
…….I can taste the salty air,
…….smell seaweed drying
…….under hazy sun,
…….and feel hot sand
.. ….slipping between toes.
I’ll let my seashell –
the first one I ever found
on my own –
lull me to sleep
while my pinwheel motor
spins and spins
with The Jolly Roger
– © 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved
You’ll find all of today’s Poetry Friday links at A Year of Reading, so be sure to check out Mary Lee’s review of a new farm animal picture book, along with lots and lots of poetry! Enjoy the rest of your June…I’ll be back on Independence Day Eve, July 3rd!
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)
My 5-year-old son and his 19-month-old sister couldn’t stand being inside the other day. (truth be told, I couldn’t stand them being inside, either) Temps have been getting a bit warmer lately – even though tonight’s overnight temp is expected to be in the single digits F – and I really can’t blame them for wanting to go outside.
The problem is, there’s not much to DO, this time of year. When we had tons of snow during the winter, it was usually so bitterly cold I didn’t dare bring them out for more than a few minutes. Now that temps have moderated, all we have is hard, frozen snow that will break your back if you fall on it and pathways of grassy mud.
Can’t play on the snow, can’t play in the mud.
But I dressed them in their snow pants and coats and boots and such and let them go outside, anyway, figuring they’d at least get some fresh air for a little while. They ended up (once again) teaching me a valuable lesson.
It’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal
That’s a rule of thumb I learned back when I was first learning about promotions, particularly radio promotions. You can take the simplest, blandest concept and, with enough excitement and hype, turn it into a big deal.
In this case, the kids taught me that what I thought was a big deal…really wasn’t.
Kids being kids, they are adept at finding all sorts of things to play with that aren’t toys – sticks, stones, snow shovels – and the one thing little Babycakes discovered was a puddle on the edge of our dirt driveway.
To her, it was the most amazing, awesomest thing, ever.
And I almost killed her joy.
Letting go of “grown-up” mentality
We grown-ups really have a knack for putting the kibosh on our kids’ fun. It’s something I try to counter by using childlike perspective when I write…but actually putting it into practice isn’t always as easy as I’d like it to be.
You see, my first reaction was to tell her “no,” pick her up out of the puddle, and set her onto our gravel walkway. Which is what I did.
Independent-minded little lady that she is, she immediately turned around and walked right back into the puddle, splashing her feet and flailing her arms in a chaotic, quasi-dance I can only describe as Fred-Astaire-meets-the-Ministry-of-Silly-Walks.
I was just about to tell her no again when I stopped myself. What was I doing? She had winter boots, snow pants, a coat, and mittens. Who cared if she splashed in the puddle???
It was fun, after all – there was no harm being done to anything or anyone – and I could think of no good reason to not let her have her fun.
If one gets to do it, they all have to do it
Her 5-year-old brother, upon seeing what was going on, had to jump in the fray. I watched the two of them, their faces lit up with smiles and love and streaks of wet earth – and couldn’t help but join in.
So there we were, on the edge of the driveway, splashing away…and I can only imagine what the folks driving past our house were thinking:
“Ridiculous waste of time.”
“Such silly, immature behaviour.”
“I wish I could do that.”
They soon tired of it, though, and moved on to other areas around the house – but I was glad I had the opportunity to splash in the mud with them. It got me thinking how often I, or even we as a society, make a big deal out of small things.
It’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal
My son likes to play with kitchen utensils like the spatulas, whisks, and ladles. I once started to get upset with him because he was just making more dirty dishes for me – but then it occurred to me, who cares? Is it that big a deal? No.
My daughter doesn’t eat sandwiches like normal human beings (granted, she’s not yet 2), and instead prefers to separate each piece of bread and then eat them face-forward, like eating a pizza top-down, starting with the toppings and working your way down to the crust. I’ve attempted to stop her – but again, who cares? Is it that big a deal? No! Heck, at least she’s eating it.
And how many times have we stopped what we were doing to leave a comment on a Facebook wall or online news story, when we really didn’t need to? I’ve come to the realization that my opinion about most things doesn’t matter to anyone, so I’m not going to waste my time sharing it.
I’ve mentioned before here that, when you’re an adult, it’s difficult to not be a grown-up. But I’m trying. So I have to throw a few extra clothes in the washing machine, or load a few extra utensils in the dishwasher. None of it is a big deal, unless I make it a big deal.
Oh, and it look like the kids are finally asleep now. I need to go.
There’s a puddle outside with my name on it.
Sharing my newest poem today – something a little bit autobiographical that I plan on including in my winter-themed collection:
Dad likes to clear snow at night.
He says there’s something special about
being outside, by yourself
in the dark and cold
with nothing but the vrum, vrum, vrum
of the snow-blower
chewing up everything in its path
and shooting it skyward
like a winter volcano
erupting in a graceful arch
of snow and ice.
“You get a lot of thinkin’ done,”
“Just you and the machine
and one job to do.”
“It’s a certain kind of peaceful,”
“Clears your mind.”
I don’t really understand
how working so hard
in the dark and cold,
a lone light leading his way,
can be peaceful.
It seems like such…
But maybe I’ll learn
what Dad means
when we get the snow-blower
and both go outside
to clear snow at night.
– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved
Linda Baie is hosting Poetry Friday at her blog, Teacher Dance, so head on over and check out all the links and poetry!