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Photograph by Eric Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Beef Timeless Fun

By Eric A. Carlson

"Food is good."

--Frans Heldner

A SPIRITED CONVERSATION TOOK PLACE en route to the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton on the nature of apricots and Howard's role in the disappearance of an empty mayonnaise jar. Jeanne had earmarked the jar for canning apricots, and Howard forgot and threw it away--provoking Sturm und Drang in the family unit. (Marriages have flamed out for lesser offenses.) I asked Jeanne how long it takes canned apricots to age, and was informed that aging is not a requirement--unlike Eskimo fish-cheese (fish bundled up in sealskin), which requires two or three years buried six feet under the tundra to acquire the proper consistency and bouquet.

After being frisked for glass bottles and semiautomatic weapons at the fair entrance, we repaired to the racetrack. A couple of wizened horsemen were selling betting sheets as we walked up. Ernie's Green Sheet and Jack's Blue Card prognosticated winners in each of the 12 races. And I was a fool not to take their advice. Both sheets had X-15 to win in the second--he won--but for some reason I picked Sanger Red. Miss Blue Bayou broke the wire in the fourth, as both sheets predicted, but I chose Bonusita. Lesson learned: Don't try to fathom horseflesh; just go with Ernie or Jack or a wizened equivalent. And don't waste time on place and show bets, which have meager returns. Bet it all to win--and Bon Chance.

Or don't bet. It's pleasure enough to watch the ponies stretch to the finish. I haven't really gambled since 1979, when I lost $339 to robotical but lovely blackjack ladies wearing low-cut gowns in Reno, and almost did not have enough money to skulk out of town on the bus. I blame that night on complimentary aperitifs and décolletage-induced swooning.

The Alameda County Fair is peerless--though I have not yet sampled the State Fair in Sacramento.We roamed and ogled and stuffed our reddening faces with ice cream and still did not see all that there was to see. I could have spent the entire day at the chicken exhibition, but sensed my companions were not as engaged as I at the prospect. Except perhaps for Alan, who exclaimed, "And this is only a small sampling of the countless varieties of chickens." The chickens were splendid in their coats of many colors, with daunting names to match: Golden Rosecomb Hen, Silver Rosecomb Hen, Cochan Buff Cockeril (my favorite--a real Foghorn Leghorn type), Silver Laced Polish Cock, Rhode Island Red. Chickens are mysteriously underappreciated.

At the Hall of Commerce we gaped in amazement at the death-defying cookware demonstrations. Pots and pans magically cleaned themselves after use, knives sliced through solid blocks of titanium--sharpening themselves in the process. Why, you'd be a damn fool not to buy that knife. I caved in and bought a bottle of snake oil labeled "Good for coughs, colds, sneezes, wheezes, and venereal diseases. Makes childbirth a pleasure."

NASA had an exhibit extolling the virtues of astronauts and early Western settlers. In either case, a high degree of self-sufficiency and a tolerance for dried food is/was required. Bob Smith and Dan Barth (who employed a 75-year-old dummy named Max) made a fine pitch that included magic tricks popular with the early settlers (the Chinese Rings) and described how astronauts scratch their nose in space (a pad of Velcro glued onto the face shield).

Outside, cowboys faux and vérité took turns on an ominous mechanical bull that I suspect is a match for any flesh and blood version--it was kicking cowboy ass and appeared to be nuclear powered.

Final Notes: (1) The band Plus One, performing sans musicians in the amphitheater, validates the theory that American civilization has been dumbed down to the level of 13-year-old girls. (2) A sign reading "Beef Timeless Fun" was furled over some barbecue equipment. (3) A mural at the NASA exhibit was titled Mules Through History and Beyond--and depicted a mule in space, snug as a bug in his own space suit.

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From the July 12-18, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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