Exit Brain; Enter Boris

>> Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Tell me: why does the fair bring out the stupid in me? Is it the smell of cotton candy, fried foods (on sticks), and really bad pizza all blended together into a pungent and dizzying aroma that numbs the brain cells? Does complete and total visual overload short-circuit all logic? Or maybe it’s the pig races. Either way, at the fair I tend to spend too much money, make bad decisions, or both.

On the surface, we all had a great time at the fair -- especially the girls. There were Llamas, the aforementioned pig races, bovines, and foul of all shapes and sizes. There were puppets and monster trucks and salsa makers.

And there was kiddy-land. Elizabeth has now surpassed the magical 36-inch mark and could enjoy most of the rides this year. Her favorite ones included long slides that whisked her downward at warp speed. She ran from one to the other, waving her tickets and being picked up and buckled in by strange (but very nice) carnies. Samantha, who is a sweetheart, enjoyed watching Elizabeth and even rode a a few herself, including the much beloved tea-cups and the “whale” ride. It has bubbles!

It wasn’t until we checked the grand total that we doubted it’s good-time value, dollar for dollar. As Michael was quick to point out, we could have had just as much fun and probably spent less money if we’d gone to Disneyland. You know it’s bad when we exceed Disneyland dollars.

“But honey, wasn’t it worth it? The girls had such a good time.”

“Well, despite what American Express wants us to believe, some things are NOT priceless.”

True enough. And sometimes even the cheap things at the fair end up being a big pain in the ass.

Let me start by saying there’s been a lot of “death talk” around the house ever since Klaus (cat #1) died a few months ago and Exene (cat #2) is now dying of cancer. So, when I saw stacks and stacks of little tanks filled with goldfish, I couldn’t help myself. For a mere $5 I was guaranteed to “win” a goldfish by throwing Ping-Pong balls at multicolored fish bowls. Exit brain, enter stupid.

Welcome Boris.

The girls were very happy with their unexpected prize. It didn’t take long for Elizabeth to name him “Boris” -- a terrific name. That evening Michael bought fish food, I cleaned his tank, and the girls enjoyed watching him swim back and forth. “Hi Boris. How are you? Are you lonely?” What angels.

Anyone with common sense would not have high expectations for a fish procured from the fair. But with so much death recently, I was determined to keep the damned thing alive. I planned to purchase a fish tank (even with a filter!), several brightly-colored tank decorations, and maybe even a girlfriend for our swarthy finned-friend (say that 3x fast). What a wonderful opportunity to breath fresh life into the house. A quick Wikipedia check taught us that goldfish can live for 6-20 years! Who knows, Boris may even accompany Lizzy to college someday.

Uh, no.

Boris is dead. We found him this evening. Life span at our house: less than 24 hours. And despite what you may believe, fish don’t always float face up near the top of the bowl. Sometimes they just lie there on the bottom on their sides as if they’re sleeping; except, when you shake the tank, they don’t wake up.

Michael and I decided we should skip the fair next year. That was the final nail in the coffin, so-to-speak. But what if we forget? All we have to remind us are these happy photographs of the girls laughing, riding ponies, and looking at animals. In a year, will we remember the horrible food, queasy stomachs, and discarded merchandise?

Perhaps we should write a letter to our future selves, reminding us that the fair is a loud, thinly-veiled financial and mental black hole. Dear future selves: “Don’t do it! Go to Lego Land, instead. Or the Aquarium. Or McDonald’s. Save your money.” Then we should place the note, along with all the receipts, inside Boris’ fish tank and keep it on our desk.

Oh well. Tomorrow morning I get to explain yet another death to my girls. Sorry sweetheart, Boris has passed away. He was not long for this world. He must have been a very old fish. He’s so lucky he got to spend his last day with you, though. Where is he? Well, I’m sure he’s in fishy heaven.

Or maybe Klaus was just hungry for a snack.

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