Pulling through the old swinging gate, rusty metal still flecked with paint, you smile wistfully behind your windshield.
It wasn't so very long ago - no, actually it was, it was an entire decade ago - that you first came here, hesitant, expectant, a little fearful, tires crunching over the freshly poured gravel, marveling at the hordes of other seekers who had shown up at this vacant spot for the very same experience.
Now the gravel is softer, worn down by time and the tread of a thousand startling revelations, a million striking words. Clumps of determined dandelions and opportunistic crabgrass sprout in the lesser trod corners of the parking lot. There aren't as many people here now, but those that do come are still bewitched, beguiled, enthralledby what lies within.
Stepping out into the cool of the autumn twilight, your arms prickle with gooseflesh. You smile at the chill. Autumn always was your favorite season.
In the distance you hear the laughs and cries of the crowd, see the glow beyond illuminating the purpling dark like a halo.
Is this place that profound, that rare, that even the sky surrounding it speaks to you of saviors and enlightmement and redemption?
Perhaps for some - perhaps for you, that is exactly what it has been.
Eyes fixed on that glow, you follow the solitary, snaking path through a field of ripe grain. As you walk, you run your palms along the tops of the heavy, golden heads of wheat as they hunger for the harvest, long for the scythe, for winter and fallowness and rest. You can sympathize.
Glorious scents waft to you on the breeze - salty popcorn, sweet cotton candy and funnel cake. The promises of such glories to be tasted, devoured, digested makes you pick up your pace, hurrying up the hill.
Breathless, you reach the top of the rise and find yourself at the foot of the entranceway, a crimson arch spreading above you.
You have reached the gateway to the fair.
Filled with a wave of nostalgia so great it takes your breath away you walk through, trying not to notice the peeling paint, the bulbs that need replacing. This old girl ain't what she used to be, but that isn't what matters anyway, was never what mattered - not the bright lights or fancy trappings. What always mattered most here were the people, the amazing, astonishing people at this crazy carnival and their words - always the words.
You buy your ticket from a sleepy looking gal in a blue-striped blouse and walk inside.
Unsure of what to choose first - what to choose last- you glance around and then, without warning, a man on stilts careens around a tattered tent and begins to call out to the crowd through a megaphone. "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS, CHILDREN OF ALL AGES...ASSORTED HIPPIES AND NEVERDOWELLS...WELCOME TO THE LJ IDOL CARNIVAL! "
You don't fear the maniacal ringmaster of this writer's circus. For the unindoctricanted, he might seem a bit frightening, a smidge sadistic, certainly a little cruel. For those that looked deeper though, he was the beating heart of everything within the carnival, loving the players and loving the game with a heart so big he had to hide it behind a smirk.
Barkers begin to call out from the various candy striped tents and you spin to listen. What wonders lie within?
"Step right up! Step right up! Little lady, are you looking to discover the wonders of a gloriously brilliant, bawdy mind? No truer tales have been told of the relationships between men and women, of the heartbreakingly laughable state of American politics and of the horrors stories of cities without rent stabilization! Peer inside the murky morals 'Merica and be sure not to miss the reanimated monster with a massive member! Step inside to discover Penpusher! "
Your eyes go wide. Massive member? You could cetainly use some truth telling, some humor tonight!
From a different tent the calls begin anew.
"Steel yourself, kid! Don't even think about coming here if you are afraid of the dark! Bring your ticket over to see Marlawentmad! Never have you experienced the wonders of fairy tales like these - but try not to cover your eyes! Who knew such inky truths lay beneath the surface of simple things - a marmalade cat, a pair of pointy stillettos, a somnolent beauty. Shadowed and twisty as Hansel and Gretel's woods, this tent will make you sigh in recognition with the sting of its often bitter bite. When you step back into the night you'll have left a bit of your soul behind!"
You give a shiver - of fear, of anticipation. You always were drawn to the dark.
A final carnie begins to cry from the steps of a third tent.
"Hide your eyes, my friend, from all that is Messygorgeousif you aren't ready to hear the truth! Like the Oracle at Delphi, her words are from the heart - and hearts were made to be broken. The truth is wilder than fiction! Watch her fearlessly display the shadows of her own past, and breathe life into dusty tales from history as well. Be awed as she weaves the events of these unsettling times into moving works of fiction and irreverent fantasy. Her range will leave you with a chill!
The exceptional offerings form a triptych before you. You find yourself drawn to the laughter that spills from one tent, the darkness looming in the next and the tang of honesty promised from the third.
Truly, you can't go wrong with any of these options. But, you only have one voucher to give.
Squaring your shoulders, you make a final decision and pass your ticket to the gawking barker.
He tips his hat and you step inside.