No Exit

From what I can remember of Jean Paul Sartre’s play, it was about three strangers trapped in a room that is supposed to represent Hell. As in other theatrical pieces that tackle unnatural confinement (e.g., Tallulah Bankhead’s indelible performance in Lifeboat), the situation starts out friendly enough but rapidly disintegrates into unbearable friction. Everyone ends up wanting to kill each other. But are there any consequences to murder if you’re already in Hell?

My over-simplified take away was if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. Try to make the most of something that can’t be changed.

That is the peace I’ve made with Fort Wayne’s Three Rivers Festival. Held every July it has no purpose other than to enjoy the nice summer weather and encourage people to eat crappy food. Which most of them don’t need.

The focal point of activities is Junk Food Alley with typical carnival fare of corn dogs, elephant ears and taffy. They always sound and smell appealing but never are.

I continue to hold out for something new and healthy and am quite gullible about it. Like the year they introduced onion blossoms. Huge fried onions served with a blue cheese dipping sauce, how marvelous! How greasy! I barely ate a third of it. Their idea of food preparation and mine are quite different.

The Festival started when I was in my teens and seemed hokey as hell at the time. In the days of Woodstock and Altamont, we got warmed over Norman Rockwell. Still, when you’re with young family members who have not yet been fully indoctrinated in my cynicism, it can be fun seen through their eyes.

The Festival starts with a parade on Saturday morning. My one memory from those 60’s events is of the cop from Indianapolis who toured the state doing his motorcycle schtick. As he beguiled the crowd with his riding tricks, a look of self-righteous certitude was frozen on his face. He was the law and you motherfuckers better obey.

The highlight was his signature move. Pulling his knees into his chest, he placed his feet on the seat and slowly pushed himself until he was standing completely upright. With his arms out-stretched he was able to balance the motorcycle as it continued to move forward. Like a Christ on Sugar Loaf, he ruled over the parade.

My brothers and I goofed on that pompous fool for years to come. Our favorite Mad Magazine scenario was of his  bike careening out of control, him thrashing on the pavement in excruciating pain, and the cycle mowing through the crowd of adoring school children. Good times.

Not the cop in question but an example of the technique. Without the sanctimony.

Despite his air of moral superiority, there were flaws in the officer’s thinking. Mainly the kids’ impression of how  terribly cool his stunt was. How easily you could be killed trying to do it was never mentioned.

Thank you for your service, Nimrod.

Howdy neighbor! Three times younger than me, four times as heavy.

As the popularity of Junk Food Alley suggests, portion control is a major issue in this region. It’s surprising one of my favorite restaurants, The Italian Connection, is still in business.

Their pasta is homemade, the sauces are thin but rich, the servings are modest and satisfying. You leave sated not stomach bombed. Occasionally, however, you’ll encounter a local being served an entree for the first time. An expression of “you mean for $12 I only get three ravioli?” comes over their face.

I had a delicious meal there again this summer. In addition to the epiphany of accepting what can’t be changed, as we walked through the restaurant’s parking lot that evening there was another stark realization about my life. Despite my old age I am never going to grow up. I mean, you can’t put a Shroud of Turin touring van in front of me and not expect me to react.

Even though my photogenic days are dog years behind me, the “show people” in me forced me to strike a pose.

 

 

4 thoughts on “No Exit

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