sadly, Kathleen Hanna and I must part ways here: I don’t wanna go to the carnival

I do love that song, though. “I’ll win that Mötley Crüe mirror / If it fucking kills me!”

Here’s how I was going to start this post:

Might I posit something? The surfeit of festivals, celebrations, fiestas, festas, fairs, and other community-minded events that my little town is awash in every summer and fall exist merely to provide value to boring people’s lives. Thus, being as I am a person whose life is full of meaning, purpose, vigor, and drive, these festive events always irk me.

I don’t think this is completely true. I think some of these festivals are useful and there is something wrong with me that I don’t enjoy them very much. But the above is at least a little bit true also, so I’m going to leave it.

In fairness, many of the people who go to and help put on these events are creative, purposeful people with extremely meaningful lives. They just feel the need to mix with their neighbors and friends in a structured, festive way. I don’t feel this need. I throw a party every few months and go to friend’s parties, and once or twice a year I will go to a food-related festival and thoroughly enjoy myself. But when pretty much every summertime and fall weekend brings yet another “celebration” of this or that, I start to get annoyed.

This sounds so incredibly Scroogy, but it is my personal, private (well, no longer private) opinion that there are entirely too many of these damn things and what people should be doing with their time is working. Not working for money, exactly, but working on something meaningful – a garden, a book, an art project not created expressly to be exhibited at a future arts festival, an improved sex life, an outfit, something.

Perhaps I should clarify my position:

I am not talking about:

Yard sales, garage sales, church basement sales, flea markets, library book sales, etc.

Harvest potlucks, farm potlucks, locavore potlucks, etc.

Festivals/celebrations that have a clear purpose (particularly food-related ones like the garlic festival, pickle festival etc.)

Farmer’s markets (obviously).

What I’m talking about are things like:

Celebrations of vague things like “The Arts” (as opposed to a fiddle festival or something specific)


“Name-of-your-town Day” (i.e. Gardiner Day)

Fairs (admittedly these things do have at least somewhat of a purpose – prize tomatoes and all that shit – and it is just a personal defect that they depress me)

Street festivals, oh the goddamn street festivals. The NYC ones are the worst (pretty much just a showcase for cheap crap, ads, and fried food*) but even the upstate ones, which ostensibly showcase regional music, food, and tchotchkes, are pretty much useless, except for leafletting purposes.

“Taste of XXX Town” (the entire “Taste” industry is only useful for restaurants serving mid-priced crap food, and/or big cities. I can understand “Taste of Chicago,” for example, as a way to find out about new restaurants. “Taste of New Paltz,” where everyone knows all the restaurants already, makes no sense to me. But whatever, have at it, what do I care. Maybe it makes money for some restaurants, and god knows it’s hard enough already owning a restaurant.)

Fun fact: In the US we call spun sugar “cotton candy,” in the UK it’s “candy floss,” and in Australia (well, in Tasmania, where this picture was taken) it’s called, apparently, “fairy floss.”  Fascinating, no?

Perhaps if I was a musician or struggling artist or parent I would feel differently. In a way I am a struggling artist, but not the kind whose career will be helped by a street festival. People always tell me I should sell food at these festivals, but I just can’t. I don’t like talking to people about my food, and not to be snotty or anything, but I know it wouldn’t get me clients. Also, my food is most decidedly not festival food – street festival people don’t want to pay $2.00 for a handmade, organic, fair-trade truffle. They want a giant hot dog they can stuff into their gaping maw whilst sitting on a hay bale.

And kids seem to really enjoy these festivals, it seems, and so good for them. And musicians need some place to get their start besides bars.

But if you don’t have kids or enjoy mediocre local bands, mediocre local art or mediocre local food, I’m a little baffled as to the appeal of all these celebrations, especially in a town 90 miles from NYC, where there are such exceptional cultural happenings.

Does that sound snotty and elitist? I fully intend it to. It’s not that there is nothing good happening culturally upstate – there are a lot of great things happening, relatively speaking. But if we are brutally honest, we have to admit that there is not enough great culture being made to justify all these “celebrations.” And – admit it, you know it’s true – the people who are really making the great art are most decidedly not exhibiting it at an outdoor street festival.

It seems to me that attending these events is yet another thing to do to fill up time before death for many people – a chance for people without much imagination to participate in readymade events that will lead to readymade memories. They seem to be shortcuts to a full life, like making a “scrapbook” on the computer from a free downloadable template.

And honestly, I think that there is already enough (TV, mainstream media, etc.) to distract us from the fact that the world is going to hell and we are all living these sad, diminished lives because of endgame capitalism. What we really need to do is first get our shit straight and reclaim a livable world. After that maybe we can have a parade.

But who am I to judge? I just spent half an hour writing about this crap instead of making true art of my own. If I really wanted to walk the walk I would be out selling Stop Crossroads bumperstickers (suggested donation, minimum $1, email me if you’d like one).


Oh my god a teeny 8-week-old chihuahua just passed by in the palm of some crazy chihuahua lady. I’m no fan of purebred dogs, but holy fuck that dog was cute.

Here is how all my blog posts come about:

1) While sitting at the café, I get annoyed at something.

2) I stop doing paperwork to write about said thing.

3) A cute dog passes by. I feel better.

4) I feel stupid about posting so much negativity in a world with such damn cute dogs.

5) Dog goes away.

6) I hit “publish.”


*Full disclosure: DID YOU KNOW THAT FRIED DOUGH IS ALMOST ALWAYS VEGAN? A lump of fried dough with a pound or two of powdered sugar is such an unending treat that it almost makes street festivals worthwhile. When I was a kid living in the Southwest the State Fair had the greatest thing: fried dough with refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and hot sauce (and cheese, for some people – never guacamole or avocado slices though) – amazing. When followed up with a dessert of fried dough with powdered sugar, it was a perfect childhood summertime State Fair meal. And my State Fair was a proper fair – acres and acres of games, rides, exhibits, crap to buy you never saw anywhere else, and one of those ski lift rides that went over the whole thing. I saw my first show at the State Fair when I was two: Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. No mediocre local bands or County Fairs for me, thank you very much. If you’re going to do it, why not take the time and really do it?

11 Responses to “sadly, Kathleen Hanna and I must part ways here: I don’t wanna go to the carnival”

  1. Maggie

    Ah yes, the wonderfully delicious fry bread! I love it! Thankfully we don’t have to wait until the state fair as there are a few fry bread restaurants in the valley now. I think I could live on fry bread.

    I have to say the AZ state fair was better when we were kids. Now that I’m older, realize just how expensive it is and how much I hate people, the state fair is just horrible! They charge so much for everything. I think this year there is a fee to breath the air.

    In a few weeks from now the state fair will be here. I loathe this time of year.

  2. Rachel Rabbit

    I feel compelled to tell you as I feel you will share my horror. My city just had one of those “taste of” things. I went to it to walk around because I thought it would have local restaurant’s foods. Not only was there “Applebees” (Do you have those there? I’m in California) There was Play Boy bunnies toting energy drinks, as well as Monster Energy drink stands and other decidedly not localness.

  3. lagusta

    Really? Wow, that sounds horrible. Unfortunately, Upstate NY has not been spared the Applebees experience so I sadly know the horror of which you speak.
    I’ve never been to a “Taste,” but my mom goes to Taste of Chicago every year for a big veal protest, that’s actually my only experience with the phenomenon.

  4. abovegroundpool

    Whoa. I’m from Tucson, and the bean smear on fry bread is called a “Navajo taco.” I used to eat them out at the mission, Xavier del Bac, and still crave them…. Maybe this is why I still go cruise sad little carnivals. Well that and how the crazy lights look at night.

  5. brittany

    it took me the longest time to realized that “fried dough,” “fry bread” and “funnel cake” were all simply zeppoli. so freaking delicious, good to know about the veganness, and your southwestern version sounds amazing!!!

    also, i should’ve been able to guess about your aversion to festival-for-the-sake-of-festival-ness (and, in a few situations, like the “taste” one, i tend to agree with you)… but does this apply to my secret sneak idea that we talked about too??? :/ (it’s ok if it does)

    • lagusta

      Actually, I was thinking about that today–no, I think it’s different, because I think you’re planning on quality stuff, as opposed to the absolute crap you see most places!! And it helps small businesses (well, I guess a bunch of the other festival thingies do too). And it’s just more my style. ;)


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