Warm Summer Nights and County Fairs

Photo by John Clise

By John Clise

Hanging out at the county fair, listening to Billy Joel, watching pretty girls walk by in the summer 1982. There’s a warm breeze blowing through the sweet Midwestern night. Waving at friends passing by. It was still cool to smoke back then even though it was killing us just the same.

Chewing tobacco was still cool then too. You could chew Red Man and be a man or you could rub a Skoal bandits and be a complete and total loser. It was really up to you.

Cruising up and down the midway in your sweet Jam shorts and matching tank top. You win a teddy bear and give it to a little kid with their parents.

The girls were out in their summer clothes looking divine, sexy, hot, and oh so sweet.

There’s that choice red head. She was so fine, but just a little too bossy for a guy like you. All these years later she’s still quite fine… but still too bossy.

Flirting with that so tall blonde with the blue eyes. She’s flirting back. Later on, you two laugh your asses off watching Benny Hill because people are losing their minds trying to figure out if you two are a thing or not. The spoiler was that you were… just not how they thought.

You see the tasty neighbor girl with her new boyfriend. Who knew he’d l divorce her during their darkest hours 20 years later.

Riding the Tilt-a-Whirl, Scrambler, and that thing the bottom dropped out of when you were being spun around at what seemed like 500 mph 100 feet off the ground.

Stuck at the top of the Ferris wheel with your best friend drinking whiskey from a Pepsi bottle. He says the acid is kicking in. All you can do is smile because you’re already there.

You meet a couple of girls making sexy eyes at you who want to go down to the river. They go to a neighboring high school and have boyfriends away at football camp. You know you have one night, and you’ll never see them again. So, you and your best friend grab their hands and make a break for the gate.

Still tripping you get stopped by a cop at the exit wanting to know what you’re on. “Nothing but teenage lust, officer,” you say. He rolls his eyes and gives you a thumb towards the parking lot.

Down at the river sitting on the rocks by the shore drinking the champagne of beers from a bottle, listening to .38 Special on a totally boss battery-operated cassette player, and talking about anything and everything. Mostly though, their boyfriends. Didn’t matter… you knew it wasn’t serious. It was all just for fun.

After a bit of hot and heavy making out you all hear a cop car and jump in the car escaping the scene just before The Man arrives to investigate the plethora of empty beer bottles.

All these years later you remember their faces but not their names. Maybe you never did. But the short-lived lesson on love that never got much past first base is well remembered even now.

Riding shotgun in your best friend’s Cutlass grooving to Thin Lizzy after dropping the girls off at their house you two head home. Still half stoned, and a little bit drunk you two just smile at each other.

Sitting their looking out the window at the full moon you know those days won’t last forever. A few years you’ll be an adult. County fairs and pretty girls will just be memories. And it makes you savor the moments even more. But just before the moon goes behind the clouds you would swear to God it smiled at you and winked.

That’s the shit right there.


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