Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Be Fair to the Fair (Labor Day Weekend 2003)


Labor Day weekend, time to clog Grubb Road from above I-95 to the pizza place on Marsh Road. 'Tis the weekend of the Arden Fair.
Arden is a strange village, a wooded compilation of shack and mansion, of dark and twisted roads and hand carved street signs where one expects to find Trolls lurking beneath it's bridges and leprechaun's about the woods.
It's not I never venture into the confines of its haunted acres, The Arden Dinner Theatre has been surrounded by this venue for thirty-odd years and over at the Gild Hall (I believe they spell it this way rather than Guild) they hold concerts, story readings and poetry nights, not unexpectedly, for this is their history and their heritage.
Founded in 1900 during part of the Utopia Movement, the Villages of Arden and Ardencroft have their own unique government and somehow both escapes the normal rules of our county and state, yet wields more than their share of influence. Fortunately they don't always win, for they attempted to prevent the building of the aforementioned Papa John's a few years back.  It is not that I buy papa John's Pizza, but that the area upon which the place was built is not in Arden, but sets across the road from their edge in a commercial zoned splotch of stores.  It is across the street from the Arden Steak Shop, which has sat on Arden's corner longer than I have lived on the other boundary. 
They also attempted to have Grubb Road closed to traffic since it runs through the center of Arden. This would have been a major inconvenience to everyone living in the communities surrounding Arden, but they think they are better than us all.
It is an indication of their influence that a decade ago they got a traffic light on the corner of their central cross street.  There is little in the way of traffic that comes out or goes in this street. Just to my side of their line is Veale Road, another major connecting route.  This dead ends into Grubb just where it becomes Harvey and so is a heavy intersection where a stoplight would be very justifiable, but no such light has yet appeared. Why does this show the influence of Arden?  Because in the 1980s I was on the Civic Association Board here in our development and we petitioned for a traffic light at the intersection of our main thoroughfare and the county road. We had to prove the volume out of our development was high enough before the state would approve the light.  This took a couple months of having a counter across the road and of talking back and forth.  We did show we exceeded the threshold and got our light, but that street in Arden seldom has any traffic and would not come near the required floor for a light.
A couple years back, Arden got the state to make Grubb Road at Veale more decorative. At their request and urging, brick pedestrian paths were laid across the two roads where they joined, not that pedestrian traffic is much in evidence at this spot. This closed both roads to traffic for a couple months time and what a nuisance that was since there is no other quick outlet north and west from this area.  The bricks were in place at last and traffic flowed again for about a month and then the road was closed and the bricks removed and some red-colored macadam surface replaced it in these foot lanes. Why?  Because Arden complained that cars traversing the brick made a clicking sound they found annoying.  I forget how many hundred thousand dollars the state spent on these paths, but since they were totally unnecessary to begin with, I would call it a total waste of money.
This is even more frustrating, because under the rules of its charter as a village, Arden is excused from paying any country or state property or school taxes. Obviously, from my last anecdote, they aren't excused from spending the state and counties money. They are also preserved from obeying certain rules of code the rest of us must endure.  For instance, they are allowed to burn their leaves in the fall.  Driving through Arden in late autumn is like driving through the clouds atop a high mountain, except it doesn't smell like high mountain air. We can't smoke a cigarette in a bar, but Arden can smoke up the whole community at will.
To some extent I applaud their freedom, if they would only remember to feel grateful among themselves and not try to impose less freedom on their neighbors.
But never mind, this year, now having some excess of time, I decided to go to the Arden Fair. The Better Half and I walked to it. It would be, I estimate, two miles from our house. It is a risky business to do so.  Arden is apparently also excused from the concept of sidewalks. One must walk, once at their borders, up or down the narrows of Grubb Road, where there is no margin for error between the shoulder space and passing traffic. It is a ledge one walks, varying to no greater width than perhaps two feet along crumbling macadam or gully pocked dirt.

The fair is crowded. It is for some inexplicable reason very popular. But it is not anything of great diversion. It holds none of the entertainment of the Rockford ice Cream Festival, no free live music in scattered venues, no wandering minstrels, no displays of antique and classic cars to see and touch. It offers no expanse of space in which a crowd can fan out and not press upon each individual in clogs and clumps. It is a canyon of streets between the trees cluttered with makeshift clapboard booths. One amazing phenomena being, that for a lane surrounded by woods, it has no shade from the sun. It was a Saturday of high heat and humidity and our faces were red as if we had been to the children's face painting booth and requested to look like boiled lobsters. Sweat gave us a glowing sheen, but glued our clothing to our skin.
And what was there to see. If a child, there were some games or a pony ride. But for adults there was mostly overpriced merchandise to buy.  Arden was founded as a utopia and then evolved into an Artist Colony (Burl Ives, the folksinger once resided here) and today it still is home to such. Each month one passes through to see a newly created sculpture of old junk along the edge of one artist's yard.  This time it was a giant bird whose body was an old acetylene torch tube and it's neck the hose and nozzle. So the booths sold crafts, twisted stick wreaths, candle creations, twisted metal, original paintings, wooden knickknacks and other related doodads.  There was a stand selling weaponry, swords and knives and probably old nazi helmets. They were also selling chances on a SUV.  These latter two named activities seemingly out of place in such a liberal community.
And all these objects up for sale far out of the pocketbook of your loyal narrator and his lady. Ah, yes, nothing like a country fair to jack the prices on useless junk.
Ah, I don't knock their enterprise.  After all, Rockford and the Renaissance Faire sell much the same, but those places give one some diversion and entertainment as well, whereas all Arden seemed to provide to take one's mind off the expensive wampum were booth's selling overpriced food.
But it made a nice walk, a bit of exercise, although the walk to and from, the wandering about while there and the heat as excessive as the fair's fare wore us both out by the time we left.
Our sun-basted bodies did demand a bath, however. The Better Half showered and lay down for a nap.  I took a bath, then because the car was low on gas, decided to fill the tank during the dog's afternoon ride.  My timing could not have been worst. I stepped out at the pump in a torrential downpour, the lightening flashing about me and the thunder rumbling to my feet.  Come on, pump, pump, pump, I don't want to be out here.  Is lightening attracted to gas pumps? (And as at the fare, the price of gas was also juiced up. It is the blackout, the oil companies cry, which force upon us no choice but to gouge you motorists.  How oddly convenient, since they jump up the price every Labor Day weekend.  This year they can blame it on something else other than greed and poor planning.)
I had my second bath. Soaked thoroughly, I plooshed back into the car. Gad, the air conditioning hitting those damped clothes; those just fresh clothes I had put on. I drove home and slogged in to the house on squeaking sneakers, stripped to the skin and toweled off, my clothes falling on the bathroom floor in a sodden heap.
We finished off the day by driving to Drexel Hill and having dinner at Casey's. A cozy booth, good food, dry and comfy and relaxed and with a bill of reasonable low cost. Now that is what I call fair.

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