When I was a youngster my parents took my brother, Jimmy, and me to the Georgia State Fair in Macon each October. There are two of those short trips I remember more clearly than the rest.
One time was when my cousin, David Dunaway, joined us. David counted Fords while I kept tabs on Chevys going up I-75. We bet on the outcome but there was no money involved, so I think it was okay even for young Baptists.
David and I tag-teamed the other challengers in bumper car battles, then we rocked our Ferris wheel seat with reckless abandon. Everything was copasetic until the tilt-a-whirl ride where my stomach began spinning faster than our coupe. I spread fair food all over our floorboard then ran for the exit ramp, hoping to escape the tattooed operator I assumed would slice me with his switchblade or sell me to the gypsies. I’ve never returned to the tilt-a-whirl, just in case he’s still there.
It’s possible I had eaten too much cotton candy or too many foot-long hotdogs that night. Cotton candy it seems would be a good source of fiber, but it’s never mentioned in articles about healthy eating. A few years back there was a rumor that it’s not made from real cotton. It’s amazing how a crazy story can get told so many times that people believe it.
I don’t know why the foot-long hotdogs were so appealing. We had hotdogs at home, and if we ran out Uncle Emmet kept some in the little upright refrigerator at Joiner’s Store. They came loosely packed in a cardboard box of 50. He would count out however many someone requested then wrap them in white butcher paper. That was before the days of using disposable rubber gloves. I guess that’s why Mama boiled our hotdogs until they split wide open. Even the strongest germs can only stand so much heat.
The other fair trip I best recall from childhood is when I saw Miss Chili Pepper. I was probably eight or nine, but I can’t say for sure. Mama, Daddy, Jimmy, and I walked by the stage where she was smiling seductively at potential patrons. She was gorgeous in her sparkling gold cape and flowing blonde hair. The man with the microphone invited the crowd to see a lot more of her by purchasing a ticket for admittance inside the canvas tent.
We kept walking and I pretended not to notice her. I knew a direct stare could lead to blindness or maybe being transformed into a pillar of salt, but even as a child my peripheral vision sometimes worked too well. I was old enough to know her profession was unseemly, but young enough to think Chili Pepper could be her real name. “Miss Chili Pepper” was emblazoned in big letters on the lighted marquee. She had a perfect name for a star of an imperfect occupation.
I’ve sometimes wondered why she chose that kind of life, or if the choice was hers to make. And I’ve wondered if she danced until wrinkles overtook her, or if she changed her ways and donned the clothes of a nurse, teacher, or a stay-at-home mom. I hadn’t thought about her in a long time, but that moment at the fair came back to me during halftime of Super Bowl 54.
Two famous women in skimpy outfits danced provocatively for millions. It’s not always clear where the line between risqué and vulgar routines is but they clearly crossed it. Shakira goes by one name and I don’t blame her. Maybe her folks made that suggestion. And it seems that Jennifer Lopez, age 50 and a mother herself, would have higher standards. A lot of young people look up to her. She’s known for generosity and is a professing Christian. It’s hard for me to believe that lewd performances define the example she wants to set.
A column by a small-town writer isn’t likely to make a difference in next year’s halftime show. But if enough people let Pepsi and the National Football League know how we feel, then maybe there’s a chance for change. The Super Bowl should be a family friendly event, not an arena for suggestive gyrations so graphic they would make Miss Chili Pepper blush.
There’s probably a more effective way to combat trashy television than contacting Pepsi or the NFL, but I have no idea what it is. Too often I neglect to pray before I plan, or I pray without pausing to listen. That’s where I need to start. After that I’ll give this matter more thought. And if the weather is hot while I’m thinking, I plan to be sipping on a cold bottle of Coca Cola.