The 97th Cherokee Indian Fair has come and gone. According to the p.r., it was a slick and wholesome event, filled with live shows (comedies, music and "authentic tribal dances), educational exhibits and cultural crafts. I didn't go. Frankly, I miss the "old" Cherokee Indian Fair of the 40's and 50's, a week of sideshows with geeks (they bit the heads off of live chickens), "hoochie-coochie" girls, gambling joints, bingo parlors, a big, loud calliope, a ferris wheel - all wrapped in the pungent aroma of cotton candy, hot dogs and fry bread. Sleazy and vulgar displays with no redeeming social merit. I still remember "The Tia juania Wildcats" and a fortune-teller who told me to beware of red-headed women.
I remember that you could smell the old fair long before you got to it. I specially remember a cold night in October when Uncle Stoogie took me to Cherokee. He was home on leave from the Air Force and pleasantly drunk. I ate three hot dogs, rode the swings and threw up, played bingo until Stoogie was broke, but I won a little pink radio would become the magic door to exotic places, including Sargeant Preston of the Royal Mounties, Mr. Keen and "Suspense."
When other folks talk about their most memorable night, it seems to invariably be something like a wedding, a graduation or a reunion with a loved one. For me, it is a cold October night, riding home with Uncle Stoogie, wrapped in a "Cherokee blanket" and hugging a little pink radio.