I loved carnivals as a teen. I would get dropped off just before dark and told that I would be picked up exactly three hours later in the same spot. Sometimes I was meeting up with friends, sometimes they were piled in the car with me and we tumbled out the back seat together. It was a few bucks to get in, a hand stamp and a stop at the fortune teller at the entrance.
The carnivals I went to were never very big, and it was always hot, loud, and the smell of diesel fuel lingered. We would light up a cigarette and pass it around and then head over to the skee ball tent. I remember watching the electric lights of the rides bouncing off the trees, and standing in line for little orange tickets that we would get in exchange for our dollars.
One time I got to stay well beyond my three hour limit. I was sleeping over a friend’s house who lived with her grandmother. My friend confided that her grandmother had no idea where we were and that we could stay out all night. After about four hours we ran out of everything, so we combed the brown grass for half smoked butts and untorn tickets. The tips of our fingers were dirty. It didn’t seem to matter. To us it was a form of freedom.
The music was full tilt. Too loud to enjoy, but we never let on as we jammed to the Blue Oyster Cult or AC/DC while we rode the Matterhorn and Himalaya. Our eyes would follow the ride’s backdrop featuring stenciled images of objectified bodies, and the motionless conductor who led us, first forwards then backwards.
The music is what made it all possible. I snapped the featured image while driving by a carnival this week. It was the icing on my reminder cake. I had already landed back in my teens this past weekend in celebration of Record Store Day. My fingers roamed through every section at ever stop – Rock ballads and pinball music, poetic lyrics and thoughtful cover art. Several years ago I worked at a record store, but my time there didn’t feel nostalgic. The place smelled too much like commercial new. I found no affinity with the sterile rows of records that were later replaced by CD’s. This past weekend brought the magic back. Here are a few spots to check out:
Green Tangerine Records in Dekalb covers a lot of ground with ample roaming space. Most records are worn, and some a bit moldy, but you can still find a pretty decent selection brought to you by a friendly staff. A bonus is that they are moving soon and their new spot will feature live, local musicians.
Mile Long Records in Wheaton has a sleek new design, but the care that goes into presentation, quality of product, and the presence of a genial owner, makes it a nice stop on the vinyl tour.
Purple Dog Records in Naperville uses the most of their small space by carrying a wide variety of new and gently worn records. The staff is super friendly, and if you go during off hours, you can peruse the shop from top to bottom with plenty of elbow room to stack your finds.
Whatever your taste, I hope you are blessed with time to explore. And speaking of Naperville and carnivals, although I haven’t checked them out yet, this may be the year to do it. Naperville Last Fling will be heading into the area early fall. And if not them, there’s always another carnival to discover. Happy Hunting.