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SCHOOL CLOSINGS

Mesa Musings: Was it really worth avoiding the fair?

Looks like I ended up cutting off my nose to spite my face, as my sainted Kansas grandmother used to say.

What does that corn-fed expression mean? Out of pique, we can end up damaging ourselves more than the object of our scorn.

Case in point: I've made it no secret that I'm not exactly enamored with the Orange County Fair. I've lived two blocks from the fair for 36 years, and within a mile of the fairgrounds since 1952. Proximity has not made the heart grow fonder.

Perhaps the fault lies with me. There's a chance that I've become a crotchety old dude, but I see the fair as a noisy, pollution-spewing, smelly nuisance that annually disrupts my quiet neighborhood.

And, every year, the auto traffic is a pain in the derrière.

On my block, one can't ignore this intrusive neighbor. It lurks daily on our public streets, in our backyards and, on warm summer evenings, it penetrates our dining rooms, family rooms and bedrooms.

We used to put up with it for one week each summer. Tolerable. Now, it lasts an interminable four-plus weeks!

I've probably attended the fair 50 times in my lifetime, but not once in the past decade. I'll likely not return.

I'm over it.

Yeah, I know, Fair & Event Center Chief Executive and President Steven Beazley boasts that the fair has never been more popular. It attracted record numbers this year. Well, la-de-DEEP-FRIED-dah! I am not moved.

I concede that I may be the only guy in the Western Hemisphere who feels as I do, but I can live with being Costa Mesa's solitary summertime Grinch.

This year I decided to do something tangible in regards to my personal O.C. Fair kerfuffle.

Six months ago I deliberately scheduled my summer vacation to coincide with the run of the fair. Rather than allow myself to grow increasingly agitated as the fair's opening day approached, I was able to don a smug smile.

"When the fair is ON, I'll be GONE!" was my mantra.

So, where'd we end up spending four weeks? Alaska? Prince Edward Island? Lake Tahoe? Nah.

We were smarter than that! We went to the East Coast.

So much for my nose remaining attached to my face.

Did I mention that the East Coast experienced perhaps its hottest summer ever this year?

Everywhere we went — Raleigh, N.C., Washington, D.C., Philadelphia — we endured sauna-like conditions.

We melted.

I attended a theater production in North Carolina, and when the curtain went up at 7:30 p.m. it was 105 sopping degrees!

We went through a thunderstorm at 4 p.m. near Richmond, Va. Just before we hit the rain, our rental car's thermometer registered an outside temperature of 97. The rain hit, and for 10 minutes it was 81. The rain stopped and it immediately spiked to above 100.

We walked Arlington National Cemetery in three-digit misery! I thought I might actually become a permanent Arlington fixture before sundown.

When we spent a few days at a North Carolina beach resort, temperatures on the beach were in the high 90s and low 100s, with nary the hint of a California onshore breeze. The Gulf Stream water was warmer than a spa.

Refreshing it wasn't.

At 10 p.m. one evening, my wife and I sat on our daughter's North Carolina deck and watched the heat-lightening jump dramatically from one cumulonimbus to the next. The thermometer in the screened-in porch registered 101. We prayed for rain to cool things down, but it never arrived that night.

Another evening, I went outside to watch my grandkids play soccer in the backyard. As I watched, my head became swathed in a battalion-sized swarm of gnats. I almost choked to death.

And now, I sit in my cool Costa Mesa abode — thankful to be home — and apply balm to a hundred mosquito bites.

Mementos of a tarnished expedition.

Next summer? We'll probably stay home.

It's been a while … maybe we'll take in the fair.

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.

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