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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

 

Come, smell Uncle John's Patchouli-soaked band

I drank a chocolate hemp milkshake on Sunday.

It tasted like caulk. It left seed bits in my teeth.

And it did not get me high.

This is the sort of thing you find yourself doing if you attend the Oregon Country Fair. I went last summer with a colleague expecting to find a few thousand glassy-eyed stoners lounging around a tent city blowing smoke rings into the air. Instead, we found something better and more interesting: an elaborate arts and cultural fair offering some of the best people watching imaginable. A second trip to this year's fair over the weekend wasn't nearly as good as the first but what drug, literal, figurative or absorbed via a contact cloud while standing next to three pot-smoking teenagers while waiting for a tofu bowl could be?




It was also very hot in Verona this year. A weekend of near 100-degree temperatures turned the fair grounds into a drained oasis by the time we got there. The main stage, so plush and filled with lounging people on beach blankets was all but abandoned by late Sunday afternoon. Fair volunteers had to patrol the paths with watering cans to keep the place from turning into a dust bowl. Topless girls wandered through clouds of dirt through neglected corners of the fair grounds wearing goggles and bandannas over their faces, looking like extras from one of Hunter S. Thompson's acid-torched epithets for the '60s. It all looked so very weird.




While the heat put the damper on some of the musical performances, it only encouraged people to take their clothes off. Depending on your tastes, this wasn't necessarily a good thing. As for myself, I could have done without the overweight, Aboriginal, didgeridoos, mostly-naked, hippie parade. This also goes for the guy in the loin cloth who jumped in front of my sister's boyfriend to demand his ticket after sputtering "I don't bite but I will if you'd like."




But that's why I go to something like this: for the cultural shock. Fairly tame, PG-13-level culture shock but culture shock nonetheless. People tell me that things really get wild after hours every year after the staff close things down and run amuck. Oh, well. I'll probably never get a chance to see all that but after five hours in Verona I've once again filled my annual quota for vegan food, body odor and exposed flesh covered in florescent-paint depictions of benevolent celestial bodies. Thank you for that, gentle hippies.




Also: I put together a Flickr gallery of photos from this year's fair. It can be found over here.

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