Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pupdate: Woof-Ro-Dah!

 Dharma used to be brave, but then he took an arrow to the knee
... which sounds very cruel when taken out of context.

Another post about Abilene

This post is going to sound outdated, but when I browse through this blog in several years, most of these entries will appear bundled and cluttered together and writing a post two or three weeks after the event will seem pretty miniscule.

A few weeks ago, my sister planned to visit my parents’ house to celebrate Thanksgiving since we’re all working on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, my parents were celebrating their wedding anniversary out of town, and with the exception of ramen noodles and canned ravioli in the pantry, neither of us could cook anything worth a two day, three hundred mile road trip. So instead, my dad and I drove to Abilene, Texas. There was even less food to cook, but we’re used to eating out. Even though I didn’t bring a camera, I could almost insert pictures from my previous visits to appropriately illustrate our time there; there wasn’t a single new site that I haven’t document or couldn’t pull from my recent memory. And throughout our visit, I thought a lot about the cycles that we keep, the traditions that we uphold and the nostalgia that we retain. In most regards, we’re all byproducts of our past, and even though we’re not attempting to recreate our past, it’s comforting to experience something so familiar to us.

This is going to sounds petty and bitter, but it’s true. Throughout our childhood, our mom promised us many things, and more often than not, she lied to us. There have been countless amounts of times where she’s promised to take us to the zoo or watch a movie; sometimes, they were simple and other times extravagant like taking a train to Dallas, Texas, where we’d spend all day exploring different sites. When I was younger, I could hear the excitement in her voice and the casual assurance that it was a clear and definite plan; my mind would race throughout the night fantasizing different stores and places and random happenstances that would make our day last forever. And on the next day, she would get called into work or she decided to work extra or she would train for another marathon and lost track of time. Even at the time, we realized that she was a single mother supporting a house and two children, and she needed to work long stretches at a time. And in hindsight, she probably needed to lie to her herself just to stay motivated. But make no mistake, we were the victims. If you’re a parent and you’re reading this post, don’t promise to spend time with your children and continuously disappointed them; they’ll be cats and often times cradles involved. Needless to say, but my sister and I are fairly accustomed to disappointments. And even though Thanksgiving has been the only semi-regular holiday that our family has celebrated together, it’s not the single most surprising thing that it’s been neglected another year.

On the way to pick up my dad, who lives in the complete opposite direction of Abilene, I started to listen to Christmas songs. Admittedly, playing Christmas songs a week before thanksgiving seemed a little premature, but it was calming to hear the familiar words and vinyl-like crackles from classic holiday tunes. Even my dad mentioned that he listened to Christmas song to help him fall asleep, and for a while, we listen to the soothing jingles as we drove through the highway with its warm, sunlit grasslands and tall golden weeds bobbing in the wind. The drive felt the same; the road was straight with minimal construction, and the sky was blue with streaks of puffy white clouds. It’s a little known fact that most travelers despise passing through Texas with its flat, desolate grasslands and never-ending roads that stretches deep into the horizon. Sometimes it’s hard to deny the monotony of the drive. The highway provided the forced opportunity to slow down and take in the passive surroundings from the slight, incremental changes of small towns to fields of grazing cows. In a sense, it’s purgatory, an interim between where you’ve been and where you plan to go. While he was fiddling with his tablet, my dad accidentally muted the GPS, and we watched our small blue arrow drift further and further away from the calculated route; for a while, it looked like we could just drive pass our destination forever. On the small screen, we watch our map slowly expand as we continued through the highway, and it further reiterated the phrase, ‘If it wasn’t this, then it would be something else.’

Of course we turned around, and by the time we reached the nearest exit, I could practically find our way to my sister’s apartment without assistance.

Earlier in the day, just minutes before picking up our dad and hours before reaching our destination, my sister called and asked, “So what do you guys want to do in Abilene?” It’s a simple and stirring question, both a reflection of our poor planning and what the city had to offer. We only planned the trip the night before leaving, and we weren’t even sure if our dad would be interested in the overnight venture. To be completely honest with you, my dad and I were planning to go to Six Flags, an amusement park in Arlington, Texas, and it took a while to sober from my disappointment. I don’t want to shy away from acting my age, but at the time, I really wanted to go to Six Flags with my dad. And even though I’ve always had a great time in Abilene, I’d seen most of the town’s attractions. So while I was reeling from my regressive desire to visit an amusement park and mentally searching through the catalog of Abilene’s main attractions, I decided on the zoo.

As Abilene’s number one attraction, the zoo provides a plethora of species spaciously enclosed inside a small outdoor park. I’d been to the zoo on my previous visits, and I’m a little surprised that I haven’t written about it. For a small zoo, it’s pretty amazing. When I visited the San Antonio Zoo with my friends last summer, it was fairly overwhelming; there were hoards of people, confusing pathways, and by the time we saw all of the primary animals, we were exhausted. It was just too big, and the enclosures had the animals so far back from the guardrails that they felt disconnected from their visitors. The Abilene Zoo provides an inclusive environment where most of the animals felt closer and even the ones in thick and spacious enclosures could be easily spotted. The zoo itself felt like an extension of the public park with its green lawns surrounding a man-made lake. With its simple layout, visitors could easily walk around the zoo’s perimeter, browse through the two indoor facilities, and see all the zoo has to offer in less than two hours.

It’s hard to write about a zoo without including too much or too little details. Whereas some animals warrant a passing glance or a slight pause, others could be watched and enjoyed for hours. For the sake of time, I’ll just mention a few. On the shore of the lake, there’s a concrete lookout where visitors can feed hoards of ravenous carps (and the occasional duck whose grown accustom to fish food). With their gaping mouths and dead, on-looking eyes, it’s hard to deny the fishes’ conditioning over the years; the carps moved in swarms and piled onto themselves as if trapped in a net. They desperately needed the food, and I wondered what they ate whenever the zoo’s attendance was low. In the middle of the giraffes’ enclosure, there’s an arching concrete bridge where kids and adults can feed the giraffes crackers through the metal guardrails. At the peak of the bridge, the giraffes waited, necks extended, for their prize; their tongues wrapped around the elongated crackers like a hand securely grabbing a treat. It’s very impressive, and I don’t know why other zoos don’t offer similar attractions. And last but not least, there are the otters. At the Fort Worth Zoo, there’s practically a small aquarium devoted to the otters; raised above the ground, visitors can follow multiple window panes as the otters pace through the water, back and forth, back and forth, for hours. At the Abilene Zoo, the otters had a pool roughly the size of two or three relatively large hot tubs. But they still had a great time. In a row, the three otters hopped about on land before they dived into the pool and swam to and from its shores.

Later in the evening, we met Roy, my sister’s boyfriend, for coffee. They’re planning a trip to Hawaii in January, and they discussed flights and living arrangements. Our relatives live in Hawaii, and even though we’ve visited Hawaii several times when we were younger, it will be the first time either of us have planned a trip to Hawaii for pleasure instead of primarily seeing family. When I was younger, I slightly resented going to Hawaii; every time we went, it felt like we were overwhelmed by the affection and nostalgia of our relatives, by their numbers and questions and noise. And at times, it was hard to imagine Hawaii as a place to relax, a soothing escape from everyday life where people could take it easy. So it’s great that my sister's planning a vacation there with her boyfriend, and as adults, I hope they’re able to enjoy themselves and relax.

On the next day, we watched ‘Pitched Perfect,’ which I probably enjoyed more than I’m willing to admit, visited my sister’s ambulance station, and started on our way home. There were a lot more cars on the highway than I expected for a Sunday night, and I wondered where they all were headed. I assumed they all had their reasons; it’s like pulling up to a car and seeing someone with their dog in the passenger seat. When you have a pet in the car, you’re usually not going to work or buying some groceries or going to the mall. It’s an occasion, a planned event with a clear and definite intention whether it’s to play at the park or visit the vet. All of these people on the road were coming from somewhere and going to somewhere else. And I hoped most of them were going home to prepare for the week ahead and they were coming from a someplace like Abilene, where I enjoyed familiar sites and the supportive company of my sister.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pupdate: These aren't the droids you're looking for...

...These aren't the droids we're looking for.
Keep in mind, the armor's not very protective
and it may distort your shooting ability.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Last week, I ordered a printed t-shirt, and I was finally able to wear it yesterday.

While we were going into a store, a group of girls said they liked my shirt.
Seriously, where were these shirts when I was in high school.

I finished reading 'Catcher in the Rye' by J. D. Salinger several weeks ago, and even though the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, constantly swears and repeats every other line of his inner monologue, he's still regarded as one of the most relatable fictional characters in American literature.

Throughout the novel, Holden recounts his experiences after being kicked out of a prep school, and it's not a new occurrence. He's been kicked out of several other schools because he hasn't applied himself and he's too distracted by students and teachers acting phony. Instead of staying on campus until Christmas break, he decides to stay in New York City for a few days where he's consistently dismissed by adults as being an immature teenager. In a lot of ways, he just wants to talk to someone, but they're either too focused on their jobs or other trivial distractions. Eventually, he decides to visit his younger sister, Phoebe, and his demeanor shifts from cynically dismissing everyone as being dicks or phonies to admiring her child-like innocence. And he admits that the only thing he really wants to do in life is to be a catcher in the rye, a character devised from a misquoted line from a Robert Burns' poem, 'if a body catch a body coming through the rye.' In his mind, he wants to be in a field full of kids passively playing and running around, and whenever one would fall off a cliff or stray too far away, he would catch them before it was too late. In many ways, Holden is somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, and instead of exposing children to the vulgarity and complexities of adulthood, he wants to preserve their innocence and maintain the simplicities of childhood. Afterwards, he browses through a museum where he occasionally visited when he was younger, and he likes it; all the displays and exhibits were exactly how he remembered them and nothing ever changed. In the end, he just wants to move away, somewhere no one knows him and he could start fresh, but he eventually decides to stay at home to be with his younger sister and enjoy her youthful innocence while it lasts.

It's a short book, usually a mandatory novel in every high school AP English class, but it's a classic that has influenced readers beyond the required course curriculum. Personally, I would have hated this book if I had to read it for high school. With its brash and unlikable protagonist and its aimless plot where nothing really happens, it would have been a chore to skim through each chapter every night and take a multiple choice test on certain events and characters every morning. But it's a book that's appreciated by its casual readers, people who feel on the outside and no one really understands them. And in a way, the book allows Holden to be the catcher in the rye; he's able to preserve readers' innocence by reminding them of a simpler time and reiterates that they're not alone.

Regardless of how you feel about Holden, you have to admit that he falls into his own criteria of a phony. Throughout the novel, he acts differently around certain people, his inner monologue differs from what he says out loud, and he blatantly labels every single person that he encounters as one dimensional caricatures. There's nothing really sincere or original about him (with the occasional exception of his red hunting cap), and it's easy to dismiss his vapid judgment as immature or misinterpreted irony. But he also has a point. We've all been in a situation where we've acted superficial; whether it's being friendly to someone you hate or dressed a certain way to fit in. And you can either dismissively label someone as being fake or you can attempt to imagine them complexly.

It goes without saying, but this book (and most others) would be dull and seemingly irrelevant if you don't imagine its characters and objects complexly. This book has stood the test of time because it works so well under the microscope with its metaphorical resonance and deeply flawed protagonist. On the surface, Holden appears to be an irrational, judgmental teenager who doesn't really seem to care about anything, but continuously throughout the novel he exemplifies his pure and untainted desire to connect with people. That's all he wants to do.

Holden's conundrum is best explained through Peter Berger's famous quote that I'm blatantly ripping off from a vlogbrother's video, 'the difference between dogs and people is that dogs know how to be dogs.' As people, we have all of these emotions and ideas to spread, but we're confined within the limits of social norms and the scrutiny of others. When you're younger, it's socially acceptable to blurt the first thing that comes to mind and randomly hug someone you care about, but as you get older, you have to filter what you do and how you do it. In a sense, it's maturity, and the antithesis of being a phony.

It's easy to view Holden as a deeply complex character because we're used to analyzing characters from fictional movies and books, but sometimes it's less intuitive to assume those same complexities within the people around us. Logically, real people are immeasurably more complex than fictional characters, and instead of empathizing with every single person that we meet, it's easier to just label them as one dimensional characters going about their lives.

Personally, I don't view the text, 'Holden Caulfield thinks you're a phony' as an accusation or pretentious judgment bestowed upon anyone, but it's a reminder that we should all attempt to empathize with one another and imagine each other complexly.

And lets be honest, the t-shirt gets ubber nerd points.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pupdate: merry ... day

Since most of these drawing blatantly avoid current events, I thought
this suit was the only costume not associated with Halloween.
Plus, Dharma looks really good with a beard.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I've had a fairly uneventful weekend, and I'm still spent 
from writing my previous blog post so ... kitten.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pupdate: hi there

Dharma is a good tracker, and he is trying to find the-- Point!
It should be noted that he stole nano's milk bone when she
wasn't looking, and she would be happy if he stopped.

Remembering the State Fair of Texas

A couple weeks ago, we visited the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, Texas. The three week event offers a small plethora of indulgences from over-sized carnival foods, gripping thrill rides, multiple performance stages, and expansive museums and exhibition halls. Under the towering gaze of the 52 foot cowboy statue, Big Tex, and the largest Farris wheel in North American, the State Fair of Texas proudly exemplifies the phrase, ‘Everything is bigger in Texas.’

There he stood and told me, 'Howdy' for the last time.

And bigger isn’t always better. On this blog, I’ve tried to write a post every other week describing the events of my time off work to preserve my memories and reiterate how I value my time and experiences. And even though I had a great time at the State Fair of Texas, my original attempts to write a blog post about the fair sounded petty and slightly pessimistic. I don’t want to sugar coat my experiences in an attempt to make my mid-twenties sound rosy and perfect, but at the same time, I don’t want to hold any grudges. I don’t want to flaunt my experiences and then appear ungrateful for the opportunity to experience them, and I don’t want it to sound like I thought it was a waste of time. Instead of posting a somewhat forced and trivial rant about all of the fair’s faults, I took a week to question why I took the event’s shortcomings so personally. And I realized that unlike most local events that I’ve annually attended and often missed during my college years, the State Fair of Texas didn’t grow-up with me. When I look back on fond memories at the fair, they’re perceived through the eyes of a child; they’re casually strolling near the lagoon in the early autumns’ heat or letting my imagination loose through the nature and science museum. Now that I’m an adult (and they started charging separate admission fees for each museum), it’s different. I’m not going to pretend that it was better than expected or it’s been improved since I last attended the event, but it’s worth noting, even it’s just buried somewhere in my blog.
It was slightly cold with a cloudy overcast throughout the day, and we after walked through the entrance gates, we were greeted into the main plaza of the fairgrounds by Big Tex. Due to the weather, it seemed slow for the weekend, but from the very start, Big Tex never lost his fanfare with dozens of people taking pictures with him at any given time. And even with his massive ten gallon hat and flag strutted long sleeve shirt, I remembered him being bigger. I mentioned it to my dad, and he suggested that Big Tex looked taller because I used to smaller. Maybe it was true, but it was chilly so we ventured through the one of the exhibition halls. Located on either sides of the park were two exhibition halls with a wide variety of businesses and serves; one building was a standard convention hall and the other one was converted from a large basketball stadium. Unlike the dozens of clothing and kitchenware booths impractically scattered throughout the buildings, both exhibition halls featured display beds from the Mattress Firm right in front of their entrances. The beds appeared to be a hit with several people casually lying on the display models, some while talking to spouses while others kept their hands crossed with their eyes shut. I don’t know if they attracted any customers, but I liked it. And I suggest that every major event should have display beds to rest on (excluding people with lice; I’m sure you understand). There’s something to be said about the familiar booths, the ones that you’ve come to expect at every fair like the hot tube displays, kitchenware demonstrations, and homemade fudge booth; they’re so consistent, usually in the same spot with the same servers every year. There were electronic grand pianos that any child from the audience could play, handmade grandfather clocks no one dared to touch, and mounds of skinned cow hides that kids delicately brushed with their palms. And even though they attracted less people, I still enjoyed the novelty booths like one that sold 3D toilet seat covers and a candy shop-like booth that served several trays of handmade, freshly baked dog treats. There was at least one tent solely devoted to smaller businesses with ethnic crafts, jewelry, and hand stitched clothing. And it reminded me that it matters how we spend our money. It’s easy to dismiss buying something that we don’t need as trivially indulgences, but when we buy something, we’re supporting their cause and providing a demand for their business.

 As we walked around, I noticed how resentful the ice cream sellers 
appeared at the cold weather. It was slightly funny and depressing.

It was a little past lunchtime so we followed the crisp aromas and crowds of people through the flow of food booths surrounding the Cotton Bowl Football Stadium. It’s kind of a big deal. Per tradition, annual awards were given for the best and the most creative fried delicacies, and the fair has even appointed itself the fried food capital of the Texas. It’s on their website; they seem rather proud of it. To many of its visitors, this is the fair’s main attraction. And to be fair, there aren’t a lot of places where you can purchase deep fried beer, cheese cake, and cookie dough within walking distance. And on a day-to-day basis, that’s probably a good thing. This year the judges awarded deep fried jambalaya as the best tasting fried food and fried bacon cinnamon rolls as the most creative. Personally, we’re traditionalist, and I had a foot long corndog while my dad had fried shrimp with fries. As my dad purchased the corndog, my sister called and mentioned that the history channel had a segment on corndogs where they claimed that the Texas State Fair had one of the first and best corn dogs in the nation. And to be frank, I concur. The deep fried cornmeal remained crisp and impossibly moist from the soft and juicy hotdog, and it was something to both cherish and indulge. In a small nook of the fairgrounds, there was a wine and beer tasting area devoted to local vineyards and breweries across the state. In contrast with the fair’s larger than life affairs, the small plaza was simple and elegant with its patio tables, soothing music, and ever flowing water fountain, and you could tell this was the place where adults retreated after letting the kids run wild.

Afterwards, we stopped inside a building lined with small metal cages. At any fair, rooms with small metal cages usually contain chickens or rabbits; loud rooms contain chickens, and quiet rooms contain rabbits. Fortunately, our room was quiet so we perused through aisles of adorable little bunnies. Actually, most of them were large with oversized neck girths and excess skin rolled over in mounds of fur; they were like a cross between a tribble and Jabba the Hutt. Several of them had red and blue ribbons pinned to their cages, and I honestly couldn’t tell you how they were judged, whether it was by coat thickness or their weight in pounds. The building was in conjunction with other rooms and a small arena meant for animal performances. Unfortunately, we missed the dancing dog shows and the pig races didn’t start until the later in the evening. And even though I initially scoffed at the idea of dogs dressed in costumes while jumping through hoops, I was genuinely sad that I missed them.

Because he was slightly overweight and a winner at life.

As we continued to walk around, we stumbled on the last few minutes of Killdare’s set on their rotating performance stage. Based in Dallas, Texas, the Killdares blends their traditional Celtic skills with modern rock n’ roll to seamlessly integrate both genres into something new and refreshing. As their session progressed, more people shuffled from the bustling pathways, and onlookers were encouraged to crowd the stage and clap along with their songs. With each stroke of the fiddle precisely timed with the bass guitar and drums, the band displayed passion usually reserved for concert halls and sold out shows. And by the time the bagpipe chimed in for its solo, you could tell the audience was hooked into something unique and special.

On an earlier blog post, I mentioned that my dad rarely passes the opportunity to eat a turkey leg, and as we past several booths with turkey legs, I thought that this might be one of those occasions. But then we approached a food booth that defied logic and reasoning. On a rotisserie grill the size of a shed’s roof, there were literally hundreds of turkey legs uniformly basking on the heat like a large, well-trained army sweltering in the sun. People literally stopped near the side of the booth just to take pictures, and they had at least two workers running along the sides of the grill collecting buckets full of turkey legs to dispense to waiting customers. And I admire my dad’s commitment to moderating his diet and bettering his health, but at some point in time a turkey slaughter occurred, and we could not let them die in vain. While my dad was purchasing a turkey leg, I felt like eating onion rings. Fortunately, the booth across the turkey leg venue sold dinner sized proportions of side dishes. Between the duo, I swear that they were trying to give someone a heart attack. The second booth served hefty stacks of chili cheese curly fries, rolling pin-like corn dogs, and of course, onion rings the size of donuts. Wedged between the two booths was a picnic area tucked beneath several shady trees. And as I glanced at teenagers and families posing with their oversized carnival foods for impending facebook profile pictures, I couldn’t help but think of how Americans were perceived by the rest of the world. Until you’re in that picnic area, it’s hard to conceive that a nation can be so overweight while a large portion of the world goes hungry. And it’s events like the state fair where we drown those ever present flashes of guilt with gluttony and arrogance, with loud music and distractions, because we want to enjoy ourselves. And the food was delicious.

The largest Bar-B-Q in the world, weighing 27 tons and able to simultaneously 
cook a thousand turkey legs at once. And it’s American.

I had majority of dad’s turkey leg, and for a while, I carried one or two of the giant onion rings that I couldn’t finish eating as we looked through the carnival portion of the fair. I usually attempt to learn from other people’s mistakes, and even though it’s a work of fiction, I didn’t want to recreate the infamous carnival ride scene from ‘The Sandlot.’ Even so, there was a wide variety of rides that offered several different movements from side to side, up and down, and loopty loops. Throughout the crowd, several people carried giant stuffed bears, inflatable hammers, and one or two impossible to win electric guitars from the ring toss booth. It all seemed fun and slightly nauseating, but that may have been the onion rings.

And then I turned away because I felt slightly nauseous.

Eventually, we reached the Fair Park’s longstanding concrete buildings, the Hall of State and the twin Automotive Buildings. Originally built in the 1930’s, the plaza represents the state’s best Art Deco architecture with their clean, elegant lines and simple but bold metal statues. The auto show was conducted inside two exhibition halls divided by a rectangular lawn of water; one building exclusively had American vehicles while the other one had foreign models. We strolled through the masses of brightly colored cars, and I watched teenagers pose for pictures in the driver’s seat while kids pretended to erratically drift in others. For the past eight years, I’ve driven a Chevrolet Aveo, and even at the time, its best feature was its price. And with its condition slowly declining, it’s different to browse through an automotive show as a prospective buyer instead of fanatic daydreamer. I found myself gravitating toward practical hatchbacks with reasonable gas mileage instead of pinstriped sports cars with leather seats. And even though the show lost some of its allure, it offered a wide selection of cars and choices.

[I didn’t take any pictures of auto show because I accidentally 
smeared turkey leg grease on my camera’s lens.]

Next, we walked past the concrete steps and the ethnic dance performers in front of the Hall of State and into the Girl Scout’s 100th Anniversary exhibit. And I’d like to emphasize the importance of clubs and how the associated has shaped the growth and development of females across the nation, but I wasn’t particularly interested. At the door, there were several volunteers greeting visitors and even more volunteers were scattered throughout the three halls readily available to answer and questions or describe key events in the club’s longstanding history. There were vintage shashes with worn colored patches and old camping manuals behind glasses cases, and the main hall looked impressive with a massive Girl Scout emblem projected onto the back wall behind several iterations of Girl Scout uniforms. But at the same time, the exhibit just felt like a giant recruiting office for parents and their little girls, and besides the main hall, the other two rooms just displayed miniature dioramas of their camp sites. Still, it was interesting to browse through the history of Girl Scout cookies, and one of the volunteers mentioned that there were fried Girl Scout cookies available throughout the fairgrounds.

I don’t know why, but strangers always look awkward whenever 
you pull out your phone and take pictures of them.

By this point in time, we were fairly tired. According to my phone’s GPS, we walked a little over four miles in four hours throughout our stay at the fairgrounds so we lingered around one of the Hall of State’s pillars and watched the ethnic dancers perform near the concrete steps. It was late in the afternoon, and even though it was chilly, a large audience accumulated around the simple ground level stage. Dressed in beads and feathers, the musicians played several wooden flutes and drums while the performers danced in elaborate feathered headpieces and several beaded bracelets around their wrists and ankles. As they moved in unison, the rattling complemented the music, and at times, became the only source of sound. It was fun, and as their set progressed there were several times where they asked members of the audience to join them. Throughout the three week event, multiple performance groups danced on the modest stage, and their cultures varied from Irish jigs to African ceremonies. And while it’s enjoyed by audiences of all ages, it’s one of the few events at the fair that embraces culture and makes any real attempt to educate or inform its viewers.

Since we entered the fairgrounds, we noticed a thickly draped fence around the placid lagoon where I remembered strolling throughout in my youth. On the other side of the lagoon rested the nature and history museum, the place where I spent hours as a child. And before we left the fair, we made a fairly solemn attempt to reminisce through the life-size displays of dinosaurs and spacious interactive learning centers where kids could develop their sense of wonder and curiosity. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.

The exhibit cost money, but the extravagant entrance sign was free.

New to the fair, the Chinese lantern festival was held on the lagoon to celebrate the impending Chinese New Year. The exhibition featured varied paper lanterns harmoniously lit across the waters accented by extravagant set pieces from Chinese folklore. At least that’s how I imagined it because the exhibition charged a 10 coupon ($5.00) admission fee, and we weren’t particularly interested in paying for it. Instead, we assumed there was a way around the lagoon to visit the public portion of the nature and science museum. For a while, we walked along dark walls of the impervious vale, but there was no way around it. Later, I checked on the Fair Park’s website, and after paying $5.00 to enter the lagoon, you have to pay an additional $1.00 per person to enter the nature and science museum.

I don't normally curse in text, but that's bullshit.

When I was younger, the nature and science museum was the highlight of the fair. It's a place where science seemed fun and accessible, and it made an otherwise confusing and highbrow subject matter feel practical and interesting. Museums aren't meant to be the primary source for scientific information, but they’re meant to spark an interest. They're meant to get kids involved and make them want to learn. We walked a little further and noticed every museum in the park charged separate admission fees from the children's aquarium to the butterfly house. And to some extent, it made my time at the fair feel shallow and somewhat pointless.

As a citizen of a first world nation, I’m accustomed to flawed and fairly illogical justifications. Case in point, I consumed a corndog, turkey leg, and four oversized onion rings through my time at the fair along with some of my dad’s French fries and one of his fried shrimps, and I rationalized overeating with our four mile trek across the fairgrounds. Rationally, there’s no way that I burned the calories that I consumed, but at the time, it was enough to satisfy my reasoning. In my mind, the museums offset everything that was inherently wrong with the fair from glorifying obesity to mindlessly perusing through expensive and unattainable sports cars. In a sense, I think it’s how the world views Americans; we have an excess of food, arrogance, and consumerism, but we also have invaluable resources such as a diverse, multicultural society and prestigious universities.

At the same time, I know it’s just me. Just a year out of college, I’m still getting used to viewing the city where I grew up as a place where I commute through traffic and habitually go to work. And instead of a place of wonder, somewhere people can learn about different cultures and explore the secrets of the universe, maybe the State Fair of Texas is just an annual event where people can gather to enjoy a few rides, look at several pretty cars, and eat eccentric fried foods.

But I had a fun time, really.


After nearly 60 years of service, Big Tex was incinerated in an electrical fire. Thank you for representing our fair state, and may you return bigger and more fire resistant next year.