I’ve have been laboring for more than a month to make sense of Labor Day. It came and went with no understanding on my part. Some people say that it marks the end of summer and the beginning of school. Not where I live. Kids around here go back to school in early August, three weeks prior to Labor Day. (They also get out of school a week before Memorial Day.) Some go year around. So do their sports.
Labor Day certainly doesn’t mark the end of warm weather. You can swelter in the grandstands during a September afternoon football game just as you sweltered poolside in August. Nor does Labor Day mark the seasonal closing of Dairy Queen. When I was a kid, the local Dairy Queen closed for the winter, but ice cream was all it sold. No hamburgers and fries. Now you can go inside and order a Blizzard on Christmas Eve. Have a white Christmas. Order a takeout bowl of chili, and you can warm up at home.
Speaking of white, Labor Day is said to mark the end of wearing white. “Don’t wear white after Labor Day”, but evidently no one pays this fashion advice much attention. There’s still a lot of white out there, like men on television in their underwear.
The history of Labor Day doesn’t help much either. If it started out as a protest by workers for a day off, why not call it Day-Off Day? I also don’t understand why people don’t label things appropriately. We used to call them used cars. Now they’re pre-owned, and where did that come from? Shouldn’t it be post-owned, offered to the buyer after it has been owned? We all know what pre-marital sex is or was. Same with preschool, preview, prewar, preadolescent, and the list goes on. A pre-owned car is a car before you buy it and own it, be it used or new.
The only thing that Labor Day does for me is alert me to the fact that there are only a few more shopping days until the beginning of the state fair, which has long been associated with Stuff-on-a-Stick. Maybe it should be called Pre-Stuff-on-a-Stick Day.
Originally, Stone Age state fairs were times when cavemen and women displayed their rock collections. “Umm, this one harder than that one. Let me hit you on head. See if you agree.” And because fire had been discovered by then, hard rock enthusiasts gathered at night around a fire and cooked corndogs. These delicacies had longer sticks than today, to which dinosaur meat had been affixed, but the batter they were dipped in is the same as today.
And then when humankind discovered how to plant crops and domesticate animals, state fairs added produce and livestock. “Umm, corndog better than green beans on stick.”
And then as the years passed, carnival rides were added. “Umm…Better to ride roller coaster before visiting food tent than after.” Rodeos, auto racing, and musical acts were soon enough added. Visitors said, “Umm, being spectator good. Eat Stuff-on-a-Stick while we watch.”
And it truly is Stuff-on-a-Stick as opposed to just corndogs. Hilary Price recently published a flowchart that will predict your success if you want to become a food vendor at your state fair. It goes like this. Pick a food…If it can go on a stick and if it can be fried and dipped in powdered sugar or ketchup, you’ve got a winner. If not, maybe you can get a job as a carnie.
Here is a list of some Stuff-on-a-Stick that helps your cardiologist maintain his/her lifestyle. Deep-fried Chicken Noodle Soup on a stick, Deep-fried Brownie on a stick, Deep-fried Snickers on a stick, Tater Dog on a stick, Deep-fried Twinkie on a stick, Gluten-free garlic cream cheese wontons on a stick, Mashed potatoes on a stick, and Deep-fried fruit on a stick. And here’s a new one this year. Red licorice, dipped in batter, deep-fried, dusted in powdered sugar, and whether or not the licorice counts as the stick is unclear. I fear it’s a harbinger of change.
After years of eating Stuff-on-a-Stick at the state fair, Stuff-NOT-on-a-stick is showing up on the menu. New this year: Deep-fried fruit loops in a bowl, Fernie’s Fried Texas sheet cake on a saucer, a Funnel cake bacon queso burger, a Surfin-turfin tater bowl, and a Tamale donut. I predict that in just a few years all you will be able to get on a stick at a state fair is a corndog.
Which gets me to my point. What makes sense anymore? Not Labor Day. And what can you count on anymore? Not state fairs. Both of these occur in September. Eleven more months. The list goes on and on.