It was hot. The ground was worn bare and dry by so many people traveling up and down the winding wooded paths. The wind was no where to be found, and the fine red-brown earth being kicked up hung in the air like Tinker Bell’s pixie dust.
People milled about participating in miscellaneous activities from watching other people, to shopping handcrafted items made by unique vendors, to eating exotic foods. Everywhere was free-to-be-you-and-me-dancing in various forms of dress or undress. Alcohol was free-flowin’, and smoking all kinds of legal and illegal plants left a sweet smell in the air. People were taking naps on sunny, patchy grass-spots while others were getting out of the heat in one of the many shaded tree groves or water mist stations.
The normal people wore their tie dye and Birkenstocks. Some even dared to add a little sparkle with face painting or a dried flower wreath, adorned with colorful ribbons, tied around their heads. The not-your-ordinary-everyday-usuals-I-see-on-the-streets-of-Eugene were made up of a plethora of wandering topless women while the “standouts” wore costumes with varying degrees of drama. The belly dancer with the eight foot python wrapped around her, and the guy dressed only in brown paint with white feathers glued here and there seemed to be some of the more noteworthy ones I remember.
It was July 9, 1988 and my first trip to the Oregon Country Fair. I went with my parents and my Dutch host brother, Robert. I had just returned the previous week from a year “studying” abroad with AFS in the Netherlands. Robert, had flown over the pond 24 hours earlier to meet my parents, and spend some time with us in Oregon. It was his inaugural trip to Oregon and his first time in the USA.
My parents’ neighbors were regular Country Fair goers and had extra tickets. They thought we might like to show Robert a unique, and authentic, side of Eugene. We jumped at the chance to get into the fair for free, and Robert grabbed his camera.
After an undesignated amount of time people watching and strolling aimlessly about, our bellies began growling and our tootsies were growing tired. We decided to head toward the food court area where we could grab a bite to eat and rest our reddish-brown, grime-caked feet.
Each of the food vendors had long lines so we just picked one that looked good and sounded tasty—Carte De Frisco. We got into the long line and began painstakingly inching our way forward. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Then thirty. Robert began whining. He was hot. He was tired. He didn’t even want a chicken sandwich anyway.
There were two guys standing in front of us, and overheard my beloved brother’s whining. They turned around. One started talking about how great the chicken burgers were. He loved them he said. In fact, he used to devour one, and sometimes even two in one sitting, several times a week on campus. He hadn’t been able to eat one for months because he had been on an exchange, through the U of O, to Avignon, France.
Less than twenty-four hours from his return, he gone down to campus only to realize the Carte wasn’t on its usual street corner. It had, for the week, been moved to the Country Fair. Not to be deterred away from the sweet and spicy, plum-sauced sandwich, he and his friend had jumped on their bikes and pedaled fifteen miles in the blazing sun to seek out his sandwich quest.
We continued chatting as the lined slowly moved forward. The guys were charming and funny and made the time go by quickly. They got their sandwiches and moved off in one direction. We got ours and moved off in another direction.
As we were eating, my Dad piped up with, “Hey, that guy seemed really nice. And, that you two might have a lot in common with him just coming back from France and all. Maybe you should give him your phone number.” I shook my head. “What?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Thanks, Dad. Ummm…but I’m not that desperate.” We continued eating. “Really,” my Dad said, “what do you have to lose?” “Seriously, Dad, you just want me to walk over to some strange guy I don’t know and give him my phone number? Have you lost your marbles?”
Well…I don’t really remember much of the conversation after that, but I do know that I wiped the plum sauce off my face and started moving. I saw them sitting down. I walked right up, looked at the guy and said plain as day, “Hi. My name is Lisa Landles. It rhymes with candles. My number is in the phone book. Call me.” At that, and before he could answer, I turned around and walked away. My face was flushed and my heart was racing. What in the world had I just done?
Three weeks later the phone rang. “Hi, my name is David. Remember we met at the Country Fair?”
Well…in the 8612 days that have passed since that first meeting, pushing 24 years later, we are still hanging out. Married in fact. With three wild monkey-kids, a dog, a cat, two bunnies, and five chickens. Looks like Dad was right after all.
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