One of the great things about my husband: he was not above a Low Entertainment. It must have been amusing to take around a naive Ann T. and introduce her to pool halls. Especially low-life joints like Joker in the Pack.
So I learned to play pool in crazy joints and, to eat dubious tacos in places like Elena's No. 2. They were delicious. If you turned the tortilla back, you would see what looked like McDonald's french fries in there instead of papas fritas. The tacos were only 59 cents and I quit looking.
So, we had a date, driving down the road. These were always great. We liked to talk in the car. My future husband would detour for pretty-looking roads or street-side marvels. There was never any telling where we'd end up.
"Oh, look, a carnival," I said. "I've never been to one of those."
One U-turn later, we were parking in the grass. He flipped off the ignition.
"What do you mean, you've never been to a carnival? Like since you were eight?"
"I mean never. My dad thought they were tacky." I paused. "Low class."
"Let's go." He bopped out of the car and I jumped out like a Mark in a box.
We were early, so it wasn't crowded. The cotton candy was spinning. So were the rides. We rode the Spinning Spider, the merry-go-round. We went up the Ferris wheel because I've always wanted to go on a Ferris wheel. I am deathly afraid of heights, too, but that didn't matter.
At the top, it stopped. We were the only ones on it, so it must have been ordained. He started rocking the bench.
"Stop it!" I screeched.
He laughed. "Come on, there's a rail."
"When we start down," I begged. Shoot, when would that be?
Once down, we were both happy. I had been on a Ferris wheel at last. He had scared the daylights out of me. We sashayed into Shill's Boulevard, i.e., the arcades.
I cannot throw. Much. But my husband insisted. I tossed ping-pong balls at glass jars and lost all my tickets. He tossed ping-pong balls and lost all his tickets. Of course he had at least scored. We tried other games and lost more tickets. It was great. Eventually my guy presented me with a stuffed armadillo. Hey! And we'd only worked our way down one side of the arcade. That was probably a river of red tickets, but I wasn't keeping track.
At the end of the row, we reached the Kentucky Derby, much less detailed than the one above. You throw tennis balls and they go into a funnel. Every time a tennis ball goes down, your horse advances a notch. The carney calls it out just like it's flesh-and-blood horses instead of flat pieces of tin notching across a green billboard. "Number Two coming from the outside, what a slippery track! Number nine still ahead by a nose!"
Clang clang. "And we have a winnah! Number Nine!"
For some reason, those tennis balls were working for me. I won three races in a row, lost one to Number Two, and then won three more. I won something much like a crackerjack toy each time. This enabled me to trade up for a pink bear or something. Then we laid down more tickets and played again. And I won again.
The crowd was starting to pick up, because we were laughing so hard. And the barker was good at the patter, with a carrying voice.
"Come on up and try your luck!" The carney called out to the bystanders. "Can anybody beat that Number Nine!"
Years afterward, when I would score somewhere in life, my husband would look at me and yell, "Can anybody beat that Number Nine!!"
I tell you, Low Entertainment kicks butt!!!! I also won my own stuffed armadillo at the Kentucky Derby. A nice matched happy set.