Welcome to another weekly installment of “Free Tune Friday.” To hear last week’s tune and other past entries, click HERE. This week brings us the final installment in our trilogy of dramatic monologues. (I said last week’s Agent Zero was the first, forgetting that week five’s Prospero’s Song already fit the bill.)

When I was a kid, one of the highlights of the year was the day (or two, if we were lucky) spent at the Caledonia County Fair. My mom would take us on “kid’s day,” that magical day where you got a plastic bracelet that allowed you to go on as many rides as you wanted. My brothers and I spent hours making the rounds, from the more tame rides–classics like the Ferris wheel, the carousel, the giant slide–to the more adventurous, with names like Tilt-a-Whirl, Hurricane, and Himalaya. As much as I loved the rides, it was the dudes operating them, the carnies, that fascinated me the most. They were rough men, not old but not young, ground down by life, sometimes friendly, sometimes indifferent, but always bored. They were also usually cheesed out of their skulls. I had no idea what drugs were as a kid, but even I knew there was something not quite right about the hollow stare in those glazed eyes. I would watch them and wonder what twists of fate had brought them to this remote area of northern Vermont, and try to think about what the course of their daily lives was really like.

Somehow, those memories came back when I wrote this song. I don’t know how true to life the carnie’s words are here, but they’re how I always imagine them, even now when I take my own kids to the fair and linger nervously at the gates with the other parents, watching the men strap the little ones into the old, rickety rides. I’m guessing the life is a certain kind of hell, but who really knows?

The underlying rhythm’s tick-tock quality–incessant, monotonous–runs through the entire song, a pattern of octaves and fifths that suggests a carnival song, enhanced by a distorted organ track. The overall sound is meant to be both trippy and lugubrious, with echoes of Pink Floyd.



I take the tickets one by one
From all the little girls and boys,
Each face anticipating fun,
A moment of circular joy.
By noon the bodies have become
A single motion wrapped in sun
Sliding right into the haze
That I’ve been building up for days.

Another week, another town,
Another fair, it’s all the same.
I build the ride, I break it down.
Boredom so great it turns to pain
Is captured by the little pills
That turn my gaze to distant hills
And roll it right into a ball.
They’re sold behind the shooting stall.

Someday this thing will fall apart,
Send children flying through the air.
A missing bolt, a broken part
Will show that I’ve not taken care
To do the things that must be done
To build this business they call fun.
I’ll be just one more carnie stain
Rubbing against the midway grain.

Until that day I will remain
In ever new unchanging lands,
Eying hot mommas at the chain,
Their children’s lives placed in my hands.
By noon the bodies will become
A single motion wrapped in sun
Sliding right into the haze
That I’ve been building up for days.

To listen to this tune, click HERE. To download, right-click on the link and select “Save Link As.” For best results, apply headphones. Thanks for listening! Be sure to come back for next Friday’s installment…

(Written, performed, and recorded by David Stahler Jr. All rights reserved.)