Tales From the Road

The fourth installment of this series chronically the time I spent traveling with the carnival picks up after the first week of learning the ropes and performing in Bedford, PA.

August 1, 2005 – Circus Jump

Saturday turned out to be a great night after all, with several large crowds that came in to see the show.  Have to say that I was really pleased with the way the three of us worked together, particularly when Miss Priss left yet again before everything was finished.

As suspected, the Boss pretty much wrote her off for the behavior, as well as the fact that the boyfriend’s brother left his post too.  [He had been asked to take care of the animals.]  The Boss found it funny when I told him what she had said the other day.  They had enough nerve to ask for pay; after all of the expenses rendered, cash asked for in advance and the cut she had coming due to incomplete days, the Boss figured she had earned a sawbuck [ten dollars].  Personally, I would not have given her a dime and perhaps a piece of my min instead.  She actually came up to the tent during tear down and could not figure out why I wanted nothing to do with her.  Did not hear what the Boss said to her but got the gist of it, and she should be lucky to have received any money at all.

Tearing down everything in one night that had been put up over the course of three days was a physically exhausting task to endure, particularly since we did at least four dozen shows in one day.  Such is the nature of a Circus Jump.  In the old days of Circus, the tent and all is taken down, packed up and hauled to the next location, where it is immediately set up; then the opening happens the very next day.  Our jump is not much different, as we have to move out tonight as soon as everything is packed up, then will set up tomorrow and open the next day.  While there had been a lot of help, I was still weary.

Miss Priss made another appearance while the animals were being loaded up.  It seemed her costume [the one that allegedly had been ‘stolen’] was discovered in the Bingo tent where her boyfriend conveniently worked.  For some reason she came to return it, but the Boss made it known that neither she nor her boyfriend was welcome in the crew.

Around six in the morning, the spot where the tent and animals had been there remained but a footprint, and we were sent to bed.  While were supposed to hit the road, the loader had broken down when we were packing.  The set back costs us time, but the rest was certainly welcomed.  Five hours later, we were rudely awakened.  Finished loading everything up, but then one of the dogs had gotten loose and was running around.  Leave it up to an animal to delay the whole operation.  Decided to use the opportunity to fuel up and then finally everyone rolled out.

Pennsylvania is actually a very beautiful state with many rolling hills, expansive farmland and much uninterrupted green beauty.  Bedford was not too bad, though it had a high population of people missing limbs, which is something I have not encountered before.  One parking attendant had no right arm from the elbow down, while another had an entire prosthetic on the right arm and half of one on the left.  Saw a guy at the local diner with his left arm missing and other people without a leg from the knee down, one of whom had the plastic replacement tattooed.  Even had some entertainment one evening in the form of a local boy and his brother, who were more than happy to share the tales of stupidity.  Both of them had various bones and body parts replaced with metal, due to accidents encountered from racing, but mostly it was just from plain fucking around.

Did they play some sort of betting game where the loser forfeited a limb?

Clearfield is definitely out in the sticks with a smaller lot for the tent.  Some asshole had parked their car exactly where we were intended to set up.  That was a whole scene of trying to find out who the owner of said car was, and even joking that we could move it with the loader.  At least there was time for a nap and the chance to suck down a strawberry smoothie that I bought from a stand on the midway.  Then it was right back to work, but thankfully the sun was going down which cooled things off a bit.  Night arrived before we knew it, but the banner line and tent were up; the bally stage was assembled in the dark.  The inside stage would have been put together as well, except that the two pieces we needed were in another truck that had not arrived yet.

Two perks of the spot are being close to the bathroom and the food, but I am trying not to spend too much money on the latter as the midway will empty pockets mighty fast.  The smells are intoxicating and oh so tempting though.

Before heading to bed, I went to retrieve my rat from the car, only to find out she had died.  The road is no place for a live animal unless of course it can be tended to on a consistent basis.

At least getting some sleep was enjoyable, though the crew woke up around eleven today to finish everything up.  Now it is past opening and we still have yet to do a show.

There was nonexistent water pressure earlier while I was attempting to shower, getting stuck with shampoo in my hair.

The show is actually staring now, so I will have to write more later.

August 7, 2005 – Another Weekly Episode Comes to a Close

Currently I am sitting in the empty space where just last night a red and white canvas tent stood.  Most of the rides have been packed up and hauled away; the rest are waiting for transport.  Tear down went slightly better than last time.  Why we are delayed in departing for Hamburg, New York is beyond me.  Suppose there is a reason, but no one has offered explanation.

In the past week, two goats died; one was really sick and Spirit finally gave up.  Ma  was pretty upset but said it was better than having him suffer.

We also picked up a new Bally Bitch in the form of this fairly hefty old head chick.  Nancy enjoys letting it all hang out in revealing costumes, and I am fairly surprised she could squeeze into that neon orange bikini.  It was well-know that she would not last long, and there was even a pool going on what day she would quit.  Nancy was also definitely not the brightest crayon in the box and certainly unfit for physical work.  For some reason, she got into an argument with the Boss on Thursday, which subsequently led to her being asked to leave the grounds.  Apparently she was not doing the things she had been hired to.  Thought she would at least be here until Friday, then leave when she found out what tear down entailed.

There is always another piece of flesh to fill the empty spot, and its name is Cara.  Will admit right now I really dislike the girl and while in general I have no problem talking to her, she seems to enjoy flirting with the male members of our crew.  The first time I met her was back in Bedford [she was working at one of the games] while walking up the midway after having purchased food.  Then she re-appears here in Clearfield, quit her job and decided she wanted to join the show.  Her presence annoys me but suppose that I will have to ‘play nice’ for now.

It has become quite clear that the Boss and Ma are quite fond of me.  Even Donnie [the Boss’s brother from another father] said they take note of things, such as waking up early to put the banners up instead of waiting for other people to do it, and apparently some people have that habit.  Boss Jr. even stated that I am doing a good job, and he is always the first to let you know if you are slacking.  Ma bought a few skirts for herself but did not like the way they looked on her and said I could take them if I wanted, which is so kind and generous.

Have also been invited to work at the tree lot.  After the whole fair season is over, they sell trees and wreaths down in Maryland from the first week in November until some time in December.  Apparently the help gets paid very well, and since there is not much waiting for me back in Jersey, I am seriously considering the offer.

Noted here that there has been no ass-kissing because it is much easier to be myself and do exactly what I was hired for than trying to lie or cheat people who are really nice to me.  Besides, this is not my first time in a crew so I know how certain things work and feel that gives me a slight advantage over the others.  In any event, I am ecstatic that my hard work and enthusiasm is being noticed.

Getting back on track with traveling and volunteering to drive ahead in order to keep an eye out for cops.  The journey through the mountains was quite beautiful, what with the clean cool air, lush greenery and picture-perfect sunset.  However, it was also long and tedious, civilization sprinkled about here and there.  A small highlight was getting to see the Zippo factory in Bradford [PA] complete with huge neon lighter alongside smaller ones that decorated the roof top.  Moments later I crossed into the Empire State and was quite happy to do so.

The evening rolled in as I continued onward, stopping at Burger King for something to eat and then again to refuel the car.  While at the station I consulted a map to figure out where I was and how much further I had to go.  There was a Carny sitting at the next table who had just come from the fairgrounds and he said it was only twelve miles away.  Picked up a pamphlet that details some of the events which will be going on at the fair and have a feeling there are going to be many more people in attendance than at the last two spots combined.

Arrived at the grounds after eleven and decided to catch up on sleep since everyone else was still traveling.  Somewhere around five in the morning, I woke up just in time to see the bunk house and one of the other trailers driving up.  They had stopped for some repairs which caused the delay.  Used one of the most disgusting restroom I have ever seen before happily climbing into bed.

Currently we are sitting outside the lot with no water or electricity.  Apparently we do not have a space to set up in yet, so writing is pretty much the only thing to do right now.  In a while I am going to explore the lot and make attempt to locate a cleaner bathroom — hopefully with a shower.  Would be nice to wash up a little and head into town to check things out.  Niagara Falls is a nice drive from here, but I don’t know if there will be a chance to see it.

Have to charge my phone to make a few calls, and I have a feeling that it is going to be a long day.

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Sideshow Musings

[Originally written 10.28.2002]

We should have been doing the horror show this afternoon, but a whole lot of rain came by to cancel those plans.  Jon has been passed out since I arrived and I am kind of afraid to disturb him. Instead, I just helped myself to a bit of weed and have a little too much time to think.  All I can do is mull over the things that I want to do, so figured that maybe write them down would help me form a plan of action.

Trying to generate interest for the remainder of our shows via the Internet is not creating much of a response.  Is the population of this state dead?  Or perhaps it’s just that no one cares?  The more I try, the more I am disappointed.   Then that thought occurs to me: Have I been cast out?

What I mean when I say that, is I have always had a feeling of not belonging ever since I was in grade school.  Yes, it goes that far back, because I had spent a year in public school before being enrolled in Catholic school, so that already made me different.  My parents were also divorced and showed up separately for Back To School Night, and doesn’t really look good when you are being taught about the sanctity of marriage and all that.  Oh, and all the girls came from wealthy families whereas I wore clothes from the thrift shop on Tag Day, which is where everyone wore what they wanted instead of uniforms for one day.  Needless to say that there were a lot of reasons kids had to pick on me, and while I just wanted to be left alone to write or draw, teachers took it upon themselves to tell the others to include me in their games.

Anyway, I had the usual high school experience I suppose.  Some people made fun of me, one girl took it upon herself to make it a mission to harass me for some odd reason and there were a select few I talked to who didn’t care about what I looked like.  The point is, I thought some of those acquaintances were friends but we don’t speak any more and maybe that is my fault, I don’t know to be honest.  It’s just that I was under the impression that doing things for other people would mean I could count on them to be there when I would like some support.  Boy was I wrong.

This is the reason I want to do sideshow more than anything.  Freaks.  Oddities.  Mistakes.  Nature’s cruel jokes.  They had many names and many faces; physical abnormalities that made people stare in horror, wonder and curiosity.  They were given a chance to make money by being exhibited to curious audience who paid to see them.  What others saw as burdens were used to make a living and something about that seems utterly brilliant.  Evidence has shown that they earned the most money and were treated very well.  In fact, I remember reading about how rival outfits were outbidding each other to have the best congress of human oddities.

In a society where people would rather shun them, lock them up in a mental hospital away from the ignorant stares of others, these so-called freaks were taken in and given a home.  Of course advances in medicine and science allow for most birth defects to be corrected and apparently putting people on display is considered exploitation.  Somehow I get confused about that because I see it happening on talk shows and I would honestly show way more compassion than some jerk with a microphone who just wants good ratings.  The sideshow may have changed from what it was, but there are plenty of people who are at least trying to keep this tradition alive.  There are new acts and evolution in body modification create appearances are more bizarre than ever before.  One can do whatever one wants with their body and I hold great admiration for those who chose to make themselves out of the ordinary.

The desire to join those ranks just grows and grows.  To perform for the masses; to entertain; to bring shock and wonder to all who see me.  With great pleasure, I will modify my body all I want, and you will all turn your little heads to stare.  While you are ordinary and blend in with the rest of the useless flesh, I will stand out because I can.

This is something that is in my blood, because I was born with sawdust in my veins.  There is confidence in the fact that I can succeed, because I know all the ins and outs of show business; what to do and what not to do on stage, as presence is very important. It’s all about being seen and heard to draw a crowd; if you entertain just one person, you have accomplished something.  All of these values and more have been instilled in me by one very amazing human being who has shared intimate information about circus and Carny life that does not exist in a book.

Doing these horror shows here in South Jersey have only fueled my desire and remind us of how much fun the Outlaw Cirkus shows once were.  To be quite honest, I would rather work with someone I can fully trust than recruit some rubes or hacks that are just in it for the money.  There are way too many things I want to discuss now, so I think I will take the risk of encountering a very cranky friend and go wake him up so I can do just that.