Anti-Holiday

[Originally written 11.27.02]

When you are a child, you look forward to Christmas.  You count every day until it arrives.  You go nuts with the arts and crafts.  You can’t wait to pick out a tree.  You write your list for ‘Santa’—who, oddly enough, has the same handwriting as your Dad.  You go overboard decorating the tree and have to keep the tinsel away from the numerous strings of lights just begging to set your whole house on fire.  You’re happy to have vacation from school.  You watch the weather report every day, hoping for snow.  You drive around the neighborhood ‘ooing’ and ‘aahing’ at all the lights and decorations people have on their houses.  It’s a time for family to get together and enjoy each others company.  Eat, drink, be merry…then ravage the presents.

Somewhere along the line, the ‘holidays’ became less joyful and more work.  It’s not supposed to be work; it’s supposed to be fun.  Who turned off the fun?

It has become so commercialized, it’s disgusting.  Christmas spans September to January, and between that time, whatever you were doing in your life has to come to a complete halt when the ‘holidays’ arrive.  There are decorations up before the last rotting pumpkin is chucked off your stoop and there are still turkey leftovers in the fridge.  You are haunted by Christmas songs on the radio and every time you go to a mall.  There is no escape from them.  You will learn them and then hum them everywhere you go so that others will pick up on them too.

It’s not just Christmas, either.  Thanksgiving used to be fun too.  Wake up early to watch the parade on television.  Stuff face at aunt’s house.  Sometimes I went to my Dad’s house.  To be honest, I was dreading this time of year since the Asshole kicked me out.  Yea, I know, that’s harsh.  While I have relatives, I don’t really feel the same connection to them as I did when I was younger.  They are not really my Family, and to me, there’s a big difference between the two.

There’s these people who I am related to that I used to see a lot, and now all they can do is put me on a guilt trip and complain about wanting to see me.  Where were you for the two years that I was taking care of myself?  I had a phone and an address.  You wanted to see me so bad, yet you didn’t call or come visit me.  What have my relatives done for me lately?  Nothing.  Sure, my Dad offered for me to stay at his house, but we know how that worked out the first time.  Mom is too concerned with herself and the ex-con boyfriend, and his friend that now lives in the basement.

In all honesty, I am sick and tired of being a part of everyone else’s life.  At least the Asshole made a genuine offer to spend Christmas with him and his family again this year, which I do have to admit was kind of nice.  Not something I am obligated to do just because I’m related to him, if that makes sense.

Why the attitude about the ‘holidays’?

It’s all bullshit.  Your relatives lay on the guilt so you come and see them, because if you don’t they’ll be all hurt.  Give me a break already.  Just sent my card in the mail and don’t forget the ‘gift’.

Every year, I have wanted less and less for Christmas.  Last year, I really didn’t want much at all.  This year, I can’t really think of anything I want or need.  Except cash.  That will go towards my birthday tattoos and the rest is going in my brand new account that I just opened at my Dad’s bank.

It’s not about the receiving anyway.  Last year, for the first time, I went out shopping for everyone else.  I bought things that they would like, or could use, and felt damn good about it.  Even braved the hordes of people to do so.

Oh, the fucking people, with numerous bulging bags in hands trying to push past you while dragging a snotty nosed child behind them.  Parents without control of their children that throw fits and tantrums because they want this or that and can’t wait for Christmas.  Cramped stores, long lines and just wanting to get everything over with.  Songs that won’t go away, particularly when you are shopping and really want to tune it out.  Blinding lights and decorations on houses that go up in November and come down whenever.  The senseless slaughter of trees for the sole purpose of propping it up in the living room, giving it false hope that it’s still alive, and then throwing the most hideous crap on it so you can say it’s decorated.  [Okay, I have seen some really nice tress from time to time, but just feel me on this.]  Finding the spare rolls of wrapping paper, hoping you won’t have to go out at the last-minute to buy more.  [Last year, I did bags from the dollar store.  If it didn’t fit in a bag, it was wrapped in paper from dollar store.  Hey, they looked pretty anyway.]

It just seems so materialistic.  We go through the same ritual year after year, and somewhere we forget why we’re even doing it.  Tradition is something that you have fond memories of doing something as a child, and it still holds its meaning ‘x’ amount of years later.  Not because if you don’t your relatives are going to bitch at you.  The ‘holidays’ have finally become very cold and meaningless to me.

Wow, I sound like a dear friend of mine. No wonder he gets so detached at this time of year, and to be honest, I can’t say that I can blame him.

Fuck the ‘holidays’.  Fuck my relatives.  Fuck all of you stupid and blind people who think they are happy being robots.  You don’t even know why the fuck you’re carving that turkey.

At least I can be happy in knowing that I have Jon, even if he has a habit of disappearing during the ‘holidays’.  Having one person in my life who understands the way I think and feel means more to me than I can put into words.  Not only that,  but I have been welcomed into a real Circus Family, and I must say that brings warmth to this bitterly cold heart.  In the end, they are the ones who matter, and I will be eternally grateful to have them.

Tales From the Road

Following the completion of the first two-week run, the show rolls into Syracuse for the second largest State Fair in America, and I learn exactly how hard it can be to live on the road.

August 26, 2005 – Survivor: Carnival Edition

It is a rough world out there.  Behind the colored lights, spinning rides and loud music is hard work, and some people are just not cut out for it.

Brett wound up leaving during our second week in Hamburg.  He was part of the first group, knew how to get the money from rubes and inadvertently taught me how to bend silverware with mental powers.  We all had a good laugh when he hooked up with Cara and wound up with the Carny Fucker Disease, the joke providing us with much entertainment.  However, he had been talking about leaving, partially due to the fact that he needs insulin which has to be refrigerated, and that not a luxury offered in the bunk house, plus other personal reasons.

To follow with the old cliché when a door closes a window opens, we had two new people join.  Vick and Hana are natives of Buffalo, New York who happened to see the ‘Help Wanted’ sign on the ticket box and decided to become part of the crew.  They are slowly but surely finding love with each other.

Despite a few particularly stormy days, we had a strong finish in Hamburg, drawing large crowds all weekend and heavily all Sunday afternoon.  Was highly amused by the amount of Hot-Topic geared people who came in.  No matter what genre they blatantly stereotyped themselves into, the majority of them were completely disgusted by one or more of the acts, especially my Pierced Weightlifting.

Tear down went much better with all the extra hands, though it still left us quite exhausted.  There was a chaotic orchestra around us as rides were neatly packed up and trucks hauled them to the next spot.  It was kind of interesting to watch the Ferris wheel disappear slice by slice.  The sky turn from night to day and we all got a free look at Tiny Tim, the World’s Smallest Horse.  He had been positioned across from us on the midway, the grind having to be heard way too many times that it may have all made us slightly mad.

Our departure was around 9:30 that night and it was a three-hour drive to Syracuse.  A few of us took the time to drive around the fairgrounds to check things out since we would not have the chance once we started working.  A security cart pulled up to inform us the midway was closed and we needed to go, adding that if anything went missing, we would be highly suspected.  Timmy had a show to do in California, so he left for that on Monday and will be back for the second week we are here.  It puts an empty spot in the show but there are enough of us to take up the slack.

Though set up went fairly well, we were about to unroll the menagerie tent when people began running towards one of the rides.  Security drives up in their golf carts, then comes an ambulance.  Cue the news channels and it is a true media circus.  Action has ceased and we are wondering what is happening.  Apparently there had been a man placing ‘stabilizing blocks’ under the Enterprise; the ride slipped and the man was crushed to death.  This should be sufficient evidence that this can be a dangerous line of work, no matter how fun one perceives it to be.

Speaking of that, I got my foot run over during set up.  We were using Hana’s truck to hauls some of the heavier items from the bunk house to the sideshow tent.  Guess I was just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time but thankfully had my New Rocks on, which prevented my toes from getting crushed.  She felt really bad about it, but honestly I felt little pain.  Small injuries happen and then there was also that time in Hamburg when Elk was coming off stage and the stairs collapsed.  Unfortunately the Carny Engineering and ingenuity of using big wooden blocks as means of stabilization filed miserably.  There was a whole lot of nonsense surrounding that stage, seeing as how none of the stairs we have are tall enough for it, but that has all been sorted now.

In any event, the menagerie tent and the banner line for the sideshow were put up all in one day.  Our tent went up the following afternoon and my hands are still sore from driving stakes.  However, it is done and the tent is much closer to the bunk house than it was at the last spot.  Opening day went alright for a Thursday, but the crowd dwindled around nine.

Here we are at the second largest State Fair in the country, waiting for people to come in.  We are at this spot until the end of September, and then it is off to Maryland.  Personally I tend to use these moments to handle my new albino python named Damien.  The Boss had bought a few snakes and brought them in for the purpose of having the girls hold them on the bally stage.  Generates a bit more curiosity, or scares people in some cases.  Definitely wanted the albino right away, perhaps due to my slight fetish of Nature’s freaks.  He was rather awnry when I first made an attempt to get him out of the snake box, but that was mostly due to the fact that he was shedding.  He has calmed down a bit since then, but seems to prefer me over others.  The Boss said I may keep him at the end of the seasons, which is very generous.  Have thought about having a pet snake for quite some time, so am very excited about that.

There are benefits to working at the carnival such as discounts on food, occasionally getting it for free.   For example, these two girls came to see the show one night and since it was so late, we did not charge them.  In return, they hooked us up with free meals [mostly chicken fingers and a large drink] which saved us from having to spend money on food.

This is a great way to make a living no matter how hard it may seem at times and right now I cannot see myself doing anything else.

Coney Island Sideshow School

In 2002, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Coney Island Sideshow School.  At the time, I had been taking frequent trips to the Island, which often included paying admission to see the sideshow and on occasion the burlesque show.  Discovering that there was an opportunity to learn the things I had witnessed filled me with joy, to the point where I had a hard time even properly expressing how thrilled I was.  Noted here, I had been friends with Jon for about two years at the time.  We often discussed performing together, which came into reality in May of 2001 when I was introduced to the members of  Outlaw Cirkus and subsequently became part of the troupe.  Unfortunately, due to constant drug use, Jon was not in the right frame of mind to beome the mentor he wanted  to be, but we had numerous shows together with Outlaw Cirkus nonetheless.  When he learned that I had enrolled in the sideshow school and saw that I dedicated myself to absorbing everything I could, he made a promise that upon graduation, we would have a serious discussion about becoming long-term partners.  However, those stories are meant for a different time, and instead I am sharing my experience as a stundent in Coney Island

11.18.02 What I learned in Sideshow School

My weekend technically started on Friday.  Woke up to go to school, but upon checking my e-mail prior to departing, something better came up and I didn’t go.

Instead I hung out with Jon at the diner, and while he didn’t say much about the absence of metal in my face, he did mention that he thought I looked fine the way I was.  The encounter had to be brief, but he promised we would have an outing after my sideshow class.

To keep it short and sweet, over the course of three days, I was introduced to where the sideshow came from, what it was all about and learned some history of Coney Island itself.  [Most of which I already knew].  Invaded our nostril cavaties with Q-tips to prepare ourselves for the Human Blockhead, stuck matches in our mouths to get used to having fire in our faces for fire eating, and put wire hangers in our mouths as a preliminary step to sword swallowing.

There are only five other people in the class, one of which happens to be from Jersey.  So I have his contact info and said that maybe in the future we could work together.

Was surprised at how many members of the press were hanging around, as I didn’t think that many people even knew about the classes.  A film crew from the Discovery Channel was there for fuck’s sake.  They took our names and asked us where we are from and why we were there, so on and so forth.

Watched a few performances by Todd, the Great Fredini and whatever that other guy’s name was.  He was really good at the fire-eating.  Learned how to stick our hands in an animal trap, walk on glass and how the electric chair works.  Moved on to small torches and putting nails in our noses.  We learned Carny speak—which I want to start using—and other great things.

There really isn’t any big secret to be revealed.  The great thing about a sideshow act is that—for the most part—what you see is absolutely real.  Sure there are a few gaffes here and there, but when you see someone swallowing a sword…well, what do you think they’re doing?

There are three basic types of sideshow performers: the working act, the freak, and the self-made freak.  [Kind of aiming to be a part of the latter category, which I have to say I am rather proud of.]  To be clear, I’m not going to jump ahead and say I’m great at anything right now [except for the Human Blockhead], but I definately have the hang of it, and the more I practice, the better I will get.  Next weekend is more practice of what we have already learned, as well as bed of nails and other fun things.

This entry could have been a lot more interesting, but as I said, there’s no big secret to reveal.  Most importantly, I am doing this because I want to.  It’s a great tradition that deserves rightful recognition.  Just being in that [cold] building and learning what I am is a great honor.  The sideshow didn’t die out because the humanitarians were bitching; people took an interest in staying home and watching television or going out to a movie.

There is a new generation of people who are curious about things that they don’t see on a day-to-day basis.  There is always going to be an audience for this kind of thing, because it is just human nature to be curious.  And I am definitely one of those people who can dedicate theirself to doing this.

The other parts of my weekend were spent in South Jersey [what a trip that was from one beach to another] and celebrating with Jon.  He said he was happy that I had found some great people to teach me the history of sideshow and all that.  Don’t get me wrong though; I have learned a great deal from this man over the past couple of years that we have been friends.  He knows quite a few of the acts himself and speaks Carny.  However, he admitted that he had strayed from that lifestyle for various reasons, but seeing the passion I had renewed it in himself.

That basement birthday party was just pure debauchery.  Tons of metal heads, punks, squatters, hobos and other assorted misfits all crammed into a cemented cube.  The music was loud and gritty; people were moshing and spilling alcohol everywhere.  Our set was short but tight, and the people loved it.  Much consumption of illegal substances occurred, to the point where I don’t recall what I had or how much of it.  Not like that really matters; it was all good fun and I am so happy to be putting my skills to use.  It only makes me want to do this more.

11.24.02 Proud Graduate of the Coney Island Sideshow School

Did not think I would ever see those words gracing this journal, and perhaps don’t even have the right amount of words to properly express all of these feelings currently coursing through me.

The remainder of sideshow school was spent practicing the acts we had already learned, and introduction to a few more, such as the bed of nails and electric chair.  Met Harley Newman, who holds the record for laying on four nails I believe it was.   Also got the chance to handle one of the huge albino pythons that is used for the Coney Island sideshow during the season.  Maybe it was the black leather trench coat, but that snake really seemed to like me.  Oh how I would love to have a baby of my own some day.  Also got an up-close-and-personal look at Tyler Fyre’s swords.

Our graduation consisted of having to get up on the stage and perform one of the acts we had learned before we got a ‘diploma’.  Sure, it’s a bit cheesy, and only a piece of paper, but there is so much more that I am taking away from this whole experience.  It’s changing me in ways I did not think were possible.

Definitely worth spending the money, not only the tuition itself but the gas and tolls in order to get there.  [Of course between hustling and having Jon pitch in, that wasn’t really a big deal].  What I’m trying to say, is that this is one of those priceless moments where I am still kind of in awe that it’s all real.

After departing the Island, I made that long journey down to the Shore.  When I walked into Jon’s house, he was standing there with a huge smile plastered on his face.  There were colorful balloons and streamers everywhere, and a table set for dinner, complete with fancy foods and wine.  Following that most wonderful feast, we drank mushroom tea and went out on the beach to smoke a proper blunt and whittled away the hours talking about performing together in the future.  It was definitely a nice way to celebrate my accomplishment, especially since it was with the only person in the world who understands why I want to do this.

There was one last surprise waiting at the house when we returned.  A group of people were gathered at the back door, and I smiled when I realized it was the Outlaw Cirkus crew.  Rounds of congratulations came my way as they shook my hand and said I made the Family proud.  The hours that followed are a blur of partying on the beach with mushroom tea and weed-filled brownies until the sun came up and we all passed out.

Part of me is still waiting to wake up and realize that this has just been some really awesome dream.  However, grasping the fact that it’s not, I am overwhelmed and finally feel as though I have found what I was searching for, and I love it.

What is going on?

[Originally written 11.7.02]

To be honest, I really don’t know any more.  I am tired beyond reason. When I go to bed at nite, I don’t want to get out of it the next morning.  Especially when I am with my boy.  How safe and warm I feel.  How happy I am.  How I wish I could do it every morning.

The outing to CBGB’s was a stoned, drunk blur that resulted partying with some fiends in NYC until the wee hours of the morning.

Came down to the Shore since the last update, as I received an e-mail instructing me to do so.  Usually don’t have middle-of-the week visits, but any chance I get to chill with my best friend is one that I will readily take.  We got massively stoned, ate dinner, smoked some more, had a few shots and then climbed into his Chevy to hit the movies.  The people around here definitely are not used to seeing individuals as modified as ourselves, but for some reason it feels like they are looking more out of curiosity than to be rude.  A few girls even asked me about my lobes, so that was kind of cool.

In any event, snuck some whiskey in to the theater and saw Jackass: The Movie.  Fucking hilarious.  There were many moments where Jon scoffed and stated “I can do that.”

Later on, back at his place, we’re curled up on the couch sharing a blunt, and he tells me he booked us for some basement party.  A friend of his is having a birthday, where a few local bands have been invited, and said friend wanted to know if we could provide the bizarre entertainment.  Of course I was overjoyed when I told him I would be there.

He held me for a long time before I departed, a kiss placed on my forehead as he told me to be safe and looked forward to seeing me again.

Have to go hustle this weekend, so I can afford the registration to the sideshow school, as I am not missing out on that.  I am fully motivated to do whatever it takes to be the best sideshow performer I can be.  Until then, I work on myself.  It will take a lot of time, patience, effort, and of course, money.  Seeing as how I’m currently jobless, and have reservations about asking my Dad for the cash, I have to hustle.  Not the worst thing in the world; could be ‘selling it’ out on the street, but I’m just taking advantage of unusual talents and my modified appearance to get paid…nothing wrong with that.  Besides, have to start somewhere if I want to continue this path and become successful.

That’s what motivates me to get the fuck out of bed every day.  Having Jon believe in me means more to me than anything.  I have a choice, I’m well aware of that, but I’m not going to let opportunities slip by any more.  I’ve let that happen far too often.  You can’t sit around and wait for someone to knock on the door and just hand you something good.  You have to get the fuck out of the house and make yourself known in the social world…or something.

All I know is, now that I finally figured out what it is I want to do, I must do everything possible to make it happen.

I’m just rambling now, so I’ll go.