Tales From the Road

It has been a few months since my last post about traveling the carnival circuit with a 10-in-1 sideshow, so I might as well get this blog back on track by continuing with that adventure.  The crew spent two weeks in Syracuse, which hosted the largest State Fair in America, and would soon be moving south to Maryland.

September 6, 2005  –  Great New York State Fair Comes to an End

Despite heavy winds and even an entire day of rain, the last weekend of the fair proved the be an even greater success than Hamburg.  At one point during a rainy day, the Boss comes up to us for one of his motivational speeches.  They pretty much equate to him telling us to get the people in, grind the shows out and GTFM so we can get paid.  This time he informed us of a devastating hurricane called Katrina that hit hard in Louisiana.  Being on the carnival lot 24/7 and not having access to television or newspapers, we are fairly detached from the outside world and so obviously had no clue any of this was happening.  He goes on to say that there are carnivals stuck down South and they cannot move to the next spot because they do not even have the money to gas up the trucks.  Another example of how the unexpected can hit you any time while on the road.

A free supply of newspapers has kept us up to date with what is happening on the outside world.  The whole hurricane situation has really made an impact with gas prices soaring higher than ever, reportedly up to seven dollars a gallon down in Louisiana.  Around here the average is around $3.30, and this whole thing is kind of strange considering I had a dream a while back when the prices first started going up.  Driving alone I was on a nondescript highway passing dozens of gas stations the prices were $3.30 – $5.00, and even some that were as much as seven or eight dollars.  Find this a bit ironic with the way things are, and it makes me appreciate not having to drive on a daily basis.  Can only imagine how much people are shelling out at the pump these days just to commute to work.

With the addition of the Blade Box, which is presented as a ding instead of a magic illusion, we are doing our best to earn money so that rent and payroll can be paid.

Standing outside the tent last night to watch the fireworks, I could not help but feel a sense of pride in knowing I had completed another spot.  The hours were long and at times more physically demanding than one would expect.  Thankfully there is always enough humor to keep us laughing, such as the Great Panty Ninja Escapade.  There is a story that goes along with this, though Elk tends to tell it best.  One night while some people were heading to the bath house for showers after the show ended, a pair of thong underwear was discovered just lying on the ground.  They were subsequently picked up and for a moment we deliberated as to who they belonged to.  Before the owner could claim them, they wound up on Elk’s head as he proclaimed his rank as Panty Ninja and much hilarity ensued.

On another evening, a police officer comes down to the sideshow tent and politely requests that we turn down volume of the grind.  Apparently there was some sort of fight between two gangs somewhere on the fairgrounds and officers needed to hear each other as they communicated via walkie-talkie.  Saw a couple of guys being escorted out in handcuffs and have to wonder why people feel the carnival is a good place to sort out their beef.  All the Carnies are well-prepared should anyone ever try anything, and it made me chuckle a little bit that people cannot behave themselves.

The weather is certainly changing with warm breezy afternoons transitioning to chilly evenings — what I prefer to call perfect leather jacket weather.  Having this piece of Jon on my back as I sit and write this from a carnival lot in upstate New York, I long to be with him in New Jersey for so many reasons.  Then I am reminded of how much I am enjoying my time and that we will have many stories to share when we meet again.

Went for a ride on the Ferris wheel for fee last night, because that is one of the many perks you get when you work on the lot.  As it slowly turned, I could begin to see the vast stretch of midway below: a bright strip of colored, blinking lights.  For a moment I felt like I was on top of the world, a sophisticated Queen gazing down at the carnival that almost seemed to stretch endlessly before me.  Then it was over and time to work.

Tear down went exceptionally well as did packing everything into the trailer, which is much more efficient with a larger crew.  We finished just as the morning was slowly creeping in, which is a first and quite an accomplishment for the seven of us.  The banner line still has to be loaded into the possum belly, but aside from that and organizing my bunk so nothing breaks during the jump, I am ready and eager to go.

Onward then to Maryland, which is about a five-hour drive from here.  The Oldsmobile is still running well and I only plan to make stops for fuel whenever necessary.  Will probably be heading out later to fill up even though I still have half a tank left — I just like to be prepared and have no idea what the prices will be like in Frederick.  Should grab some snacks while in town so I do not have to worry about that either.

Set up will occur in one day and thankfully we are grass this time so driving those stakes should not be as demanding as it has been.  Then we get a whole week to relax even though there are still going to be responsibilities to take care of before we are allowed to hit town.  Going to do some shopping for food and other essential items; it is important to stock up especially since produce will become quite expensive.  The Boss said much of it comes from down South and with the ports a wreck from Hurricane Katrina, it will cost more to get things to the consumer.

Our route has certainly been effected by the hurricane, as originally there were plans to travel further South, going to Virginia before heading back to Pennsylvania, but that has been scrapped.  Instead we will be going directly to PA as the Boss is working on getting us a spot somewhere there.  A haunted house is possible but nothing is concrete at this moment.  Everyone is pretty excited to be doing something for Halloween though.

It is a beautiful afternoon here at the grounds as trucks continuously remove rides.  Going to take a moment to appreciate this time and enjoy myself before we have to start driving.



It may sound strange, but I miss that weird little state called New Jersey.  There is not one particular thing of course, just a list of stuff I personally enjoy that has been lacking while on the road.  People can say whatever they want about Jersey and hate it for any reason.  I am proud to call it my home and appreciate it a lot more now that I am away.

This time last year I was enjoying these glorious afternoon in my Oldsmobile, listening to AM radio that played all the hits of the ‘50s, smoking a blunt and driving down to South Jersey to secretly hang out with my best friend.  How I miss Jon at this moment.  The memories have me smiling, and it is hard to believe those adventures happened so long ago when it does not feel that way.  Certainly had no idea that I would be where I am now, and it makes me happy to see how far I have come.

What do I miss about Jersey?

Cruising down to the Shore and being on the beach in general.  It has been quite some time since I last laid eyes upon the ocean.

Getting high, watching the sunset and causing havoc with my favorite Carny are all things I am currently yearning for.  Wonder what he has been up to.

Riding down the D&R Canal, taking in the sights as I speed along the trail.

Getting drunk and: going to the movies, bowling, miniature golfing or playing a few rounds of pool.  While I have enjoyed some alcohol—mostly Smirnoff malt liquors because the grocery store does not carry Jack Daniels, and I have not had the time to scout for a liquor store—it certainly is not the same without my partner in crime.  Jon certainly has a way of helping out with the drunken adventures, and as the days and weeks pass by, my heart aches for him more and more.

Had wanted to attend the tattoo convention in Philadelphia back in July, as well as the one in the Medowlands come October.  Obviously being here meant missing out on quite a few things, such as the Jump ‘n’ Jalopy Jive at Asbury Lanes.

Life passes by as you continue to grind out shows.

Lacking the ability to smoke up and write or drive around listening to surf tunes is tugging at my heart-strings.  Have shared a few bowls with Reg, which was very enjoyable.  It’s just not the same as it was, and certainly no comparison to getting high with Jon or James.  Man, do I miss them both, particularly since I did not see them before I left, but the circumstances were understandable.

No matter what, I am sticking with it until the end.  Between the money I am saving now and what will be earned at the tree lot, I should be able to afford a better place to live once returning to Jersey.  Some investment will be made in body modifications, continuing the tradition of obtaining something new for my birthday.  Definitely want to spend New Year’s Eve doing anything fun, but do not want to get ahead of myself with plans.  Will just have to see what happens.

Looking forward to making some calls when we get to Maryland.  Would be nice to get in touch with a few people back home, to find out what has bein going on and all that.  Perhaps it will put my mind at ease.  Knowing I cannot talk to the one person I really want to is going to bug me.  We parted on an odd note, with Jon stating that he would be doing some traveling of his own.  Driving down historic Route 66, making stops at Graceland, Las Vegas and eventually arriving in California.  He said he would be staying there for a while, doing who knows what, but hopefully being safe.  Sometimes I am quite concerned for his health, even if he insists that is not necessary.  Watching your best friend die for a few minutes does that sort of thing to you, but I cannot worry myself either.  More than anything, I just want to hear his voice once, as other things are making me unhappy and I could really use that boost of confidence he always seems to give.  He is definitely on the list of things to do once I get back to Jersey.

There will be a few free days after the Halloween spot and before heading to the tree lot.  Perhaps there might be an opportunity to come home for a minute, though it would not be enough time to arrange a meeting with Jon.  Especially since I really don’t have a way to contact him, and his all the way on the West Coast.  This is the most time we have ever spent apart since we became friends, and I do not like it all.  But as I said, it would be better not to get stuck on that thought.

At least I know what I want to do when my time with the carnival comes to an end, so I have something to look forward to.  This year may end the way I always wanted it to.  On that note, I will try not to think about what I miss and enjoy my time out here for what it is.

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