Confessions of an Addict

During my six year friendship with Jon Lovelace, it was painfully clear that he suffered greatly from several addictions.  No matter what, I never turned my back on him, even if I did not agree with the choices he made.  There were many times where we drifted apart due to his drug use or the urge to travel the country and do as he pleased.  However, no amount of weeks or months being separated could actually put a dent in our friendship.  Surely I missed him and often wondered if I was part of the reason that he so often sought refuge in drugs and alcohol, even tho I now understand that I had no influence over his actions one way or another.  In the end, he wanted to be free of certain things in order to persue a serious relationship with me, but unfortunately Fate had something else planned.

The following is a selction of Jon’s writings that truly capture the essence of his struggles with addiction and what he called ‘demons’.  While I may never know what exactly it was like inside his mind, I feel these words give at least a brief glimpse of the things he endured.

1-9-2005

Don’t really remember the last time I took a road trip……tripped on the road and fell into adventure just exploring whatever came my way.  Guess it didn’t help that I wasn’t allowed to leave the state for a while, but that’s been sorted out now, so I’m free range again.

Memories came of my younger, wilder, didn’t-give-a-fuck-about-anything days. Y’know, those good ol’ days when you could get drunk as fuck, get blind on the Moonshine, go out and cause some chaos without getting thrown in the can for it.  Miss those days more than I realized. There were too many things that got in the way of having fun, and somewhere along the line I forgot what it was like.  Which was the purpose of the trip.

Had been so focused on what I was doing that I drifted away from my roots.  Well, the moment I was back on southern soil, it all came to me.  Spent my time with good folks, just knocking back shots and cutting up jackpots, not having to worry about anything.

The holiday passed without me blinking an eye, and that’s the way I wanted it. Had my fill of tears for the fallen. Mourning them ain’t gonna bring them back, and I’ve learned to let them go.

The new year was celebrated with much booze and setting off fireworks in the back yard.

Made some resolutions.  Shot them to hell with Johnny Cash and his blues.

Juvenile pranks that would leave a bad taste in mouths shortly followed. It was a fuckin’ riot.

Things have been good since. No one’s come around asking for me or anything like that, so I guess the message came across loud and clear.

Currently in AC……rollin a joint to keep myself here and not go out to the casino since I just dropped some acid.  Wish she was here.  She belongs beside me with that intoxicating laughter and addictive smile.

Wish those assholes next door would turn down that fucking porn.  Ruining the fantasy over here, circle jerk a little quiter, please?

Sent those assholes next door a nice gift and now that they’re quiet…have her all to myself.  The release is never satisfying.  When that fails, might as well amp up and go for a swim.

Will see her tomorrow and try not to let certain things get the better of me.  But these thoughts…they just don’t seem to want to go away.

Again?  Really?

Going for that swim now.

1-24-2005

The worst part of having a bad heart is all the fucking time spent in the hospital.  Will say it loud and clear right now…ain’t a fan of them.  Have a hard time trusting doctors, since they could never seem to agree on my condition when I was younger and carted around to every fucking specialist in Jersey.  They talked in whispers even though I was still in the room and heard every word, not really understanding most of it.  All I knew was that my heart had problems; it worked harder than it should and had weak spots that would only get worse over time.  Lost count of how many visits I had to the ER, being cut open like a fucking animal so they could make my heart better for a few more years until something else happened.

Of course getting into coke when you’re not even old enough to buy cigarettes didn’t help things, but a mind isn’t thinking in a rational manner all the time.  Once I got in I couldn’t get out, and I still have a weakness for the fine china.  Drive it deep into the head and wait for the hallucinations to come; it’s a whole different trip from acid or mushrooms, and it’s not always there.  When it’s not, the euphoria is what keeps me doing line after line after line until I can’t tell the difference between numbness from my accident and numbness from the drug.

Everything catches up to you at one point or another, and almost losing my life again this Summer wasn’t any more help than the drugs and whiskey.  So it was that a few days after my AC vacation, I had to go to the hospital, the one place I loathe even more than the graveyard.  People are packed into the waiting room, some of which look as though they really need to be attended to.  You fill out a form for a nurse with an expression of boredom on her face as she loudly chews gum and watches t.v.  Eyes dart around the room and you wonder why it’s a process just to be poked and prodded and sent an expensive bill in the mail.  They always seem to find their way into the garbage.

In any event, they had to replace a vein that was last installed about three years ago.  Gave me the usual speech of being careful, keeping the stress down, eating right and getting plenty of exercise.  Lies put on the form keep them from getting up on a soapbox and telling me I shouldn’t smoke, drink or do drugs.  That’s for myself to decide, even if a small part of me knows these things aren’t helping my poor heart.

Spending some time with a friend made it happy, even if momentarily.  She always brings a smile to my face, and I can see the same on hers the moment she lays eyes on me.  When I take her in my arms for a hug, it’s hard to let her go…and the more we see each other, the less I want to.

Those thoughts always seem to be easily erased with a few shots of Moonshine and lines.

2-6-2005

Had to check myself into the hospital again due to massive chest pains the other night.  Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the concern of a very dear friend, I wouldn’t have gone.

These days, thanks in part to having an actual job, I also have insurance and don’t have to worry about paying the surmountable bill. That used to suck up whatever money I had, but not any more.

Back to the point.  I am still recovering from the surgery I had a few weeks back.  Was suposed to go to the doctor for a follow-up, so that they could make sure ev’rything is going okay inside, but I never went.  The pain came while I wasn’t doing much of anything; the subsequent visit to the hospital was like a nightmare.  They opened me up yet again and found that my body decided to reject the new veins and they were immediately replaced.  Had I waited any longer, who knows what would have happened.

Long story short, I have new stitches and ev’rything is on the up and up.

Drowned my liver for the first time since I tricked myself into believing moderation was key.  Don’t quite remember anything after that, but it involved something I haven’t done since my accident last year, that maybe I enjoyed but would really hate myself if I found myself trying again.

5-9-2005

Life seems to have come to a screeching halt for me since the massive party.  It feels like that was years ago, and yet it wasn’t.

There is no motivation for me.  Work doesn’t exist.  I enjoy receiving my weekly checks for doing jack shit, but it’s also a glaring admission of my uselessness.  Haven’t tried to hustle in a while, despite the fact money keeps being handed out.

Am I useless?

There’s a resounding NO from somewhere inside me, knowing that I have a purpose.  My friends enjoy my company.  We drink and smoke and laugh.  That time always is too fuckin’ short, come and gone before I get a chance to really enjoy it.

Take for instance the outing I had with a dear friend, whom I miss more than I admit sometimes.  Nights like that used to be a regular thing for me, but not any more.  I only get that once in a while chance to see her…..she who I care for more than anyone, yet am so far away from.

I get to be close to some, those who have my back no matter what.  They don’t make me feel the way she does though.

I want to do so much for her, as I used to.  Giving what I can of myself, emotionally and financially.  Money don’t mean shit to me, and I never had a second thought sending her a little bit here and there to help out.  Still don’t.

Lately I feel like I’ve become one of those sad saps you see drowning their sorrows in whiskey at the bar, lamenting about “the one that got away”.  I always swore to myself that I wouldn’t be one of those men.

How does that old saying go?  I don’t fuckin’ know.

But I’ve been hanging in the bars.  It’s dark when I go in, and the sun is up by the time I come staggering out, drunk again on whiskey.  I go home and lay in bed, wondering how things would be if I made other choices; if I didn’t take this path; if I could let her in.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote about his lost Lenore……and I most certainly can relate.

Now she’s happily involved, and I can only sit and wonder what could have been, drinking my tears and whiskey.

6-13-2005

summer has arrived in its usual fashion…….fast and hot.

i shouldnt complain too much.  the ocean is right in my backyard, so its not like id have to go far to cool off. the humidity isnt bad either. i been in worse heat down south, and that shits downright unbearable. i definitely have that sticky salty feeling.

the days are no longer kind to me.  im too damned stoned to give a shit about anything.

what a fool i was to think that itd be that easy to kick the old habit, when i can get what ever i want, when ever i want it.

been spending most of my nights down by the water; that seems to be a peaceful place for me to go.  sit down in the sand and watch the waves roll in……just listening, drinking in that ocean aroma as dope courses through my veins, a bottle in one hand and blunt in the other.

i could spend hours out there doing that, for no reason at all.

sitting now and looking out the window, at that dark expanse of sea, fresh needle mark on my skin…sometimes i wonder if its the pain of the needle that i crave, or really the substance ive convinced myself im not addicted to.

heroin kissed veins and coke in my head wont let me sleep……and when im awake, i cant sop thinking. but everything is a jumble in my head, its a wonder that these fingers can still write……the numbness is setting in.

a drive would do me good, but i know that  im in no condition to be behind a wheel.  id rather have another hit……keep my thoughts from straying where they shoudnt go.

why i do this to myself……i dont have the answer for that anymore, but drugs dont let me care.

good for nothing junkie.  thats the way i see myself.  i have the power to stop but i dont.  if anything, i should do it for the only one that ever mattered in my life, and still does.  but shes not mine…..and i just have to fuckin swallow that fact, even if it leaves a cold hard lump in the pit of my stomach.

looks liked ill be drinkin tears and whiskey again to put me to bed.  at least that way i can get some sleep.

sleep……hahahah…….more like self induced temporary coma.  knock myself out so i dont have thees thoughts and feelings.

valium might help. anything is better than this fucking pain.

dope is kicking in so i guess its time for bed.  pill will wait for tomorrow…today…what ever fuckin day it is.  just another excuse to remove myself from the world……drown out the noise in my head so i can have some peace.

night

Death Defying Daredevil

One of the top news stories last week was the death of Ryan Dunn, most well known for his appearance on Jackass and participating in stunts that most people would not try.  There were a few individuals on my Facebook friends list who had some rather negative comments about him, and even more on the world wide web as a whole who quite frankly were making jokes about his death.  Personally, I do not find anything humorous about death and feel that these comments were pretty disgusting.  As a society, we have been desensitized to death where our reaction to hearing such a story is to point, laugh and state some really disturbing things about an individual that we did not personally know.  While I do not expect everyone to understand or appreciate what Ryan did as a stunt man, or daredevil if you will, it is disrespetful to talk shit from behind the comfort of a computer screen.  There are people who considered him to be a valuable friend; they cared about him and obviously are hurt by his demise.  Not everyone has to feel that way, and if you are one of those people, I certainly do not expect you to have any positive or negative emotions about his story.

The fact of the matter is that we are a blood-thirsty society which thrives on seeing other people get hurt and put themselves in dangerous situations for our perverse entertainment.  The monkey dances and we laugh or shake our heads, wondering what we as people are becoming.  This is nothing new and was certainly not invited by the Jackass crew, as old episodes of America’s Funniest Home Videos certainly featured many instances of things going wrong, strangers smacking their heads, falling down, etc., which generated much laughter from the viewing audience.  There are also plenty examples of human stupidity all over YouTube that certainly has a fair amount of comments from people who laugh at the unfortunate lack of common sense displayed for public consumption.

In my own opinion, I do not believe that Ryan was as intoxicated as news reports have indicated.  Yes, he posted a picture to Twitter where he and two others were holding alcoholic beverages, but there is certainly no shortage of similar photos on other social networking sites, so I am certainly not going to condem an adult for making this choice.  There are other sources that say he had three light beers and a couple of shots, and I dare anyone who has consumed liquor prior to getting behind the wheel to talk shit.  No, it wasn’t the smartest thing to do; no one should ever drink and drive, but obviously alcohol impares the decision-making process.  Also, I find it hard to believe that it was even possible to test the level of his blood alcohol content, mostly due to the grizzly images of what was left of his Porsche after it crashed and burst into flames.  Finally, I do not believe that the vehichle was traveling as fast as reports state, because I feel the skid marks would have been much longer, and perhaps the path of destruction would have been as well.

My over all opinon about this whole story is that friends and family lost someone they loved and cared about, and it is really in bad taste to say that he deserved to die because he made the choice to drink and drive.  Alcoholism is a serious disease that is not spoken of as such, possibly due to the fact that drunken behavior is often viewed as hilarious instead of detrimental to the health.  In the end, everyone will make their own choice to whether or not they want to drink, but moderation is something that many fail to consider because they don’t think they have a problem.  If one cannot be held accountable for words or actions that are a direct result of drinking, then indeed there should be consideration that the alcohol is an enabler rather than a scapegoat.

The fact of the matter is that I can relate to this story because of my experiences with Jon and his constant battle with a variety of addictions.  There are several mentions of these within this blog, along with details of the nite where his demons caught up to him and caused a serious crash during a performance on the Wall of Death.  Jon’s motivation for performing feats that were in all honesty very dangerous and came with a high cost is something that only he knew for certain.  He was addicted to speed and the rush of adrenaline it gave him for reasons most will never comprehend.  After all, what is the point of risking one’s life?

While I cannot speak for Ryan Dunn, the other Jackass members, stuntmen or daredevils, at least I can use this space to share some personal words from Jon himself in regard to the earlier mentioned tragedy he experienced on the Wall of Death.  If nothing else, I hope it allows people a view inside the mind of an individiual that consciously makes the choice to put their body and even life on the line for the purpose of entertainment.  Jon rarely spoke of such things, and I do not have much of his posessions, so I feel fortunate that one very important item he left behind are scraps of paper where he jotted down random thoughts.  The following are his words, written a few weeks after that fateful evening where his performing career was changed forever.

11-14-2004

The Wall of Death has been my main stunt for the past few years, and I’ve had some scares.  That night was not thinking, just doing.  Getting myself in that mode where I don’t give a shit.  Daredevil has no fear; he is a super human to the feeble spectators, who can ooh and ahh, gasp, scream, cry and curse in delight for what he does.  No sane mind could commit to such a demand, right?

Off to the drag races with my friend.  Too fast for her, but she kept good pace.  Still I go too far, but you don’t know what that is until you’re there, but then it doesn’t matter, you are already somewhere else.

Details – they are precious to me now, especially since there are so few of them and my memory is failing me to the point of frustration.  Snorting coke, drinking whiskey and smoking blunts with the one woman who makes the world suck less.

We had a great time being kids and every time I kissed her it felt so right.  Had to ruin that with drugs because I wanted to push myself to the extreme.  That night I was just playing the part for all those who cared to come out into the woods and watch me risk my life on a fucking motorcycle.  No sane mind, right?

Faces blur.  Walls are flying at you; body and machine are high speed targets to this old Circus stunt.  Built to last and don’t dare fuck up.  Don’t even think about it.  The moment comes when you know.  Even through the drug haze, a part of your mind knows and it’s all happening in slow-motion.  The faces stop; wood grain is clear as the nose on your face.  You see them cheer; you see her smiling.  That smile is the last thing you see.

What?  Here?  Again?  No, I was just…oh…

The pain brings you back, but you’re not sure where you went.

Laid up in the hospital for days, body aches taken away with morphine which only stirs those nagging demons.  Escape is not easy, but I had to do it because I could not take another drop.  There were a number of ways I thought I’d die.  Having a bad ticker wasn’t one of those ways, and the drugs don’t help but I have a hard time saying no.

Something else is wrong.  Feeling…gone.  Gone?  Fuck it then.  Party it up.

Drive down to AC.  Hustle.  Watch others gamble and laugh when they steal off with some gross prostitute.  Get enough money to buy some drinks to gather up the courage.  To forget about the pain, or not having it.

Score some dope for the first time in many years.  It was a bad scene once, but now that doesn’t matter.

Off to the races it is then, snorting that cocktail like it’s going out of style.  Molotov should be my nickname then, as I’m staggered around by fiends who don’t care but want to see some tricks.    Delivering is no problem, and the days just slip away.

This story is getting boring.  Change of subject.

You just can’t run away from who you are, so why am I trying so hard?  Getting shit out of my system only makes me weak, and the urge to put it there remains, taunting.

Tired and just want to enjoy sleeping in my bed, but can’t do it without assistance.

Being with her has brought happiness, longing and confusion – the answers are always sought in drugs.

Sleep comes, but for how long?

Last of the Original Outlaw Cirkus

This has been said in many ways in various spaces around the world wide web, but I feel that it should be documented here for posterity along with everything else that I have been archiving over the past few months.  Even tho updates have been few lately, I do plan to continue sharing the events that have occurred in my life which revolve around sideshow and everything that I am fortunate to have experienced because of it.

Anyone who knows me well or has taken the time to read this blog should know that May is a rough month for me due to remembering the loss of my amazing friend Jon.  While I have certainly put forth the effort over the last three years to honor his memory thru the written word, I felt that this year I wanted to do something different.  All of my thoughts, feelings and emotions concerning Jon’s life and death can be found here, and there is no doubt that he was on my mind during the last week of May.  However, it was quite difficult for me to say anything more than what has already been poured out in previous memorandums.

Instead, I wanted to pay tribute to the Family that was lost in a devastating fire in 2003.  While I have covered this subject briefly, I felt that it was time to relay the incident as best as I can considering my memory is not that great.  The story has remained largely untold, mostly because I spent so many years being afraid that one day whomever decided to destroy the members of Outlaw Cirkus, and subsequently Jon as well, would not be fully satisfied until every last affiliate was wiped from the earth.  Considering the amount of times I received death threats, these were not just paranoid thoughts to be swept under the carpet.  Obviously I am still alive and will continue to preserve the name as well as everything we once stood for.

On a hot Summer evening in June 2003, the Outlaw Cirkus crew was assembled in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, as was routine when we were setting up for a weekend show.  There were a couple of caravans parked in the shade of towering pine trees, with several groups of sweaty tattooed Carnies putting the finishing touches on crude stages.  We built these each and every time we did a show, and while we lacked the canvas that most sideshows of olden times have performed under, we did what we could to create an atmosphere of fantasy.  The stages were nothing more than a few slabs of plywood erected onto cinder blocks that only raised them up about half a foot from the dirt and debris that littered the selected area, but it was enough to separate us from the audience.

Various props were being unloaded from the caravans and placed behind curtains made of patchwork fabric that served as both a dressing room and back stage area.  We had done this so many times that the process ran like a finely tuned machine.  This would be the first performance since Summer officially began, which was something we always got excited for.  At that time, Outlaw Cirkus did not exist on the Internet.  We passed out fliers and relied on word-of-mouth to generate interest and lure in curious spectators.  The only way one could learn the exact location of performances would be to inquire about the information from one of our members.  Suffice to say that we did not publicly disclose such things, mostly due to the fact that a handful of the Carnies also squatted in the woods, and you don’t exactly draw a map for strangers to find your home.

As the sun began to descend, creating multitudes of shadows upon the finished effort of our labor, brilliant colors leaking across the bits of sky that could be seen thru the towering trees, I was plagued by a vicious migraine.  Usually there was a party celebrating the completion of set up that involved a bonfire, delicious foods, moonshine and numerous blunts being passed around as we  toasted good fortune for the upcoming season.  However, the pain inside my head demanded that I needed absolute silence and darkness, so Jon decided to take me back to his house and we parted ways with the rest of the troupe.

When we returned the next morning, on what should have been the day we held our first Summer performance, we were greeted not by the smiling face of our friends, but rather by the most gruesome thing I believe I have ever witnessed in my entire life.  The smell of burning was prominent in the air, both of wood and flesh, the latter which has been imprinted in my mind for all of these years after.  To say we were stunned is a severe understatement, and I am sure that we stood there gawking at the scene for a good five minutes, trying to take it all in.  The caravans had been literally sealed shut, trapping the Carnies inside with no means of escape; they had slowly suffered until being burnt to death.  The stages, props and several trees also bore signs of fire, which seemed to have been concentrated on one area  considering the radius of damage.  Everything Outlaw Cirkus had created since its inception in 1991 had been completely destroyed.

There were three other people besides Jon and myself who had survived this fire, which we were convinced had been very intentional.  This is not something you go to the police with, considering our performances certainly were not licensed or certified in any way.  None of the Carnies wanted to be known either, and by that I mean they lived off the grid of regular society for as long as they could remember.  They did not have dental records or relatives to be notified; those of us that did not perish were the only Family any of them had.  We all openly wept while burying ashes in the depths of the soil we had performed on so many times before, and by now the area has repaired itself, so no one would even know these events had taken place.

What happened to the other survivors I cannot say for sure.  Jon was murdered in 2004, and the Carny who conducted his service was the only other member of Outlaw Cirkus present aside from myself.  There is no way of knowing whether or not any of them are still alive, and the question of who wanted us dead or why has echoed in my mind for the past decade.

The fact that I am the last of the original troupe is one I have carried with pride during my years as a sideshow performer.  While I have picked up partners here and there, nothing can compare to the Family I once had.  We were more than just friends and there is certainly no replacement for something like that.  Ten long years have passed since the incident, and this is the first time I have ever shared the details with such a large audience.  It is not sympathy that I am looking for, but understanding that this was certainly a premeditated action.  Someone had such negative feelings towards the members of Outlaw Cirkus that they sought to destroy us all.

The reason I want to make this known is that I get really irritated when people treat sideshow like another hobby, or use it as a tool to gain monetary compensation and fame.  While I have respect for other artists, I can guarantee that very few of you have ever literally been in danger of losing your life for your art.  This is not something that I feel makes me better than anyone, but I want you all to know the obstacles I have overcome in pursuit of preserving everything Outlaw Cirkus worked so hard to achieve.  Personally, I feel this deserves recognition, because we have always literally put forth blood, sweat and tears in order to present the best variety entertainment the underground has ever seen.  We prided ourselves on being infamous instead of an easily recognized name, because our purpose was to enlighten audiences to the trials and tribulations that came with being a DIY entity.  It is an attitude that many perpetuate, along with the notion that they are performing ‘for the love of the art’, which frankly is a load of bullshit every single time they put their hand out to accept money.  Obviously every artist gains a sense of accomplishment when receiving compensation for their work, but there is great hypocrisy in saying one thing while simultaneously doing the opposite.

For the first time in ten years, our name is on a flier that has been distributed in a major city, which is something that puts a huge smile on my face.  Every time I get on stage, it is knowing that I deserve to be there because I have worked hard and use my talents instead of my assets to bring entertainment to a variety of audiences.  In the past, I have been told that my opinions can be read in the wrong way; that they can come across as jealousy and anger.  Considering everything I have been thru, along with the fact that other people have used me for their own personal gain, I am willing to wager they are well justified.  If what I say offends someone, perhaps it is because they know I am speaking the truth, which is something I have always done and will continue to do as loudly and obnoxiously as possible.

Being a Carny isn’t something I do part-time or a character I play when on stage or to impress others.  It is a full-time lifestyle I have been dedicated to for the past ten years and will be with me until my last breath.  There is no other way I can say this, and I will repeat it as many times as needed so that people understand there is at least one person in this world who reserves their time to maintain a legacy that existed in one small corner of a place called New Jersey.  You have not spent one moment walking in my shoes, and until you do, I suggest that you reserve your judgment.

There is not much glory in being an honest Carny, considering the sideshow was built on bullshit and providing illusion so that Carnies could make enough money to sustain themselves.  However, that does not mean the art needs to continue on this path.  As someone once told me, the whole reason people do not take sideshow seriously is because there are plenty of performers who have made it into a complete joke.  Things do not have to be this way, and even if the new dawn of Outlaw Cirkus is the only troupe that truly represents the art as such, purely for the love of doing so, I am proud to know that I am part of it.

Ode to a Friend

[Originally written on this date, 2010]

This was something I wanted to post a couple of weeks ago, but to be honest, it has been hard for me to find the right words.  Not so much because I do not have them, but more so due to the fact that I do not know what to say.  For the past couple of years, right before Memorial Day Weekend kicks off the unofficial beginning of Summer, while others are gearing up for warm weather and that first trip to the Jersey Shore, my mind goes into a tailspin.  Having stage experience comes in handy when you need to put on that plastic smile so that others have no idea how much you are really hurting inside.

The details of how Jon and I first met are secondary to the six years that we were really close friends.  His life began in the carnival, and he certainly had a natural talent for being a hustler. When we hung out in NYC, there were many times he would show me what he could do, and I was completely awestruck.  He had the ability to say the right words and distract people while skilled hands lifted wallets, watches, jewelry and other assorted items, without ever being caught.  This allowed us to dine in the finest establishments, and acquire as much alcohol or narcotics as we wanted.

It became very clear to me at some point that Jon was a junkie, but for whatever reason this never bothered me.  After all, every time we were together, he took care of me and made sure I was fed or had some pocket money in case I needed anything.  He never lied to me, stole from me or otherwise tried to fuck me over, so the extensive drug use was just a part of who he was.  In all honesty, our friendship meant more to him than anything in the world, so he definitely wanted to clean up his act.

Jon’s greatest addiction was also his most dangerous one.  He constantly craved that natural rush of adrenaline which can only come from doing something that could possible risk one’s life.  Being a Carny, he could perform quite a few of the more common sideshow acts such as the Human Blockhead or Bed of Nails.  He is the only person I knew at the time who willingly wanted to be a Geek.  For those who are unfamiliar with the act, he would tear the heads off live chickens.  Most found it to be quite disturbing, but I am not ashamed to admit that I was utterly fascinated.

However, it was the thrill of speed that gave him a high that no drug ever could.  Jon loved to drag race in his 1972 Chevy Nova and easily earned a reputation for being a champion.  That was not enough, however, and it led him to build a Wall of Death in a private location set deep in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey, where audience members had to receive a personal invite in order to witness this amazing feat.  On rare occasions he would have a minor crash, which in turn earned him the title of Death Defying Daredevil.

On a beautiful Autumn evening [October ’04], a large crowd had gathered beneath the big top of towering pine trees and eagerly awaited Jon’s midnite run on the Wall of Death.  There was a dense roar that filled the atmosphere when Jon appeared with his custom motorcycle, a huge grin plastered on his face as he greeted the crowd.  During his performance, the unexpected happened. It might have been a loose board or nail that knocked him off balance, or perhaps the vast amount of coke he snorted beforehand.  All I remember is watching him fly head first over the handlebars of his bike, which was traveling at a speed of about 90MPH.  His body crashed so hard that some people cried out and had to look away.  Each second that passed as a medic rushed to his side felt like an eternity.

The scene was fairly grim, and for a moment, we all thought Jon was dead.  Technically speaking, his heart did stop for about three minutes.  He was born with a congenital heart defect, and I am fairly certain that the drugs did not help.  This was also not the first time he ‘died’, but that did not make me feel any better as I peered down at his crumpled body.  While Jon was able to get up and walk away from this accident, it left him with permanent injury and caused him to retire from performing.

He was never the same after the incident, and there would be several months that we did not see each other.  My life was going in a different direction, so we drifted apart and it effected him in ways I would not know until we reconnected again.  March 10, 2006 was the last time I saw Jon alive.  It is a moment that I will never forget, as he finally put into words the feelings he had for me the entire time we were friends.  Even though I sort of knew this all along, it was still a lot for me to take in, and we wound up going our separate ways.

Two months later, I recieved the news that Jon was dead.  There are many unanswered questions that I have, mainly why someone hated him so much they decided to take his life.  It was no secret that some people were not so receptive to Outlaw Cirkus’ brand of entertainment, and they were not afraid to do whatever it took to prevent us from earning a living.  There had been a devastating fire that claimed several members of the Outlaw Cirkus in 2003, but it did not stop us from being ourselves and making an attempt to wake people up.

The day I had to say good-bye to the ashes of my friend was rough to say the least.  It was also the last time I would walk on the Jersey Shore.

Last year I said pretty much everything I ever wanted to about Jon and the way he effected my life.  There are still a number of stories about our adventures together that remain untold, and maybe some day I will put them in a book or blog or something.

The whole point in sharing any of this information, aside from the fact that I feel this is the best way I can continue honoring his memory, is that I find myself to be a Carny who does not fit in with the rest of society.  Those that I once called my Family are gone.  Those I once admired and respected have shown their true faces.  Those that lived the lifestyle did so until their final breath.

If Jon taught me anything, it is that one does not give up, no matter how difficult the obstacle in front of you may seem.  However, I must confess that once again I feel empty without him – and honestly, I do not know if I will ever get over losing a friend, a partner and one of the greatest periods of my life where I got to be myself and was adored for it.

I am the last of a dying breed.


JONATHAN AARON IVYLEE LOVELACE

DEATH DEFYING DAREDEVIL

Born October 13, 1977 in southern New Jersey, deep in the Pine Barrens that might as well have been the middle of nowhere, at an early age Jon had the ability to charm men and women with the gift of gab while simultaneously lifting a watch or piece of jewelry from the unsuspecting rubes.  It has been said that during a violent thunderstorm late one evening, Jon was hunting down the family dog when he was struck by a bolt of lightning.  By all accounts the young man should have been dead, but there was not one scratch upon him, and the phenomenon mystified both scientists and doctors for miles.  This would become the beginning of Jon’s infamous claim of possessing the ability to cheat death.

Jon pursued the goal of becoming heavily tattooed as a teenager and easily made friends with like-minded individuals as he traveled across the country and performed various acts on the street.  He picked up a few musicians along the way and together they formed Juvenile Delinquents, for which he provided lead vocals and ferocious upright bass.  The style of music they played was a blend of rockabilly, punk, blues and country, which gave the band a truly unique sound.  Adopting the stage name Reverend Saint Jon, he would often times entertain the crowd with the impression of a preacher, and persuaded audience members to purchase various ‘miracle cures’.  He was the type of man who could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman wearing white gloves on a hot Summer day.

Having literally been born into the role of a Carny [his father was a roustie and his mother was a burlesque star], Jon decided to carry on his family’s tradition and helped form Outlaw Cirkus in 1991, fulfilling several roles within the underground troupe.  Though they were stationed deep in the woods of southern New Jersey, they often brought their variety entertainment to towns big and small, carrying a variety of messages withing their performances.  Several years later, after member of Outlaw Cirkus lost their lives in 2003,  Curiosities From the Wilds of Weird New Jersey was formed and sideshow performances completely replaced Jon’s musical ones, as that was his true passion in life.  Jon was most well-known for his presentation of an authentic Geek, and was perhaps the only modern man to perform the act.  In the Autumn of 2000, Jon decided to test fate further by building a Wall of Death, and offered limited engagements which instantly sold out tickets to the exclusive event.  The need for speed caused him to take numerous risks which resulted in minor crashes from time to time.  However, Jon always remained unscathed, which earned him the appropriate title of Death Defying Daredevil.

Jon retired from all levels of performing in 2004 due to a serious injury received during one of his performances on the Wall of Death.  Throughout his life, Jon had constantly battled with congenital heart disease alongside a number of addictions and personal demons.  In 2006, his heart finally gave out – five months before his 29th birthday.

Jon is remembered as a friend, brother, mentor, partner-in-crime and the greatest Carny I ever knew.