Sideshow at the Rail – Act 3

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

Maybe I have seen one too many episodes of Fear Factor.  Perhaps it is some obscure childhood urge.  Whatever the reason, for the longest time I have wanted to ingest insects to the disgust of a captive audience.  The thought of being an insectivore really appeals to me, and it has since my days of seeing the Coney Island Sideshow because of the way a crowd reacts.  For some reason though, a man biting the head off a chicken is not what people consider to be entertainment these days.  My eyes have seen just one man perform what many feel is a gruesome and barbaric act, but those are intense and intimate experiences I am not comfortable discussing anywhere at the moment.

Eating creepy crawly things is about as close as one can get to being a Geek now, and so I have decided I want to incorporate devouring insects into Electric Sideshow and present the act alongside the others I have been performing.  So it was that I embarked on a quest for worms. Why worms?  Well, out of all the things that one can gross out others by eating, worms seems to fit the bill quite nicely.  They are big, slimy, and readily available at any bait shop or pet store.  Or so I thought.  Two of the bait shops I attempted to purchase said worms at were closed; one being out of business completely.  The other seemed to be invisible because I could not find the fucking place.  The last stop for that day was a local pet store; they had none either and wouldn’t get them in enough time for me to debut the act that Thursday at the Rail.

Undaunted, I knew I had another day to search and went to the grocery store to procure some food.  After dinner, I would spend the rest of the night thinking about what it meant to be a Geek.  It is a topic that I wrote about in this book that I have been working on from time to time for the past couple of years.  This began as a story of love that formed between two people who stand out from the rest of society because they are Carnies and share a history connected to the sideshow that resides at a carnival in the small ocean side community.  Anyway, this is certainly not the first time I have explored certain fantasies fueled by real life experiences.

As I pondered the matter further, I realized that part of the inspiration to be a Geek comes from Carnivale, which I have been deprived of due to lack of HBO.  In one of the earlier episodes of the first season, Ben finds a pitch card for his father, who is dressed in a tux with tails, white shirt and top hat; the writing on the card simple states “The Gentleman Geek”.  There is something about a man so refined, yet so depraved he willingly performs such a bloody act that I find horribly fascinating.  While eating a couple of worms is not on the same level, there is still a connection I feel that I do not have to justify to anyone.

Resumed the worm hunt by driving up to the Pet Smart in Princeton.  They didn’t have any, but said they would get some in on Thursday.  If I failed to find them anywhere else, I figured I would be able to return there prior to the show.  Drove all the way to Woodbridge to go to Animals ‘n Things. They had small worms, but no night crawlers.  Eating little red worms did not seem all too impressive to me, so I passed and went over to Pet Smart where I had the same result.  Who knew it could be so hard to find worms in Jersey?  What, are they out of season or something?  Stopped off at Sports Authority because it was on the way back to the house and was vainly hoping they might have worms, but of course, found nothing.

After a quick dinner, I headed out to dye James’ hair, as it had been put off for one too many days, and since I volunteered to do it, I just wanted to come through on the offer.  Oddly enough I had seen him earlier in the day, because he called me while I was in Office Depot to mail a few things. We wound up having a 40 minute conversation, and when he learned where I was, he insisted that I stop by his work to chat.  Since I wasn’t really in that much of a rush, I was happy to oblidge.  I’m not one to pass up an opportunity to shoot the shit with a friend. and James is one of the few people who can constantly keep me in stitches.  Laughing is always good medicine.

We chatted for a bit when I arrived at his house, smoked a bowl and then got down to business.  It had been a while since I last dyed someone else’s hair.  By now I am quite used to doing my own, have done my sister’s hair plenty of time before, helped my mom dye and perm her hair, did my ex’s hair for a couple of years and then there was that one time I had to dye really long hair for a job interview at salon that then decided I was not worth hiring.  That was probably the longest hair I ever had to dye, and let me tell you, long hair is difficult to dye.  Especially when you are used to dying short hair.  Thankfully the process went well and I did not even realize how much time had been consumed, though did not mind because I had good company.  Received compensation for the service and was just happy to have helped out a friend.

Even though I had been unable to acquire any worms, I was still excited for Electric Sideshow to perform at the Rail.  My partner’s brother decided to come along, citing that it was a bar so he could at least get drunk and see some pretty wild stuff.  When I arrived, the host informed me that a duo from Philly called the Unholy Sideshow would also be performing that evening.

They performed before us, and I have to say that I was mighty impressed with the Reverend’s patter.  In fact, I used the opportunity to study them to learn things that I could use to improve any areas where my own acts were lacking.  No matter what, having the audience who is so receptive to sideshow in the first place makes it easier to ply to the crowd.  Most of the people who go to the Rail on karaoke night are there to sing, but fueled by alcohol they edge closer for the sideshow and play a role in the whole experience.  Of course I get pulled into one of the Unholy Sideshow acts, serving as a holder for the pins that Barry used for the Human Pincushion.  What can I say?  That is what happens when I am the only one in the audience what the Human Pincushion even was.

Their other acts included a straight jacket escape, stapling money to the Reverend’s skin, opening a bottle of beer and breaking chopsticks with the throat, swallowing hot wax and a broken glass routine.  We followed with the Dualing Blockhead, Human Drinking Straw [the red fruit punch really set that off nicely] and finishing up with the Pierced Weightlifting.  Compliments were given by the Philly boys, and I really take that to heart.  Even though Electric Sideshow is considered fresh meat on the sideshow scene, having people in the biz tell you that you did a good show and meaning it says that we’re doing the right thing.  Of course I don’t really mention any of my Outlaw Cirkus experience, which I could use to my advantage, but then people start asking questions and I am still not ready to tell anyone why all that came to an end.

Right now I am content with the way things are going and when I am not looking forward to a show at the Rail, I am contacting different venues and at least going to try to book more shows.  There is at least a small reputation and some photos that can be used to show people who we are and what we do, which I just have to keep putting out there and see what comes of it.


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