Philadelphia Sideshow Revue

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

There are a handful of times I have been to Philadelphia in my life – faint memories of going to the zoo and the Franklin Institute, that $3 five-minute tour I took with my sister when we were trying to get to a show in Camden, and a couple of years ago when I saw Mindless Self Indulgence at Transit with Jon.

How I found out there was  going to be a sideshow performance in Philly is unknown,  but it had been cancelled for some reason and I was definitely disappointed.  Browsing the web, I discovered that it happened to be rescheduled and immediately became charged with excitement, so much so that I wound up walking down the street and slipping a note under Shane’s door telling him all about it.  He called the other day asking tons of questions about what it was and where we would be going, stating it had been years since he visited the city.

Today he showed up with his hair combed, dressed in black jeans and a red button down shirt, a smile on his face and small paper bag in his hand.  Driving down to Philly wasn’t really that bad, and at one point I seemed to remember passing through there on a trip once, though I had no idea where I was going yet certain buildings were familiar to me.  Arrived at Whiskey Dix in less than an hour with plenty of time to kill before the show was going to begin, so we sat in the parking lot drinking Captain Morgan’s Tattoo, smoking a blunt and splitting a bag of coke.  The latter was not needed but I indulged anyway, so swept up in the decadence of partying and displaying affections that I almost forgot we were in public.

Inside my inebriated state caused me to be highly amused by the deer head on the wall that talked and moved, though the antler chandeliers decorated with Mardi Gras type beads and random bras was far less classy.  There was some terrible band on stage and we grew bored with the low-quality entertainment rather quickly, which is quite a  task considering how good we felt at the moment.  Shane brings me into the bathroom where we do lines and other things in a stall.

When the show finally begins, Red Stuart takes the stage and performs the Human Blockhead with a nail and the microphone.  That was followed by him swallowing multiple swords, glass walking and then up a ladder of swords.  Shane was absolutely beside himself and it was obvious he had never seen anything like this before.  Being able to share the experience with him put a huge smile on my face, as did the fact he had his arm around me and would give anyone a dirty look if they stared at me for too long.

Nippulini, the man with the World’s Strongest Nipples was next, and he had a fantastic lifting routine.  In fact, he was hanging objects from his nipples that I would not even try to lift with my ears.  They increased in size and weight, building up to an impressive 75 lb anvil he picked up with no problem.  Then he did a flesh pull with another guy which really got Shane excited, and I could see myself doing something like that in the future.

We were treated to the Seven Foot Man Eating Chicken, flown in all the way from the darkest recess of Mexico.  Red came back for some flesh stapling, which is where people take a provided staple gun and use it to attach dollars to the human body.  The higher the denomination, the stranger the space available, and it was only a few minutes before almost the entire top half of him was covered in money.  After the show, we got ourselves backstage and talked to Nippulini, where I brought up the topic of possibly guest-starring in future shows.  Both he and Red were really friendly, appreciating the fact that I was so eager, had respect for those who were in the biz long before me, and had such a strong desire to keep the long-standing tradition alive.

Outside we chatted with random people, passing out cards and suggesting they should come to New Jersey if they wanted to see more sideshow.  It was getting late and Shane had work the next day, so we said our good-byes and went on our way.  Having consumed only intoxicating substances, our stomachs were growling and he made a request for food, so I stopped at a diner where we sat in the back to make goo-goo eyes at each other.  Perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration, but he definitely was smiling any time our eyes met while we filled up on mozzarella sticks and fries.

About the time we were pretty much finished, Shane had flung a bug off him and an idea hatched. Quickly, and without anyone seeing him, he scooped the insect off the floor and dropped it into my food. [Don’t worry, I was done.]  He called over the waitress and pointed out the invading guest.  The manager came over, apologized, and took my meal off the bill.  Partial credit for the scam goes to the fact I have been reading Snake Oil  by Jim Rose, gleaning much inspiration from the chapters despite the warning not to try them.  Spending time with Shane has led to much rambling about such things and he is not the type of person to be shy about fleecing a few rubes.  Besides, it had been awhile since I was amused by flexing Carny skills in public, and Shane certainly delivered in the absence of…dang it, I’m not going to say his name.

On the way back we had ourselves a nice little chat where he told me about getting fired from the job he had, which I offered my condolence for as I know how hard it is to even get one in the first place.  Then again, I understand the reasoning behind it as shady as it might be; that is the risk you take when you decide to live your life a certain way.  Shane casually mentions he might have to split sometime soon.  Apparently it is something he has to do for himself, and I respect that, though we were just getting to know each other better.

We spent the night without talking but saying everything we wanted to with plenty of physical contact. Even though there is a part of me that loves him dearly, I also knew from the beginning that all this could be is a fantastic fling.  My heart and soul belong to someone else anyway, so continuing to pursue the relationship would only hurt us both.

Knowing we are going to have to part still stings.

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One comment on “Philadelphia Sideshow Revue

  1. Gold Price says:

    Educational Play: Ride the Ducks is a rollicking good time through the heart of old Philly in a mash-up of a monster truck and a ferryboat. Resist the temptation to dismiss this as so much tourist schtick: the ride is an absolute blast, and not just for kids, though it’s they who will hoot and holler the loudest. “Quackers,” a duck-sounding whistle, are handed out at the start of the tour and are to be blown at the driver’s command. The driver is also tour guide and sound man, relying heavily on an up-tempo soundtrack to make the city come alive. The theme from “Rocky” blares as you cruise by Independence Hall while “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” is the selection for down ‘n dirty South Street. In between, you’ll cruise by Society Hill’s stately homes (take note of Delancey Street, one of the most charming lanes in town), gawk at narrow Elfreth’s Alley (the oldest street in America) and peer into Betsy Ross’ house. The music, and squealing, reaches fever pitch as the Duck splashes into the Delaware River for a lazy loop and dazzling views of the Philadelphia skyline. Getting the lay of the land has never been so much fun. (877) 887-8225; phillyducks.com . Maintain the frenetic pace (hey, it’s vacation!) at nearby Franklin Fountain, an ol’ time soda fountain which will keep your kids’ heads spinning. Pick a seat and take your pick from one of over a dozen flavors (all homemade) or heed the soda jerk’s suggestion and go for an egg cream. 116 Market Street (215) 627-1899.

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