Just Visiting

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

Currently, the sideshow I have been traveling with since July is stationed in Sinking Spring, PA – we are there as part of a local attraction that is open for the Halloween season called Shocktoberfest.  We have worked long hours since day one, where performing takes up ten to twelve hours each day and occasionally we break out the Midnight Madness and will be in that tent until one in the morning.  However, we are now operating on the schedule of the spot we’re in, as it is open Thursday through Sunday.  This means that there are three days during the week where we aren’t working and that feels really weird after having adjusted to the way things go.

Then again, this is an entirely different setup than a carnival lot – we are actually in a former industrial park that was purchased by some local guy and converted into a space with three different attractions that are peddled as ‘haunted’.  The ‘asylum’ looks like an old park building that they just filled with props, though apparently it’s painted to glow under black light and also has 3-D elements, and we are occupied on a piece of land to it’s left, the menagerie next to us and about a quarter mile of park that stretches into a large open field which is also used as a flea market on occasion.  Crossing that you come to the ‘prison’, a completely man made structure that must have taken hours to construct, and on the opposite side is the entrance of the hayride.  This takes you into the woods, though I haven’t had time to explore that yet.

Anyway, since Jersey was only a two hour drive, I asked my boss if it was alright for me to take off and visit.  Imported a Canadian with me, the Human Pincushion who is currently fucking with me while I am typing.  While I certainly did not expect to make a friend while traveling, I am really glad that I have had the opportunity to get to know someone else who has chose to perform an act that has such a high physical demand.  That is a story for another time, as I made promises to take him sight seeing on account I couldn’t pass up showing off my home state to someone who has never been here before.

Activities planned for this dreary day include driving up Unimax, as I may have spread the tale of its legendary existence and my friend not only wants to see it, but expressed interest in purchasing some jewelry.  Being more than happy to oblidge, I would like to make the most out of the trip since I am unsure if there will be another chance to visit before we move on to the tree lot.  Hitting up a diner is in order as well, since you can’t come to Jersey without experiencing some greasy goodness consumed in a retro atmosphere.  Do they have diners in Canada?  For various reasons I must see James, and introducing one good friend to another can only have a hilarious outcome.

Really hoping that I did not catch the Carny Flu – despite being really excited to show off the Garden State, my energy has been seriously lacking these past few days.  However, this will not deter me from driving into the City, which is worth feeling slightly crappy in exchange for being able to purchase massively affordable jewelry before hitting the road again.

Before I head out, I wanted to note that I am likely returning for good around the 25th of December, which works out well.  Having been saving most of my money this whole time, I plan on keeping with the birthday tradition of getting a new body modification, and I have something in mind that I wanted to do for a few years now, so I might as well jut get it done already.  As far as actual plans for my birthday [or NYE] go, there are none at the moment since my thoughts have been a bit preoccupied with work and travel.

There was a postcard I had received that got buried in the pile of mail which has accumulated since I left, though my partner’s mother was kind enough to set aside anything addressed to me so I did not miss out on bills or anything.  Without even seeing the reverse side I knew who it was from – the picture on the front was of a roller coaster we rode together a few years ago, though I remember the view from the top of the lift hill and the breathtaking sunset that followed as though it happened yesterday.  There was nothing written aside from my name and address, or so it seemed to anyone who looked at the postcard before it came into my possession.

Invisible markers are a brilliant invention though, and after a minute of scribbling I saw the message attached to the image that brought back happy memories.  The length was unimportant compared to the strength of emotion put into the small words crammed into the writing space provided.  It was the fact he thought of me, often enough to have gone out of his way to purchase something he knew I would see and instantly think of him.  At first it was really difficult not to have any contact with him, but as I fell into the routine of work and travel, I cam to accept that this is just how things are.  They have the potential to change, and what seems like an insignificant scrap of cardboard is exactly what I needed to remind me that I am not as alone as I may feel.

That is enough for now, even though there are so many other things that I could write about, but those stories are being saved up in a journal for the time being.  What I can say for sure is that I have really been enjoying this whole experience and definitely feel as though it is helping me on so many levels.

Tales From the Road

Admittedly it has been quite some time since I updated this series and for a moment I was going create a page for it, but decided against that because I would create empty spots in the archive.  The notebook where I had written about my experience traveling the carnival circuit with a 10-in-1 sideshow was also out of my possession for a significant amount of time, so adding content was kind of difficult.  Having it by my side once again, I  am happy to finally be able to complete this project and might compile into a magazine much like Electric Eden at some point in the future.  To catch up on previous articles, simply click the category tag below the post or find it in the Category links on the right side of the blog, sit back and enjoy.

September 13, 2005 – 12:33 am – Things  To Remember

  • Jerry, this guy who joined the crew when we were in Hamburg to work the dunk tank, really enjoys talking to me over the others for some reason.  Apparently there is something about me where people are more willing to open up and share intimate details with of their lives.  Jerry tells me stories about being an ex-skinhead and spending time in jail.
  • The Boss shared a tale about this group of Hell’s Angels who wanted to get on the Zipper, but there was no room and they started to get angry.  The Cole Brothers Circus sends aid to the Carnies in the form of chain-swinging elephants.
  • King’s Brace: two corners of a banner line; one pole with two braces.  Key to the structure of banner line, which will fall if the Kings’ Brace is weakened.
  • Two days ago the sideshow crew ventured into town searching for amusement and decided to catch a movie.  Our original choice was not available but we agree to wait for another show time in two hours.  We headed over to a diner to eat and then played the awesome Carn-Evil arcade game in the lobby of the theater prior to the movie.  Brothers Grimm could have a bit more gruesome but overall it was rather enjoyable and a fun twist on classic fairy tales.
  • Since we lack access to the outside world, Timmy wanted to try and connect to the Internet using his laptop.  There were not many open signals in the area he could pick up on, but when he did find one the computer was hooked to a pole in the middle of a field to supply it with power.  We all took  turns checking e-mail though I had mostly spam and a rather short message from Jon that reminded me of how much I miss him.
  • Went shopping with one of my fellow female performers which turned out to me a rather amusing experience since people in town have apparently never seen someone with visible tattoos and stretched earlobes before.  The opportunity to tell them about the show and how they should come visit always gives us a laugh though.
  • Jerry is also the former own over some controversial on-line propaganda site, or so he says, and recently explained the meaning of tears as prison tattoos.  The story of how he earned his was that he defended himself against a drunk guy at a bar who wanted to start a fight.  He hit the guy once; the guy fell and hit his head on an icy step which in turn killed him.  Jerry was sentenced to prison for 5-15 years for manslaughter and that was when he got his tear, though I forget the difference between filled and unfilled.
  • Jerry says that a driver’s license is just a government conspiracy to keep tabs on people to see where they go and whatnot.  His scars and missing teeth are from a motorcycle accident, he claims to have dated Anton LaVey’s daughter and has a tattoo on his chest that he did himself while tripping on mushrooms.  It was supposed to be the Superman emblem but came out as a demon face.
  • Any time I walk around a lot the Carnies are always complimenting my tattoos, telling me how clean the work is and that they like the bright colors.  Little  girls mention that they like the “big hoops” in my ears and any police I have encountered are dripping in real southern charm when they ask curiously polite questions about my modifications.

Walking back from the bathroom, Marlboro menthol ’72 in hand, buzzed from smoking a bowl and drinking whiskey with a side of vanilla cherry cola, I find myself staring up at the half-eaten moon and never thought I would be where I am now.  This is where I want to be and I want I want to do; I am enjoying it greatly and find it hard to believe that I have the opportunity.  Still I miss you, thinking about you constantly and wishing on the stars that you can hear my thoughts, hoping that I dream of you when I sleep.

September 14, 2005 – Down  South

We settled into Frederick a week ago and it has been a steady work pace since then.  Both tents went up before one day, before nightfall for once.  The fact that we are on grass now makes driving stakes much easier and so set up went faster.  Two people were also added to the crew when we were in Syracuse.  Mike is rather quiet but will crack jokes one might miss if not paying attention and does everything he is supposed to without complaint.  Jerry is certainly much more outgoing and even assisted with setting up the banner line for the sideshow.

During down time I have used the opportunity to go on a shopping trip that yielded a mini fridge and air mattress, though I am still undecided on how comfortable it is to sleep on.  Any time I move the whole thing shifts which makes climbing down from the bunk a lot more awkward.  Groceries were a bit expensive but I also purchased enough to last until we made the next jump.

Last week Ma made the crew a delicious spaghetti dinner and last night we had a BBQ.  Unfortunately it did not go as planned due to a malfunctioning thermostat on the grill.  Hamburgers and hot dogs were cooked in the kitchen while I helped brown sausage on a hotplate.  Should note here that everything was beef and pork free; the sausage in particular was quite tasty.

Vick and Hana have returned from Buffalo and he brought along a few new props that he fabricated, along with a snake box for Damien that I paid him to make.  It was well worth the price and allows me to keep an eye on my baby to ensure that he has enough water.  Must invest in a heat source for him because it gets cold at night and he needs to be kept warm.  The crew does not seem thrilled that they came back, as we had assumed they had left for good.  The thought that we had not seen the last of them entered my mind as well, but too many factors pointed to the opposite happening.  Besides, I know the other girl would not be too happy if it was just the two of us rotating on the bally stage.

Reg has been a constant contributing factor to keeping things interesting around here with drunken escapades he has become well-known for.  So far he has had two days without pay from being too hungover to work, got knocked on his ass by Boss Jr. for mouthing off, and got locked in his room by Jerry for being obnoxious when everyone was trying to sleep.  None of this has stopped him from drinking, but I have noticed that he is more reserved during the day and puts effort into getting things done, reserving night time after work to have a beverage.

There is a whole list of things I wrote last night I am trying to make sense of so I can properly document the late night thoughts.  Right now the crew is not doing much aside from waiting for paint to dry so the final touches can be applied and the stage can be reassembled.  Then all of the props can be arranged in their proper spots and we will be ready to open on Friday.  While the fair only lasts eight days, being here early allowed us to get some things done at a steady pace.

Later on I plan to shave the sides of my head and finally dye my hair.  We might all go out bowling or something tonight and I don’t want to scare the locals too much.

September 21, 2005 – Frederick Fair Fun

On a recent trip to town I was checking out the DVD section because Jerry has a player and television in his bunk, but said he would be willing to set it up so that everyone could watch movies together.  For some reason, my attention was caught by a movie called Swing Kids which is about group of youths in Nazi ruled Germany who gathered in secret to listen and dance to swing music.  The description sounded interesting enough so I decided to buy that along with an anthology of Tales From the Crypt episodes.

After taking care of our duties of the day, Jerry wanted to have a movie night and said he had a great idea.  Before we knew it he was hauling extra mattresses out of the bunkhouse and positioning them on the hill that it was parked next to.  This formed a crude couch but it was better than sitting on the grass and everyone had fun finding a comfortable spot.  It has been agreed that this will be the way we always watch movies.

The other day we were made aware that a few groups of deaf children could possibly come see the sideshow and so we should be prepared to do a simpler version so that they could understand what we were doing.  The great thing about the linguistics of sideshow is that it tends to be universal without really needing to be translated.  When we saw a bunch of these kids filter into the tent, we were all on our best behavior and were careful to slowly explain what was happening in as few words as possible, so that those who were using sign language to interpret for everyone else did not have to rush.  It was a really enlightening experience and the expressions on their faces said more than words ever could.  This is one of those things that makes doing this more valuable than monetary compensation, and I pity any performer who has never felt that appreciation.

When we had first arrived here and were watching the rides being set up, a worker fell from the small metal roller coaster he was helping put together and OSHA came out to investigate the whole thing.

Talk about the tree lot has picked up and I have decided that I will stay on to be a part of that.  If everything works out right I can be back in New Jersey for my birthday, which I obviously would love to spend with Jon.  Though I am usually too busy to even think about him, at night when I am laying on the air mattress waiting for sleep to come, he always fills my head.  Being unable to communicate with him makes the whole situation just that much more difficult but I don’t want to seem like I am complaining.

Every day I wake up and get ready knowing exactly what I have to do, and every evening I have a sense of satisfaction despite being worn out.  Nothing could make me want to give this up and my heart will just have to deal without Jon for just a while longer.

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.

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.

Tales From the Road

After pulling up stakes in Clearfield, the crew packs up and moves on to upstate New York, where the fair grounds and crowds are much larger.

August 14, 2005 – the Big Time

Two tents in two days.  It was physically exhausting, and at times I was unsure if we would be able to do it.  Pounding stakes into asphalt is just down right awful, and took up so much time it was ridiculous.  Was hoping to have everything set up inside so it would not have to be done the following day, giving us all a chance to relax.  That went sour, as there was a lack of pullies and rope for the banners.  Since leaving Pennsylvania, a new tent has been added for the sideshow, which comes with its own banner line and thus the shortage of materials.  There was a general lack of leadership as well.  We only know so much about everything, and with this being the first time the sideshow has its own tent, some guidelines would have been nice.  However, we all pitched in and managed to have a good opening day.

There are two new additions who hail from Texas.  Timmy does fire-eating and a slew of magic tricks; Elk will be doing sword swallowing, Human Blockhead and Human Pincushion in the Blow-Off.  They are quite professional, having performed with troupes down in Texas, and Timmy offers very helpful advice on how to improve our acts.

Miss Cara is still utterly useless.  No matter how many times someone tells that girl to do a job, she finds any reason not to.  She constantly comes off the bally stage for water or gum, to get something out of her purse and so on.  Her ‘breaks’ take much longer than they should have, and as I understood it, the Bally Bitch is supposed to be up there all the time to get the tip in.  The other day she brought drama to work.  Some low-life poser waste of flesh comes poking around the back of the tent, looking for Miss Electra.  He was politely told to fuck off.  Later on, some other grimy dude is standing next to our sleeping quarters, holding her purse.  Apparently she had also hooked up with some random guy during her 45 minute break.  Which I feel is a direct insult to the Boss, who just gave here a speech the night before about how she should have more respect for herself.  We all know she does not listen, which is why she spent most of that day leaning over or squatting down while on the bally stage and chatting with any guy who gave her just a shred of attention.

Today she was supposed to raise the banners with me, and I already knew that would not happen from the moment we had been paired up.  Enlisted the help of Elk to shake the truck where she was sleeping but no dice, and we decided to just do the job ourselves.  When she finally arrives [being very late], she just laughs when we tell her about trying to wake her up.  Then Elk took her aside and had a nice chat with her.  Poor little Cara had to go for a walk, probably to cry or something.  When she returned I decided to have some fun with her.  Found out she had been sleeping and reminded her that she was supposed to be in the tent like everyone else.

“Fun time is over for you,” I said.  “Your job is to be up on the bally stage, and right after the Electric Chair Routine is done, you go back on the stage, not fuck around or come into the tent every five minutes.”

She totally flips out and says she wanted to leave anyway, her face all read when she stormed off.  Then she comes back with the Boss; outright lies and drama follows.  He sends her down to the menagerie tent and it’s about fucking time.  Of course that means the rest of us have to make up for her absence, but if we all do our part everything will be fine.  Get the feeling Cara is not going to be around much longer.

The Manager is on his way back to California, apparently not doing the things he was supposed to and said everything was too much for him.  It is a shame because we had fun for the first two weeks, but he was just not in control as he should have been.

Other than that the show has been going well.  The people are fairly cheap, not wanting to pay the admission or trying to get in with tickets, but I guess between the parking and gate fee I can understand their hesitation of parting with more money.  Had the chance to be the Insectivore for the Blow-Off yesterday and it was fun.  Crickets are pretty tasty, but those legs can get to you.  In a weird way, I have this sense of pride performing the act because is the closest thing to being a real Geek these days.

We were all invited to this OABA Jamboree that was held at the Zoppe Family Circus tent.  What a real traditional Circus they are, complete with single ring and classic acts.  [There had been an opportunity to see the show for free one afternoon.]  The Jamboree consisted of a dinner for all of the Carnies, which would be followed by a raffle, the proceeds benefiting the organization.  It was the first time we really associated with those who were in charge of the rides, games and concessions.  There were rows of tables set up for everyone to sit at, the food laid out buffet style.  Set aside was a group of tables especially for the Zoppe Family, which made me smile a bit when I thought about the significance.

During our meal, this guy asks us what we do and Elk explains that we work the sideshow.  He replies with “Oh, you mean with that Miss Electra who gives blow jobs for twenty bucks.”  Despite the embarrassment [because the sideshow really needs to have a negative reputation], we informed him that she was no longer with us.  Suffice to say I am very glad she left.

There will be a new member joining the crew on Wednesday, though I am uncertain if he is staying.  It would be nice to have another person, though Timmy will be bringing a female friend and fellow performer up from Texas at the end of the month.  People come and people go, but the show must always continue, hopefully with no further problems.  There is always something though, and maybe that is just a part of the business.

By the way, I finally got that shower after five days.  The stall in the bathroom was not as gross as the one in the bunkhouse, but nothing spectacular either so I kept my flip-flops on.  Will try to stop by there again later tonight, as there is just no time for it during the day.

Happens to be raining at the moment and feels like it is going to be one of those days that just drags out.  It might get better later on, as it usually does.  The Boss said he will be giving us a few dings to see how they move, because we should all be generating extra cash for ourselves.  Made decent tips in the Blow-Off yesterday and have three more days working it [including today] so I am looking forward to that.

There are times during the morning and afternoon on weekdays where there is not much of a crowd.  A maximum of five people will be enough for us to do a five minute show, even if we wind up doing it two minutes later and so on and so forth.  We also do not pitch the Blow-Off unless there are at least ten people in the tent because people are less likely to part with an extra dollar.  These moments are usually spent keeping each other entertained in creative ways.

One example is what I have come to call the Hand of God.  Some weeks back, the Boss had extended use of this long metal rod to practice sword swallowing.  However, common sense dictates that such an object cannot be compared to a sword, not to mention the fact that the smaller diameter can cause said rod to go in the wrong part of the body — like puncturing the lungs for instance.  Since no one was going to be jamming it in their throat any time soon, it was used to create tiny lightening bolts when waved over the Electric Chair.  This spawned the idea to place a cricket on the chair and then zap it with the Hand of God.  It was amazing to watch the electricity shoot from the metal rod into the cricket, which obviously toasted the insect, guts oozing out and a smell that reminded me of fresh roasted peanuts.

What can I say, we are very juvenile in our humor

We are in Hamburg until Saturday, then jump to Syracuse and after that we head to Maryland.  We will have a week to relax before doing the show there and know that we are all thankful to have that down time.

Tales From the Road

The fourth installment of this series chronically the time I spent traveling with the carnival picks up after the first week of learning the ropes and performing in Bedford, PA.

August 1, 2005 – Circus Jump

Saturday turned out to be a great night after all, with several large crowds that came in to see the show.  Have to say that I was really pleased with the way the three of us worked together, particularly when Miss Priss left yet again before everything was finished.

As suspected, the Boss pretty much wrote her off for the behavior, as well as the fact that the boyfriend’s brother left his post too.  [He had been asked to take care of the animals.]  The Boss found it funny when I told him what she had said the other day.  They had enough nerve to ask for pay; after all of the expenses rendered, cash asked for in advance and the cut she had coming due to incomplete days, the Boss figured she had earned a sawbuck [ten dollars].  Personally, I would not have given her a dime and perhaps a piece of my min instead.  She actually came up to the tent during tear down and could not figure out why I wanted nothing to do with her.  Did not hear what the Boss said to her but got the gist of it, and she should be lucky to have received any money at all.

Tearing down everything in one night that had been put up over the course of three days was a physically exhausting task to endure, particularly since we did at least four dozen shows in one day.  Such is the nature of a Circus Jump.  In the old days of Circus, the tent and all is taken down, packed up and hauled to the next location, where it is immediately set up; then the opening happens the very next day.  Our jump is not much different, as we have to move out tonight as soon as everything is packed up, then will set up tomorrow and open the next day.  While there had been a lot of help, I was still weary.

Miss Priss made another appearance while the animals were being loaded up.  It seemed her costume [the one that allegedly had been ‘stolen’] was discovered in the Bingo tent where her boyfriend conveniently worked.  For some reason she came to return it, but the Boss made it known that neither she nor her boyfriend was welcome in the crew.

Around six in the morning, the spot where the tent and animals had been there remained but a footprint, and we were sent to bed.  While were supposed to hit the road, the loader had broken down when we were packing.  The set back costs us time, but the rest was certainly welcomed.  Five hours later, we were rudely awakened.  Finished loading everything up, but then one of the dogs had gotten loose and was running around.  Leave it up to an animal to delay the whole operation.  Decided to use the opportunity to fuel up and then finally everyone rolled out.

Pennsylvania is actually a very beautiful state with many rolling hills, expansive farmland and much uninterrupted green beauty.  Bedford was not too bad, though it had a high population of people missing limbs, which is something I have not encountered before.  One parking attendant had no right arm from the elbow down, while another had an entire prosthetic on the right arm and half of one on the left.  Saw a guy at the local diner with his left arm missing and other people without a leg from the knee down, one of whom had the plastic replacement tattooed.  Even had some entertainment one evening in the form of a local boy and his brother, who were more than happy to share the tales of stupidity.  Both of them had various bones and body parts replaced with metal, due to accidents encountered from racing, but mostly it was just from plain fucking around.

Did they play some sort of betting game where the loser forfeited a limb?

Clearfield is definitely out in the sticks with a smaller lot for the tent.  Some asshole had parked their car exactly where we were intended to set up.  That was a whole scene of trying to find out who the owner of said car was, and even joking that we could move it with the loader.  At least there was time for a nap and the chance to suck down a strawberry smoothie that I bought from a stand on the midway.  Then it was right back to work, but thankfully the sun was going down which cooled things off a bit.  Night arrived before we knew it, but the banner line and tent were up; the bally stage was assembled in the dark.  The inside stage would have been put together as well, except that the two pieces we needed were in another truck that had not arrived yet.

Two perks of the spot are being close to the bathroom and the food, but I am trying not to spend too much money on the latter as the midway will empty pockets mighty fast.  The smells are intoxicating and oh so tempting though.

Before heading to bed, I went to retrieve my rat from the car, only to find out she had died.  The road is no place for a live animal unless of course it can be tended to on a consistent basis.

At least getting some sleep was enjoyable, though the crew woke up around eleven today to finish everything up.  Now it is past opening and we still have yet to do a show.

There was nonexistent water pressure earlier while I was attempting to shower, getting stuck with shampoo in my hair.

The show is actually staring now, so I will have to write more later.

August 7, 2005 – Another Weekly Episode Comes to a Close

Currently I am sitting in the empty space where just last night a red and white canvas tent stood.  Most of the rides have been packed up and hauled away; the rest are waiting for transport.  Tear down went slightly better than last time.  Why we are delayed in departing for Hamburg, New York is beyond me.  Suppose there is a reason, but no one has offered explanation.

In the past week, two goats died; one was really sick and Spirit finally gave up.  Ma  was pretty upset but said it was better than having him suffer.

We also picked up a new Bally Bitch in the form of this fairly hefty old head chick.  Nancy enjoys letting it all hang out in revealing costumes, and I am fairly surprised she could squeeze into that neon orange bikini.  It was well-know that she would not last long, and there was even a pool going on what day she would quit.  Nancy was also definitely not the brightest crayon in the box and certainly unfit for physical work.  For some reason, she got into an argument with the Boss on Thursday, which subsequently led to her being asked to leave the grounds.  Apparently she was not doing the things she had been hired to.  Thought she would at least be here until Friday, then leave when she found out what tear down entailed.

There is always another piece of flesh to fill the empty spot, and its name is Cara.  Will admit right now I really dislike the girl and while in general I have no problem talking to her, she seems to enjoy flirting with the male members of our crew.  The first time I met her was back in Bedford [she was working at one of the games] while walking up the midway after having purchased food.  Then she re-appears here in Clearfield, quit her job and decided she wanted to join the show.  Her presence annoys me but suppose that I will have to ‘play nice’ for now.

It has become quite clear that the Boss and Ma are quite fond of me.  Even Donnie [the Boss’s brother from another father] said they take note of things, such as waking up early to put the banners up instead of waiting for other people to do it, and apparently some people have that habit.  Boss Jr. even stated that I am doing a good job, and he is always the first to let you know if you are slacking.  Ma bought a few skirts for herself but did not like the way they looked on her and said I could take them if I wanted, which is so kind and generous.

Have also been invited to work at the tree lot.  After the whole fair season is over, they sell trees and wreaths down in Maryland from the first week in November until some time in December.  Apparently the help gets paid very well, and since there is not much waiting for me back in Jersey, I am seriously considering the offer.

Noted here that there has been no ass-kissing because it is much easier to be myself and do exactly what I was hired for than trying to lie or cheat people who are really nice to me.  Besides, this is not my first time in a crew so I know how certain things work and feel that gives me a slight advantage over the others.  In any event, I am ecstatic that my hard work and enthusiasm is being noticed.

Getting back on track with traveling and volunteering to drive ahead in order to keep an eye out for cops.  The journey through the mountains was quite beautiful, what with the clean cool air, lush greenery and picture-perfect sunset.  However, it was also long and tedious, civilization sprinkled about here and there.  A small highlight was getting to see the Zippo factory in Bradford [PA] complete with huge neon lighter alongside smaller ones that decorated the roof top.  Moments later I crossed into the Empire State and was quite happy to do so.

The evening rolled in as I continued onward, stopping at Burger King for something to eat and then again to refuel the car.  While at the station I consulted a map to figure out where I was and how much further I had to go.  There was a Carny sitting at the next table who had just come from the fairgrounds and he said it was only twelve miles away.  Picked up a pamphlet that details some of the events which will be going on at the fair and have a feeling there are going to be many more people in attendance than at the last two spots combined.

Arrived at the grounds after eleven and decided to catch up on sleep since everyone else was still traveling.  Somewhere around five in the morning, I woke up just in time to see the bunk house and one of the other trailers driving up.  They had stopped for some repairs which caused the delay.  Used one of the most disgusting restroom I have ever seen before happily climbing into bed.

Currently we are sitting outside the lot with no water or electricity.  Apparently we do not have a space to set up in yet, so writing is pretty much the only thing to do right now.  In a while I am going to explore the lot and make attempt to locate a cleaner bathroom — hopefully with a shower.  Would be nice to wash up a little and head into town to check things out.  Niagara Falls is a nice drive from here, but I don’t know if there will be a chance to see it.

Have to charge my phone to make a few calls, and I have a feeling that it is going to be a long day.

Tales From the Road

After landing in Bedford, PA and being introduced to the rest of the crew, the time has come to finally open the show to the public and learn first hand how a grind show operates.

July 24, 2005 – Debut Show: Bedford, PA

Following the usual morning relaxation period, it was right to work moving the stage we had assembled the other day, relocating it outside for the bally.  There is a bigger and subsequently taller stage, which had to be taken inside for us to perform on.  Then the props were moved inside and the banners were unloaded.  Had the privilege of hanging them up with the Manager, while Ma [the boss’s wife] taught me the proper way to hoist them and tie down the ropes so the banners would not fall should a strong wind come by.  It was a bit awkward at first, but I got the hang of it by the third banner and making slipknots is already becoming second nature.  A small complication arose in the form of not having ties for some of the banners, missing pullies and ropes.  Once that was sorted, I thought the rest of the job would go smoothly, but then the Manager accidentally cut himself with some scissors.  Brett and Elvis were sent to assist me with the remaining banners, and the line appeared fairly even for my first time doing something like this.  The teaser, which is a banner that is stretched across the front of the tent so people who walk by can’t see in, had to be hung from the tent itself, and all free hands were on that.

It was rather annoying that the curious people walking by kept asking when we would be open.  The Boss explained that the girls were having their showers and suggested they should come back later.  Definitely admired how he handled the situation with true showmanship and feel I will be learning a lot from him.

Had been applying makeup whenever I had a spare moment, and was then told to do whatever I needed in order to be ready for the first show that evening.

Here I will state that I noticed the Deadhead girl did absolutely no work whatsoever.  She walked around in the outfit the Manager bought because she did not like the costumes that were available, doing nothing more than walking her dog or carrying a beverage.  Now I see this as being a little unfair because the rest of us are sweating in order to get everything done.  We all get compensated for our services, and while I know that she receives a smaller salary than the rest of us, it would not hurt for her to pitch in.  This sort of behavior will certainly be noticed, both by those of us pulling our weight as well as the eyes that constantly make sure we are doing so.

Show time was very unorganized, as none were certain who was supposed to go on first and how we would rotate.  The schedule was hectic as I was going up and down on the main stage, then out to the bally stage.  The crowds were not that enthused, though we tried our best to get them involved.  Most of the response was pretty weak, but some grossed-out reactions were all I needed to hear to know that at least they were paying attention.  It is somewhat disheartening to see how many people stop on the midway for the bally versus the amount that actually filter in, but is was opening night and all.

Managed to get glass stuck in my foot twice and had to stop jumping into it after that.  Lifting five pounds with my ears seemed to go over well, as did the Bed of Nails, though I need to expand the patter so that the set is not as short.  Would also like to add a couple of acts, and perhaps get in the Blow-Off doing the Insectivore to make some extra scratch until we can figure out some dings.

The night was over before I knew it, and even though we were tired and hungry, the crew stuck around to hear what the Boss thought.  All suggestions were taken seriously, and to my relief there really was not much criticism.  Considering this was the first time any of were doing something like this, it went fairly well.  The more we do it, the more natural it will become, and pretty soon we won’t even think about what we are doing.

My stomach had been empty all day, so I headed out to town and went to a diner just like I would back home.  This one was fairly large and really nice, complete with rolling chairs.  Ate until I was full and returned with a few leftovers, relieved to get some sleep.  A storm rolled in some time during the early morning hours, quite loud and very fierce, but it helped cool things down a bit, even if it is still humid.

July 28, 2005 – Strange Dreams

There were definitely some weird images in my head last night, but once scene in particular that I can recall with clarity.  Not sure where I was, but two people I know were chatting with Jon.  Now that I sit here and recall the dream, I believe they had come to see me perform or something like that.  At first glance, my dream mind had mistaken Jon for Brian Setzer.  It must have been the flashy outfit that consisted of tight red leather pants, black shirt half unbuttoned, blue snakeskin boots and tons silver jewelry.  The last time we saw each other, he had just gotten his hair cut for Summer and shaved his face clean.  However, in the dream, his dirty blonde locks were tamed into a stellar pompadour, accented by perfectly trimmed chops.

Next thing I know, the two of us are climbing into his Mercury.  Being tired, I ask him to “turn the colors off” [whatever that means].  Jon pushes a button on the dashboard, and then we are driving through a landscape that could be right out of Sin City, the sky red and black above.

This is what I get for eating  around midnight before heading to bed.  It is a bit ironic that the dream included the one person I had wanted to see before I left New Jersey.  There is a good reason I did not have the opportunity to, but someone should tell my subconscious that.  Wonder what other odd dreams I can come up with.

July 29, 2005 – Week In Revue

Anyone who is blissfully ignorant to believe that show business [no matter what field] is some sort of glamorous fairy tale would have a rude awakening if they were here right now.  Being up on stage in front of a gaping crowd is certainly a great rush, fantastic beyond description and exactly the reason I wanted to do this.  However, as it has already been documented, there is a lot of physical labor involved that people who are enamored by circus or sideshow do not see or even think about.

When the weather was bad earlier this week, we had to grind out our shows in order to get as many paying customers as possible to come in.  The constant demand for performance is rough, but that does not stop me from having a wide smile and doing what I do best.  Have learned a great deal so far, including how to tie down a tent in preparation for inclement weather, even if it did only rain for about ten minutes or less.

Of course no Family is complete without drama or bullshit, though I tend to stay far away from both as best I can.  Though I do voice my opinion at appropriate moments, particularly when the Boss asks for it.  He is wise to everything, the type of man who can smell bullshit from a mile away and before it even hits the ground.  He is highly intelligent with a killer witty attitude, and to me that is what makes him so great.  While he is willing to give anyone a  fair chance, he also does not hesitate to put them in their place should they try to pull a fast one.  As the saying goes, you cannot bullshit a bullshitter.

An example of that is Elvis being excused from the outfit.  Kind of a shame since he was a decent worker, and the first person I met out here who could actually speak Carny.  He even helped Spirit [this goat that refused to use its front legs] to stand up without falling over.  However, he tried to feed the Boss some story about being offered a job by his grandfather.  The Boss does not appreciate being lied to and had facts that confirmed the story was just made up, so he told Elvis it would be best for him to move along.

Yesterday, Little Miss Priss  – the Deadhead chick that does not want to help with any of the physical work, yet wants attention for being up on the bally stage and in the electric chair  –  put up a big stink about her wardrobe.  She had left the clothes our Manager bought in the bathroom and apparently someone stole it.  The Boss gave her a few other costumes to try on, and she wound up in a blue bathing suit with white sequined stripes.  Not even halfway into the show, she got off stage, changed and left for the night.  Well, the rest of us had to pick up her slack, which meant assuming her duties on the bally stage and in the Blow-Off.

Somehow I am chosen to sit in the electric chair and definitely got shocked on my ass, so I really don’t want to have to do it again.  Her beef was composed of the claim that her [quite small] boobs were popping out, and guys were pointing and laughing because her cooch was showing.  She even tried to use the old “I have my period” excuse.  The Boss was not pleased, having some words for her and the boyfriend.

Today she is in a neon orange bikini [a thong no less], with a black shawl tied around her waist.  So far there are no complaints and I suspect that she was just trying to get more free clothes because she was unhappy with the previous selection of a pink leopard print shirt, pink shorts and black fishnets.  That was too revealing but a thong bikini is totally fine?  Oh, and apparently she has completely forgotten about having her period.

On a more humorous note, when inquiry was posed as to why she did not help set up [or assist with any manual labor at all], she claimed both the Boss and Manager said she did not have to.  Sure, that is why two nights ago the Manager remarked that he should not allow her to leave right after the show is finished, because she can assist us in lowering the banners at night.  The Boss also mentioned earlier that Miss Priss, her boyfriend and the brother would be useful in tearing down, so I am pretty sure he did not tell her she could skip doing such work.  It amuses me when people convince themselves that they can lie and no one will know.

Last night the Boss came over while I was dining on a bowl of Coco Pebbles and bestowed me with a great compliment: “I just wanted to tell you that out of all the people here, you’re the only one[ with your shit together.”  It was something I appreciated very much, as I am here to perform and get a lasting experience out of everything.  People can point, laugh and say whatever stupid shit they want, because I will be making a profit off them in the end.

There has been other things going on as well, but would rather not go into much detail about it.  Though I will say that the crew was concerned when our fearless leader — the Manager that is — was taken to the hospital early this morning.  The stress must have gotten to him, but the good news is that he is doing well and will return in a few days.

The rest of us are pretty much running the show at the moment, minus the Blow-Off.  Sold a few pieces of jewelry here and there to pull in some scratch for myself.  So far the only money I have spent was on food, gas and washing clothes at the laundromat.  We are allowed to ask for a cash advance on our salary if needed, since we will not get paid until Tuesday.  Seems like a long time to wait but there is nothing I really need at the moment so I don’t mind.

Right now the pitch on the bally stage is bombing because the Manager is not doing it.  People are finding it difficult to deliver a good one to gather a large tip, but we are doing our best.  Later on, I might practice sword swallowing because it would be awesome to add in the show.

Have to go to work now.