Halloween Horror

[Originally written on this date in 2004]

Everything started out fine and yet the result was a castastrophe, an event that has shaken me to the point where I have no idea how to even begin writing about what has happened.  My hands are trembling and I am doing my best to type through my tears – so glad I am by myself because I do not want anyone to see me so broken, yet I kind of wish I had someone here to comfort me.

Yesterday I came down to spend Mischief Night and Halloween with Jon, as we had planned to conduct our annual haunting of the Pine Barrens as swampy zombies and take great joy in scaring people.  He had even decided that despite the cooling weather, he was going to do a final run on the Wall of Death before packing it away for Winter.  We whittled away the afternoon putting up each other’s ‘hawks, smoking blunts, doing some corpse makeup and drinking lots of whiskey.  Dinner was biscuits and gravy because that was what Jon always ate the day before he was going to risk his life.  It gave him a sense of comfort, reminding him of being a kid and eating it with his dad during breaks when they worked a carnival circuit down in West Virginia.

Afterwards he challenged me to several drag races and that pretty much set the tone for the type of debauchery he was into that evening.  We get into the Chevy and he drives us out to this farm somewhere in South Jersey that was doing a haunted hayride, barn and walk.  The lines for the hayride and barn were too long for either of us to tolerate, so we opt for the super spooky maze thing.  While in line, we got cut due to snogging and not paying attention.  Jon was also told to “watch the four-letter words” by a parent who had heard him cursing excessively, due to the presence of young flesh.  This is not something you want to say to a man who couldn’t care less what he says around kids, and he definitely gave them a hearty sneer when I know he wanted to give them a piece of his mind.  Have to say I am proud of him for showing restraint, though I did not hesitate in delivering a ‘fuck you’ to some snot-nosed brat who decided it was cute to call me scary.  It’s Halloween – things are supposed to be scary.

The woods were not at all ‘haunted’, which Jon complained about loudly.  Could not blame him considering we have done so much more with a lot less money.  Though constructing a maze on a farm is not exactly the same as being in the Pine Barrens with strange things grabbing at you.  It was not even that dark so we could see people lurking in what little shadows there were, waiting to ‘scare’ the people that came by.  Maybe it was meant to be for younger children, and I could not help but wonder what the other two attractions where like.  At one point I caught a ghoul messing with the ‘hawk, which was wilting due to the annoying mist that fell, and it made me laugh.

Back in the Chevy, we drink all the whiskey and possibly wind up kissing for a while.  Take a momentary nap and pay no attention to the sound of the engine starting.  With fresh air rushing into my face and Jon playfully poking me while repeatedly asking if I am alright, do I need to puke, am I going to stop being a lightweight and laughing the entire time.  While my eyes do not want open, I am slightly coherent and can smell the blunt he is smoking.  The fragrant aroma is enough to encourage me to sit up and take a few drags.  Then he hands me a silver cigarette case and tells me I need to wake up before we get to our destination because he needs me.  No hesitation and no questions – I know this man too well to do either.  He has been doing coke all day and I can see the effect it is having on him but say nothing.

There is darkness all around us and the scent of pine is strong, almost as much as his arms are as they embrace me.  Our lips meet with passion and I wonder why he chose now to do this when we had all day to fool around.  This is not casual – I can feel the intensity of his actions, desires and the need to make a connection with me.  He is scared though would never express it, the adrenaline and euphoria are taking over and he is loving every moment of it.

When we reach the Wall of Death, he is grinning from ear to ear and takes a minute to soak in the roar of the crowd.  Even though he has done this hundreds of times before, I can still feel my heart racing in my chest.  Crammed into the makeshift dressing room, Jon suits up in layers of fire retardant materials and leather to protect him in case of a crash.  There have been moments in the past he had a bad spill so safety is always a priority.  When he challenges me to a race, I am too intoxicated to say what is on my mind and instead drunkenly taunt him.  This leads to five minutes of “just one more” because I actually manage to beat him a couple of  times without trying.  That is when I have to put my foot down and remind him of what he is about to do.

“But I’m the Daredevil, baby,” he says to me as a hand slips through his ‘hawk.  “Death chases me, but I am too smart to be caught so don’t you worry about a thing.”

When he kisses me I feel like I am the luckiest woman in the whole world.

Standing in the bleachers with the rest of the gathered crowd, the nervousness subsides and I am completely tuned in, shouting and cheering to pump up the energy.  When Jon comes into sight, helmet hanging on his wrist as he walks out the motorcycle, thunderous applause echoes into the evening.  He has arrived.

The engine roars, the crowd cheers and the Death Defying Daredevil rides that metallic machine round the Wall of Death.  It is an incredible scene and if you have never witnessed this amazing feat, you are truly missing out on something fantastic.  For the longest time I thought it was only something which existed in movies, and then I met Jon.  His showmanship is on a level one does not expect from a man covered in tattoos and piercings who looks like he just got in from traveling the rails most of the time.  That is what feeds him though, because he loves to prove people wrong and do things that are perceived as impossible.

He is pulling out every trick and executes them flawlessly.  This might be the best run he has ever had and I am grinning so hard my face hurts.  Then it happened – I did not see what made him pitch forward over the handlebars, but it was horrible and for a few moments the crowd had no idea what was going on.  The impact of his body against the wooden boards shattered my nerves, I cried out for help while pushing my way through the mass of useless flesh around me.  Was there even any kind of emergency response team there?  All I could think of was that my best friend was lying motionless a few yards in front of me and no one was helping him.

It felt as though an eternity passed before the medics showed up – I had no idea who was doing crowd control, and by now they had fallen silent because they realized something had gone wrong.  Apparently it was only a few minutes but it definitely felt much longer, especially when I saw them doing CPR and reaching for the defibulator.  My mind was consumed with the thought that I had just watched my best friend die and I had no shame in crying.  Then I saw him gasp for breath and the medic yelled for someone to call an ambulance.  Relief should have been sweet, but I wanted to be with Jon – there were people holding me back and I watched helplessly as he was hauled onto a stretcher.

That is the last thing I remember.  How I got back to his house is a mystery – the Chevy is parked outside and I have been wallowing in whiskey and chocolate, waiting to hear something, anything, about how Jon is doing.  Suffice to say that my Halloween is quite somber this year and I have no one to talk to about my feelings.  My best friend almost died.  No, he was clinically dead for a few minutes and I am alone in his house, too overwhelmed by everything to write any more.

Dear Jon

Today is your birthday and I can see you at thirty-five, a well-aged gentleman with a lifetime of stories etched on your skin, from the wrinkles on your slightly tanned faced to the tattoos that cover most of your body.  The silver streaks in your hair have expanded and dirty blonde has faded drastically to a sandy grey, yet the locks are still styled with precision and glisten with pommeade.  By now you have learned how to make whiskey an enjoyable beverage instead of fuel for spontaneous decisions, and there are no lingering thoughts of indulging in drugs.  You are thankful those urges no longer consume you and have a moment of appreciation for a life that should have ended on more than one occasion.  There are images which pass through your mind, memories of risking your life to feed that horrible adrenaline addiction, basking in the thunderous applause when you successfully escaped from the perceived leathal clutches of death.

On this prestigious day, you are dressed in a suit you have worn many times, but for some reason it fits better than it ever has.  There are probably even blood stains set deep in the fabric where no one can see, a fact that makes you chuckle as you slip on silver rings and adjust the collar of your jacket.  It is a lovely Autumn afternoon with clear blue skies and a slight chill which rustles through changing leaves on the trees that pass by as you cruise along the highway in your Chevy Nova.  After several years of driving a ’49 Mercury, you finally have the car that spawned your nickname back.  The restoration made it look as though she came straight off the showroom floor, so it was definitely worth the wait.  The smile broadens – you are filled with excitement, anticipation and a slight bit of nervousness.

It has been eight long years since we were last together to celebrate your birthday but I can still remember how much we enjoyed each other’s company.  We met up in the early afternoon, rode the train to take a stroll along the banks of the Hudson River, and then walked into a party that surprised both of us.  The expression on your face was absolutely priceless, especially when you learned who had set up the whole thing.  Of course I had no idea about any of it, though you cast a few suspicious gazes my way before an explanation was offered.  We partied on the beach and made our way to the woods where you were going to ride the Wall of Death.  At twenty-seven, you had been performing the stunt for a little over a decade and proved the level of your skill as a Death Defying Daredevil.  While you were buried in a helmet, Augustine said that he was quite proud of you and that he missed us being a Family.

A few weeks later you had an accident that would drastically change both of our lives.  If you could have done anything different, I wish you had trusted me enough to talk about what you were going through instead of drowning yourself in drugs and alcohol.  When you finally admitted that you had been injured and did not have the motivation to continue performing, I could detect how emotionally hurt you were.  As always, you encouraged me to keep Outlaw Cirkus going and said that perhaps in the future you might change your mind.  The struggle you endured was one that I had no understanding of because you spent your whole life doing one thing, and I could not imagine what it was like to have that taken away.  You assured me that you just needed time to heal, but things got much worse for you and we drifted so far apart that you once expressed you were afraid of losing me completely.  It should be obvious by all of the words I have dedicated to you that I am as loyal a friend now as I was in those days.

The last time I saw Augustine there was still something in his eyes that said he had many more years of adventure left in him.  We spoke about you a lot, trading stories about our favorite moments with you and laughing ourselves into tears.  He lingers with me as you do, though it is more difficult for me to imagine what he could look like now, as I never knew how old he was.  Things like that are arbitrary though, because I would give anything to have closure, to have proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was still out there.   Hope keeps him alive, as the thought of truly being the last of our Family is a hard fact to swallow and leaves me feeling isolated despite having good people around me.

For the first year after we laid your ashes to rest in the Atlantic Ocean, I had dreams that you were still alive, waiting for the right moment to make your return.  Each year that followed brought more realization you were gone and never coming back, which just re-opened the wounds which had formed the day I received the fateful news.  Once I swore that I saw you, but I had also spent two days celebrating my birthday and New Year’s Eve with much consumption of mind-altering substances, was lacking sleep and trying to combat the nausea because I did not want to vomit on public transportation.  Your appearance in my dreams is less frequent, but any time I see you there I wonder if you are trying to send me a message.  Maybe I am making too much of all this, but just because you are gone does not mean I will stop being your dedicated friend.  That is something I vowed to be until the end, and seeing as I am still here, I find it cathartic to write about you on your birthday.

This is my gift to you, and though it is highly personal, I do not mind sharing it with whomever wishes to read it, as they will know how truly amazing you were and that I loved you so very much.  If I could see you today as the man I described at the opening of this letter, I would be overwhelmed by happiness and find comfort in our embrace – the Hollywood Moment we were often caught up in when we saw each other after being apart for a while.  Being taller than I, you found it endearing to literally sweep me off my feet as you planted a kiss firmly on my lips.  Those familiar scents of licorice and leather would rattle old memories awake and I would find myself taken back by you, wondering how I had managed to have someone so awesome in my life.  It was a feeling we shared and part of what made our bond so strong, something that incited jealousy in others because they felt as though they could not compete with our relationship, though goodness knows why they even wanted to.  Everything that happened after the embrace was magical, even if we were just walking along the beach or sitting in a diner.  The time I spent with you was incredibly valuable and remains as some of my most cherished experiences.

Reaching thirty was a milestone you doubted that you would achieve, and for a while I hated that you were right.  At the beginning of the year I found it hard to believe that I had outlived you – just seeing those words gives me the creeps because in my mind you are not dead.  On the contrary, much like the fictionalized lives of numerous celebrities, you have been sequestered on a desert island getting your shit together and planning your glorious return.  Today you are Jonathan Aaron Ivylee Lovelace, the man that has cheated death and lived to tell the tale, the man with the appetite of a carnivorous animal, the man that feels no pain despite torturing his body.  You are a living legend yet humbled by age as you want to spend the remainder of your years doing something that you did not have a chance to when you were young.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life as someone who can fully embrace and explore everything it has to offer – you are honored and appreciated by those who knew you best, that smile never leaving your face.

While it may be harmless to have a fantasy, I also realize that I have to accept the fact it will never be anything more.  Though you certainly have never been forgotten, there is a place where you once were which remains empty.  Perhaps that is the way it is meant to be and on occasions when I am lost in my emotions, I have so many things that remind me of you it feels as though you are still here.  As always I love you and want you to know that you will remain in my heart forever.

Carny Culture

Rosa and Josepha Blazek – the Bohemian Twins

What is a Carny?

The answer will vary depending on whom you ask.  Popular stereotype dictates a Carny as a carnival worker who is an alcoholic/drug addict, and most likely on the run from the law.

In my humble opinion, being a Carny is a full time lifestyle one must be entirely dedicated to.  Everything from the clothes I wear to the language I speak is an expression of my own Carny style.  This is an honor that does not come easily, despite the fact that many assume the label without understanding the culture.  No, I am not some elitist that believes you have to fit a specific criteria in order to proclaim being a Carny.  However, it is far more than spending a few hours making use of Google or traveling with the carnival for a couple of months.  The term Carny Trash was once meant as a derogatory term spouted by townsfolk as a means to insult those who lived, worked and traveled with the circus or sideshow.  Over time, these people usurped the word and readily apply it with pride to themselves with pride, so I personally feel that it is not something to use as a label as though Circus culture is just another trend.

Nora Hildebrandt – First Tattooed Beauty

The privilege of being titled a Carny was bestowed upon me by my late friend, Jonathan Lovelace, aka Reverend Saint Jon – the Death Defying Daredevil.  Jon was literally born into the Circus world, and it is through him that I learned a greater understanding of what being a part of it really means.  He also passed on ideals, morals and an unspoken code that I have carried with me for the past twelve years, and I have zero plans on deviating from this path any time soon.  Then I decided that I might as well use the Internet to my advantage in an attempt to preserve the traditions that I proudly uphold, for no other reason than this is what I decided to dedicate my life to.  The basis of Carny Style articles stems from all of these things, and over the past few months I feel as though I have efficiently shared my knowledge of basic Circus inspired fashion.

Mademoiselle Gabrielle – the Half Woman

Society has a tendency of stereotyping, and they see Carnies as a specific group of people that deserve to be mocked.  As previously mentioned, society is lazy and would rather easily pigeonhole individuals than actually spend a moment being educated.  They forget that sideshow performers were one of the main forms of entertainment in this country, particularly the human curiosities.  While political correctness prevents them from being put on display, there was a time when they were considered royalty and earned a steady income from doing nothing more than exhibiting that which Nature bestowed on them.  The photographs and artistic renderings that I see of these people usually depict them in elegant clothing, which is often a stark contrast to the character they portrayed in the sideshow.  Many performers sought the company of one another, often dining and going on outings together because there was solidarity in numbers and people were less likely to make rude remarks.  Seeing a congress of working and oddities in their stage costumes or their every day wear is a remind that despite the fantastical claims made to lure in curious spectators, they were still quite human and deserved to enjoy ordinary things without being hassled.

Delina Rossa – Bearded Lady From Paris

The term Carny Trash Aristocracy is something that Jon and I conjured up one evening while deep in discussion – an oxymoron meant to defy the stereotypes and assumptions that people make about Carnies.  One of our favorite activities was to visit a fine dining establishment dressed in proper evening attire, contradicted by body modifications and wild hair.  It served as a social experiment to observe how we were treated and the reactions people had.  Often we were seated in a section considered to be ‘out of view’ from the usual crowds, but there were also plenty of politeness and generally excellent service that was certainly rewarded.  The point is, whether people learned not to judge others by their appearances or spent time trying to get a good look, we actively made an effort to portray ourselves in a manner that would leave a positive impression.

This guide is a reflection of my personal aesthetic, a collection of couture clothing and adventurous accessories, high-class hairstyles and modernized makeup inspired by current trends with a dash of vintage flair, executed with a heavy dose of confidence.

FUTURISTIC FLAPPER

The aesthetic from the 1920’s are among the top fashion trends for Spring, so this pastel pink beaded sleeveless dress from Biba is an excellent example of elegance and can be paired with a classic 1920’s beaded French coat, made from a cotton base to ensure that the meticulous placement of sequins will not budge when this piece is being worn.  Local merchant Hats in the Belfry have a nice variety of cloche hats, which is a fundamental accessory when assembling this type of look, and the Betmar Olivia in royal purple exhibits quality craftmanship for every stylish woman.  Glittering gold sequin Bordello Cabaret shoes were made to emphasize fancy footwork on the dance floor, and art deco fishnet tights by Lip Service create an interesting silhoutte for legs.  A monochrome faux fur stole can be a fun accessory, particularly when posing for photos or creating a bit of a spontaneous puppet show, while a vintage beaded purse not only looks stylish but also comes in handy for storing personal items.  Finally, an off-white pair of vintage lace gloves adds the right touch of feminine flair, and is always a nice way to protect a coordinating manicure.

When it comes to channeling authentic flapper style, the Kelly 1920s Pearl Necklace by Stepahnie Browne delivers with three strands of smooth ivory pearls clutched between Swarovski crystal ornaments.  For the sake of this guide, lets us pretend that the price tag of this Tiffany’s Art Deco bracelet does not exist, and instead appreciate the hand-carved onyx and thousands of diamonds that compose the eye-catching fan motif.  Antique stores are great for finding one-of-a-kind items, such as marquesite and  mother of pearl earrings, not to mention a large variety of jeweled brooches.  If the cloche hat is not your thing, the Victoria 1920s headpice features Swarovski crystals and faux pearls artfully arranged in swirls, and will bode well to accentuate carefully coiffed curls.

Speaking of hair, styles of the 1920s are most noted for heavy partings, sleek finger waves and precise pin curls in vein of Mae West and other notable starlets of the era.  Create a porcelain doll-like base with Illamasqua’s Concealer in CC 105 and Cream Foundation and CF 100, to achieve a blank canvas that hides all your secrets and blends easily for full coverage without it feeling heavy.  There are no shortage of color Powder Blushers, but the hues I prefer for this look include Unrequited, Karie, Tremble and Nymph.  For more drama, I would also suggest Morale, Hussy, Thrust, Tweak, Chased and Disobey.

Brows should be thin, curved and three shades darker than your hair color, while eyes are treated to a heavy smokey effect, which can be accomplished with Illamasqua’s Eye Liner Cake in Mislead and Precision Ink in Abyss.  The bold color is quick-drying and non-smudging, ensuring the endurance of your look while drinking champagne and dancing to big band jazz.  Enhance features with the 4-Color Liquid Metal Palette to capture an irridescent glow worthy of any retro-futuristic pin up, and finish with the feathery and fierce Midnight Vixen Lash Duo.   Lips are meant to be drawn small with rounded peaks and an accentuated cupid’s bow; be sure to use a pencil liner to keep lipstick in place.  Red remains an iconic hue, and immediately Atomic, Blaze, Tramp, Ignite, Maneater and Salcious grab my attention, partially because of the names and also due to the fact they are all fairly classic colors; Faust, Underworld, Howl and Growl are ideal for those who can handle darker shades and really want to exude dark glamour.  Add a touch of Intense Lipgloss for some shine and practice that pout!

This is just one example of how to utilize a variety of both vintage and contemporary items, along with a few quality pieces and an arsenal of no nonsense makeup that embodies a certain aesthetic, but also leaves plenty of room for creativity.

Photo credit: 1, 2, 3 –  thehumanmarvels.com

Thirteen

 There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die. – Hunter S. Thompson

Aaron Lovelace was born the bastard son of Shane McLoughlin and “Ivy Lovelace” somewhere in the depths of South Jersey on October 13. 1977.  The exact location is unknown, as the pair were traveling with a carnival and welcomed their new bundle of joy during a jump to Baltimore.  Shane was an Irish immigrant who found work as a roustabout with various small circuses when he was around twelve, while Ivy is noted as being a burlesque performer, but little is recorded about her due to her sudden death following Aaron’s birth.  He stayed close to his father and learned everything that he could while the two continued to work for whatever outfit they found.  [His name changed to Jon due to the difficult of pronouncing Aaron in Carny Speak, while the surname was dropped in favor of his mother’s stage name, which he also took as part of his middle name.]   When he was thirteen years old, Aaron witnessed the murder of his father, a crime that was never punished and an event that shaped a young mind into something dark and mysterious.  The best assumption that can be made, considering he spoke rarely of the misfortune, is that someone felt they had been cheated at a game of chance and chose to vent their anger on Shane.

Aaron slipped into alcohol use and took up a life of dealing drugs in New York City.  His ability for fast-talking helped him earn well, and in return he was kept from being homeless or dumped into the foster care system.  When he wasn’t dealing he found himself picking pockets or hustling cards because it helped him use up  spare time.  On the anniversary of his father’s death, Aaron took to traveling with no destination in mind, using his street skills and what he learned from interactions with sideshow performers and magicians to entertain local crowds.  After one particular show, two teenage boys approached him and expressed their appreciation for what he was doing.  They offered him a place to crash for the evening, and by the next day, the primitive plans for Outlaw Cirkus had been outlined.  Aaron was fourteen and still coping with the loss of his father, but the invention of a troupe that would offer live variety acts on an intimate level demanded his full attention.   By the end of 1991, Outlaw Cirkus landed in South Jersey, consisting of Jon as the ringmaster, The Flying O’Reilly’s – trapeze and aerial arts – and Squeaky the Clown, oldest of the trio and a seasoned hobo with train hopping experience.

Throughout the Winter of ’91-’92, they built props, stitched costumes and rehearsed endlessly, hoping their efforts would gain them more than just spare change.  They also wanted to hand out pamphlets to people during the performances, encouraging them to consider a life free of corporations and a defective government.  Believing in the DIY spirit of American Circus, everything they had was gained by their own hard work, and slowly they gathered attention.  Outlaw Cirkus had a brief tour in 1992 beginning May first and ending in August after the three added Psychopyromaniacs, Bolshevik Burlesque and the Fish Bottom Orchestra to their line up.  Now they could offer fire arts, dancing girls along with comedic skits that often pitched commentary on current events and a rag-tag bunch of misfits with instruments such as a washboard, spoons, washtub bass, cigar box guitar and saw violin.  Eventually the vaudeville acts branched off on their own as Hanky Panky and Black Jack, thus forming the final version of Outlaw Cirkus, which began touring the southern states in November 1992.

There were certainly a number of things that were happening in Aaron’s life, and perhaps the pressure of performing along with reaching out to the community to teach them about American Circus history finally got to him.  Whatever the reason, he developed a coke habit and had a serious addiction by the time he was fifteen.  The drug never effected his stage life but it put a strain on his heart, which was afflicted with coarctation of the Aorta and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – conditions that had been with him since birth.  Neither one really flared up until Jon was eighteen, but the experience was shocking enough to convince him to slow down with drugs and alcohol for a while.

Outlaw Cirkus continued on with their mission of preserving variety entertainment as a certifiable culture and means of self-sufficient living, where one is employed by and works for oneself as well as within a unit to achieve a common goal.  They were more than friends within a small nomadic community; they were a Family who trusted one another and would fight for each other no matter what.  My introduction to these fabulous individuals came in March of 2000, but I was distracted with other things at the time and did not see the opportunity that I had.  After spending some one-on-one time with Jon and developing a friendship, I began to pursue the idea of being a sideshow performer.  The so-called initiation into Outlaw Cirkus occurred on May 1. 2001 and required a rite of passage that included a leap of faith into a pile of broken glass that was on fire.  There were a few roles I filled, such as helping with set up, mending costumes and promotions.  Our performances were mainly in the Pine Barrens or basements and backyards of South Jersey, with some members splintering off to do other events under the Nickel Empire banner such as Hillbilly Hoedown and the Miss Anti-Beauty Pageant.

By now I honestly have shared much more information about Aaron than I ever did when he was alive, and I feel accomplished in doing so because in a way it immortalizes someone who did not think he was worth remembering.  To say that he was a humble man would dispute the fact that he relished being in the spotlight and took pride in the ability to fool people with his skills.  However, at the end of the day, Aaron never acted like he was better than anyone and took compliments to heart.  He constantly gave back to the community by donating money to various charities, particularly those that funded the arts in schools, but did so anonymously.

As much as Aaron enjoyed being a public figure, it was something literally that put his life at risk.  He believed that things he did when he was a teenager running the streets in NYC were going to come back and bite him in the ass, or that someone who had been wronged by Shane would seek revenge in him, and so he was always looking over his shoulder expecting a beating or perhaps even worse.  This coupled with his drug and alcohol abuse is what fueled his paranoia and the distance that he created between us.  No matter how close we got on a physical or emotional level, Aaron was afraid that his haunting past would affect me and our future together.  However, we still remained friends and it seemed the bond that we shared grew stronger each year we celebrated having known each other.

When tragedy struck Outlaw Cirkus in 2003, Aaron and I suffered the loss together and in our own ways.  With the majority of the troupe deceased, we reformed into a smaller show and continued to perform, but it always felt as though something was lacking.  Bad luck came our way again October 2004 when Jon was severely injured following a crash on the Wall of Death.  It seemed that after everything the Death Defying Daredevil had been through, this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  Aaron retired from all aspects of show business, officially putting an end to Outalw Cirkus and Nickel Empire.  His motivation was lost and so he  sought escape in drugs, which had caused him to visit the hospital on more than one occasion, not to mention being clinically dead more than should be humanly possible.

What I have left of a beloved friend are assorted memories and a few tattoos that are  a permanent reminder in some respect Aaron will always be with me.  Just about every emotion one can possibly conceive has passed through me during the five years I have honored the life and death of the greatest Carny I ever knew.  Of course his story is not some grandiose Hollywood portrayal of what life in the circus or carnival is really like.  There are some really ugly facts that I have brought to surface because at this point I have no desire to hide anything.  This has been proven by sharing details maybe no one really needs to know, but rather serve their purpose in paying tribute to someone who meant the world to me and helped shaped me into who I am.

Today would have been Aaron’s 34th birthday, and earlier this year I was hit with the realization that I was going to out live him like a daydreaming quarterback by an alert defensive lineman.  The idea has yet to completely settle in, but the thoughts are stirring again now that I am aware of my own impending birthday.  At times I wonder how I got to the position I am in, and then I come to this space to read my own archives in amazement that I have had so many wonderful adventures.  Nothing will ever compare to what I had with Aaron and Outlaw Cirkus, but I am always working hard on continuing the legacy as best as possible.  It is certainly not easy, especially when one feels as though people are not interested in my long history as a sideshow performer, or when you put forth the effort to bring live shows back to their DIY roots and no one comes.  What is left to motivate when all past inspiration has been exhausted?

There are moments where I feel as though I am standing in Aaron’s shoes, viewing the world as a cynical Carny who doesn’t trust anyone and generally dislikes people.  The individuals one does identify with are held dear and yet at a distance to keep them from seeing the real face, because others abused the privilege in the past and it’s not something you are willing to just hand out.  Isolation is preferred to keep focused on the Self, writing, painting and creating whenever possible.  Socializing is an event, for which one dresses accordingly to present status and representation of culture since everything else is a stupid hipster trend that needs to die in a fire.  Music rules my world, nostalgic tunes of past eras bringing a soothing happiness and transporting the mind to somewhere else.  It’s easy to forget about what’s happening outside when not paying attention to news and social mediums.  Hours pass like minutes and whole days are lost to being caught up in imagination and productivity.  This is what one must do in order to prevent succumbing to negative thoughts, especially when comparing yourself to your dead friend.  However, getting lost in that downward spiral is not a place I even consider finding myself.

The great thing about inheriting Outlaw Cirkus was that its founding members had solid plans of what they envisioned for its future.  Being at the helm of such an organization is no easy  task, but I take the position seriously because it is on a path of becoming something real.  Jon used to say: “We are a home to the homeless and a friend to the friendless.  We embrace the misfits and miscreants, derelicts and deviants .  We are a Family and fight together for a common purpose because we are enabling our rights to have our voices heard.  We do this with hope of igniting a revolution against the media zombification of society and to encourage the evolution of creativity.”  This is a heavy load to carry alone, but as I have stated since I first began performing, I do what I do because I love it and it’s my life.  Nothing makes me beam with more pride or ache from happiness and I can honestly say that I don’t know a lot of people who can match this claim, so I consider myself to be quite fortunate.

Halloween

[Originally written 11.3.03]

After leaving the apartment on Thursday, I headed to Newark to catch the PATH.  Bad timing, as there was not a single parking space to be found, not even in any of the lots.  No big deal, I thought to myself.  Made my way to Hoboken, but that situation wasn’t any better.  In a last-ditch effort, I wound up parking at the Newport Mall.  It was better than paying $8-$10 for one hour in a regular lot, or getting a ticket for being parked somewhere I shouldn’t have been.

Hauled ass to the PATH station.  Luckily I only had to wait one stop and then proceeded to walk as fast as my stumpy legs would let me to Unimax.  Thought they closed at five, but was relieved to find they closed at six.  Bought everything I wanted.  Took my time going back to the station, as it was such a nice day.  However, I did have to remind myself that I was on a bit of a schedule and could not just wander around, as much as I would have really enjoyed it.  Hit traffic on the way back to the apartment, so I didn’t have time to do anything else because I had to drive down to the Shore to meet up with Jon.

It was pretty mild and kind of foggy, which of course set up the perfect atmosphere for haunting the Pine Barrens.  However, first we knocked back several shots of Moonshine and smoked a fat blunt while applying our make-up.  This would be our final performance for the Halloween season, which  unfortunately also reminds us that sideshow in general dies down.  Perhaps that’s due to people getting caught up in all of that ‘holiday’ nonsense, which I admit I am guilty of myself.  However, it’s a period I don’t particularly look forward to, because Jon falls into that predictable drug and alcohol induced funk where he’s detached from everything, including me.  He always manages to pull himself together for my birthday, but between now and then, I know what’s coming and I don’t like it one bit.  Sadly, there doesn’t seem much I can do other than deal with things as they come and support my boy because I love him dearly.

In any event, a couple of hours after my arrival at the Shore, Jon and I were in his Chevy headed towards the woods.  The ‘shine was hitting me kind of hard so I was puffing away on the blunt while grooving to some psychobilly mix CD he had made.  It was dark by the time we reached the Pines, but Jon has an impeccable sense of direction and was able to lead us deep into the towering trees with aid of an oil lamp.  Everything was set up just the way we had left it after last weekends show, and people would be arriving in about half an hour. With the lamp between us, we sat down on a couple of stumps and he made a small orange plastic pumpkin appear out of thin air.  No idea how he does that sort of magic, but I do enjoy the fact that he loves sharing it with me.  Peering inside, I discovered a decadent treat which we split to kill time while waiting for a crowd to build up.

That’s when I noticed Jon had set up the Wall of Death, and I have to admit that I was kind of surprised to see it considering he hadn’t mentioned that he would be performing the stunt that evening.  It concerned me that he was filling up with coke and ‘shine, but at the same time I knew a lecture would have no effect.  He’s the Death Defying Daredevil and knows what he’s doing; all I could do was be there for moral support and ensure that he didn’t get seriously injured.  Doesn’t mean my heart wasn’t racing with anticipated nervousness, or maybe that was just endorphins.

The groups were fairly decent all nite long, stumbling and weaving their way thru our DIY maze of horrors and screaming when they were startled by one of the many scares along the way.  Our sideshow performances seemed fast-paced, but that might be attributed to the substances floating thru my body.  By the time midnite arrived, a large audience had gathered to witness the Wall of Death, and that funny feeling swelled in my stomach once again.  We took a break underneath the structure to wash off our make-up, change out of our costumes and split a blunt.  As he was climbing into his riding gear, Jon asked if I wanted to drag race, and tho common sense dictated that I should have said no, a smile tugged at my lips and I teased that I would totally win.   Should have exercised better judgment, especially knowing my best friend was about to risk life and limb to entertain a bunch of strangers, but my brain certainly wasn’t thinking clearly.  Oh, and I totally got my ass beat.

Took my usual position and announced that there was just three minutes to go until midnite, suggesting that everyone take their seats and prepare for a feat they would not soon forget.  The engine of Jon’s motorcycle roared, echoing deep into the pitch black forest.  A unanimous cheer rose from the audience as he appeared.  For the next fifteen minutes, my heart beat savagely in my chest as I watched him circle around the Wall of Death, showing off his entire repertoire of ticks to heated applause, cameras flashing in waves.  Everyone was on their feet and clapping as hard as they could when Jon settled on the ground once again, helmet held triumphantly in the air.

Sleep came hard when we returned to his house, which made me thankful I had washed my face earlier.

Friday was Halloween!

Drove up to NYC in Jon’s Chevy, faces painted like death and blasting a special Halloween-themed mix CD, blunts burning as fast as the rubber tires.  Parked in some unknown neighborhood and then walked to the village to catch the parade.  Debauchery was had in high levels as we enjoyed the lavish costumed characters that marched down the street.  At one point we found ourselves walking alongside a lobster, lumberjack and several sequined drag queens.  The energy was definitely good and I very much enjoyed myself.

Hit up CBGB afterwards for several shots of whiskey and drag racing in the bathroom.  Pretty much everything after that is a blur of hallucinations and not a moment of being sober until waking up early Saturday evening.

Carnivale  was damn good last nite.  When is it not?  Brother Justin is now in the nut house…oh what fun.  Had a feeling Sophie was going to try dancing the cootch.  Can’t believe that Jonsey agreed to Stumpy’s suggestion, as I was hoping he wouldn’t, especially since I tend not to like Rita Sue.  Ben’s dreams get stranger, particularly with the appearance of  Brother Justin.  Disappointed there was no Scorpion Boy, but a Lobster Gal instead.  How does the vision Ben have when he shook Phineas’ hand fit in?  And why did the symbol on his ring match that on the watch fob Samson had?  What was Lodz saying to management?  Him and the bearded lady are odd, but it’s sweet to see the sideshow freaks be romantically involved with each other.  Next week’s episode is sure to draw out more questions.

Halloween Plans

[Originally written 10.20.03]

Saturday I woke up to find no one in the house. How nice that was, considering I could take a nice long shower without being paranoid and had time to fuss around with my make-up.

Arrived at Jon’s place around noon.  Immediately proceeded to smoke and consume food, then just sat and wrote for several hours.  Then we made ready for that evening’s festivities.  Every October we host sort of a haunted attraction in the Pine Barrens, which has been an Outlaw Cirkus tradition since they had first gotten together as a formal troupe.  In any event, we take the time to decorate a small portion of the woods that is accessable if you know your way around.  Mostly the local underground kids come out; a variety of punks, hobos, ‘billies and run-of-the-mill misfits, deviants and random scumfucks.  Hey, that’s what they call themselves, and while usually they don’t have the best reputation, they give us no trouble and are welcome to spend their money.

The preparation isn’t too bad, but the decorating takes a lot of time.  There are a couple of people who help out with the scares and all, tho the sideshow is the main attraction.  For these shows, Jon and I perform only the most dangerous stunts, which can reach a point of being stupid.  The Wall of Death pretty much defines that category, but I have come to terms with trusthing that he knows what he is doing.  Death defying daredevil has no fear – so he says.

This year the theme was old-timey medicine shows and their penchant of hawking snake oil to the rubes.  Jon has an excellent pinstriped red suit for the occasion, along with a vintage straw hat and bamboo cane.  He even managed to find a pair of blue suede boots and pulls out the twang in his voice to the point you would never know he’s from Jersey.  The show he puts on is impeccable, and I make it no secret that I love watching this.  People hang on every syllable that leaves his lips; they would gladly follow him like lambs to the slaughter house.  He entertains, charms and takes thier money while they laugh, smile and thank him for it.

My opinion of myself is less enthusiastic, but Jon assures me that I always play my role well.  For this, it’s to give my trust completely as he uses my skin.  Being a human pincushion really gets to people, because they don’t understand why someone would willing insert sharp objects into seemingly painful places on their body.  To lend yourself to someone else’s hands takes the act a step further, but I never worry about injury.  However, that is nothing compared to the final presentation of the evening.

It is something brutal, gruesome and carries the ability to make grown adults grow pale at the sight of.  In fact, I don’t even want to put the words here because I don’t know whose eyes may be looking.  However, I will say that Jon playing the role of the Geek is one to never be forgotten.  People have screamed and fainted, some make remark that it’s cool or gross, but all will remember what they have seen.

When all that was over, I knew we wouldn’t do anything more than smoke before climbing into bed and falling asleep, so I wasn’t disappointed when we did exactly that.  Wanted to wake up and watch Carnivale agan, but it’s not a big deal that I missed doing so.

Sunday was more of the same and left us both feeling slightly drained.  Since things were over by early evening, we made dinner together and enjoyed sitting down to eat it.  Then we smoked and relaxed watching television. 

The new episode of Carnival did not dissapoint.  The whole sequence wit Ben in the battle field was majorly confusing, especially when he ran into Lodz who had his vision.  Wondering why Ben didn’t tell him what he saw.  The beginning where they show why Jonesy limps was pretty awesome, and I was surprised when Brother Justin got up and left.  That radio broadcast of his story was great, and of course, carnival justice is the shit, hands down.  At first I couldn’t believe that they just let the guy go, but of course Samson got him in the end  The next episode will hopefully make some sense out of this one, and of course I am looking forward to seeing it.

At some point in the evening, we decided to go on vacation the following weekend.  Arrangements have been made.  We will be heading up to Lake Compounce in Connecticut for their Halloween event.  It’s cool because you get to dress in full costume, and this place is deep in the woods.  The one roller coaster they have actually cuts thru the trees, and I cannot wait to go on that son of a bitch in the dark.  It shall be fun.   He suggested breaking Rule #1*, which while flattering was totally unexpected and met with uncomfortable silence.  We are set to leave early Saturday, so I guess I will be staying over on Friday. 

Tomorrow at some point during my outing, I will make use of the money Jon gve me to buy a new multi-purpose skirt.

*Rule #1: There will be no sex in the champagne room.

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?