Tuesday, January 27, 2009

pouring tea on a moving train

[I wrote this yesterday... but there was no reliable internet reception. So here it is today.]

Hello friends and family,

Right now I am in transit from Jacksonville FL to Birmingham AL, somewhere in the midst of Georgia. This is the longest train run we have had so far – we started out very late last night, and won’t be arriving until some time tomorrow morning. The country is interesting and beautiful, and as someone who can be happy puttering around their room for a very long time, I am enjoying it. However, being on the go for longer than a full day is quite different from the half-day or mid-night runs we had before. You can’t just wait to do things until after the train pulls in (as you could on a shorter run); you must go ahead and cook your breakfast, and flip your egg with one hand while you hold the counter for balance. As per the title of this entry, pouring my tea this morning took an awful lot of nerve. And I woke up with quite a startle this morning; I heard a clack when the train jolted, and opened my eyes to see that my broom had tipped over and landed resting on the bed, the end of the handle a mere inch above my nose. Yikes! Lastly (in the department of the more unpleasant things you should know), the showers are locked before we get home from the last performance and load out. So I still have the sweat of two shows on me, and so does everyone. Nevertheless, I can’t complain, because I have a window that has something new for me to look at every second, and a whole day to relax and enjoy it.

Although Jacksonville had nice responsive crowds, we are not so sorry to be leaving it behind. Besides the lack of things to do in that city, which I mentioned before, we had a good deal of bad luck. Most of it surrounded the Russian swings, which are precarious to begin with. The troupe has had frequent injuries in the past few weeks, but this time it was their equipment that went awry. The Russian act starts out the second half, and because of the high possibility of it having problems, the clowns’ chari vari is on right after. We are supposed to be there the whole time in the vom, waiting in case anything happens, so that we can cover. I have already seen two fingers broken, a smash to the face, and a serious leg injury right before my eyes! It is not a pleasant thought, but I will have to sit there and watch all the injuries that happen this year. Anyway, this opening night the act began, and one of the cables holding their rig just snapped! The whole thing began to sway in a most unpleasant way. Since they were only about three tricks into the act, there were just four of us clowns ready in the vom, and on we went. Being nervous and confused, Julio and I didn’t get the wall lined up correctly for Ivan, and the first jump of our act was a big splat as well! It was chaos. The next night they had reset the Russians’ rig with two swings instead of four. At the end of intermission the clowns were told to cover as long as we could while they ironed out a few more issues. So we said “OK!” because that’s what you say, and we went out onto the floor for at least 10 minutes and did whatever we could think of to entertain. It was quite a learning experience. After all the effort, they decided not to do the Russian act, and we were on. And then…. One of the finale bungies caught on fire, lord knows how.

We were lucky to have quite a few visitors though, which was really nice. On Thursday, Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs came to visit in the alley. They both used to work on the Blue show, and Ryan got his start in Smirkus. Now the two of them are off to work in Kelly Miller. The alley really enjoyed their visit, because we all admire them and they were fun to have around. That evening we packed eleven (yes, eleven) of us into their little car to go out to dinner. Eric and I were part of a television PR the next day that we had to be awake for at 3 AM, and since we got home from dinner so late, we decided to just not go to bed at all. That made Friday quite an exhausting blur, but nevertheless we were overjoyed to have a visit that evening from David, Tobin, and John Stork (all former Smirkos and good friends). We hung out with them between shows, and then they joined us in the very nice free-roll that the Gator Clown Alley of Florida threw for us. It was at an IHOP, and you can only guess the competitions that ensued after the discovery of ‘all you can eat pancakes’ on the menu. I’ll spare you the details. We returned home and fell asleep like rocks, or in some cases (mine perhaps), were asleep long before we got back to the train. Friday night felt like a mere nap, as it was followed by the three show Saturday. Finally rested by Sunday, we had an enjoyable two shows with a very brief visit from Christine, our former Smirkus counselor. Load out went pretty well, and it was on to Alabama, or as Julio has been singing in excitement all week, “Sweet dreams Alabama”.


  1. Oh this is so much fun to read!! You need to fill some of us circus newbies in on the terminology so that we can feel slightly cool in understanding it: what the heck is a vom (a space?) and a free-roll (some sort of dinner-buying tradition that clowns have?)? And how, pray tell, does a bungie catch on fire?? Mind those brooms, now. xoxox

  2. A vom is an entrance onto the stage floor at the end side of the track. Not all arenas have them, but whenever they do we use it to set and exit chari vari so we can get onto the end of the floor fast without having to use the portal doors and run all the way down there.

    A free-roll is pretty much anything free which the clowns recieve. It is a tradition for visitors to the alley to bring a free-roll, which is often some snacks or cookies or something. It can also be when someone (one of the clowns, maybe) has some stuff they don't want, and they bring it to the alley as a free-roll for whoever wants it. Or, in a more formal sense, as the Gator Alley so kindly demonstrated, it could be a whole free sit-down dinner!

    As for the bungie catching on fire... there wasn't even any pyro near it, I have no idea!

  3. How fast does the train travel?

    And is the circus on just one train or are there more?

  4. There's just the one train. When we park it is often broken into smaller pieces though; to fit the train yard, or so the animal cars can be parked closer to the arena. And I don't know how fast it can go, but the speed is often changing and we stop a lot too.