Friday, February 27, 2009

Oh Borscht!

Hello friends and family,

Today was our first show day here in Huntsville. On the first day at every site we have a full dress rehearsal in the afternoon before the evening show. They do this run-through because each building is very different, and it’s important for us all to know about the new spacing, where the props have to go, and the routes back to our dressing rooms. Why we have to be in full dress, including full makeup… Well that is just a mystery. I used to find this whole dress rehearsal idea entirely preposterous (and I often revert back to that opinion, it’s true), but recently I’ve been having too much fun goofing off during them to mind all that much. This is probably not something our lovely production manager would agree with, but I think that dress rehearsals are the time when you can do whatever you had been thinking of doing onstage, when you can be inappropriately creative. Choreography is slaughtered, jokes are played, and pyramids go up with the loosest definition of “up”. Today’s rehearsal was fruitful though, because the high wire was back in the show for the first time since Winter Quarters! Back in Tampa, during one of the last dress rehearsals, there was a very misfortunate accident that put the act on hold until now. Yohan, the older of the hire wire brothers (who perform in a quartet troupe with their wives), slipped while coming down the incline wire and fell to the cement below. He broke both of his wrists and dislocated an elbow, and the show had to be stopped. As far as wire-walkers’ accidents can go, he is very lucky to still be able to walk, and to look forward to sufficient recovery to perform again in his future. Still, it was a tragic thing to happen, especially to such a lovely group of people. The other three have stuck around to be in production numbers while Yohan heals. Ringling brought over another wire-walker from the Blue unit, and though the act is not what it was before, it is wonderful to have them back in the show.

As I mentioned before, I had a particularly lazy train run, and by yesterday I had gone absolutely stir crazy. I dragged Brandon, Dustin, and Eric to the mall just to get out of the train. We didn’t do much more than eat and talk, but I was really glad that we did. Then we walked to the nearest Walmart, because we all needed groceries, and since there was a run that evening we figured we would just catch the bus back. Well, the bus went to a different Walmart, so we were out of luck. Still, I had an incredibly fruitful visit to the toy section. Because my coveting of Brandon and Eric’s weapons had grown so strong, I felt the need to buy my own cap gun, and what must have been a year’s worth of ammo. Upon opening it in Clown Alley today I was very disappointed at the loudness of the shot: it was no competition for theirs. However, the bubble gun that I also bought did not let me down (I bought a gallon of bubble solution too). This made my pre-show very enjoyable, as I spent my time zooming around shooting bubbles in a big stream; too fast for pictures, too busy to stop. Man, everyone loves bubbles.

For about a week now, my friend Orest has been telling me he is going to make me some Borscht. He is one of the older Russians who live on my car, a base in the Swing act, and really one of the nicest people out there. Well today he came through on his offer, and appeared at my door with a huge hot bowl of absolutely fuchsia Borscht! (“You mast eat now. Vith bretd.”) I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, and I couldn’t have been more excited. It was truly delicious (definitely too good to have been made without any animal product, but I didn’t care). I think it’s safe to say that my fears about Borscht from the past have been overcome. Eric and Book, on the other hand, refused to try it. More for me!

We spent the rest of our evening baking cookies, on Book’s whim. It takes a long time to do this, because we can only fit batches of 6 in our toaster ovens at a time. So we baked and baked, and finally Book headed to bed leaving me one last tray in the toaster. He reminded me about it a good three times (“yeah, I know, Book”), but of course I forgot about it until I thought, “Gee, my room isn’t usually this smoky”. At my panicking and flapping, he came running into my room, grabbed the pan, and threw it out of the train. Then he proceded to pick the pan up and bash it against a stone wall until all the black cookies were detached, and finally flung it away again (and my potholder too). I appreciate his effort, but let's just say my pan isn't the same shape as it was before. At least we didn’t set off the fire alarms though, that would have been a catastrophe.

I am feeling well-fed and sleepy; it’s bed time.

Love to you all!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A few extra bullets...

  • Most of the pictures I have been putting up here are either borrowed from other people, or rehashed from Facebook. After missing the opportunity to take a picture with some astonishingly outfitted freakish (but very nice) teenagers this weekend, I have vowed to carry a camera more often. And take more photos for this blog.

  • My Russian pseudo-beau and I are no more. Pish-posh. I am not very upset.

  • Sean Davis is about 5 days clean with no cigarettes! Way to go Sean!

  • Haagen Dazs vanilla bean icecream is an exceptional thing to put in your hot cocoa, I have found.

  • I have made an extra $55 this week from my knitting business, which seems to be picking up with the cold. And my to-knit list is only getting longer!

  • Brandon and Eric both bought cap-guns in Greenville, NC. Since then, there have been a few historic assassinations in the alley, all very loud as you may imagine. I am insanely jealous.

  • I've included once more picture that I think you will enjoy. Personally I love it! Meet the Clown Alley of the 139th Red Unit!

Back in Alabama

After a day and a half of train run, we have just pulled back into Alabama. The stopping, starting, and jerking about portion of parking the train has ended, and we are now spotted in what seems to be a pretty nice train yard. It is a rather big, open area under two highway overpasses, and there is a lot of grass and a few trees; which is a nice change from the usual rock slide and dirt road by an expanse of warehouses. In addition to that, the train is parked in two lines with an abundant space between. This creates a kind of courtyard, and a more social feel. When I looked out the window in the hall this morning, I could see one of the high-wire walkers and his three sons peeking back at me out of a car across from us on the other tracks. It’s nice to have our own space marked off by the train. If it was warmer out, I would be trying to find some people to play Frisbee with me.

The six-pack was just as exhausting as I thought it would be. Of course it wasn’t any help that I didn’t get enough sleep either night preceding the two big days. I managed to get myself in a “just keep swimming” kind of mind-set though, and kept at a pretty steady level of energy the whole way through. On the morning of the first day of the six-pack, Book, Eric, and I retreated to Clown Alley after our ring toss gag to take a breather. Eric and Book found a very large cardboard box, which we all three found quite amusing. Maybe it was the fact that almost any activity is more appealing when it is an option besides going back to the pre-show floor, or maybe it was just because big cardboard boxes are interesting all on their own. Anyway, Book got inside of it, and at our cue began jumping out at performers who were heading backstage. We caused a satisfactory number of heart attacks before deciding that this would be a very good pre-show activity. That really eased the tension of the six-pack, because, for me at least, pre-show can be the most exhausting part of a day (I’ll give you a more detailed description of that whole calamity in a later episode). For once I found myself really looking forward to the next pre-show, and was excited when it rolled around. When it was finally time again, Eric and I hoisted the box up between us as if it was very heavy, and Book directed us through the traffic of audience members. This drew just the right amount of attention. That is to say, we looked too busy to ask for pictures, and just busy enough to stop and watch. We put the box down and crammed Book inside. Everyone in the immediate vicinity was very interested, so I shushed them all while Eric tiptoed off to find our first victim, a large black woman, and tell her about the delivery that had just arrived for her. And when Book popped out with a “Whoa!” she couldn’t have had a more desirable reaction! Needless to say, we kept at that bit happily for most of the rest of the six-pack.

We were lucky to have only a few mishaps, despite everyone’s exhaustion. One was during chari vari, our mini-tramp and soap gag in the beginning of Act II. I don’t recall if it was Dustin or Sean who was the guilty pommel-horse tipper, but one of them bounced off the tramp and really knocked the horse, hard enough to send Tweedy flying off of it. He majestically became completely airborne, and completely inverted before landing right on his head at my feet! I think a few of us were surprised to see him get back up after that fall, and he was complaining about the pain a bit afterwards, but seemed generally to be alright. Good thing! Also for our last show before load-out, there were alarms going off all throughout the second half. This caused a little panic for everybody, especially the clowns, but interestingly enough it wasn’t over whether we should evacuate the building or not; it was if we were going to have to cover the next act or not (if the tigers get spooked, the tiger act is shorter, which means the wheel act is on sooner, which means the elephants aren’t ready for finale, etc). The show must burn on! It all turned out to have something to do with one of the rice-cookers the Chinese troupe had left on upstairs.

After my load-out duties (which are really quite minimal, because I don’t have a load-out job) I went against my anti-social nature and got out to get some food with a few of the band members at the invitation of Tim, the saxophone player. Tim and I have recently become friends over a bloodthirsty marshmallow-throwing feud, which continues on three-show days. Because of the (non) accuracy of my throws, this vendetta looks like it will come to include the rest of the band against me. Better watch my back! We are friendly off the battlefield though, and Book came along, and we had a nice time. It was really a freezing cold walk though! When we got back to the train, it wasn’t soon before I was out like a light. Book was up late packing, and left sometime in the very early morning before the train pulled out. We have more days in between shows than usual, because of the longer run, so he flew to Minnesota to visit Aerial.

While I’m thinking of it, I’d like to send a HUGE congratulations to Aerial and Sebastian! For those of you who don’t know them, they are two of our very, very dear friends from Smirkus. Both of them auditioned at ENC this past week, and both made it through the four strenuous days of cuts there. Now we are all waiting with bated breath to hear if they got in! Good luck guys! They are both exceptionally talented and wonderful people, and I am very proud of them, as are Eric and Book.

So, it was just Eric and I this train-run. We slept very late yesterday, and decided to watch Uncle Buck in the afternoon. That movie is never a bad choice, even though it’s the second time I’ve seen it in a month and a half! It didn’t take up as much of the day as we’d hoped though, so we walked to car 42 to visit Guillermo, one of the Wheel of Death guys, who we all like a lot. We watched Zack and Miri there, delightful, and finished with no time to spare before we headed to our long awaited Crepe party! We hurried back to 33 to gather our cooking supplies, and then made the very long journey to 56, where Dustin and Brandon live. Twenty-three cars is no joke in a rocking 2-foot-wide hallway (punctuated by heavy doors), especially if you are carrying a double-burner hotplate! We had a wonderful time making the Crepes though, and coming up with all sorts of different toppings (something Brandon was much too excited about). Then we watched the new Indiana Jones movie, and by that time I had finished knitting one hat and was halfway through another! We watched a bunch of clown gags too, and talked late into the morning before we finally took our leave. We stopped at Guillermo’s room again to say hi on the way back. The jury is still out on whether he was “drinky” or not (his word), but he did propose to me about seven times. Finally we got back to 33 at an unmentionable hour, and went to bed.

Today I am feeling too lazy to do much of anything, but writing this for you has been very enjoyable. I also spent some time catching up on Steve’s blog, which no doubt inspired me to try and pick up the slack on mine.

Lastly, on a heavy note, I must include the sad news that one of my teachers has passed away. Robin Wood was the head of the theater department at CSW for a large number of years, and she touched a great many lives in a very intense way. Nearly all the school, including myself, was rather afraid of her intense (and perhaps a bit unforgiving) personality, but it was with that quality that she pushed her students to do their very best work. Although I was not a frequent theater student, she was incredibly supportive of my interest in clowning, and made my head grow a few sizes bigger with the theater schools she suggested I attend. I felt very proud when she came to see me perform in Smirkus. I had a wonderful time in her Mask and Mime class, and learned more things there that have come up in my life since, than in any other class. She was among the people in this world who I wanted most to impress. My heart goes out to her family and the CSW community, and I wish I could come home to give my love and support.

Much love and thanks to everyone reading this,
I miss you all at home.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Richmond, Russian, and the end of a Pop-Tart Era

Hello friends and family,

I am in Richmond, VA. I am pretty exhausted today, but I will be very busy the next two days, and it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me! The reason I will be so busy (and so very, very exhausted) is that this weekend is our first six-pack. For those of you who don’t know, a six-pack is two three-show days back to back. Not only that, but we also have load-out on Sunday, which means it will be quite a marathon. [look at all those hyphens!]

I was hoping that today I would be able to share a video with you about Eric’s negative encounter with one of the train bathrooms from a while back. But unfortunately, I can’t seem to figure out how to work this chip-converter device that I’ve been after for so long. Don’t worry, I’ll keep trying at it, because this one is too good to give up on. More later!

Anyway, Virginia. The building here is much bigger than the other ones, and the town seemed more populous, so I thought the crowds would be good. I don’t mean to say that they aren’t, but… wake up, Richmond! There’s a circus in front of you! With that said, I met a charming group of girl scouts today at a PR, and the soap gag did get a good response. I guess I can’t complain, pre-show has been much calmer! Apparently with the large size of the building comes a small amount of space outside. Many of the animals are being kept backstage for the first time, which makes for a more interesting walk from cue to cue. On the way in I pass the horses and donkeys, and then tiptoe past the zebras. I have mentioned this to many of you before, but zebras are crazy! They spook very easily, and Book, Eric, and I have been particularly cautious after some of the stories we’ve heard. The ponies are nice and docile though, and we were enjoying a nice velvety nose-pat with them until one of the charming animal crew told us it was not a petting zoo. Oh well. If you look through one of the side doors, closer to end-track, you’ll find an elephant looking back at you.

On Monday, the day we arrived in Richmond, Book, Eric, and I went out to dinner with Brandon and Dustin. We went to a Japanese Hibachi grill, something I’ve never done before! We all sat around a big grill and had our food cooked right in front of us. They make a great show of flipping the spatulas about, and tossing food, and making flaming onion volcanoes, etc. Our chef was a little awkward about the number of times he dropped his utensils (and once flipped a lemon RIGHT into Brandon’s sauce, *splash*), and blamed it on last night’s tequila. We had a wonderful time nonetheless. Impulsively, Eric said, “Y’know what? It’s on ME.” So thanks to him! He said he just wanted to see what that felt like.

As I’ve mentioned (happily) to many of you before, I’ve been learning Russian! I had been wanting to work on a new language before I got here, and there could be no better opportunity than this. I’ve been asking the Russian friends I've made for new vocabulary every day (they are all very enthusiastic teachers), writing it down, and memorizing it phonetically. Then I learned the Cyrillic alphabet from a book. It is quite a challenge, not so much because of the letters that we don’t have in English, but because of the ones we do have that mean different things! Such as H which means N, P which means R, and backwards R that means YAH. Huh? One of the sound guys was kind enough to make me a copy of his Rosetta Stone disc the other day. I am very excited about this because the program is supposed to be excellent, and from what I’ve done with it so far, I think that review is accurate. I made a mild fool of myself yesterday when I told my friend Roman; “elbow jumps”. I meant to say “horse”, but the words are very similar… Practice, practice.

[If you’re curious, horse = loshuts, and elbow = locuts]

In other news, Book and Eric have both quit PopTarts. They did this simultaneously and independently of one another, which I think is very funny. They were pretty much eating them two meals a day for a while there, and both report feeling much better all the time.

Well, it is late and I am sleepy.

Miss and love you all!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

crazy Carolinas

Hello friends and family,

I am now in Greensboro, North Carolina. This is a nice place for us travelers, because there is lots to do in walking distance, and you can even walk to the arena from the train! The weather is nice too.

Previous to this, we were in Greenville, South Carolina. It would have been a fairly normal site was it not for the cold I caught, one which has been pretty popular among the performers. Everyone is coughing and sniffling! It gave me such a bad cough that for three days I couldn't get more than about 3 hours of sleep a night. Needless to say, the lack of sleep did not help my immune system (downward spiral), and also needless to say, I was somewhat of a zombie for most of Greenville.

It was an interesting site though, despite it all being a sleepy blur to me. For one thing, it was freezing cold! I walked out one morning very early (much earlier than I needed to be up, and that is a whole different tragedy of a story), and realized that my hair had frozen and become crunchy. The cold caught everyone off guard, and surely contributed to the coughs and sniffles. It affected the show in an interesting way too. Usually, for the first several minutes of preshow, the clowns mill around the floor until the more dedicated audience members begin to trickle in. But since nobody wanted to be waiting outside in that cold, they had all crowded onto the concourse. The music started, the doors opened, and suddenly there were people descending the arena, three-abreast in every aisle! It was a surprise to say the least.

Luckily I only had one PR this site, and though I was cranky about having to do it, it ended up being a nice one. Eric, Julio, Larry, and I went to a children's hospital and put on a mini show, mostly improvised. Afterwards we taught everyone how to balance peacock feathers, and went around saying hi. Because of my cold I couldn't go visit kids in their rooms, so I stayed in the performance area and took pictures. I've included my favorite one. Cutie pie!

On one of the first days in Greenville, us clowns were invited to a freerole by the Greenville Clown Alley. They held it in a lovely little bed and breakfast, which apparently they borrow every year to hold this event. How nice! There were some impressive balloon artists (not a phrase I have ever used before), who decorated the dining room. We had a nice meal and met some interesting people, and I believe our entire alley attended the event, which was great. After we ate, a few of the Greenville clowns showed their acts to us. I was taken aback when I realized that these performances were not clowning at all, but were really a few jokes tying together some very blunt religious preaching. As a non-religious person I was a little bothered by this being forced on me, but as the senior clowns reminded, it's something to expect in the 'bible belt'. To each his own; it was a nice event regardless.

Our three-show Saturday was CRAZY, although that is hardly a surprising detail about a day in which you perform three shows. I had only slept about 3 hours the night before, as I mentioned, and so became nearly hyperactively crazed with exhaustion. It makes for some interesting clowning I suppose. I broke my second to last pair of deelybobber antennae (or diddlyboppers, as Tweedy says). My Russian friend, Stas, landed a flip wrong and got himself a big black eye in the first show, which is now an incredibly impressive eggplant color. And Randy was sweating his makeup off so fast that he gave up and resorted to using a Sharpie on his face! It was Bibi's birthday too, so he was pied a good number of times, and after that long day I still felt obligated to join everyone at his birthday party. That was the first latino dance club (or club period) I've ever been to, and if they're all like that, it just might be the last. I went home as early as I could, and would have fallen asleep like a rock if it weren't for my coughing. What a day!

Now that I've had time to catch up on my sleep, I am feeling a lot healthier. It is very nice outside, and we are parked with a road on one side of us instead of the usual expanse of trainyard. Yesterday when I woke up (rather late), I went outside to have a look at where we were. To my left were a few of the younger Chinese kids practicing their handstands, and to the right were some Russians (a little tipsy perhaps) having a ball with Julio's bicycle. The sun had just set, and it was lovely, despite the factory buildings and rusty trains.

Book and I had the whole day off today because we don't have load-in jobs, and because Brandon does animal walk (which happens right after the train is spotted), he did too. The three of us got a cab to the movie theater, and saw 'He's Just Not That Into You'. Book won't like me telling you this, but it was his idea. No shame in that though, because it was surprisingly good, and we talked about it all the way to the mall. Then we walked around and made a few purchases, my most exciting one being an SD card reader. That means I can now get the things from my camera onto the computer, and actually show them to you! Hooray! Then we went back to the movie theater and watched 'Taken', Brandon's choice. We decided to walk back to the train, and immediately encountered poor Eric, who had just walked all the way over there to find us. We hadn't been home for 20 minutes before Book and Eric hatched a plan to go BACK to the movie theater and see 'Slumdog Millionaire'. Though I've heard that is a great movie, I decided to sit that one out in favor of couscous, cocoa, and thou.
Love and miss you all.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Goodbye Alabama

Hello friends and family,

I am in South Carolina now, cooking in my room. I don't mean that I'm cooking food, I mean that I'm being cooked! It has been so cold outside recently that I guess someone got carried away with the heat on our car.

Previous to this site, we were in Birmingham Alabama. I have to say that I don't think I liked Birmingham all that much, though of course I had quite a limited view of it. There wasn't much around the building besides a Subway (we are all very, very tired of Subway), but a few blocks away there was an incredibly redeeming little bookstore. It was called Reed's Books, and I highly recommend it to anyone passing through. The owner was very nice and knew his stock of antiques very well. I got a pile of comics, a circus book or two (he had a circus section), and a mini English-Russian dictionary. Also, out of nostalgia, I bought a sweet children's book called The Circus Baby, which I remember from some point in my childhood, I just can't say when. It is about an elephant mother trying to teach her baby elephant how to live like humans do, and eat at a table with a knife and fork.

The best thing about Alabama was that I had a wonderful group of visitors! On the 30th I was joined by the Quillian-Stubbs family (minus George), and M. Luckily it was a split show day, which means we have one show at about 10 in the morning, and the next at 7:30 PM, and a good 5 hours in between of free time! They all arrived in the afternoon, so we had lots of time to get a lovely quesadilla lunch, and to have a leisurely visit. Then we navigated back to the train so I could show off my living space. What fun! Everyone had to take turns filing through the hall to have a look, but somehow we all squished in. My room was cleaner than usual, too! After that we had to go back to the arena so I could get in makeup for the next show, but I was glad to have so much time with them. Alabama's preshows were completely packed every day we were there, so I hardly saw M and the QSs until after the show. Then they got to see us clean the soap mat (yippee!), and had a visit to clown alley, complete with Randy chucking a powder sock into the side of my head. I must say, appreciatively, that however exhausted and cranky my co-workers are at the end of the day, they never seem to be too tired to goof around for our guests' amusement.

Well, it is far past my bed time, as I have to get up at 6:00 again tomorrow. An early show means an early preshow, and an early preshow means early makeup and hair, which in turn means catching an early bus, which means waking up early. Yawn!

Mainly what I wanted to say was how happy I was to have a visit from my wonderful family. It was great to see you guys, and I loved showing you around. Now everybody else, come on down here and visit me too!

I have more to write, so hopefully I will get a chance to do so very soon!

Love to you all~