Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sunday, March 29 & Monday, March 30: Arlington, TX

3/29/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning I went to La Madeleine, a French cafe, for breakfast. Our friend, Mark Renfro, introduced us to the restaurant while we were in town last year, and I've been looking forward to eating there again for awhile now.
Before heading back to the circus to begin the three show day, I visited a Half Price Books as well.

It was a beautiful day; I enjoyed the sun and warm weather whenever I wasn't inside the tent.
The circus did great business today, especially for the last two shows.

Manny Casalino, a former Cole Bros. clown who performs with his family in the DFW area, came to watch our second performance.
He brought keychains for me and Ryan that look like little clown shoes. When Ryan saw his gift, he said, "Oh good! Now I can kick little people's butts!"

Jose Alberto Vazquez gave today's motivational speech before the third show. He was really worried about giving his first speech, but he did a great job.
He started off by telling everyone that he didn't want to be known as the guy who gave the worst motivational speech ever, so he said that he was going to give everyone a $100 bill just for listening. He then pulled a wad of hundreds out of his pocket to show to us.
Later on, he could tell from our laughs and cheers that we were enjoying the speech, so he concluded by saying, "Since you enjoyed my speech so much, I guess I don't need to give everyone the money."
Well played, sir!

3/30/15- 7:30 p.m.

This morning I went to a really ghetto laundromat. When I was loading my clothes into the washers, I noticed a thin, completely soaked, rubber glove on the edge of one of the machines.
That was disgusting enough, but I about burst a blood vessel in my brain when I discovered that someone had put it in with my whites during the washing cycle.

Our friend, Rob Lok, grew up in Arlington, and his parents still live here. Last year when we were visiting with Rob in NY, we asked if he had any old props or wardrobe he was looking to unload.
He told us that when we got to Arlington we were welcome to have his Clown College and Ringling agent suits, which we were very excited about.

In the early afternoon we visited Mr. and Mrs. Lok and picked up Rob's two costumes, as well as a short, beginner pair of peg stilts for Nico.
Thank you, Rob!

The Loks pointed us in the direction of an Asian shopping center where I joined Ryan and his family for lunch at a Chinese BBQ restaurant.
We then went next door to an Asian supermarket. An Asian woman wearing one of the conical paddy hats was standing outside with her groceries.
Nico pointed and yelled at the top of his lungs (as only a four year old can), "Look! Just like a Chinese guy!"

The Vazquez band began working on our new music today. I enjoyed listening to them practice, and I can't wait to use the music in the show.

Many of our friends from the Shrine Circus came to watch our show tonight. We had a small crowd, so I was happy that our friends were such a supportive audience.

After work we visited with everyone in Ryan's house, and then Ryan, his family, and I joined our clown friends, Larry, Henry, and Orlando for dinner.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Friday, March 27 & Saturday, March 28: Arlington, TX

3/27/15- "6:00" and "9:00" p.m.

Ryan and I went out to run errands this morning, but I completely forgot that I had planned to do laundry before our first shows in Arlington.
I guess I know what I'll be doing on Monday!

Loading our props into backstage was a bit of a pain this town. It is a straight shot to the tent from my house, but because of curbs, semis, and tent stakes, there is not enough room to get our big props where they needed to go.
We had to take a long, convoluted path to get to the backstage tent, and at one point the animal crew guys were washing horses and blocking our only path, so we had to leave the carpenter box outside by the horse tent for awhile.

Apparently the inspector here in Arlington was very strict. He showed up in the morning and then spent all day finding more and more ridiculous things that the circus needed to fix before he would sign the permit allowing us to work.
I completely understand the necessity for inspectors to ensure the safety of the public, but the things he was demanding were pretty ridiculous.
For example, he felt that the handrails on the bleachers were not long enough, so Martin had to quickly find any extra metal he could and weld the pieces onto the handrails as extensions.
He also felt the tent's sidewall was not high enough, so the crew had to go around and stack numerous blocks of wood under each side pole.
Boy did I feel safer!

This foolishness went on up until and well past the first showtime, leaving the audience standing in line outside.
Finally we were allowed to work at 7:30 p.m., an hour and a half after our scheduled start time.

I was really worried that the audience would be angry at us, but luckily they enjoyed the show, particularly our gags.

Ryan and I were making ourselves laugh backstage after the carpenter gag. We imagined the overzealous inspector charging into the ring while we were working and yelling, "I have an injunction to shut down the Miracle Construction Company! They have violated far too many safety regulations to count, and I cannot allow them to remain in business!"

Eddie, our production manager kept the first show moving along. The Intermission was very brief, and we only had a fifteen minute break between performances to get the first audience out and the second crowd in.

We started the second show only half an hour late, which is pretty great when you consider how late we started the first.

After work Ryan and I went out to eat with Ryan's uncle Mike, who lives in the area and came to watch us work tonight.

3/28/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This afternoon Ryan, his uncle Mike, and I went to have lunch at the dim sum restaurant that we visited a couple of days ago.
Today the wait staff were wheeling around carts with all of the different dim sum plates on them, and being an American, I was most pleased with this form of instant gratification.

Ryan's uncle Mike and I both enjoy video games, and since there was a GameStop near the dim sum restaurant, it was a given that we would stop in to browse after eating.
Ryan pointed out to me that one of the guys working behind the counter looked familiar, and we soon realized he was one of the three non-Latinos that was in the audience for the 9:00 p.m. show last night.
I asked him if he had been at the circus, and then we told him that we were the two clowns. His friend is friends with Hannah, one of our dancers, which is why they were at the circus. He said that all three of them loved the show and were very impressed with the level of quality.

We had good crowds today, particularly for the second show; the audience was fantastic!
The one downside was that some of the kids in the second crowd were acting crazy. It seemed like everywhere I turned I had kids trying to punch me or hit me with their light up swords.
I theorized that there might be a full moon making them act all primal, but a quick look outside the tent proved me wrong.
I guess Arlington chilluns just be plain cray cray!

After work Ryan and I stayed up late doing budgeting work, heedless of our imminent three show day.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wednesday, March 25 & Thursday, March 26: Arlington TX

3/25/15- Day Off!

This morning Nestor started parking all of the trailers. Ryan and I were parked around lunchtime, and as soon as I was able to get my truck unhooked and my house set up, I cleaned up and drove into town to run errands.
I also was able to fit in a visit to a Panera Bread and Half Price Books before I had to head back to the lot.

In the afternoon Ryan and I drove to Springtown, TX to see the Culpepper Merriweather Circus. We were excited to see our friends on the show, especially Natalie and her daughters, Georgia and Genevieve (aka Tootie), who we worked with on Kelly Miller, and Leo, who was a clown with us on Ringling.

We watched the 5:00 p.m. performance with our friend, Kelly, who was also in Clown Alley with me, Ryan and Leo.
Culpepper has such a fun, high energy show this year. I haven't seen the circus since 2003 when my friend, "Tiny", was the clown, and I was really impressed with what I saw.

These guys were insane! When the one guy was walking on top of the wheel, he had to duck to avoid hitting his head on the top of the tent!

Between shows we visited with Natalie, Tootie, and Leo. There is never enough time to spend with friends when you are visiting another circus; we planned to stick around a bit during the second performance, but we decided against it since we knew everyone would be busy loading out and getting ready to move off the lot in anticipation of the rain storm on its way.

Kelly's selfie stick doesn't like Ryan, apparently.

Thank you to everyone at Culpepper Merriweather for a fun evening at the circus!

After the show Ryan, Kelly, and I went to a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar to have dinner and catch up some more before we headed our separate ways.

3/26/15- Day Off!

This afternoon Ryan and I went to a Chinese restaurant in town that serves dim sum. Ryan and his family visited the restaurant many times the last time we were in town, and he's been waiting ever since then to return.

After stuffing our faces, we set out to run errands. First we found a tire shop so I could replace the tire I blew on the jump to Arlington. Ryan also had to purchase a new trailer tire, because when he was being parked on the lot, he ran through a bolt that punched a big hole in the rubber. (Pompeyo also lost two truck tires to the detritus on our lot)

Next we went to a Lowe's to price prop building supplies for new gags. After that mind numbing chore was done, we treated ourselves to something we'd both enjoy: DVD shopping at a Movie Trading Company.

In the evening Ryan and I drove to Frisco, TX to see the Shrine Circus at the Dr. Pepper Arena. Again we watched the show with our friend, Kelly, plus our friend, Crystal, who is a vet in the area.

We met up with our friend, Larry, who is the clown on the show. He was nice enough to get us tickets, and we were able to visit with him for a bit during the Pre Show before he had to make up.

We were surprised at how many friends we saw at the Shrine Circus, both working and visiting. Our friend, Henry, who we clowned with on Ringling, is living in the area and was selling concessions, and July, who we know from Hugo, was one of the showgirls.

Former Ringling clowns, Julio and Rodger, came to the show with their out of town Alley mates, Joy and Rudy. All of them worked together on the Red Unit a few years ago, and Joy and Rudy flew in for a mini reunion with their friends.
They unfortunately got stuck in traffic and missed most of the first half, and they had to leave at the start of the second half, so my time seeing them was very brief.

After the show Crystal, Larry, Ryan and I went to a great sushi restaurant to visit. Crystal was even nice enough to pick up the tab for us all. What a gal!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tuesday, March 24: Arlington, TX- Travel Day

I crashed hard last night, so I woke up feeling mighty refreshed. We had stopped at a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, so we only had 260 miles left on our 419 mile jump to Arlington.

Everything was going fine on the drive until we got outside Temple, TX. We were driving through a construction zone when I heard a loud bang from behind me. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw bits of tire flying up from under my trailer, so I quickly looked for a place to pull over.

As luck would have it, there was a nice, isolated area on the side of the road, thanks to the construction, that gave me plenty of room to pull in and get far away from the traffic.

I examined my trailer and saw that the front driver side tire had completely exploded, so I called Good Sam to send a mechanic.
There was a wall beside my trailer with a ledge running along side of it. The whole area was shaded thanks to the wall, so I had a perfect, comfortable space to sit and read until the mechanic arrived.

The mechanic didn't take long at all to find me. His crew members were all busy helping other people, so he came in his private car with his wife.
He didn't even need a jack to put on my new tire. He simply had me back up onto some blocks to elevate the blown out tire, which he easily removed.
He then deflated my new tire and attached it before re-inflating it. I was surprised that the mechanic even had an air compressor installed in his little car; it was a very nifty set up.

When the mechanic finished, I thanked him and his wife for their help, and then I began the final 150 mile stretch to Arlington.

I arrived at the Six Flags Mall in the early evening, before the sun had set.
I was excited when I first heard we were going to be at a mall for this engagement, but I was much less excited when I walked around inside.
I've been in dying malls before, but this was like a mall that had died, re-animated, and was then shot in the head and run over a few times. It was pretty sad.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Monday, March 23: Corpus Christi, TX- 7:30 p.m.

Today was a beautiful day, and it was perfect weather for the surprise baby shower that Laura and Visan planned for Natalya Pompeyo.

Most of the cast met at Cole Park, which had picnic and barbecue areas, a playground for the kids, and a beautiful view of the water.

I felt a bit underdressed for the shower as I showed up in a bathing suit. It was my understanding that there was a beach at the park; however, there was just a rocky drop off into the water. I decided to pass on a potentially dangerous dip into the bay.

Natalya was surprised and happy, and everyone enjoyed the get together. We had great food and desserts, and Emma and Jo organized baby shower games for everyone to play.
The games ranged from the disgusting (taste and identify the melted chocolate in a diaper) to the ridiculously funny (teams of two with balloons under their shirts had to bump chests, pop the balloons, and yell, "My water just broke!")

I was so happy that we all got to enjoy a fun afternoon and gorgeous weather. It's just a shame we had to spoil it all by going to work!
(Thanks to Domink Lagroni for all of the photos.)

Luckily we only had one easy show tonight, and then Ryan and I loaded up our props and hit the road for our next town, Arlington, TX.
I had to wait awhile for Ryan to maneuver his way off the lot, but we finally got going around 11:00 p.m.

We drove 150 miles and planned to stay at a Flying J in San Antonio, but it proved to be one of the worst Flying Js we had ever visited.

First, their RV dump station was full, which the lady behind the counter neglected to tell me. Let me tell you all something, overflowing sewage is not something you want to deal with, least of all at 2 o'clock in the morning.

That would have been bad enough on its own, but to make matters worse for two weary drivers, this location didn't even have trailer parking. I always search out Flying J truck stops on our jumps because they are the most RV friendly (they almost always have dump stations and special parking spots for travel trailers), but this one only had semi parking.

Since it was already so late, all of the semi parking spots were taken, so we pressed on for another 18 miles or so and wound up at a Walmart.

By the time we stopped I was exhausted and my head was killing me, so I was greatly relieved to get into bed and call it a night.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Saturday, March 21 & Sunday, March 22: Corpus Christi, TX

3/21/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

It rained all day. It was perfect weather for lying in bed and watching movies, which is exactly what I did.
The one drawback was that I had planned to have lunch at the House of Rock, which supposedly has great pizza, but the rain was coming down so hard that I didn't feel like leaving the trailer unless I absolutely had to.

We had another big crowd for the first show, and the size of the second audience wasn't bad for a 9:00 p.m. performance on a Saturday.

During the first vacuum gag Ryan and I had to stall in the seats for awhile because one of the rails used to guide Duo Exxtrem's tank of water into the ring came out of place.

3/22/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning I had breakfast with my clown/pirate friends, Tom and Christy. Tom and Christy both went to Clown College together in 1989, and now they both work on two different pirate cruises in Texas: Tom in Port Aransas, and Christy in South Padre Island.

All three of us enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Atomic Omelette Cafe. (I got my eggs with extra atoms)

Tom and Christy stuck around to watch the first performance; I was glad Ryan and I got time to visit with them before and after the show.

Emma and Laura gave the third show motivational speech today. They split their listeners into two teams: Ryan, Jo, Grace, and Amy on one team, and me, Sammie, Hannah, and Claudie on another.
We then competed against each other in three team building contests.
The first contest was to see which team could successfully perform the four chairs trick the fastest.

The four chairs are pulled out from under the people, leaving them in this position.

I am happy to report that my team won the first round!
Sadly we got our butts handed to us for the next two contests. In one our group had to count to 10, with each player saying the next number. If two of us spoke at the same time, or if a number was repeated, we had to start over at 1. The first team to successfully count to 10 was the winner.
Our team kept getting caught up on that tricky number 6, so we lost the round.

The final contest was a game of charades. Each group was given an act from the show, and then we had to act it out for the other group. The group that guessed the act the fastest was the winner.
Ryan's group pantomimed the Russian Swing, while my group acted like the liberty horses.

The other group guessed ours as soon as we started, making them the winners.
I didn't understand why they should be rewarded for our masterful charade techniques, but maybe I'm just a sore loser!

The winning team was given a celebratory bag of popcorn, which they ate while pointing and laughing at us, the losers.
I was fairly motivated until that last part.

By the third show I was tired and loopy, so I was acting very wacky in our gags.

There was a potluck barbecue after the last show. I didn't find out about it until the first show today, so after work I had to run to HEB to pick up some meat for the grill.

I stayed for a little while, but I was pretty beat after our long day of performing, so I called it a night fairly early.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Friday, March 20: Corpus Christi, TX- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

After two hours of sleep I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready for our early morning television publicity.

We were working with the same station as yesterday, but a new reporter: my crush of the week, Heather.

Ryan and I broke out our coffee walkarounds for the first time this morning. Ryan started making the props two years ago, but they went unfinished until this winter.
Unfortunately I only have this picture of the gag before the blow off:

This is what the aftermath looks like:

During one of the hits Alexa tried to break my hand:


As you can see, it was an eventful publicity.

Midway through the shoot, Bronson, who is in charge of the Vazquez PR team, asked us to accompany Alexa on a last minute radio publicity.
He told us that normally they wouldn't throw a last minute event at us like that, but this is Vazquez's first time in Corpus in a long time, and they really want us to get the word out.

Ryan and I managed to unload our props and move them backstage, and then shower and get out of make up before we had to leave for the new publicity.

Alexa, Ryan and I did interviews at two stations in the same building, one right after the other. It was quick and easy, especially since they were English speaking DJs (our two television publicities in this town have also been in English).
I'm loving the chance to do PR in my native tongue once again as Vazquez expands their presence by marketing to Gringos as well. 

After completing our second publicity of the day, Alexa treated us to a well earned breakfast.
Back at the lot I crawled into bed and crashed for a few hours.

When I awoke I walked to a nearby barbecue restaurant where I had a delicious lunch. 
After gorging myself on good Southern cooking I took all of my costumes over to the men's dressing room, and then I cleaned off a few of our props with baby wipes.

Before the first show the cast had a quick finale rehearsal to make everyone aware of the giant water tank that has finally been implemented into Duo Exxtrem's act. 
After their act it goes into the curtain area, so we just have to be careful as we enter and exit the ring.

We had great crowds for the shows tonight, especially the first performance. Everyone was a little thrown off because there were a lot of audience members that didn't speak Spanish, even some of the Latin Americans in the crowd!

Marcos, our Ringmaster, gave his announcements in English and Spanish, which was strange to hear after a season of only hearing Espanol spoken in the ring.
Ryan and I adapted and used more English in our interactions with the crowd as well.

Like I mentioned earlier, Duo Exxtrem was finally able to use the water tank in their strap act, which meant that more things were being set in the ring while Ryan and I were in the seats for the beginning of the vacuum gag.

Now when we enter the ring for the gag's blow off, there is a giant ring mat for the water, as well as metal tracks leading almost all the way to the front of the ring so that the water tank can be easily pushed in.

The tracks were not an issue for us, as we knew they would be there. The mat was a surprise, especially in the second show when it was still wet from the first performance.
Ryan and I were slipping and sliding everywhere as we tried to work.

We were pretty upset about the situation, but Eddie assured us that the ring crew would be cleaning the mat every show from now on.