So, some idiot (me) spilled liquid on my computer's keyboard and fried the whole system.
It may be a week before I get my repaired laptop back, so blogging will be on hold until then.
Thanks for your patience!
Saturday, August 22, 2015
8/17/15- 7:30 p.m.
Alex left this morning around 8:45 a.m. It was great getting to visit with him for a few days; I'm not sure when we will get to see him again since in a few months he leaves for Israel for one to two years.
I was planning on going to sleep after Alex took off, but I was wide awake. Finally I got out of bed and went to the laundromat to take care of my dirty clothes.
Back at the lot I helped Ryan clean off the metal that Martin welded for Pompeyo's new dog props, and then we primed all the pieces.
We ran out of spray paint before we completely finished, but we were able to attach wheels to the pieces that needed them.
This afternoon Ryan and I received some great news that put me in one of the best moods I've been in in a long time.
Dave, our friend who is head concessionaire on Cirque Du Soliel's "Kurios", came to watch the show tonight with his wife and infant son.
He brought us the brand new "Kurios" program, which they just received recently. It is a huge, hard cover program with beautiful photos of the show and artists, and he told us that it retails for $30!
Thank you, Dave, for the awesome gift!
It began pouring down rain during Intermission, and the rain continued to come down all night. By the time I headed over to the concessions tent for a birthday party, the lot was flooded. It brought back nasty memories of last year at this location.
The celebration was a joint birthday party for the Pompeyo Family's older daughter, and one other girl on the show.
There were party games for the children and adults, and I someone got roped into playing musical chairs with the women.
You may laugh, but those ladies played for keeps! Maybe around the third turn I went to sit in a chair and lost my balance in the frantic shuffle.
I came down on the floor directly on my butt, and on the way down I scraped my back on the seat of one of the metal folding chairs.
I couldn't believe how much the injury on my back hurt, so I excused myself from the party and limped home where no one could see me cry my bitter, pained, loser's tears.
No more innocent party games for this clown!
8/18/15- 7:30 p.m.
This morning I picked up Emma at her hotel, and we went to brunch at West Town Bakery, which my friends, Beth and Greg, had taken me to last week.
The food was just as good this time around, and I picked up a few delicious baked goods to take home to enjoy as well.
This afternoon I was able to finish priming the metal for the dog props, but that was about all we accomplished on them.
I knew we were slated to get more bad weather this evening, but I had no idea how bad it had the potential to be.
Eddie came to us shortly after the show had begun and told us that there was a tornado watch in effect for pretty much all of Chicago and its suburbs.
He asked all of the performers to keep their acts moving along so we could finish the show quickly and get the audience out of the tent.
Things must have developed faster than everyone expected, because we soon got word that the show would end after the first half.
Memo told the audience that their tickets could be exchanged for passes to one of our remaining shows in Chicago.
Ryan and I headed home to change, and then we were going to get Ryan's family and go to the nearby Target, where we would at least be safer than in our trailers.
Just as I was collecting my valuables and getting ready to step out the door, the rain began to pour down, and I felt a couple of strong gusts of wind rock my trailer.
I immediately thought, "We need to go.....NOW!", so I ran out into the storm.
There was no way to shield myself from the rain since it was blowing from all directions, and as I was walking against the wind to get to Ryan's house, my umbrella blew inside out.
I got into Ryan's house as he and his family finished gathering anything they needed. I toweled off, and by the time we started heading to Ryan's truck, the wind had subsided and the rain had lessened.
We drove to Target and saw the Pompeyo Family and Laura were the only other folks from the circus that had decided to get away from the lot.
Laura told me that everyone else was riding out the storm and waiting to see if it would get any worse before leaving the lot.
I settled into the Starbucks area near the Target's entrance and had a cup of coffee while I read my newest book. What better way to calm my jangled nerves during a tornado watch than by having a hot cup of caffeine and reading a horror novel by Stephen King?!
It turns out that the heavy winds and rain that occurred as we were leaving the lot was the worst of the storm in our area.
After Ryan and his family finished shopping we headed back to the lot and enjoyed a much calmer rest of our evening.
8/19/15- 7:30 p.m.
Ryan and I started our day with a trip to Home Depot. We picked up sheets and sticks of wood, and then back at the lot we began cutting the wood into pieces and attaching those pieces to some of the metal dog prop frames.
We were only able to get one seat completed before it was time to get ready for work.
There was a fantastic audience for the show tonight. For the vacuum gag I could only find one bald man in the entire crowd, and I was reticent to use him because he didn't look like he would enjoy two clowns joking around with him.
What a surprise when he turned out to be the best audience volunteer we've had since we started doing the vacuum gag last year.
He began to genuinely belly laugh the moment we began playing with him, and he didn't stop until we had moved onto the next bit. It was fantastic!
After the show a family came up to get their picture taken with us. The matriarch of the family said, "You guys were good", and on the word 'good' her voice raised just a little bit, giving what she said a tone of uncertainty.
She laughed when I replied, "You sound surprised about that."
8/20/15- 7:30 p.m.
This morning Ryan, his family, and I met Luis and his wife at the Czech Plaza restaurant in Berwyn.
Claudie and Dominik, who both come from the Czech Republic, highly recommended that we try that restaurant, and I now I can see why.
The food was great, the prices were reasonable, and the portions were HUGE!
I believe Luis was the only one out of the group that had any authentic Czech cuisine (he had pierogis).
I had some great wienerschnitzel, and Ryan had chicken paprikas. He also ordered a side of potato pancakes for the table. Mmm mmm good!
We all stayed and talked for a long time after we had finished eating, and as we were on our way back to the truck, Tatiana spied a children's clinic.
Since Abrianna was due for another series of shots, she wanted to get them taken care of while we close to a clinic.
I went grocery shopping in a nearby Meijer's while the Combs family visited the doctor, but I was finished long before they were.
I sat in their truck in the parking lot forever before they returned. It turns out the doctor didn't even have all of the shots that Abrianna needs, so they have to return on Monday.
We had another great audience for the show tonight. I'm happy that the crowds have been so receptive here in Chicago.
8/21/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
I woke up this morning at 6:00 a.m. to get ready for our morning television publicity.
The nationally broadcast UNIVISION show, "Despierta America", was broadcasting live from our tent.
I stumbled over to the big top around 6:50 a.m. to take over our props and get into costume. In the stands I spotted a table containing coffee and doughnuts, and because I had my sights set on those goodies, I almost walked right past the host, Birmania, who we worked with in NYC last year.
Shortly after 7:00 a.m. we filmed our first segment, which was about three and a half minutes long. Birmania was interviewing a singer, and Ryan and I kept running in to interrupt them.
It was a difficult situation because there were a lot of people from town that came to be a part of the broadcast, and so space between them, the host and the guest, and the camera was pretty tight.
Ryan and I did a couple of walkarounds and juggled, and that was that for the first segment.
We weren't needed again until the end of the program, which was in the 9 o'clock hour, so we had a lot of downtime to sit and wait.
I read for awhile, but we were also approached by several audience members who wanted to talk with us and ask questions.
It was excellent Spanish practice for me, and I actually surprised myself several times by how much I actually knew how to say.
After filming the final segment we got cleaned up and went straight to work on the dog props.
We were able to put wood on all of the dog seats, and then we decided to call it a day so we could rest a bit before our two shows.
I was able to get in a quick nap before getting ready, but frankly it didn't help too much. I was so exhausted for the first performance.
Somehow I got my second wind for the 9:00 p.m. show, but I was incredibly slap happy. Everything was striking me as funny, and my hysterics went on way longer than they should have for the stuff that actually was funny.
I was so thankful to get into bed after such a long, full day.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
8/13/15- 7:30 p.m.
This afternoon Ryan and I caught a train and headed to downtown to visit Chicago's Chinatown area.
We had a huge lunch at a dim sum restaurant, and then we went in many of the shops to browse. Ryan was looking for a Mahjong table, but they were just a bit out of his price range for the moment.
After visiting a couple of markets so Ryan could buy all of the Asian groceries his heart desired, we caught a Lyft back to the circus.
Our friends, Greg Parks and Beth Grimes, came to visit this afternoon. Greg worked with me and Ryan on Ringling's Clown Alley, and we have known his girlfriend, Beth, since we joined Kelly Miller.
Greg and Beth watched our show tonight, which had a fantastic audience. I was happy that the power stayed on during the carpenter gag, because when they saw the show last year the generator died towards the end of the act.
Both agreed that the ending is a lot better when you can actually see what is happening.
There was a radio DJ at the show who had given away a lot of free children's tickets to the circus on his show. He came out before Intermission as a special guest so he could say a few words.
Memo told him that for all of his hard work the circus was going to provide him with two lovely dancers, and they were going to take him back to the dressing room for 15 minutes.
That was the cue for me and Ryan to enter wearing our mock ups of the dancers' feathered headdresses.
I linked arms with the DJ, and as the three of us were exiting the ring, Ryan goosed the DJ.....hard!
The bit and his reaction got a big laugh from the audience.
In addition to Beth and Greg, our friends Don Lansu, his wife, Phyllis, and their daughter, Donna, were at the show.
They brought all kinds of goodies for me, Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and Abrianna.
Don brought two movies, "The Gambler" and "Focus", for me that we had talked about when we met up for lunch. I was equally excited about the walkie talkies that he brought for Nico.
Thank you, Don, Phyllis, and Donna!
After the show I went out to grab a bite to eat with Greg and Beth. They found a little 24 hour diner not far from the lot that had a simple menu.
After eating we all headed over to Ryan's trailer where we visited until the power cut off at 2 a.m.
8/14/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
This morning Greg and Beth took me to the West Town Bakery, a cool restaurant that Beth had visited on one of her previous visits to town.
They had an impressive array of items on their menu. Beth ordered vegan S'mores pancakes, and Greg and I both had Morning Poutine, which contained fries, short rib meat, cheese curds, chopped red peppers, sausage gravy, and a poached egg on top.
West Town Bakery is also famous for their doughssants, which are long john style doughnuts made from croissant dough, so of course I had to pick up one of those to go!
To avoid lapsing into a food coma, the three of us headed over to Berwyn where I took Greg and Beth to Horrorbles and Reel Art, the horror and movie memorabilia stores that I love so much.
This time around I spent more time browsing in Reel Art, and I found some reel treasures (pardon the pun).
I picked up a souvenir magazine about the movie, "Gremlins", that had all kinds of cool articles and photos about the making of the film.
Beth and Greg visited with me and Ryan for the rest of the day, and then they took off just before the first show.
Right before the second show our friend, Alex Zaprudsky, arrived with Jojean, one of his co-workers from Camp Courageous.
Alex just finished working at the camp this morning, and so he came to visit with us for a few days.
He is heading to Israel this winter, and it may be a year or two before we see him again.
After the show Alex, Ryan, and I caught up with each other at the birthday party for Visan's brother, Andrei.
8/15/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
This morning Alex, Ryan, and I played a couple of game of Mahjong, and then we watched the hilarious movie, "Walk Hard".
After a quick trip to the supermarket, Ryan made tuna melts, and Alex made homemade hummus. The three of us had quite a delicious lunch!
Even though I didn't have a strenuous day, I was feeling worn out for the shows tonight. Luckily once I got going I didn't have a problem getting through the two performances.
At the first show we had a guest radio DJ nicknamed "Chuy". Naturally, being the nerds that we are, Ryan and I heard it as "Chewie", so we started doing the Chewbacca roar from Star Wars.
At the conclusion of the second show a little boy ran up behind us in the ring and started trying to pull Ryan's wig off.
He then ran around in front of us and began trying to pull my wig off. Not succeeding in that, he ran over to Ryan and began twisting his clown nose until it came off.
Meanwhile the brat's mother stood outside of the ring taking pictures of the whole scenario, not doing a thing to stop him.
Ryan and I began calling out, "You're a good parent!" and "You're doing a great job with your son!", but since I don't think she spoke English, our smart aleck comments were mostly for us and the other performers around us.
It was a shame that a fine night of shows had to end on a low note because of a little demon spawn from the audience.
After work Ryan made stir fried vegetables and heated up some duck for me and Alex. Tatiana, Nico, and Abrianna had been visiting Carson & Barnes since Thursday, and they arrived back at Vazquez sometime during our two shows.
8/16/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.
This morning Alex and I went to Panera Bread to pick up breakfast for ourselves and for Ryan and his family.
We spent a couple of hours before show time eating and playing Mahjong in Ryan's trailer.
Alex took Tatiana, Nico, and Abrianna out today so they all wouldn't have to sit around the trailers while Ryan and I did the three shows.
The first audience was really rough, and it gave me and Ryan a pretty grim outlook for the rest of the day.
Luckily things got better starting with the second show, and we ended with a great audience for the 8:00 p.m. performance.
I gave a very simple Inspirational Speech before the third show. I simply went around the group and had everyone name one thing that made them happy today (mine was that a little boy after the first show knew us by name and said, "Bye Steve! Bye Ryan!").
Even though it wasn't a complex musical number or a funny original speech, I think the idea paid off, and people were sufficiently energized and motivated.
After the shows I took Alex to a couple of my favorite food haunts over in Melrose Park. First we had french fry topped hot dogs at Gene & Jude's, and then we followed it up with Italian ice for dessert at Johnnie's Beef.
Well, I had a beef sandwich for dessert too, because I'm a hog.
Monday, August 17, 2015
8/7/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
Since we are playing the same lot in Chicago this year with virtually the same show, the tiger act presented by Vincent Von Duke was sent here from the East Unit, and our horse act was sent to the show in Florida.
The tiger act was going to be opening the second half, which put the Russian swing after the carpenter gag. That meant that the show needed me and Ryan to cover the swing's set up with the beach ball reprise.
We only had one good beach ball left over from Arizona, which is the last time we had to use them, so I ordered some online and had them shipped to the lot.
Unfortunately, the beach balls arrived at the lot before the circus did, so they were sent to the nearest post office.
After calling the staff for confirmation, I waked to the post office and picked the balls up.
On the way out of the lot I glanced at one of the advertising banners and noticed that Ryan is now corporately sponsored:
Ryan and I got our props loaded into the tent this afternoon. The tiger act has a lot of big props, plus all of the panels that make up the arena, so backstage is very crowded for this town. Ryan and I had to shove all of our props into a very small space.
We had a finale rehearsal late in the afternoon to plug Vincent Von Duke into the number.
David Zepeda, the famous Mexican telenovela actor, was our special guest at the show tonight, so before each Intermission he came out to give a presentation and act out a scene with a couple of lucky ladies from the audience.
These presentations were a bit of a mess for us performers, because we normally go into the ring at that time while the ringmaster announces Intermission, but we weren't exactly clear on when we were supposed to go out with David there.
Our directions kept changing every few seconds, and Ryan and I were pretty frustrated about the whole thing.
I was also stressed out because of our change in routine due to the tiger act being in the show. It threw off our routine having to do the beach ball reprise, having to figure out a new configuration for resetting our props during Intermission, and finding a new time to clean off the water mat.
Ryan and I are both creatures of habit, so changing our routine makes us a bit crazy.
Luckily we had a fantastic audience for the second show. I wasn't necessarily looking forward to a month of Chicago crowds after the first audience, but the 9:00 p.m. crowd made me change my tune.
While we were taking pictures after the second show, Nestor came up to me and said I should move my truck from where I had parked it.
My truck, along with a couple of circus vehicles, was parked along the fence on Kostner Ave. Some of the more civilized people living in the area had thrown rocks through the window of one of the circus vans, and Nestor didn't want my truck to suffer the same fate.
Before I had even taken my make up off, I went and moved my truck to the back of the lot with the rest of the vehicles.
8/8/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
The shows today seemed much easier to me. There was no celebrity guest, and Ryan and I started devising a new system for re-setting props during Intermission.
There was some excitement during the second performance. While Visan was flipping his bike at the end of the aerial motorcycle act, his safety snapped, and he was left clinging onto the bike for dear life as it was suspended upside down.
Martin quickly climbed the ladder up to the platform and slowly turned Visan right side up so he could safely get off the bike.
It was a scary few minutes, but luckily everyone came out unscathed.
Ryan and I had a less severe prop malfunction to deal with. One of our beach balls had developed a leak after only two performances.
Luckily Ryan had bought some beach balls on one of his trips to Walmart, so we had spares.
8/9/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.
This morning I went to IHOP for breakfast. It wasn't exactly on par with the amazing places I usually go to eat on Sunday morning, but I was feeling lazy and wanted to sleep in, so I opted for a nearby option.
Upon going to the dressing room in the morning, I was discouraged to find that another beach ball had developed a leak.
Ryan and I ended up just filling it up right before we'd go do the number, and it held up fine. That was quite a relief for us, as we've already spent more than enough money on this stupid filler bit without having to buy even more beach balls.
We had fantastic audiences for the second and third show, which really helped pick up my spirits.
I was really touched when I met a family after the third show that had seen our show last year; their son Santi was introduced to us as our biggest fan.
The office had let me know that Santi and his family wanted to meet us after the show, so I got some Steve & Ryan 8x10 photos for us to autograph for the kids.
Santi and his siblings apparently watch us all the time on Youtube, and he and his brother had an uncanny knowledge of our career.
"Before this you were on the Kelly Miller Circus!"
"You guys did an act at the Dogpatch Laundry!"
Santi's mom said that he and his oldest brother got into her make up so they could look like us, and her husband gladly showed us the pictures of the boys looking like us.
I was so grateful to get so much love from fans, and it made me feel wonderful to see how happy Santi's parents were to see us spending some time with their children.
What an awesome way to end the day!
8/10/15- 7:30 p.m.
This morning my friend, "Toto" Johnson, came to visit us. Toto is a former Ringling clown that was one of my mentors growing up.
He brought a bunch of delicious doughnuts as a free roll for me, Ryan, and his family, so we had a few over cups of coffee, and then I drove the two of us to the Egg'clectic Cafe where we could have a proper breakfast.
Since we had to drive so far away to go to that restaurant, I figured we should take advantage of being out, so we went to a Half Price Books in the area as well.
Ryan and I visited with Toto all day; I always enjoy getting the chance to hang out with our good friends, especially since we usually only get to spend about one day a year with them.
I was happy that Toto got to see us perform in front of a fantastic audience for our show tonight.
After work the circus had its 2nd Annual Punch Party, which was thrown by Emma and Laura, two of the organizers from the first punch party last year.
Performers and crew alike were encouraged to bring an alcoholic punch for everyone to enjoy, and the kids were encouraged to bring nonalcoholic punch.
There was a contest to select the punch with the best taste, and the punch with the best presentation, and once again Ryan and I resumed our stations as judges of the competition.
Naturally, Ryan and I wore our judge mustaches, and I created a new shirt for the occasion.
There was such stiff competition this year; everyone really went all out to try and win the prizes (the kids were going to receive toys, and the adults would win a grownup toy....alcohol!).
It took much deliberation on our part to determine the adult winners, especially for best taste.
In the end, Julius won best taste and Katarina won best presentation for children's drinks (it was really easy, because they were the only two child contestants), and Visan won for taste and Eddie won for presentation for the adult punch.
From what I heard, our choices weren't exactly the most popular ones with the other contestants, but it really was a difficult decision.
In the future I'm going to encourage the organizers to make it so the winners are chosen by ballot.
Here are some of the different punches that were part of the contest:
Eddie and Lily's: Winner Best Presentation
Martin's was a close second for best presentation.
The green punch on the left was made by Vincent Von Duke, and was a close runner up for best taste.
8/11/15- 7:30 p.m.
When I woke up this morning, my back was killing me! Toto saw how miserable I looked and assumed I was hungover from tasting the 19 different alcoholic punches last night.
I explained to him that I felt fine (I had only taken small sips with constant water drinking in between each one), except for a pulled muscle in my back.
I'm not sure what I did, but whatever it was must have been made worse by the way I had slept.
I remember feeling like something was strained in my back during the three shows on Sunday, but I'm not sure why it took so long to manifest itself.
The spot that was really bothering me was between my shoulder blades: the exact spot where I fell on a rock our first year on Kelly Miller.
It seems that about once a year I'll do something that makes that injury flare up again.
Toto took off in the late morning, and I spent the day just trying to relax and stretch my back.
We had another great audience for the show tonight, which helped me forget about my aching back for two hours.
While Ryan and I were taking pictures with the audience after the show, I noticed that one little boy had a lipstick kiss on his cheek.
I was curious to see if the dancers had kissed him, so I asked, "Who gave you that?"
An attractive woman stepped up and said, "Mama did". I immediately pointed to my cheek, and she planted a big kiss there.
I fell on the floor, giggling like a school girl, waving my arms around and kicking my legs.
Drunk with power, I jumped up and pointed to my other cheek. The woman was happy to oblige, which sent me into more paroxysms of giddiness.
Sometimes it is good to be a clown!
8/12/15- 7:30 p.m.
This morning I went to Horrorbles to pick up the Fall 1983 issue of Muppets Magazine, which featured an article and photoshoot of the Muppets with performers from the Red Unit of Ringling.
Note: These photos are a high enough resolution that you should be able to zoom in on them and read the interviews.
I had seen that Horrorbles had issues of Muppets Magazine the last time I visited there, but none of them had any information on the cover about the Ringling article.
My friend, Beth Grimes, did some Internet research and found the issue with the photoshoot, and I remembered seeing that cover at the store.
I was so happy to have a new cool item for my circus collection.
The one work related errand I had to run today was picking up supplies from Home Depot so we can continue with the construction of Pompeyo's dog props.
I was surprised at how long it took to go there and get back to the lot since it is only about a mile from the circus.
Traffic was ridiculous for a weekday afternoon, and getting what I needed in the store also took quite awhile.
In the afternoon we had yet another finale rehearsal, this one to change the ending of the number. Now, instead of all of us dancing at the back of the ring by the curtain, we are doing the same choreography in the middle of the ring.
It is a relatively easy change for me, because while everyone else has to walk backwards while dancing and clapping, I stay in the exact same spot I'm already standing.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
8/4/15- Day Off!
Our trailers were parked around 10 o'clock this morning, so as soon as I got my house set up I went out to run errands.
I did my laundry, went by the post office, and picked up a birthday gift for Julius Espana from Gamestop.
While I was out I also went by Vesecky's Bakery to buy some wonderful Czech pastries to enjoy with my morning coffee.
In the late afternoon I caught a train to downtown Chicago to have dinner with my new friend, Brittany.
I met her at a nice bar and restaurant called The Ogden that was not too far from the United Center, where I used to perform with Ringling.
That night appetizers were buy one, get one free, so we picked two that were absolutely delicious. We got the Animal Fries, which were topped with pulled pork, white cheddar cheese curds, giardiniera, and a fried egg, and we also ordered the Truffle Mac & Cheese, which had crimini, porchini, portabella mushrooms, cheese curds, bacon, jalapeños, toasted bread crumbs, and truffle oil.
After a nice visit with Brittany I used Lyft to get back to the lot. Lyft is a program like Uber where drivers registered with the business come and pick you up and take you wherever you need to go, like a taxi service.
The price was very reasonable, and payment was handled via my credit card through my phone. My driver was also much more personable than any cab driver I've ever had; I enjoyed our chat on the way back to the circus.
8/5/15- Day Off!
This morning Alexa, Ryan and I had a television PR with the local UNIVISION station. It took forever for us to film one five minute segment; either the reporter would flub her lines or the camera man would make us re-film what seemed to me like a perfectly good take. What frustrated us was that it took so long to start filming again every time we stopped; everyone was just chatting and taking their time. I tried to keep everyone from the station focused so we could finish, and I could move on to enjoying my day off.
After getting cleaned up I took the train downtown and had a delicious deep dish pie at Pequod's Pizza. I read that Pequod's was the preferred deep dish locale for locals, and I can see why. My pizza had a caramelized cheese crust, and the price I got for the lunch special (around $6) was a real bargain.
After lunch I walked to Ann Sather, a Swedish restaurant specializing in breakfast, where I had a plate of their famous cinnamon rolls and a cup of coffee.
That little after meal snack set me back the same amount of money as my pizza did!
I hopped back on the train and rode to Millennium Park where I watched people play in the Crown Fountain.
I also sat in the grass by the Millennium Park amphitheater to rest my tired legs and do some more people watching.
After giving my limbs a break I walked along the lake over to the area with the Planetarium and Field Museum.
In the evening I met up with my friend, Brittany, again for sushi at Butterfly Sushi. After eating and hanging out for awhile I caught a Lyft back to the lot; my driver was from Manila, Philippines, so I told him all about my experiences there five years ago.
8/6/15- Day Off!
Ryan, his family, and I left for Baraboo, WI this morning at 7:00 a.m., and we got to town around noon. We were hoping to get there sooner, but we hit a lot of traffic leaving Chicago.
Our first stop was at the house of Corissa, Tatiana's sister-in-law. She just had a baby girl last week, and Tatiana was so excited to meet her new niece.
Tatiana's mom, two of her sisters, two of her nephews, and another niece all arrived in Baraboo at the same time that we did. They were just fifty miles away with Carson & Barnes, so things worked out perfectly for a nice family visit.
While the Fusco clan went off to get lunch, Ryan and I met up with our friend, Greg DeSanto, who is executive director of the International Clown Hall of Fame & Research Center.
We had lunch and then headed straight to the ICHOF. I had so much fun geeking out in Greg's office. While we talked and swapped stories, I helped Greg organize and ID some of the thousands of slides that he has in the Hall of Fame's collection.
Dan "Buckles" Buckley, a former clown with Clyde Beatty, Vargas, and Franzen Bros., stopped by to say hello, and once our friend, Neal Skoy, was finished with work at Circus World Museum, he came over to visit and geek out as well.
Once Tatiana, Nico, and Abrianna were done visiting with the Fusco family, they met up with us, and we all went to dinner at Monk's, a restaurant a few doors down from the ICHOF that had excellent burgers.
Greg's daughter Emily joined us soon after we had sat down.
As we were leaving Monk's we ran into renowned circus performers Lee and Judy Stevens and Joanne Wilson.
While we were all chatting, Karen DeSanto, Greg's wife, found us and joined the fun.
After Lee, Judy, and Joanne moved on, the rest of us went to have frozen yogurt. While there, an intense, high stakes game of Checkers broke out between Nico and Neal.
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and we had to leave Baraboo to head back to Chicago.
We had such a fun visit today, and all of the laughing really helped recharge my batteries.
We got back to the circus in Chicago around 2:30 in the morning.
Saturday, August 8, 2015
7/31/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
This morning I went to Trader Joe's and spent over $100 on groceries, which proves that I should never go food shopping while hungry.
After last night's boffo business, I was disappointed in the size of tonight's crowds, especially for the 9 p.m. performance.
Ryan and I were cracking each other up after the last show while we were interacting with the public.
Ryan walked over to a man and his very pregnant wife in the front row to congratulate them and let them know that Ryan makes an excellent name for a baby.
When he walked back over and told me what he said, I asked, "What would you have done if she wasn't pregnant?"
A woman holding her toddler aged girl came over to get a picture with us. She said of the girl, "Tiene miedo", which translates to "She has fear."
Miedo sounds incredibly close to the Spanish curse word for poop, so being the comedy genius I am, I replied, "That's funny, I don't smell anything."
8/1/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
This morning Emma and I went to see the movie, "Paper Towns". Emma invited me to go, but I went into the theater completely oblivious to what the film was about.
I ended up enjoying it more than Emma did; it wasn't a great movie, but it was better than "Pixels". (Which isn't really saying much)
After the film Emma and I grabbed a couple of Gene & Jude's famous french fry topped hot dogs for lunch.
As we were heading back to the circus we passed by a Burger King that had a man in an enormous cheeseburger costume dancing around in front of the store.
As if that visual wasn't funny enough, the man was giving it his all and doing dance moves I never dreamed possible while dressed as a fast food item.
I'm going to remember that the next time I complain about my job.
We had fun audiences tonight; they were a great improvement over the Friday night crowds.
8/2/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.
This morning Emma and I went to Panera Bread for breakfast. It wasn't as adventurous a choice in restaurants as we usually make on our Sunday outings, but I didn't want to deal with tricky parking, and I knew we could sleep in a bit more and still get our food at that restaurant without dealing with an enormous crowd.
While we were eating, a man who seemed to have ATHD disorder sat down behind us and was constantly moving around, talking to himself, and making random noises.
When he heard Emma talking with her British accent, he began saying cockney things like, "'Ello guvner", and at one point he started mimicking things I was saying too.
It was way too hard to carry on a conversation with him sitting close to us, so we got up and moved to a less distracting part of the restaurant.
After eating I dropped Emma off at an Enterprise to pick up her rental car. Her mother is visiting for two weeks, so Emma wants to have better mobility to show her mom a good time in the Windy City.
There was so much strong wind today that it made cleaning our water mat a real pain in the butt. Even in the backstage tent we couldn't keep the mat from folding in on itself every time a strong gust blew.
Unfortunately the almost constant breeze was not cool and refreshing, it just blew more hot air into the tent. Therefore, the air conditioners had a hard time keeping up to cool off the inside of the tent, which made the audiences pretty miserable.
During the second half of the last performance there was some beautiful lightning going across the sky. Shortly after work the storm to accompany the lightning hit and there was a torrential downpour.
No wonder it was so humid today!
8/3/15- 7:30 p.m.
Today I went to have lunch at Johnnie's Beef one more time before we leave the Melrose Park area. Besides that, I spent the day cleaning, packing, and preparing for our night jump.
We had a good sized crowd for our final show in town, and I got a nice surprise right before it started. Emma had her mom bring over goodies from England for me: some Galaxy chocolate and Jelly Babies, my favorite!
Ryan and I were able to leave about an hour after the conclusion of the show. It was a 10 mile jump to the lot in Chicago, but it took us about 20 miles because we took a route that kept us from going down any residential streets.
We played the lot in Chicago last year, so I know the area well. Unfortunately, I was paying too much attention to where the other trailers were parked and not enough attention on where the entrance gate was, and I ended up driving past it.
I had to loop around and take a detour to get back on the route. My new path took me under a low overpass that had me worried I'd take my air conditioner off my trailer, but luckily I made it under safely.
When I got back on the correct road, I was stopped by an extremely slow train crossing the street just several yards from the lot.
Ryan caught up to me while I waited, and we ended up waiting almost forty minutes before we could cross the rail road tracks.
The slow moving train stopped right in the middle of the road for awhile, and then another train went past it. That train then started slowly backing up.
Finally both trains got out of our way, and we were able to proceed to the lot.
I went by the lot very slowly so I wouldn't miss the gate again, but when I came to it, I saw that it was closed and chained up.
I saw that two trailers were already on the lot, so I figured the gate on the next street must be open. Ryan and I turned down that side street only to find that gate was also closed.
By this point I was incredibly frustrated, so I asked Ryan to call Pompeyo or Carmelo and ask how they got on the lot.
They replied that the gate was not locked, only closed and chained. That infuriated me, as we then had to take another detour to loop around and get back on the route again.
When I finally got onto the lot, the first thing I did was ask why the gate was closed. The answer I got was "They told us to keep it closed."
I don't know who "they" are, but I severely questioned the judgement of closing and appearing to lock up the entrance to a lot that people are driving to at night.
Friday, July 31, 2015
7/27/15- 7:30 p.m.
This morning I went to see the movie, "Pixels", with Luis and his wife. I'd already read nothing but bad reviews about the film, yet I still knowingly bought a ticket (at least it was really cheap because we caught a matinee showing). I will say it wasn't as awful as people have made it out to be, but it was painful every time there was a scene that was supposed to be funny. At least I enjoyed all of the mindless video game action sequences.
After the movie I had to go by Lowe's to pick up some more supplies for Martin to use as he continues to weld the metal for Pompeyo's dog props. I also went by the grocery store to get the supplies I needed to cook for the show party tonight.
During the show this evening, Ryan and I were running around in the audience playing tag at the beginning of the vacuum gag.
As Ryan was chasing me I ran up a set of stairs just as a woman was coming down. I quickly darted behind her to hide from Ryan, but I was unaware until it was too late that she was leading her toddler down the stairs behind her.
The little boy saw me charging towards him, and he let out a bloodcurdling scream of terror. I quickly turned around just as Ryan was catching up to me. There was nowhere to go, because I had Ryan blocking me in one direction, and the woman and screaming child blocking me the other way on the narrow staircase.
I hugged Ryan in a death grip and began screaming in fear, trying to get us as close to the seats as possible so the woman could get her kid out of there.
I don't know what planet the lady was on, but it didn't seem to be ours. She just stood there for what seemed like forever, as her child continued to scream, completely paralyzed with fear.
Finally Memo started talking over the microphone, saying things like, "Poor clowns. Ma'am please take that little boy away, he's scaring the clowns."
Finally the lady began to slowly go away with the kid, who I am sure will now never be able to be around a clown again.
I fully expected the audience to hate us after that episode, but the whole situation made the crowd change their reception from the lukewarm response we got in the first half to absolutely peeing themselves over us in the second half.
After work there was an International Night party outside of the tent.
Everyone was encouraged to bring a dish representing a different country, and since I am American, I decided to make something symbolic of our great nation. I chose macaroni and cheese! 'Merica!
I made the macaroni and cheese casserole that my Nana has made for me ever since I was a little kid. It took an hour to cook the dish, so everyone had already started eating by the time I made it over.
I'm proud to say my contribution was a smashing success, and it was gone in a matter of minutes.
I enjoyed sampling all of the delicious food that people prepared, and Ryan and I had a great conversation with Mecho about religion and circuses in Europe.
7/28/15- 7:30 p.m.
This morning I went out to do laundry, and then I had to go by Home Depot to buy even more supplies for Pompeyo's dog props.
Later in the day Ryan and I went out to scan some banner designs at a FedEx for our friend Kevin Venardos' show, and then we went to a different Home Depot to pick up some more supplies.
We had a small crowd for the show tonight, so performing was really a chore. This coming week was added to the schedule at the last minute, so obviously the word is not out yet that we are staying until August 3rd. I really hope business picks up, or this will be a long week.
7/29/15- 7:30 p.m.
This afternoon I drove over to Berwyn, IL to check out two of my favorite stores in the area, Horrorbles and Reel Art.
Horrorbles contains all kinds of horror movie memorabilia: movies, books and magazines, posters, art, toys, and models.
I had a great time going through boxes of old Fangoria magazines. I picked out several issues from the late 1980s and early 1990s contained articles that tickled my fancy.
Reel Art is right next door to Horrorbles, and it has the same kind of merchandise as its neighbor, but pertaining to all genres of film and television.
I didn't find anything I wanted at Reel Art (the prices were considerably higher), but I did enjoy browsing through all of the shelves.
My clown friend, Beth Grimes, came to visit this evening. Before the show she told me about the Baraboo Circus Parade and the first day of Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp, both events that she had recently participated in.
Tonight was not my night as far as the show was concerned. We had another small, unenthusiastic crowd, and to make matters worse, I could not stop hurting myself!
First, in the blackout after the water gag I was running pell mell into the curtain when I crashed right into our box prop.
During Intermission, I was carrying our water mat outside to dry it off when I slammed my shin into the edge of the metal cart containing the mat for Duo Exxtrem's act.
Most embarrassing of all, as I was returning to the men's dressing room after one of our acts, my big, stupid clown shoe caught under the edge of one of the pieces of carpet, and I fell flat on my face in front of everybody. (That was at least the biggest laugh I got this evening)
On the bright side, after the show Beth was nice enough to treat me to dinner, where we talked about clowns and silent film comedians.
7/30/15- 7:30 p.m.
While I was out running errands this morning I noticed that whenever I would flip the switch for my left turn signal, the clicker was going at a much faster rate than usual.
At one of my stops I got out to investigate and saw that the rear light for the turn signal was out.
I drove to a nearby auto parts store and bought a replacement light. I was able to change out the lights right there in the parking lot, without assistance!
That's a pretty impressive feat for a mechanical bonehead like me!
I gotta tell you, doing an automotive repair all by myself made me feel so manly that I promptly tore a phone book in half, crushed a beer can on my head, and punched a shark in the nose!
Since I've been in Melrose Park my friend, Lisa, has recommended that I try Johnnie's Beef, one of her favorite food stands from her high school days.
It is only a mile and a half from the lot, but I was always afraid to drive over there because it seemed parking would be tricky for my truck.
Today I just decided to go for it, perhaps encouraged by my sudden rush of testosterone. I was happy to discover that parking was plentiful, and I had nothing to worry about.
I got an Italian beef sandwich with hot and sweet peppers that was absolutely amazing. (I'm craving one in the worst way as I write this entry).
I finished it off with a cool, refreshing lemon Italian ice. What a great meal!
We had a much better audience for the show tonight, thank God. And they were having fun!
After the show a family came up to us, and the patriarch told us, "You guys are f***ing hilarious!"
Ryan and I were touched, and backstage we were discussing how much we love it when people find it necessary to use expletives to properly describe how funny they think we are.