Sunday, May 3, 2015

Thursday, April 30 & Friday, May 1: Phoenix, AZ


4/30/15- 7:30 p.m.

Today I drove to Chandler, AZ to visit with the Taylor family. Barbara Taylor was a clown on Ringling's Red Unit in the 1980s, and now she and her husband, Martin, have a family circus with their children Elia, Aubrey, Liam, and William.

The Taylor family treated me to breakfast at T.C. Eggington's, a great breakfast restaurant that is close to the lot we'll be playing in Mesa next week.

After eating we went back to the Taylor's house where Barbara showed me some of the costumes and props that she had made.
In the middle of one of our conversations, Barbara whipped up a delicious batch of cherry scones for me to take back and share with Ryan and his family.

The Taylor family was so nice to me, and I had a great morning and afternoon visiting with them. I can't wait to spend more time with them when we get to Mesa!

The temperature reached triple digits today: 101 degrees, to be exact.
Not surprisingly, it was still warm in the tent by showtime at 7:30 p.m.

I received some upsetting personal news right at the beginning of the show, and I was down for the entire performance.
What's worse is that my mood affected my performance, and I had an awful show.

My funk must have caused a cosmic disturbance in the ring, because as the water tank was pushed out for Duo Exxtrem's act, it came off of one of the rails just as it reached the entrance of the ring.
Mecho and Mira were unable to use it for their act, and we had to run out for finale dodging the giant tank in our way.

I'm not sure how they got the extremely heavy tank back on the rails after the show, but I don't envy anyone who had to deal with that problem.

Marcos España invited me to join a group going to see the new Avengers movie tonight after work, and at first I wasn't going to go because of the mood I was in. Finally I decided I needed to get out and occupy my mind instead of wallowing in self pity in my trailer.
I made the right choice.

Marcos, his brother Julius, and Franchesca Cavalini, and I caught the 10:30 p.m. showing of "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" at the mall's movie theatre.
I expected a huge crowd, since the movie just came out, but we were four of eight people in the auditorium.

Since we saw the film at a Cinema Latino location, the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles.
Two and a half hours of mindless entertainment was exactly what I needed, and I enjoyed the film, even if I didn't like it as much as the first film.


5/1/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Happy First of May, everyone!

For those of you who don't know, and I'm paraphrasing here, circuses used to hit the road on May 1st, and so new circus performers are still known as "First Of Mays".
One of my favorite parts of May 1st is looking at pictures that my circus clown friends post on Facebook of their first year with a show.
I posted this photo from 2003 on Ringling that I felt perfectly summed up what it is like to be a First of May.

Sandor Eke, my personal big brother/bully

This year I had a very frustrating First of May. I spent all day up until showtime dealing with my phone at the Verizon store.

Ever since we arrived in Phoenix, my phone has been acting screwy. My signal was never strong, and my phone would drop a call anytime I moved even a few feet.
When I found out that no one else on the show with Verizon was having service issues, I decided to go to a store in the Desert Sky Mall to hopefully solve the problem.

After much troubleshooting to no avail, I was told to go to one of the big stores. There was one about two miles away from the lot.

Once I got there my problem was pegged as a manufacturer error, so my phone was replaced with a new version of what I already had.
It took forever to transfer all my photos, contacts, and other information from one phone to the other, but finally I was able to go home.

Not thirty minutes after leaving the store, my phone flashed the message Invalid Sim Card, and I was unable to make calls, send texts, or use the Internet.
I was cutting it close to show time by this point, so I rushed back to the Verizon store to see what the problem was.

The staff member who helped me tried a simple reset of the phone, and after that my service returned, and luckily all of my information was still intact too.

Weather wise, today was another triple digit day, and the audiences coming to our shows were just not having it.
It was so hard giving the people all our energy and getting nothing in return.

In the first performance Ryan and I popped a car tire at the beginning of the carpenter gag, so we spent all of our free time after Intermission replacing it.

Then, when we were throwing the beach balls in the audience during the second show, my ball got a rip in it, and it quickly deflated.
Mind you, this happened on my second throw, so I was left with nothing to do for the rest of our time covering the Russian swing set up.
I pulled every bit of schtick out that I could. I gave the deflated beach ball CPR, and then I began doing hat tricks with the bowler I was wearing from the carpenter gag. Luckily that got me through until the end of the number.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tuesday, April 28 & Wednesday, April 29: Phoenix, AZ


4/28/15- 7:30 p.m.

Today I met Doug Boyd for lunch at the Olive Garden next to the lot. Doug was a clown for three years with Ringling's Blue Unit, and then he went on to build props at Clown College, tour as a clown on Clyde Beatty, act as general manager on both the Blue and Red Units of Ringling, and work as technical director for Cirque Du Soliel's "Love".
As you can guess, we had plenty to talk about!

Besides my lunch outing, I spent another low key day at home.

We had a small crowd for the show tonight, and they were not responsive at all; they didn't even give Carmelo the time of day.
It was very surprising then when everyone got huge cheers from the audience in finale.

After the show the cast gathered in the ring to film a video for Facebook wishing everyone a "Feliz Dia Del Nino" (Day Of The Kid), which falls on April 30 and is a big deal in Mexico.
Everyone had to wear foam clown noses, which knocked them all down to me and Ryan's level. That'll learn 'em!


4/29/15- 7:30 p.m.

This morning I went to Encanto Park in downtown Phoenix. The park had a golf course, a fishing pond, and even a small amusement park.

Naturally my favorite part of the park was the ducks and geese. I got to see some adorable baby goslings (while keeping my distance so I wouldn't have to be chased by angry, protective geese parents).


I also got to see two male ducks fighting over a female duck. That was worth my whole trip, and it gave me many valuable tips for future dating attempts.

Tonight when I came back to the men's dressing room from the water gag, everyone was amused to see that I had a bee on my baggy pants attempting to sting me in the butt.
Ryan and I made the joke that the bee was willing to end his life by losing his stinger rather than have to watch more of our comedy.

After the performance Alexa asked us to film another Facebook video with her announcing the winners of some free tickets to the shows in Phoenix.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sunday, April 26 & Monday, April 27: Phoenix, AZ


4/26/15- 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Today was a most unusual and most enjoyable phenomenon: a two show Sunday!
For some reason, we will only have two shows on Sundays while we are in Phoenix. I think that is a fad that should catch on for the rest of the tour. Just sayin'....

I found an excellent spot to have breakfast through the Yelp app. The restaurant was called Snooze: An A.M. Eatery, and I could tell it was going to be good, because there was a huge crowd outside waiting to get in.
The host told me that it was over an hour wait for a table, so he suggested I find a seat at the bar since I was dining alone.
It only took several minutes before a seat opened up and I jumped on it.

Snooze's menu featured a variety of Benedicts; I had the Chilaquiles Benedict, which had barbacoa beef over a stack of ranchero sauced tortillas and melted cheese, with poached cage free eggs, roasted poblano hollandaise, pico de gallo and cotija cheese. Delish!

Right across the street from Snooze was a Half Price Books, so after a great meal and some book shopping, the only thing that could have made this Sunday better would have been only having to do one show!

Even though we didn't have three shows, we still had a motivational speech before the 8:00 p.m. performance.
The dancers gave out "The Brit Awards", and everyone who received an award won it for a funny reason completely opposite of their personality (i.e. Mira, who is very quiet and shy won an award for "Most Likely To Kill Someone" [although I figured I was in the running after my incident with Piolin]). I won "Most Lacking In Motivation", since I am the person who stared doing the Inspirational Speeches last year.

Our clown friend, Lance Brown, came to the second show tonight with a couple of his friends. I was sad that the audience was so quiet and reserved, since I like for our friends to see us really rock the crowd.
Lance did get to see this bit of impromptu comedy though....


video

After the show when Lance and his friends came up to get a picture with us, a couple of audience members went up to Lance and asked for his autograph.
After a minute we figured out that it was because they thought that he was Viśan from the Espana family.
I had to laugh, because I had thought the same thing when I saw Lance in the audience at one point.

Although I've never seen Viśan make that face.



4/27/15- 7:30 p.m.

Today Ryan and I went to a costume shop in downtown Phoenix to try and find some make up that Ryan is running low on.
The shop didn't have any in stock, but Ryan did pick up something to tide him over until our next make up order arrives in the mail.

I had a relaxing day at home, watching movies, reading, and playing video games. It was much needed.

After the show tonight Ryan and his family had me over for a Chinese dinner. They had visited a huge Asian market in the area, and Tatiana prepared many of the dim sum items that they had bought.

After eating, Ryan, Nico, and I perused an online catalog for an upcoming auction. Rick Baker, who is an amazing movie make up artist, is selling a lot of his old props and prothesises (I'm not sure if that is the correct plural).
I was most excited about pages 42-69, which feature items from my favorite movie, "Gremlins 2".
So......if anyone with thousands of dollars to spare would like to buy a nice gift for me sometime.....

http://www.propstore.com/content/rickbaker/InteractiveCatalog/index.html

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Friday, April 24 & Saturday, April 25: Phoenix, AZ


4/24/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

When it came time to unload our props this morning, I had to call Nestor, who parks all of us, and have him bring someone with a forklift to move my trailer forward.
The back of my house was too close to the perimeter fence that goes around the lot, and I was unable to get the ramp down so we could get the props out of my cargo area.
After we were finished unloading, my trailer was moved back into position. The fences won't be an issue for load out since they are always taken down on the final day of an engagement.

For some reason our show will not have animal acts here in Phoenix, or in the next town, Mesa.
A flying trapeze act performed by the Cavalini family was brought in to help fill the gap in the program, and a couple of acts were moved around.

Since there was no dog act in the first half, Ryan and I had to hurry up a bit after opening to get ready for the water gag.
The trapeze act was put at the start of the second half, which moved the Russian swing to the end of the first half.

Eddie asked Ryan and I if we could come up with something to cover the set up of the Russian swing; what bugged us was that he asked us two nights before we opened, instead of weeks ago when this presumably was all decided.

We planned to go a simple route, especially since we would be performing this filler material immediately following our carpenter gag.
We went to Walmart and bought a couple of large beach balls which we could toss around the audience while the swing rigging was erected.

Ryan and I had a quick rehearsal to map out the beach ball cover this afternoon, and then the cast rehearsed opening and finale to plug the Cavalini family into those numbers.

It was hard work going into the beach ball cover right after the carpenter gag. There weren't a lot of people in the audience, so it was tough keeping my beach ball constantly in motion. I had to keep running around and retrieving the ball from where it had stopped in a section of empty seats.
By the time I got backstage I had a painful stitch in my side, yet I had to rush to get ready for our Intermission tableau with the dancers.

We were all worried about our show being way too short with two acts missing, but the DJ who was appearing tonight as our special guest took it upon himself to take care of that.
He hosted a dance contest during both shows that went on For. Ev. Er.
The first show the DJ went on after Carmelo, and he roped the poor guy into helping him out, right after Carmelo had finished his 10 minute act.

In the second show there was no hula hoop act, which meant we had to rush even more to get ready for the water gag.
Once we got to our spot to start the gag, we discovered that the DJ was going to be doing his dance party right before our act.

This frustrated us because he brought the show's energy to a dead stop; we knew that we'd now have to work extra hard to get any reactions from the already small and quiet crowd.
After the DJ finally finished, Ryan I bypassed any of our schtick in the seats since the crew had used the copious time they had during the dance party to remove all of the aerial motorcycle rigging.
We went directly to the ring curb to do our warm up bits, and I about lost my mind when I saw that the DJ was standing right in front of us, at our knee level, in our light, signing autographs and taking pictures with a group of people.

I stopped what I was doing, put my hands on my hips, and tapped my foot as I stared down at the back of his head.
After a few seconds I realized that he had no situational awareness (or common courtesy, apparently), so I said, "It's ok. We'll wait."
He turned around and said, "Oh, um.....sorry."
Right then our publicist, Lidia rushed up and escorted everyone away from the front of the ring, but by then I was absolutely furious at the lack of respect we had been shown.

I tried to take that anger and convert it into performance energy, which worked very well, but I still let everyone in the men's dressing room know my thoughts on the situation after the act. I think I made my point rather.....passionately.

Even though the rest of the show went fine after the water gag, I was completely over the day, and I was happy to be in my trailer after work.


4/25/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Today was the birthday of our ringmaster, Marcos Valdes. Ryan and I bought Marcos a gift back in San Antonio, a DVD featuring his father, famous comedian "Loco" Valdes.
I was worried that Marcos would have already picked up the DVD while we were in town, but he hadn't, and he loved the gift.

The dancers had cake prepared, so before the first show we all gathered in the backstage to sing, "Happy Birthday", and get all sugared up before work.

My brother, Trent, came to watch the second show tonight. He lives in Tucson, but he drove up to visit and watch me work. I was really excited, because he hasn't seen me perform since my final year with Ringling, eight years ago!


Luckily he saw us with a good audience; the one drawback was the bald guy I picked for the vacuum gag was a real pain in the butt, and he didn't want to play along at all.

After the shows there was a birthday party for Marcos in the backstage tent. I was hoping Trent could stick around, but he had to drive a couple of hours back to Tucson and then go to work early in the morning.

The circus band provided live music for the party, and Marcos even entertained his guests for his own celebration.

video

The music was hot, and pretty soon everyone was dancing. 


I played the part of a wall flower, but I did take Abrianna in my arms for a bit so Ryan and Tatiana could dance.
While I was swaying back and forth to the music with the baby girl in my arms, she let out a big yawn. I guess that sums up my dancing abilities rather well!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wednesday, April 22 & Thursday, April 23: Phoenix, AZ


4/22/15- Day Off!

Crossing over two time zones into Phoenix really threw my sleep schedule for a loop. I kept waking up ungodly early, and then forcing myself to go back to sleep until a more reasonable hour.

I was able to do my laundry today close to the lot, and I also got a truck problem fixed at the O'Reilley's next door.
The casing for my air filter was coming loose, but it only took the O'Reilley's employee two seconds to fix it.

As I was out and about running errands, a lesson that I've learned during this tour was reinforced to me: people do not know how to drive in a mall parking lot.
Some genius almost crashed right into me because he didn't understand the concept of a four way stop. In fact, he completely ignored the stop sign as I was turning left in front of him; it is a wonder we didn't collide.

This afternoon Ryan and I were able to finish up work on our budget for next year, and then we walked around the Desert Sky Mall, which is where the circus is set up for the next week and a half.

I decided to have dinner at Cooperstown, a restaurant owned by rock legend Alice Cooper. It is right across the street from the arena that I used to play with Ringling, so we clowns would frequent it during our time in Phoenix.

I wasn't too impressed this time around. The one thing I remembered from Cooperstown were the Wings of Mass Destruction, which were some insanely hot wings that we paid one of the clowns a lot of money to eat.
That caused me to remember the restaurant as a wing joint, which really put me in the mood for wings, but they were just one of the items on the appetizer menu.
My food was ok, but nothing to write home about. I suppose if I was an Alice Cooper fan I would have at least enjoyed all the decor.




4/23/15- Day Off!

Ryan and I were supposed to have a UNIVISION publicity this afternoon, but it was canceled, which was excellent news for us.

I had lunch at an excellent cafe called the Wildflower Bread Co; I had an amazing roast beef and gorgonzola sandwich. 

Before heading back to the lot I stocked up on groceries at Trader Joe's (sorry JeffSchott).

Back at the lot Ryan and I finally completed the first draft of one of our new gags, and then I went to dinner with one of my clown friends, Lance Brown.

Lance is the youngest graduate of the Ringling Clown College (he went in the school's final year), and he was one of my favorite road clowns when I was a teenager.
It was nice to be able to spend some time with him, since we had only talked briefly before during his second stint with Ringling in the past several years.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Monday, April 20 & Tuesday, April 21: Phoenix, AZ


4/20/15- Travel Day to Phoenix, AZ

Ryan and I began the 1,000 mile jump to Phoenix, AZ around 9:00 a.m.
Around 120 miles in I popped one of my trailer tires. I was able to get it changed with the help of Ryan's jack; the one difficulty we had was getting my tires up on enough blocks so my axle would be high enough in the air to get the jack underneath.

Later in the trip we stopped at a rest area. Carmelo was already there, and he noticed an unnatural grinding noise coming from my wheels as I drove.
After some investigation and testing, we discovered that one of my trailer brakes had broken apart inside of the wheel.
Carmelo took the wheel completely apart and we discarded the chunks of broken metal. He also discovered that none of the rest of my trailer brakes were even attached; the wires were cut!
Looks like I'll be spending a lot of money on trailer brakes very soon.
I was so grateful for Carmelo's help, and for him noticing a problem before it became much worse.

Our drive through west Texas was fairly boring; there were just miles and miles of desert. There were a few neat sights (mountains and rock formations) that were different from the usual terrain we see on our jumps.


I was excited to drive through New Mexico, which is one of the few states that I had not visited before.
We stopped at a Walmart in Las Cruces, NM to spend the night; we drove about 100 miles past the half way point of our journey in one day. We might have made it even farther if I hadn't had my mechanical issues.

Martin and his family stopped at the same Walmart as us, and when I was telling him about how many tires I have popped so far this season, he suggested I get my trailer axles checked to see if they are properly aligned.
I will have to schedule an appointment with an RV repair shop during our next jump.


4/21/15- Travel Day to Phoenix, AZ

About 60 miles into our jump Ryan's truck's check engine light came on. We pulled over in Deming, NM (hometown of one of my former Ringling Alley mates, Nathan Holguin) to see what the problem was.

At first we noticed that the truck was low on engine coolant, but even after filling the reservoir, the light was still on.
We moved to a Walmart parking lot in Deming, where Ryan unhooked his truck so we could go to an O'Reilley's to see what the problem was.

The O'Reilley's employee could not get a proper reading on why the check engine light came on, so he suggested we go to a Dodge dealership just down the road.
The man at the Dodge dealership diagnosed the problem as an electrical snafu. He simply reset the check engine light and said it was most likely nothing to worry about. He suggested Ryan take the truck for a full check up in Tucson if the light came on again, but thankfully it did not.

Luckily the rest of our drive was uneventful, and we made it to the Desert Sky Mall in Phoenix around 8 p.m.

Nestor was in the process of parking trailers when we arrived, but he was dealing with a very small space to fit the whole circus, so he told us we had time to go get dinner before we would be parked.

I joined Ryan and his family at an Olive Garden in the parking lot of the mall, where the staff was nice enough to not rush our meal, even though we arrived close to closing time.

When we got back to the circus, Nestor was ready to park us. He had one of the crew guys park my trailer for me, for which I was extremely grateful.
He had to back my trailer up between the tent's stake line and the already parked trailers, and he squeezed my house in between two other trailers, with only inches to spare at some moments.

I was happy to be done with parking my trailer since that meant I could fully enjoy my day off tomorrow.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Saturday, April 18 & Sunday, April 19: San Antonio, TX


4/18/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

There was a lot of traffic today because of Fiesta, an annual spring festival in San Antonio. I didn't learn about the event until later in the day, but I had been wondering why the streets were so crowded.

While I was running errands I got some blueprints printed out for a new prop we are designing. I told the girl working at Office Max's copy center that I wanted the print outs to be 2 ft x 3 ft.
I was floored when she asked me if I knew what that was in inches.
I'm guessing she wasn't valedictorian of her class...
I wish I would have been able to answer her without consulting my calculator.....

Also while I was out I picked up an adaptor that I can use in my truck to charge my laptop while I drive. I'm looking forward to the ability to listen to TV shows and movies on my computer during our upcoming long jump to Phoenix, AZ.

Last night I started getting a sore throat, so during tonight's shows I took it easy with my yelling and girly screams so as to not further strain my voice.

Since the lot in San Antonio is muddy, the stage crew has been laying down sawdust flakes backstage before the horses enter the tent.
Now when Ryan and I clean our water mat, the sawdust is sticking to the wet mat. Because of that we have to sweep off the mat as we fold it so that the flakes don't get on the ring carpet during the show.
I'm looking forward to being on cement next town!


4/19/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Today my cold had become even worse, so I tried to keep medicated and well rested during our long day.

It was hot and sunny out, which wasn't much fun in the tent, but at least it dried all the mud in the back yard.

The second show was an especially difficult hurdle to overcome today. The audience was just not into me and Ryan at all, and it really made performing while sick even more of a drag.

Mecho from Duo Exxtrem gave today's third show motivational speech. His topic was how three show days are not so bad, even if it is hot or we are tired. He said that it is all in our minds, and if we can overcome that, Sundays are a piece of cake.

I tried to apply that theory to the third performance, and it worked rather well. I think the fact that it had cooled down considerably in the tent since the second show helped considerably.

Load out wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be. Ryan and I took our props the shorter way around the tent because the mud on that side had dried out. We were also able to get everything onto a side street by the lot, which made wheeling the props over to our trailers much easier.

After loading up our props and getting our houses ready for travel, Ryan and I only had to wait a short time for the school trailer to be moved from in front of my house.
We were able to leave San Antonio shortly after midnight.

Our plan was to simply get out of downtown to avoid rush hour traffic in the morning. We stopped for the night at a Walmart about thirty miles outside of San Antonio.