Thursday, March 27, 2014

Monday, March 24-Wednesday, March 26: Brownsville, TX

3/24/14- 7:30 p.m.

This morning I went to do laundry. The laundromat I found was very busy; I was lucky that I found open dryers when I needed them.

At 3:30 p.m. Ryan and I had a television publicity in the tent. A local station, Televisa Noreste, was on site to film segments for its morning program, "Buenos Dias".
Alexa Vazquez and the dancers filmed some opening segments with the hosts, and then David did his diabolo act, Claudie performed her foot juggling act, and Ryan and I performed the carpenter gag.
At the end of the publicity Ryan and I filmed a closing segment with the hosts, and then we were done.
All the footage was going to be edited and broadcast Thursday morning on the program. I'm hoping we can get a copy of the show.

With the hosts, and Vivien, our PR lady

It was a chilly day, but my heart was warmed by the fact that we were back to several days of only performing one show and evening.

After the performance we had our third attempt at taking a cast photo. It took forever to get everyone set up, but Ryan and I were having a great time joking around with the dancers, Carmelo, and the other performers around us.

The new photo looks a little something like this, but theoretically at a better angle

After taking the real cast photo, the photographer had us all squeeze together to take a selfie like Ellen did at the Oscars. 

Ours is way better than hers

3/25/14- 7:30 p.m.

This afternoon my friend, Ramon, was in town for business, so he invited me out to lunch. We ate at a Mexican restaurant called "Antonio's" that his friend had recommended. The food was very tasty, and it was good to catch up with Ramon and hear his thoughts on the show.

After lunch Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I walked over to the mall movie theater to watch "Muppets: Most Wanted".
I thought the movie was fun, but it was a little long towards the end. Ryan had a good point when he mentioned that the movie started very strong with a lot of good comedy, but towards the end they lost their momentum.
Still, the music was great and I laughed a lot. And it was the Muppets!

Tonight in the show calamity struck the carpenter gag!
For the first bit in the act, I put a tool bag on the end of a board lying across two sawhorses. This causes the other end of the board to fly up in the air and "hit" Ryan in the face.
Well, tonight as the board came up, I felt that there was something different. I looked over to see if Ryan was alright, and he seemed dazed but unscathed. I figured the board must have scraped his body while going up and over.
After asking him if he was ok, I proceeded with the act. A few seconds later I heard Ryan ask, "What should I do?"
I looked over, and blood was seeping out of his clown nose and down his make up.

I quickly pulled the rag out of my back pocket and threw it to him, but the blood was not stopping, and there was no way to cover it up. Also, we had just started the act, so we weren't sure how to proceed. We decided to carry on, albeit quickly, and get out of the ring before the bleeding became worse.

My biggest fear was that the audience would see that Ryan was hurt and immediately shut down reaction wise, but they were laughing as if nothing had happened.....even though there were soon blood splotches all over Ryan's white shirt.
Either no one noticed, or these audiences are brutal!

The only part of the act we did differently was the ending. Ryan stayed in the carpenter box after the blow off, and I took the final style by myself on the ring curb.

Backstage I was relieved to find out that Ryan was ok. He had gotten bashed in the nose by the board, but nothing was broken.
He simply used some gauze to stop the bleeding, and then reapplied the make up around his mouth.

The guys backstage were giving me a hard time about the incident. Mario had the best joke, "Who taught you guys clowning? You don't actually hit each other!"

10 years ago on Ringling, Ryan busted my nose with a board in a similar manner. I told everyone that I just waited for my moment of revenge when he would least expect it!

Mandi, one of our local fans, was at the performance, and she came down after the show so her daughters could get a picture with us.
They didn't seem concerned with Ryan's well being, so I guess no one in the audience noticed that in the carpenter gag Ryan had a lot more red in his make up than usual.

After the show a group of us went to a bar and grill that was walking distance from the lot to celebrate the upcoming birthday of Laura, one of the dancers. 
I had a nice time chatting with folks outside of the work setting, but I called it an "early" night (midnight) as the rest of the group moved the party to an Irish pub.

3/26/14- 7:30 p.m.

Today was my Nana's birthday. I called her in the afternoon, and she told me that she liked the necklace I bought for her in Mexico.

This afternoon I picked up Teo at the hotel, and then I took him to the tent for a vacuum gag rehearsal. The props and costumes are finally finished, so the gag is ready to go in the show now.
We ran the gag a few times to get used to the blocking in the ring, and Teo followed along with the sound effects.
The rehearsal was very productive, and the gag was looking good by the end. We tried to make it as easy on Teo as possible by putting all the sound effects in order on the Instant Replay machine, which he said he really appreciated.

My friend, Amber, came to the show tonight with her son, Dylyn. Amber is a pirate with the Black Dragon Pirate Cruise out of Port Isabel, TX. It was nice to get to catch up with her after the show.

In closing, here are a few photos!

Some of our fans from opening night in Brownsville
Jan Vazquez and his minions
Nico, our minion

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 21-March 23: Brownsville, TX

3/21/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning I walked over to backstage to see how set up was going. Mario told me that they were almost done, so we could bring our props over whenever we wanted.

Ryan and I began unloading our props from the backs of our trailers, and then began the long haul over to backstage.
Besides being parked far from the tent, we are also facing the customer entrance, so we had to push and carry everything all the way to the back of the tent as well.
We got rid of big wheels on our props since we figured we'd have consistent flooring in the tent this year; we didn't stop to think about how those smaller wheels would make things more difficult for us when it came time to load our props in and out!

When we got everything backstage we found out that they were changing the layout a bit, so we left our stuff off to the side where it would be out of the way.

Ryan and I made a two hour round trip to McAllen, TX to visit a Green Beret store to look for jumpsuits for the vacuum gag.
Ryan recently decided that he'd rather we do the gag in jumpsuits instead of our agent suits. I was fine with the decision, it's just a shame that we didn't come to it when we were still in McAllen to save ourselves a long trip!
Luckily we found some great orange jumpsuits, so the trip wasn't a waste.

Back at the lot Ryan and I went backstage to get our props set up for the shows. The prop guys were nice enough to move all our props to the right location for us.
Backstage is dirt, except for the stages where the men's and ladies' dressing rooms are, but the prop guys put down some interlocking, octagonal pieces of plastic as a floor wherever props go.

David Zepeda, the famous Mexican film and telenovela actor, was back as a special guest for our opening night.
Luckily the audiences were there for more than just David; they were fantastic for the shows.

It was very hot and humid backstage, especially for the first show, and on top of that everything felt gross backstage from all the dirt and dust.

Ryan and I waited until after the shows to clean our two water mats in the ring. Like I said earlier, the backstage is all dirt, so there is no way we can clean the mats there like we did in Donna. Well, we wouldn't mind so much, but I'm sure the show would mind getting mud all over their ring carpet!

While we were cleaning the mats, the lighting guys were designing some new cues, so the lights were going on and off in different patterns.
When we were finished and getting ready to leave, the tent was dark except for a single spot of light where we were standing.
Ryan turned to the front of the tent and bowed deeply, which caused the lighting guys to laugh and clap.
It was a very Fellini-esque moment. I wish I had a photo.

After a shower to wash away the make up, sweat, and grime I collected over the evening, I went to pick up Teo so we could celebrate a successful opening night at Buffalo Wild Wings.

3/22/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning Ryan and I drove to Harlingen, TX to visit Hobby Lobby for ribbon to jazz up our vacuum jumpsuits.
We also went by Walmart where we thankfully found some more carafes for our water gag. We've been using the same kind of carafe for the water gag since we first did it in 2010, but now they are made from a thinner plastic, so we have already broken two of them this season.
We are trying to stock up, because one of the rules of the road is "If you don't buy something when you see it, you'll never be able to find it when you actually need it".

Ryan and Tatiana spent all afternoon adding ribbon to the cuffs and collars of the jumpsuits, and they look great! They're much less like prison jumpsuits now.

The air conditioning was on in the tent this evening, so it was much more comfortable backstage than it was last night.
Again we had two fantastic audiences, and everyone who came up to us after the show was very complimentary.
We met a lot of folks who used to see us on Kelly Miller and had missed us there this year; we had similar experiences in Donna. It's good to be remembered....favorably!

3/23/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Since our trailers are so far from the backdoor, and since I want to cut down on the number of times I perform the "walk of shame" past the customers as I go to and from my trailer in make up, I have been keeping my make up case backstage for pre show application and in between show touch ups.
This afternoon, as I was about halfway through putting on my face for the first show, all the lights backstage turned off!
I went outside to finish, but it was beginning to drizzle. I settled for standing in the backstage entranceway, where I was covered but at least had some light to work by.

While we were waiting for opening to begin, one of the dancers was complaining to me about how difficult it was to put on her make up in the dark.
I pointed to my own painted face and exclaimed, "I don't want to hear it!"
Luckily lights were back on by the time we finished opening.

It was a dreary day, and it was drizzling rain on and off all throughout the shows. My mood matched the weather for the first two shows.
Luckily the motivational speech I give to the dancers (and whoever in the cast was around and listening) before the third show rubbed off on me as well, and I finished the day on a high note.
I gave an adaptation of the famous speech Mel Gibson gives to the army before they go into battle in the film, "Braveheart".
One of the Azzario sisters dubbed my performance Oscar worthy. I'd like to thank all the little people....especially Michu.

Back to the weather:
Unfortunately, rain plus dirt equals mud. Darn you, science!
Not only was it mud, it was that nasty, sticky mud that won't come off your boots...or anything else it gets on.
I was remarking to Ryan how sad it was that I was always looking forward to getting backstage where at least I could wipe my muddy boots off on the nice, clean dirt.

Luckily the prop guys do everything in their power to keep inside the tent as nice as possible. They mop the stages backstage every night or morning to keep them clean.
Also, sometime between the shows last night and the shows today, a trench was dug around the tent to keep water from getting inside.

While we are waiting to go out for the Intermission announcement, Ryan and I have a few minutes backstage where we chat with the dancers.
I was asking Emma what she and the girls had planned for the evening, and she said they were going to have a movie night and watch a film about the life of Princess Diana.
She went on to talk about Princess Di, and then what I thought she said was, "I'm related to the Royal Family."
I didn't have any time to follow up on what I thought I heard, because right then we had to go out for our cue.
Afterwards I asked if that was what she had said, and she let me know she had said, "I'm a big fan of the Royal Family."
We both laughed about it because we both had the same thought: why would she be here if she was related to royalty!?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Monday, March 17-Thursday, March 20: Brownsville, TX

3/17/14- Day Off!

Even though we finished our shows in Donna yesterday, we stayed there for another day while the big top was taken down and things were readied at the Brownsville lot.

I called Economy Auto Service as soon as I woke up to tell them about my "Service Engine Soon" light coming on, and O'Reilly's diagnosis. They told me to bring the truck in and they would look at it as soon as possible.

As I was walking to get my truck I looked over to see the status of tear down. I believe the crew had been working all night, but the tent was still standing. However, it looked as if the inside was completely empty.

I drove over to Pharr to drop my truck off, and once they were up and about, Ryan and his family came to pick me up.
We drove to Progreso to cross over into Mexico one final time. The main reason we went was so I could pick up a gift for my Nana. Her birthday is coming up, and I wanted to get her one of the necklaces where the men bend wire into names and shapes and attach them to a chain. Hers came out beautifully.

Ryan and Tatiana also picked up gifts for people, and we stopped to have tacos at a great little restaurant that Ryan discovered a few years ago.
The last time I ate there, I made a joke from the Simpsons about the tacos being "carne de burro" (donkey meat), but I said it a little too loudly and received many disdainful expressions from the employees and customers.
Stupid American!

When we got back to the lot in Donna we saw that the tent's sidewalls were down, and the canvas was also on its way to the ground.

Later in the afternoon Leo called from the garage and said they had fixed my truck. The spark plugs were in rough shape, so they replaced all of them. My truck has 10, so the bill was a little higher than I had expected. However, I was happy that my truck was running as smooth as a gravy sandwich again.

This evening Ryan's family and I picked up Teo at his hotel, and then we all went to get sushi for dinner.
Teo was sick over the weekend, but he was starting to feel better. He was also happy that he had finished his sound department load out by 1:30 a.m. last night, which is much earlier than he had anticipated.

When we got back to the lot, only the tent's towers were still standing.

3/18/14- Day Off!

The route sheets we were given on Sunday told us that we all needed to leave at 11:00 Tuesday morning, so I woke up with plenty of time to have coffee, shower, and pack my house.

When I got out of the shower, Ryan knocked on my door to pass on the news from Julio that we weren't going to leave until tomorrow morning.
I went outside to see how the tear down was going, and I saw that the crew was taking down the tent's towers.

I joined Ryan and his family for some fabric shopping in the morning, but other than that we all laid low.

Hey! Where'd the tent go?

Even though we were told that we were leaving in the morning, more and more people started heading over to Brownsville during the day.
I was feeling very anxious the whole time since I felt like we were missing out on some vital piece of information.
A "Dr. Who" marathon at Ryan's house helped soothe my jangled nerves.

When I returned from throwing out the trash in the evening, I noticed that the Espana family's trailers that surrounded my house were all getting ready to leave.
In my trailer I saw that I had missed a call from Ryan. He was asking if I had lost power, which I soon realized that I had.
I went back outside and saw that our power had been cut, and Mario told me that he was told people could still leave in the morning if they wanted. I could tell from looking around that the majority of folks were getting ready to hit the road.

I called Ryan and we both agreed that if we were going to sit without power, we might as well do it at the new lot.

We both packed up our houses, and then I had to wait for Mario's motorhome to move from in front of my house so I could hook up my truck.
Ryan and I finally hit the road around 11:30 p.m., but we started our jump by heading 20 miles in the opposite direction of Brownsville.
We both needed to go to Flying J in Edinburg, TX to use their RV dumping stations.

After taking care of business we began the very easy drive to Brownsville. Since it was after midnight, traffic was almost non-existant; the 46 miles from Donna to the new lot just flew by!

We pulled up to the lot in Brownsville just before 2 a.m., and we were both parked right away.
I moved my truck (in this town our trucks are parked right next to where our trailers are), hooked up to water, and set up my house.

I was still wired on the big cup of coffee I had from Flying J, so I didn't get to sleep until almost 4 a.m.

3/19/14- Day Off!

Even though I went to bed very late, I still woke up around my usual time, 9:00 a.m.

I got out of bed and walked around to get some exercise. We are set up right next to the Sunrise Mall, which is just a mile from the lot Kelly Miller plays in Brownsville.
After five seasons of playing this area, I am very familiar with our surroundings on this lot.

The tent going up in Brownsville

I was grateful for my generator today since we weren't able to plug into show power until almost 5 p.m. I was wary about using my air conditioner though, because I didn't want to overload my generator. I spent a lot of time out of the house just because it was such a warm day.

I spent a low key evening at the lot, and Ryan and I watched the very entertaining film, "Pirate Radio", about the biggest pirate rock and roll station in England that was broadcast from a ship back in the 1960's.

3/20/14- Day Off!

4 days off between towns? A guy could get used to this!

I tried to be semi productive this morning. I went to a printing shop not far from the lot and had some labels that I had designed printed out for the vacuum prop.
I then went to Home Depot to buy a tarp. The lot in Brownsville is full of dirt, and there is really nowhere clean for us to dry the water mats between shows. It looks like we will have to lay down a tarp backstage before cleaning them.

This afternoon Ryan and I went outside and got the vacuum gag on its feet, blocking out bits and creating material.
Then came one of my least favorite parts of gag creation: creating and choosing the right sound effects.
We spent almost 4 hours on that very tedious chore. I'm glad that it is over!

Afterwards I joined Ryan and family for sushi, where I picked up the check. Ryan made a huge deal out of it, since apparently I give off an aura of "tightwad-edness" seconded only by the late, great Jack Benny.
Now where's my violin....

 So long, Donna!
Aldo Vazquez's son, Franco, showing his fandom. Photo by Memo Vazquez.

Check out this article for some great photos from the show in Donna: 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Friday, March 14-Sunday, March 16: Donna, TX

3/14/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning I went to Hobby Lobby to pick up little cans of spray paint. Unfortunately later in the day I had to go back and return half of the cans I bought, as I had picked up the wrong kind.

My friend, Ramon, treated me to lunch at Poncho's (where else?) this afternoon. Towards the end of our meal, his wife Tammy joined us.

Before heading back to the lot I had to swing by Tractor Supply Company for a new headlight for the little clown car.
One of the lights has been out for awhile now, and I found out from Danny on Kelly Miller that he had bought the lights at TSC.

Tatiana and Jovan, one of the electricians, helped me detach the old light and attach the new one. Well.....they did most of the work while I stood there watching.
Unfortunately, the new light I bought didn't work either! Tatiana and I went to Tractor Supply again to exchange it for another one, and in this case the third time was the charm!
Tatiana got the new light attached and the little car was once again ready to blind audience members of all ages.

Ryan finished painting all the props for the vacuum gag this afternoon, so once we get going in Brownsville next week we should be able to rehearse in the ring and get the new gag into the show!

Mario was nice enough to help me with a minor repair to my trailer this afternoon. He had the proper tools and the know how to fix the problem in no time flat. Thanks, Mario!

After a day full of running around town, I was feeling drained by the time the shows came around. Luckily we had two good crowds, and my energy was restored.

3/15/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Yesterday while I was driving around town I noticed that my truck's "Service Engine Soon" light had come on.
This morning I went by O'Reilley's, and they diagnosed the problem as two cylinders misfiring, which proved what many folks have always told me, "You're not firing on all cylinders!"
Unfortunately everywhere I went to get the problem fixed was either closed or crazy busy.

Back at the lot I cleaned house and organized the storage room of my trailer in anticipation of tear down tomorrow night.
I also cut out a piece of wood and used it to replace a part of one of my cabinets that suffered water damage.

I'm so proud of myself. I've come a long way since 10 years ago when I tried to use a screwdriver to attach nails to a prop.

Tonight both shows were being filmed for the souvenir DVD, so of course Ryan and I began the evening feeling completely dead.
We tried our best, but both shows were pretty rough for us. I was disappointed, because I felt the crowds were much livelier the past few nights....when they weren't filming for the DVD.
Oh well, I'm sure they'll fix it all in editing!

I was very happy that my friends, Ramon and Tammy, were able to come to the show this evening. They had a great time, and they even purchased a photo with us after the show, which helps me and Ryan sustain our crippling gambling addiction. Hooray!

3/16/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Today was our last day of shows in Donna. It seems like just yesterday that we were pulling up to the tent for the first time in our rigs, ready to begin rehearsals.

The backyard was full of semi trucks ready to be loaded, and as the day progressed, even more were brought in and strategically parked around the big top.

None of the cast members seemed to be feeling very lively for the first performance, and unfortunately we didn't get any help from the audience.
What did help were the delicious sweets that Laura, one of the dancers, brought to me and Ryan from England.
She brought Jelly Babies, Cherry Bakewell Bonbons, Lemon Willy Whips, Fruit Pastilles, Cholly Whozzers, and Sour Vintage Jelly Buttons. (I may have made a couple of those up....)
Ryan and I shared the wealth with our fellow performers to keep everyone's spirits and glucose levels high.

This morning I went to Tractor Supply and picked up another squeegee. This helped me and Ryan to implement a new water mat cleaning technique that worked very well and cut down on our cleaning time considerably.

The last show was very busy backstage. As soon as people were done with their props, they began packing them up and moving them out of the tent.
Ryan and I began packing up and moving our props at Intermission. We got the back of Ryan's trailer loaded, and we got the rest of the props over to my trailer, but then we had to stop so we could go perform the trumpet gag.

Once the show was finished Ryan and I completed loading the props in the back of my trailer, and then we moved our trucks from one part of the parking lot to another so they wouldn't be in the way of the semi trucks during tear down.

As soon as finale ended, the crew began taking everything out of the tent. I'm very excited to see the process they employ to tear down and set up this beautiful tent.

In closing, here are a few lot shots:

 The new corporate office
 The old corporate office

 Thank you, Rio Grande Valley, for that lovely, windswept look

And finally, for a little backstory on this last photo, here is an excerpt from my blog on February 11:

In the carpenter gag I was being very careful as I ran around with the circular saw. Right as I went to shove the saw into Ryan's face, I slipped on the wet rubber and landed on my back, which put the saw directly into Ryan's crotch.
I had already committed to the bit, so as I lay there running a power saw into Ryan's family jewels, I was also setting off the sparks that indicate the grinding of the saw.
I didn't think I was going to be able to finish the act, I was laughing so hard.

Thank you to Alex Garcia for being there and capturing that magical moment!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Monday, March 10-Thursday, March 13: Donna, TX

Sorry for the delay, everyone. I've been really busy! I tacked on an extra day to thank you for being patient.

3/10/14- 7:30 p.m.

This morning Hector, the assistant manager, picked up me and Ryan at 8:15 a.m. for a radio publicity.
Before heading to the studio we swung by Mission, TX to pick up Alexa Vazquez, who performs a hula hoop act in the show, but behind the scenes plays a big part in promoting the circus.
The station where the publicity occurred took place in a studio that houses several radio and television stations. Ryan and I have done several PRs there over the years with Kelly Miller.

Our appointment was with the two DJs that we were on the air with on Valentine's Day. The two interviews that we did went well; Alexa and Ryan did the heavy lifting in Spanish, and I was able to prove my competency as well when they asked me to inform the English speaking listeners as well.

One very nice thing about the PR was that Ryan and I didn't have to be in full make up and costume, just street clothes.
It was going to be a joint television and radio event, but since the TV station canceled their involvement, Vivien, our PR lady, said we didn't have to make up.

After the PR we were treated to breakfast, and then once I was back at my trailer I took a heavenly nap. I woke up feeling totally refreshed.

I drove over to Edinburg, TX to visit with my friends on Kelly Miller one last time. I met the show at the Municipal Park, which is where they were sitting until their travel day tomorrow.
When I got there, a few semis were still waiting to be pulled out of the mud on their other lot.
Everyone was busy cleaning the disgusting muck off their equipment, houses, and boots.

I'm happy that I got to spend a good amount of time visiting Kelly Miller here in the Valley. Unfortunately it doesn't look like our schedules are going to sync up any more this season.

Our friends, the Davison family, came to see the show again this evening. Pat brought a bag of grapefruit for both me and Ryan; they were picked fresh from his neighbor's tree....hopefully with his neighbor's consent!

In the carpenter gag I tweaked a muscle in my neck that led all the way down to the middle of my shoulder blades.
I asked Nikolai, one of the flyers (and resident physical therapy expert), for any suggestions. He showed me a stretch to try that I did during Intermission; it worked like a charm!

After the show we visited in the seats with the Davisons and snapped this great picture.

Pat, Mabelle, and Marites

While we were visiting I looked over and spotted a man and his daughter waiting to talk to me. I excused myself and went over to introduce myself; the man was Alex, who is a follower of the blog, and has been since he saw us on Kelly Miller a few years ago.

Me with Alex's daughter.

Alex took some fantastic photos of us in the show. Check them out at the bottom of the post!

3/11/14- Day Off!

Today the sun decided to come out after an absence of a couple of days, so I took the vacuum prop outside to be painted.

Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Poncho's, for lunch, and then we drove over to Mercedes, TX for the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show And Rodeo.
Our friends, the Valencia family, were nice enough to get passes for us (and another large group from our show), so we owe our day of fun to them.

There was a comedy gunfight show set up near the fair's entrance that had a very familiar looking set.
When we stopped to watch their performance, we realized it was the same company that our friend, Kelly, works for, and although he wasn't with them for this engagement, we recognized some of his co-workers who we saw last year in Laredo. Ryan and I went over to say hello after their performance.

Right next to the wild west show was the set up for the Valencia family's show, "The Pirates Of The Sky". 
Unfortunately all the rain from the weekend had drained to their performance space, so they were only able to do a little bit of their show: chair balancing and the wheel of death.
Mario, one of our prop guys, made a surprise guest appearance in the wheel number, much to the delight of all of us from Vazquez.

 Nathan showing off his acrobatic prowess
Mario making a special guest appearance

After an hour of standing in the sun watching our friends perform, I was feeling pretty rough. I drank a bottle of water before the shows, but the sun was merciless, and there was no shade to protect us.

Undaunted by a little sunstroke, I grabbed another bottle of water, and we continued to explore the fair.
We really did get the full fair experience: Ryan was grifted at one of the games and ended up paying $20 for a plush toy for Nico, and I took a year off my life by eating some deep fried Oreos.
God bless the USA!

Nico was too small for most of the rides we came across, but he was the right size to get into one of the balls they fill with air so they float on the water.
I paid for his admission, and he bravely got into the ball, which they then filled with air. He was pushed out onto the water, and then he just sat there, soaking it all in.
We were all miming for him (since you can't hear well inside the balls) to run and jump, but he was happy to just sit and try and splash the water underneath him.

Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I met up with Ricky and Lesly after their last show; they took us back to the rides area so Nico and their twin boys could go on some of the kiddy rides. 
I didn't join them on any of the attractions because I was feeling nauseous from my overexposure to the sun (I'm sure the deep fried Oreos didn't help either). 
It was just as fun watching Nico thoroughly enjoy the rides.

After the kids had gotten their fill of the rides, Nathan, his girlfriend, and Mrs. Valencia joined our group for dinner.
I wasn't exactly feeling up to going out due to my nausea (and a headache that could kill a moose), but I'm really glad I went.
Some food in my system did wonders for my constitution, and we had a really nice visit with the Valencia family.

Before I went to bed Ryan and Tatiana gave me an extra strength ibuprofen they had picked up in Mexico; I was already feeling much better by the time I laid down.

3/12/14- 7:30 p.m.

I didn't set an alarm this morning, because I knew I would need a good night's sleep. Boy, was I right. I woke up at noon!
The best part was that I felt like a million bucks. I should do this more often...

I did some more painting on the vacuum prop, which was not easy considering the strong wind blowing outside; I also helped Ryan put fabric and latex on the vacuum's nozzle that he had carved out of foam.

At 4:00 p.m. the cast met in the tent for an opening rehearsal, which makes this our third version of opening since we started the season.
While we were all together, Memo Vazquez introduced us to our new performance director, Eddie, who is a cousin to the Vazquez brothers.

The opening we learned is the same as the opening number used on the west coast unit. We all come out in three groups, go to three different spots, and pose like we are in a fashion parade. There is a flash of lights on each group like paparazzi taking photos, and then we move to the next spot. This is repeated two more times, and the lights go out with the end of the music.

Speaking of the west coast unit, they are about to open in Laredo, TX, about three hours from us, so a big group of performers from their show came to see us tonight.
I'm always nervous when other performers are in the audience, which is a shame, because that made it difficult for me to enjoy tonight's fantastic audience. They were the best crowd we've had in awhile.

Just to compound our nervousness of performing for the other unit, we had a slight snafu at the start of the carpenter gag.
When the curtain opened for me to drive the little car into the ring, I threw down the clutch and......nothing happened!
I quickly jumped out and pushed Ryan around the ring and into position.  
Luckily the rest of the gag went very well.

I remembered a similar occurrence on Kelly Miller, so I asked Ryan to check the belt on the car. Sure enough, it had come off. After Ryan reattached the belt, the clutch worked just as it should.

3/13/14- 7:30 p.m.

This morning I went to do laundry. I wanted to have clean costumes because today Ryan and I were filming close ups of our gags for the 2014 East Coast Edition Souvenir DVD.

While I was at the laundromat, Eddie, the new performance director, called and asked if they could move our shooting time up a half hour since they were running ahead of schedule.
I checked with Ryan, and since we still had plenty of time to prepare, we both agreed we'd be happy to wrap things up earlier than expected.

At 1:00 p.m. Ryan and I ran the carpenter and water gags, while Bronson, from the Vazquez PR team, was in the ring with a camera filming close ups of us.
Everything went well, but we requested to re shoot a couple of segments so we could present the best product possible.

One segment we ended up filming twice was the end of the water gag, where the prop guys throw four buckets of water on us.
The guys really loaded the buckets with water, so Ryan and I nearly drowned with each take. 
Before changing at Ryan's house, both of us had to wring out our socks and pour water out of our shoes.
Luckily it was a hot day!

While I was heading back to my trailer, Visan Espana called out his window and told me to come look at his new toy.
He ordered a karaoke machine on Amazon, and it just arrived today. He and I were very excited about the prospect of future karaoke nights.
Visan was nice enough to offer me a cup of coffee, so I spent some time talking with him and his brother while I drank it.

Today before the show Ryan was telling me about a conversation he had with Nico. Nico was telling Ryan that he wanted to work with "Circus Manos Vazquez" with the two of us, and he said that he wanted to be a whiteface. Then, showing how smart of a kid he is, he changed his mind about the last part.

Ryan and I went out and picked up new feather dusters this afternoon. Those tricky dancers changed wardrobe for the Intermission speech last night, so Ryan and I didn't have the proper colors to match them.
I think Ryan and I both look resplendent in our new blue "headdresses". 

We had another great audience tonight. To celebrate, I invited Ryan, Tatiana, and Nico to join me for dinner.

In closing, here are some great shots of our gags that Alex took on Monday night:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Monday, March 3-Wednesday, March 5: Donna, TX

3/3/14- 7:30 p.m.

Today was a cold, dreary day, so I did my best to stay warm in my trailer.
Obviously the water gag was not a lot of fun tonight, especially the arctic dash to Ryan's trailer to drop off our sopping wet costumes for Tatiana to dry.

Due to a lot of condensation in the tent, the ring curb and ring rubber were very wet during the performance. Luckily several people gave us a heads up prior to the show, so Ryan and I were very careful whenever we had to run on either.

Before finale I was about to go through the tent flap leading to backstage when I saw that the dancers were not too far behind me.
Let me add at this point that the dancers all have penguin onesies that they wear between numbers when it is cold.
I held open the flap for them and yelled, "Come on, penguins!"
All the girls began running towards the tent, but they waddled like penguins as they did so.
It was a very funny, surreal image.

Ryan and Tatiana had me over for dinner after the show. We also watched an episode of the BBC series "Sherlock", which I greatly enjoyed.

3/4/14- Day Off!

I had a fairly low key day off. I got a hair cut, I went to the post office, and I went to a propane supplier to fill up one of my trailer's tanks.

Mario, one of the prop guys, was nice enough to give me a ride to a party store in town. Both of us needed make up (Mario, a member of the Espana family, is a clown, even though he is not working as one right now), and Pat Davison had suggested a couple of places where we might look in McAllen.
Unfortunately the store had a very limited selection for make up, so the trip was a bust for me. Mario; however, was able to pick up a few things he needed.

Today was the birthday of Frances, who is the wife of Jesion, one of the prop guys. Jeison and Frances invited me, Ryan, Tatiana, and Nico to a party at Buffalo Wild Wings tonight. A decent sized group from the circus showed up to celebrate, and we had a great time.
I talked with Frances a bit at one of the first barbecues the show had, and I found out that she had worked on Big Apple for awhile as a cook. It was neat hearing about how Big Apple ran their cookhouse, and we talked about our mutual friends that worked on the show for those tours.

3/5/14- 7:30 p.m.

My truck's brakes have needed servicing for quite awhile now, but Castro never had the time to work on them for me.
My friend, Ramon, suggested a place in Pharr, TX that would take good care of me, so I went there this morning.

While I was waiting for them to have an opening to check out my truck, Glen called to tell me that the Vazquez brothers wanted to have a meeting with us at 1:00 p.m.

Unfortunately just as the mechanics were ready to look at my truck, I had to leave so I could attend the meeting.
I was going to leave my truck at the garage and have Ryan pick me up, but he was busy at Kelly Miller visiting his mother in law, who was celebrating her birthday.

I made it back to the lot just in time for the meeting. This was my first chance to really examine the Vazquez brothers' beautiful new office building.
All of the offices have glass walls so notes and ideas can be written in dry erase marker, and then easily erased. (Which is an awesome idea)
The top floor, where our meeting was held, even has a section of the floor made of glass so you can see below to the lobby.

Our meeting took place in a room with a huge conference table and a projector for watching video of the performance on one of the solid walls.
We were brought coffee and water, and once all the brothers had arrived, we began the meeting.

Ryan and I had asked Glen to call the meeting so we could replace the trumpet gag, which is not getting the reactions we want, and is just not as strong as the water and carpenter gags. The problem with that is that it is our final spot in the show.
We have a bull gag that is ready to go, but since our final spot is covering the trapeze net set up, we cannot perform that act the way that it needs to be done. Therefore, it will not be a strong enough closer either.

We pitched a cleaning gag with brooms and a vacuum. It will be fast paced and full of slapstick and visual gags. (I know, right? Big surprise)

The brothers liked the idea a lot and gave us a green light to begin building the props we need. In the meantime, they gave us a few jokes in Spanish to beef up the trumpet gag.

The brothers were very complimentary about our work, but they want the water and carpenter gags to be faster.
They explained that their audiences want rapid fire gags and laughs that continue to build.
It's very interesting to hear their cultural take on clowning. Our style in the past year or so has been to build the laughs through pauses and subtle character moments between the more rapid fire bits.

The meeting went very well. The brothers were all able to voice their thoughts, and Ryan and I were able to express our thoughts and concerns as well. I feel like we all left with a better understanding of what everybody wants.
I wish this meeting had been held weeks ago.

After the meeting Ryan and I went shopping for supplies to build the vacuum prop, and then back at the lot Ryan began carving foam.

There was a great audience for the performance tonight. Ryan and I sped up both the water and carpenter gags, and we did get a lot of laughs.
Although we would prefer not to perform the gags at such a break neck speed, it is what the Vazquez brothers want, and they know their show and their audience.
We will continue to keep the pace up and work hard to still keep the material clear and understandable.

I was so nervous that I would forget the new jokes in Spanish for the trumpet gag, but I didn't screw up. I'm sure they'll get even more laughs once I loosen up and become more comfortable with them.

Overall all the changes to our material went well (we also changed the opening of the water gag), which was good, because my friends, the Dunn family, were in the audience.
David Dunn and his family have seen me and Ryan on the circus every year since our first season with Kelly Miller.
It has become an annual tradition that Jonathan and I take a picture together. Hard to believe that the little boy I met in 2009 is now 10!

It's an honor to be a part of people's lives, even if I only see them once a year.

In closing, here they are: Steve & Ryan, Burger King's answer to Ronald McDonald!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Thursday, February 27-Sunday, March 2: Donna, TX

2/27/14- 7:30 p.m.

This afternoon I took John and Clara Sayre to lunch. I picked them up at Kelly Miller (located in Pharr this weekend, which is just a 10 minute drive from our lot), and took them to Poncho's Mexican Restaurant, which was just down the road from their tent.

On Vazquez, I am happy that Ryan and I have a good relationship with Glen, our current production manager.
He can come tell us notes and news, and it is never too serious; we enjoy joking around with him.
This evening the music for our water gag entrance was late due to a CD player malfunction, so Ryan and I carried on in silence until the music kicked in.
When Glen came over to apologize at Intermission, Ryan and I were re-setting the props for the carpenter gag. Ryan threw down the bricks he was holding and yelled, "No excuses!", and I chased Glen off with a giant, foam sledgehammer.
Never a dull moment!

After the show Radar and Elisa came over from Kelly Miller and we had a cookout, our first since last December.
While I was getting set up, Radar did me a solid and changed one of my trailer tires with the tools he brought over.

2/28/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Today I did nothing but lounge around the house. (Now I'm sure you understand why I didn't want to write a daily blog)

Just like opening night on the 7th, we had a special celebrity guest at tonight's performances, that celebrity guest being Eduardo Yanez.áñez

Eduardo went out before Intermission to interact with the crowd, so Ryan, the dancers, and I didn't have to go out for our pre Intermission tableau.
I loved having all that extra time between the carpenter and trumpet gags. It was nice being able to re-set all our props and then still have lots of time to relax backstage.

Robert, one of the prop guys, was handing out Puerto Rican sweets to everyone backstage. His mother had sent him a care package of goodies that he graciously shared with everyone.
The candy I picked was a bar of sesame seeds and honey, and it was tasty.

3/1/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This afternoon Ryan called me with distressing news. There was a swarm of ants all over our two water ring mats.
When I showed up backstage Ryan had already hosed the mats off, and there was a clump of thousands of ants writhing right next to them.

We had to unfold both mats and clean both sides to get the remaining ants off. This was made more difficult by the fact that wind was blowing right into the back door and causing the mats to flap all over the place.
Before moving the mats back (to a table top now), I sprayed ant poison along the earth between the cement floor and the raised stage where the ants had come from.

Luckily we had two great shows tonight to make up for the pain in the butt we had to deal with in the afternoon.
During the shows Ryan and I talked with Jose, who is the father of the Azzario Sisters, and is a clown with the renowned Jose Michel Clowns.
While Jose is here we plan to pick his brain and glean as much information from him as we can.
This evening he was talking about audiences in different countries, and what he has found plays well to each different culture. It was very interesting and helped us change our thinking about how we've been approaching some of our material in this show.

Mia, a former Vazquez employee who came to see the show not too long ago, was back tonight. We snapped another picture that she was nice enough to share with us.

I felt bad for Glen and the prop crew tonight. They had spent the afternoon fixing broken ring curbs that the horses had been kicking, and they had to stay after the shows to fix the rest of them.
On top of that, there was a significant leak in the big top that needed to be addressed. 
It began during Carmelo's act, and when Ryan and I went out to take pictures after the show there was a mop bucket placed in the ring to catch the water.

I met Radar and Elisa in McAllen for dinner. I was invited to go out dancing with a group from the show, but after dinner it was past 1 a.m. and I was ready to crash, so I decided to pass on the club scene.

3/2/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning John and Clara Sayre treated me to the breakfast buffet at Poncho's Mexican restaurant. When I went to pick them up at Kelly Miller, a lot of folks were standing in line waiting to get paid.
As I walked up to say hello several of them yelled out, "You can't get paid! You don't work here anymore!"

Today was a very hot and sweaty day backstage. However, when I saw the weather that our west coast unit is dealing with in Oklahoma City, I didn't feel so bad.

Danny and Tavana came over for the first performance today. I was happy to have them in the audience; I just wish the crowd had been livelier. They must have all eaten the bountiful Poncho's buffet before coming to the circus.

During the second show a mysterious and threatening figure wearing a clown luchador mask wreaked havoc on the men's dressing room.
I was conveniently away when the whole thing happened, but from what I understand he called himself "El Payaso Loco", threw some metal folding chairs around, and challenged all the men, who he called "ninas" (little girls), to a fight before forewarning his return and running off.
I just missed him, as I entered the dressing room moments after the whole terrifying experience. I sure am glad I wasn't there when that intimidating fellow was about!

A funny thing happened after the third show while Ryan and I were cleaning the water mat: Nikolai, one of the flyers, ran over and then began walking on his hands across the mat. Ryan slid him a towel, which Nikolai took in one hand, and then he began to mop up some of the water while still maintaining his balance. 
It was a very amusing sight, and a much more dignified way of cleaning the mat than we've been doing: crawling around on our hands and knees with towels, like Cinderella and her ugly stepsisters rolled into one.

Ryan had me all excited about a cookout with his in-laws happening at his trailer, but after the shows he informed me that he had gotten confused. The barbecue is next Sunday.
Luckily I had gotten an invite from the dancers to go to Poncho's Mexican Restaurant, and as I'm sure you all know by now, I do not turn down an offer to go eat there!

Maybe thirty or more people from the circus came out for dinner and karaoke tonight. The folks running karaoke never played my song for me, but Teo was nice enough to buy my dinner.
In return I gave him a ride back to his hotel, and David, with the amazing diabolo act, a ride back to the lot.

In closing, here are a few photos:

 Lighting "rehearsal": Glen, the Production Manager, is in the middle with the red collar.
 Josue, the director of the band from Puerto Rico
 Self portrait by "Carmelo"
Visan by "Carmelo"