Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday, June 30-Sunday, July 6: Chicago, IL

6/30/14- Travel Day To Chicago

When I woke up this morning I saw that a lot of progress had been made on getting the tent down. In fact, the crew was farther along this morning than they have been for any other tear down this season; the canvas was all on the ground.

I was happy that things were moving along more quickly than usual because it meant we could leave earlier than I anticipated.
After a trip to the post office and the bank, Ryan and I were able to hook up our trucks to our trailers, and we left the lot around 11:30 a.m.
I was very worried that I'd get stuck in the mud either taking my truck back to my trailer or moving my rig off the lot, but I had my 4 wheel drive on, and I didn't encounter any problems.

Our jump to Chicago was 1,086 miles long, and we made it over half way before stopping for the night.
The drive was very easy; the worst part was getting out of Texas and into Arkansas because there was no Interstate for quite awhile.

Tatiana made chicken milanesa tortas to keep all of us fed on our trip, and I used the bluetooth speaker that Mom got me for Christmas to keep me occupied while I drove. With the suction cupped speaker stuck to my side window and my phone stocked with all of my favorite songs, I was a singing fool as I rolled down the highway.

We ended up parking at a Walmart about an hour north of Memphis around 1:30 in the morning.

7/1/14- Travel Day To Chicago

Ryan and I both woke up earlier than we had anticipated, so we hit the road around 9 a.m. The second leg of the drive was even easier than the first, especially since we had traveled the majority of the distance yesterday.

We arrived at the lot around 7:00 p.m. We're set up in a pretty rough looking neighborhood, and the lot was a muddy mess thanks to the storms Chicago received yesterday.

I hadn't eaten anything since lunch time, so after arriving I went for a walk to find some sustenance.
Twin photographers, Jason and Justin Senft, grew up around this area, so they sent me a handy e-mail with some of their favorite restaurants that I should check out.
One of them, the Home Run Inn, was only a half mile away from the lot, so I chose that as my destination.

The pizza was good, but very expensive. I didn't take my wallet with me since one of the crew members warned us to be on the look out for gangs, so I just grabbed a twenty dollar bill to stuff in my pocket. After a second of thinking, I grabbed a five as well just in case.
I'm glad I did, because the a small (12 inch), two topping pizza came out to just over $20 with tax!
The pizza was good, but not $20 good. I ate half and gave the rest to Ryan and his family.

Before I turned in for the night it began lightly raining. I went out to put away my generator, but before I could roll it up the ramp and into the back of my trailer, Kaiser, one of the Vazquez brothers' big dogs, walked up and laid down in the spot I had cleared out for the generator.
I tried calling him down out of the trailer, but Kaiser had found a comfortable spot out of the rain, and he was not about to give it up.

I walked up the ramp and tried to pull Kaiser along by his collar, but his warning growl told me that wasn't a good idea.
Next I tried picking Kaiser up around the waist, but that was a no go because he weighs about as much as a small horse, and he had no inclination to budge.

Finally I remembered that I had some leftover turkey meat in my fridge, so I used that to temp Kaiser out of the trailer.
While he was eating the turkey I quickly got my generator in its spot. Kaiser woofed at me once to either show his disapproval or ask for more turkey before lumbering away.

7/2/14- Day Off (Sort Of)

This morning Ryan and I had a television publicity with Alexa. Hector picked us all up at the lot around 10 a.m., and then we headed to the UNIVISION station downtown to film a segment for Despierta (Wake Up) Chicago that will air on Friday morning.

Everyone at the station was very nice and accommodating. Two of the crew guys went out of their way to get every ridiculous prop that Ryan and I asked for, up to and including matching salt and pepper shakers (there were flowers on the set that I wanted to eat during the interview).

While we were waiting to film the segment, I made everyone laugh when I deadpanned a question to the reporter: "So, do you interview a lot of big stars like us?"

The segment we filmed went well, and Ryan and I did some funny schtick while Alexa answered questions.
If I can find a link to the piece, I'll post it here at a later date.

After returning to the lot I got cleaned up and walked to a little Mexican restaurant down the street for lunch.

Not too long after returning to my trailer it was time for me and Ryan to be parked in the back yard. I have some prime riverfront property for the next five weeks. It's a wonder my rig didn't get stuck.

After getting everything set up in my house, I took my bag full of dirty clothes to the laundromat conveniently located on the corner across the street from the lot.
While my clothes were washing I went for a walk and crossed over the railroad tracks to the good part of town. There I found a Sam's Club, Home Depot, Target, and several restaurants, all a short walk from the lot.

Once I was done with laundry I was able to hook up my cables for power and my hoses for water. I'm not looking forward to rolling them all up again when we leave as they all got covered in mud.

7/3/14- Day Off!

When I woke up this morning I was happy to see that the standing water puddles on the lot were beginning to dry.
Unfortunately, the less water there was the more we could see all the snakes we had killed by driving over them. Even though they are dead, they still creep me out.....and remind me that there are probably plenty of live ones still slithering around the lot.

Around 9 a.m. I joined Ryan and his family on a road trip to Baraboo, Wisconsin to visit Circus World Museum.
Our projected arrival time was around 1 in the afternoon, but a long stretch of the toll road into Wisconsin was under construction and had a 45 mile per hour speed limit; there was also an accident that stopped traffic for 30 minutes or more.

While we were all waiting a lot of men decided that they had to go to bathroom, so they went to the side of the road to relieve themselves, not even bothering to hide what they were doing.
One poor woman also felt nature's call and had to hide in some tall weeds while her daughter held a coat around her.

The construction and accident delays turned the 3 1/2 hour drive into a 5 hour expedition. We were relieved to arrive at Circus World, and we were happy to see our friend, Scott, who is the Executive Director. Scott was our Boss Clown on Ringling, and he is always so helpful whenever I need advice about the circus business or just life in general.

Right after arriving at the Museum we all hurried over to the Hippodrome building to catch the clown show performed by our friend, Neal. I worked with Neal for two years on Ringling, and he never failed to crack me up on or off the floor.

1/4 of the Ringling Blue Unit 2006 Clown Alley

Tim Miller, who was a clown on Ringling's Red Unit, was at the Museum today with his wife and daughter; it was good to see him again. I told him about our show in Chicago, so hopefully he and his family can make it out.

Not too long after the clown show was the big top circus performance. Our friends, the Rinny Family, who we worked with on the Christmas tour last year, were in the show doing their unicycle and juggling acts. Neal provided comedy relief with two funny gags, Dallas Zoppe performed her dog act, Susan Vidbel presented liberty ponies and also performed on the silks, and Tristan Crist amazed the audience with his magic. The performance concluded with two elephants presented by Chip Arthur.

One other Christmas tour alum working at the Museum is our friend Larry Stout, who is an excellent musician to work with if you're a clown.
Larry and Dave SaLoutos performed a show shortly after the big top performance; they showcased an array of novelty circus instruments.

The highlight was Dave rocking out with a rendition of Crocodile Rock on an instrument comprised of doorbell chimes that is played like a piano.

Complete with Elton John accessories, of course!

After Neal had gotten cleaned up from his day of work he joined me and Ryan for a walk around the Museum grounds. It was neat to see all the cool new exhibits that were brought in when all the Ringling owned stuff was taken out.

My favorites, naturally:
 Otto Griebling's costume and pie tins
 Felix Adler's shoes
and costume
 Otto's package and trunk

Ryan and I spent some time visiting with Neal at his trailer, and then we went to downtown Baraboo so I could find some coffee.
While we were there we walked around and took in some of the concert on the square, which is a weekly event in Baraboo in the summer. I think it's great the community comes together to have a good time.

Back at Circus World Museum we attended a barbecue that the Rinny Family was holding. We enjoyed visiting with them, and Neal even came by to hang out for awhile as well.

We were having such a great time at the party that time slipped away a lot faster than we had anticipated.
We didn't leave Baraboo until almost 2 a.m. Thank goodness Ryan was feeling ok to drive, because I could barely keep my eyes open.

I did my best to keep up a conversation with him so he'd stay awake, but it was a real chore to not doze off myself.

I finally snoozed for a little while, and I'm glad I did, because I ended up having to drive the last 30 miles to the lot in Chicago.
We got to the circus around 5:30 a.m. as the sun was just starting to glow on the horizon.

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived back at my trailer to find that gravel had been laid out around the trailers to help with all the mud.


7/4/14- 9:00 p.m.

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Because the lot was so muddy and uneven, it took forever for the crew to construct and level the stage inside the tent, which put set up waaaaay behind schedule.
Because of that, our first show at 6:00 p.m. was canceled.

Ryan and I used our extra time constructively. We unloaded all of our props and gave them a much needed cleaning. We also repainted a few that were looking pretty rough.

I had to run out to Walmart to pick up some paint for the vacuum, and when I was returning, someone threw a little bomb in the street several yards ahead of me.
I didn't see the actual explosive get thrown, but all of a sudden there was a bang! as loud as a shotgun blast, followed by a big plume of smoke.
I promptly drove away from that area as fast as I could before someone decided it would be a good idea to blow up my stupid looking truck.

Speaking of explosions, fireworks were going off all day around the lot. Well, I assume they were fireworks. Some of the bangs we heard could have been drug deals gone bad.

I even heard more big explosions like the one I saw in the street. Some of them sounded like they were right on the lot with us; I felt like I was in a war zone.

Everything was down to the wire as far as set up was concerned, but we made it to our 9:00 p.m. show.
Backstage wasn't fully set up; there was no men's dressing room, which wasn't an issue since our trailers were right outside the tent for all our changing needs.

We had a great audience for our opening night show. Whenever people weren't performing, they were outside the tent watching the fireworks that were going off all around the neighborhood.

During Intermission Ryan was nice enough to let me, Emma, and Laura climb the ladder to get on top of his trailer to get a better view.


That will certainly be a hard 4th of July experience to top. I'm lucky the British dancers weren't sore sports about the whole independence from England thing. It was a long way down to the ground from Ryan's trailer's roof.

The 2014 Vazquez souvenir programs finally arrived, and even though they didn't go on sale tonight, "Pepe" Vazquez was nice enough to give us one so we could get a look.
They are great!

There was a big barbecue in front of the Vazquez brothers' trailers tonight, so I went over for awhile to visit with people and celebrate the holiday.

7/5/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This afternoon I drove about 30 miles away to see the movie, "A Million Ways To Die In The West". The reason I drove so far was because I waited too long to see the film, and not many theaters are carrying it anymore.

The good news is that the theater I went to shows older movies, so admission was only $1.25! You can't beat that with a stick!

The movie was alright. I wasn't expecting much, but I did think that I would laugh more. There were a few good jokes and gags, but not enough in my opinion.

Before heading back to the lot I stopped by Home Depot to pick up a new broom for the vacuum gag.

The 2014 souvenir programs were on sale tonight, but I was disappointed that no one came over to have us sign them.
Up until now the show has been selling programs from 2011, and when kids would bring them to us for an autograph, we would always say, "Wait one second while we find our picture".
We'd then leaf through the book until we got to the picture of the two African American men who did a basketball themed act that year.
"There we are!", we'd exclaim, before signing next to their pictures.

In the hundred or so times we did that joke, I think we made maybe three people laugh. Most were either too oblivious to get it, or they actually thought that we don't get as much sun as we used to.

Set up for the tent was completely finished in time for the first show tonight, including the men's dressing room.

Before every show the floor and ring curb are mopped, and for some reason they were still wet and incredibly slick for the 9:00 p.m. show.
Tisok, the prop boss, warned us before the water act, so we made special care not to bust our butts while we were running around.

I was very disappointed in the crowd for the second show. Usually 9:00 p.m. shows on Saturday are packed and the audience goes wild for the show, but tonight there weren't many people and they didn't seem to really be enjoying themselves.

7/6/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

During the night I was plagued with bad dreams about the show; mostly they involved everything going horribly wrong for our acts.
Last night's audience must have really gotten to me!

I was dismayed that I couldn't escape my work woes even in my sleep, but I was feeling a lot better after a nice breakfast this morning.

Something was wrong with the stage in the ring for the first show, so the horse act was cut way short. I'm glad that Ryan and I were ready so we didn't miss our cue.

We had really tough audiences for the first two shows, but we finally had a good crowd for the last performance.
I was worried because in the water gag when I yelled "Hola!" to my side of the audience, they didn't respond at all.
Luckily Ryan and I turned it to our advantage, and we were able to milk the situation for some laughs.

I was in a good mood all day, and I didn't get tired like I did the last couple of Sundays in Houston.
I was finally able to give the third show speech that I wrote last week in Houston. Since it pertained to that load out day, I asked for everyone to use their imaginations and pretend it was that day again.

I wrote a Mad Libs speech, where I left many words blank. I asked the dancers to give me a list of nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, and then I carefully selected some of them to fill in the blanks and make an utterly ridiculous pep talk.
I'm happy to say that it was a hit, and I'm glad my creativity didn't go to waste since I wasn't able to share my work last week.

I apologize for the lack of posting lately. From now on I'm going to go back to the system of posting every day, so hopefully everyone is happy with that decision.
I think it will be easier for me to make my writing a habit again, and postings should be regular.
See you again on Wednesday morning!

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