Monday, March 30, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

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

3/25/15- Day Off!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3/26/15- Day Off!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tuesday, March 24: Arlington, TX- Travel Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

This is what the aftermath looks like:

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


As you can see, it was an eventful publicity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wednesday, March 18 & Thursday, March 19: Corpus Christi, TX

3/18/15- Day Off!

I had a fairly low key day off.
I started off by going to Bank of America to deposit my paycheck, but it took a lot longer than I anticipated since they won't let me cash a check over a certain dollar amount until I have had my account with them for at least three months.
I was pretty hot about the situation since that went against what I had been told when I opened the account, but once I was able to talk to an employee and have my questions answered, I felt a lot better.

Money in hand, I rushed to the first Half Price Books of the season to spend what was already burning a hole in my pocket.

The only other exciting thing that happened today was that Ryan and I spent a few hours in the evening writing new material.
We didn't finish, but we at least laid the foundation for a good base that we can now build on and refine.

3/19/15- "Day Off"

This morning I went to a nearby laundromat. One of the owners noticed that I was wearing my Kelly Miller 2013 tour shirt, and he asked if I was with the circus. I replied that I was, and throughout the washing and drying process he and his partner asked me questions about working for a circus.

One of the owners kept returning to his dream of running away from it all and managing a freak show. He told me that he'd travel the world and visit all the strip clubs that he could.
It's good to have goals.

This afternoon I went over to the Brewster Street Ice House for lunch. I had a delicious blackened catfish poboy, and some of their excellent peach cobbler for dessert.

In the afternoon Ryan, Jose Alberto, Alexa, and I had a television publicity. It was an English speaking station, which Ryan and I were excited about.
We were less excited when Alexa came over to warn us that the reporter was very adamant about us not playing around or messing with him.
Ryan and I clamped our tongues firmly between our teeth and went over to meet the reporter. He was nice enough, but he made his position clear.
"This is a serious, respectable program," he told the two grown men wearing make up, false noses, and wigs, "and my bosses wouldn't appreciate you poking me or putting a clown nose on me."
Well, there goes one of our best bits! We just love poking people!
He's sorely mistaken about the clown nose thing; he's not getting one of ours. Those things are expensive!

We gave him what he wanted, and while it wasn't our most entertaining interview, we got the information across. South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

(I'd just like to point out that the station forgot to list the Sunday 2:00 p.m. show and the Monday 7:30 p.m. show. Maybe they should have been less worried about us poking people and checked their facts.)

In the evening I walked around downtown looking for a place to eat. My first restaurant choice had a concert going on, so it was too loud and crowded for my tastes. I wasn't impressed with the menu at the second place I tried.
But the third restaurant, it was just right!
I found a seafood restaurant with a sushi bar. They have an excellent brunch menu, so if I can get out of bed on Sunday morning, I'd like to spend my morning there.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tuesday, March 17: Corpus Christi, TX- Travel Day

I'm so happy that we decided to get a good night's sleep in Laredo instead of trying to drive all the way to Corpus Christi after last night's show.

We left Laredo around 9:30 a.m., and it took us three hours to complete the 140 mile jump.

It took a long time for Nestor to begin parking us in our correct spots in the back yard, so I took the free time to walk around the surrounding area.
We played this lot with Kelly Miller a few years ago, and I am also familiar with the neighborhood from when Ryan and I played the arena with Ringling.

I spent the majority of my time walking along the waterfront and watching all the different birds bathing and eating fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

Finally around 8:30 p.m. Ryan and I were able to move our houses to be parked in the back yard.
I really had to do some tricky maneuvering to get my trailer into position, but luckily I had Adriano, the prop boss, guiding me as I backed up. Otherwise I never would have made it without crashing into something, as there were trailers, trucks, and people everywhere I looked.

By the time I had parked, unhooked my truck, and gotten my house in a semblance of order, I was starving.
Luckily the Brewster Street Ice House is right next door to the lot. I remember the Ice House fondly from the last time I was in Corpus with Kelly Miller.
My seafood dinner was delicious, and the restaurant was nice and quiet on a Tuesday night.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sunday, March 15 & Monday, March 16: Laredo, TX

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

Once again this week I missed out on my Sunday morning breakfast ritual in lieu of sleeping in. I need to get my butt into gear next week!

The shows today were tough to get through (maybe that extra sleep wasn’t such a bad idea after all); the audiences weren't giving us a lot of energy to feed off of.

When Marcos, our ringmaster, gives the announcement for Intermission, he then exits with all six dancers, leaving Ryan and I alone in the ring. We yell at the girls, and then two of them return to escort us out.
My walking companion is Sammie, and every day I pitch a new preposterous idea to her on how we should perform the bit.
For the first show I acted out one to entertain the girls and shake up the monotony.

When I realized I had been left out in the cold, I turned towards the curtain, and channeling my best Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, I dropped to my knees, clutched my hair, and threw my head back while wailing in agony, “SAAAAMMMMMIIIIEEEEE!”
I’m just lucky that there wasn’t any horse poop where I performed my impromptu, over the top theatrics, as I failed to check before I dropped to my knees.

Before the third show I gave the weekly motivational speech as a surfer dude, pronouncing the wonders of Spring Break and likening the shows to shots that I had been doing all week in celebration.

Even though the shows today were a bit of a drag, the men’s dressing room was extremely entertaining.
Everyone’s laughter helped pick up our spirits and see us through the last performance.

3/16/15- 7:30 p.m.

Ryan and I left Laredo around 8 a.m. to embark on the three hour drive to Circo Hermanos Vazquez headquarters in Donna, TX.

We had an 11:00 a.m. meeting with the five Vazquez brothers and Glen, who is production manager for the East Unit.
Ryan and I couldn’t have asked for a better meeting. The brothers gave us their ideas and thoughts, Ryan and I did the same, and all of us left feeling energized and excited.
Big things are in the works, folks. Ryan and I are so excited.

Ryan and I made it back to Laredo at 5:00 p.m., only a couple of hours before our show.

There was a big crowd for the final performance in Laredo. It’s always nice to go out on a high note!

By finale Ryan and I noticed that a tear down show is especially busy for us this year. Once we began the water gag, we did not stop going until our props were loaded into our trailers after the show.

Luckily we were able to get a lot of packing done during Intermission and the second half, so we only had the major props left to move out of backstage once the performance had concluded.

Ryan and I initially planned to drive all the way to Corpus Christi tonight after the show since we were going to have to move off the lot in the night anyway.
We were told that a lot of rain was expected, and since the lot was a muddy mess for most of our stay in Laredo, I could totally understand the decision.

When we arrived a couple of weeks ago, my trailer had to be parked the opposite direction of everyone else so I could get my cargo door open to unload our props.
The show’s Bobcat had to move my trailer into position, so tonight I had to wait for it to be available during tear down to remove my trailer from its parking spot.

It took quite awhile before my trailer was ready for me to hook my truck up to it, and as I was waiting I became more and more tired.
Finally I let Ryan know that I was in no shape to be driving a truck and trailer 140 miles after midnight. We had a long day, what with our 340 mile round trip to Donna, an exciting meeting, a non stop show, and loading out our props.

I was very happy that we agreed on the decision to get a good night’s sleep and tackle the relatively short drive to Corpus Christi in the morning. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Saturday, March 14: Laredo, TX- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Yesterday I went to Home Depot to pick up a gallon of roof coating, and this morning I took advantage of the warm, sunny day to get up on my trailer and cover the entire roof.
Visan and Martin recommended that I get a paint roller to do the job, so I was able to coat the entire roof in no time.
Hopefully that will be the end of my leaks.....for now.

The audiences tonight weren't as into the show as they have been, which was a bit disappointing.

During the intro to the second water gag, I was running through the seats, getting the crowd pumped up, and as I turned a tight corner to run up a staircase, I put my hand on the back of an empty seat to steady myself.
Boy was I surprised when the chair suddenly came completely free of the bleachers. I was then able to get a lot of mileage out of trying to repair the broken seat, which apparently had nothing at all holding it in place.

Back in the dressing room I was telling Ryan that I deserved a medal for discovering that catastrophe just waiting to happen.
We agreed that I'm like a bomb sniffing dog, only not as house broken.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thursday, March 12 & Friday, March 13: Laredo, TX

3/12/15- 7:30 p.m.

Ryan and I had a 6:00 a.m. radio publicity this morning. The Big Bad Morning Show was broadcasting live from the circus' concessions tent, and Ryan and I did several hits over two hours with the host, Sammy the House.

Ryan and I were thrilled that we got to do the interview in English; it was the first radio PR like that since we started with Circo Hermanos Vazquez last year.
Sammy was so much fun to talk to on and off the air, and his crew was so nice. They even brought us coffee and breakfast tacos, which made them heroes in our book.

Here are the links to our segments, if you'd like to hear them. (I highly recommend Part 4, where Ryan and I attempt to beat box and end up showing just how white we are)

Anyone still here? Great!

Ryan and I were extremely dismayed a little later in the morning when we got a panicked phone call from Luis, our sound guy.
Last night the Instant Replay machine on the East Unit crashed right before showtime, erasing all of the sound effects and pre-recorded announcements.
Luis checked ours (which is the same model) this morning, and the same thing had happened. Every single one of our sound effects was erased.

I placed a frantic phone call to 360 Systems, the manufacturer of the Instant Replay 2, and I was disheartened to find out that there was nothing we could do. The technician I spoke with said that it sounded like our hard drive had crashed, and our only option was to send it in for repairs.

I called them again after relaying the news to Ryan, and I got a much better diagnosis. This time the technician I spoke with told me that I could go to any computer repair shop and have them replace the hard drive with a regular desktop computer hard drive.

I phoned the nearest Best Buy to talk to their Geek Squad, and then I raced over to take them our machine.

The staff at Best Buy weren't too certain they would have the right kind of hard drive since they had never dealt with a sampler before. They weren't even sure if they were going to be able to get to the hard drive because of the special tools needed to open the machine.
Luckily we finally caught a break, and they were able to replace the hard drive in about an hour, and at a reasonable price.

I asked if they could salvage anything from our old hard drive, but after trying they told me that it was completely wiped out.

I got back to the lot around 2:30 p.m., and for the next four hours Ryan and I worked nonstop to recreate as many of our sound effects as possible and get them loaded onto the Instant Replay.
In those four hours we were only able to finish the sounds for the carpenter gag. If Ryan didn't have a few of them saved to his computer from last month, we wouldn't have made it in time for the show.
It took so long just to create one sound; damn our perfectionistic tastes!

At least now we have learned our lesson, and we are saving every sound onto Ryan's computer in case, God forbid, this ever happens again.

On top of all the other headaches today, as I was getting ready for the show, I discovered a new leak in my roof that had allowed water to run into a cabinet over my bed, where several of my books got soaked.
The hits just keep on coming, folks!

We only had sound effects tonight for the carpenter gag, but Luis did the best he could to use some of those sounds for the water and vacuum gags as well. (Luis is amazing)
It was nice to see in those acts that we don't need sound effects to get laughs, but they definitely enhance some bits greatly.

After the show Ryan and I were up until 1:00 a.m. creating the sound effects for the water gag.

After running around all day since 5:30 a.m., Ryan and I were both extremely grateful to get to go to sleep and put this troublesome day behind us.

3/13/15- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This afternoon Ryan and I created the vacuum gag sound effects and completed our work restocking the Instant Replay.
A lot of the sound effects are not the same ones that we had when we started the season, but for now they are fine.
We'll go through again sometime soon and change the ones that we don't like. For now, I don't want to have to deal with another sound effect for at least a week.

I really wasn't feeling it when we started our shows tonight, but as soon as I began performing, I got into the swing of things.

The crowds weren't as big tonight as they have been the rest of this week, but the people were still really enjoying themselves, which is all that matters to me.

After work there was a big birthday barbecue for Dominik, who is married to Claudie, the foot juggler.
The food that Dominik and Martin prepared was so delicious. Everyone made sandwiches with the meat from the grill, and then we had different toppings to add, such as onions and peppers, Martin's delicious guacamole, and Dominik's delicious cheesy garlic spread.

Over the course of the evening I got to practice my English with the dancers, and Ryan and I brushed up on our Hungarian talking to Mira, who is half of Duo Exxtrem.
Ryan and I learned many words and songs in Hungarian when we worked with Ringling, but after 10 years, our usage is a little rusty.
I couldn't tell if Mira was laughing at the fact that we knew such random things to say in her language, or if it was because we were mangling it so horribly.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Wednesday, March 11: Laredo, TX- 7:30 p.m.

Today for lunch I visited the Laredo Pizza Company, another recommendation from the generous, anonymous commentator on my blog.
The Laredo Pizza Co. had a wide variety of speciality pizzas, and my selection was reasonably priced and very tasty. 
I also enjoyed the decor; there was artwork of superheroes all over the walls, and even on the ceiling tiles.

After lunch I attempted to find propane, but after a long drive the one place I visited told me that they don’t do bottle refills anymore.
They directed me to a company on the other side of the city, but I decided to wait until I can visit a Flying J on our jump since it isn’t an emergency.

Late in the afternoon the local UNIVISION station once again broadcast their news program live from the circus ring.
Ryan and I broke out our “Sparkplug” prop, which we haven’t used since the 2011 Kelly Miller season.
“Sparkplug” is a classic clown bit called a bend-over (easy, everyone). I wear a belt with a horse head attached to the back, and when Ryan throws a cloth in front of me, I bend over and cover myself with a blanket that I am holding around my shoulders.
When I am bent over, it appears that I have turned into a horse. My butt becomes the horse’s head, and my head becomes the horse’s butt. That sounds about right!

No one on the show had seen us do the gag before, so apparently we amazed everyone. Alexa’s dad, Pepe, kept hearing about the “magic” that Ryan and I had performed on television.
I never knew we were such talented clown wizards!

In addition to performing “Sparkplug”, Ryan and I also harassed the anchors. Before we went live, I mentioned something to Ryan about the composition of the camera’s shot, and the male anchor said, “You are right! For once in your life.”
Never one to miss a showboating opportunity, I immediately broke into the song, “For Once In My Life” in the style of Michael Buble.
This impressed the anchor, because during our segment he asked me to sing like Frank Sinatra again. Ok, maybe my rendition wasn’t as good as I thought it was!

We had almost a full house for the show tonight.

During the water gag, when Ryan pretends to throw a bucket of water on the audience, one woman in the front row recoiled in horror and held her infant up in front of her face to protect herself.
Pretending to throw water on people teaches you a lot about the public’s true nature.

After the show a family came up to get a picture with us. While we were autographing their photo card, the parents told us that two years ago their child had gotten a picture and an autographed coloring book from us at Kelly Miller.

How cool to be remembered, and to get to be a special memory of someone’s life more than once!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tuesday, March 10: Laredo, TX- 7:30 p.m.

Today for lunch I visited Chopsticks Sushi, a restaurant recommended to me by an anonymous commentator on the blog.
My sushi was very good, and I ate far too much of it. The one downside of the restaurant was that it smelled like fish, which is generally not a good sign for a sushi restaurant!
I guess I'll know in a day or so whether Chopsticks was a good dining option or not!

After gorging myself on raw fish I went to a Bank of America to open an account. I still do all my banking through First Federal of South Carolina in Walterboro, but having a nationally accessible bank account should help me out greatly this season.

Members of the East Unit of Vazquez came to see our show tonight. Once again we had a great crowd for a weekday; there were even more people than there were last night.

We were happy to see Jan, who was one of the ringmasters with us last year on East, and Glen, who was our production manager for a month. He is currently the full time P.M. on the East Unit.
After the show Glen gave us an interesting proposition to think over. Big intrigue!

After work there was a company barbecue for the two units. I grabbed some food and spent most of my time at the party talking to Luis, our sound guy.

Monday, March 9: Laredo, TX- 7:30 p.m.

Today I visited the laundromat, and I also attempted to find an electric heater, since mine started crapping out on me a couple of days ago.
Unfortunately they are no longer in stock in Walmart; I could only find an aisle of fans. Those aren't going to help warm up my trailer in the morning!

The sun finally came out today, and the crew did their best to smooth out the muddy walkway to the tent with the circus' Bobcat.

Before the show we had a quick rehearsal for the introduction to Intermission. The way we were doing it was that the dancers would all leave with Marcos Valdes, our Ringmaster, unbeknownst to me and Ryan. We'd stand with our elbows extended, waiting for the dancers to link arms with us, and then we'd turn around, realize what had happened, and run into the curtain with everybody.

Now we are still going to do our bit, but Eddie wanted two of the dancers to take pity on the poor clowns and come back to walk out arm and arm with us.
I pitched to Sammie, the dancer walking with me, the idea of me jumping on her shoulders for a piggyback ride out of the ring, but she wasn't too crazy about it.

There was a good audience turnout for a Monday night show.

Ryan and I hit a snag in the vacuum gag tonight. Marcos ordered us to "limpiar la pista" (clean the ring), and when we went to pick up our prop pizza to clean off (we confuse the word pista for pizza), we found out that it wasn't where Ryan had put it.
We quickly abandoned the bit and ran into the ring to finish the gag.

After the show we had a few people helping us look for the missing pizza, and finally we found out that someone had looked for it under the seats during Duo Exxtrem's act and found it there.
After talking with one of the ushers, we found out that someone in the audience picked it up and threw it under the bleachers while we were working. They must have been a fan of ours....

After the show we got some troubling news from Eddie, who let us know that water from our first gag was coming off the ring mat and causing people to slip on the wet carpet in the Russian Swing act.
Ryan and I specifically got a smaller ring mat this year because we knew we wouldn't have as much space backstage to clean it.

Ryan, Eddie, Adriano (the stage boss), and I all put our heads together, and it was decided that when the prop guys throw buckets of water on us was when the most water was going onto the carpet.
I am going to start putting less water in the buckets, and hopefully that will solve the problem.

Luckily there was a silver lining to the cloudy end of the show: it was our first pay day! Whoo hoo!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sunday, March 8: Laredo, TX- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning I didn't partake in my Sunday tradition of going out to breakfast before our three show day because I woke up very tired due to the hour of sleep I lost for Daylight Savings.
Instead I took the opportunity to sleep in and get some much needed rest, and then I made breakfast in my trailer.

It was also nasty outside, which made my decision to spend the morning at home much easier. It rained during the night, so the lot was really muddy once again.

When I was walking over to the tent to set props for the water gag, Memo and I were talking about the time change.
I mentioned how happy I was that we don't have early shows on this tour, and he told me that the original plan for Sundays this year was for the show schedule to be 12:00, 4:00, and 8:00 p.m. That means that we would have started the work day two hours earlier, had a two hour break between every show, and then finished at the same time that we did last year.
I'm reeeeeaaaaaaallly glad that they changed the Sunday schedule back to the normal one before our season started!

The gags in the first show were very sloppy for me. I guess my mind and body hadn't gotten into the groove yet.
Luckily we had a fantastic audience for the second show that helped me get back on track.

During the motorcycle act in the second show, Zheni's shoulder dislocated while she was doing her aerial routine from the bar attached to the bike.
Her shoulder was giving her problems last year, and she knew that there was a possibility that it would dislocate again.

Carmelo's wife, Karen, is going to learn the motorcycle act so Zheni can rest and heal her shoulder for the season.

Since there was no motorcycle in the third show, Ryan and I had a very fast paced first half. After opening we had one less act to get ready for the water gag, plus our already hectic quick change afterwards.
We were both pretty pooped by the end of the day.

The only other thing to report from today was that I gave the first motivational speech of the season.
I welcomed all of the new performers, and I told everyone that even though it was rainy and muddy, things could always be worse: we could be doing the originally planned Sunday show schedule.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Saturday, March 7: Laredo, TX- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

A friend of mine grew up in Laredo, so I turned to him when I was trying to figure out what fun things to do in town.
His only two recommendations were both fast food restaurants: Whataburger and Taco Palenque.
There is a Whataburger by the lot, and today I checked out the latter, so according to my friend, I've seen all that Laredo has to offer!

The weather was alright today, but it was overcast. We're still waiting on a sunny day; it has been over a week since we've had one.
(I know, I know. Lots of other places have it much worse)

Even though it wasn't sunny, it was warm enough for Ryan to tackle a project he's been wanting to do for awhile.
The letters in the name "ROAD WARRIOR" on the back of his trailer have been peeling off since he purchased it, so this afternoon he re-lettered the trailer with all his sign painting equipment.

While his dad painted, Nico came over to my house so we could play video games and Ninja Turtles, two things that I loved as a kid.
Ok, who am I kidding.....I still love them!

The second audience tonight was fantastic. I'm loving these Laredo crowds!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Friday, March 06: Laredo, TX- Opening Night!- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning I went out to run errands in preparation for the opening night of the 2015 edition of Circo Hermanos Vazquez West.

When I got back to the lot, Ryan and I assembled our new headdresses for the pre-Intermission announcement. Last year we simply wore headbands to hold feather dusters in place in an imitation of the dancers' plumage.
This year we've gone high tech! We duct taped the feather dusters to plungers, and then we attached elastic straps to the plungers to hold them on our heads.
We spare no expense with our costumes and props!

Here is the running order for this year's show:

1- Opening
2- Hula Hoops- Alexa Vazquez
3- Turbillion (Aerial Motorcycle)- Visan and Zheni Espana
4- Dogs- The Pompeyo Family
5- Water Gag- Steve & Ryan
6- Dance
7- Foot Juggling- Claudie Bremlov
8- Carpenter Gag- Steve & Ryan
9- Horses- Klaus Dieter or Jose Alberto Vazquez


10- Russian Swing- The Espana Family
11- Aerial Comedy- Carmelo
12- Dance
13- Juggling- Jose Alberto Vazquez
14- Vacuum Gag- Steve & Ryan
15- Aerial Straps- Duo Exxtrem
16- Finale

We had a fantastic audience for the first show. They were so loud and enthusiastic, and they loved us. We couldn't have asked for a better start to the season.

Between shows Memo talked with us to apologize about the band not being ready to play our music, and he explained to us why they were not prepared when they arrived.
We appreciated him taking the time to talk to us about it, and we learned some extra steps that we could have taken that would have prevented the mix up.
We also got to meet the Vazquez brothers' father. I had seen him in the audience many times last year, but we were never given a formal introduction.

During the second performance Ryan and I began to figure out our timing backstage during the show.
We have no time in the first half once the water gag begins, because as soon as it is finished we only have the duration of a short dance number and Claudie's act to change out of our wet costumes, put on our carpenter gag outfits, and get all the props set for the gag.
It is a tight change, so if Claudie ever has to cut her act short, we're screwed!

During Intermission we have plenty of time to reset our props, and during the second Intermission we were even able to clean the water mat backstage in the space where the Russian Swing had been sitting.

After each show Ryan and I took a photo with our biggest fan, Franco Vazquez, Aldo's son.

After work, a lot of folks from the show were going to a nightclub called Hal's Landing that is close to the lot.
I didn't plan to stay long; I was simply going to eat something, have a drink, say hello, and then head to bed.

I walked over to the club and saw that the line waiting to get in was stretched outside the door.
Since I hadn't eaten since before the first show, I decided to go find some food instead.

That's how I ended up at Buffalo Wild Wings, the same place where I celebrated the opening of our season last year.
The main difference from last year's opening night is that the rehearsal period and first shows went so much better than they did for us in 2014, and I wasn't completely beaten down as I sat and ate my wings. 

Here's to a great season! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

March 4 & 5: The Finishing Touches

On Wednesday the 4th we had a run through of the show that lasted about four hours. The first half went well enough, but then there were a lot of technical snags in the second half, which has the two new acts this year: Jose Alberto Vazquez's juggling, and Duo Exxtrem, comprising of Mecho from Bulgaria, and Mira from Hungary. They perform an aerial strap display, but they also utilize a giant tank of water.

I kept hurting myself throughout the course of the run through. During the opening of the vacuum gag, my leg fell into the open space between the floor and the steps in the seating area. I was grimacing in pain for the majority of the gag, and when I checked backstage I saw that my leg was all scraped up.
Later, while I was unlocking the brakes on the carpenter box, I really had to work to get the brake free, and I ended up scraping my hand on the piece of metal.
I hope this is not an indicator of my well being for this season. Two days until opening and I'm already black and blue and bleeding!

On Thursday the 5th we had another show run though starting at noon. This one only lasted only three hours; we're almost there!

During the course of the day Ryan and I moved our costumes and accessories into the men's dressing room.
I like the set up this year: the dressing rooms are semi trailers with clothes racks along one wall, and tables and chairs along the other.
There are air conditioners on either end, and we were given a high powered propane heater since it has been mighty chilly (for Laredo) the past several days.

At 5:00 p.m. the local UNIVISION station broadcast their news program live from the circus. Ryan and I took up our expected post, bothering the anchors and weather lady.
I don't enjoy doing weather hits because you never know whether you are on the screen, or whether they are showing the 5 Day Forecast.
Because of that a lot of good material goes unseen to the viewing audience.

After a successful publicity there was a full dress rehearsal starting at 7:00 p.m.
We have a tight show this year; it clocked in at under two hours, which is great.

Everything went well for us; we just need to clean up the vacuum gag (no pun intended). We made a lot of changes to the routine, and now we just need hundreds of shows to get everything tight, like our other two acts.

Duo Exxtrem couldn't fully perform their act because their water tank has a leak caused by the new way the tank has to be moved into the tent.
It is quite an operation: the already huge tank weighs so much when it is full of water, and it has to be pushed into the ring on a track, like a giant aqua train.
Hopefully everything will be worked out soon, because Mecho and Mira have a fantastic act.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

February 28-March 03: Rehearsals

On Saturday the 28th the only work we did was having a brief meeting with the stage crew about how many props we have for each gag, their placement, and the timing of setting and striking them.

We were supposed to have a two hour block of time to work with the stage crew and Luis, who runs our sound effects, but we couldn't bring our props because the backstage tent wasn't finished, and also the ring was not set up. Ring curbs were still being installed and leveled, and there was lighting equipment all over the place as the lights were set up.

On Sunday the 1st we got an hour of rehearsal time to practice sound effects with Luis, but we lost about 15 minutes of that time while we waited for the lighting crew to clear their equipment out of the ring.
We ran the carpenter gag twice, and the water gag once before we ran out of time.
Luis asked if we could continue, but we didn't want to postpone other people's rehearsal time, since we didn't like it when it happened to us. Also, Luis did a fantastic job, and we told him that we were completely confident in his ability.

Eddie introduced us to Israel, the West Unit's band director. The band just arrived that day, and they were still missing a sax player and a trombone player.
We asked if the band had received all the new, original music that had been composed for our acts, and we were surprised to find out they had not. They were only given the music that the band had played for us last year.
Luckily Ryan and I had foreseen such an event, and we had printed up copies of the new sheet music. I provided those and a CD of sample tracks to Israel, who left with the band to rehearse.

On Monday the 2nd we started off the day with some bad news. Israel told me that the band would not be ready to play all our music in time for opening night.
Ryan and I were very disappointed since we had paid a lot of money to have original music custom made for the gags, and we had sent all the charts and audio tracks where the office had told us to with plenty of time for the band to learn the music before the start of the season.

We also felt bad because now Luis would have to quickly learn all our music cues and run them in addition to our sound effects.
We made a CD for him, and I also printed up a cue sheet for him to study along with the videos of the gags he took last year.

The cast had an opening and finale rehearsal in the evening, but it didn't take long because the numbers are exactly the same as last year, except for the inclusion of a couple of new cast members.

Late in the evening Ryan and I finally had a good chunk of time with Luis to practice the gags with music and sound effects.
We still couldn't get our props into the tent, so we took only smaller, essential items to work with.

It only took us an hour to run our three gags a couple of times each. Luis did an amazing job hitting the sound effects and music cues, especially considering it was his first time for the latter.
The rehearsal really set our minds at ease for opening night on Friday.

On Tuesday the 3rd we had our first publicity of the season. It was a television interview in the early afternoon with Alexa and Jose Alberto Vazquez.
Before we filmed the segments our directions were to mess with whoever was being interviewed. That is a terribly dangerous thing to tell us.....

Jose Alberto was the first interviewee, and after we filmed the segment he told us to mess with him even more than we had. He told us that he loves clowns, and loves working with them.
We'll see if we can change that opinion; we love a challenge!

We were merciless with poor Alexa. While she was talking we were playing with her hair: getting our hands stuck in it, making mustaches for ourselves with it, only stopping short of cutting it off! (Which we're going to do for our next publicity with the help of one of Alexa's hair extensions)
The camera crew was cracking up the whole time we were on camera, so I can't wait to see the finished product.

After we finished filming our segments, we went up to front of house to talk through our lighting cues with Roberto.
It didn't take long since most of them are the same as last year.

At 3:00 p.m. we started running the show act by act to work out all the technical elements: setting and striking of props by the stage crew, music by Luis and the band, and lighting cues by Roberto.

Ryan and I were finally able to move all our props over to the backstage tent, and as each of ours acts came up, we would assemble the props as needed.

The whole run through took about seven hours, so we've got a little trimming to do to get the show down to its usual two hour run time.
Technical run throughs always take a long time, though. It was the first time this crew has worked with our cast, so there was a lot of starting and stopping to address and fix problems.

When we were finished for the night, around 11:00 p.m., there was the first barbecue of the season.
There was only a small crowd, but I liked the relaxed atmosphere.
It was a potluck gathering, so I brought some meat and beer for everyone. The food that people made was amazing; highlights were Dominik's cheesy garlic spread, and Jaros's guacamole.

Opening night is in three days!