Friday, December 11, 2015

Wednesday, November 18-Sunday, November 29: Passaic, NJ

11/18/15- Day Off!

We left the lot in Newburgh this morning, and then it was a 60 mile jump to Passaic, NJ, the next town.
The jump wasn't bad at all, and I was actually glad that we made it in the morning, because some of the directions would have been tricky to figure out in the dark.

The show is playing on a nasty, dirt covered lot right next to a river. According to Vincent Von Duke, the lot was completely covered in trees until recently, which explained all of the logs and stumps lining the border of the lot.
There was an abandoned little shelter built into the brush between my trailer and the river, so apparently our arrival made a homeless person even more homeless.

Pamela and I got away from the nasty lot as fast as we could. Luckily we were parked shortly after our arrival in Passaic, so that gave us almost the whole day to enjoy elsewhere.

We went to the Westfield Garden Plaza, which was a beautiful mall we passed on the jump. Pamela was in heaven with all of the fancy clothing shops.
I was just happy that there was a Max Brenner, a gourmet chocolate shop that I know from New York City.
Pamela and I got some of their super rich hot chocolate before we left the mall.

It was a pain in the butt connecting my trailer to power tonight. I didn't have enough cable to reach the power box since my house was parked all the way at the back of the long, skinny lot, but luckily Ryan had an extra cable I could borrow.
The next problem was that all of the outlets that are the right size for my plug were already taken, so I had to borrow an adaptor from the show electricians.

11/19/15- Day Off!

Pamela and I left the lot at 9 a.m. to head into New York City. We drove to Weehawken, NJ to catch a ferry into Manhattan.
Unfortunately we hit especially awful traffic close to the Lincoln Tunnel due to an accident, so we got to the dock just as the 10 a.m. ferry, the one we were planning to take, was leaving.

We waited for the next boat, which was scheduled for 10:20 a.m. We were able to board that one with no problem, but that put us in Manhattan with exactly thirty minutes to spare before the start of the Big Apple Circus.

Pamela and I planned to take the subway to Lincoln Center, but the closest station that we needed was shut down due to construction.
We flagged down a taxi, but due to more horrible traffic, we got to Lincoln Center at 11:00 a.m., exactly the time that the Big Apple show was scheduled to start.

Luckily the start of the show was held five minutes to accommodate the school groups still arriving, so Pamela and I sat down just as the show was beginning.

I really enjoyed this year's production of Big Apple, titled "The Grand Tour". I only wish we could have seen the full show; we saw the 75 minute performance with no Intermission, so we missed Jenny Vidbel's horse act and one of the clown acts.
After the performance Pamela and I went backstage to chat with ringmaster, John Kennedy Kane, and clowns, Joel Jeske (who also wrote the wonderful show) and Brent McBeth.

JKK joined us for lunch at the Greek Kitchen, which wasn't too far from Lincoln Center. 

Afterwards I took Pamela to 5th Avenue so she could visit all of the clothing stores that she wanted.

Unfortunately the weather was mighty dreary, and in the afternoon it began raining lightly but constantly, which didn't exactly encourage us to do much further exploring.

In fact, we tried to stay indoors as much as possible, and we spent a lot of time at a cafe just staying dry and warm.

At 7:00 p.m. we watched the Broadway musical, "Something Rotten", which I loved. I had heard the soundtrack from Ryan while we were in Chicago, and I just knew that I needed to see the show.

After the musical we found a diner so we could have dinner, and then we caught a cab back to the ferry. Hailing a taxi was no easy feat since the rain was coming down heavier by then, and the wind had picked up as well; everyone and their brother was trying to get a cab when we were.

By the end of our day out, both Pamela and I were worn out and soaked to the bone, but I was happy that we got to go see two wonderful shows.

Back in Passaic we were dismayed to find that the lot was a disgusting, muddy mess. Our shoes were destroyed by the time we got all the way back to my trailer; I was kicking myself that I didn't think to bring our boots before we left in the morning.

11/20/15- 7:30 p.m.

Pamela and I had lunch at a delicious Mexican restaurant called La Fortaleza. The food was great, and the interior was colorfully and creatively decorated. 

When we were heading back to the circus we had a heck of a time getting to the lot. There is only one entrance for us employees to use, and Pamela and I just happened to come back as a nearby school was letting out.
Traffic was bumper to bumper, and there was a steady stream of cars exiting from the one narrow entrance we could use.
I made a mental note to either a) never leave the lot again, or b) (more realistically) never return to the lot at that same time again.

I was afraid loading our props into backstage would be terrible because of the nasty mud and the distance from our houses to the tent, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared.

Ryan and I had a television publicity at 6:00 p.m. The weather reporter was distant and seemed to be a real pain, and the cameraman kept telling us how to do our job. One example: When it was time for us to be on camera, he started frantically pointing to us, and then acted like he imagined a clown would act, waving his arms from side to side as he raised his legs in the air one after the other. Except for the expression on his face, he looked like he was joyfully capering.
Ryan and I had to suppress the urge to mimic his actions back to him while flipping him the bird.

Our opening night show started really late, but we had a good audience for our first performance in Passaic.

11/21/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

We had a small crowd for the first performance, but business was good for the last two performances, especially the 8:00 p.m. one.

At the end of the second Russian swing act there was a lull in the action after Martin flipped through the hoop. There was no announcement from the ringmaster, and the music just kept playing long after it should have changed.
Since Ryan and I were waiting to make an entrance, we weren't able to find out what had happened until Intermission.
Martin made it safely through the hoop, but in doing so he pulled a muscle in his back and couldn't move once he landed in the net.

Martin spent all the rest of the second show resting and stretching, and he was back in action for the third performance.
This proved the words that Mecho shared in the dressing room, "In circus, if you can walk, you can work."

The one frustrating thing from our department today was that the audiences had no idea what to do with a beach ball.
It really was quite maddening, and by the third show I was just sitting down and letting the audience figure things out for themselves. 

11/22/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning Pamela and I had brunch at the Maywood Pancake House, which had a long wait to get in, but delicious food. 

Business was great for the shows today. The second performance was sold out, and there was solid business for the first and third shows.

11/23/15- 7:30 p.m.

Luis had a hair appointment with Pamela this afternoon; we enjoyed visiting with him while he got his hair did.

After that Pamela and I ran out to do some shopping for Thanksgiving lunch.

There was a small crowd for the show tonight; I'm betting one big reason for the low turnout was the extremely frigid weather.

11/24/15- 7:30 p.m.

Today Pamela and I had to go to Hobby Lobby to get supplies for the upcoming Christmas tour. Since we had to go far away from Passaic to visit a Hobby Lobby, we decided to have a nice day out as well.

Ryan and I had lots of visitors tonight. The Klein family were in the audience, along with twin photographers, Jason and Justin Senft, and their parents.

We didn't have the biggest crowd for the show, but I had a lot of fun performing for them.

11/25/15- 7:30 p.m.

This morning Pamela and I made what I hoped would be our last grocery run for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast.

Luis came over in the afternoon to show me how to use the microphones and recording equipment that he bought for us. 
It all seemed pretty straightforward once he explained it to me; I'm sure I'll have forgotten it all by the time we actually need to use the equipment!

Besides my technology lesson, Pamela and I spent all afternoon cooking.

There was a big crowd for our show tonight. People just kept on coming in every time the show began, so they kept restarting the intro. The Circo Hermanos Vazquez theme song must have played at least five times; it was ridiculous! 

11/26/15- 7:30 p.m.

After the show last night Pamela and I continued cooking, and we were still cooking this morning before our big Thanksgiving lunch at Ryan's house.
Visan, Laura, the Espana family, and Luis all joined us and enjoyed the bounty of delicious food that we had prepared. 

It was great getting to spend time with our friends on Thanksgiving, and of course I enjoyed eating as much as I possibly could.

I was able to fit in a little nap before our show tonight, but when I woke up to get ready, I was still groggy and in a food coma from lunch.

The people of Passaic were a lot more calm and relaxed than usual tonight, so I guessed that they were all still in food comas as well.

After work we had the company Thanksgiving party. Everyone that attended brought a dish, and we all sat and ate at a long table in the concessions tent.

Photo by Eddie Horwath

I was happy that we had a Vazquez Thanksgiving party, because last year we were all pretty much on our own to celebrate.

11/27/15- 7:30 p.m.

Pamela and Tatiana went out this morning to do some Black Friday shopping. While I babysat Nico and played video games all day, Ryan painted the sign for Pompeyo's dog props.

The show tonight was almost full, and the audience was fantastic.

New York circus fans, Don and Barb Kowell, were at the show, so Ryan and I got to chat with them briefly after the performance. 
I remember Don and Barb from my Kelly Miller days, when they would travel with the show when we played upstate NY.

Unfortunately we couldn't visit for too long because we had to hurry and clean up for the Vazquez End of the Season party, which was being held at the other unit of the circus in Queens.
I wasn't too crazy about having to drive into New York City to celebrate, but the drive was a lot quicker than I thought, and traffic wasn't bad at all.

Pamela, Ryan and I went over in Pamela's car, and we didn't stay for the whole party. We ate, visited with our East Unit friends, and partook in the awards ceremony, where every act and department was called into the ring and presented with a certificate. 

I also got a kiss. Whoo hoo!

We left the party when the dance music came on, and we were back at the lot in Passaic and in bed around 3:00 a.m.

11/28/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Pamela and I went back to La Fortaleza for lunch today. When I went into the bathroom I found this charming picture of a bunch of manly women mocking me.

It drizzled rain for the greater part of the day. I was worried that the lot would be destroyed again (not a good thing when we all need to get out of here in two days), but the rain never came down enough to make it super muddy again.

Business got better today as the shows progressed, but it was never great. 

11/29/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning Pamela and I walked to a Polish market across the river from the lot. We browsed through all of the Polish products, and we had a big, delicious lunch from their deli.

Greg, Carole, and Cam Michales and their friend, Val, came to watch the first show. They brought a bottle of wine and chocolate covered pretzels for me and Ryan to share. Thanks, Michales family!

The people in the audience that we met after the shows today were very rude and really raised my blood pressure.
There was one redeeming family that was very nice. The father told us that his kids watch us on Youtube all the time, and the children were very excited to meet us.

The 8:00 p.m. performance was the final one for all of the European performers: the dancers, Claudie, Mecho, and Mira.
Their visas were only good until what was supposed to be the end of our tour, so they will not be joining us for the extra two weeks of the tour in Paterson, NJ.

After the last show Ryan and I said goodbye to our friends that were leaving, and then we loaded up our props.

We knew that we wouldn't be able to leave Passaic until tomorrow because we were at the very back of all of the trailers, and none of the trailers could start leaving until the tent was down. Since I knew I was going nowhere fast, when I went to bed I didn't even bother to set an alarm. What a wonderful feeling!

Monday, December 7, 2015

End Of The Vazquez Road

Hi everybody,

Yesterday Ryan and I performed our final shows with Circo Hermanos Vazquez. The circus extended its tour for two extra weeks, but because of conflicting dates with the upcoming 'Twas The Gift Show Before Christmas tour, we could only work the first week.
Right now we are taking a short, well deserved break before jumping into the Christmas tour from December 13-21st.

While I am lounging, I will do my best to finish up the blog from this season so that I can write about our escapades on the Christmas tour in real time.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wednesday, November 11-Tuesday, November 17: Newburgh, NY

11/11/15- Day Off!

It was nice to sleep in this morning. Ryan and I parked our trailers at a Walmart in Newburgh since we were told that the lot was small and there wasn't much space to put the trailers before they could be parked.

Pamela and I drove over in her car to scout out the lot, and when I saw the amount of temporary parking space, I was glad that we decided to stay out of the way.

Pamela and I had a nice day out while we waited on a call from the circus. We had lunch at a nice Greek diner just down the road from Walmart, and we spent some time browsing at a Barnes & Noble located in the other direction.

In the late afternoon Pamela went to get her hair cut and styled, while I continued to wait in the trailer and take advantage of Walmart's surprisingly good Wifi.

Finally, close to 6:00 p.m. we got a call from Nestor at the circus saying that he was ready to park us.
It was only about three miles to the Armory, which the show was set up next to.
We were parked shortly after arriving, and then Pamela and I spent a relaxing evening at home.

11/12/15- Day Off!

Pamela and I had a fantastic lunch at Luca's Pizza Cafe in Newburgh. It was a small spot with pizza by the slice; the quality of the food was great, and the price was right.

In the afternoon Pamela and I went over to Ryan's house for a wonton making party. Visan, Laura, and the Espana family all joined us in making the little dumplings, and then we enjoyed the fruits of our labors by having wonton soup.

I tried to go to bed early in anticipation of the extremely early morning and long day in my near future.

11/13/15- 7:30 p.m.

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. to get into make up and get ready for our TV publicity. Ryan, the dancers, and I were driven to the East Unit of Vazquez in Queens to appear on the nationally broadcast UNIVISION morning show, "Despierta America".

Being in Queens on the other show was like a homecoming in more ways than one. It was nice to be in the big, beautiful East Unit tent again. I had forgotten how swank we had it last year.

It made me happy to see our friends that are still working on the East Unit, especially Teo, who was our sound guy last year.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the reception we received from the cast and crew of "Despierta America". The hosts were very friendly and seemed happy to work with us again.

The crew brought a lot of old equipment (tripods, road cases, lights, and a boom mic) for us to break because they remembered that "you guys like to hit each other".
I was so proud that a national television program anticipated our needs for the broadcast.

Ryan and I brought a ton of props with us because we were told that we were going to be on camera every time the program was broadcasting from the circus.
But, as we've learned with television, things constantly change, and we were only on the air about three times.
We never touched the props we brought with us. Every time we were used, we played up the joke that we were the new UNIVISION crew guys, and we used whatever the station had brought for us.

The broadcast ran from 7:00-10:00 a.m. I wasn't feeling too bad going to Queens and doing the PR, but once we finished and embarked on the hour and a half trip back to Newburgh, I felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks.

Back at the lot Ryan and I watched the publicity, which Tatiana had recorded. I was so disappointed to see that we were barely on camera, and when we were, we were usually mostly cropped out of the shot because the cameraman had the shot so tight on the hosts.
I had a lot of fun doing the event, but the scant amount of screen time we got really made it seem like the early wake up and three hour round trip to and from Queens wasn't really worth it.

Ryan and I loaded in our props, and we put a new wheel on the carpenter box. The weld holding one of the wheels on broke during the last load out, so we did a quick fix and screwed this one on.

I took a quick nap before I had to get ready for our opening night show. There was a good audience for our first performance in Newburgh, and I had a lot of fun. The crowd really enjoyed our hi jinx.

It was comforting that our show's running order was back to normal. The dog and tiger acts were back after a two week hiatus while the circus was in Freehold, NJ.

11/14/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Last night during the show our little car lost a bolt that holds the front wheels to the steering column. The prop guys were able to find the bolt we had lost, but not the nut. Thus I had an extremely frustrating morning trying to find a lock nut that would fit the strangely sized bolt.

The staff at Home Depot and Lowes were either completely useless or totally baffled by the measurement I was searching for, but after doing the leg work myself, I finally found a nut that fit.

Ryan and I were able to attach the broken piece and get the bolt and nut in place, but it was no easy feat. The little car has so many completely unnecessary pieces of metal and decorations that are in the way of what we were trying to fix.
Like I said, we got the job done well enough for the car to go back into the show, but we need a ratchet set to prevent the problem from occurring again.

It was a cold, windy day, which didn't make going to and from backstage very fun.

We had a small crowd for the first show, but they weren't a terrible audience.

The water heater for the tank in Duo Exxtrem's act was not working, so today they did just a straight strap act without their big finish.
The water heater for the tank was a custom made piece, so it doesn't look like they will get a new one back in time to use the tank again before the end of the season.

We had fantastic audiences for the second and third shows, and they really liked me and Ryan.

During the second show's beach ball reprise, Ryan witnessed a very funny accident in the seats. He was standing back and watching as the ball bounced from one section of audience to the next, and then he happened to look over at a man who was directly in the path of the oncoming beach ball.
The man had his eyes locked on the ball, and he tensed his body in anticipation of its arrival.
Without looking away from the ball, the man kicked his leg out to the side as the ball came down to him, but he completely missed the ball and instead kicked his daughter in the face.
Big time comedy, folks!

As I wrote earlier, we had fantastic audiences for two of the three shows today. I would have totally lost that bet, because when I saw the size of Newburgh, and the type of area we were set up in, I thought to myself, "We are going to die here. Nobody is going to come to the show!"
I'm so glad I was wrong!

11/15/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Again we did good business for all three shows today, but the second show had the biggest crowd.

About the only noteworthy thing that happened at work was that Ryan got a Coca Cola dumped on him. We make two of our gag entrances from the front of the tent, so we have to walk under the seats to get into position.
On the way to the water gag, I heard a splash behind me, and I turned around to see that someone in the seats above us had kicked over their drink, spilling it directly onto Ryan.
I guess we should count ourselves lucky that we have been doing this show for close to two years, and this is the first time that has happened.
I don't think Ryan considered himself that lucky, though.

11/16/15- 7:30 p.m.

"Pamela's Hair Salon" was open all day in my trailer. Tonight was the Quinceañera for one of the Vazquez children over at the other unit, so several people wanted their hair done before the big party.

Ryan's dad and stepmother were visiting from Massachusetts, so it was nice to see them. They were thrilled to meet Abrianna for the first time and loved spending all day with her.

During the weekend Vincent Von Duke told us that the Orange County Choppers store, which was featured in the popular television show of the same name, was only a few miles from our lot, so this afternoon I joined Ryan and his family on a trip to visit the spot.

Inside the front doors of the building was a gift shop with many of the company's motorcycles on display.

We spotted the España family also checking out the store, and we joined them on a tour of the factory where the bikes are manufactured and customized.
Almost everyone in our group had seen the show, and so they were thrilled when Paul Sr., one of the founders of the company, and a popular personality on the television program, walked by and said hello to us.
I was more interested in the machinery used to make the custom motorcycles, especially the 3D printers. Ryan and I could make a lot of cool props with those!

We had a great audience for the show tonight. Afterwards Pamela and I passed on driving out to Queens for the Quinceañera since it was such a long drive; instead we went out for a date night.

I was reassured that we made the right decision not to go to Queens when I heard that the folks from our unit didn't get home until close to 4 a.m.
I'm too old for that!

11/17/15- 7:30 p.m.

Today Pamela and I got the trailer ready for travel to the next town, but after everyone told us how dangerous the next area would be to park in at night all alone, we decided to spend the night in Newburgh and jump with the rest of the circus in the morning.
(Although I don't know how much safer we were staying in Newburgh, which in 2011 was named "The Murder Capital of NY". Who the hell is booking us into these towns?!)

We had a good sized crowd for the show tonight, but it was a smaller turnout than I expected after the stellar business we had done up to that point.

In the vacuum gag I was standing on the stairs doing a bit with a man in the audience. I turned to the rest of the crowd to give a reaction, and when I turned back to the man I took a small step closer to him.
That small step caused my right leg to slip down into the giant gap between stairs, and I dropped down a few feet faster than I could react and stop myself.
The right side of my face is what stopped my rapid descent. My cheek and mouth slammed into the edge of one of the hard, plastic chairs.
I could hear the audience give a reaction to that fall, and it wasn't a reaction I wanted to get.

I jumped up as fast as I could so the audience wouldn't worry about me, but all I could think of was getting out of the tent quickly so I could assess the damage to my face.
I always think of the worst case scenario, and I was just certain that my face was swollen and pouring blood.

I scraped up my right leg badly when it went between the stairs, so I had a noticeable limp as I tried to rush through the remainder of the act.

Backstage I looked at my leg, which was scraped up and bleeding, but luckily my face was not.
After the show when I took my make up off I saw that the corner of my mouth was bruised, and there was some slight swelling on my right cheekbone, but luckily that was the extent of the damage.

I'm so lucky that I hit my face on plastic instead of metal. I could have knocked some teeth out with the force that I hit the seat.
I'm also grateful that I didn't hit my nose, because then I surely would have been bleeding like a stuck pig.

When I went back into the tent during tear down to get the sound effects machine from Luis, I found the seat that I hit my face on.
Obviously it was easy to find....