Friday, June 30, 2006

Books, botany and discarded Valentines.

June 30, Ashland.

Thanks to Bérengère I discovered a used bookstore a few blocks from the circus. It's called the Bookwagon, we walked there on Wednesday, and so far I'm on my third visit. I bought a total of fourteen books, some looking as if nobody had ever read them, for the price of three or four new. Good thing I don't live here or the store would be depleted in a month and/or so would my bank account.
Someone who's been reading the blog was kind enough to recommend some books they had enjoyed, but I didn't find them there. Here's what I fished out instead (not in any kind of order):
- The Best American Travel Writing, 2003
- The Best American Short Stories, 2003
- The Best American Short Stories of the Century
- To the Lighthouse, Virgina Woolf (a Master's degree in English and yet no reading her)
- Mrs. Dalloway, ibid.
- Shosha, Isaac Bashevis Singer
- Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth (another gaping hole in my literature education)
- The Counterlife, ibid.
- Open Secrets, Alice Munro
- Women and Ghosts, Alison Lurie
- Empire Falls, Richard Russo
- A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
- Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi
- and finally, Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis (I've wanted to read this book since I was very young, my Mom talking about it with passion, somehow it looms big, maybe because of the classic movie.)
Some of the books have annotations in them or names at the beginning. In one of them, The Best of American Travel Writing, 2003, there is an inscription written in an elaborate hand and different inks, the lines jumping to form a puzzle of sorts: "To my dear Matt (with a red heart in the a), Happy Valentine's Day, I hope you enjoy these stories & will be inspired to follow your heart. I love you very much! Marion, 2004." Another discarded Valentine?
On the way to the bookstore there is an elementary school that you'd just as much miss because it's hidden behind a front yard that has been turned into a deliciously overgrown and just-so messy botanical garden, with a sign pole that says "Que la paz permanezca en la tierra (may peace be on earth)" in four languages. Walker Elementary School exhorts its students to "Read, swim, see a green show and imagine..." for summer fun. The usual tame school fare (albeit not a bad program) but what got me was the green show part. Dylan would be at home in a school like this one, surely, getting into fights among the daisies and the ferns.

Cumplemeses - Jose Ivan's.

June 29, Ashland.

We celebrated the six months of life of Jose Ivan, the other baby at Circus Chimera. Pie, candle, singing feliz cumplemeses a tí, the whole thing again, with Edith, Jose Ivan's Mom and Circus Chimera office femme-à-tout-faire, Jay's children (with the circus for the summer,) Ekaterina and Vasily, and Fridman. Like Dylan, Jose Ivan is the portrait of his Dad. But he's a lot smaller than Dylan at his age (either that or my baby is dodu, that hilarious little French word for plump.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

On Clouds.

June 29, Ashland.

Do you know how good 71.3 degrees feels?
At seventy-one degrees and after three months of steadily building up heat and unfaltering blue skies the cloudy horizon above the patch of scrubby grass at the corner of East Main Street and Walker in Ashland, Oregon, was my patch of heaven this morning.
It rained yesterday, and on through the evening, the rain unfortunately too little but a gift anyway. I keep waiting for more.

Fridman worked on the truck's brakes all day yesterday too, and got up early this morning to go on. The back brakes were extremely bad on the right side, where the sparks were flying off, and taking out one worn out part kept revealing another, like peeling off a Russian doll. Dylan and I are lucky to have made it here safe.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Not your elk.

June 28, Ashland.

At the Sweetbrier Ave. exit on I-5 in Shasta-Trinity National Forest: bear crossing.
The sign was a big bear followed by a cub.

Since we traveled last night today was a genuine day off for performers. The first and probably the last of the season.
As for Moms, there are no days off.


June 28, Ashland, Oregon.

Finally, out of the hell of the central California valleys and into the cool of Oregon.
Beautiful Oregon. In so many years in this country this is a state I've always wanted to visit and never did. This is a place that's always made me dream - of gentler ways, natural wonders and greener pastures.
The valley where Ashland sits reminds me of a valley near Grenoble, in the French Alps, not far from where my mother lives. There is a softness to it. It goes at an inviting pace, everything seems tranquil and cool. This is also a place where traffic instantly comes to a halt the minute you even look like you want to cross the street with a stroller (rarely happened that a car slowed down, let alone stopped since we started the season back in Texas,) and a woman with a big smile waves you on. There are more than one house with flowers growing wildly, wonderfully on the sidewalk. This is a place where drivers go 25 or 30, as they're supposed to, on a long, straight street that happens to go through residential neighborhoods. People actually walk on these streets, and there is a cyclists' and walkers' trail that winds through town, reminding me of another French Alps place, Annecy, where many a summer I rode similar trails with my cousin Florence or my Mom, on visits to my aunt's house.
The circus is parked at the ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum (with a light bulb instead of the "o".) Next door is the Fish and Wildlife National Forensics Laboratory. I'd listened to a story on the radio a little while ago about just such a lab, and marveled at the idea of their work. This is the part where I miss my old photojournalist job, where I could be very well be sent there on assignment, going where other people (ie, me, now) never get to go.

Another long trip to get here, 160 miles of interstate 5, an up-and-down ride that in the end did what even the infamous Big Bear descent didn't manage to do, burnt my front brakes. The last stretch of downhill did it, and there were sparks from metal grinding against metal flying from my right tire upon entering Ashland.
Again we drove at night - and hence went through one of the most beautiful areas of the country blindfolded, only the constant dry-heat lightnings illuminating the crests around us, giving us split-second black-and-white glimpses. The Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the Klamath National Forest, the Cascade-Siskiyou (love the sound of that name, Siskiyou) National Mountain, all dark fantoms around us. Roy decided to have us drive at night because he feared it was going to be too hot to set up the tent in the afternoon should we have made the trip in the morning, as was planned. What a pity. It's not even hot, the sun wonderfully mild through the occasional cloud, light breezes.
I look at the valley and imagine the beauty beyond.

Behind the trailer.

Avion wonders, again.

June 27, Red Bluff.

After a period of trailer home improvement here comes the trailer trouble again.
We discovered upon arriving here that the right wall of the trailer has come undone from the frame and was sliding down, about an inch and a half yet. The trailer is coming apart, basically. Fridman started looking around when we couldn't open the stairs outside the door. He spent all day today working to secure the pieces back together, how, I have no idea. The walls should be nailed to the frame and unable to move from it so the whole thing is somewhat of a mystery.
What is no mystery is that Avion trailers are junk disguised as Rolls-Royce, or rather, the Fleetwood company is a shameless scam. One problem after another, and we're not the only ones with big Avions and big trouble. Boycott Fleetwood!

Blessing in disguise.

June 26, Red Bluff, California.

It was predicted to be 120 degrees here today. So we were relieved to go through the day with temperatures in the high nineties range, bordering on one hundred degrees "only."
Confirmation: a lady who came to the show with a four-day-old baby in her arms and to whom we gave the cradle told us it was 117 degrees yesterday. Apparently this place gets hotter temperatures than Death Valley. Only one show tomorrow too, the 7:30 PM one. If it wasn't so hot it would feel like a vacation.

Driving up here was another Circus Chimera special treat, 177 miles at night after a day's work.
The unbearable heat was a blessing in disguise - there was only one show and not the usual three, so the trip was not inhuman and dangerous, just long. Fridman was tired, but not exhausted.

Jose, the mechanic, spent the night in jail after he was arrested without any form of ID on him, somewhere between Antioch and red Bluff. He'd stopped to help another circus vehicle in trouble and here came the police to check it out. No driver's license, no ID, no nothing, on to jail.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Can't resist.

June 24, Antioch.

Another day at the water park, another scorcher.
Can't resist, more pictures.

Genia and Fridman playing with Dylan.

Pour en finir avec BHL.

June 24, Antioch.

Or the devil is not only in the details, but in the big picture, too.
The details: "the deeply, totally criminal nature of this country," in an epilogue actually defending the United States against the accusations of anti-Americanists, as they're called in Europe. For this is the irony of this book, how it would sound pro-American in Europe in general and in France in particular. How it defends the ideas of the neo-conservative wing of the right with surprising vigor, and hence the politics of the Bush administration, where neo-conservatives, such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, have had great influence, as everybody knows (their most notable contribution the war in Iraq.)
The details. The "desert" along Route One in California between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Santa Barbara: : "Highway 101(...) Heat and speed. Desert." Later: "An entire décor reminiscent not of the beginning but of the end of the world (...) that inhuman desert that threw itself into the ocean." California does have deserts all right, but I'm not sure they're along Route One, exactly.
The big picture: the recurring gimmick of starting with a list of counter-affirmations, a litany of repetitions affecting to be a style, to finally hammer in the proposed theory, and always, this temptation of drawing sweeping philosophical judgments from an isolated fact or conversation or event.
A style that turns unreadable when it tries to wax philosophy, admittedly a recurring problem with French intellectuals far more serious than this one (Derrida, anyone?) Lévy exemplifies the sorry state of French intellectuals today - so-called philosophers masking the emptiness with complicated, unreadable prose, offer a gaping lack of substance on a bed of convoluted mannerisms, the narcissism of writers endlessly "watching their navel," as the French say, or the obscene parading as literature.
And yet I ran through the book, enjoying the ride (with driver) more than I like to admit (the French in me,) learning a thing or two in the midst of the platitudes and rehashed information it presents as if they were fresh. The history behind Mount Rushmore, some interesting tidbits about famous prisons like Rikers in New York or Angola in Louisiana (and I think Lévy's analysis on the prison system of the U.S. is actually relevant, even though prone as always to the too-broad conclusion.)
My Mom liked the book but my Mom always falls for a glamourous man, even in writing. I'm glad she sent it along.


June 23, Antioch.

Fridman came back from the last show with news we can't quite believe yet: there will be no afternoon shows tomorrow as well as Sunday.
Unheard of in Circus Chimera world, at least the one we've known for four years. Four cancelled shows. And a welcomed and much appreciated break for artists and workers alike, as temperatures continued into the hundreds today and are predicted to reach 106 degrees over the week end.
We beat the heat going to the pool before the shows. It was only a few hundred yards from where the circus is parked, but I was glad I'd brought an umbrella along for walking them would have been intolerable otherwise.
Dylan had his first "swim" and was, well, of course, grand, splashing and kicking as if he was born in the water (which he almost was, only he came too fast and there was no time to draw the bath.)
Fiesta at the circus tonight.

Fridman and Dylan at the pool.

Friday, June 23, 2006

BHL revised.

June 23, Antioch.

Finally over with American Vertigo, the BHL book in the footsteps of Alexis de Tocqueville in America (see BHL entry.)
A French friend of mine had a good laugh reading a scalding review of the book by one of my favorite journalists, Garrison Keillor, in the New York Times online, and passed it on (Anne is the mother of the most adorable two-year-old, Alicia, and lives in Paris with her Colombian husband, a sequence artist. She's my trusted resource for advice on the many stumbling blocks and potholes on the motherhood road - my own private baby consultant.)
I still found the book enjoyable (can't undo the French in me?) as it is easily read, divided in short vignettes on a place, a person, a theme, themselves grouped into chapters along the path taken by Tocqueville one hundred and seventy years earlier.
But (to paraphrase the author.) A travel book intended for foreign audiences, it does fall into that easiest of all trap, mainly focusing on the extreme, the freakish, the weird, and foregoing the million nuances in between the types altogether. It is rather as if I went around France presuming to explain the country to foreigners by stopping to chat only with presidential candidates, celebrities and pundits, visiting brothels, prisons, hipsters and famous writers.
Keillor's view is that Lévy, besides being a self-agrandizing snob, doesn't get America because he only stops to chat with the afore-mentioned pundits, politicians and celebrities ("Nobody tells a joke in this book; nobody eats a meal,") only focuses on the extreme and unusual (the gated communities of Sun City, Arizona, the Texas gun show,) turns every little mundane fact into some grand metaphor (pouring rain at the Clinton Library inauguration prefiguring the demise of the Democratic party,) and is a book more about the French than America. All true on all counts.
And then the grandiloquent, pompous language, the painfully long sentences (Faulkner, yes, Jim Harrison, yes, Lévy, definitely not) full of sub-sentences, the affectation of the style, the pompousness, again, of the whole thing, as if Lévy was listening to himself write (and I cringe when reading my entry on Rancho Cordova's public park as it seems I'd caught the bug myself.)
And the details, again. Los Angeles spreading over the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties no less, thereby reaffirming that French editors are geographically challenged, at least when it comes to the North American continent. And there I thought Americans' notion of geography was a safe laugh. Los Angeles, the "unreadable city," the un-city because lacking a center, a limit and a vantage point from which you can embrace its view (sic), Los Angeles, then, "a city without History" and thus without "historicity," and because of that a city Lévy says will soon die.
Last time I was in LA it seems pretty alive to me and nowhere on the road to impending demise but what do I know, I only lived there (since I lived in Riverside...) a couple of years as an average photojournalist going to the market for bread and paying my trailer-park rent, as opposed to driving through for a couple of days with a bunch of assistants in tow to sit down and talk with Sharon Stone in Beverly Hills.
(To be continued.)

104 in the shade.

June 22, Antioch, California.

It was 104 degrees Farenheit in the shade here today. I don't even want to imagine what it was under the tent at the height of the afternoon scorcher. Setting up the tent, I know, was a killer.
It reminded me of Riverside in the summer, getting in a car that had been sitting in the sun for a couple of hours after shooting an assignment and you couldn't grab the wheel, locking up the trailer at 8 o'clock in the morning to keep in the little freshness there was during the night, living in an oven. No getting used to this.
It's supposed to reach even higher tomorrow and settle into it over the week end. I don't know how many people will brave the heat to sit down in a non-air-conditioned tent, but I do know the bosses around here will make the show go on no matter what the conditions, no matter how few people show up.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


June 21, Woodland.

Today is the first day of summer.
Just saluting the shortest night of the year. We'll spend ours taking down the tent, traveling on and getting to bed very late, another day on the circus road.

Circus telenovela.

June 20, Woodland.

Angelo telenovela heating up, reaching climax, temporarily suspended.
Telenovela unfolding with all the necessary stuff. Fights and breakups, tears, resolutions and much more. It's been a hot week, supposed to be reaching a hundred degrees tomorrow.

Nothing to do with the telenovela, just a picture of my two men sleeping late.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Late news on Fuji.

June 19, Woodland.

Missed news: Fuji came back on Friday and is doing great. He looks ten years younger, having lost a lot of weight, and the paralysis is not overwhelming. He walks with a cane, can now move his arm more and more, and has regained some feelings in his affected side. His wife, Eduarda Torres, is with him.
I didn't know he was here until yesterday when I walked right by him and didn't recognize him.


June 19, Woodland, California.

On the farm there was also Gil.
Gil is young and tanned, wears his hair very long and walks around the farm without a shirt or shoes on. He is originally from Israel, went to school at the University of California at Davis and graduated in child development. He now lives and works on the farm, and he has built his own room in the common building there out of materials from demolition and abandoned construction sites. He's found red fur, old-growth redwood, pine, maple. He talks about insulating the roof with redwood bark, cools his room with a custom-made system consisting of storing cold air from the night in the foundation space under the building and blowing it inside with a fan during the hottest hours day. It works.
Matt, Dawn's boyfriend, is an engineer. Together with Gil it turns out they made up a good deal of engineering smarts. What a day at the farm will bring.

Gil in his room.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


June 18, Rancho Cordova.

Turns out I was neighbor to an oasis of a river, a 20-acre farm and a newfound friend and I didn't even know about it.
Late on Wednesday night when we pulled into the soccer field in Hagan Park, Dawn, her daughter Renna and her boyfriend, Matt, were getting ready to go to bed. Matt called out to Dawn that there was a semi tractor-trailer in the field. Whatever, said Dawn, thinking he'd probably not seen right. Shortly thereafter he called out again. There's a guy out walking and waving a flashlight, he must be drunk or something, he said.
Dawn told me the story when she came to visit us in the trailer on Friday afternoon. They'd discovered upon waking up the next morning there was a circus in their front yard, she'd gone and seen the show and looked up the website afterwards, ultimately stumbling upon the blog. Can I come visit?, she asked, we're going to be neighbors for three days.
Dawn has raised an adult son and is now raising her daughter, mostly by herself. Renna, who is thirteen, is a poised, shy girl who surprises you when she suddenly sparks to show you her artwork. Mother and daughter share a peaceful nonchalance.
Dawn was always fascinated by the circus, I with the farm. She took me to the river, the American river. It flowed just a few hundred yards behind the circus, the water wonderfully cold, straight from the Sierra snows, the currents so swift. She took me to the farm, a co-op owned and leased by the county of Sacramento. Ten people live on it, renting houses, raising chicken and sheep. The land was bought by the county some 20 years ago and is now an oasis of green amidst the infringing suburbs. She gave me a tour, introduced me around, held Dylan while I used her wireless connection. She sent me home with fresh eggs and grapefruits from the farm, fell in love with Dylan. She and Matt even took me to the farmer's market in downtown Sacramento and came to see the show a second time on Sunday.
Turns out I had a friend in Sacramento. She's living out one of my other dream life, waking up to the roosters every morning, looking out to the fields, walking to the river for a swim. Circus life: a day on the farm, thanks to my newfound neighbors.

Dawn and her daughter, Renna, 13, in front of some of Renna's paintings, in their livingroom.


June 16, Rancho Cordova.

Marvin's turn to go.
He was the midget clown from Mexico, the second clown after Genia.This morning as we were leaving on errands we saw him talking on the phone by the office and by the time we came back a couple of hours later we learnt that he was gone from the circus, apparently over an argument with Jim. I'm not sad to see him go; his acts as bad as they come, the scratching my ass and crotch type of low-flying humor, bringing down the quality of the show quite a notch. Adios and good luck.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Democratic Idea.

June 15, Rancho Cordova, California.

The circus is parked in Hagan Park, in Rancho Cordova, a suburb of Sacramento.
Beautiful public park, vast expanse of shaded, well-tended lawns, oaks, pines, magnolias, ponds and paths, baseball field after baseball field, stretching as far as the eye can see. The idea that you need to set aside land for public use, as strong today in the expanding suburbs as it was in 1858 when Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed that quintessential public park, Central Park, in New York City, the civic idea, the idea of the American democracy, unique in history, passionately alive despite or because of the other side of the American coin, the greed, the reign of money gone crazy, the Enrons, the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
The public park, or the embodiment of the American faith in the fundamental goodness of its democratic experiment. My own love affair with America and the American idea, the ongoing fascination, after all these years, in spite of everything, still.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


June 14, Lodi.

Dylan turns seven months today, and has turned impossible lately. The last two nights he has screamed his head off at bed time for no apparent reason, and no calming technique will work. It is as if my worst fears about screaming babies had come to bear, those old nightmares from when I didn't want to even hear the word baby; me, I'll never have kids, thanks and don't bother to ask again, and it makes me feel not only inadequate but also unworthy as he struggles and pushes me away no matter what I do.
Welcome to the club - like a faint echo.


June 13, Lodi, California.

Went to Wal-mart to look for the last supplies needed to put the finishing touches on the custom-made crib (inauguration was last Saturday, no wood splitting, baby survived,) the "small" version, as usual in California, where the first giant so-called Wal-mart supercenter only opened a couple of years ago. I remember covering it for the Press-Enterprise; the first giant store allowed to open in the state was in La Quinta, near Palm Springs; they're still far and between. It occurred to me that there wasn't a town we worked between Brownsville, Texas, and Twentynine Palms, California, that didn't have a Wal-mart supercenter. Not one. California, with its scarcity of giant Wal-marts, feels like a foreign land.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

98 glory days.

June 11, Elk Grove.

Another wake-up call full of shouts. Mexico against Iran, the shouts were for the three goals Mexico scored, to win 3 to 1. In truth I was expecting more of a showing under the cookhouse ten, only about a dozen people were there, but that was enough to raise a storm.
The emotion, the excitement reminding me of the 1998 World Cup, France's triumph at home, trois à zéro, the mounting fervor, the madness, the passion, the country united, beating with one heart, the dream come true of the final match against Brasil, the streets of Paris taken over by millions, literally, after the victory, the whole country erupting in one shout, uniting in a frenzy of joy and pride, Black Blanc Beur, forgetting its ills and disputes, together in the unexpected, overwhelming, jubilant victory. Nothing like a little sports to patch up the frayed social fabric of a country already torn apart by its immigrant challenge.
If only it had lasted for more than the time it took to play that glorious World Cup.

Alberto Sanchez Martinez, better known as Beto, shows his colors during the Mexico/Iran match.


June 10, Elk Grove, California.

Yesterday we were awaken by a shouting assault, coming from the cookhouse behind us. La Copa del Mundo, la Coupe du Monde, the soccer World Cup 2006 had begun.
(Today tio Tito shut himself up in his trailer this afternoon to watch the Argentina/Ivory Coast match; the guys wouldn't leave him alone about it. He emerged triumphantly, wearing the Argentinian team's shirt, after the first Argentina goal.)
It was a day full of shouts, the soccer fans' (ie, everybody in the circus minus, maybe, Ekaterina) and Dylan's. He's turned impossible these past few days, testing his voice and our patience. And then we also got married, swearing the eternal love of marriage in the Sacramento county clerk's office, in an airless room under a plastic canopy with white and pink plastic flowers and two little white plastic angels on the side. After being together for more than five years we held hands before Dylan, a marriage commissioner and an anonymous witness, half mangling the vows, overcome by emotion after all.
(Argentina won.)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Birthdays and a little house of dolls.

June 7, Vacaville.
Yesterday was Fridman's birthday. I threw him a party last night, and Shirly and her family surprised us by coming all the way from San Bruno. Angelo telenovela, continued.
Fridman turned 28. He didn't want a party, didn't want to do anything, not even tell his friends in the circus about it: the obsession of youth, feeling "old" when you're still in your twenties. I don't know whether it's related, but the Spanish language's love affair with diminutives reminds me of this youth fixation. There isn't a loaf of bread that isn't a "pancito," a little bread; a car that's not a "carrito," a little car; a dog that's not a "perrito," a little dog, as if all of Latino America were a house of dolls.

Ekaterina and Fridman's cake.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A tooth.

June 5, Vacaville, California.

Another first: Dylan got his first tooth today, barely visible in the bulging gum but there all right.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Circus bets.

June 4, Santa Rosa.

World Cup raffle last night at the cookhouse, organized by tío Tito. For twenty dollars one could bet on the best team, for ten on the worst. The United States team name predictably drew unanimous laughs.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


June 3, Santa Rosa.

In the early morning hours I steal a few moments to read.
This would be the perfect time for me to work; if I'm lucky like today the baby naps and Fridman is still asleep, everything is nice and quiet. But I can't work because I need electricity to be able to connect to the internet (I use an ethernet bridge, which plugs in,) and the circus generator is not turned on until much later, usually around 9:30 AM or so. So I indulge - I read.
In the package my Mom sent me there was a book she'd liked. It's called "American Vertigo," by Bernard-Henri Lévy. "BHL," as he is alternatively affectionately and derisively called by his countrymen, is the quintessential French intellectual: a philosopher and writer, he is self-important, sophisticated, artfully arrogant, and of TV stardom status. He is as a matter of fact married to a flamboyant actress, Arielle Dombasle, very American in her bleach blond-skinny-and-extra-wide-smile style, and they are a celebrity couples' dream team. I suppose it does say something for French society that philosophers and writers regularly attain such movie star status, for BHL is by no means the only one.
The book, which the author says was commissioned by The Atlantic magazine, is a road trip through the United States on the heels of that most famous of Frenchmen in this country after Lafayette, Alexis de Tocqueville. It is an easy read and surprisingly interesting. But the devil is in the details.
Lévy devotes two pages, for example, to the theory that the left lane on highways not being intended for faster drivers is a reflection of the equalitarian nature of the US. I guess like a majority of American drivers he let all the "Slower vehicles keep right" signs on the side of the highway go totally unnoticed. Further on he goes on for a whole sub-chapter ("Hillary and the stain") about Hillary Rodham Clinton's run for president being hard on her because she would have to face being into the very office where her husband cheated on her.
All in all more revealing of the French obsession with the sex life of their politicians than they would like to admit, in a country where a president served two seven-year terms with a daughter by one of his mistresses growing up in a posh Paris neighborhood a well-kept secret, and if I'm not mistaken, at the taxpayers' expense (the nature of the French press and its role in that affair, no pun intended - most newsmen knew of the daughter but none came out publicly about it until the president had officially okayed it, after he'd left office.)
In another oops instance, BHL talks about Lackawanna being "50 miles west of Buffalo, NY." You're left to wonder if the guy actually did make the trip or just sent someone to sweat out the traffic, and whether very intellectual editors in France know how to check a map.
I'm only a quarter into the book.
(To be continued.)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Jim's prayer.

June 2, Santa Rosa, California.

Fuji is out of intensive care; he's now at a rehabilitation center in Santa Cruz. Jim came back to the circus last night.
"He is improving every day," he said. Fuji still has no use of nor feelings in half his body, with all the implications this has. "How do you tie your shoes with only one hand?" asked Jim. "His face is dropping on one side and when people see him at the circus he's going to look sad, but on his first day at the hospital we didn't know if he was going to live, so there's a lot of improvement," he added.
Jim found a card on the ground in the parking lot of the hospital on that first day. It was the Lord's Prayer in Spanish. There was no garbage on the lot, not even a piece of paper anywhere to be seen. "There was absolutely nothing around, but there was this card," Jim said. "On those first days I clung to that. It was a sign that he was going to be all right," Jim said, smiling, as he showed me the card.
Where it not for the merciful goodwill of the hospital there would be some one hundred thousand dollars worth of bills to pay. A day in rehab alone runs into the three thousand dollar range. "They were really good; they worked with us so that it would not be that much," said Jim. Yet one more reminder of the painfully obvious fact that this country is desperately in need of a health care system worthy of the name, one that includes everybody and is affordable for the common man, not to mention for society as a whole.

You can't afford health care but you're surrounded with cheap stuff. In unrelated news we the lucky few, the rich Westerners, live in a society where it actually costs more to buy something in a store than make it yourself.
We went to buy supplies to make a mattress for the custom-made crib Fridman has built for Dylan and found out it would cost about a third more to do so than to buy a mattress at the local chain store. Simple economic supply and demand logic, yet there is something unsettling about the idea.

Blind faith.

June 1, Petaluma.

I got a package my mother sent me from France care of the United States Post Office general delivery last week. For anybody in this country, nothing to write home about, but for circus people getting mail - and getting it on time - is rather like Christmas.
Mail is somewhat of an erratic luxury in the circus, and general delivery for mail coming from overseas is an uncertain gamble at best. Given that the time it takes for mail to come from overseas varies greatly (I like to imagine it must depend on whether it catches an early flight, like a businessman,) you then have to aim it so that it's not at the post office for more than ten days before you go pick it up, or it will be sent back, but at the same time it has to be there in time for you to pick it up, too, and the window of opportunity is usually three days, six at most.
The game involves a little bit of luck, a good deal of planning, and a pinch of blind faith.

First times story.

May 31, Petaluma, California.

First time in the booster seat for Dylan (no space for high chairs in a trailer,) and even though he doesn't sit unassisted yet he was just grand. Ah, the time of first times - always going back to the founding principle: carpe diem through life with a passion.
He's started taking solid foods more easily, a month after I slowly introduced them. I prepare everything at home and bow to the steamer and food processor gods. Like the cloth diapers (see The Diaper Dilemna,) home-prepared food was not even pondered; it was always a given Dylan would sharpen his taste buds on home-cooked meals from the very first one, made with organic or locally grown produce whenever possible. Gerber doesn't need my money, and my baby does deserve the best I can give him.
One more thing on the To-Do daily list: bon appétit.