Thursday, May 31, 2007

A dogged party.

May 31, Petaluma.

My back's been hurting more than usual and it's painful even to pick up Peanut and rock him. Staying up until the middle of the night on Sunday night at Mike and Michelle's party probably didn't help.
Mike and Michelle, and that's as much as we know about them, are devoted circus fans, at least Circus Chimera fans, in addition to pinball machine fans - they line the wall in their living room, all lit up, the only time I could play and consistently lose without losing all my change either.
Every year when the circus is in Novato, near their San Anselmo home, they come to the show and invite the artists to a party afterwards, and it usually runs through the night. This year it was different, there was none of the performers they've come to know throughout the years, the Chimals especially, and the party was reduced to Saul, Alexela and Vanessa and the two of us plus assorted kids, and the inevitable Angelo (can't miss a party) and his girlfriend du jour. It was only three o'clock in the morning when I started keeling over from fatigue and asked for the keys to drive home with the babies, and as the dancers followed there went the party. No group plunge into the jacuzzi out on the deck under the midnight star, no dancing til the morning light comes up, the odd sleeper out on the couch, next to the cat, who'll be avoiding the neighborhood of their new bull mastiff, 130-poud puppy.
The "puppy," the true star of the party, surely looked more like an elephant to 24-pound Dylan, who unfortunately for him kept running for his life the minute he saw him, thereby triggering a mad dash from the dog, in turn triggering more desperate running from Dylan, who'd soon fall and be overcome by the dog, its face bigger than that of the baby, its body the size of an overfed pony. Much licking and crying would ensue, until one of us would come to Dylan's rescue - the whole thing enfolding again within minutes as it is as hard to prevent a toddler from running than it is a dog.
Dylan was asleep before his head hit the car seat, and I wish I could do the same.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A trailer with a view.

May 29, Petaluma, California.

Sometimes the view doesn't reflect the location. Here we are, in Petaluma, again in the same lot as last year, the fairgrounds, and it's a flat, immaculate grassy lot - flat a godsend, a nice clean lawn the Hilton of circus lots - one of those you dream about in circus traveling life and all that can be seen from the trailer are ugly fences and electric poles. Life isn't fair, even to perfect circus lots.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Good moves.

May 27, Novato.

The circus is moving early today because of Memorial Day, same as last year. The shows will be at 1:30 and 4:30PM and we'll leave after that. It felt like a party when we arrived on the lot early evening last year, like a school kid out on a snow day. Hurray!
What's changed from last year is that we now usually move on Monday nights instead of Sunday, and that makes a world of difference: there are only two shows on Mondays, not three, the performers are not exhausted from the week end's marathon schedule. Hurray!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A year later.

May 27, Novato.

A year later we're again on the grounds of the Saint Vincent School for Boys, a tall mission-style church towering over the tent and trailers. Last year it was a beautiful lot with lush grass; I remember arriving in the field, there was nobody ahead of us, the moon was almost full and it was peaceful and quiet as it can only be in the dead of the night, and the scent of the grass when I stepped out of the truck, it was thick and green, and there was a minty fragrance in the air.
This year it's dry as a tinderbox, the hay stalks to thick they make you stumble. Dylan cannot walk in this field, so he's been cooped up in the trailer most days, pobrecito.
What a difference a year makes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A trailer with a view.

May 25, Novato.

Dark fog.

May 25, Novato, California..

I'd forgotten how it feels to travel for several hours at night with the circus. Or maybe I'd never done it while caring for two babies.
Last night the circus moved from Scotts Valley, near Santa Cruz, to Novato, a town some 20 miles north of San Francisco. We drove right through the city; tractor-trailers careening along the up-and-downhill streets of San Francisco, mercifully late enough that traffic was not a problem, on to the star of bridges. The Golden Gate bridge was enshrouded in fog, not unusual but very beautiful.
We arrived short of three in the morning and Nicolas woke up on cue. The trailer was a mess after its maiden trip, a teapot and mugs broken after a rotten highway, too many a pothole taken at 65 miles an hour.
Today my back aches and I have trouble keeping my eyes open. So what else is new?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mad maneuvers (continued.)

May 24, Scotts Valley.

Here's some of the less good part. We left in a 36-feet trailer with two slide-outs, came back in a ten years older, 6 feet shorter one with no slides, total square footage around 150. It's nice and cozy.
It was my home in southern California, a few years back when I was working as a newspaper photojournalist there. I just loved living in it, went crazy decorating it, painstakingly planted a garden in the pocket-size patch of solid-packed dirt in front (neighbors told me the last renter was a car mechanic who used it as a shop.) Coach RV and Mobile Home Park in Rubidoux (gotta love the name) became my little piece of paradise, a unique community of odd people bound by a common worry (the cost of rent in the area) that went from a Vietnam vet and his disabled son to a retired country singer. I only regret not having taken the time to do a story about them while I was there.
It was my little paradise and mine only then; there's four of us living in the trailer now. Most days it looks more like hell than paradise.
In the evenings Duracell-Dylan often starts running the length of the trailer's "living-room," about 15 feet, back and forth, back and forth, banging against the cabinet door at one end and me at the other, and it's rather obvious he'd be happy with a lot more space, although I'm not sure it would make any difference in his behavior an hour later.

(From left) Vanessa, Alexela, Yvonne and Pablo on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz this morning (mimicking Dylan.)

Staying zen.

May 23, Scotts Valley.

Whoever said being zen was the answer never had to take care of Dylan today.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mad maneuvers.

May 22, Scotts Valley.

The circus, once again, is set up here exactly where it was last year, smack in the middle of the small town north of Santa Cruz up in the hills on highway 17. We can walk everywhere, which I did yesterday to go grocery shopping with the two monsters while Fridman was working.
It was the first time I attempted such an outing; as I walked the aisles of the store with a squirmy Nicolas in my arms (he'd started crying the minute I got there,) with the other pushing the double stroller, enormous, where Dylan sat asleep, hoping to stave off the screams until we got safely back home so Dylan wouldn't later on be a screaming feast himself from lack of sleep, and incidentally hoping to shop, three people in a row commented upon passing me by: "You've got your hands full!" displaying a look that went from frankly amused (it must have been my hat) to slightly preoccupied (was I going to veer off and come crashing into their caddie?)
It sinks in on me a little more with every day that passes (I'm a slow learner) that I'm back traveling with the circus, which as I remember I vowed not to do again as I left last year, with now not one but two kids under two. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I decided to do this. Not of maneuvering a Humer-stroller among the aisles of a grocery store with one hand, I wasn't. And that's the good part.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A trailer with a view.

May 21, Scotts Valley, California.

The view from my trailer's back window.
I've thought for a while of photographing it in each new location the circus parks; here's the first installment.
Better late than never.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

One day at a time.

May 20, San Jose.

I left the circus late in February, in the McAllen area of the Texas-Mexican border. Almost three months missing and a 800-mile road trip from there to New Mexico, countless other, shorter but no less exhausting trips between towns across New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California, miles and miles of highway barreling through towns and country in the dead of the night, ghost towns, imagined country seeming to stretch forever beyond the glass panes of the truck, the children sleeping behind me, the noise and rattle of the diesel engine lulling me, sleepiness creeping in, a long day awaiting still, the night much too brief to rest.
All this lies ahead of me now, with two babies instead of one, nights a brief moment between feedings, days long with nursing, playing and cajoling, the day's labor done if I've bathed them and cooked a decent meal, one day at a time, a woman said at a deli counter in Dallas when I asked her how she had coped with raising three kids much closer in age than Dylan and Nicolas, one day at a time.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

One of these days.

May 19, San Jose.

Four shows today. Three tomorrow, two on Monday, and on to the next town that night.
Anybody wanna join the circus?
The smiles will be on all day but the costumes might be a little rumpled by the third show, and the muscles sore. Tired feet will ache, backs will hurt, each step taken infinitely slower, before laying down to rest, to rest for tomorrow's smiles.
That might have been the real reason behind the otherwise rather titillating sortie of the two clowns from San Francisco.
The story goes that they were caught in an embarrassing position by pretty much the whole Mexican crew having a beer late at night at the cookhouse, and came by the office the next day a letter in hand from a freshly-hired lawyer requesting a break of their contract and subsequent departure.
I think they just couldn't take the seven days a week routine, the traveling late after a day's work deal, the portable toilets out in the boondocks treats, the cookhouse regimen of S and F (salt and fat galore,) circus life on a daily grind basis in all its delicacy on both body and soul. So they bolted at the first scandal, albeit an admittedly saucy one.
That they couldn't stand the heat is obvious. Which heat is the question.

The pursuit of happiness.

May 19, San Jose.

A few moments ago I was looking at Nicolas; he was looking back at me and suddenly he broke into a big wide smile.
Nothing simpler yet nothing better.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


May 17, San Jose.

I'm back with the circus and it feels as if I'd never left. We are at the Children's Museum in downtown San Jose, same as last year. Dylan was too small then to enjoy the museum; now he'll run wild.
He does that, he turned 18 months just three days ago. He's doing as good as an 18-month-old who's just been uprooted once again in a long list of once-agains, gone through a marathon five days road trip across the country and is having to deal with the arrival of a baby brother could possibly do. He's running wild, he's my love.
He's talking his own talk, lalala, la di da, and we're waiting to see what it turns out to be: French, Spanish, Dylanese sprinkled with English?

Dylan, May 2, Dallas, Texas.


May 15, San Jose.

My mother left today for France, she went back home and left me missing another set of precious arms, a soothing voice for Nicolas, she would hold him for hours at a time, talking to him, laughing, and I miss her so.
Nicolas is a more difficult baby than Dylan, sometimes hardly sleeping during the day, needing to be held and soothed long after he's nursed. He does that with gusto, he weighed 9'5 already at his last pediatrician visit before we hit the road. I wrap him in a burrito-style swaddle, rock him and sing, use a tototte (my Mom's lingo for a pacifier,) whatever it takes to calm him down. He's an adorable burrito.
My mother stayed with me a month and a half, planning her trip for Nicolas' birth. He was born in a birthing center in Dallas similar to the one where Dylan was born in Savannah. Labor was half the time it took for Dylan, only an hour - "only" for all those who have never been through labor pains.
Still. An hour labor, a natural birth without a hitch and a healthy baby, miraculous all.
Nicolas opened his eyes the moment he was born and sometimes it seems he's not shut them since. Always his eyes wide open, dark blue still, taking the world in. The other thing that struck us the moment he arrived were his fingers, incredibly long and fine, like a pianist in the womb.
He was tiny, and seemed tinier. I named him my Peanut, although when he was born I thought he rather looked like E.T., the friendly little alien; his face had that long, triangular shape, all bones and big eyes. Just a couple of weeks later my mother thought he looked more like a Buddha, double chin and all.
My Peanut, my little Buddha, Nicolas, welcome to the world.

Nicolas, 6 weeks old.

We're back.

May 14, San Jose, California.

We're back, plus one.
Nicolas was born on March 31 in Dallas.
He weighed just 6 pounds 2, a tiny creature I was afraid to handle, another miracle of life continued, life unfolding, where there was nothing, only there was, and he's here now, my Peanut, my love.

Nicolas Hadrien Torales Berta, April 12, 2007.