Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ten years and three days left.

June 29, Newark.

So this is it. Last set up. Last time this morning the tent was raised, last time the circus rose from the depth of trucks by bare arms, stake after stake, board after board, tent and seats and everything in between and around, on Monday they'll take it down and there will be no more Circus Chimera.
Ten years of sweat and joy, of routines and thrills, of friendships and love and fights and laughs, ten years of hard work, seven days a week and ten months a year, ten years of ups and downs and the down finally won but it's the good times you'll remember, the full houses, the cheering, the awe of the circus. Ten years and three days left.
It was like family after all, Circus Chimera, Circus Chismera they call it, a play on words, "chisme" meaning gossip in Spanish. I'll miss my circus family, all these people I've come to know, I'll miss the road and the late nights, but I won't miss the cold and the heat and the fatigue, nor all the ugly lots, like the last one, and I'll miss even less the cookhouse food (but I'll miss tio Tito, the cookhouse manager.)
The electricity is about to be cut, I'll rush and post this (I won't miss that either.)

Saul waiving.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A trailer with a (last) view.

June 29, Newark, California.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The ants.

June 27, Vacaville.

They've been dogging me since Texas. The ants.
They trek around my kitchen, a solitary soldier mostly, only rarely a group of them, and I squash them and there's another one, and another one, endlessly they appear, unfathomably, one after the other and here's another, but where are they coming from, an under-keyed invasion, they keep coming, here's another taking a stroll on Peanut's pajamas, and one on the kitchen counter, the solitary searchers, since I left Texas they've been here, coming from the depths of the trailer or from outside I do not know, did I provide a free pass to Texas ants to go west or are these locals quick to the task?
Le mystere reste entier.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Welcome to the city of Vacaville.

June 27, Vacaville.

The city of Vacaville police are an interesting case of 21st-century small town fascism, made in the U.S.A.
Yesterday, the first day here, all performers are laborers were summoned to the cookhouse to have their picture taken, jail mug shot style, and their passport checked by the local police. Later on they came back with badges bearing the City of Vacaville police seal (a deceptively sunny logo,) "Special Event Permit, Circus Chimera, each person's Name, Expires 6-28-07," and the aforementioned picture. The reason officially given was that "vagrants" and other undesirable people had infiltrated traveling shows staying in the city.
So it seems you need a permit to stay if you don't own a home here. I didn't know it was a crime not to own a home, whether because you're homeless, or a transient, or simply traveling through, in the United States or in any other self-described democracies. Isn't this "a free country," as is often claimed (the meaning of this another debate altogether)? The badge of course makes one think of the uber-infamous token of identification, the yellow star Nazi Germany made all Jews wear.
Vagrants, homeless, gypsies, untouchables, circus people, the faces change, the societies change, but always it's the Others, whoever they are, the old human frailty born of ignorance and fear. We don't exactly know who you are but we don't like you.

Spikes and screams.

June 26, Vacaville.

The lot is full of tiny razor-sharp spikes, so taking Dylan out to walk around is not possible. Just stepping out of the trailer is out of the question. One feels like a fakir walking on a bed of nails. This is one of those lots that makes you rejoice over the circus closing.
Dylan is going to miss the last couple of days, when Peanut, he and I were spending time by the performers' entrance at the back of the circus, during the last shows, when the heat has waned and it's nice being out, and there Dylan ran and danced and played, with Jose Ivan and the performers, and it was a joy watching him, his boundless energy, his glee, the expressions on his face.
No such thing here, the poor kid's been cooped up all day and by early evening the wailing and the screaming was reaching burn-out levels, for both of us.
Two more days of this.

Chinese performer, "Rawhide" lasso act, June 25.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A trailer with a view.

June 26, Vacaville, California.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The circus.

June 25, Pleasant Hill.

A week to go and circus life is over.
Some of the Mexican laborers are going to work for carnivals. Some are going back to Mexico. Another circus may open, no details, no set date, no more than conjectures and rumors.
I've often wondered why the modern circus is confused with carnivals. I found the answer in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which, under "carnival" states: "A traveling entertainment combining the features of both circus and amusement park (...) developing out of the same roots as the early 19th-century circus - the 'mud shows'."
No confusion then, circus and carnival are in a sense the same thing. But the modern circus has evolved so much since its mud show ancestor that the two can barely be compared today. The ongoing similarities: they are both traveling entertainment. One day here, the next gone, although circuses in the United States nowadays tend to stay in one place for much less time than the carnivals do, and some, like the Carson and Barnes circus, travel from town to town each and every day.
And here the similitude ends. For a circus is an artistic creation, not just an entertainment business. At its best it is acrobatics, dance and visual art combined - and sometimes, in the elegance of a gesture, the confluence of inspiration and the perfection of a routine's execution, in a fleeting moment, an etat de grace*. The circus is a performer's creation, a creation born of the body enabled, in sweat and repetition, in someone's perseverance and sore muscles and blisters, and as such it is like all performing arts.
Like all other performing arts it is ephemeral and transient. Only it takes this fugacious state and makes it its essence. The circus performance is there for you to see today, the circus tent is there, imposing, yet in a few hours it is gone, like a figure drawn in the sand, impermanent, passing, like a Buddhist's trick.
Tomorrow we'll be gone, and gone for good. Circus Chimera, "A Creation of the Imagination," is shutting down, not just passing on.
But it is, too.

*A state of grace.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

You said what?

June 23, Pleasant Hill.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Last year's chicken.

June 22, Pleasant Hill.

Last year here morning sickness kicked in; Nicolas was on his way. I remember eating a rotisserie chicken bought at the Safeway down the street, my usual pregnancy sure thing symptom.
He's asleep in his rocker now.
(Here was where we did the Crazy Show last year too.)

Roadside religion.

June 22, Pleasant Hill.

On Route 4 near Brentwood, a church sign: "Let us pray for you, submit your request at"

A trailer with a view (next to last one.)

June 22, Pleasant Hill, California.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A trailer with a view.

June 19, Brentwood, California.

This is the kind of landscape I had in mind when I started the Trailer with a View shots, the kind of landscape I was looking at in town after town last year, especially before we hit California, suburbia spreading, towns expanding into the seemingly endless land, a new mall, dirt fields turning into more shopping opportunities, open country about to be covered by more new homes, next year this lot will not be available anymore and somebody will be living in my trailer's backyard.
Except of course now there will be no next year.

Monday, June 18, 2007


June 18, Antioch.

No more Circus Chimera. Everybody in the circus was flabbergasted, we're all a little dazed now. More than ten years wiped off with a few words, in a few minutes.
The future, which lay for months ahead in innumerable drives and towns and states, California for a while more, then Oregon and Washington, New Mexico and back to Texas, in show after show, in good weather and bad, in good lots and terrible ones, the shifting and routine future of the traveling circus, the future is now looming wide and uncertain, a vague threat.
For us there is nothing solid, just a void to be filled, quickly. The days are counted.
I wanted to postpone going back to work full-time until Nicolas was a year old and breastfeed him all the while, as happened for Dylan, but that may not be possible now, and I feel immensely sad. But things can turn out for the best; the only certainty is that everything can change at the drop of a (circus) hat.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My husband, the clown.

June 17, Antioch.

Fridman Torales Rios, acrobat, clown, assistant show manager and then some, truck driver. Going to work, Circus Chimera, 1:30 PM show.

And again.

June 17, Antioch.


June 17, Antioch.


June 17, Antioch.

Here, along with Peanut bien sur, is the most important thing among all the turmoil.

Peanut talks.

June 17, Antioch.

Speaking of families, we have lengthy talks, two-month-old Peanut and I, and laughs too. In the quiet morning hours before Dylan wakes up, we talk and talk. He's a talker, my Peanut, and such a flirt. I can't believe he's so beautiful.
After a period of restlessness that unfortunately coincided with our road trip, he's also turned into a wonderfully "good" baby, sage comme une image, "How do you keep him so quiet?" asked Richard the other day when we visited and Peanut was in the car seat being shuffled around without so much as uttering a peep; he nurses and kicks and talks awhile and then falls asleep, and if he fusses at all, a swaddle, a gentle rocking and maybe a totote to the rescue will do the trick in no time.
Thus the days fly by.

Late breaking news.

June 16, Antioch.

The circus is closing in two weeks.
Not a word of explanation, nothing, just Roy going from performer to performer during the last show. Looks like we're all going to have to scramble and find other plans to feed our families.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


June 16, Antioch.

Looking for examples of Navajo cradle carrying online.
In a Walmart store in Gallup, New Mexico, during a mid-day stop on our road trip to California my mother spotted a woman carrying her baby all bundled up and ran to me: "Not only was the baby swaddled, he was all laced up!" I've wanted to look it up ever since.
Most if not all the people I know think it's vaguely barbarous to swaddle your baby like this, although they also remember how their grandparents used to do it. The combination of swaddling and/or carrying in a sling close to the body can be found in cultures all around the world since times immemorial, and for obvious reasons: the baby is reminded of the womb and thus soothed and calmed, the mother can carry him/her easier and go on with her tasks. Dona Maigo's mother in Brazil; Alexela's mother in Mexico, the old Albanian aunt in the Ismail Kadare novel I'm reading, what was surely a Navajo Indian woman at Walmart in New Mexico, those of us sharing in what appears to be the latest hip-Mom fad are only going back full circle, following the trail she in the wisdom of her people never left.

A trailer with a view.

June 16, Antioch.

(Not posted yesterday - see previous post.)

Pains and saints.

June 15, Antioch, California.

It wasn't a bad cold, it was an acutely severe case of either strep throat or tonsil inflammation, we're not quite sure; what is sure is that I've never seen Fridman like this, never seen him sick like this, he's rarely sick at all as it is, never seen him not work, never seen him double over and cry in pain. He didn't work yesterday, except for helping with the parking, although he did try to get up for the show.
Again Norma saved me. She'd offered to help- her husband is a cardiologist, they know their way around the medical world, - if we ever needed to find a doctor in the area; as Fridman grew worse by the hour yesterday I decided to call her. It is the big throwback of life on the road, not knowing where to go when one of us is ill, especially the children; it is hard enough to find a good physician anywhere, much more at the drop of a hat not knowing anybody or anything in town. We went up to Napa, and hour drive from Antioch, and ended up having her husband himself see Fridman.
A heavy does of penicilin and narcotic pain killers later he's at long last feeling a little better. So he went back to work; not to the doors, he's too contagious, not doing the upside down walk, for that would most probably leave me with two orphan boys to raise, but the clown acts.
And that's the beauty of life on the road with the circus, the friends you make, and sometimes when you need them most.

An end note: I thought my father, who died of cancer in November 2002, was difficult when he was sick, which was often in the last years of his life; nothing like Fridman, who acted as if I bore the responsibility of the pain he was in. I though my Mom was a saint for taking care of my father all these years; I didn't know how much it took to be a saint (as if on cue Nicolas was fussy all day and Dylan the toddler from hell; it's a long, hard way to sainthood.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Three acts.

June 14, Pittsburg.

Act One -12:30 PM.
It was already hot at six thirty, when Nicolas woke me up; by eight it was 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) in the trailer. They didn't turn on the generator until nine thirty. The temperature got down to 82 (28 Celsius) after an hour of air-conditionned on low, to spare the network.
It's too hot to take Dylan outside so he's been cooped up in the 150-and-some square feet of space that make up our home all morning, and he's getting wilder by the minute, running up and down the length of the main room - 15 feet, tops - and still he's been up since seven and doesn't look like he's going to take a nap any time soon.
Act Two - 3 PM.
Dylan climbed up next to his Dad, looked at me and pointed at his diaper, I changed him, he climbed right back up there and crashed within seconds.
Act Three - 3:30 PM.
We just learnt there will be only one show today, at 7:30, no doubt because of the heat, which has reached unbearable highs. It's 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) in the trailer, and we now have the air on high. Not the day to be sick. Fridman's been down all day with what appears to be a severe cold and sore throat. It started yesterday and with pain killers he felt a little better; today he's been so sick he can't swallow even water and winces in pain. When he tried to eat soup earlier he started crying.
I'm taking care of three men today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More on water.

June 13, Pittsburg.

This is what I like about living on the road, living in a circus: the necessary thrift, everything is counted thus everything becomes precious - but it was always precious, somewhere down the road to modernity we just forgot it. Water is but one thing that you learn to use wisely. Water tanks, both clean and used, are small and emptying them is always costly; you have to find a dumping place and then find the time to dump on the way to the next destination, and there isn't always a site close by. Wasting water is not an option. You close the tab when you brush your teeth (I never understood why it was needed to have the water running while you do that; the energy to turn it off too much to ask?) but also when you wash your hands, between soaping up and rinsing, or the dishes; toilets don't use much water as they don't have a fresh-water tank attached. We still use a lot of water compared to a family in Africa, but a hell of a lot less than your average North American household.
Electricity is just as precious. The generator is shut off at night , and most people do not have their own private one to turn on. It's usually back on around nine, and because the heating system doesn't work in my old trailer, on a cold morning the temperature is the same inside as it is outside, and this morning it was hot. You learn to cope, and to view electric light as what it is, miraculous, and costly, just like pretty much everything else in our sophisticated, technology-driven world this side of the North/South divide.

An old generator.

June 13, Pittsburg.

It's close to a hundred degrees here today, simply miserable.
Roy being away, Fridman took it upon himself as assistant manager to shorten the show. There was about 25 people in the audience. I'm surprised that many came out to seat in a sweltering tent for tan hour and a half.
The break our trailer is connected to keeps shutting off because with every trailer using air-conditionning at full balst there's a surcharge in the circus network. The circus generator is not the best either; it used to be at the Carson and Barnes Circus, they sold it to Jim because it was old; that was ten years ago. That Jay and the electric crew keep it going is a tribute to their ingenuity.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

No water - much like the rest of the world.

June 12, Pittsburg.

Water access was restricted in Martinez because of an incident in the past when runoff water was spilled into the lot by one of the trailer and the circus was fined; by the time we thought of filling the water tank there was no water, and the tank was good and empty. Chance has it, of course, that here in Pittsburg there is so far no water either, this time because of problems with the city pipes into the lot. So it's now 5:30 in the afternoon and we haven't had water all day, no showers, no dishwashing, no water to clean the babies or to wash one's hands, not a drop.
Just like 40 percent of the world population, actually, people who have to walk miles to get water, and pay a high cost for it, who carry it back in a bucket, as Fridman's family did when he was growing up in Peru, people who have to wash in the river, hot or cold, who spare each drop of what they have. We have grown so spoiled, turning on the magical faucet, and in so many other ways. Water is precious, and it's running out.
I thought living on the road was going to be a grinding ordeal and it turned out to be nothing of the kind, water or no water. There are difficulties, but they are laughable compared to what goes on for those millions of women in the rest of the world scraping a living and trying to raise their family in unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
Life on the road is a breeze.

More on the Crazy Show.

June 12, Pittsburg, California.

Yesterday afternoon I lay down opposite Dylan on the couch to get him to nap but fell asleep before he did; too many nights staying up too late on top of too many short nights and my body simply refused to go on and shut off like an engine out of gas. We slept all afternoon. It was but an extreme version of a typical morning; getting up when Peanut wakes me, usually around seven thirty, I struggle to open my eyes and gather the strength to move.
No time to write more than a cursory word on the Crazy Show then, so here are the crunchy details.
Goyo, Ivan, Pancho, Calimba, el Chupadito, Marcos, Rafa, Chavo et les autres did the dancers, and Goyo most of the performers' sidekick, Saul did Raul's juggling act, one of the dancers' rope acts and the Andrea part of the roller-skate act, Raul did the cowboy whip act (the act was added to the show over the week end; it is performed by one of the Chinese boys and Vanessa, the Chinese boy as cowboy a quixotic and rather hilarious sight,) and dances, and Fridman another of the dancers' rope act and the other Gino part of the roller-skate act. Rafa's aide, I have to ask him how to spell his name, I'd rather not botch it, did a hulla hoop act and the balancing act one of the Chinese girls did last week to replace the roller-skating act after Andrea fell and couldn't perform for a few days; he was supposed to try some contortions but fell flat on his face off the table before he could even move, one of the best laughs of the night, if unintentional. Chavo did the main part of the malambo, El Chupadito did Raul's contortion, climbing into a cardboard box, dressed in a leotard with muscle outlines. The calendar "girls" wore diapers and various versions of beer boxes art on their heads.
One of Richard's friend told Fridman that Angelo, who worked with Chimera when the circus was first started, made a beautiful woman impersonator, but that he was a strong runner-up. He did look great with make-up and wig, I think he'd make a dazzling transvestite. Some of the crew guys that performed in the show are gay (Goyo, Rafa.) That they be willing to brave the cliches of gay men who like to wear dresses and come up to perform in the Crazy Show, living in an intensely homophobic world as they do - as can be expected in a Latin American blue-collar men's world, - is as remarkable as it is laudable.
Hats off to Goyo and Rafa then, it was a riot of a show.

Calendar Girls: (from left) Fridman, Raul, Goyo, Calimba, Pancho, Ivan and Marcos.

A trailer with (not much of) a view.

June 12, Pittsburg, California.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Crazy Show, 2007.

June 11, Martinez.

Crazy show last night, the annual Circus Chimera spoof (see the August 13th post of last year.)
I'll have to check how it got started, who's behind it, the what, where, why of it, because I don't know of any other circuses in this country that do it. Several guys from the crew, Ivan, Rafa, the cook, Goyo, Pancho, Calimba, el Chupadito and others, impersonating the performers, performers impersonating other performers, Saul, Raul and Fridman, nobody was spared.
Goyo was everywhere as one of the dancers and he was great, a natural; Calimba, as a clown, wasn't bad either.
Those are not their real names but the nickname they go by; I doubt anybody knows their real names except maybe Armando because he handles the pay and this gets to see the official side of things.

Candyman dance: (from left) Rafa, Fridman, Marcos and Goyo.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm not a monster.

Thank you, Norma.
Norma Quintana is a photographer, like me, although these days I mostly tend to forget I was ever a photojournalist, ever somebody else than a walking milk supply, happy meal cook, all-purpose maid, small event organizer, truck driver and toddler theatrics and song master, ever somewhere other than in a 29-foot trailer parked at the back of a circus in a lot after another that look like the last one, ever feeling other than exhausted and under-appreciated, unworthy and misunderstood, ever feeling other than ignorant of the rest of the world stretching with the sweet glowing aura of the unattainable outside the confines of my 18-month-old's round eyes and two-month-old toothless smile, ever somebody else than a full-time Mom with a double stroller and a minivan, ever someone other than a sometimes totally desperate trailer wife.
Norma came by yesterday and we talked. I love visits, they're like a window into the world of normal people living normal lives out there. They also provide entertainment, like going to the movies, which is one of the things I never can do anymore.
Norma and I talked about the circus, of course, she's been photographing Circus Chimera for a long time and we toy with joint projects, and then about motherhood too - she just adopted a three-year-old girl from China after raising her own two children, now grown, - and that's when she made me sane again. What she told me about taking care of her two babies back then made me breathe a deep, long-held sigh of relief. All this time I thought I was a monster for wanting kids and then sometimes resenting this strange new sidelined life, resenting the fact that I couldn't do much anymore while my husband went on having a good time as usual, for wanting kids and then crying with frustration over them and my freedom past, for missing my work so much, for feeling guilty over not feeling happy, ecstatic and oh so wonderful about being a mother, as everybody kept saying I should, and they grow up so fast, enjoy it!, and here I was and time seemed to have ground down to an agonizingly slow succession of endless housebound days.
Turns out I wasn't entirely alone.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

And again.

June 8, Martinez.


June 8, Martinez.

Beau comme Apollon.

June 8, Martinez.

That's what it says on his shirt, "As beautiful as Apollo."

Friday, June 08, 2007

A trailer with a view.

June 8, Martinez.

Late nights.

June 8, Martinez, California.

I did it again. I arranged for a surprise birthday dinner for Fridman at Angelo's sister's house on Wednesday night after the show and the sky was getting light by the time I drove into the lot; I didn't look at the clock but it must have been close to five in the morning.
Two days later I am still paying.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Investor's little fixer!

Investor's little fixer!
June 6, Benicia.

Today is Fridman's birthday; he turns 29. The dancers gave him a shirt; we went out for brunch.
It's been warm but not too much in the day and cool at night, the perfect mall-temperature type weather. The location is near perfect too. The circus has never been in this town and I hope they like us ok so we can come back. We couldn't ask for a better lot, although bigger would be better; not only is it one of these above-mentioned flat grass lots, the grass is so lush it feels as if you were walking on carpet. The lot is surrounded by trees, pine trees and palm trees and redwoods and many others I don't know the name of along the streets; we are in the middle of town, within walkable distance of shops, and a nice little town it is, too (I took up a real estate brochure on a stroll with the kids yesterday; an ugly house the size of my trailer, "Investor's little fixer!" sets you back "just $315,000.")

Away from the circus.

June 5, Benicia.

I stayed in Dallas from the end of February to early May, when my mother and I made the road trip to California with the two babies. I stayed with Sheyla, Fridman's sister, and her in-laws, a circus family from Brazil who settled in Dallas four years ago.
Sheyla's boyfriend, Alain - a French name they pronounce the English way, Alan, - is their youngest son, a quiet lanky boy of eighteen, with long, jet-black hair he wears loose, an aquiline nose, and a soft smile that came out often when he held his then four-month-old baby son, Fridman (Sheyla named him after her brother, not out of tradition or respect but because she just liked the name; it's a stranger name yet on a baby.) Alain has an adult's eagerness and seems mature beyond his adolescent's years; his patience with his baby is endearing. Fridman's cries coming from the house soon became familiar but they would be less frequent once Alain would come back from school; Sheyla, at her wits' end, would hand him the baby as soon as he got out of the car and he wouldn't put Fridman down for much time after that, rocking him, talking to him, letting go only for him to nurse.
Sheyla met Alain by accident, as these things happen, as she was looking for a place to stay after deciding to leave the circus in order to study and try and get ahead. Alain's parents, Sandro and Margarida Ordoniz, we call don Sandro and dona Maigo in the Latino custom of addressing people who are older than you in a respectful way. They are both circus performers, but whereas dona Maigo (her real name is Margarida) comes from a circus family, don Sandro became a circus artist after his mother, unwed, abandoned him as a young child, leaving him with relatives, who didn't take care of him. He was rescued by a dwarf who worked in a circus; the man raised him and taught him what would become his livelihood: don Sandro did a hand balancing act and was once famous for it in Brazil. Later, when he worked in her family's circus, he met dona Maigo; they had two sons, Narley and Alain.
Don Sandro is in his fifties and on his way to lose the body of a life-long performer for the beginning of a beer belly. Like his youngest son, his smile is gentle and he has an easy way about him that makes you instantly like him, an inviting nonchalance and generosity.
People tend to take advantage of him time and time again but he doesn't toughen up. Yet luck is often on his side too, and he has a way to get out of a bad step by sheer chance. He now earns a living buying and selling used cars although his honesty, bordering on naivete, makes him an unlikely candidate for that occupation. Once when I was there a man who had bought him a car with a forged check returned two weeks week later to buy another car, just as don Sandro was about to give up on getting the police's fraud department to help him. The man had left the stolen car parked a few blocks away so don Sandro got it back and recouped his loss, minus the hundred bucks he spent when he couldn't find the keys anywhere and had them made (only to have dona Maigo find them under the driver's seat the next day.) He likes to recall the time at the border with Paraguay in Brazil when he and dona Maigo went swimming in a river, leaving the car parked nearby, and dona Maigo kept telling him the area was full of thieves but he kept saying she was too distrustful, their usual quarrel; they left the water to find the car gone. The next day as don Sandro was waiting to cross the street in town he spotted the car at the light, shouted at its occupants that this was his car they'd stolen, getting them to run and leave the car behind, keys still in the ignition.
Now that she's living with the family, Sheyla acts as kind of a guard dog between don Sandro and the endless cohorts of people, mostly from the circus, where his reputation for being soft-hearted is widely known and sometimes derided, who stand ready to take advantage of him in every way, from leaving their cars or trailers parked in the yard for months on end to coming to live with the family rent-free with three meals a day in one of the other trailers that dot the landscape around the house awaiting repair.
Sheyla is the kind of girl that people say doesn't take any rap from anybody. She has big, long-lashed hazel eyes and very full curves. She laughs often and heartily. She is very short and always wears impossibly tall platform shoes so that you'd miss that about her entirely, which is her intention. She used to do contortion in the circus but her figure doesn't allow that anymore. She misses the circus intensely, as dona Maigo does, as most people raised in the circus do, and is busy making plans to return with Alain once the baby is older.
Even though he grew up in the circus, Alain, like his brother, was not taught a circus act; his father likes to tell him that the circus left him with nothing, not even a pension, and that he should study and find another way to earn a living. Fridman keeps saying the same thing to his sister; it is the reason she stayed behind in Dallas, to study and get herself a good-paying job, to take advantage of this country's possibilities and secure a better future for herself than working in the circus could ever give her.
But it seems it is hard to escape the circus: both Alain and Sheyla are well on their way to ignoring that advice.

Sheyla, Alain and their four-month-old son, Fridman in the Ordoniz' home, Dallas, May 8.
Don Sandro Ordoniz, Dallas, May 8.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A trailer with a view - close quarters.

June 5, Benicia, California.

The trailer is again parked in reverse mode, this time because the lot is so small the trailers had to be packed like sardines in a can and our front door would have hit the next trailer over had we stayed that way.
Parking was delayed last night as it took Fridman a while to figure out how to accommodate all trailers, and now with two extra ones. We are all not more than five feet apart from each other.
The circus tent was still being raised when I took the picture this morning.

Quiet time.

June 4, Santa Rosa.

There are now five children in the circus, up from two last year. They are Jose Ivan, 17 months old, the son of Edith (office) and Chivito (set up crew,) Allyson, 2 years old, the daughter of Raul (juggling, contortion and chiffon) and Gabriela (chiffon,) Svetla, four years old, Gino (roller-skating and globe of death)'s daughter, and then my two monsters.
I can't wait for Jose and Dylan to be a little older so they can play soccer together. It might be a way for my tornado to blow off some steam. They say in book after book on toddlers that you should have quiet times with them, say, before a nap during the day or before bed at night. It has been a puzzle to me, this quiet time business. Forget quiet time, the kid never slows down, he wakes up running; the only time he's quiet he's asleep.
Quiet time with Dylan? I might as well wish for eternal youth.

Sweet cookies.

June 3, Santa Rosa.

The bustle of the circus on week ends; the cookhouse opens at eight with coffee and pastries and a few people trickle in, then by nine o'clock the traffic increases under the cookhouse tent and by ten thirty everybody is up and getting ready for the long day of three shows, starting around noon as most of the performers double up as greeters and have to be at the doors by 12:30PM. The trailer is facing the tent, a front row view of the activity throughout the day, the little girl Svetla, Gino's daughter, back with her Dad with her mother now too, running to the door of the motor home next to us, her face painted, Andrea calling her to dinner but she runs off following Jose Ivan, Edith's baby a month and a half younger than Dylan, Gino and Lyubo warming up the motorcycles for what seems like an eternity before the globe of death act, the last one in the show, the noise drawing Dylan to the window to watch time and time again, finger duly pointing, the women in their successive costumes, clad in a robe against the cold, dashing to and from the tent; by the end of the day Richard, a circus fan who lives in the Bay Area and a once financial backer of Circus Chimera, guiding a group of people on a backstage tour of the circus, as he does every year, the group standing near the artists' entrance, "What you hear now inside the tent is the crew vacuuming the stage to get it ready for the next show," he is saying as I make my way past them to the car carrying Nicolas on my way to run errands, and by the end of the day Gino, and I know it's him because he likes to whistle loudly and shout "Hey chamaco!" whenever he sees the kids, is starting a barbecue now in front of the motor home next to us, and the smell of meat being grilled soon drifts over, as others stop by the cookhouse to unwind, watching the inevitable TV, and today munching on the home-made cookies Richard always brings over, a sweet end note.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Travels with Dylan.

June 2, Santa Rosa.

It's now been two weeks since I joined the circus, again, armed with two babies. I wanted to put the road trip into words so that I would remember it in all its glory, I wanted to talk about Sheyla and her in-laws, don Sandro, dona Maigo, the house in Dallas, the wait for Nicolas to be born there, Nicolas' birth, my mother's visit. Instead I traveled down memory lane and wrote about Dylan being born.

Travels with Dylan.

Dylan was born naturally and when the midwives put him on my chest I didn't feel anything at all except relief that the unbearable pain was finally over.
Much later Dylan, softly, came into my life.
Women are not born women, much less mothers, they grow into it, wrote French writer Simone de Beauvoir in her groundbreaking essay, The Second Sex. Motherhood was anything if not elusive for me until much later, when he'd started to walk and I saw in him a little man, until it finally, imperceptibly came upon me that this was my son, this unfathomable little person, unlike me (Dylan is the portrait of his father,) a world of his own I can never hope to break in, unlike me, I the vessel of his passage to life, the provider, not owned any love except that which he chooses to endow me, so unlike me, not my own but his own, now and forever, until after I'm gone and he's gone and we are both returned to the great mystery, life bursting in, life continuing and then out like a candle, Dylan an old man one day and then gone, much later, after I'm gone too, if I'm lucky and he is, Dylan and his big baby eyes still, looking at me from that faraway world none of us can hope to claim.
It was raining when Dylan came into my life, early in the evening on a winter day in Savannah, Georgia. November 14, 2005, a Monday. I kept the To-Do list I had made that day, as on every day, a necessary attempt at keeping my messy life from verging out of control. It ran, in order: "scan film; finish portfolio; eBay auction; call dealer; oil for car; cook/rest."
I've long since forgotten what the first four items were about.
I was a photography student in a graduate program at the Savannah School of Arts and Design, a short-lived attempt at reinventing my life once again. The To-Do list for that Monday went undone. I woke up early as usual but feeling odd; I was two weeks from my due date and as I drove my boyfriend to the airport we decided to go on instead to the birthing center I had chosen to have the baby at; it was down the road and if he was going to be away for a few days, better to check that that odd feeling in my gut was not what I both wanted and dreaded it to be.
The midwives sent us home to wait it out; it could be it or it could be a false alarm. I called my Mom; she was staying at a motel in town with a girlfriend of mine, the both of them visiting from France, where I'm from. Within four hours my waters broke and we rushed to the birthing center, my boyfriend speeding on the highway, sliding in and out of lanes at eighty-five miles an hour and I in the passenger seat writhing in pain, unable to speak already for the pain, moaning, a scene from a bad TV show.
Labor was two hours long - very short, agonizingly long. Dylan met us at 6:22 that night. I remember they told me it was raining outside.
It would months before I realized my life had irrevocably turned a corner, and yet it remained much the same.
I still live in a travel trailer, only I hit the road with it to go work with my boyfriend in the circus where he performs as an acrobat. I still make To-Do lists every day and they still go mostly unchecked. My boyfriend and I got married, and that didn't change anything either. I still love to read alone in the quiet of the advancing night after the day is done, only now that means after Dylan is finally asleep.
And now six-week-old Nicolas, too.

Balancing acts.

June 2, Santa Rosa.

There were trailers parked in the wrong place near the tent when I woke up this morning. I knew the new group of performers Roy had mentioned had arrived. Not sure what they do, it seems there are the trappings of a pendulum act packed on a trailer behind one of the motor homes. The pendulum act consists of someone trying to maintain his or her balance on a gigantic wheel as it turns and there perched executing an array of additional acrobatic figures ranging from rope jumping with a blind on to juggling, with or without the blind, depending on the performer's number of hours practicing.
More additions to the circus then, after the Fusco family from Argentina came over two weeks ago. The Fuscos are the family of Gabriela Cubillos, the acrobat who works with her husband in the chiffon act (he does contortion and juggling as well.) They perform an act called malambo, which involves much loud beating of drums and a sort of rope handling that reminds me of the cowboys I used to see covering rodeos for small town newspapers.
I'm hoping some day I'll have the time get the two monsters somehow fit and ready at the same time, and then I'll get out of the trailer, balance one on my back and the other on my belly and go try and see the show.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A trailer with a view.

June 1, Santa Rosa, California.

(The trailer is parked in reverse so that it could be level.)

Two months old.

May 31, Petaluma.

Nicolas, my Peanut, turned two months old today.
Just that.

Nicolas, May 29.