Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The junkyard.

July 23, El Cerrito.

Don Sandro's house: the yard crowded with a hapless mess of junk cars, tools and parts, everything from discarded car batteries to a broken lawn-mower.
My trailer is parked behind the house, a hundred feet at the most; to get to the house is not unlike hiking in a jungle (or so I imagine,) you have to carefully pick your way, here it is around cars in various stages of dismemberment, and the landscape has a life of its own, it evolves every day as work progresses and the cars change. It gets more treacherous at night; once I tripped on the kind of rolling benches used in shops to slide under cars as I was walking to the house, carrying Dylan on my hip, nine month pregnant with Nicolas; as I got up it occurred to me the incident would have been funny.
"New" cars appear almost every day, each one more of a disaster than the other. This one has no lights, that one's rear door is stuck, another's front window doesn't get back up once you lower it, another's whole transmission is out of whack.
The cars are don Sandro's business now that he's too old to work in the circus; he buys and sells used cars - very used cars. A Colombian mechanic called Castro arrived one day to help fix them, Wonder Castro with the magic touch, because nothing less would do. He used to work in circuses too, as a mechanic, the place to learn how to do wonders fast and mean, because you have to be on the road tomorrow no matter what.
The circus family has a way to find itself back together - like a benevolent mafia family extending its reach away from home, its grip just as tight, its loyalty just as strong.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Circus dreams.

Beyond the white curtain.

Afternoon cowboy.

The miracle.








Lights out.

Souvenirs du cirque (untitled.)

July 21, El Cerrito.

We now have an internet connection at home, thanks to Richard and Frank, as always. Their endless contribution to the well-being of this household can never be matched: free rent, free lunch (he who says there wasn't any never met Richard,) home-delivery laundry services, boundless enthusiasm and equally endless trust, the greatest location west of New York City, life at Richard's is sweet.
(It is made sweeter still by the return of Fridman on Monday.)
To celebrate our return into the web fold I decided to post some circus project photographs. They were taken over the course of my two seasons traveling with Circus Chimera, starting in January 2006. It seems so long ago, a different me altogether, and the project hopes so distant.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Maria Martinez.

July 16, El Cerrito.

Sunday at Norma Quintana's house in Napa. It sits up a steep hill near the country club, a beautiful multi-level home perfectly decorated with photographs and paintings. Among the other guests were another photographer, a Cuban exile who fled to Paris but had to leave France for the United States for fear of the reach of Fidel's long arm, and a singer from Venezuela called Maria Martinez, an under-appreciated talent. She reminded me of my friend Lily, from Peru, she has the same beautiful face and an exquisite soft manner, one of those people who shine like precious stones among the rest of us.
I hope she'll strike gold soon with her singing and touch many more with that rare glow.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The playground.

July 15, El Cerrito.

The days go by, the routine is set, the morning walks with the stroller, Dylan pushing, Nicolas slowly kicking his legs and soon going to sleep, Dylan pointing at his seat when he gets tired, dozing off then sometimes; the afternoons at the park up in the hills of El Cerrito (little hill in Spanish,) at the playground and Dylan just loves it, and I love it, love watching him play, make friends, lose them, run, charm, follow, explore, test his limits, all these months in the circus we were never close enough to a playground, he's 20 month old and this is his first time experiencing one, and for me the newly discovered world of playground's dynamics, the parents and the children, the (mostly but not entirely) Moms' talk, the cliques and the loners (I'm in the latter, being the new Mom on the block,) there are bi, tri and even quadru-lingual kids in this playground too, everything from the Russian grandmother to the Vietnamese-American parents to the Mexican nanny speaking Spanish to the brother and sister in her care, whose mother is French and father Italian (they answer in English.) This is California.
I feel like an official Mom. Fridman is coming back tomorrow, and it seems like his presence will be almost superfluous. Two weeks exactly alone with my babies and I've never been so happy, the sheer sight of them my nirvana, my everything.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The stray twister from Kansas hypothesis.

July 7, El Cerrito.

I'm alone with the two kids; life has its moments. Difficult times revolve around trying to do things like taking a shower, for example, or slightly more prosaic episodes.
Earlier today I’m in the bathroom and I've left Dylan at the tail end of his lunch strapped in his booster seat so he won’t smash Peanut’s face or, say, throw him on the floor, and the aforementioned Peanut is in his rocker. Things seem under control but that’s a false impression (things are never quite under control) as pretty soon he starts to cry; Dylan then follows suit, competing with his brother and the CD player (Cosi Fan Tutte) as he tries unsuccessfully to exit the seat, and oops, here's somebody at the door, and I'm sitting there thinking the only way things can get worse is if the roof caved in or a stray twister from Kansas swooped the trailer away with this appropriately called circus family inside.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


July 3, El Cerrito, California.

I am adrift without the circus. I am lost without the familiar rhythm of the shows. My anchor is gone without the trucks and trailers around me.
The day is winding up, stretching painfully, and Dylan is crying out the melancholy I feel. There's a word in Portuguese, a sodade, that captures that feeling, of longing and sadness and bitter-sweet regret. Tonight I'll miss the sound of the generator shutting off.
We left late this morning. It was a morning of adieus, one by one, the dancers, Alexela, going off to Las vegas to try her luck finally, hugging tio Tito for a long time, they were lovers and came out in the open in the last few days, what the hell it's all over, no need to hide now, Yvonne, Vanessa, Mary Lou, going to work at carnivals across California, Pablo, watching Yvonne go with one hand over his heart and a look of hurt in his eyes hardly concealed by his smile, "Sea hombre, Pablo!" Saul teasing him, Araceli, who worked concessions and is going back home to Veracruz, Mexico, to live with her sisters, it is time, the savings are good enough, Edith, in the office, Jose Ivan's mother, who doesn't know what they'll do yet, the Venezuelans and the Argentinians left last night and Andrea came by too, an endless series of goodbyes, more heart wrenching than we would have ever thought. Estas despedidas son horribles. My husband, like most men I know, doesn't put his feelings into words if he can avoid it; for this he couldn't.
We drove up from Circus Chimera's last stop, in Newark, near San Jose, to El Cerrito, across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. Richard is kind enough to let us stay in the parking lot of his office/Playland kingdom. Fridman hooked up the light and water lines and was off in a rush, tio Tito had come to get him in one of the circus' vans, they were waiting for them down in Newark to hit the road back to Texas. He's driving one of the trucks back to the winter quarters in Rio Hondo, on the Mexican border where we started in February, and will be flying back hopefully in no more than a week. They must be on a highway somewhere in Southern California as I write these lines.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Adios, Circus Chimera.

July 2, Newark.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The permanence of things.

July 2, Newark.

Jim arrived on Saturday. Yesterday Fridman talked to him and he told me he looked sad. "I come from my mother's funeral and now here's the funeral of my circus." Jim's mother died suddenly earlier this year.
There is a part of us that resists endings. I can't quite believe the reality of the circus closing yet, that after the two shows today they'll dismantle the tent and everybody will be on their way, just like that. Even in the most impermanent of situations, like working and living in a traveling circus, the idea of the permanence of things is always so enticing, so compelling.

(More) last views.

July 2, Newark.

This morning I woke up early, even before Peanut, and went out to take pictures of the tent; tonight they take it down and I'll never look out at it again.
I've always liked that view, something quiet, settling about it.
(Somebody else was out an about; one of the deaf-mutes, Agustin or Arturo, I couldn't tell, probably coming back from the restrooms outside.)

Last view.

July 2, Newark.

We had to move the trailer shortly after I took the Trailer with a View picture on Friday, because the electricity cable wouldn't reach. The set up is different from the traditional one at this location, it is the same lot as last year, a mall parking lot, but they gave us less space so Fridman had to fit all the trailers very tightly together and the result is that they're all in odd places; we're parked right next to Martin's ponies, the tent truck is on the other side, and the performers' trailers behind that. The cookhouse and the rest of the trailers are on the opposite side of the tent.
So this is what we've really been looking at these past few days.


July 1, Newark.

There had to be a goodbye party.
Richard arranged it, as Richard does, and brought his friends. Lots of food, lots of cake, and lots of cup cakes with too much icing, somehow short on ambiance. Saul was right, the "cherverza" was missing - without booze people don't really unwind, do they. So it was people sitting around the tent ring and in the seats above, in small groups, eating and talking, and there was Dylan running around looking cute, what else, in his big boy jeans which kept falling, making him look like a mini rapper from the kiddie corner hood.
Friends of the circus (and our friends) Terri and Linda, from the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, came by for the party and stopped at the trailer, arms full of presents. Terri had just returned from a visit to her parents' homeland, in the Azores island of Portugal, she spoke softly in Portuguese to Nicolas. She told me she thought seriously about quitting her job and moving over there, an old great aunt needs help, and I saw the longing in her eyes and it was a familiar one. Of course I think she should just go, but then I should know, having collected more different addresses in my life than an army brat.
As the party wound down there were lots of pictures taken, too, the kind you take when you know you're going away and you're not going to see people again soon, or maybe ever.

(From left) Pablito, Goyo and Alexela.