Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Literary news (on the road.)

September 30, Downers Grove.

Last week a cook-house announcement appeared next to the day's menu:

Kelly Miller Circus
in the cookhouse
Derrick Pinnix librarian
Feel free to borrow books
contribute books
read, read, read!

I contributed a Philip Roth (Sabbath's Teather, all the sex talk and bored to death; evidently I must be missing a full intellectual section of the brain for I don't get Roth at all, it's all male egocentric, albeit literary masturbation as far as I'm concerned ) and Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt, of Angela's Ashes fame, a disappointing and bitter book after such a life-affirming debut novel.

A trailer with a view.

September 30, Downers Grove, Illinois (40 miles, O'Niell School.).

A trailer with a (nocturne) view.

September 29, Somonauk.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A trailer with a (clearer) view.

September 29, Somonauk.

Bad drive.

September 29, Somonauk.

We moved last night and it was the worst drives of the season yet, urban traffic, highway construction and country roads that never end. To top it off we're traveling back through much of the same tonight, back to the Chicago suburbs for the last time before hitting the open country again.
The Somonauk lot is a preview, the corn fields are as high as the trailers.

Lucky Eddie played with Dylan in the maze.

A trailer with a view (not.)

September 29, Somonauk, Illinois (65 miles, Community park.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Three men and a parade.

September 28, Chicago.

Not Frank Lloyd Wright.

September 28, Chicago.

There is a house across the street from circus, I love it, it's green and out of place, it's not Frank Lloyd Wright, and it's boarded up and probably slated for demolition to make room for one of the same over-sized architectural insults that is being built a few houses down.

Brief encounter.

September 28, Chicago.

Her name is Lynn (Lynne?) and she's lived here all her life and that's all we know we know about her. I wanted to ask for an email address or give her the blog address so we could stay in touch but I didn't want to be pushy. She was someone I think I'd become friends with would I live here. I wish I'd had the guts to ask her if I could take her picture. She had a beautiful face, much younger than her 42 years.
She was jogging with friends when we asked for directions yesterday morning across the street from the circus; she offered to walk us part of the way and we chatted the way strangers do, and she told us she was coming to the show. I saw her twice again, at the playground, and on the street after the show with her kids, three girls and a boy Dylan's age, and then she came by this morning to drop some clothes off for the kids. Sara was delighted with all the girl stuff, too.

A trailer with a (second) view.

September 28, Chicago.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


September 27, Chicago.

We found a bicycle for seven dollars at a garage sale around the corner.
The one I've always dreamed of: old and rusty, deliciously retro (our trailer is old too, but not enough to be a classic, just enough to be rusty.)


September 27, Chicago.

We're in Chicago!
Unfortunately it's a week end so there is no time to go downtown before the shows, but still we'll try tomorrow morning.
Beautiful neighborhood, full circus, what more can you ask for?

A trailer with a view.

September 27, Chicago, Illinois (10 miles, Norwood Park school.)

The North Shore.

September 26, Wilmette.

I ran into Dee Dee and baby Sam this afternoon at the whoop, across the street from the circus. Dee Dee, who teaches school at the circus and is married to one of the Perez family guys, is from the Chicago area. Wilmette is millionaire territory, she told me. "A lot of people like to say they're from the North Shore, but now this, this is North Shore."
I take it that North Shore is to Chicago what Marin county is to the Bay Area.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A trailer with a view.

September 26, Wilmette, Illinois (43 miles, Regina Dominican high school.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

History revised.

September 25, McHenry.
Traveling in the West with Chimera the encroachment of suburbia was pervasive, every town like a giant construction site, shopping malls and housing developments sprouting up in every corner of the landscape, raw, ungainly.
It is less evident around the rest of the country, at least as far as I can see, maybe because land is not as bountiful. Yet here in McHenry, a northwestern exurb of Chicago, you can see it happening as well. And lost in the middle of row after row of brand new townhouses and homes and chain stores sit a farmhouse and its barn and out-buildings, and ironically, the name of the farm, in faded blue letters on the barn, is "City View Farm".
It is as if history had been turned on its head, Manifest Destiny inside out. Instead of the great westward expansion to claim land the great surge to expand by erasing it, gobbling up great chunks of farmland and churning them back a blank slate of boxes and warehouses, the promise of a few skinny trees, here and there, a paltry reminder of what once was.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A trailer with a view.

September 24, McHenry, Illinois (45 miles, Petersen park.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


September 23, Kingston.

The news is so big I simply forgot about it: Dylan was toilet trained in a week.
No crisis, no struggles, no cries, no drama - no more diapers. It all happened a couple of weeks ago, and was done before I realized it. Of course I'm swooning over my Dylan and his big boy behavior, but mostly I'm reminded that when it comes to child rearing you're better off not listening to too many pieces of advice and not reading too many books as they are likely to just add to your stress level by anticipation without so much as getting close to your reality.
I'm the one who didn't catch up; a week exactly after taking him off diapers we went shopping and suddenly he's saying "Maman, pipi!" and I'm scrambling to find a restroom, half mad at myself for the lapse, half oh so proud of him in the face of it. A few days earlier he'd woken me up in a panic in the middle of the night, I'd forgotten the diaper, and he didn't wet himself either.
Only one left in diapers then, and soon it'll be back to cloth diapers again, thankfully, or as soon as I find myself with a washing machine at hand and a little bit more legroom.

A trailer with a view.

September 23, Kingston, Illinois (50 miles, Township park.)

Keep it short (Rule Number 7.)

September 21, Yorkville.

Mark Hibbard, of Chicago, summed it up a lot better than I did in the "Voices of the People" section of the Chicago Tribune today:
"Clearly, the USA has become the USSA (United Socialist States of America.)"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A trailer with a view.

September 21, Yorkville, Illinois (42 miles, fairgrounds.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The roar.

September 20, Elk Grove Village.

The planes have been a constant presence since we've arrived in the Chicago area but here in Elk Grove Village, which sits directly west of O'Hare airport, it's more of a constant roar. Outside the trailer this morning watching the kids play I counted an airplane passing overhead every thirty seconds.
Anything more intense than that is hard to imagine but up to 2005 O'Hare International Airport was the busiest in the world in terms of traffic. That year the U.S. government put limits to the number of flights the airport could handle in order to reduce delays and the airport in Atlanta, Hartsfield-Jackson International, became the world's biggest.
There are plans to expand O'Hare and not surprisingly Elk Grove Village, this perfectly neat, tree-lined suburbia, is opposing them forcefully.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday night football.

September 19, Elk Grove Village.

Behind the high school it is, and the marching band streamed by a little while ago, and the cheerleaders too, now teenagers walk bike roller-skate by every minute, this way and that, and the cheers and the whistles all but drown out the sounds of the circus even though the playing field is a lot farther from our trailer than the circus is.
Memories flood by, Friday night football as a photojournalist in Jacksonville, downstate from here, all geared up and still trying to figure out the rules of this mysterious, bizarre-looking game, which I grew to love shooting nonetheless, and not just the game but all the drama around it, the small town rivalries, the high school high drama, the parading of the jocks and the agony of the wounded players, you're out and the fun is passing you by, the shouting parents, and then, rushing back to the newsroom for there's only fifteen minutes to shoot, less if the town is far, praying there's something good on the film, still high on the adrenaline, it's contagious is what it is, and on the drive back it slowly ebbs away, nothing you can do now, good pictures or not the dice are cast, and the night is long with more work ahead, there's more rushing to do to get the pictures ready before deadline, and finally heading home exhausted to a sudden sleep, satisfied at last, the work done.
I used to both dread and love Friday night football, but the fun always won.

A trailer with a view.

September 19, Elk Grove Village, Illinois (60 miles, behind the high school.)

A trailer with a Fellini view.

September 18, Belvidere.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Time suspended.

September 18, Belvidere.

It only lasts a moment.
Sitting with a hot cup of tea, sometimes, with the sun streaming in, in the stillness of the morning, when we stay in one place for two days and the kids are not awake yet and there are no sounds at all but the sounds of life emerging (the generator will be turned on later,) and the moment tastes like eternity - time suspended before a sleepy face of happiness appears at the bedroom door and the whirlwind of the day begins anew.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wall Street socialism.

September 17, Belvidere.

Another week, another bailout of a behemoth financial institution by the U.S. government.
Pinch me I'm dreaming, with the government firing the C.E.O.s and in effect taking control of the company this smells like a nationalization, looks like a nationalization and would be one would this be happening in say, Evo Morales' Bolivia, and the same U.S. government that has taken command of one top company after another since the bailout of Bear Sterns in March, spending a total of more than one trillion dollars of tax-payers' money so far in the process, would be screaming Socialism! and calling for immediate sanctions.
Commentary by former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich on the radio this morning: stop rescuing financial companies that messed up and pass legislation to insure Wall Street is properly regulated instead.

A trailer with a view.

September 17, Belvidere, Illinois (27 miles, fairgrounds.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A trailer with a view.

September 16, Byron, Illinois (50 miles, behind Morgan elementary school.)

In deep water.

September 15, Harvard.

If it were a ship it'd be sinking.
The trailer is leaking water in so many places now it's only time before we put on waterproof boots to wade into our home.
There was mold all over the wall by the head of our bed and Nicolas' crib, the wood soaked, water on the floor when we woke up this morning. The smell in the bedroom was deep, rank and tenacious, I should have known. I thought it was all the damp clothes left to never dry, and the towels that haven't dried in three days either. We took everything out that could be taken out and spent the day running all the heaters full blast with the windows open.
But all that is nothing compared to the folks down in Texas, our friend Guennadi included, who have to make do without water or electricity, roads or basic services, when they have not lost everything in hurricane Gustav's devastation.

A trailer with a view.

September 15, Harvard, Illinois (30 miles, Milky Way park.)

Dancing in the rain (almost.)

September 14, Harvard, Illinois (30 miles, Milky Way park.)
There were some permits problem in the town that had been booked for today (Waukegan, north of Chicago on the lake) so we jumped to this town and won a day off (but not for circus Moms.)
Yet more rain, the field becoming a lake in parts, and cabin fever creeping in, so we headed to the usual place called for in drastic situations, Walmart, where the kids can run around in the toy section for hours and you don't ever have to fix the messes. After spending a lot of money we ended up next door at McDonald's, another place where you don't have to fix the messes, because we were all starving and cooking didn't seem like such a great idea. First ever French fries for Nicolas, Batman ship for Dylan, bliss.
Who knew life with kids in a trailer on the road with the circus could be so easy on a rainy day?

Dylan checking to see if his Papa's mouth is properly empty - Rule 1: always leave your mouth empty before filling it again.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Leaks, leaks, leaks.

September 13, Lake in the Hills.

Fierce rain all night. The trailer's still leaking. No, the trailer is leaking in new places (upper left-hand corner kitchen cabinet,) although not so new, as cracked ceiling wallpaper has testified all along.
The guy who sold me the trailer said the rumpled wood on the counter where I'm writing this now was not damaged by a water leak but by a wet towel, clearly showing how inventive people get when trying to sell you something. Above the counter the wood of the upper cabinet also showed clear signs of water damage, leading to the million-dollar question: how would a wet towel lay on a vertical surface? (sounds like a zen question.) Then there were water marks on the ceiling, which came to life in a California downpour, the above-mentioned kitchen cabinets marks, the wall marks around the central window, the wall marks above the rear window, etc.
I don't regret for a second having purchased the trailer, as it paid itself off in only a year of not paying Southern California rent, not to mention that I got to live in a trailer park in a rough part of Riverside going by the delicious name of Rubidoux thereby meeting some fascinatingly peculiar people you wouldn't want to miss.
The trailer is so much my home now, fifties-style linoleum, red paint and all, that I can't even think of selling it - but if I did, there'd be a likely culprit in my sales pitch: the wet diaper.

A trailer with a view.

September 13, Lake in the Hills, Illinois (40 miles, Sunset park.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lies, lies, lies.

September 12, Elmhurst.

Against all my political nature I used to like John McCain. I thought he was worthy of respect, somebody who had true standards of integrity. I should have known better.
In the past two weeks, since he came out with his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, I've become appalled at what The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman today rightly called the "blizzard of lies" that the McCain campaign has orchestrated. Krugman is bleak in his view of a McCain presidency in the light of this turn of events in the campaign; it is hard not to agree with him, and not to be dismayed at the amount of lies people are willing to gobble wholeheartedly.
To me this goes together with the rise of self-styled pseudo-journalism on the internet and its twin, the fallacy most people seem to hold now that you can get good information without professional journalists, or worse, that you can do without a professional press altogether.

Socrates for the road.

September 12, Elmhurst.

In route sayings news, today we were treated with Socrates: "The only good is knowledge, the only evil is ignorance."
I like this one better: "By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."

The language of the arrows.

September 12, Elmhurst.

When we move at night I follow Fridman carefully for I've developed poor night vision these past few years. When it's raining I'm all but lost in fog, I don't see the arrows until they're right under my nose and it's too late - when I see them at all. He knows it and waits for me when, as it happens often in urban areas, I have to stop at a light and he drives on.
The arrows have their own language, I heard John Moss say once. They direct you along the way, they warn you and help you, they tell you when to slow down before a turn, they warn you of a rough stretch of road, a bumpy railroad crossing or a steep descent, and always they lead you, one arrow pointing ahead and you know you're on track. There is also the turns' language, when the arrows come in threes: first one arrow pointing left (or right) with two arrows pointing ahead, then two arrows pointing left (or right) with one straight, and finally three arrows pointing in one direction and you know you are to turn. Really it's easy. The difficulty arises out of their placement, as in Dixon when Fridman made a wrong turn left because the entrance was not clear between two streets, or when they are not completely visible until it is too late to veer off, especially with a tractor trailer.
Sometimes we pass arrows from other circuses; often we recognize them.

A trailer with a view.

September 12, Elmhurst, Illinois (29 miles, Sandburg middle school.)

A few hours of rest.

September 11, South Elgin.

We drove 82 miles this morning, and we'll be moving again tonight. A few hours only, then, in this near-perfect location for the kids, with a manicured park all for ourselves.
Attendance was poor and the circus lost money after the costs of renting the lot, feeding people and paying them, plus insurance and other expenses were added up. This is probably because some towns have been booked late, at the last moment sometimes (as of last week there were still two days without a booked town on the next two weeks' route,) and the sponsors, when there are any, do not have time to do their job advertising the show.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A trailer with a view.

September 11, South Elgin, Illinois (82 miles, Vasa park.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Rock River.

September 9, Dixon.

The Kenyans, then Harlond, went fishing at the Rock River and got themselves a fresh dinner (catfish.) The trailers are parked right on the river's banks.


September 9, Dixon.

Two day location again (in the birthplace of Ronald Reagan) so Fridman takes advantage of the sunshine and little extra time to fix the leaks, replacing some of the rotten wood and applying new coats of silicon, band aids until he can rebuild the front of the trailer.
Route card news: usually it's all this stuff about how there were only 126 days left before Halloween, etc, then today the route said "Rule#7 - Never lick a steak knife."
It's official, it's Tavana's print.

A trailer with a view.

September 9, Dixon, Illinois (54 miles, Page park.)

Monday, September 08, 2008


September 8, Sycamore.

It's pouring down again, the tent is leaking everywhere and menacing to cave in under the water. It's a mess out there.

A trailer with a view.

September 8, Sycamore, Illinois (36 miles, Sycamore Speedway.)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A trailer with a view.

September 7, Itasca, Illinois (9 miles, Washington park.)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Myrna's truck.

September 6, Glendale Heights.

It's a Suburban.

Suspicious wedding activity.

September 6, Glendale Heights.

Two day location, with a big international market nearby and a child-friendly laundromat.
This afternoon there was a wedding in the park. On a walk with the kids we passed a horse carriage with the wedding party, and the bride looked like she would rather be shopping. There was a wedding photographer in a tense conversation with another wedding photographer, a woman in her fifties (business partner? wife?) and ushers in dark sunglasses who looked like F.B.I. agents in a nice tux. One of them followed me when I took a picture, so I had to push the double stroller in a rapid retreat down the footpath.
The Southeast Asian men wearing turbans who were playing a game of cricket on the other side of the field looked a lot more reassuring.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A trailer with a view.

September 5, Glendale Heights, Illinois (24 miles, Camera park.)


September 4, Berwyn.

It's raining, it's gray and forlorn, but I like it here.
What I like less is the leak that we discovered under the kitchenette as it kept on raining, the water coming in so steadily we could see it seep in, and had to wring a bath towel every hour to keep the water from flooding the floor. That the trailer is a piece of Swiss cheese we already knew, I've had leaks every since I bought it, six years ago, but this one is new, and a lot worse.
We're waiting for the rain to stop.

A trailer with a view.

September 4, Berwyn, Illinois (19 miles, Janura park.)


September 3, Midlothian.

Day off, off to Chicago, where we saw the Sears Tower from below (visibility from zero to 2 miles, said the attendant; we didn't go up) and a lot of fabric.
I'd forgotten to pack sweaters for the kids so we spent most of the visit looking for something to keep them from freezing, winding up in a fabric store Fridman stumbled on as he was looking for the Walgreens just around the corner.
Tiger-striped fabric for tiger-loving Mingo, et voila! the toast of the town.
Still, architectural buff or not, a dizzying place, so hopefully we'll be able to go back in the next few weeks as the circus travels around the area.

For Dylan.

September 3, Midlothian.

Dereck was playing the harmonica in the quiet of the morning, sitting on the stoop of the sleeper trailer parked in front of us.
He played Blowing in the Wind, for my Dylan.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A trailer with a view.

September 2, Midlothian, Illinois (22 miles, Saint Christopher Church.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Circus playground.

September 1, Dyer.

Mosquitoes feast.

September 1, Dyer.

The mosquitoes were bad yesterday. They had a banquet on Nicolas' face, the poor baby he looks like a Jackson Pollock, and Dylan has marks all over his body. Dabbing white vinegar not so easy on a one-year-old.
We're on the outskirts of Chicago and tonight we begin moving at night instead of in the morning because of traffic.

A trailer with a view.

September 1, Dyer, Indiana (30 miles, Pheasant Hills park.)