Saturday, February 27, 2010

The program.

February 27, McAllen.

Now that I'm better I am trying to wrap up the Kelly Miller Circus 2010 program.
The good news is that we are so much earlier this year in putting it together; last year if I remember well it was April before anything hit the presses. The bad news is being sick and out of shutter shape I'm freaking out and feeling like a miserable failure every time I come back from the ring. I took a picture of Steve and Ryan the other day that sums it up nicely.
Today we did the group shot, my all-time favorite stress-maker, and it went much more smoothly than last year, not to mention the year before when I shot inside the tent and the result was predictably poor; third time's the charm.
On the home front here I can walk with the kids to the bookstore next door, our ritual of Thomas the Train Engine play with Dylan bringing me one book after another to read, a cookie thrown in for spice. Here as there we keep on reveling, not quite believing our luck, in Brian's royal treatment (he made shrimp pasta in an Alfredo sauce from scratch; it was to die for.) And we just enjoy the sun, and an ordinary circus life again, the routine of the shows, practice in the mornings, getting together at the cook house, fixing the trailer, the drone of the generator, getting to know your way around town, simple pleasures, circus life.

Bye Courtney.

February 24, McAllen.

Courtney left this morning early.
She is leaving the show, weary of her health for her foot is not completely back to normal and the walking conditions in the Brownsville lot got her alarmed. There is more to it of course, but it would be too long to tell. She is only next door in Austin (Texas style, a few hours' driving away) and might visit from time to time while we are in Texas.
I'll miss her, and not only because she was such a help with the kids.

Back to life.

February 24, McAllen.

What a difference a place makes. What a difference being well makes.
We can walk again without sinking, it's a sunny, grassy lot, and I can hardly believe it. As if on cue I started to feel better yesterday too (the pleasure of being able to eat is not to be underestimated.) My lungs are still painful, I can't breathe right and I need to be careful still, but it is so good to be better; life is crisp, vivid.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A trailer with a view.

February 24, McAllen, Texas (47 miles, corner of 29th Street and highway 83.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A trailer with a view.

February 22, San Benito, Texas (15 miles, fairgrounds.)


February 21, Brownsville.

What remains is the sour smell of sickness and mud.
I didn't see much of the circus in Brownsville, I didn't see much of anything. I haven't even met Carolyn yet, or the Australian twin girls who arrived on Friday; it is as if I lived on a parallel planet, in my orbit of unrelenting pain and discomfort. I am nauseous of my own skin, the sour taste taints the air in the trailer. Working on the program is at a standstill.
For anybody else it isn't much better. It rained and rained two days ago and the lot turned into a disastrous mud pit, worse than anything we've seen last year. It is an exact replica of what we went through with Circus Chimera three years ago, an ugly memory of there ever was one.
What remains is the sour smell of sickness and mud.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Still sick.

February 16, Brownsville.

The pain was so bad I actually thought I had fractured a bone. It turns out it is only the infection refusing to die, bronchial pneumonia to be exact. Maybe I shouldn't have gotten out in the cold to go shoot the program pictures but I so badly want this program behind me. It probably didn't help either that the weather has been crazy, going from warm enough to turn on fans on Sunday to so frigid that the generator was on all night on Monday. It hurts to breathe, it is torture to cough, my chest is on fire.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Magic tricks.

February 13, Brownsville.

I don't know how he pulls it off.
Every time we've gone to the cook house so far Brian has managed to treat us to a first-class meal. I don't know about others, but it's making me feel like royalty here at the muddy little Kelly Miller Circus. Last night he regaled us with roast pork (OK, I didn't it that part) and home-made mashed potatoes in an apple-garlic sauce to die for, and for lunch today he managed to make tuna salad interesting, and just plain fun. The salad was "delicious," as Nicolas likes to say (with an English accent,) and subtle, not a small feast with tuna, but most of all he presented it on "silver" platters, shaped like a smiling tuna.
It's the best cook house food we've ever had at any circus. It's some of the best food I've eaten in a long time.
Brian has a fire-eating act, and does magic acts too.
And not just onstage.

Friday, February 12, 2010


February 12, Brownsville.

Earthy hues.

February 12, Brownsville.


February 12, Brownsville.

Rehearsals and release.

February 12, Brownsville.

Apparently I didn't miss anything yesterday but mud and misery.
More rehearsals today, and I finally stepped out of the trailer. I am breathing a little easier, and feeling a whole lot better.
Show news: Courtney is not doing her act again today because after finding the right rigging equipment at long last she is still missing a prop crew to pull her off the ground (four are needed.)

History not repeated.

February 12, Brownsville.

Opening day came and went and I don't know a thing about it other than the ocean of mud everywhere, the worst condition you want to work in when nothing is in place to alleviate it.
How far from opening day last year and its endless lines of people waiting under the sun to get tickets, and the elation of it all.
I feel a little better, but my chest hurts badly when I cough, which is still too often. The sun is trying to get out this morning.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The 2010 Kelly Miller Circus.

February 11, Brownsville.
Since I'm utterly useless I can at least contribute by writing down what I know (not much, being a fish in a bottle) about the new features of the 2010 edition of the Kelly Miller Circus show and its rundown.
As every year there are new people and same-old people this year. The old wave are the McCoy Cainans and their tiger and dog acts, Armando and his elephant act (but no horse act this year,) the ubiquitous Raul and his juggling and Pinkie acts, and Fridman and his rola bola act. Courtney is with us again but with with a new, silk and hand-balancing act (and she has already been a great help with the kids, not to mention driving down.) Last but not least, Steve and Ryan are with us again too, but also with all-new gags, and Ryan is bringing along Tatiana, his new bride, who will act as show girl throughout the show.
The new guys on the block are Mike and Carolyn Rice, with a camel act and dog and pony act respectively; the Poema family, with a Risley act (upside-down juggling) and hula hoop; and a trapeze duo from Australia, who will arrive next week (they were delayed by visa problems.) In the meantime Rebecca Ostroff, who was with us for a too brief stay last year, will be doing her single trapeze act to fill in for them.
Here is the rundown, as of yesterday morning when rehearsals began:

Opening - Steve and Ryan and John Moss
Tigers - Casey
Chase - Steve and Ryan
Trapeze - Rebecca
Camels - Mike Rice with dancers Carolyn, Reyna, Courtney and Tatiana
Juggling - Raul
The Fabulous Fifties:
Hula hoops - Reyna, Rebecca, Jesse and featuring Cathy Poema
Rola bola - Fridman
Diner gag - Steve and Ryan
Dogs - Natalie
Web - Cathy, Jesse, Rebecca, Reyna and Tatiana


Walk arounds - Steve and Ryan
Silks/Hand balancing - Courtney
Risley - the Poema family
Dogs/ponies - Carolyn Rice
Exterminator gag - Steve and Ryan
Elephants - Armando
Pinkie - Raul
Fire eating - Brian LaPalme
Finale - cast.

A reminder/disclaimer: as usual with what I write about the circus, half of it surely will be obsolete by the time it appears on the screen. Then again, circus life tends to be lightly unpredictable.

Love and hate.

February 11, Brownsville.

I hate it, I hate hate hate it. I hate it that I'm missing out on all the action, be it muddy and wet and miserable, on this the first day of the season, and maybe my last season, who knows, I hate it that I feel like a bloated whale washed out on a beach, I hate it that I can't photograph any of it, I hate it that I don't even feel better after two days of both antibiotics and anti-virals and god-knows-what, I hate it all.
But I love Brian LaPalme, our new cook, who revived me last night, however briefly, with an amazing seventy-people-strong rendition of a French blanquette de veau (with chicken, this being Kelly Miller Circus after all.) I could have kissed him.

The flu, or whatever.

February 11, Brownsville.

Yesterday was non-stop, last minute rehearsals from eight in the morning til midnight.
I missed it all.
I spent the day in bed, unable to move, feeling as run over by a truck, getting up, wobbly, to take my medicine, landing into bed again. It wasn't all that unpleasant, like a dead-weight body but without any sharp pain for a change. The sweet old geezer from England ("I'm here for the weather") who attended me at the clinic took one look at me and declared that I was "very sick," most likely the dreaded flu which then morphed into pneumonia for being left unchecked. I was running a fever; funny enough since it's the first thing I check in the kids, I would have never thought of it in myself.
Whatever the diagnosis I haven't felt that sick in a long time, even though I was able to get up this morning and feed the kids. I wish I could lay in bed forever with somebody bringing me hot tea and putting their hand on my forehead, the way mothers do everywhere.

A trailer with a view.

February 9, Brownsville.

Final/first move.

February 9, Brownsville, Texas (22 miles, lot across from H.E.B. on Paredes Line Road.)

Wasted day, waited all day to move, supposedly because lot was soft, but upon arriving it didn't look much worse than half the lots we played last year. Go figure.
We arrived around three in the afternoon and immediately rushed off to find Courtney's rigging pulleys. Fridman dropped me off at an urgent care clinic as the month-long cough has become worse and the stomach virus is not gone at all either.

Monday, February 08, 2010

There but not there.

February 8, Rio Hondo.

Second leg went fine, too, we arrived safe and sound, but I almost missed the lot as we were fifteen miles short of the route's mileage; the lot we were supposed to be on is still flooded after last week's torrential rains so we are on a temporary grass parking lot off Route 106.
Jim and Danny went to see the original lot this morning and it was decided we would move there tomorrow. It is still going to be a muddy mess, if Circus Chimera experience is any good.
The season's opening is on Thursday, so in the end we'll have only one day of rehearsals. It reminds me of the first year we were with Kelly Miller, opening in Hugo in March, cold and gray; I remember Sara and Gigi, the rush of so many new faces, and being anxious to finally jump into this one-day stop thing.
Dylan was two, Nicolas a baby; it seems lo long ago.

A trailer with a view.

February 8, Rio Hondo, Texas (383 miles, some lot off Route 106.)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Driving down.

February 6, Cleveland, Texas (398 miles, fairgrounds.)

First leg of the trip down to Brownsville and all went fine. Courtney rode with me, which made it fun and more relaxed than driving by myself. It is cold here too, fifty miles north of Houston, and Fridman is looking for an open outlet so we can plug in the trailer for the night.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Hugo sights.

February 5, Hugo.

Hugo is a sore sight in the winter, a study in shades of unkempt gray, brown and mud.
The poor economy has not helped. The Main Shopping plaza is a ghost, a derelict patch of potholed asphalt with a hairdresser clutching to life next to an abandoned store-front and a counseling center (Providence Counseling Center: No Soliciting, No Smoking, No Weapons.)

Store front.

February 5, Hugo.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


February 4, 2010, Hugo.

Departure for Brownsville, Texas, the same opening location as last year, has been delayed yet another day.
We were to leave for the two-day trip down to the border today but it was postponed til tomorrow, apparently because some of the crew had not arrived and the circus was missing drivers. Now we've just learned that we are not leaving tomorrow either, this time because the lot is flooded after the torrential rains of the day. It's been raining all day (and the trailer leaks in all the familiar places.)
Whatever the real reasons I am enjoying the reprieve of all-night-long power, the last in a long long time, and another day to relax before hitting the road (I am fortunate that this is not a time of manic preparation for me, as it is for most other circus members.)

The emperors' new clothes.

February 3, 2010, Hugo.

We're back and better.

February 1, 2010, Hugo, Oklahoma (1,100 miles and then a few.)

I withstood life in a house, and we made it safe back to Hugo and a frigid trailer.
We drove back from Florida over the week end, the trip went fast and easy with two ride-perfect kids, but a sore neck (Fridman called me Terminator because I couldn't turn my head and had to twist my whole bust instead,) the result of a bad chiropractic move that woke up an old injury, kept me on the verge of tears until I remembered the wonders of anti-inflammatories. That and a food poisoning whose effects lingered for weeks (Dylan threw up for an entire night, not the best memory,) and a persistent, wrenching dry cough (a month and counting) that spread to the kids before we left, made for a somewhat difficult winter, even if we were spared the extreme cold that gripped the rest of the nation.
Now we're back home, and I can eat again, not to mention turn my head.