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In the morning Jameson and I went to the Mosaic District for lunch. We found awesome eats at True Food Kitchen (we've eaten there before with Jameson's mom). I had a buffalo burger with mushrooms and shaved parm on a very seedy bun! Sides were sweet potato hash and kale salad. Very tasty!


After that we went to Arlington National Cemetery. It was my first time there.
What a sobering and beautiful experience.




Jameson's grandparents are buried here. His grandfather served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I was honored to be able to visit him and his wife Gloria.


I was awed by the sheer number of headstones, and considering that most stones bear at least two names, the number of people buried here is mind-boggling.


After paying our respects and visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we decided to hit the road. I will never forget this experience, and hope that I will have another opportunity to visit Jameson's grandparents soon.

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On Monday night I got to enjoy a homecooked dinner with my Aunt Laura, Uncle Andy, cousins Ava and Calvin, and Aunt Kathy. This branch of my family lives just outside Baltimore, and I rarely get to see them. I got to introduce them to Jameson and get caught up on everyone's doings. Family time is the best :)

The next day we only had one show. I spent the morning doing chores.
The evening show went well.

On Wednesday the Red Unit held one of its last ever elephant walk/brunches in front of Lexington Market. The walk was short, probably about half a mile, and people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the elephants. In front of the market we met a huge crowd. Hundreds of people had come out to watch the elephants eat. I love hearing people exclaim over the elephants' size, how much they eat, how beautiful they are, etc. It was bittersweet and humbling, being a part of this event. Looking back on all the elephant PRs I've gotten to do, I'm so grateful to have been able to walk alongside these animals. I'm so proud to stand with the elephant handlers as they work with these amazing creatures. These are memories that I will always cherish. It saddens me to think that future generations will never have such an opportunity.


(photo courtesy Chris T.)







(photos courtesy Greg Mullinix)


After the walk I stuck around the building, took a nap, played online. The show that evening was dandy.

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On these particular days off, Jameson and I went our separate ways.
He drove overland to get to Denver in time for a special showing of a Pink Floyd film.
I rode the train because there was supposed to be an animal walk early on Wednesday!

The run out of Salt Lake isn't as pretty as the run going in, but I still got some very nice photos.





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This short run from Trenton to Hershey might be one of the last for me for a while. Jameson will have his car, and we've got a few road trips planned once the circus heads west :)

The weather started out pleasant, but got stormy later in the day.




(photo of flooded tracks courtesy Rob L.)

On top of that we were delayed due to a railroad defect detector not responding like it was supposed to. In the words of Eryn, a circus teacher: "The Circus Trainmaster has a radio on the same channel as the train engineer. Every once in a while, you will hear an automated voice on the radio say, 'CXS (or NS or BNSF), TRAIN DEFECT DETECTOR.' This is an automated system that inspects the train as we pass over it for safety hazards such as dragging equipment or hot wheels (such as if a brake is stuck). Most of the time, after the train has passed, the detector will announce, 'NO DEFECTS.'"

Apparently, one of the detectors that we passed over didn't respond at all. Because of that, railroad crew had to manually inspect for safety issues by walking the entire length of the train. It cost us a lot of time, but Safety Absolutely First.

We arrived in Hershey around 8pm. The animal walkers (self included) had been waiting in Pie Car for the radio call to get off the train. The train would not be spotting in Hershey; we were just going to do the walk, unload the flats, and from there take the coaches to Harrisburg where they'll be parked for the week.



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After Huntsville, Jameson and I decided to borrow Brett's car for a road trip to the next city. Brett needed someone to steal his car so his kids could ride the train, and we needed a mini vacation, so it worked out nicely :)

We drove two hours to Chattanooga and stayed the night at The Chattanoogan. We woke up nice and late, had breakfast at the hotel, and walked to the Tennessee Aquarium, playing Ingress all the way. Nerdy but fun! For April Fool's, Ingress was overtaken by Pac-Man :)



At the aquarium we were disappointed (but not surprised) to find that the "backstage tour" was all sold out. We got regular tickets and enjoyed the Ocean Journey display first. Jameson had brought his good camera, and I had my GoPro. We started with penguins.


We viewed the jellies, beautiful as always.



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This is the first long train run we've had in a while. The weather was awesome, starting out cold as we left NJ but gradually getting warmer and warmer as we headed south. I didn't get many pictures on the first day, but on the second I woke early and saw the blue light of dawn outside, and decided to play with the GoPro.


We have passed this peninsula several times in the past three years, and every time I try to get a picture the trees are in the way. Fed up with trying to get a good shot, I kept a blurry picture :P


I didn't get many good shots with the GoPro...still not used to it. After breakfast I came back out armed with my usual phone camera. We went under this thing, whatever it is:


There was lots of construction on the track next to us. The machinery was cool to watch.

We passed some Norfolk Southern camp cars, and this gent was waving enthusiastically from the "kitchen".


The weather was nice for the whole run, and we saw many trainspotters, but these guys were the most handsome. My camera thought so ;)

An unintentionally artsy-fartsy shot of some bridge pillars.


The train taking a mountain curve.


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As you can imagine, the train run from Newark to Secaucus was short.
We arrived on Monday morning.

We had an elephant walk scheduled for around 3pm. For those new to this blog, an elephant walk or animal walk is the process of getting the animals (elephants and horses) from their train cars to the arena. The animal cars are separated from the rest of the train and are brought to the closest possible location. Most of the animal crew members are already with the animals, but some are bused/driven to the walk location along with animal walk volunteers like myself. Walk volunteers can include anyone from the circus: dancers, acrobats, production folks, musicians. All you need to participate is a TB shot, some training, and the ability to pay attention. Oh and a pair of khakis :)


(photo courtesy Brett)

Once the animals have disembarked and are ready to go, we follow a predetermined route to the arena. Local police are usually on hand to help clear the roads and escort the animals and circus workers. Pedestrians will often line up on the sidewalk to view the animals on their way to the arena. The animal walkers' job is to make sure those people stay on the sidewalk, for their own safety and for the comfort and safety of the animals. To do this, 8 to 12 walkers position themselves on either side of the animals, between them and the sidewalk. They hold a yellow nylon rope between them to discourage anyone from running into the street.

I have done the walk to the Izod Center before. This time, I got to carry the rope coil and walk at the back of the procession (a first for me, yay).



Chantal (Production) and Brett (my boss) waiting for the walk to start.


The weather was nice and it was a short, pleasant stroll to the arena. I don't remember anyone coming out to see the walk the last time we were here. This time there were quite a few people standing to the side taking photos. I guess it's not surprising, as for all we know this could be one of the last elephant walks, period. And it's definitely the last one to ever take place at the Izod Center.
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(photo courtesy Ryan H.)

See the fourth elephant in line? That's Assan, our oldest elephant. She's holding her handler's hand <3
I always enjoy the chance to participate in an elephant walk. Walking beside these beautiful animals is a privelege. Seeing the astonishment and excitement on peoples' faces as the elephants pass by is a joy. However many/few of these moments are left, I'm going to savor them.


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Aaaah Monday. A glorious day of rest :)
I woke up early out of habit, and after a nice breakfast, thought I'd take a look at my Tampa blog post from two years ago.

The photos were gone. ALL of the photos, in every post that I looked at :(


Probably 95% of the photos used in this blog are linked from my Facebook.
Sometime in the past month, Facebook archived all of my photos that are older than Sept. 2014...changing all of the image locations.



Yeah. So now I'm going back through each post and restoring. each. picture. one. at. a. time.
So if you notice posts without pictures...just be patient. I know about it, I'm fixing it. And I'm seriously considering getting a premium account so that this never ever ever happens again.

Anyway, after spending several hours replacing pic after pic after pic, Tim and Bill dropped by and offered to split an Uber with me to the nearest mall. I gratefully accepted. Got a haircut, picked up some white shirts, looked for some black flats but no luck, and hit Target for some groceries. Then back to the train for another FOUR HOURS of pic after pic after pic.


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Jameson and I enjoyed a stay at a Residence Inn in Worcester.
The next morning (afternoon rather) we found out that the train had arrived early for once!!!!!!
Perhaps it's because we were only about an hour away to begin with :P

We went grocery shopping, then went our separate ways. I went to Flour Bakery + Cafe to get lunch and reminisce about our last visit to Boston :) This time I got a roasted chicken sandwich with pureed avocado and jicama. I'd never had jicama before! It's sweet like an apple, but the texture is more like a water chestnut. Yum!


(photo courtesy indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)

After eating half the sandwich I was full (they're big!). I wrapped up the other half for later, but a few blocks later encountered a homeless guy asking for food and gave it to him. I am blessed every hour of every day with a job, a place to live, and the means to feed myself.

Moving on, I re-located the honey store I'd visited last time. It's called Follow The Honey and they literally only sell honey and honey-related products. Their inventory was a little different than last time...they had a special Tupelo honey that never crystalizes and a weird African honey called Aseda that was kind of medicinal in flavor.



The chestnut honey that I'd bought last time was nowhere to be found, so I was glad I'd snatched it up two years ago. This time I settled on some Oaxacan raw that they had "on tap". It's a darker honey with a reddish tint, and the flavor was very different than other honeys I've had before...sort of fruit and caramel. It was worth getting a small jar!

After that I went home. Well, I played Ingress, THEN I went home :P
There are lots of things to blow up in Boston. *evil laugh*


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The train run to Albany was about two days, because we had to go up through Ohio and then cross near the lakes to get to that city. The weather was rainy and cold for the entire run, so I didn't take any pictures (those I did take came out blurry and wet).

During the run I spent time on Quora when we had internet, watched a few movies, cooked...the usual stuff really.
Once we arrived the train was cut into about three pieces (cut = cars are separated to sit alongside each other on separate tracks rather than end to end). I don't recognize this yard from the last time...it's full of grey gravel that creates grey mud. Otherwise, nothing to distinguish it :P

Looking back on my entry from 2012, I was able to see the state museum and poke around some local businesses. This time the weather pretty much doused my activities :P It was rainy and cold for most of the week. We did have an elephant brunch in front of the arena! (Yellow arrow = my boss Brett). CLICK HERE to see more pictures of the event!

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After the brunch Brett took me to meet a former trombonist and his family for lunch at a nearby hole-in-the-wall with fantastic sandwiches. We had a lot of visitors this week, including John, a trumpet player who has subbed with us recently, and yet another former trombonist and his family! I am very sorry that I can't recall everyones' names! But it was awesome to meet new people and see familiar faces as well :)

Some Blue Unit peeps came to one of our shows too! I finally got to meet Kathryn, the newest member of the Blue Unit band. She and I are the only female musicians currently. Team Pink! :D

On Friday during the split, Brett treated us to a trip to Trader Joe's. I stocked up on dried fruits and organic soups for Mexico. Thanks Brett! Saturday went pretty normally, three shows, nothing to write home about. Oh, except that Tom's wife made us a fantastic derby pie!



After the Saturday shows we hopped over to The City Beer Hall to celebrate our last week with Harden, our current trumpet sub. He's an absolute professional and a kicka$$ musician. It's been a pleasure, and I wish he wouldn't leave!!!

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Train runs. It's been almost four months since I've been able to enjoy one.
Although I miss my car, gotta admit...I've missed the train too.

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Two years ago, this was my first ever train run, from Anacostia to Charleston.
(CLICK HERE for pictures from that run)
The scenery is beautiful. The train creaks and snaps as it makes sharp turns in the mountains on tracks meant for shorter coal cars. There's no internet and no phone signal. How wonderful :)

For the first day of the run, I decided to do a "Day In The Life" post for the DITL community on livejournal. It's an hour-by-hour account of what your basic train run is like :) CLICK HERE to experience it!

On the second day I went out onto the vestibule after breakfast to capture some scenery.

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We went over a pretty awesome bridge!!
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Probably the coolest shot that I got was of this waterfall. Turns out I had taken a picture of the same waterfall two years ago (the older pic is better haha). Here are the two photos side by side.
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On Monday we had a blissful day off. No moving, driving, etc.
I woke up with a nasty cold, so spent the day puttering around and watching Frozen and fetching groceries.

On Tuesday Jameson and I went to the National Aquarium. It was awesome! Four floors of fish, sharks, crustaceans, turtles, alligators, birds, and even monkeys! We learned that box turtles have a hinge on the underside of their shells so that they can close up like a box, and that electric eels can put out as much as 800 volts of electricity depending on how long they are!

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We saw the aquarium's rescued sea turtle, who is missing a front flipper. When she was rescued she was only 50lbs...now she's 520lbs!!

(photo courtesy nationalaquarium.wordpress.com)
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We were again treated to beautiful scenery on the run from Salt Lake to Denver.




Our train headed into a tunnel. Photo courtesy Chris, clown.


We arrived on time and the elephant walk was NOT cancelled, yay!
It was a lovely day for a walk, and it was only about a mile to the arena.
I didn't see any protestors. Just people driving by who slowed down to gawk...kids and parents running to keep up...construction workers and police pausing to wave and take pictures . It's always very nice to see the wondering smiles on peoples' faces at the sight of the beautiful elephants and horses.

I couldn't find any footage of our walk, but here's a cool photo from a walk in the 1960s.
That's the Denver Coliseum in the background.


(photo courtesy Denver Post)

Sort of off-subject, I recently found THIS article by someone who was privileged to visit Ringling's Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC) and has kindly shared her experience.
I've always been curious to know what it's like!


The rest of the week was pretty good, nothing thrilling to report.
Catfish had been subbing in for Slick this week and last. It was good to see him again!

On Monday, Jameson and I went to Winter Park for a short little getaway :)
We arrived late at night after driving over what felt like a high mountain pass. I hate that feeling of going up where the air is thin...it's hard to breathe and think :P Jameson had rented a nice condo for us, complete with a kitchen, couch, and a balcony with a fantastic view.


We started our day with Nutella and banana pancakes :)


Most of our time was spent wandering around the mostly deserted ski resort, window shopping and just enjoying the scenery and weather and each others' company. We ate lunch at a nice Mexican place and dinner at Smokin' Moe's, and breakfast the next day at a cute bakery, all of which were located in Cooper's Square. We visited the Winter Park Resort itself...
it was completely closed, but that didn't stop us from having a good time.

By chance, we found a bowling alley/movie theater/pizza place right down the road from our condo.
We bowled for a few hours...I didn't score above 80, but that's pretty good for me!
Jameson consistently got over 100. Skillz.
After that we had a relaxing evening in front of the tv.
We returned to the train this afternoon after getting some groceries.
And now I'm going to unpack and enjoy the rest of the day :)

A small bit of news this week, FELD Entertainment has given us a sneak peak of the new Ellenton facility!
Click the link for video and photos.
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Wednesday:
We arrived almost on time, despite leaving several hours late!
I was called to do the elephant walk last-minute. It was a short one...basically across a large parking lot. There were some protestors there but none of them had signs, they all seemed to be focused on getting video/photo footage. Not that there was anything exciting to witness; the elephants lined up and walked over as usual, followed shortly by the horses. Quick and easy.

After that, I went back to the train to change clothes,
then met up with Slick, Jameson and Rebecca for dinner at El Torito!
Had some delicious chicken fajitas and strawberry margaritas, and fantastic company :)

Thursday:
In the early afternoon, Jameson and I rode our bikes to a nearby grocery called El Super.
The produce there was VERY good and VERY cheap. I got three apples, two nectarines, a banana, cucumbers, grapefruit, a cookie, and a bottled water for $4!!! Will be going back there again before we move on!
The bike ride was nice. I was nervous...didn't want to KO in front of Jameson! But I didn't, phew.

After we got back, Brett, his wife and son, and Aaron (drummer) and I went to the LA Farmers Market to see Bill Watrous play! Other performers included Rob Stonebeck on trombone, Rich Eames on piano, Jennifer Leitham on bass, and Randy Drake on drums. Jennifer was AWESOME. I'm buying her album. Incidentally there is more to her than meets the eye...maybe I'll watch her documentary too!
Bill was sick good but that goes without saying ;)


Short vid of Bill soloing
Short vid of Bill singing




While listening to this seriously awesome live music, we got to enjoy some tasty treats :)
I got a turkey, swiss and tomato crepe from The French Crepe Co.
Theresa (Brett's wife) and I got ice cream from Bennett's Handmade Ice Cream stand; she got some kind of chocolate awesomeness and I tried Fancy Nancy, a coffee/banana/caramel combo that was REALLY good!


All in all, I had a GREAT time. Thank you Brett for a wonderful adventure!
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Phoenix, AZ

Jul. 1st, 2013 03:49 pm
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It was a short train run. We were supposed to load in on Monday but were delayed until Tuesday.
This week was a total scorcher, with some of the highest temperatures ever recorded on the planet!!!


The train yard is all dust and cracked ground.


On Tuesday I was supposed to participate in a PR involving painting tiles for a mural,
but for whatever reason I had been thinking that was a Wednesday event.
So I woke up too late and missed the bus. Go me. :(
Instead I ended up treating myself to a rental car, mostly in order to make it to a last-minute appointment
but also to enjoy some retail therapy. I got a new pillow, sneakers, and of course groceries,
and enjoyed a few hours of thrifting :D


On Friday we had a meeting about the upcoming California elephant walks (and free lunch, yay!).
Our Fearless Leaders explained how we should hold the walk rope, how to interact with bystanders,
and what our response should be to protestors. They also touched on how to behave appropriately around
the animals and explained some of the handlers' responsibilities.
From what I've heard, protestors in California tend to be a lot more verbally abusive and physically confrontational than in other states. I don't know if I'll be asked to do any Cali walks, but if so I hope I'm up to the task!!

After the meeting I walked over to a big warehouse-store called Ultimate Consignment.
Normally this is the kind of place I'd spend HOURS in, but the building was not A/C'd and it was just too hot.


Last night (Sunday) Brett held a BBQ at his train car for Catfish (trumpet), who is leaving us after today's show.
Catfish has been subbing for Slick, who's been out for several months.
It'll be great to have Slick back! At the same time, I'll sure miss Catfish!
He's a lot of fun to be around, and a monster player too :) Woop woop!

Partway through the BBQ many of us got a weather alert on our phones that a dust storm would be blowing through. Having never experienced a dust storm, I didn't know what to expect. The sky was only partly cloudy and there was a light breeze, so I think no one was terribly concerned.
Around 10pm I said goodnight and went indoors, and about fifteen minutes later felt a huge gust of wind hit the train followed by what sounded like sleet. That was the dust storm. It was pretty intense! There were two of them back to back.
Didn't get photos, but here's one from last year (link)

A huge fire started burning north of here last night as well...started by a lightning strike,
it has been contained but has killed 19 firefighters.

In the circus world, another tragedy: a Cirque acrobat, a mother of two young children,
died after falling 50 feet from her harness during the battle scene in 'Ka'.

Many unfortunate things happened around us this week.
Hopefully next week will be better.
All we can do, is just keep swimming.

Some photos from this week:


Jameson (keys) got a new tattoo!

(photo courtesy Jameson)

Zhang keeps cool in the freezer.

(photo courtesy Eryn, teacher)

This vendor was so loud it was funny...you could hear him screaming,
"CHOC'LATE--CHIP--COOKIIIIIES!!!!" even from the dressing rooms!

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The train run was only a day long. We arrived several hours late, but that's how it is sometimes :)

Wednesday featured an elephant brunch. I got the call to go and hold the yellow rope, whee! Hahaha.
The section I was 'blocking off' was off to the side so I didn't get to see any of what was happening,
but there was a huge crowd and it was great to see excitement from people of all ages :)


(photo courtesy Hartford Courant)

After the elephants were safely back indoors, Cindy (teacher) and I walked to Save-a-Lot
and then returned to the train (it's within walking distance this week).

The weekday shows were normal. For lunch on Thursday the band visited Agave
for some great Mexican food. The waiter made the guac right at the table! That was awesome.

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The train run from Kentucky to Rhode Island was long, and unfortunately the weather and lack of scenery were enough to keep me indoors for most of the trip. I did finally get some quality computer time though...we had two long stops near major cities, so I got to catch up on some world news and enjoy some mindless YouTube drivel :)
This little bit of false news was a fun read too.

Once we arrived, I was asked to participate in the animal walk and gladly said yes.
The weather was lovely, the walk was pleasant. No protestors, hooray!

(photo missing. courtesy Dunkin Donuts Center on Facebook)
I was waaay in the back alongside Siam and Baby :)

Afterward I joined Cindy (teacher), Elliana (cannon), Katie and Bubba (train crew),
and a few more crew members for sushi at Jacky's Waterplace & Sushi Bar.
It was delicious, and the presentation was pretty fantastic too!


That's a whole squid stuffed with rice, asparagus, avocado and shrimp. VERY good!

Afterward Katie and Bubba drove us to Whole Foods.
If you've never been, Whole Foods is an organic/all-natural specialty grocery with a large selection of imported goods. I can't afford to 'really' shop there, but whenever possible I pick up some of my favorites:
organic soups, real peanut butter, exotic chocolates, and great coffee!

I'm VERY grateful to Katie and Bubba for bringing me along. Grocery shopping can be a real chore in the circus, especially in those cities where the nearest grocery is miles away and your only transportation is either an expensive cab or a late night market bus. Great meal and great company. Thanks guys!

The next day was load in, and though I didn't have to work I had errands to run.
I walked 2 miles for a doctor's appointment,
exchanged some broken string lights at the nearby Providence Place Mall ,
walked to Stop & Shop to get groceries for the week,
and returned to the train where I did two loads of laundry and cooked.

Shows this week went as usual. Bruce Willis showed up on Friday and attended a show on Saturday.

I didn't get to meet him, but pretty sure I saw him and his daughter in one of the suites on Saturday.

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The train is back in Secaucus, and we're playing Brooklyn!
The Barclays Center is a new building, very state-of-the-art:



Right next door is a mall, grocery, and restaurants, so there's lots to
occupy our time as we won't be able to go very far from the arena between shows.
There's also a subway station right underneath the arena, so
many of us have been using it to get to and from Secaucus instead of bussing it.
By the end of March I'll be super familiar with Penn Station lol.

It's been 80 years since RBBB played in Brooklyn!
We had a special PR event right under the Brooklyn Bridge to mark the occasion!


(scan courtesy Brian, animal trainer)

View under the bridge!


The elephants performed a part of their act with some dancers and clowns,
and KCT entertained the crowd with some unicycle work too.
After that, the elephants got a snack!
Fun fact: Mabel LOVES carrots. She ignored everything else, ate her own carrots,
and stole carrots from the other elephants. Hilarious!
The snacks:



Elephants enjoying the snacks:


I was there to help keep people at a safe distance, along with
several others who normally do elephant walk.
Many media folks were there, taking pictures with huge cameras.
One guy even rested his lense on my shoulder to take his picture lol.
The protestors were kept at a pretty good distance thankfully, and
were sort of limited to where they could protest.
I'm glad, because there were lots of kids present.

Here we are! (it was cold!)


(photo courtesy Xianzeng, clown)

Some protestors in their designated 'free speech' spot.
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It was a really fun event, I'm glad I dragged myself out of bed early to do it!

We've been featured in the news a lot in general:
New York Times

New York Times Slide Show
New York Post Review


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The train was parked behind the Secaucus train station this week.
It'll be there when we're in Brooklyn, too.
Nice easy access to NYC :)

I wanted to go into the city on Monday, but got called for the elephant walk so did that instead.
It was nice and sunny but with a pretty strong chilly breeze.
The walk itself took very little time, but we weren't back at the train until about 4:30.

On Tuesday I had a little time to explore NYC again.
First tried looking for a music store with trombone duet books,
and after having no luck at three different stores, gave up the hunt. I'll try again in Brooklyn.

Instead I went down to see the new 9/11 Memorial.
The last time I was in New York, the fountains were almost completed
and the tower was pretty much nonexistent.



They're up to the 104th floor!

I was lucky to get in at all. You're supposed to pre-order passes.
Fortunately it was late in the day and they had some at the door.
There are many rules for viewing the Memorial, too.



Security was similar to an airport...empty your pockets and whatnot into a tray and go through a scanner.
Once you are in the courtyard, you can get close to both fountains, view the Freedom Tower a little closer, and see the ongoing construction of the 9/11 Museum.




There are many better pictures of the Memorial out there. Just wanted to share what I saw that day.
The courtyard is done in gray granite, with maple trees spaced throughout.
The spacing of benches and trees does make one think of a graveyard.


I'm glad to have seen it in person.

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This week, I got to do an elephant walk!
(follow the link to see some photos)

The elephant walk happens shortly after the train arrives in any given city.
The animal cars are detached from the train usually within 5 miles of the arena,
and elephants and horses then walk down the city streets to the arena
with the handlers and a group of Ringling volunteers.

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I got up around 7am and joined the animal walk volunteers at the Pie Car to wait for the bus.
Melissa (Production) got me a red Ringling shirt to wear, and reminded me to keep my eyes open,
and not to speak to protestors.
The bus came and took us to the animal cars, which were parked maybe 1.5 miles from the arena.
Police were already on the scene making sure our route was closed to commercial traffic,
and to keep protestors back while still allowing them to exercise their right.

The reason volunteers are needed is to keep people at a safe distance from the elephants
so as not to excite them, and so no one tries to touch them.
We were split into two groups and given a long yellow rope to hold between us, making a sort
of human fence. We stood on either side of the elephants, and the walk began.

It was a pleasant morning, cool air and a nice breeze.
The elephants had hay and grass on their backs (this is from a behavior called 'dusting'),
and clumps would occasionally blow off as we walked.
The horses walked behind the elephants.

Since it was pretty early on a weekday, we didn't see many people. But a few adults
on their way to or from work stopped to watch, and even came out of their office buildings to take pictures.
A few parents with young children were camped out to witness the spectacle too.
Even the police along the way had big smiles on their faces.
It was great to see the wonder and excitement on peoples' faces, young and old :)

I think there were only two protestors, a man and a woman, but they heckled us the entire way.
They both had signs with the same tired old photos and slogans on them.
I heard them yelling supposed "elephant abuse" statistics at us, and several times
the man said, "If you want to go to the circus, go see Cirque du Soleil!"
I don't know who he was talking to, as the only people present were circus employees...
Their goal was just to bother us, I guess. They seemed to avoid the bystanders completely.
At one point the male protestor started outright taunting one of the trainers or volunteers
(whoever-it-was was behind me so I couldn't tell), calling him "baldy" and "big guy", telling
him that this walk was good for him, he could "stand to lose a few pounds".
That, my friends, is harassment. I REALLY hope someone got it on tape.

Poor Elliana (cannon) was right next to the male protester for almost the entire walk :(

Anyway, imo, they were ineffective.
The few bystanders who even acknowledged their presence were disgusted.
I don't think calling a dude names and shouting propaganda at us helps the animals at all.

ANYWAY. Super-power kudos to all of the Ringling trainers and handlers, for silently dealing with this or worse levels of harassment day in and day out. For holding their heads high and taking pride in their work no matter how many crazies are screaming at them. I was totally awestruck and humbled by their professionalism and dedication today. It was a privilege to walk beside them.

On a related note, Mr. Feld recently appeared on The Today Show to talk about elephant conservation and his recent victory over the ASPCA.



Later in the week, my boss took me to meet Dave Steinmeyer.
Only, like, one of the greatest trombonists of all time!!!
Here he is playing Silent Night on the horn that I currently play in the show:



Yeah.

We had a nice lunch on the waterfront, and I enjoyed sitting back and listening while he and my boss caught up and talked shop. Both of them are great jazz players, WAY above my skill level, so I listened REALLY hard!
I loved hearing Dave talk about the way he 'feels' music through the trombone,
and how he manipulates sound.
He also very generously gave us each a copy of his new method book, Beyond Boundaries. It's a collaboration between himself and Alan Ralph (a renowned low-range player). The purpose of the book is to help the student extend the playable range of his/her trombone.
I can't even imagine playing in Dave's range. But heck, it's worth trying to get there :D


After lunch Brett and I went back to the arena and played some duets. Nothing special, just Christmas tunes, and they were written for four trombones so sometimes there were parts missing. But it was a great feeling to play 'pretty'. We don't get to do that in the show because most attempts at expression will not come through in a giant arena. I hope we get to play more duets soon!

On Saturday my friend Andrew came to see the show with his wife and son.
I was late letting him know we were in town, and unfortunately we were unable to get together afterward :/
But it was great to see him and meet his wife, and they had a great time!

Besides these events, nothing particularly fascinating happened this week.
Sorry I don't have any explorations to share this time...some weeks will be like that :P
Here's are some miscellaneous goings-on that might interest you!

Our Assist. Gen. Mgr. was on the news this week, talking about the show:

(photo missing)

Brian Miser, aka 'The Human Fuse', is leaving the circus and hitting the road with the crossbow cannon!

(photo courtesy Brian)

On Sunday we had church. This is a typical circus church...basically a pipe 'n drape dressing
room with lots of chairs, and a folding table altar.



Toy Store, who has provided several excellent photos for this blog, is out with a back injury :(
He's a true roustabout. Here's the proof!


(photo courtesy Toy Store)

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