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Three days off again! Gosh!

Monday:
Mostly house chores. Cleaned my room top to bottom, changed my sheets (not easy on a bunked bed!), changed my air filter, did laundry. Wrote answers to some lingering circus questions on Quora, one of which required me to watch Water for Elephants. Near the end of the day I got a notification that one of my answers had been published on slate.com.


(link to full article is HERE)

I'm really happy that my lowly perspective is considered good enough to publish! It's very awesome that people are interested in finding out what circus life is like. I wrote the answer to this question more than a year ago, and hadn't really looked it over since. IMO there were a few things that I should have cleaned up before it was published. Still, I think it's a good start! The next ones will (hopefully) be even better!

Tuesday:
Jameson and I went to the grocery in the afternoon. I bought the ingredients for meatloaf and made it for the first time ever, using this recipe and the NuWave infrared oven. The meat shrank an awful lot more than I was expecting, but otherwise I think it turned out very tasty!

Later in the day I borrowed Jameson's car to visit the post office and drop my bike off at nearby Urban Bike Fitters for maintenance. It ticks me off that I haven't ridden my bike at all yet this year, but the brakes aren't working :/ No gouda. The gent who will be repairing my bike, Mr. Pan, seemed really interested in it (it's a vintage Raleigh Folder custom restoration) and asked if he could keep it through Friday. I said sure, why not! May as well spread the love :D


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The run was only a day long. We arrived only a few hours late.
By the time we were spotted I was dressed and ready to go DO stuff!

I took a bus to the arena (the train is parked in Springfield so it's a 30 minute ride this week) and from there walked to a large shopping plaza across the highway. A few other circus friends were going there too; there's an overpass, but no pedestrian walkway. Sometimes, we've got to make our own way.



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Before getting started this week, a note:

I've added tags "CLOWNS", "ELEPHANTS" and "TIGERS" to the tags list.
These tags are for any posts that contain photos of one or more of those three things :)

Also, please note that for many of my posts I "borrow" photos from friends, colleagues, and the company.
If those folks decide to delete or move those photos, I may not be able to re-include them in this blog.
So Enjoy them while they last :)

*end of note*

The train run was so short it's hardly worth mentioning, other than to say that for once we arrived on time!!!



On Tuesday I took a stroll downtown to run some errands. Not downtown proper, but closer to the University. There are lots of cool little shops nearby. Austin has a rep for great food and interesting street art.


The train yard is near a strange little side street. It took me a bit to remember what was around, but soon I recalled a really great Goodwill a few blocks away and took a walk over.
On the way there was this truck with a pig...randomly sitting on top....okkkkk.....?



I found two nice shirts at the Goodwill. This was not one of them. Keep Austin Weird, indeed.


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The run was short, but I did get a nice pic of the Margaret Hunt Bridge leaving Dallas.


We rolled into the yard on Monday night.
Tuesday was load in, meaning it was a free day for me.
I took my bike out for a little bit. The roads are wide and traffic is light near the yard, and there's a little residential area, so I pedaled around there for a while until I got tired. This yard stands out in my memory because we're parked next to a large grain elevator.



This was the yard where I first started buying air filters because the pigeons were pooping/dropping feathers into our ventilation. And this was where I bought my Brita water filter, because of the open vat of raw sewage right next to our hydrant and because the tap water came out orange the first time I turned it on.


Aaah, the memories!
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Blue Unit update:
(note: all links used were previously posted on Nicole Feld's twitter,
or obtained from other company sources.)

Here are Nicole Feld's thoughts after visiting with the injured performers. (VIDEO: CLICK HERE)
A statement by the father of one of the performers, an acrobat himself. (ARTICLE: CLICK HERE)
A statement from one of the acrobats who was injured. (VIDEO: CLICK HERE)
Jonathan Lee Iverson (Blue Unit ringmaster)'s account of the incident. (ARTICLE: CLICK HERE)

A letter of thanks from the Felds to the people of Providence, RI. (ARTICLE: CLICK HERE)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Red Unit had a nice train run to Columbus. We got started a bit late, but at least it wasn't raining!
Scenery:

may5-2014-1
may5-2014-2

Cool old engine:


The weather on the second day was great, so I spent a lot of time on the vestibule. We arrived more or less on time. Jameson recognized the yard right away; it took me a little while :P As soon as the train was spotted we hopped off and grabbed some groceries at a Giant Eagle we both remembered.

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I decided to return to the train on Monday, and use Tuesday to sort of repack.
Jameson is graciously letting me stay at the condo for the first week of shows.
I'm super grateful because we've got some early splits on the weekdays. The commute may not be any shorter, but at least there'll be a real bed, shower, and fridge waiting for me at the end of the day. Thank you Jameson!

So on Monday I took the metro to Union Station. Jameson came with me to make sure I didn't get lost or stuck in any turnstiles (you wouldn't BELIEVE how often I get stuck in turnstiles.) At the station we saw lots of decorations left over from the recent Ringling PR event.

I got back to the train and cleaned up my room, then took the bike to get a few groceries.
I <3 my bike. It gets easier to ride every time I take it out.


Opening day went well. We've got some big enthusiastic crowds here in Chicago. The Friday morning show was especially nice, because one of the school groups was so enthusiastic they danced all the way through the second half! It was super cute :)
During the split, guess what I got to do!!!

I got to see the Chicago Symphony under Tilson Thomas playing Mahler's 9th Symphony!!



Brett and I booked it over to the concert hall between shows. Our morning show ended at 12:50, and theirs started at 1:30. We made it with only minutes to spare!
I love classical music, especially anything featuring the low brass ;)
I'd been looking forward to this concert for several weeks.
It was my first time hearing a world-class symphony live!
And it was definitely worth it. They were PRISTINE. Mahler's 9th ends quietly, unlike most of his other large works. It takes a lot of control, a lot of subtlety, to play such exposed and delicate music.
The CSO pulled it off flawlessly.

There were loud brassy parts as well (it's Mahler after all) and we were sitting directly across from the trombones, so we got to enjoy the power and energy full blast. It was just as interesting to watch as it was to listen. You could see the concentration, the control, and everyone breathing together to make the piece flow seamlessly between instruments. Wicked awesome. When the concert was over, I was wishing for more!!
Here's a link to a review of Thursday's premiere.

We stopped at a nearby pizza place for late lunch/early dinner, then got back to the arena in time for our 400th performance of Built to Amaze. Wow...where did the time go!!!
It feels like we were just in Brooklyn doing our 200th...

Audiences over the weekend were awesome. The arena was packed pretty much every show, and Sunday night's show was a sell out. It's a great feeling when your show can fill a 20,000 seat arena :)


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We started off our second week in Rosemont with two glorious days off.
We would've had these same days off on a train run, but although runs are relaxing, you can't really DO anything on a moving train other than entertain yourself in your room. That's why these two days off are a special treat...we can explore or rest or whatever, and stay stationary :)

The weather was OK so I rode my bike to a shopping plaza containing a Savers, Big Lots, and a Jewel-Osco. In other words, I went thrifting :D Had some surprising good luck at the Savers, finding three like-new sweaters (nice ones, not hoodies!). I skipped Big Lots because I was feeling a bit under the weather, got groceries, and rode home. There are some beautiful suburbs around us. I really enjoyed riding through the falling leaves while admiring peoples' fall decorations <3

Sure enough, I came down with a cold that night.
Spent Tuesday mostly indoors, relaxing and watching movies.
On Wednesday we had a split, starting with a morning educational show. The weather was rainy and windy, and it was a smaller crowd than we'd usually have, but it happens sometimes. During the split I practiced my 'big' trombone and just kinda hung around, reading, relaxing, talking to people. The night show went smoothly as well. Some of the Feld family were in the audience; I hope they were happy with what they saw!

On both Thursday and Friday we only had night shows. I spent those days doing chores, and also took my bike for a spin through the suburbs again. It was very cold, so I didn't stay out long. Also my poor fish finally kicked the bucket on Friday, so I spent a good deal of time sanitizing his aquarium equipment and giving him a funeral (in a dumpster...because our donnikers are not 'real' toilets.) This fish survived traveling to various climates and altitudes on a moving train for almost two years.
Great job little buddy! Your presence will be missed.



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It was a nice relaxing train run from Colorado to Missouri.
I saw a buffalo farm, lots of sheep, and lots of farmland :)



The elephant walk was supposed to be at 8:30am, but it was cancelled so I slept for another hour, then got up and cooked/cleaned. Elliana (human cannon) is FINALLY back from recovering from an injury!! AND she has a car! She graciously offered to drive me to a grocery and I accepted. She's from St. Louis, so she drove the long way to show me the State Museum, Library, Symphony, Hall, etc. We also made a stop at Pappy's Smokehouse...featured on Man vs Food and Discovery Channel, also voted one of the 101 best places to eat by the Travel Channel! Elliana picked up some food for the guys doing load in. I got a brisket salad (look at that, trying to make it sound healthy) and a bottle of Fitz's root beer, made locally.

On opening night Circus Harmony performed during preshow. Those kids are very talented!


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After returning from the mini-vacation with Jameson, we had a day to rest up before shows started.
Nothing exciting happened on Tuesday, and opening day on Wednesday went as usual too :)
On Thursday I took my bike out for a bit on a nearby path and later to the grocery store.
I must be at least partially adjusted to the altitude as it was an easy ride. Of course, it's pretty flat terrain around here too :P
At the grocery, I picked up a loaf of cranberry walnut bread from Dimmer's Bakery (now Udi's). It tastes similar to cinnamon raisin bread, but less sweet and the crust has a nice kind of smoky flavor too.

On Friday during the split I did a little recording with Aaron (drums) for a project he's doing, then I went for a walk on the 16th St. Mall in downtown Denver. 'Mall' in this case refers to a shopping strip...about a miles' worth of street packed with shops and restaurants. It reminded me of the Gaslamp Quarter, actually.

I'm sorry for the lack of photos in this post. I took several of my own pics, but had to reset my phone to factory default this week and lost everything :/

Over the weekend we had a six pack, our first in some time. Everyone was pretty tired by Sunday night.
Thankfully we've got a nice long train run to St. Louis! How exciting to be heading back east!!

As Halloween approaches, I still don't have a costume. Any ideas, anyone?


Also this week:

FELD Entertainment has released some teaser PVs and behind-the-scenes footage
for the new Marvel Universe Live show!

Untitled

Security here at the Pepsi Center was pretty tight.
We walked through a metal detector and had our bags searched every day.

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Finally, a wonderful long train run!
We were treated to spectacular mountain scenery on the way out of California.
Rebecca says we were near Tahoe National Forest.





On the second day of the run, I woke up to this spectacular view as we crossed Salt Lake.


Salt flats:


On the right, the lake was clear and beautiful :)


On the left, it was reddish purple and beautiful!



Ashley took this gorgeous photo from her vestibule:


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Appologies for posting this so late.
I took a mini vacation this week, and was unable to post on the usual day.
Thanks for reading!

Though the run to Bakersfield was short, it was nice to be moving again :)

On Wednesday many people explored the downtown area.
We're only about a mile from the arena, so I get to use my bike all week. Yay!

On 19th Street there are many antique malls, including a Five and Dime inside an old Woolworth's building.

After you're done looking at antiques, you can get an old fashioned burger and shake in the Diner.

For Thursday's rehearsal my boss let me sit out for the end of the 2nd half while he played trombone.
That was fun! I haven't heard the music in the house since winter quarters!



Our Animal Open House was in the Convention Center next door. A strange setup!

(photo courtesy Ryan)

Nothing much else happened in Bakersfield...another laid-back city :)

Next we go to Sacramento, where I'm told there's nothing to do around the train.
So expect a short post :P

San Francisco )

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Tuesday:
The week got off to a relaxing start with no train run :)
The train will stay in San Jose, and we will commute via charter bus to the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
The band will be using the tech van, hooray!
Because of the long commute, it is likely that some people will sleep overnight at the arena.

Today I got to do a volunteer PR at Family House SF.
While the clowns entertained the kids, we volunteers reorganized donation containers for Family House.



Although the turnout was a little lower than expected, the kids seemed to have a good time :)



(all photos courtesy Family House SF)

The Stroopie Gourmet was there to 'cater' the event.
Have you ever had a super thin waffle, sliced in half, layered with caramel and jam?
Made right in front of you and served piping hot?
If not, add these guys to your foodie list! NOM NOM NOM!



After a very long ride back to the train, I walked to a nearby Chinese grocery.
I didn't need anything but had to check it out, and am sorry I did because now I'll be tempted to buy
lots of new exciting foods :P
I exercised some restraint and only got white pepper, durian jam, almond jello, and some fruit.


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This was a nice week :)
We had a lot of shows so I don't have any exploring to report.
I did get to bike to the arena almost every day (over the weekend I was lazy and rode the bus).
It was a really nice ride, and I'm starting to feel more comfortable around pedestrians, cars, and other bikers.
Practice practice!

On Tuesday I got to see my sister for the last time while we're in Cali.
I got a little rental car and drove to her place, and from there we went to Rice Things
and met Skyler for a yummy lunch.



After lunch we went to a few thrift stores (I love thrift stores!) and Kayle bought some stuff for her
classroom. Then we visited Manhattan Beach and enjoyed the sun and sand for about an hour before
she had to go to work.





Before hitting the road we hit Manhattan Beach Creamery for some insanely good ice cream.
I got sticky bun crunch! Kayle got chocolate peanut butter...but it had no pb in it!!!!!!!!! AAARGH.

It was great to see Kayle one last time. Hopefully we can meet up again over the holidays!

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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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‚ÄčAn eventful week here in LA!

Tuesday:

Although this train run was short, we went through some lovely winding passes, including the Tehachapi Loop! This is one of few places where people riding the train can see the WHOLE train, from the last stock car to the engine!

(photo courtesy trainweb.org)

We arrived in LA early Tuesday morning.
The train is parked next to a street; much more convenient for us than when it's in a yard.
I was able to take my bike to a nearby grocery first thing this morning.
The weather is wonderful here!

My sister Kayle lives nearby and had the day off,
so she came and picked me up!
Back in 2010 I had lived with her in Lancaster, CA while looking for work.

Hilariously, right when she arrived, a couple of cops were questioning me about
calls they had received reporting elephants running loose.
Of course the elephants were already at the arena.
I wonder if it was kids making prank calls or PETA making trouble. Both are likely :P

I showed Kayle my little room, then she took me to
Marukai grocery!
This is one of the things I've really looked forward to doing in CA.
Japanese grocery stores have a lot of great foods that you can't get anywhere else.
I got green tea flavored Pocky and Kotsuzumi sake!

We split some mochi ice cream, then Kayle took me to see her apartment!
It's on the second level of a complex, right behind a street with lots of shops.
We spent some time catching up, and she gave me some paints, brushes,
paper and canvas to play with on the next train run :)
Then we drove over to Redondo Beach and walked around on the pier.



Chicken playing drums. Beats me...


Lovely sunset:


Here we are!


Pretty soon her boyfriend Skyler showed up, and we went over to Quality Seafood,
a fish market that also will cook the fresh fish for you!
We split a mixed seafood plate and some live rock oysters on the half shell. Yum!


Great selection of fresh fish!


Our oysters :)



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The train run here was pretty nice.
Here we are passing Denver!



Tuesday was load in and Wednesday was a dark day.
The train was parked next to Monument Valley Park.
Being parked in a public place can be very convenient and fun. Here we were only about a mile from downtown Colorado Springs, right next to a university, and a short bike ride/walk to the nearest grocery. On the other hand, I can understand why some circus veterans prefer isolated train yards. We had many trespassers this week...people who thought it was OK to just climb onto our train and sightsee or take pictures. I'm sure it's exciting to see the circus train,
but I hope people will remember that this is our HOME, and it is private property.

0609132156b

In general this was a great spot for us. We didn't have to go far to enjoy the outdoors!
Some people went to see the Garden of the Gods, only two miles from our train.

Some more adventurous circus folk went climbing on Pike's Peak, or white water rafting!
As for me, I tried out my new bike!



I followed the greenway to the grocery.
It was a really nice ride.



On the way back I was out of breath and had to walk the bike several times.
On top of being out of shape, I was probably struggling with the thinner air at 6000ft above sea level.
Everyone in the circus had to drink more water and take deeper breaths here.
It made doing shows more difficult, but we're all professionals and made it through without major incident :)


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After the Hershey shows, I took Melissa's car to my parents house to spend an extra day at home.
It was great to see my parents and my sister Kate and my brother Jonah.
I spent Monday with my mom and Kate; we made taco salad for my Aunt Nicole, Uncle Mike, Aunt Penny, and cousin Tony, all of whom came over for lunch. We had a great time catching up. Everyone seems to be doing pretty well!

After that I went to Kate's house to check out her vegetable garden and to visit with Jonah.
Kate and Jonah had salvaged some of our Mom's things...diaries, photos, books...and I got to glance through them briefly. I'm glad they were able to save this stuff. Next time I'm home there are photocopies to be made.
We joined Kate's fiancee Pat at The Inn at Turkey Hill (Brewery side) for dinner.
It's been ages since I've been there. Our Mom used to bake for the 'fancy restaurant' part of the building.
The new brewery is pretty nice.

Jonah will be going to Shippensburg University in the fall. He got a scholarship!!
He had his last day of school this week and will graduate in a few days.
I am SO proud of him! Now all of us kids have become 'adults' :)
I wonder what Jonah will decide to study? How exciting!!!

When I got back from Kate's I spent some time with my parents,
who were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary!
They went out for dinner together. When they got back,
Dad showed me how to tighten the parts on my new bike.
I was really touched that he had it all put together for me when I came home. <3
He and mom also got me a bunch of goodies...mini bungees for the bike,
magnets for my room, a non-stick pan, some local honey...and a larger version of the hex sign on my door :D
I got spoiled :)

I had to leave early the next day. As always, I wished for more time. Being with family is wonderful.

I drove the same route that I had taken back in 2010, when I'd driven cross country to live with my sister in Cali.

drive
I was even able to stay at the same hotel in Iowa!
Hotels are great. Mostly because they have real beds and bathtubs :D


After a great night's rest I left the hotel and finished the trip to Council Bluffs where the train was spotted.
First I stopped at a local bike shop to make a minor repair to my bike.
Then I got much needed groceries!
Then I got to the train, unpacked everything, and tried out the new bike!!



No pics of me riding it yet, sorry :P
For those who don't know, I got this bike via craigslist
from a gentleman in South FL who enjoys biking and DIY.
The 'road' next to the train is paved, so I rode up and down for a bit, adjusting the seat/handlebar heights as needed. I practiced folding the bike and lifting it on/off the train.
I went to the far end of the train and practiced turning.
Almost wiped out a few times, but that's ok, it's been like 15 years since I rode a bike and I'm bound to fall!

Here it is 'stored' in my room:



Some people use the crew's workshop to store bikes, and others use the possum belly or the top bunk in their room. I'd considered using my top bunk, but this bike has a steel frame and probably weighs 30-35lbs.
Getting it up there would be tough for me.
Anyway if I really wanted a more conveniently compact bike, I'd have gotten one like Jameson's!


His is cute! But mine is more 'my style'. (vintage)
I will be using the bike mostly to get groceries, and for leisure :)

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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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