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On Monday I did absolutely nothing. Had not slept well, and neither had Jameson, so we decided to stay at the train.

I was bored. I cleaned my room, boiled some eggs, and did a little research on U-Hauls. I finished watching an anime series called Shinsekai Yori. It's pretty dark subject matter but a great story and great art. I really enjoyed it and am sorry to have finished it.

Later in the day I ended up getting an honest-to-goodness job offer. I haven't officially accepted yet, so more on that later. I spent the rest of the evening researching apartments and sublets near the job location, and reviewing the company's website.

At some point during the day it started to snow.



On Tuesday I borrowed Jameson's car to run errands. First I went to U-Haul to look at their smallest trailer (which is the only one my car could pull) and to get an estimate for installing a trailer hitch. I hope that this won't be necessary, but it's good to be prepared.


Then I hit a nearby Kroger, because the train run from Cincinnati to Norfolk is sure to be long and I want to be fully stocked for the trip. I know it's early, I could have taken an Uber to the grocery on Sunday night, but somehow I doubt I'll be in the mood.

Back at the train I unpacked and made a few calls related to housing in my potential new city/state of employment. Again, it's too early to know what I will need, but may as well give myself some options and know what's available.

Wednesday the weather was fairly crummy due to winter storm Stella. Although we didn't get accumulation here in Ohio, it was cold and wet and windy. I would have liked to go somewhere and do something, but there just aren't many options around here. Instead, I researched apartments and made appointments and tried to figure out what kind of furnishings (if any) I'd be able to afford for a new place.

Later in the evening Jameson and I drove out to our boss Brett's house for dinner. We arrived a little late, and were surprised to see so many circus people there. People from production, the band, wardrobe, the school...it was a big ol' get together! We had burgers and pasta and beans and other treats, enjoyed good conversation, had intense air hockey competitions, and sat around looking at old circus programs that my boss has collected. We had fun looking for our friends in the old programs...some of these people look very different now, or perform different work on the show. For example, it was awesome to find a program with Brian French on the high wire! I've always known him as an elephant handler.

(photo courtesy Chaz C.)

A big topic of conversation was of course "Have you found anything?" or "What are your plans for afterward?". Many people still aren't sure what they'll be doing once the show closes, while some have found jobs or are using the travel time between cities to hunt for work.

As it got late, Theresa (Brett's wife and a former Ringling dancer) handed out her famous chocolate pumpkin loaves as we said our farewells. I gave her an especially tight hug, knowing that we may not see each other again for a long time. It occurred to many of us that this might be the last time all of us would gather like this. With Jameson leaving, the band will be very different from now on. Others will certainly be leaving early as well. Everything is changing and will continue to change, up to the very end when this community, and this lifestyle, will fall apart and be no more. Not to be melancholy, it's just the truth.

Jameson and I talked about it on the drive back, about all the things we love about the circus community. I will miss being able to look around in any city and see at least one circus person among the crowd. I will miss the complete disregard for language barriers, and the deep trust that exists between people who have never exchanged a word. I remember being startled and amused the first time a non-English-speaker whom I'd never met thrust a phone at me in the train yard, with a frustrated Uber driver on the other end. Or the times I've been out sightseeing in a city, and a Chinese or Mongolian or Russian person grabbed me and thrust a map into my hands, knowing that as a member of this circus family, I would help them no matter what. And all the times I've needed help myself, and found it offered without reservation and often without even having to ask, simply because I'm a part of this amazing community. I will miss the cheerful greetings exchanged on a one show day, or the good-humored exasperation that we'd share at the start of a six pack weekend. I will miss seeing people breathing fire or flying through the air or riding elephants in my daily life, as natural as breathing. I could go on, but better save some of this sentimentality for May. The bottom line is, there is more being lost here than a job. I will miss these people and this life.


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Jameson and I spent the night in Duluth, so that he could rest up and fight off the flu. The train would take a long time to reach Cincinnati, so we were in no hurry.

On Monday morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast, then went to a shipping store so I could mail off my spare trombone slide to a buyer in New York. I hope he'll enjoy it! After that we hit the road, reaching our second hotel in Knoxville TN around dinnertime. We decided to eat at a nearby Outback Steakhouse, and although the food tasted good both of us felt bad after eating, so we spent the rest of the night lying flat on our backs in the hotel room.

On Tuesday we began driving to Cincinnati, and got there in time for dinner again. We found a good pizza place for some oven-fired margherita. After our meal we saw that the train was still not in the yard (we are always late to arrive in Cinci due to the high volume of rail traffic). We decided to see a movie and if the train wasn't spotted or close to it by the time we got out (10pm) we'd get another hotel. We chose M. Night Shyamalan's "Split". It was really creepy, and at the end there was, of course, a twist! We really enjoyed the movie. By the time it was over the train still wasn't in the yard, so we decided to cave and get a hotel. It turned out to be the right choice as the train ended up officially spotting sometime after midnight.

On Wednesday there was another round of severance negotiations in the morning, so Jameson took us back to the train and waited while I sat in on that phone conference. We are making progress, and I'm excited for the day when we'll be finished negotiating. After the meeting we went to get some groceries. As we returned to the train and began unpacking, I was surprised by a visit from Brian Miser, a former Human Cannon with Ringling and a current Human Cannon in his own right. Mr. Miser is thinking of purchasing one of the Ringling train cars for a project he's putting together. Cool! I invited him into my room to look around and take some measurements. He also took a look at Jameson's room, since it's a different size and shape. While I'm sad that the train is being sold off, it does make me happy that a circus person is considering purchasing this piece of circus history...I'd like it if this car, which I consider to be "my home", ends up in good hands rather than a scrap yard. I was too shy to take a photo while Brian was in my room, but snapped a quick pic as he went outside to inspect the undercarriage and such.



The weather was sunny and windy, and since we're here for two weeks I decided to take my flytraps outside and keep them there until the weather turns. I'll be pretty ticked if anyone runs them over.


They have begun growing again since I took them out of the fridge, so maybe they'll be all right!


Later in the day Jameson finally got his offer of employment letter from LA Film School. It's official, he's leaving us. I'm very happy for him, but of course it's hard not to be sad, too. Neither of us wanted to leave this job yet. Neither of us wanted to have to think about living and working apart. But what we want never does have much to do with the big picture, does it?

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On Monday I woke early to take Jameson to the airport. He's flying to Florida for a final in-person interview with a company that would hire him as a teacher.

I'm very excited and happy for him! But you know, I also worry. He'll be leaving the circus in a few weeks, and after that...when will I see him again? What if I don't get a job in the same state? What does this mean for us?

It's something we've talked about a lot. Both of us are very practical people, and it's clear that we both put career goals ahead of relationship goals at this point in our lives. And while I'm OK with that, I also don't want to lose an amazing relationship because I end up having to work at a McDonald's in Maine or something. I worry too much, but if there's one thing I'm confident about, it's that both of us will try hard to keep each other.

After dropping Jameson off, I drove to the very high-end Lenox Square shopping center to buy some nice clothes. This mall had a Coach, Bulgari, a Tesla dealership...oh and a cupcake ATM...all indications that I shouldn't be shopping here :P

After finding what I needed I went to Best Buy to recycle my old laptop. It's served me well for six years.
Then I went to Target for groceries and to look at storage options. I have no idea where I'll end up as yet, but don't want to be packing my room at the last minute, so decided on three large bins that would fit in my gauchos (train room storage spaces). I also decided to try some vacuum bags for my sweaters and other clothing.

Once home, I began filling the bins. Most of my belongings will go into cardboard boxes at a later date, but I also wanted some climate-proof options in case things need to be stored long-term. I neglected to take a picture of my disasterous room as I was packing. Just imagine it. Well, here's a picture of when I did a similar thing in 2013. Room explosion!



By the time that was all cleaned up I was surprised to see that it was dinnertime. The day went quickly. I ate dinner and while I was at it, listed a spare trombone slide for sale on Ebay. It's a good slide, I just don't need it what with all of the trombone purchases I've made this past year. Hopefully it will find a good home! I spent the rest of the night alternating between looking for jobs and trying to do something relaxing. I don't think I'll feel relaxed until I'm employed again.

The next day I indulged in waking up a bit later, then did a load of laundry, then drove the 40 minutes to the arena to wash my trombones. When I got there our dressing room was locked, but fortunately a building employee was nearby with a key and allowed me to duck in for a few items. Before I could begin washing there was a phone conference for our severance negotiations, so I took part in that for about 30 minutes. Then rolled up my sleeves and got to work.




Unless you've done it before, you seriously have no idea how difficult it is to wash a trombone slide in a tiny bathroom sink. Add that to the list of things I won't miss about touring. I carefully washed the inner stockings and outer slides, then wiped down the bells first with t-shirts and then with microfiber. I re-lubricated the tuning slides, then dried everything off inside and out with a Slide-o-Mix cloth. By the time I was finished it was nearly 4pm. Time to hit the road and beat the rush hour traffic.
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It turned out that the Smoke Ring was closed for maintenance, so the guys and I missed out on our amazing meal :/

Instead we headed over to Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand, a little corner restaurant that's on the way back to the train. They serve small-batch, organic chicken sausages in a variety of ways. I was expecting a sort of fast food environment...the food definitely came out fast, but the quality was WAY better than fast food! Jameson had creamy grits that he said were some of the best he's ever had. Tim (sax) was all about the meatball slider. Brett (bandmaster) had a full-sized chicken sausage in a hoagie roll, it looked great. I had sweet potato pancakes with breakfast chicken sausage links. The pancakes were fluffy and delicious and the sausage was flavorful and just a bit spicy. How have we never been here before?

I didn't get a picture of the food before we all dug in, but did find this poster on the wall to be pretty funny.



After our meal we went to Cafe 290 to see our friend Hardin play trumpet with a local big band. Hardin has frequently subbed in with the circus band, so we all already know he's a great player. This time we got to see him in a jazz element. The place was packed and the band was awesome! I think the only thing we didn't like was the frontman, he was very talkative. All the time he spent talking and preening himself could have been better spent listening to that great band. Ah well, what we did get to hear was very enjoyable. Had a great time :)

Jameson and I left after the first set, stopped at Walmart for some groceries, and crashed back at the train. So tired. (The train's staying in the same yard for Duluth.)


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I got to spend Monday with my Aunt, who lives near Raleigh. We had lunch at Calavera Empanadas, a really awesome little place right in downtown Raleigh. The empanadas were AMAZING. I have never had dough so light and fluffy! And the fillings were awesome too. I got the Al Pastor (pork and pineapple) and it was really delicious. They also had dessert empanadas...one had bananas and nutella, the other was pumpkin pie. So stinkin' good!


After our meal we went back to my aunt's place where we just hung out and enjoyed each other's company. I helped her to grade some papers (she's a teacher) and we talked about my sisters and brother, and our plans for the future. For my birthday, my aunt and uncle gave me a huge bag of treats from Trader Joe's! Turkish honey, fruit leather, sprouted wheat bread, Belgian chocolate, and much more. They also gave me some very nice "dressy" shirts (which I will hopefully have occasion to wear now that I won't be living in a train yard!). I am spoiled. Thank you aunt C and uncle A :)

For dinner we went to a local Chinese place. After that, I had to start making my way to Atlanta. It was a six hour drive and the train had left early, so I wanted to get there as soon as possible. I drove partway through the night and finished the drive the next morning, arriving around noon (thanks to traffic).

This might have been Jameson's last train run. He's had his car on the road for quite a while, so hasn't taken many runs (when you bring a car it's your responsibility to drive it to each city). Since I'd borrowed his car this week, he used the time to enjoy the train one last time. I hope it will be a good memory for him.

I spent that evening unpacking and rehearsing for an audition video that I'd need to do on the fly.

Wednesday was opening day. Nothing extra-special happened, we had a surprisingly short rehearsal and a decent show.

Thursday we only had one evening show. I used the day to complete my audition video; because there were other events going on at the arena, it really did take me the entire day to get all of my things done. By the time it was time for the show I was exhausted. It felt good to sleep that night.

Friday we had a split. After the first show it took almost an hour to get back to the train thanks to Atlanta traffic. Putting that on the list of things I won't miss when this job is over. I used the few hours of my day to do laundry and apply for jobs, then we went back to the arena for the evening show. At some point in there the arena personnel presented us with a cake, but I think it was part of a PR event because we weren't actually offered any :P

Saturday and Sunday were three show days to make what we call a "six pack" weekend. I was exhausted before the weekend started, and it didn't get any better as the shows went on. I overhear a lot of folks asking each other, "What will you do after this?" and "Have you found anything yet?" I hear a lot of rumors about how things are going among the various troupes and departments, and see a lot of discouraged-looking people. I think it's starting to really set in that come May, we had better have our lives together. I think this weekend is especially hard since we have so many shows. Normally this would be exhausting, but at least we'd enjoy our work and appreciate the audiences. But with unemployment looming for a lot of people, I get the impression that it's extra-hard to get through a heavy weekend like this.

So...I'm sorry for the lack of pictures this week. It was just very busy, and there wasn't a lot of time for fun.

Monday, two shows for President's Day. I'm posting this blog before we finish because not sure how late I'll be out tonight. Some band folks are planning to go to Smoke Ring for some tasty, tasty smoked meats. I especially like their roasted brussels sprouts! Then we'll go listen to a friend of ours play at a local bar. Should be a nice way to end the week.

For the next two weeks we will be playing Duluth, and the schedule will be much lighter. I hope I'll have better things to share with you.


Other stuff:

This week we got some horrible news. One of our beloved aerialists, Nadia, passed away unexpectedly. She leaves behind an incredible husband and father and a beautiful baby boy. Her death is a painful blow to anyone who had the privelege of knowing her. Thank you for being such a wonderful person, Nadia. A light has gone out in the world now that you are gone.

Britney (former elephant crew, floor crew) took this video from the perspective of the Ringmaster float. Pretty awesome!



Happy Birthday to Jonathan (animal specialist)! Looks like the clowns got him good!

(photo courtesy Jon M.)
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First thing on Monday morning, Jameson had a follow-up interview with a company looking to hire music teachers. It was a Skype interview taking place in our hotel room, so I got to be there and listen to almost the whole thing. It went really well. I think he will soon have a job for after the circus.

To celebrate, we went to Tupelo Honey Cafe in downtown Greenville (Jameson said it was still to celebrate my birthday, but I think otherwise!). I had this really awesome sweet potato pancake with a piece of fried chicken and pecans. Yum! Jameson had the fried chicken alone with creamy gravy, and a side of roasted brussels sprouts that were REALLY good! I didn't take pictures...was not in the mood.

While I am genuinely happy and excited for Jameson, I am also reminded that I still do not have anything lined up. It's not for lack of trying, but that doesn't keep me from feeling a desperate sort of urgency on a daily basis. What can I do today? Where should I apply today? What haven't I done, that I should be doing? Many people here are asking these questions and feeling this sort of pressure. The one thing that I really need to figure out is where I can start practicing my large bore trombone while on tour. Arenas provide a great deal of space, but not a great deal of privacy or soundproofing.

While all of these thoughts were bouncing around in my head, I got to see Jameson finally RELAX a little bit! He's been so tense and worried, just like me. But he is a good person, a hard worker, and a very determined and positive person. Things will work out all right, and I think his hard work is paying off, and he's finally getting closer to some job/life security, just a month after we all got canned. It's a wonderful thing.

We visited a 2nd & Charles just for fun. I found the next installment of the Saga series and bought it, excited to read it. We then drove to Greensboro to meet the train. It was a little late, so we killed time with dinner and a trip to the grocery store. We found out that on this particular trip, the Blue and Red trains had passed each other! Many people took videos and photos of this event, which was rare to begin with and now will never happen again.



I heard that some people in their excitement tried to high five each other as the trains passed. "It hurt but it was worth it," haha. Every vestibule was full of people trying to capture the moment. These photos were taken by Richard Stringer (very impressive as the Blue train was moving at high speed!) Looks like a cool moment :)





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Jameson and I spent Monday in Orlando. We were both feeling crummy, so didn't do a lot, just errands and resting. I slept for most of the day. Didn't realize how exhausted I was.

On Tuesday we had one last wonderful breakfast at Keke's. Then we packed our things and said farewell to Florida. I wonder if I'll be coming back, or not.

We drove all day and arrived in Greenville around 9:30pm. The train made good time and was spotted when we arrived. Railfan Joe Dougherty was on hand for our arrival, and took lots of great pictures of Nikki and other members of train crew unloading the flatcars. The Greenville yard is one of few accessible, paved yards, and one where the flats are stored with the coaches (passenger cars).





Some of the cars are hand-painted.


On Wednesday morning Jameson had a job interview, which went very well. Afterward we went to Publix to stock up on groceries for the week. I bought several prepared meals, because it's going to be a busy week and I don't expect to have time to cook. Then it was back to the train. I spend most of the day applying for more jobs and resting, as I hadn't slept well.

We have a pretty weird schedule here in Greenville. There were 10am shows scheduled for both Thursday and Friday, so we all had to be up early and there was no time for a rehearsal. Plus our bandmaster Brett had to fly home for a family emergency, so we had a sub on trumpet and Tim will be conducting for the entire week.

I like Greenville, a lot. I've probably mentioned this before...it has a special place in my heart, being one of the first cities that I ever visited on tour as a trombonist. It is a beautiful city with a thriving economy, but it's HOW it got to be beautiful and successful that I find really wonderful. The town found itself struggling during the 70s, with WWII-era industries failing and commerce moving to the suburbs where shopping plazas and malls were being built. Both the private citizens and the city government officials decided that they would not sit by and watch their city decline. They formed an ambitious plan involving both private and public sectors, and began a total redesign of the entire town. From the structure of the buildings to the landscaping to the businesses and economic foundations, they laid the groundwork for their hopes, and worked hard to achieve it. And the result is a beautiful city growing at an incredible rate.

Every time I come here, I am amazed at the leaps and bounds being made. This time, the area near our train has gone from being a row of empty shop fronts to an active market area, with local grocers, art studios, bike shops, and more coming soon. On the drive to the arena, a once-empty stretch of land now houses a massive housing boom...new apartments under construction as far as the eye can see.

Anyway! Opening day was a little rough, because of the early start and Brett's absence and a union meeting scheduled for the afternoon. But it was made better by a visit from our sister unit, the Blue show, currently performing Out of this World in Charlotte NC. They were seated in the section closest to the band, which was really nice because we had a loud rowdy bunch cheering us on!



After the show they immediately came down onto the floor and started socializing and checking out all of our stuff. People were climbing all over the portal, playing with props, taking photos, laughing, talking. It was a lot of fun. I got to see some members of the Blue unit band, including Landon, the union steward on that show (we'd never met!). A large group photo was organized...I had already left by the time it was taken so I'm not in it, but I'm glad so many people stuck around for it. It'll be a nice memory for us to look back on, that day when Red and Blue circus families got together :)

(photo courtesy Steve B.)

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During the break we returned to Jameson's apartment. The next day, Jameson had a meeting with someone working with Disney's entertainment management sector. I think we both hoped that it would turn out to be some type of job offer for him, or at least consideration for future work. Why else would they schedule an in-person meeting?

Turns out, he drove out there for nothing. They had him arrive at their offices in person just to tell him that nothing was available, and that he wouldn't be considered for management until he'd worked at entry level for a while (he's already worked for Disney for seven years). It was a huge disappointment. I felt terrible for him. I'm sure you can imagine how crushing it is to have a company that you care about and spent seven years of your life with reject you so coldly. We spent the rest of the day working on video edits and trying not to get seriously depressed.



We had planned to get to the train that night...it was only an hour or so from Jacksonville to Tampa. But for some reason the train was delayed, like SERIOUSLY delayed, and didn't get moving until nighttime.

The next morning we headed back to the train, stopping at Brocato's for one of their amazing sandwiches. The rest of the band was there enjoying the food and fine weather, but we decided to just get ours to go as we were both feeling down and not very social. I was piggy and got both an 8" Cuban and a "devil crab". The Cuban was delicious, salty and savory goodness! And the sandwich was huge so I got to have it for both lunch and dinner!



The devil crab I saved for the next day's lunch. It's a potato-sized croquette filled with lump crab, veggies, hot sauce, and seasonings. It was REALLY good, I'd definitely get one again! The next time I'm in Tampa. Whenever that is.



The opening day rehearsal went well. There was notably nothing to report from Feld HQ, other than that they will keep us updated on any news. We were also warned that shows may be added to our existing schedule, so I guess it might be hard to make plans on show days from now on. It was mentioned that any parents who will need to enroll their kids in a public school will have help from Feld in doing so.

After rehearsal Jameson and I found a local taco joint for dinner. We ate and talked about all our worries, and what we should do and could do, who to contact, when to take this or that next step. Nothing's easy right now, but I'm glad we have each other.

The show that evening was packed, and went very well.


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Before starting this post, I'd just like to say thank you. Over the past week I have been bombarded with wonderful, absolutely wonderful messages of encouragement and commiseration and support and strength. Your kind, hearfelt, understanding voices have drowned out the messages of hate that I've also received (and there were many.) I did not know that so many people still enjoyed the circus. After all of the efforts put out by the animal rights agenda, and as our audience diminished over the past year, I had begun to think that the circus was really and truly hated. But this week has taught me that the opposite is true. The vast majority of you still love the circus. You love the animals, you love the people, you love the tradition, and the magic, that is circus. I will never forget it.

It is not lost on us that at any given show, there are hundreds of people who are seeing a Ringling Bros. spectacle for the last time. And all of us will do our best to perform at the highest level for you, before we go.  Thank you so much for all of your love and support.

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Let's see if I can remember anything about this week, haha.

I remember that we had a single show on Monday, after which Jameson and I both plastered ourselves to the computer to look for work, for hours, into the next morning. Tuesday was very much the same. For Jameson, he is the type who needs to jump right in and start searching to maintain a high level of motivation. For me, I need time to be upset so that I can move on. While Jameson was reaching out to his contacts and making some seriously impressive progress, I was blogging, and writing, and answering questions on Quora. I was responding to the many many people who wrote to me on my blog and facebook and email. Hundreds and hundreds of messages poured in. I don't think I've ever typed so much. I remember looking up from the screen with a blazing headache and realizing that it was approaching 1am, and perhaps I should give it a rest.

At some point in there I went to a back room to be alone and cry my eyes out. Like I said, for me the best path is to feel the feels, and then move on.

That night we packed up and drove to the train (it had spotted early). I spent the day splicing trombone highlights from my 2013-2014 Built to Amaze performances, and loading them on SoundCloud. After that, several more hours answering questions on Quora and responding to all of the hateful and kind messages that I'd received that day. Looking around my room, I had to try really hard to keep it together. I'm going to have to pack everything up, and leave this tiny room, which I consider to be my home. I'm one of the last people to stay on this historic, beautiful train. By the way, what will even happen to the train? Ugh.



I spent Wednesday updating resumes, updating my LinkedIn, responding to messages, reaching out to various connections, etc etc. This is literally all that I did for the entire day, with breaks to eat. Right before bed I finally caved and watched some anime, just to get some of the tension off of me.

Thursday was opening day. Let me tell you, there was a notable difference in everyone's attitude. Usually on opening day people are relatively cheerful, talking and joking as we enter the building, roughhousing during rehearsal, etc. Today was definitely different. We filed slowly and silently into the arena. We set up as usual. Occasionally I heard a snarky comment or a laugh with no joy in it. It made me feel bad...the next few months will be very difficult to get through if we can't cheer ourselves up.


(photo courtesy Julio F./Richard S.)

At the pre-rehearsal meeting, it was announced that we would no longer be able to get discounted tickets for our friends and family. We were also offered career counselling from a third party, who would be backstage for the weekend. We had a pretty normal rehearsal. Probably due to a little depression, the show was difficult to play; it felt like I was playing underwater or something. Not fun. Jameson lent me his Q2N camera because I'm trying to get footage for auditions. But I do not like playing in front of cameras, so I was a bit nervous, plus the levels weren't right. It was a good test run though.

Friday was incredibly busy. I had an interview with a magazine for a possible upcoming article (not sure if it will be published, stay tuned), and then later in the afternoon we had a phone conference involving all eighteen members from both Red and Blue unit bands and our union representatives. This was in preparation for severance negotiations with Feld.

That night I recorded footage of myself playing the show again, but it turned out to be one of those weird "off" shows where lots of unusual stuff happened and many things went wrong. The Wheel act was longer than usual, we lost the our timing during Mountain Gag, some wonky stuff happened during Bungee, the BMX act was cancelled due to a wet floor...nothing serious, just enough odd stuff that several parts of my recording were unuseable. But I'm kinda glad I got it on tape! For the memories :)



And you know, I think perhaps what happened during that show was just everyone trying to shake off the very heavy shadow of the dying circus bearing down on us. We're all still here, we all still love what we do. We all want to give our best, to the very last minute.

Saturday was a confirmation that some of our good vibes were returning. I saw people smiling during the show. I saw performers actually reacting positively when the crowd cheered. Brett (bandmaster) cracked some jokes with us. It felt almost normal.

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On Monday I packed and made other preparations to go back to the circus. My Mom's friend Tracy came over for a bit, and we played cards. Later in the day they went to the grocery, and I took the opportunity to finish packing and relax a bit.

On Tuesday my sister Kate came to pick me up for the ride to the airport. I said goodbye to Mom and the cats. An hour later Kate dropped me off and I hugged her goodbye. It was great to spend so much time with family. That doesn't happen too often with this job.

Into the airport I went. I was the only one going through security, so was able to take my sweet time and chat a bit with the TSA agents. Once through to the gate, I saw maybe five others waiting for their flights...otherwise I had the terminal to myself.



My flight arrived on time. It had begun snowing, but as long as it didn't delay the flight I didn't mind.


Soon we were up in the air, and in no time at all we were in Philly where I caught my flight to Orlando. Somehow on a crowded flight I ended up having a whole row to myself! Wow!!!


It was a pleasant flight. As we were approaching to land I was struck by the difference between PA and FL at this time of year.


Jameson was there to pick me up when I landed. He took me to the train so I could unpack, then repack, because this week I'll be staying at his Orlando apartment. I watered my poor plants, which were still alive but looking rather wilted. The flytraps needed some trimming as well, some of the leaves were rotting off (this is normal).

Once everything was taken care of, we hit Moe's for dinner and hoofed it to Jameson's place. I was exhausted and slept well.


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Well. That was unexpected.

I've described how the news was broken to us HERE. Please read it, I'm not in the mood to type it out again here :P



And you can read what the media has to say about it HERE. And HERE and HERE and HERE and all over really.

We all knew that something was going to happen, and that it wasn't going to be good. The main theories had to do with downsizing or being sold off to another company. Turns out it was even worse than that.


(Let's see now if I'm asked to take this photo down. Place your bets!)

The day after (today, Sunday) we had two shows. As I type this we've done one, and it was extremely difficult. I don't know how people are running out onto the floor and performing with big smiles on their faces. It's gotta hurt.

It also hurts that now, of all times, there's this giant audience. Clapping and screaming and cheering. At the moment it feels like being surrounded by a bunch of vultures, or rubberneckers trying to catch a glimpse of the dead bodies in the road. And I'm sure this level of "enthusiasm" will continue to follow us as we die out. People are gross.

Anyway, I didn't want to be dark about this, but it's been less than 24 hours and like most people here I did not get much sleep last night. I'm feeling bitter about a lot of things. I'm worried for my future. I'm sad for all of us. I'm angry at how the news was delivered, how things turned out, all of it.

That said, I can't deny that it's been a privelege to work here. I am so glad that I've kept this blog, and documented every week as thoroughly as possible. It will be a great set of memories to look back on. Not many people can say they lived on a train, danced with clowns, walked with elephants. It was wonderful, and unfortunately, those who come after me will not have the opportunity to experience it. So I will treasure it, knowing that I am one of the last to do so. Wherever I go from here, I will carry five years of circus magic with me. And I can't thank Feld enough for that.

At the moment I feel like there's not a whole lot to say. There were warning signs that something like this might happen, but again, I don't think most suspected a plan to totally do away with Ringling Bros. The band had just started negotiations with Feld and were waiting for our next meeting date to discuss a new contract. Heck, we just hired a new female Ringmaster (who I hope will be compensated for the trouble of quitting all of her jobs for this gig). But despite all the warning signs, I think we were all convinced that none of it meant "The End". After 146 years, really?

But yeah, as any musician will tell you, all gigs must come to an end.

So I suppose next week we are to sit down with people from HR and other departments to figure out any kind of severance, incentive to stay through May, etc. I imagine that most troupes will stay through the end...it's probably beneficial to do that. But the band doesn't have an active contract, so I don't know what we should expect.

Each of us has a lot to do. I have to find a place to live, look for jobs, retrieve my car...all kinds of things. Jameson is busy doing the same, but being the incredible thoughtful boyfriend that he is, he is including me in his job searches and in his plans. What a great guy <3

I will continue writing my blog up until the last day, and I'll maintain it after leaving the circus. I'll do my best to show what it's really like around here. Oh, and now that there's no incentive for me to keep quiet about certain things, here goes:

The Truth About Ringling's Circus Animals and The People Who Train Them:

THE ANIMALS ARE NOT ABUSED. RINGLING'S ANIMAL SPECIALISTS ARE PROFESSIONAL, SKILLED, GOOD HUMAN BEINGS.

Oh, sorry! Were you expecting some scandalous revelation?

My opinion on this will not change despite the fact that I've lost my job. In five years here I have never seen any animal abuse, and no amount of PETA propaganda will convince me otherwise. Just sayin'.

Now we have a show to do, and then another on Monday. Then the job hunt begins.
Tomorrow I'm going to share the post I'd originally written to go up today, before I knew we were all getting canned.
Please enjoy as over the next few weeks I document the final days of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

See you down the road.
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I flew out of Chattanooga on Monday morning. Flights and layovers went just fine. At the airport I rented a car and drove a few hours to reach my hometown.

It was great to see my parents! I got to see them at Kayle's wedding, but weddings are such a whirlwind of activity and we didn't get much time together. Now I've got three weeks!

I also got to meet two new additions to our family! This is Immi (short for "immigrant"). One day my Dad was out mowing the lawn, and he noticed this small striped cat watching him. He turned off the mower, and she immediately ran over to him and gave him permission to own her :D She's a sweetheart.



This is Roux (meaning "red"). He was from a litter of feral cats born in my parents' neighborhood. He was caught and brought home just about a week before I got home.


His little tummy was pretty bloated so we figured he had worms. My parents took him to the vet and I tagged along. Turns out he had ringworm and also a respiratory infection, so he got some dewormer and an antibiotic. I was amazed at how well he behaved at the vet's! No crying or clawing or biting, and he took his medicine without complaint. Good little boy!


I've spend most of my time this week gearing up for Christmas. My Mom was baking lots of cookies to give as gifts to friends, so I helped with that. She can't see too well, so detailed decorating can be difficult. Still, I think the results are quite cute in a derpy way!


Read more... )
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UPDATE: A new tag has been added called "animals". Clicking on this tag will take you to all entries that have photos, information, or facts about the circus animals. Thanks for reading!

Since the train would not be arriving in Huntsville until Monday night, we decided to stay in Nashville for an evening.

On Monday afternoon we hit Whiskey Kitchen for lunch. This is our third time visiting...it's pretty clear that it's our favorite Nashville restaurant! We always get the fried calamari because it's amazing. Someday if I can tear myself away from that tender squid and flavorful seasoning, I'll try the other appetizers! For the meal Jameson tried the fish and chips and said it was delicious. I had the fried green tomato BLT with brie, bacon, spinach, and hot dijon mustard on sourdough. It was delicious!!



We also had drinks because why not. It's 5:00 somewhere, right? I had a "moonshine mule" and Jameson had something called the "farewell Broadway" that had apple brandy, vanilla syrup, bitters, and cream.


After our great meal we bid farewell to Nashville and hit the road. The drive to Huntsville was only a few hours long. We were concerned as the train hadn't left on time and was running several hours behind. We decided to hit a mall and do some Christmas shopping. Jameson got most of his done while I just shopped for ideas. To kill more time we went to see a movie (Office Christmas Party). After that we went for a late sushi dinner and decided to get another hotel. The train was supposed to be in Chattanooga by 1:30pm and it was now 8pm. Sometimes it happens. There have been times when the train was right in front of us and we still ended up in a hotel! Circus life.

The next morning we were surprised to find that the train was still not in the yard, so got a late checkout and went to find food. We then killed time at Walmart until Tim (sax) and Jerome (bass) let us know the train was finally spotted. We got to the yard just as power was hooked up. There are fond memories of this yard and this city. We had one of the best elephant walks I've ever been on here last year. I'm very sad that we can't bring that level of excitement to Huntsville any more. But I'm happy to have experienced such a wonderful moment here.

I spent the rest of the day unpacking, repacking for the trip home, Christmas shopping online, and paying bills.

We opened on Wednesday. Rehearsal went extra-long again as we integrate new people and elements into the show. And although she's been here for a month, it's now official, we are joined by our new Ringmaster, Kristen Michelle Wilson! She is the first female Ringmaster Ringling has ever(?) had, but besides that she's a great vocalist and has a wonderful personality. We're looking forward to working with her! CLICK HERE to see an awesome video of Kristen performing.



The show that evening went well, although this arena is quite cold so the space heaters came out again.

Read more... )
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On Monday Jameson and I were a little surprised (and embarrassed) to discover that the train was actually arriving in Nashville that evening. Whoops! It's not a huge deal, but we could have been on the train Tuesday morning. Oh well! We used Monday to clean up, pack, and enjoy one last day of relaxing. I've recently gotten some emulators, and tried my hand at some old Sega Genesis games. I ended up beating the Aladdin game. Yay nostalgia!


On Tuesday we began our 10-hour drive to reach the train. Travel was pretty smooth, except for Atlanta...traffic is always hideous in Atlanta it seems. We stopped there for dinner and waited for the traffic to die down, then continued on our way. We arrived at the train around 10pm (it felt later because of the time change). Home sweet train! I unpacked, did a load of laundry, and went to bed.

On Wednesday the circus was loading in to the Bridgestone Arena. Jameson and I got groceries, then I spent the day getting things in order and preparing for work again.

Thursday was opening day! We had our usual meeting and a long rehearsal. There are lots of new performers and crew coming in, so we have to make sure everyone knows their part.



For dinner a bunch of us went to Jack's Bar-b-que down the street. It's counter service, you go up to the counter and order your meal and sides and they assemble it on the plate for you right there. I got a brisket sandwich, cucumber salad, and baked apples. Yum!


The show went well, though attendance was pretty poor. We were happy to see Melissa (Blue Unit musician) among the crowd, and got to say hello and chat for a bit after the show. She'd brought a friend who's currently performing in The Grinch. Both of them seemed to have a good time.

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We ended up hitting some pretty miserable traffic once crossing the FL state line, causing us to be nearly two hours late getting home. At some point we left the highway to get dinner, very hungry and tired. We managed to pick probably one of the worst restaurants that either of us has ever been to. It's called Cody's. Don't go to Cody's in Florida.

Still hungry, we got back on the road and after a grand total of 20 hours in the car, finally made it to Jameson's apartment. Whew!

The next day was a busy one, so we got started with a tasty breakfast at Keke's. I decided to be piggy and got coconut pineapple stuffed french toast. It was so stinkin' good! But I forgot my phone so no pictures for you :P After that we went to Home Depot for paint and painting supplies. For today is the day we paint the kitchen!



That's a shot of Jameson's kitchen. The cabinets are a sort of purplish-red, and the walls are yellow (they had been minty green but Jameson painted them when he moved in). The kitchen has been this way for over a decade, so it's time for an upgrade! I did the walls while Jameson did the cabinets. We removed all of the cabinet doors and painted them separately, but made the mistake of keeping them on the drop plastic, causing problems later on :/ Oh well...live and learn! We painted for 4-5 hours, then called it a day. The next morning we finished the remaining cabinet doors and reinstalled them. Project complete!



And what better way to break in the new kitchen than by cooking a meal in it!


Jameson got a cookbook from him Mom for his birthday, and put it to good use! He made sesame-orange chicken. I loved the sauce! We were both pretty tired after all of the painting, cooking, and cleanup, so spent much of our day being total couch potatoes. As I type this I'm watching Jameson play Lego Star Wars.

The next day was pretty slow. We had planned to go to the gym, but Jameson wasn't feeling great so we skipped it. Instead we ran errands. We took some DVD cases to FedEx to be shipped to a recycling plant, then hit the grocery for some ingredients we'd forgotten. Back at home we ate lunch and worked on some music we'd brought along to study on vacation. I did bring a trombone to practice with, but with new music and especially audition stuff I like to play "air trombone" until I get the muscle memory down.

For dinner Jameson made burrito bowls!! It was adobo-seasoned chicken with a ton of veggies...beans and peppers and onions and sweet corn. We put it over rice and topped it with lettuce, cheese, guac, salsa, and sour cream. Delicious!



Since Jameson had done all the cooking, I did all the cleaning. I absolutely hate cooking, and he absolutely hates cleaning, so it's a nice balance we've got going. Teamwork! Later on Jameson played Overwatch with some friends. I like watching him play, but I'm a total motionsick wuss, so can only watch for about 30 minutes at a time. Anyway, I watched as much as I could and enjoyed it :)

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On Monday Jameson and I began the drive to Chicago. We had already driven two hours the night before, so expected only a few more hours of driving. But partway through the drive we saw something ominous in the distance: a small dark cloud hovering on the horizon.

At first, we speculated that it was from a factory or someone's private burn pile. But the closer we got, the darker the smoke looked, and it soon became apparent that something was wrong. Jameson pointed out that he hadn't seen any cars traveling in the opposite direction for some time.



We rounded a corner and came upon a horrible scene. Something was burning on the highway median. Thick black smoke and fireballs curled into the sky. All we could do was sit and wait as emergency vehicles arrived.


Eventually it became clear that the fire was not going out any time soon. We were redirected back the way we came, where we found an alternative route. As we turned around I snapped a picture, hoping to see what had happened, but all I saw was a damaged truck and an indistinguishable black mass of metal.


It turns out that there had been a three-trailer accident. One of the trailers was a tanker, and it had burst into flame. The driver was killed. Not knowing this yet, we spent the rest of our drive quietly worrying for those involved, and selfishly grateful that we ourselves were OK.

We arrived in Chicago without incident, and enjoyed a nice evening with Jameson's parents.

The next day we got up a little early for a nice breakfast at Little Goat. We were lucky...owner Stephanie Izard was there to taste-test some proposed specials. Very cool to see the boss herself doing some hands-on sampling and giving instruction to her crew! This time I decided to try the "bullseye" french toast: home-baked chive brioche with soft-friend egg hidden in the middle, topped with crispy chicken, strawberry slices, and bbq maple syrup. As always, Little Goat hits the spot!



After breakfast it was time to hit the grocery. Mrs. Boyce needed lots of ingredients for Thanksgiving! She'd also preordered a turkey from Local Foods, a grocery specializing in local sustainable farming and foods. I saw lots of things in there that I'd like to eat! Back at the condo we relaxed, watched some Cubs recaps that Jameson had missed (we don't have tv on the train), and enjoyed an awesome curry lentil soup made by Mrs. Boyce. After dinner I was able to premiere a project that Landon (Blue Unit drummer) and I had been working on: social media sites for the Ringling bands! We now have a page on facebook and a twitter account. These are just to share the awesomeness that is the Ringling circus band...and yes, let's be honest, to remind people that there IS a Ringling circus band! Live music + circus = magic :)
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Monday was Jameson's birthday!!
Unfortunately we found ourselves in Youngstown!!

But still, we were able to have some fun! We found a very nice restaurant close to our hotel. Jameson enjoyed a savory steak topped with his favorite, blue cheese (eew!). While we were eating, music from our preshow began playing in the background. I was dismayed...Jameson danced!



After our meal we went bowling. I am horrible at bowling but enjoy it all the same. We played five frames. Jameson beat me every time!


There was an arcade in the alley as well, we played a few games and won enough tickets for some disguises. It was a fun night!

(photo courtesy Jameson)

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We drove to Auburn Hills. On the way we went through Detroit. Both of us were prepared for graffiti, damaged roadways, burnt out cars and condemned houses, because this is what we'd seen two years ago when driving through. Instead we were pleasantly surprised...things aren't perfect, but there is obvious change. Keep it up Detroit, it ain't over until the fat lady sings.

To kill time after reaching Auburn Hills we walked around a mall. Jameson found a new backpack for the laptop he'll be getting soon. And I unexpectedly found a new laptop when we visited the Microsoft store! I have this weird history of owning Dell Inspiron laptops. At this point I've had four of them, each of which has lasted a minimum of five years (and even then they're still fully functional, just outdated). My poor Inspiron N5110 had its battery fried last year, and ever since I upgraded it to Windows 10 it's been a little laggy, having not been designed for that OS. Long story short, it's six years old and the time has come to replace it. The new one is an Inspiron 15, a combo of software/hardware sold exclusively by Microsoft (one great thing about this is no bloatware). Got it at a great price and so far I'm enjoying it!

Tuesday was a dark day. Didn't really do much...Jameson went to a movie while I stayed at home to set up the new computer and do chores. That night everyone was watching democracy at work. I think I went to bed around 2am when it became clear Trump would win.

Wednesday also a dark day, I borrowed Jameson's car to return the nice backpack I'd bought last week in Pittsburgh, turns out it was too small for the new laptop. Go figure!

Thursday was opening day. Not much was said about the election results...this is the circus, probably 2/3rds of the employees here can't vote. I just looked around, looked at my coworkers of all different colors and religions and nationalities, and at the circus kids who can't even speak the same language playing together without a care, and I did take a moment to appreciate the unbounded diversity here. What matters here is not where you're from, or what color you are. It matters that you do your work well, and stay true to yourself, and take pride in both your work and yourself. To be honest I wish everyone could experience this. I'm not sure what it will mean to have Mr. Trump as president...all I can say is, I hope the fears circulating across the web right now are unfounded.

Anyway, opening day came and went. We had a long rehearsal to work in some new changes for next year. Our new ringmaster sang part of the rehearsal with us, she sounded great! Can't wait to hear her in the show :)

Friday we had the first split we've had in a while. I was super tired so went to the train for a nap during the break. While waiting for the bus to leave the arena I happened to catch the camels headed inside for a midday rehearsal (just an FYI, if they weren't rehearsing they'd need to be exercised anyway, this is not extra camel labor :P)



Both shows were good. We got to play the National Anthem for Veteran's Day.

Saturday, three shows. I brought a lot of things to the arena to sell, mostly clothing and books, just trying to clear up some space in my room. End-of-tour cleanup, so to speak. Others had the same idea, Victor (tiger crew) was able to sell quite a few things and Lindsey (clown) sold some her artworks. It feels like the end of the tour, like we should be having our final show countdown, like we should be preparing for Winter Quarters. Just looking at the Palace of Auburn Hills brings back memories of "see you down the road" hugs and dressing room toasts. But this year is different. We will continue into the new year with the same show. It's strange. But things change, and hopefully this is a positive change.


(photo courtesy Detroit Free Press)

Sunday was a two show day. I wish I had exciting, fun things to share with you this week, but it was just a slow week. The arena is isolated next to a highway, and we had a full week of shows, and there just wasn't much happening. Next week is going to be downright weird: we have a solid THREE dark days in a row, followed by a SIX PACK in Youngstown OH, followed by a two week break for Thanksgiving. My goodness!


Other stuff:

Medusa the snake getting some hang time on an aerial orb.


(photo courtesy Jon M.)

Horse and camel trainer Robert Štipka working with Colonel during preshow.


Checking out the slomo setting during the cannon shot (one of few times I'm not playing).
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Before heading to Pittsburgh we visited a really awesome museum: The Strong Museum of Play! It's only a few blocks from the Rochester arena! Never knew!

The Strong Museum is primarly a children's museum, featuring a lot of play areas, a small library, and lots of hands-on exhibits. We were there on Halloween day and there was a special trick-or-treat event for toddlers. We saw lots of cute kids in adorable costumes!

But the real reason we were there is because the Strong Museum houses thousands of video games. The entire second floor is like a giant arcade. Some games are free, others require tokens, either way it's a great time. Most of the games are not on display, but are held in the archives and rotated out into the display cases every once in a while. When you've got tens of thousands of items it's hard to show them all at once! Here are some of the vintage gaming systems we got to see.

Game Boy, of course!



An Apple II computer, complete with floppy disk drives. (Yeah that link is for you Millenials who never experienced the "joys" of a piece of wax paper that held 0.5k data and could be erased with a fridge magnet :P)


This is pretty cool, it's a Nintendo cartridge specifically designed for gaming competitions. The parameters of the games can be controlled by the chip in the upper left. Supposedly these are quite rare and go on eBay for thousands. Cool!


This is one of those ET games that was ditched in a landfill after losing tons of money for Atari (it was a news story a few years ago when they dug 'em back up).


This is just a small sampling of what we saw. In addition to video games, there were displays of board games, puzzles, dolls, and other types of toys.


We found a giant Battleship board and played a game. I won!


That's ok, he won at two player Tetris later on :)
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Jameson met me in Albany, and we got a hotel near the airport. I was exhausted! The train wasn't due to arrive in Rochester until Tuesday afternoon, so we killed time on Monday at a mall, and on the drive of course, and on another hotel.

On Tuesday we hit the grocery and went back to the train. I spent the day unpacking, cleaning, doing laundry...all the chores. We also went to the gym.

Wednesday was a dark day. Spent time at the gym, and later on Jameson and I went to look for pumpkins to carve! This close to Halloween there weren't many options, but we found three that fit the bill! The little white one is a "backup" in case one of us messes up our carving!



While Jameson was watching the Cubs game, I prepped the pumpkins! No guts no glory!


All done and ready for carving!


And of course I kept the seeds for roasting in my compact NuWave oven!



Thursday was opening day. It felt good to be back! I was surprised when many folks stopped me in the hall to say "welcome back" or "we missed you". Thanks everyone, I feel loved!!

One of our favorite things about the Rochester arena is that there's a Dinosaur BBQ right next door! After rehearsal we all headed over there for some fantastic barbecue. I had the classic brisket sandwich, cucumber tomato salad, and cornbread! Yum.


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