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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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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.

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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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We drove a long ways this overland...probably about 10-11 hours to get to Albany. The fastest way was by cutting through a section of Canada, so we brought our passports. Canada's pretty nice-looking! And with a Tim Horton's at every exit too! We had a pleasant safe drive and crossed into and out of Canada without issue.


We drove straight through; others stopped to enjoy Niagara Falls!

(photo courtesy Anna D.)

The train actually beat us to Albany, which was a pleasant surprise. We were able to get groceries and get on the train Tuesday night. On Wednesday I borrowed Jameson's car to pick up supplies for my venus flytrap's winter dormancy...because getting run over didn't quite kill them, so I will try my best to give them a shot at a better life next year. To stay dormant the plants need to be kept cold, and there's no way I can keep them cold if I have to bring them into a heated train car every time we move. So I'm going to have to try refrigerator dormancy. I got a bottle of antifungal, and a brick of sphagnum moss. I also picked up some groceries I'd forgotten the day before. Exciting stuff.

Thursday was opening day. We found out that the train will be in a different yard in Boston, much farther outside the city. What a bummer! We really had it good in the MIT yard, with shops and restaurants within walking distance. Oh well. Word has it we'll at least be close to some public transit! Thursday's show went well, but crowds were pretty poor and our Human Cannon was out due to a wrenched shoulder.

Friday, one show. I spent the day working on things for our upcoming contract negotiations and doing general writing. The evening show went well, though again, underattended compared to the past several cities.

Saturday, three shows. I felt a little down. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was just that smaller audiences are kind of discouraging. But still, shows went well. We had visits from some awesome former circus musicians, and that really brightened the band's day :)

On Sunday we only had one show. I am choosing to end this post before our show because I don't feel like bringing my computer overland (if anything exciting happens between Sunday afternoon and midnight you'll find out in the next post :P). This was just kind of a 'meh' week. But it's good, because it helped to get me back into the swing of work. I enjoyed playing the Williams trombone all week, and am getting more used to it. I love to see my circus friends every day :) Next week we are in Boston. Boston in the fall! It's usually a wonderful visit, I'm looking forward to it!


Other stuff:

Rebecca (head of wardrobe) loves to decorate our car for Halloween! This year's decorations are AWESOME. We have the coolest car. Thanks Rebecca! CLICK HERE for a tour!

While in Albany, Chaz (drummer) made some friends at Akira Albany, a Japanese restaurant. The whole staff came out to see our show! And they invited us to a special Hibachi meal just for us! I didn't go, but about twenty circus folks did, and they were treated to an amazing lunch (CLICK HERE to watch the Hibachi go down). Thank you so much to everyone at Akira Albany for your generosity and hospitality! We'll be back!!!


(photo courtesy Chaz)

The animal setup this week. I've no idea where the tigers were though. Hiding!

(photo courtesy Robert S.)

Congrats to the Blue Unit on performing a milestone 100 shows!!! You rock!!!

(photo courtesy Landon B.)
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Monday was a day of rest. For dinner Jameson and I got dolled up and went out for sushi at Azuma in downtown Houston! We first decided to start dating over a sushi lunch three years ago, so figured this was an appropriate way to celebrate! We both managed to order the same rolls...you know, the lovebird connection and all :P Here we have the "Peppercorn Kings" (peppered salmon and tuna, cucumber, Old Bay) and the "Sunshine" (salmon, avocado, asparagus, mango, and marbled kombu paper):


After our meal we went to see Lights Out. Jameson is a big fan of scary movies! I'm ambivalent toward them :P This one was enjoyable, several cool moments, but not enough to give me nightmares! We had a lot of fun and enjoyed each other's company, and that's what it's all about :)

On Tuesday we went to the gym, then relaxed back at the train. Partway through the day train crew made an announcement that the water would be shut off momentarily. I thought nothing of it until about an hour later, when I saw Josh (trainmaster) and Nikki's (train crew) photos. Our water had been knocked loose by a large tree branch floating down the rain-swollen stream next to our train. Train crew dove right in!!

(photo courtesy Nikki R.)

(photo courtesy Josh R.)


(photos courtesy Nikki R.)

Soon enough the water was restored. Thank you train crew!!

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It was a short drive to reach Hershey from Trenton, but the train was a bit late so we needed to kill time. We visited a 2nd & Charles at the Harrisburg Mall, got Jameson some new pillows, then went to Troegs Brewery for some really fantastic beer and eats! I'm not a beer fan but once in a while an IPA is all right...especially when it's Troeg's Perpetual IPA being brewed right there! For food I went with the beet-cured salmon with (house-made?) bagel chips, smoked cream cheese, shaved asparagus, and a pickled egg topped in black caviar. It was absolutely amazing both in taste and presentation!


After that rockin' meal we decided to go see the new Avengers movie. It was really good, but neither of us had seen The Winter Soldier or other related movies such as Ant Man, so I think we were slightly out of the loop on some things. Still, a fun way to kill time!

Literally as soon as the credits started rolling, Jerome (bass) sent us a message that the train was spotted. Perfect! We hit a grocery store, then got to the train yard.

This train yard is new for us...usually we're parked pretty far away on the other side of Harrisburg. This time we're only about 10-15 minutes from the park, which is awfully nice! There's also a shopping plaza with several groceries nearby, not the most easily walkable but still convenient. I borrowed Jameson's car and took some clothes to the dry cleaners, then spent the rest of the day preparing ticket requests, cooking, and doing laundry. Partway through the day I got word that my sister was hospitalized with abdominal pain and would require surgery. She's doing ok, but I'm still worried.

Our week got off to a rough start when we woke to an unexpected power failure. Two hours later it was clear that the power would not be coming back on, so I ate some cereal and gathered stuff to do my hair to bring to the arena. I saw many others doing the same. It happens sometimes and it's inconvenient for everyone, but that's life on a moving vehicle.

It turns out that train crew was already swamped with having some wheels replaced in addition to the unexpected outage.



Train crew currently consists of about ten people, who have to cover repairs, maintenance, and cleaning for all 200-some passengers on the mile-long train. That is a LOT of work for ten people. Yes, we were all annoyed that we couldn't brew coffee that morning and were all worried about our food in the fridge. But we are also very grateful when train crew works so hard to fix these problems when they come up. By the end of the night we had a rental generator. Train crew continued to work on the generator for most of the week so that we could have power, climate control and water. Thank you.

(photo of Tim and Susan, courtesy Cindy)

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On Monday we woke late and had lunch in Hartford at a place called City Steam. They had very good burgers and some locally-made sodas. No photos because of poor lighting, sorry. I hope we get to eat there again!

The drive to Trenton was short (but longer than expected thanks to good ol' NYC traffic). The train wasn't due in until 5am, so we got a hotel. As it turned out the train didn't get spotted until almost noon! Wowzers!

Opening day was pretty normal. Air circulation in the arena here is not so great, so the haze was condensed and hanging several feet above the floor.



This caused a slight problem for the high wire troupe during rehearsal. We all had to wait while the climate control was turned on to get some of that haze out.


We had two one-show days in a row. Nothing amazing happened. Crowds were fair. I used the spare time to go to the grocery, do laundry, all the usual stuff.

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I rode the train again because the boys went to a baseball game. It was a short run, made longer than usual by some engine problems. But near the end of the day the weather was nice and we were moving at a good clip, so I took some video.


The Hartford yard is within walking distance of the arena. It's also extremely dusty. I'm talking DUNES of dust. One of these days when it's windy I'll take a picture.

On the day off I didn't do much, and in the evening Jameson and I went to one of our favorite spots, Agave Grill. Probably one of the best places to eat in the city and its right next to the arena, so there are always a few circus peeps in there :) This time I got the street tacos served in blue corn tortillas, and we both had fresh guac made right at the table. So good.



The next day, opening day, we had a short meeting and rehearsal. The show was well attended, a nice surprise since we just played here last year. And we got a visit from the famous Tom McDonough!! It was a good day!

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After all the excitement of the week, I thought it'd be best to just ride the train while Jameson traveled overland. It would give me time to process everything.

The train run was uneventful as far as I could tell. The weather was cold and rainy so I did not take pictures. We arrived in Manchester on time but took quite a while to be spotted. I always remember this yard because of the huge snow plow engines here. And I take a picture every year :)



Opening day was strange. We rehearsed the "new" stuff...basically it's all the same acts only the Cannon act has been moved to the part of the show where the elephants used to perform. Then we did the show. It was strange. I felt vaguely surprised when I found myself playing the end of the first act after only 45 minutes. The show overall is not much shorter, but to me it just flew by super quick. And yeah, I felt sad. I guess I never knew how much I looked forward to seeing how Asia would eat her bread this time; watching Luna curl her trunk into a spiral during the headstand; or wondering whether Mable would choose to play her tambourine with the band or to her own beat. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.


...or as my boss who's been here for 22 years put it, "It'll take me another 22 years to get used to this."

But moping acomplishes nothing. We all did the show as though nothing had changed.


Read more... )
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For over 100 years, we have been honored to have these majestic, intelligent, beautiful animals among us. On this historic day, we'd like to share our memories and stories of the elephants with you.


(photo of Baby, courtesy Adria C.)

“Got the chance to ride one of the girls for animal walk. And I do mean chance. She didn't like Dustin's clown shoes and threw him off." – Brandon F., Clown

“Just [having] the chance to meet them...they are very majestic animals with very deep souls that you can see once you truly look in their eyes. They will be truly missed and will always be in my heart.” – Bernis T., Pie Car Chef


“I grew up in Allentown, Pa. When Ringling Bros. Circus came to Allentown, all of the wagons and animals went right past my house on their way to the Allentown Fair Grounds. One year, I told everyone in the neighborhood that I was going to leave town with the circus. When the night show ended, the elephants were walking back to the train. When they arrived in front of my house, one of the "bull hands" hollered, "hey Joe!". I thought he was calling me. I ran up to the third floor and hid under the bed. I was the talk of the neighborhood for weeks.” – Joe D., Circus Fan

“When the show used to winter in Venice (FL), we were playing a part of the show where the elephants backed up to the band stand (which at that time was between two portals). As I was accustomed to this I paid no attention; however, I noticed the trumpet players had stopped playing in the middle of the act (it was a 15 piece band 4,3,4). When I looked up the tail was up right above me. I moved in the nick of time, but never forgot those players didn't warn me.”
– Donald P., Musician


(photo courtesy Bernadette M.)

“My favorite moment is when I first arrived at the unit. Jason G (Management) parked the truck. I get out of the cab, and the first thing I see is six Asian elephants, two of them staring in my direction. It was a very surreal moment. I knew my life would never be the same.” – Benjamin H., Sound Crew

"Prince (elephant) had this thing for untying my shoes..." - Barb R., Ringling FCP Employee

(photo courtesy Adria C.)

“My fondest memory was taking my Aunt to RBBB (red unit), introducing her to my friend Gunther and letting her feed an elepant. She had never been to a show before.” – Darlene L., Circus Fan

"Gunther had this elephant, her name was Congo, she was huge. Only African elephant that's every been on this show, she came over with him from Germany, in the 50s. We were doing an animal walk in Savannah, and the local guy--he was a sheriff or deputy or something--he wanted us to wait because a friend of his was trying to get to the animal walk [to see it] after the show. We had to get going, so Gunther said, "No, we go now!", and the guy's like, "Hey buddy, just a second, you're not going anywhere until I give the word." Gunther insisted, "No, we're going now," and turned around and started to walk toward the animals, and this guy went after him, and reached out and put both of his arms around Gunther in full view of the elephants.

"Gunther yells, "CONGO!", and Congo spins around, sees this, and comes charging at the guy, ears out, tail up (note: these are signs of aggression), and she sounded like the G- D-
Santa Fe Chief comin' down. And this guy just freaks out, going "Ok! OK! We can leave now!!" - Anonymous

(photo courtesy museeducirquealainfrere)

"Here's one of my favorite memories:"

– Francis C., Traveling Show Ministry

“First, not a specific memory, only [memories] of the many times I stood backstage and turned around to find elephants RIGHT BEHIND ME. They are 4-ton ninjas, totally silent when they need to be. Second memory is of a marshmallow fight between the trainers, some elephants, and the tiger trainer's son Gunther. The people mostly threw at each other, with the elephants stealing the evidence...” – Eryn C., Circus K-12 Teacher

“When the show played Providence, RI, the elephants were staged before their act right in front of 60 wagon doors. The first show I didn't realize this and went to leave the office, only to open the door and find elephant butts blocking the way!” – Adriel P., Circus K-12 Teacher
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“When I was first hired to do cannon I hadn't been on an elephant since I was little. My first official day on the job I went and met Rye (the director of the show) and talked about what I would be doing. Miser (my cannon coach) had set it up so that I only would have to be in the opening act, my cannon act, and the closing act. Rye asked if there was anything he could do for me and I told him the only other things I could think of that I wanted would be if I got a cape and could ride the elephants. He looked so surprised but told me he would see what he could do. Miser thought I was crazy to ask for more work in the show.

"Fast forward to winter quarters...I figured Rye had forgotten about our conversations because I saw my costumes and no cape :( But Lo and behold, up went the list of people who had elephant riding practice...and I was one of them! I was SO excited, like really really excited. I went out to the barn early for the first lesson and all the crew was making fun of me 'cause I was like vibrating with excitement.

"I got to ride Assan, one of the older elephants on the show. She walked really slowly but I didn't care. I was riding and elephant! It was the highlight of every show for me. If I had a bad cannon shot I got to ride Assan, if I had a great cannon shot I got to ride Assan. No matter what I was allowed to ride and interact with the sweetest elephant ever. I was always early for the elephant cue too, I just could never wait to go see them all line up. It's one of the things I miss the most about being on the show. It's something I will never forget and cherish forever.” – Elliana H-K., Human Cannon

(photo courtesy Jessica H.)

"Lisa was a young elephant at Roberts Brothers Circus in 1989. Like all young ones, she loved playing in water. One of my favorite memories is watching her jump in mud puddles.  She would literally--or at least as much as an elephant could--jump up and land with a splash in any puddle she could find. Lisa did this with such joy that it just made you smile.

"For some reason, Lisa was often tied near the generator truck. Like all young ones, she liked attention. And she found a sure way to get it: Lisa learned how to turn off the generator! Whenever she did so, people would come running. Lisa was a fast learner but it took her humans a longer time to learn to tie her up further away from the generator!

"Another elephant I knew was Flora the elephant from Circus Flora. When we were making the movie Big Top Pee Wee, she would be staked out in a field that was at the center of how the trailers were circled. Her favorite toy was a tire and she would play with it for hours. But if she got tired of playing by herself, she also knew how to get someone to come and see her. Flora perfected the skill of rolling the tire to bump into the trailer that held her groom. The bump against the trailer from the elephant-rolled tire would always get him to go out to see her.

"My favorite Flora-the-Elephant moment happened one day on the set for the Big Top Pee Wee movie. Flora and Mikey, the miniature horse, were tethered near each other in a field. They were close but not too close. Mikey was dozing in the sun. From my trailer window, I watched Flora stretch out as far as she could and reach out with her trunk...and pull Mikey’s tail! She then quickly moved back by her stake, turned her back to Mikey and literally looked like someone just standing there, looking up and whistling a nonchalant tune. Mikey looked all around but didn’t see anything that could have woken him up. He dozed off again and Flora did the same thing! She really had to stretch to reach his tail and move fast to get back near her stake with her back to him looking innocent. It was hysterical! The second time, Mikey looked right at Flora but she had her back to him and was not close. It almost looked like he turned away and then looked at her again before he went back to his nap. Flora pulled her stunt and his tail a third time! This time, Mikey looked right at her and moved to the end of his tether and out of her reach!

"My favorite elephant memory of all time was from when I worked on Reed Brothers Circus. We opened in Oregon, in a town by the ocean. I think it was Coos Bay. My partner and I arrived on the lot just in time to see Jo Dee Craigmile leading Bucky Steele’s elephants down to the ocean for a swim. It was a beautiful and breathtaking sight and one I cherish." - Jessica Hentoff, Artistic/Exectuive Director of Circus Harmony

(photo courtesy Jessica H.)

"I was first introduced to three lovely ladies on a mud show. At first, just watching them in the back yard. Then over the years, feeding them their favorite fruits and veggies, an occasional cupcake and of course, rolling them watermelons. It was amazing to get to know each one, what they liked best and how they liked to be fed. The last year, I bought the "personal size" melons and just popped them into their mouths! Watching them try and keep all the juice in was pretty cool. I was then privileged to get atop one of the biggest elephants I had ever seen...sitting behind her ears while she styled for the camera was amazing! This ride cost me a huge apple pie and a gallon of cherry vanilla ice-cream; obviously not for the elephant but for her human caretaker. Sadly, these ladies perform in another part of the country now, but what wonderful memories!" - Pat S., Clown

"My favorite story is of Asia. Once she found out I kept Snickers bars, she sniff me every time she saw me. I started to have to buy her her own. One day I made the mistake of forgetting to buy hers. She actually looked at me turned around and gave me her butt." - Michelle J., Circus Employee
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"Being in the portal, 7 months pregnant, waiting to collect Andre (Ringmaster)'s coat after opening and finding myself unexpectedly nose to nose with Lennox (sound tech), who was starting to load out, and the elephants were inches behind him. We had a pretty good conversation for a few minutes cause no one could move. Hahaha." - Blue B., Wardrobe

"We were doing PR for Good Morning America and I [crashed into] the last elephant I flipped over during my leaps act."
- Mujaheed S., Acrobat


(photo courtesy Adria C.)

"We had a PR in Baltimore for Runner's World Magazine with Kenneth Feld. The photographer of the shoot said, "Can we get that yellow haired one on the elephant?" Without missing a beat I walked over to Baby and waited for her to kneel. It was simply amazing to just be able to sit on an elephant, and call it a job at the same time. Throughout the shoot, the photographer kept asking for Baby to back up, or move forward, and Baby just wasn't having it after 3 or 4 adjustments, she was starting to feel on my leg with her trunk, and from what I was told, she was ready to yank me off and down to the concrete. Thankfully, through excellent observation and a true passion for their animals, the handlers got me down before I was a noodle, and wrapped the shoot at the same time." - Kyle B., Clown

"So many memories! Whenever they lined up for spec I'd be outside smoking and Mark would enjoy giving Asia the command to sit on my lap. A bystander would swear this elephant was sitting on my lap, little did they know there were just hairs between the two of us but she would never sit on me, she hold it forever. Another memory is out in California the hay was kept on the outside of the tent. One of the elephants thought it a great idea to steal one, pass it down and kept on doing it until every elephant had their own bale hay...it was hysterical!" - Michelle J., Circus Employee

(photo of Siam, courtesy Adria C.)

"I did start out on several different elephants but Assan was the longest one I had a one-on-one relationship with. She was the lead elephant as the elephants entered the arena for the Manage (note: "Manage" is from "Menage" short for "Menagerie"). Assan ran the full circle of the arena...down the back track, around the end track and then the entire front track to reach her bull tub. Gunther ran the distance with her and I believed she loved every minute of their run together. After Gunther retired he was away for book signings from time to time. When he was gone his daughter Tina would then do the run with Assan. But while running with Tina, if Assan saw Gunther backstage she would slow down about half way down back track until Gunther would come running out to join her to finish the lap. She loved the attention.

"When I first joined the show one of my favorite traditions was the annual Easter egg hunt in the arena. Everyone has Easter egg hunts outside in the grass but our kids got to do it in an arena, three ring lengths of egg hunting opportunities. Eggs were hidden in rigging, in ring curbs, and even in props. It was as if the elephants always knew when it was Easter or maybe they could just smell the sugar, but after the egg hunt for the rest of Easter Sunday the elephants, particularly Assan, would be caught sniffing around the props looking for and occasionally finding the easter candy the children had not found.

(photo courtesy Jade F.)

"When getting on the elephants, one must hold on tightly to the head piece with one's left hand. There was an occasion when a fellow dancer was getting on Banana (elephant) and must not have had a tight grip. Banana tossed her leg up to get the rider on and the next thing I heard was the dancers voice coming from the other side of the elephant saying "Umm, I think something went wrong since I am standing next to her instead of sitting on her!" She had been tossed clean over and had landed standing on the other side!

"Assan had a funny quirk. Once she reached her bull tub she would shake her head side to side rather rapidly before she would sit up on the bull tub. Some thought it was difficult to ride her because of this but I always found it endearing. I just held my thighs tightly around her neck and allowed my hips to follow her movement. A friend was watching one time and thought I was going to be thrown off because there I was sitting upright and then all of the sudden all she saw was my boot because Assan had turned her neck so far to the left. But when she straighted her head there I was just like I was supposed to be. I told my friend no big deal...I just always trusted Assan.

"When I went to the doctor to confirm that I was pregnant, I was told no horseback riding. I asked about elephant riding and she looked a little surprised but said that she thought it would be ok as long as I didn't fall off. I told her that I had never fallen off and I didn't plan on starting now. So I rode for the first three months of my pregnancy on Assan, with Barrett inside. I was never nervous or hesitant. Brett (my husband) could see the act daily and he swears that Assan took even more care stepping over the ring curb during that time because she knew I was pregnant.

(photo of Assan, courtesy Theresa B.)

"Assan and I shared quiet moments. She would take my hand in her trunk and lift it up to her mouth so that I could pet her tongue (which I would tell her that I'd only do this because I loved her!) She would wrap her trunk around my hips or sniff my shoes. When I would sit on her waiting for the act she would lift her trunk up to me so that I could stroke it. Many times I would lie on her head and talk to her. I never gave her treats when I was on her because we were told if we started that then we would have to do it every time because the girls would expect it, and we might forget but they never would. Even after I stopped performing when I would be outside near the elephants, she would hear my voice and start to walk over to me. She loved attention so much that she would lower her head toward Mark Oliver or her handler Ivan Espana wanting them to stroke her head. One time she did this while I was on her and at one point I put my hand on Ivan's shoulder (he only stood about 5'5") and said, "Ivan, do you see a problem here? I am on top of an elephant and able to touch your shoulder??" His response was, "No, I don't see a problem." He gave her some attention and she stood back up.

"Lastly, here is a picture of the time Assan tried to follow Mark Oliver Gebel into 16 wagon (Payroll Dept) and Mark decided to leave a note from Assan to the current purchasing agent about what apples she liked." - Theresa B., Dancer


"Walking into the building in Boston...we had to walk by the elephants to get to the dressing rooms. Well one elephant in line decided to reach out and purse-snatch...she grabbed my purse off my shoulder with her trunk and stepped all over it while I stood there speechless. Finally a handler came over and got it back for me but everything was smashed and broken already!" - Dawn T., Dancer

"The day I met Gunther Gebel-Williams was in Roanoke, VA around 1992. He had retired from the ring and handed his boots over to Mark Oliver Gebel to carry on the family business. Gunther still traveled with the Red Unit as Vice President of Animal Welfare. I attended the Saturday night performance with a friend, but I went back and hung around the edge of the back lot during Sunday's first show just to watch the comings and goings into the arena.

"There was a movable metal barricade and a security guard. I did not intrude onto the lot, but rather wound up speaking with the guard as I watched the performers come and go from the arena. When preparations were underway for the elephant act Mark brought them up and lined them all in a row along the curb that rimmed the sidewalk running across the back of the Civic Center. I can't remember exactly how many elephants there were, but at least ten, probably more. Mark was in front of the elephants and Gunther walked over to speak with him. During a lull in their conversation I politely shouted to Gunther and motioned to my program as a way of asking for an autograph. He motioned to the security guard to let me through and for me to come over to him.

"So there I was, face to face with a herd of elephants in the presence of Gunther Gebel-Williams and Mark Oliver Gebel! Being that close to such a large herd was a bit unnerving. They both signed my program along with Tina Gebel and later that day, Lisa Dufresne. I treasure that program more than others because of the day's events. Unfortunately my camera was out of film (yes, film back then) so I have no photographic remembrance...just the wonderful memories that will travel into eternity with me." - Dan K., Circus Fan

(photo courtesy Dan K.)

"It was in Miami, Fla. - I believe in 1990 - with the Red Unit. I was on Ring One Props, and Manage had started. We prop guys were also on hand to assist with rolling bull tubs and with sweeping up any !@#$% that the elephants "left behind" (ahem). Mary was the elephant up on her bull tub in the Back Track corner of Ring 1 and Gunther Gebel-Williams shouted the command to begin the dance. Keith Greene and the band went into the number, and the elephants began to dance and twirl on the bull tubs...but Mary was having just a little bit of difficulty: she had to go. And I mean, GO. Of course, her back was to the audience, and I was between them with a large plastic trash can and shovel at the ready. After a few drops, the audience was already shaking their heads and laughing with us (note "with" us). Then when Mary KEPT GOING, I started catching the drops before they hit the floor. The audience ROLLED with laughter, catching the attention of more of the audience along the End Track and Ring 1 area of the Front Track...which got THEM laughing loudly, also. That got Gunther's attention...and HE STARTED LAUGHING, TOO!! It wasn't over. Mary had one more big one to go. So naturally I just shoved the trash can under her backside and let it go. The audience was now in tears that they were laughing so hard. Gunther was just one of the type of great men who went with what was happening, and when Mary was obviously ready, she went on with the show. (The audience was laughing so hard it nearly drowned out the loudspeakers blaring out Keith's band music, LOL.)" - Rhett C., Circus Employee


"We will still find your presence
in the spaces between
curtain and concourse
and
we will still see you standing
in those moments before
the perfunctory turns to
performance:
O
ladies of ponderous gracefulness
O
mothers of exuberant joy! - Francis Cancero"



(photo of Siam, courtesy Ryan H.)

"I'll be honest, I didn't think I could be in the circus. I needed a change in life, and suddenly the circus called and offered me one. I still didn't know. I went and met the band, nice people, saw the book, seemed like I could play it. I still didn't know. You hear rumors, the stories of "bad circuses". I love animals with all my heart, and couldn't bear to associate myself with a company that would even THINK of hurting an animal. Then I saw them, all standing in a row backstage, waiting to rehearse their new routine. I was told I could sit on the bandstand. And here they came, on the softest feet, shuffling SO close to me. And I realized at that moment, I would get to be THAT close to elephants every day. They looked happy, proud, ecstatic to be performing. Flapping their ears, swaying to the rhythm of the band. I knew. I knew the respect I held for them, so did everyone in this organization. My dearest elephant friends, change is inevitable, the world will continue to spin on it's crazy way, and that means you get to go eat your veggies in retirement now, and not with us. You will get to help study a cure for cancer, the thing that has taken so much from all of us. Thank you for letting me be in YOUR show for the last few years. Safest of travels to your new home." - Jameson B., Musician

(photo courtesy Jameson)

Congo. Sabu. Prince. Toby. Banana. Cita. Banko. Tonka. Luna. Sara. Ziam. Baby. Mary. Kenny. Bonnie. Asia. Angelica. Bo. Mable. April. Assan. Tommy. This is a partial list of the elephants I've had the pleasure of working with over the last 22+ years. They are unique in every way. Part of me wonders what they think of all of this, their "retirement." But, as for me personally, I am selfish. No longer will I get to see them during preshow. The looks on the faces of the audience as they watch Mable paint and play. No longer will I hear the tremendous roar of the crowd when the herd comes through the portal. Never again will I get to see their amazing act. Nor will I get to see the personal interaction between animal and trainer. It sucks. But the circus changes. It has to grow and move, and we have to go along with it. We will scoff, we will lament the changes, we will remember "the good old days," and, the show will go on. We will entertain the masses. We will do what we do as no others can. The show has changed from when each of us started, and there are many more changes ahead. The circus changes all of us. And the circus changes itself. And we love it so, so much." - Brett B., Bandmaster

"Karen, Nichole, Mysore, Suzan, Lutze, Minyak, Bonnie, Kelly Anne, Sara, Juliette, Angelica, Rudy, Asha, Gunther, Barack, Tova, Jewel, Tonka, Luna, Bonko, Baby, Mable, Assan, April, Asia, Siam, Sundara are the names of all the amazing elephants I have been able to work with and around in the last twelve years. Although I am not a trainer, I have had an incredible opportunity to still be able to learn about these majestic creatures and care for them.

"I started with a shovel behind them. In the last few years my responsibilities have moved from direct, daily hands on care to helping plan the daily and weekly operations with the trainers and handlers. These hardworking people have taken the best care for these animals and have treated them as family. The relationship you can build with an elephant is unique and complex. Very few will ever understand it but if you can, then you will understand why our hearts will be so heavy tomorrow. "The Girls" as we call them, will be moving on to the next chapter in their lives after the two remaining shows tomorrow. They will be missed by many of us. But their good health, good behavior and excellent displays of intelligence by each individual elephant is proof of the successful people that took them into their lives and cared for them as if they were their own children.

"To all of the trainers and handlers that I have had the pleasure of working with from 2004 to now...I'm so proud of you and I am very lucky to have been able to work and learn from you. Each and every one of you have made an incredible positive impact on this beautiful, endangered species." - Jonathan M., Animal Specialist

(photo courtesy Jonathan M.)


"My heart goes out to some amazing people today. More than 140 years of history ends as the elephants take their final bow today at Ringling. These handlers and caretakers have given up so much of their lives to make these divas safe, happy and healthy every day. I have only love for how this circus has cared for these beautiful creatures, being a true example of how animal care and welfare should be. I struggle to describe all of my emotions as this day begins, however cherishing how lucky I am to have worked so closely with them even for such a small moment. Best of luck, happiness and endless thanks to the crew that is moving on, and love and kisses to the beautiful divas on their journey to retirement." - Stacey T., Veterinarian

(photo courtesy Adria C.)


"I usually don't comment much on the subject, however I acknowledge this day [5/1/16] with a heavy heart. I am proud to have been a fourth generation elephant trainer/handler, I was blessed to live and work with these amazing animals for over 30 years, and I stepped away a couple of years ago to raise my 4 year old son. For me, this is the day that will mark the end of an amazing era. I was privileged to spend a good deal of my elephants' career working on Ringling Brothers Blue, Gold and Red [touring units] and I would like to thank the Feld family for all they’ve done, these memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. It has been a great honor for me to be a part of this very special club, whose members have dedicated so much of themselves to their charges, and I say Thank You to these “elephant people”. Thank you very much." - Brian F., Elephant Trainer/Handler

(photo courtesy Jade F.)

"A couple of years before I worked for Ringling, while my family was visiting my brothers at the show in Omaha, we happened to be walking through the animal open house area between shows. I forget how it came about, but as we were passing the elephants the idea came up for us to be able to meet them and whoever the trainer was called us over and let us meet one. He did a spiel full of random elephant facts while she explored around our shoes and hands with her trunk. It was such an amazing experience as someone on the outskirts of the circus world. A couple years later I came on the road and worked just across the animal compound from them every day. The precious memories of watching them lounge around, play with tires or bamboo, or frolic in water spewing from a high-powered hose. To be around them backstage and watch them perform from so close by...to see their diverse personalities and their relationships with each other and their caregivers... it's beautiful. Interactions that are part of the every day here, like walking out of the bathroom only to find a line of elephant butts blocking the path, or crossing in front of the Divas and getting caressed by trunks are such sweet moments that will be missed so dearly. The circus will never be the same." - Judah W., Stagehand


Thank you to everyone who took time to write in for this project, and for those who didn't write in but nevertheless contributed via their sentiments and photos.

I hope that these firsthand stories, thoughts, and feelings have touched you and given you a glimpse into the lives of these amazing animals and the people who are priveleged to have earned their trust and love. Though they will be out of the public eye, please...please do not forget them. We on the circus will never forget.

See you down the road.
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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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This week was, like, the opposite of last week. So much happened!

On Monday Jameson and I got up bright and early, got to Union Station, and rode an Amtrak into Penn Station. From there we walked to a hotel that Jameson's Dad graciously reserved for us, right in Times Square!! It's a little fancier than I'm used to.



The view wasn't bad either!


After settling in we found pizza for lunch, then took an hour to chill before the David Gilmour concert. When we got to Madison Square Garden we stumbled upon a floor tile dedicated to Gunther Gebel-Williams:


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I won't bore you with the details of my two days off at the train yard in Anacostia. Taxes, chores, a short walk, let's leave it at that. Some of the guys from the band went to a bar in DC to watch baseball on opening day, looks like fun :)

(photo courtesy Chaz)

But overall getting into DC from where we are is pretty obnoxious. I just used the time to have a movie marathon.

Opening day in Fairfax was all right. This arena on George Mason University's campus was where I played my first shows with the circus, four years ago as of Monday. I'll always remember playing the clown walkaround act completely wrong, and panicking because I thought I'd be fired :P

Our rehearsal was a bit long, we had to run the whole first act without elephants again :/ Things became a bit more interesting when a little starling found its way inside and began to march around on the floor during the acts. He didn't seem bothered at all by the loud sounds or the people running around. It was a little distracting, but cute <3


(photo courtesy Rebecca W.)

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Since the overland to DC was so short, Jameson and I made plans to spend Monday at the Natural History Museum. We'd both been before but not recently. There were some new exhibits, including two photography galleries showcasing National Geographic's "20 years of Nature's Best Photography" and specifically the photography of Frans Lanting. The images were displayed without frames, in an intensely high quality. A summary to the side of each photo described the conditions under which the photographer took the photo, equipment used, and their thoughts and feelings as they captured the images.


Because it was spring break, the museum was VERY crowded. We inched our way through a display of skeletons of various animals, saw the bugs (but couldn't get into the butterfly dome because there was a waiting list), and enjoyed the hall of gems and minerals.






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It was a short drive from Richmond to Baltimore, but the train takes much longer to arrive. We ended up with two nights in hotels. Before leaving Richmond we ate lunch at Asado Wing and Taco Co. Jameson's burrito was HUGE.


We drove to the outskirts of Baltimore and after finding dinner, decided to go see 10 Cloverfield Lane. No I will NOT tell you what it's about :P If you never saw Cloverfield, that's ok, I hadn't seen it either and this movie still made sense to me. It was very engaging, scary, funny, dramatic...just really good. We had a great time!

The next day we wanted groceries, but the nearest Walmart was a disappointment with no produce and limited fridge offerings. Luckily there was a Wegmans nearby! I haven't been to Wegmans since I was little. It's a pretty awesome grocery! I found a few treats for the upcoming two weeks in Baltimore, and stocked up on the basics as well.

Opening day started with a long rehearsal as we prepare for a show without elephants. The modifications aren't that big a deal, but it's important to make sure everyone knows where they're going. The show featured a pretty great crowd.

Thursday was a split. After the poorly-attended morning show, Jameson and I walked over to Lexington Market. We'd heard that it had gone downhill since the last time we were through (2 years ago), but it looked the same to me...tons of great food, crowds and long lines, bustling storefronts, hecklers. We picked up the Best Cookies Ever, and headed over to Faidley's for some of their famous crab cakes, but the line was wrapped almost halfway around the food court. We settled instead on a small Italian stand selling the biggest hunks of lasagna I'd ever seen at that price. I'll be back for crab cakes next week ;)

After our meal we decided to stay at the arena, he to work on refinancing his mortgage, and I to play online, eat cookies and take a nap :)

Over the weekend we had a visit from one of the Disney on Ice shows. It was great to have a cheering section!! Several peeps from the Blue Unit also came by (they're on a break right now) to say hello and watch the show. Mike Brown, bassist with the Blue band, came backstage to spend some time with us. Great to see you, Mike :)

Sunday was a day full of surprises. Our ringmaster, David Shipman, came down with a nasty stomach bug, so his understudy Dean (clown) took his place for the first time! Dean's charisma and stage presence were a perfect fit for the role! He did an amazing job.





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We drove to Chattanooga and spent the night. The next day we went to Bluewater Grille for lunch (we remembered it from two years ago). After a delicious meal we visited the candy store across the street, just because we could. This particular store specializes in weird sodas. Flavors ranged from the normal root/ginger/butter beer and fruit flavors to the bizarre and sometimes downright gross. Ranch dressing? Gravy? Sweet corn? Eew!

Jameson was brave and got the PB&J soda. He has yet to try it. I got an almond-flavored one and will check it out sometime this week.

Then we drove to Nashville. After checking into the hotel we decided to do some looking around. First stop, Gruhn Guitars to check out some amazing and rare instruments! I don't know much about guitars, but this was a very impressive collection. Jameson really enjoyed looking at them and playing a few.



After poking around in a nearby antique mall, we decided to get dinner at the highly recommended Hattie B's. I was skeptical that fried chicken could be anything but plain ol' chicken...but this was something special! You choose your chicken portion and the heat level you want. Neither of us were brave enough for "Shut the cluck up" spice, but we both enjoyed the "medium" heat. The chicken was SO good, juicy and tender. The sides were delicious as well, especially the black eyed pea salad. Don't leave Nashville without stopping in for a bite!



We were both pretty tired, so decided to just enjoy the hotel that night. Just as we were falling asleep we got a call from Rebecca (wardrobe) who lives on our car. Apparently the train came to an emergency stop, causing a lot of things to go flying around in everyone's rooms. Soon after, smoke started coming from Jameson's room. It turns out a bottle of (ironically) Jameson fell onto the stovetop knob, turning the burner on. A stick of deodorant fell on top of the burner and caught fire.

Fortunately we've got some quick thinkers on our car. Rebecca called train crew while Chaz (drummer) got into the fuse box and turned the power off to Jameson's room. Rebecca was kind enough to take some photos of the area around the stovetop. It's fortunate that none of the other flammable items lying around caught fire.


(photo courtesy Rebecca)

Jameson was very relieved, and thankful to everyone who helped to take care of the situation while we were traveling overland. Thank you Rebecca and Chaz, and everyone on train crew, for looking out for us. One emergency is hard enough to deal with, much less a second unexpected one. Thank you.

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