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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.


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:


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.
taz_39: (footprint)

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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Like many people on Monday, I woke to the sad news of David Bowie's death. On top of that, Another announcement was made by Feld Entertainment that the preparations for the touring elephants down at the CEC were now complete, so they'll be taken off the road 1.5 years ahead of schedule...this May.

For the detailed Associated Press article, CLICK HERE

Of course, since last February, we knew this was coming. But that doesn't make it any less sad.

I think the people who regularly read this blog know that it's not a soapbox. And I am not one who likes to push my views on others. But this time there are a few things that I'd like to say. If you don't care to read my thoughts on this subject just scroll on past, no harm done :)

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Visiting with Jeremy and Charlie was nice. We didn't do a whole lot because I was just passing through, they had work, and it was freezing out. So we just ate out and chilled out!

It's been about two years since I was last at their house. They've been flipping it, and much amazing progress has been made. Here are some before & after photos, with the "before" on the left or top and the "after" on the right or bottom.

I also got to see another house they've bought a few blocks away that's being totally gutted and remodeled. Don't know how these guys do it, but the results are always fabulous :)

I decided to begin driving that evening to make some headway, rather than drive for 9-10 hours straight the next day. I stayed at a little highway hotel, then continued on my journey the next day. I reached Orlando late afternoon and returned my rental car. Little did I know that I didn't have unlimited miles on this trip. What an unpleasant surprise...ouch.

But I was happy to see Jameson finally after a month apart!!! He took me to his apartment to drop off my stuff, then we went out for sushi!

Then we went home, relaxed, played Guitar Hero, and caught up on all our doings over the holiday break. Gosh I've missed my sweetie!!!

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Woke up to a dreary Monday in Jacksonville, FL.
The view was still pretty good despite the rain :)


I was nervous about the audition, and wanted a little extra time to myself. And felt like a little pampering. So for only the second time in my life, I got room service. Smoked salmon and capers on a bagel and a "side" of fresh fruit (that huge thing is a side??).

Luckily I had a clean tupperware in my bag, so managed to save half the fruit for later.
After that lovely meal, I decided to walk to the performance hall as it was only 1/2 mile away. It was raining but I didn't care. Audition personnel were waiting to sign me in.

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taz_39: (woody2)

The train run was wet and cold. We arrived on time (wow!).

Tuesday was load in. I had some work and chores to catch up on. I also walked to two nearby thrift stores to find high-waisted black pants (my costume vest this year is very short) and was lucky to find two pairs!

Wednesday was a dark day. I did some writing and some practicing, and descaled my coffee pot. There was a mall run around noon and I went just in case there were more black pants to be found. Regency Square Mall in Jacksonville looks good on the outside, but it was actually pretty depressing inside. It used to be a huge mall with an East and West end. Now the West side is almost completely closed...only the anchor stores were open.

There were a few Ingress portals around to keep me occupied. One was holding up several large fields, so I took it down :P
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As the train moved 80 miles to the Orlando yard, Jameson and I enjoyed some R&R at his apartment. He worked on his album, I worked on trombone excerpts. He played Xbox, I watched anime. We watched Bad Grandpa and Gone Girl. Jameson made pizza rolls and homemade marinara sauce to dip them in. Much needed activities. I brought out the GoPro to learn the settings, and Jameson took a video.

On Tuesday afternoon we dropped a few things off at the now-spotted train, then went for burgers at BB Junction. They serve 100% local, farm-raised beef cooked to perfection and topped with a saliva-inducing array of condiments. I got a wild mushroom/gruyere/truffle aioli/watercress-topped burger with a hard root beer to drink. Not sure what burger Jameson got, but he had it with a pecan beer. Beefalicious!

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday got off to a great start with some awesome gifts from Theresa Barlow, our boss's wife. She brought us each a loaf of chocolate pumpkin bread, and lots of cookies!

After the band's run-through in the house, Irina surprised me with a gorgeous hand-painted music box from Russia! I love it <3

On Tuesday and Wednesday we did full dress rehearsals in the house. We had most of our music and were able to play along with most acts. After playing for the Mongolian act for the first time, several members of the troupe turned around and applauded us. That felt really good :)

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Well...nothing terribly exciting happened this week!

The Gold Unit loaded out to begin their run of holiday shows.

The building seems very empty without them. Break a leg guys, have a great tour :)

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Monday: a standard day.
Tuesday: The band finally got to have a sound check in the rehearsal space! We're making progress :)
During a break, I got this great video of one of our horses playing with a ball <3

On Wednesday we had our regular rehearsal, then played in the house again. We played music for the Bungee Act as they rehearsed. While we were practicing, some crew members were working on the lighting grid above our heads. It was a ballet of cherry pickers and scissor lifts.

Thursday was a day off. I joined Jameson at his apartment in Orlando, where we started our day with a tasty breakfast at Keke's Breakfast Cafe!

After that treat, we returned to the apartment to wrap each other's Christmas presents! He wrapped mine in the music room while I hogged the living room. Can't wait to exchange gifts soon :)

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Monday was "just another day". We got the music for Menage, and played through everything and went home :P Tuesday was a day off. I went on the morning market run not because I needed anything, but to get off the train. Walked to a Goodwill down the street and killed an hour browsing there, then spent time picking out stocking stuffers at Walmart. Came back to the train and paced around outside hoping to catch a photo of an alligator, but only saw him from a distance. Him, and the prison cows.

Took care of some errands, watched some movies, played The Room. Not much of a day!

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Today (Monday) was our first time seeing the new Feld facility! It looks like any other gigantic corporate office from the outside. Inside there are large warehouse-like spaces that can be used for rehearsal. Here's a video clip from YouTube (so I don't get in trouble for posting my own pics haha):

Just like last Winter Quarters, we have been warned not to post photos because the show is still in production (it's a secret!) I won't be posting photos of the building, animals, rehearsals, props, etc. unless the Ringling site posts it first. I'm taking a gamble in this post by sharing some photos of the band's rehearsal space. Readers just be aware that some photos might disappear if I'm asked to remove them.

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taz_39: (woody2)

As mentioned in the last post, we finished our second week in Miami with a Monday evening show. My dear friend and fantastic trumpet player Ellis came out to see the show with his cousin, and they had a great time. Our sub Mike also got two of his trombonist buddies tickets; they sat behind me in the pit. Always nice to meet more trombones!!

Afterward Jameson and I drove our respective cars to his apartment in Orlando. For some reason he was concerned that I'd be horrified at all the Queen memorabilia hanging from the walls. Of course not...I thought it was fan-tastic ;D

On Tuesday we went for breakfast at one of Jameson's local favorites, keke's breakfast cafe. I got a banana choco chip pancake, two eggs and a 'breakfast salad' (yogurt with fruit, granola and honey).
Along with two cups of coffee it was absolutely delicious but more than I normally eat. I spent the next hour uncomfortably full :P

We ran errands and played Device 6 until it was time to go see Blue Man Group at Universal Studios.
What a great show! Jameson had seen them before, but this was my first time. They're very interactive and thought-provoking on several levels.

(photo courtesy flickr)

Two volunteers are selected to participate in skits each show and of course, Jameson was picked! But it was a real bummer that taping/photos were not allowed. In the photo above, you can get an idea of what they had him do. It involved putting him in a jumpsuit and blacked-out bike helmet, tying him up by his ankles and slamming him against a wall (supposedly ;) ). Crazy stuff!

After a few minutes Jameson emerged from a giant jello (don't ask) and returned to me none the worse for wear. Just a little spattered.

The next day we drove halfway to Nashville, stopping in Macon for the night. We had a fancy dinner at Bonefish Grill to celebrate six months of dating. Romantic? Yes. Nauseatingly lovey-dovey? Maybe. A great idea? No doubt. Jameson sampled wolffish and I savored an awesome chocolate creme brulee.

On Thursday we made it to the train in Nashville. The yard is massive...look at all those tracks!


Luckily the train was parked on the outside of that giant cluster, clearly visible and accessible from the road. We found it in no time.

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taz_39: (woody2)

We started the week with three whole dark days! Wow!
I mostly spent the time running errands, but there were a few interesting moments.
For one thing, the stained glass window clings that I worked so hard on were unuseable. When I finally removed the clings from the wax paper, the marker that I had used to trace had bled, leaving marks in the clear portions.

Not one to be thwarted by such a crummy mistake, I remade the 'lead' outlines using a different tracing and filled in the color like before. I had to use a different brand of transparent fill for the large 'clear glass' sections. That was a horrible mistake. The new paint was WAY too runny, and it lifted the outline right off of the plastic, ruining the whole shebang. So...I think I'll take a break from painting for now :/

After that frustrating ordeal, I went looking for iguanas to photograph. Finally found a big one sunning himself trainside. By moving slowly I was able to get pretty close.


Like a little dinosaur :)

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taz_39: (woody2)

Vacation is officially over!
As the country experienced extreme cold this week, I was happy to find myself in Miami where it was a 'frigid' 60 degrees :P

I dropped my Aunt off at the airport, and set about finding the train. This can be harder than you may think, because many times there's no address associated with where we're parked. On our advance sheet, an intersection was listed. When I reached that location I was delighted to see the train off to the left, perfectly visible from the road.

Although I'm sure I'll be tired of train life again in a week, it was nice to see the train again after such a long time away. I really do think of it as 'home'! One of the first things I noticed was a new car between cars 30-31. It looks like a 1950s BUDD car, just like our others...but shinier! Very interesting.

Another noticeable thing about this yard: the wildlife.
There are ducks!

(yeah that sucker is like 3ft long)

I'm hoping to get better (closer) iguana pics next week!

I took my bike outside, then unpacked and did two loads of laundry, then restocked my fridge and cleaned the room. All of this took about 5 hours. It's very convenient to have the car with me, as there's no grocery within easy walking/biking distance here. I even gave myself a treat and went to Trader Joe's for a few of my favorite unnecessary food items: fig butter, cranberry juice, ginger, and sprouted wheat bread.

Tim (sax) needed a ride from the airport, so I fetched him and afterward he and Rebecca took my car to the grocery. They VERY generously put gas in my car.

The next day, or the last day before work REALLY started again, it was time for some errands.
A haircut, some fabric for curtains, then back to the train to cook for the week and say hello to everyone returning from their time off :)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

(photo missing)

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

(photo courtesy Brian)

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

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

(photo courtesy Toy Store)


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March 2017



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