Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Welcome to The Player's Lounge Baby....

One of the many interesting things that I get to see that most other people don't is the VIP and backstage areas of different arenas.  While the circus was in San Diego, the performances were at the Valley View Casino Center which is a smaller and older arena that has a wide variety of concerts, events, roller derbies, etc.

What I found most interesting about this particular venue was how everything was built in the mid sixties...then never updated.  Usually, this would mean a pretty run down building that should be bulldozed and started over again *cough* Selland Arena *cough* but incredibly, while everything in the building was straight out of 1965, it was in exceptionally well maintained and in good condition.

For example, I spent a bit of time in the Valley View Casino Player's Lounge (oh yeah!)

Mostly because it was quiet, dark, a fantastic place to catch a nap during split shows (err...take my laptop to one of the giant orange couches and do some number crunching!)

I don't even know you could legally buy furniture that color after 1981...
So, the place definitely had charm and some really cool other traditions.  Every show that comes to that arena gets a custom poster made by a local artist and they are incredible.  Almost every wall backstage has these posters lining them for wrestling, concerts, circuses, etc.  (the one for my show was awesome, I'm still trying to find a way to get one because they do very limited print runs).  Here are some of the awesome examples:

And the not so awesome examples, but the artist can only do so much...

Sadly, they were also bolted to the wall.  If this autographed Tiesto poster woudn't have been, I'm not sure I could have trusted myself not to try and steal it.
So, a successful run through San Diego, I'd certainly give the city a thumbs up and look forward to returning in the future.  Assuming I remain with my current show, I'll be back in two years and I'm sure there will be plenty more great posters to look at by then.

Monday, August 19, 2013

San Diego - Insert "Whale's Vagina Joke Here"

I decided that I needed to pick back up the travel stuff because I really do get to see a ton of cool stuff and it seems like this is as good of a place as any to keep a record of it.  The last stop on the tour was in San Diego, which meant there was uninterrupted week of Anchorman references and jokes (like the one in the title line, if you're confused, go to this video for an example).

For the heck of it, a female associate and I decided to bounce out of Anaheim at the end of the last show, rent a car and drive to San Diego to get a couple extra days in what we had heard was a pretty cool city and I'm pretty glad we did as it also basically gave us a three day weekend.  During that time, we got to see some exotic animals at the world famous San Diego Zoo:

Because, of course, I don't see enough Elephants during the work week...

My Humps, My Humps, My Humps, My Humps - Check it out!
Spend a day in the ever reputable city of Tijuana, Mexico:

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The beach was beautiful and as nice as any we had seen in California if you ignore the trash piled up and the third wold building codes behind you.  Sadly, the water was also ice cold which surprised me in Mexico.

Rooms here were about $18 a night.  We considered checking in, then we decided it was time to take a break from the tequila shots as we were obviously feeling their effects.

This is the arch, which apparently was supposed to be a tourist attraction at some point, why anybody wants to rip off tourist ideas from St. Louis is anybody's guess, but hey, at least the food was great:

And a day spent at Sea World San Diego (because between working in a circus and going to the zoo, we hadn't seen enough exotic animals):

The entire trip, gas + car + hotel, etc. really only ran me about $300-400, which I consider well worth it given the amount I got to see and experience that I wouldn't have if we would have stayed on the train.  Since I have no idea when I'll get to return to San Diego, I thought the days off and extra sightseeing was well worth it.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Where Has the Summer Gone?

As the old saying goes, "time flies when you're having fun".  If you are willing to put stock in that colloquialism, then I must be living a pretty awesome life.  I was actually shocked when I realized that I hadn't given a travel update since Tucson (almost two months ago).  

After a week in Phoenix, we shot into California and have been bouncing the Golden State ever since.  While I hopefully will get time to do blog entries about every city, post all the pictures (I've never been a big picture taking guy, but since taking this job, I've taken hundreds) and give an update on the type of stuff that us circus folk manage to find to entertain ourselves in each city.  

A few updates on life in the circus, as I mentioned already, it's still pretty great.  While I'm still relatively new at this game, I continue to build relationships every day and the longer you're out here the more people start trusting you and allowing you into their cliques.  One way I measure the number of connections/friendships I am making in the circus is the number of Facebook friends I have in the show.  While this may seem like an exceptionally shallow and pointless way of keeping score, there is a method to my madness:

Back in college, when Facebook first came out, I friended just about everybody who you could because...well...I don't remember exactly why, but we did.  You meet twenty people at a party and have 21 friend requests by the next night and find yourself wondering who some of these people actually are.  Since I've "grown up" I no longer spend my days actively trying to expand my social network, at this point it's already at a sufficient size.  So, to date, I have only sent a friend request to two people in the circus while I have received friend requests from about twenty.

My "people you may know" have started to change from distant friends of friends I had met once, distant family and people who I have been actively trying to forget for one reason or another, to 3 clowns, the show PR manager, some show riggers and other various and sundry show folk.  I suppose if I needed a digital example to show the change in the people I come in contact with my Facebook news feed would be a good one.

Before I took this job, the only time I had ever spent in California was in LAX running between gates, so it has been an interesting thing to see all the good and the bad that the 31st state has to offer.  So far, the weather has been incredible, since we rolled into town, we have had ONE day of rain and the weather always seems to be sunny and warm.  That being the good part, as somebody born and raised in the midwest, everybody out here is insane.  Let's go down my top five examples:

5. The Government of Alameda County:  So far, this county (and several others, my apologies for not being inclusive) have managed to solve all problems of urban blight, homelessness, city services operating properly and the buses run on time.  Wait, that's not true, but they do seem to have managed to eliminate the dastardly plastic grocery bag from all local stores.  I'm sleeping better at night knowing that the local government has its priorities straight.

4. The drivers:  In every part of California, I've discovered that all drivers are either insane, blind, jerks, impaired with who knows what substance or some combination of both.  

3. Whomever owns Arco Gas Stations: These maddening places which dot the landscape of California only accept debit cards and cash, only have one place you can pay to operate a dozen pumps and everything is at least 20% more expensive than I think it should be.  As a side note, they don't take the company gas cards.  Forget those guys.

2. Anybody who lives in Ontario, California:  The place is every bit as exciting as your local TGI Friday's restaurant and the only thing that every local I talked to could suggest to do for entertainment was to go to the mall. 

1. The guy who was walking around the U.S. Open of Surfing on Huntington Beach with "Free Hugs" written on his back and torso.  This particular gentleman (I use the term lightly) was one of many who were sporting this look so I generally ignored it.  However, when this guy walked up to me and grasped me like a long lost relative to inform me that "I looked like I needed some love, man", "I was giving off some broken spirited vibes, man" and "the beach is a wonderful place to commune with the spirits of the ocean" (man?) I decided that another part of the beach was a good place to explore.

Well, big three show day tomorrow, so I'll cut things off there: 

"May all your days be circus days"

Monday, July 29, 2013

Some Circus Hijinks - Part one of many

As you will all be shocked to know, sometimes there are members of our cast, crew and staff who like to play some practical jokes or make editorial comments wherever and whenever possible.  Allow me to share a few from Anaheim, California:

1. Chef's opinion of the note is written below:

2. One of the staff members took vacation.  There is a group who has been perpetuating pranks on each other whenever one leaves the show for a few days by doing some redecorating each other's rooms in their absence.  One staff member decided to bring his girlfriend out to join the show and their first night together in his train room, they had an unexpected guest:  Nicholas Cage.  Enjoy:

The sad part about this is that I didn't get a picture of the reaction when the lucky gentleman returned to the train tonight to see the new decor of his train room.  However, trust me, it was priceless.

Every day's a circus.  Even dark days (like today)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Free the Clowns!

I haven't mentioned it, because I'm really supposed to be silent on the subject, but out here on the west coast we have had to deal with a large group of animal rights activists who really like to kill animals (you figure it out, we're just confused).  When I say that, I'm referring to PETA who enjoys coming to our shows to protest the use of animals in our shows.  What confuses me is that these people kill animals in their shelters and we spend untold amounts of money, effort and time keeping ours alive and happy.

These are the same idiots that had that think it would be a great idea to break in and free all the tigers, because a bunch of tigers wandering around Southern California would end well for everybody.

But, this story isn't really about them because they're a bunch of lunatics who I sincerely hope get hit by an asteroid.  (Maybe karma is a thing?)  This story is about the awesome people who came out to our show in Ontario, California.

They truly had a cause that we believe in!  They really wanted to protest the circus for the right reasons!  They wanted to fight the horrors that befall the clowns, so they did this:

They attended our show last year and saw the idiots who plant themselves outside our show and decided to do some protesting of their own.  The animal killers (PETA supporters) really didn't like it.  It's a shame I didn't get a shot at one of them try to pick a fight with the Clown Right protesters.  Anyway, I tracked down this group of awesome individuals at intermission and found out that they didn't just bring signs, they made jewelry to support the cause!

So, below, please enjoy their fantastic artwork, have a laugh and raise your glass to these fantastic individuals because everybody here in the circus certainly is!

Clowns are kept in CAGES!!! (maybe)

Free the CLOWN SLAVES!!!


What If Clowns Can Feel?  Stop the Abuse!
There was one additional one that the clowns claimed ownership of before I had the chance to get a picture that said "Clowns are almost like people!!!".  If I can get a picture, I'll post it.

Anyway, in the long odds that the people above read the blog, go you.  You were a huge morale boost to the entire show.  Southern California is a lot of long engagements and hard work and having the laugh really boosted everybody.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Would You Tell Somebody Before They Join the Circus?

It's always good to have side projects, something to keep you busy when you're not working and as I always say "everybody needs a hobby".  Right now, one of my side projects came from the VP of Human Resources for the parent company of the show.  He asked me to keep my eyes and ears open and help him start to make a guide to life in the circus that we could send to people before they step foot in their first arena/train yard.

As a part of my interview process, the show was generous enough to fly me to the unit, so I had at least some fair warning about what life was like here in the show.  Wanting to take full advantage and find out as much as possible before I signed my offer letter and ran away with the circus, I had a few questions I asked everybody I was introduced to:

1. What do you wish somebody would have told you before you came out to the show?
2. What is the worst thing about being with the circus?
3. Why do people leave the circus?

These are obviously rather pessimistic questions to ask on a first visit, but I really wanted to know the bad with the good.  I knew that every life situation, job, relationship, etc. has both good and bad.  Should you think that you have found the exception, congratulations on the success you have had in your quest to seriously delude yourself.

The purchasing manager from the show, let's call him Carl (I don't know why I bother with aliases anymore, but I'll stick to it) actually has proven to be a fountain of wisdom and as I look back, his wisdom started on this visit to the unit.  He said: I could tell you a lot of things, I could talk your ear off all night, but nothing I could tell you could prepare for life out here with the show.  You won't understand unless you live it.

As a brief aside, one of the most interesting things about Carl is that he's around the same age as me, doesn't have the same level of education, has a pretty normal upbringing but it's incredible how he can look at a situation and very astutely determine what's really happening and how it should be dealt with.

Getting to the moral of the story, there is something that I would tell anybody who is joining the show (if they ask me, by the time they're at my desk, they are doing their new hire paperwork and it's a bit late) and it is the following: Do not join the show if you're not the type of person who can roll with the punches.  It's a great life (I still like it anyway) but there are things that happen here that don't happen as frequently in the "normal world" and you just have to be willing to adapt.  

Allow me to illustrate using an example  Yesterday, I woke up, jumped out of bed and hopped in the shower like I do every other day (many of you will understand this logical progression of my morning).  I got in the shower, turned on the water and....nothing.  My train car had somehow ran out of water!  Well, while this wasn't the result I was both expecting and hoping for, guess what:  I live on a train. It happens!  So, I went to work without a shower and without shaving.  Not my preferred way to live my life, but as I said before, in this life, you gotta roll with the punches.  Just a piece of advice to my readers, if you want reliable 24/7 access to water, don't live in a train.  My water here is very reliable, I have no complaints, but there are other people who I think would treat the lack of water as a life changing emergency.  

Life's too short, enjoy the good, forget the bad and make every day a circus day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Hardest Working Show on Earth

As I've mentioned before, my background is a pretty typical 8-5 office gig.  Obviously there are times in all of my jobs when the team I worked with and I would come in early and/or leave late, but I have never worked hours like I have in the circus.

My schedule (times vary greatly depending on show times):
Monday and Tuesday - train runs.  Spend a couple of hours a day on the phone. In theory, these are my days off. That being said, I checked out my usage for most of June.  960 cell phone minutes, 2,327 text messages and around 18 gb of data used.  Obviously that is a combined total of personal and business, but the majority of the time spent on the phone and text messages are all work related. 

Wednesday and Thursday (one show days) - Roll into the venue around noon and leave after the show around 9:30

Friday (usually a 2 show day) - Arrive at noon - leave around 10 pm.  This will generally be a "split show" day where there will be a morning and an evening show.  I have the opportunity to leave, go shopping, go back to the train and take a nap, etc. but having time in the office that is quiet and unlikely to be interrupted is golden and a great time to get some project work done.

Saturday (almost always a 3 show day) - Arrive at 10 am - leave around midnight.  Most people really like to go out on their Saturday nights and get wild.  Trust me, I get it, it's lots of fun and I did it for a long time, but like everything else that is different in the circus,  after a three show day, it's a one way trip straight back to the train and to bed. 

Sunday can either be a 2 show day or a 3 show day, see the schedule above.  If we have a three show Saturday and a three show Sunday, that's called a six pack weekend.  This is the first time I've ever thought a "six-pack" was a bad thing.  My first six pack weekend was in Fresno, California and I was glad that I had a full day of a train run to chill out, write blog posts and just watch some great scenery.

But, the point of this post isn't to virtually pat myself on the back for how hard I work, see the picture below:

I took this picture in Tucson around 10:30 PM after a two show day.  Basically, everybody in this picture had worked in some capacity a full day and they're using their night time to practice acrobatics (they're currently climbing silk ropes right now, which is a full body workout if I've ever seen it).  If this was a video you would notice some Russian acrobats practicing flips to go from "great" to "perfect". 

Really, I just wanted to tip my hat to all the people who work to make this the amazing show that it is.  An amazing amount of passion, blood, sweat and tears go into this every day, from the cooks in the kitchen to the General Manager at the top.  The payoff is that we have an incredible show that puts smiles on the faces of thousands of people at once.