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. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Desert: Week 2 - Tucson, AZ

I really tried to think up a clever title for the week we spent in Tucson, but none came.  If one comes to me, there's always the edit feature.  Really, it was another week in the Arizona desert with 100 degree nights and worse days.  Being from the midwest, it just isn't my bag, but hey I did take this job to see the country and I've never spent a lot of time in the desert. 

Yep, this is about it.

In every city, I generally get some time to myself to explore and see what's cool about every city.  I've discovered that pretty much every city we stop in has at least one day of cool stuff (I've found one city that is the exception to that rule, but more on that later).  In Tucson, some of the cool stuff included the Hotel Congress, where John Dillinger was capture for the first time

Fourth Avenue, which is apparently the Tucson nightlife hotspot when school is in session.  A bar called The Hut sports this giant random tiki tower:

Then, you find new things that really make you wonder.  What kind of city I am in where this sign actually needs to be made?

Hit up a few places on 4th Ave, it was surprisingly hard to find a place whose kitchen was open late on a weekday night.  Out with a couple friends and hungry late one night, the only place was the Surly Wench Pub which was the friendly type of place where there was a biker gang outside the door and a hard rock concert going on inside at roughly 800 decibels.  

 It's important to remember that looks (and obscenely loud music) isn't everything.  After all, we were there for the food.  The place had a great burger and had a really good tater tot/nacho dish.  I personally liked the bar with the huge American flags, random pieces of Americana combined with Native American pieces.  Cool vibe, would have just preferred to go back on a night with a different musical selection.

One cool thing about Tucson is that there are just giant random public art displays...everywhere.  It adds a nice element to the city, I have no idea what this building is supposed to be, but it has a pretty impressive mosaic on the side

I've never claimed to be much of an art critic. My two cents on the following marvelous piece of modern art:  Big, red, metal.  Lovely!

 Week two in the desert done and then it's off to Phoenix.  Short train run followed by a long show week, a tough combination.  Train runs are when I catch up on sleep, clean my room, write blog entries and watch the country go by from my vestibule and get some time alone.  That aside, here's the randoms from Tucson:

One must always be careful where one walks in the circus

Yes, I'm secretly 13 years old.  It says "Do Not Hump".  I giggled every time I walked by it.

Fun Fact, pretty much every one of those lights travels with us.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Viva Las Vegas

As you might have noticed, I've fallen a bit behind on stories from each city. It's a combination of being exceptionally busy (oddly, they keep us pretty busy here) and a lack of long train runs. The last big post was on our way into Las Vegas. This might shock some of you, but by the end of the Las Vegas show week, there wasn't a single person I talked to in the show who wasn't happy to leave.

It's hard to tell why people were so eager to leave; it could have been the 115 degree heat every day, perhaps it was the fact that nobody got to bed before 2 AM (I didn't get to bed before 4 am except for one night), maybe they just didn't have any more money to lose at the casinos. The world may never know the actual cause....I'll leave it to you to speculate.

As I mentioned in a prior update, we left beautiful Colorado mountain weather, so the heat was an unfortunate surprise. If you've ever flown from beautiful weather to the desert, you know the feeling. The train was conveniently posted about 5 minutes from Fremont Street, with beautiful views of Main Street Station, the Golden Nugget and the Fremont Street Experience

If this was less than a mile from home, would you ever make it to bed on time?

You'll have to excuse if all the photos from Las Vegas turn out blurry, I like to bring realism to the blog and blurry was pretty accurate for night time in Las Vegas. My only time in Vegas had been for a friend's wedding and never made it to fremont, so who doesn't love a giant indor adult playground with live music and a roof that is playing music videos?

Obviously all play and no work makes...the normal Las Vegas experience so we had plenty of work to do as well. We played the Thomas and Mack Center at UNLV which was a pretty decent venue, my office was parked outside but the view over our compound gave us a great view of the strip while we were working

I've never mentioned it before, but lots of our staff and their families live in RVs and drive from city to city and don't take the train. Some positions are required to live in trailers such as some animal handlers who have to be near the animals 24x7, but others just prefer to live at the venues and who's to argue, 30 second commute to work!

Las Vegas is apparently a hot bed for former circus performers, makes a lot of sense given where else do you go if you're tired of the road and want to perform specialized show skills? One of our troupes (the unicycle basketball team) is actually based in Vegas and so lots of people dug into their bank of comp tickets to show off our current show to their friends. A nice bonus of this is that a lot of the old time cast and crew threw a party at the train which, ironically, was my most responsible night in town. It was a lot of fun to meet people who were in the show 5-50 years ago and hear stories about the circus "back when". I told them I don't understand how they lived this life before the invention of GPS, smart phones and internet that I can access while the train is moving.
There ain't no party like a Circus Train party...

In every city, we have plenty of PR events, letting the morning news come and interview the lead elephant trainer while they wash an elephant, sending the Ringmaster to a radio station to talk about how great life is in the circus (to be fair, he isn't lying) but in Las Vegas I was proud to be a part of an event where the show partnered with a local food bank and fed hungry kids in our Pie Car while circus performers and staff packed bags of food for the kids. Below is a picture taken from the event by the Las Vegas Sun. It was a pleasure to do some good while we rolled through Sin City

All in all, Las Vegas is a great city to visit and a great city to leave. That was our first of three weeks in the desert and another great week in the circus.

Because what I do for fun on my nights off is only so interesting, here's some pics from the show/things that I thought were cool:

The Media Control Room at the T&M.

The view during the train run.  Yay sand

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Fourth of July everybody from Fresno, California! 

I just wanted to hope that your Independence Days are as wild and crazy as an average circus day! Tonight is a company party at the arena, so I'm back at the train hanging out between the show and the party getting some refuge from the killer humidity that we've walked into in Fresno.  I was really tired of the desert heat of Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix (when your cooks can fry an egg on the sidewalk, you know the place isn't fit for human habitation) but wasn't ready for the punch in the gut that 110 degrees and heavy humidity was here in California.

Tonight I'm looking forward to my first "official" company party.  If you think about it, we travel with several million dollars in sound and lighting equipment, a food truck, a band and a pyro crew.  What else do you need for a good party?

May your barbecues be excellent and your holiday be well enjoyed remembering all of the great things about the USA!