Sunday, March 30, 2008

A trailer with a view.

March 30, East Tawakoni, texas (33 miles, city property next to TJ's store.)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The outcasts.

March 29, Grand Saline.

It was a mess parking the circus this morning, the field soon turning into mush; there will be a lot of towing tomorrow, or maybe tonight (as they did last week in Honey Grove.) Fridman drives the truck loaded with emergency tires and thus has to be last in the order of vehicles in case somebody needs assistance, so we arrived next to last, as usual, and for once that did us good: seeing what was going on we agreed with the guy who parks the circus (days I say I'll ask him what his name is) to stay just outside of the lot where it's relatively mud-free; we didn't get stuck and should get out without a problem. Fridman then spent most of the morning extending cables so that we could hook up to the generator.
Later he joked that we were like the outcasts of the circus, sitting out on the other side of the fence.

Pastoral utopias.

March 29, Grand Saline.

It looked as if we were smack in the middle of nowhere, driving in this morning, lost at the end of a maze of back-country roads part asphalt part mud, a couple of nice houses standing out among dilapidated houses and trailers (hard to believe anybody can live there,) a small wood bridge on the other side of the road by the entrance to the rodeo grounds where the circus is parked. It would be nice to live in a place like this, far in the country, quiet and serene, what I dream for, a farm somewhere in the middle of nowhere, land and a creek maybe, growing my own food (ok, except chocolate, tea, coffee, Thai food, oh and the absolutely needed Rocky Road ice-cream,) the pastoral utopia, but not without my high-speed internet or NPR or overnight mail, because utopia or not there are some things one simply cannot live without, right? Then I took a walk this afternoon with Dylan and Nicolas and discovered that the main highway through town was on the other side of that wooden bridge, its noise reverberating all around. So much for quiet and serene.
On with the pastoral mode, the route was along a country highway, and everywhere green green green green an orgy of green. And then on the road near the circus, a blue barn.

A trailer with a view.

March 29, Grand Saline, Texas (37 miles, rodeo grounds.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

The pine trees

March 28, Athens.

It smells wonderful here, the smell of pine trees after the rain, and grass, stepping out of the truck after a long but uneventful trip as if in an oasis. It looks wonderful too, all of a sudden it seems the trees are covered in spring green, bright almost unnatural green, when two weeks ago when we started out winter still reined unchallenged, the trees barren, grey, dormant soil, life suspended.

A trailer with a (different) view.

March 28, Athens, Texas (63 miles, across from Athens Intermediate School.)

Experimenting with another angle as I'm having focus issues with the traditional one, a result of my shooting with a little point-and-shoot (actually anything but, the digital IXUS900Ti Canon camera is a wonder of technology - but still there are things you can only do with a full-fledged camera.)
It is Sheyla on the right, hooking up the electric cable on her motor home.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


March 27, Balch Springs.

We are near don Sandro's home. Again this feeling of home, strange.
Fridman is trying to fix the trailer's support that broke the other day so that he can unhitch and go get the Avion trailer (the one we used the first year I traveled with Circus Chimera) we left at an RV consignment place since it is not selling and costing money each month on top of it all. I'm getting ready to go shopping, and this time I know exactly where to go.

A trailer with a view.

March 27, Balch Springs, Texas (30 miles, Irwin Park.)

A sale.

March 26, Palmer.

Richard called yesterday saying he had sold our minivan; we had left it behind in El Cerrito in his care; he called again this morning to confirm that the sale had gone through, and for a price we didn't even hope for. We have some celebrating to do, and some thanking, too.

Long-legged surprise.

March 26, Palmer,.

Armando, who performs with two horses, came back from the cook house at lunch today to find a guest in his horses' enclosure: a foal. Here it was, on the hay along one of the circus' trucks, where the animals are kept during the shows, with its mother at its side, bloody but otherwise fine.

A trailer with a view.

March 26, Palmer, Texas (66 miles, Palmer Elementary School.)

Sweet sleep.

March 25, White Settlement.

Driving in the morning not only suits me perfectly, it is also much better for Dylan and Nicolas, this much is clear after only a week or so of traveling. They already know the routine, waking up when I pick them up from their crib but soon falling back asleep if we start out right away. Nicolas is always the first one to be out, and sometimes Dylan, distracted by the radio or Fridman and I talking on the CB radio, doesn't fall asleep until we're almost there. In all cases it is infinitely better for their sleep pattern, which has been and continues to be the biggest issue for me; Nicolas is just getting into the habit of learning how to fall asleep on his own (and not waking up at night, which was achieved early last week as we started the season,) and with Dylan I'm trying to establish a regular sleep time, with more or less success depending on the days. So I am grateful not to have to wake them up right after they have finally have reached their goal, and it is a momentous one at this age.

A trailer with a view.

March 25, White Settlement, Texas (27 miles, Central Park.)

A trailer with a view.

March 24, Rhome, Texas (44 miles, Fire Department grounds.)

Rien a signaler, other than a sloped, small, rough grassy lot.


March 23, Frisco.

The owner of the Kelly Miller Circus, John Ringling North II, invited the whole circus crew to a restaurant for lunch today for Easter. And in the morning there was an Easter egg hunt on the lawn of the Frisco City Hall, by the circus. There are so many kids in this circus, it looks much like a daycare facility on nice-weather days, like yesterday, with all of them running around outside on anything from baby car to 10-speed bicycle. I don't know them all yet but they range from 11 months old, with Nicolas and Grania, Sarah's daughter, to a 12 year old, Jorge and Carmen Rosales' eldest son (to be continued.)

John Moss at the Easter egg hunt.

Three shows.

March 22, Frisco.

Three shows today (and a guest appearance for a group of school children) to make up for the day off tomorrow, or maybe because it's Saturday, I'm not sure.

Toothy chicks.

March 21, Frisco.

The circus is staying three days here, in this far northern suburb of Dallas, so I am writing late at night, in a quiet trailer, while Fridman and Dylan went out with Sheyla, Alain, Friedman and don Sandro and dona Maigo, who came to visit. No locking the fridge doors, strapping elastic bands around upper cabinet doors so that they won't open even though they're not supposed to (they always do, eventually,) no going around to check everything is in place for travel.
Three days! It sounds like an extended stay for us veterans of a week of one-day stopovers. And not only that, but a day off, something akin to a chicken with teeth in the circus world as I know it. I've simply never seen Fridman have a day off in all years I've known him, other than by force majeure, as happened on Tuesday because of the wind and rain.
We are parked in an nondescript place, a place that won't be available next year (or maybe it will, if the economy keeps going south,) a place-to-be, brand new city hall and buildings set up to look like an old main street rising in the middle of nowhere next to the Dallas Tollway, at the corner of Main Street and Coleman Street, said the route card that we get every morning to guide us to our destination; we are out of rural country and in one of those suburban landscapes that became so familiar the last two years with Circus Chimera, miles and miles of shopping malls, fresh-paint new, some buildings still under construction, all the usual brand names and more, form Maine to Oregon, behind them housing developments after housing developments, along highway 380 here one of them advertising "weekly home owners' events," and all of the land in between going out for sale, the rural country fast disappearing, a few dilapidated farm houses and buildings by the side of the road out of place already. On the radio dial I found NPR.
On the way over: Foster Crossing Road, Throckmorton Road Exit.

A trailer with a view.

March 21, Frisco, Texas (44 miles.)

Sheyla arrives.

March 20, Whitewright.

Sheyla, Alain and their son Friedman arrived yesterday from Springfield, Misosuri, where they were working with another circus. They'll be with us for two weeks, Alain helping with the tent and Sheyla doing what she does, taking care of Friedman.
The lot here is wonderful, trees and grass and the small town all around us, and the weather perfect, sunny and breezy, the circus looks like a slightly oversized picnic party. There are vendors setting up for a week end flea market right by us.
On the road over, "Jackie Jester Excavation."

A trailer with a view.

March 20, Whitewright, Texas (37 miles, American Legion grounds.)


March 19, Whitesboro.

The trip over lasted forever, and Dylan and Nicolas didn't like it. The severe weather finally came to an end some time late into the night, it was still raining hard when I woke up at four. My pillow was getting drenched by a steady source of water drops just above my head where Fridman had reconstructed the wall in California (they say water always finds its way in; the crack is most likely in the roof that I sloppily treated with sealant three years ago.) In the afternoon we had found a leak in the center of the trailer, just above where Dylan's train station house usually sits being picked apart by Nicolas. The water was dropping in through the TV antenna crank lever on the ceiling, and I devised a way with recycled rubber bands to hold a plastic cup to the lever to collect the water, as putting the cup on the floor quickly proved a bad idea because of the afore-mentioned 11-month-old fast-not-on-his-feet named Nicolas. It worked.
This morning the skies cleared. It turned cold though, and the wind hasn't let up.

A trailer with a view.

March 19, Whitesboro, Texas (81 miles, Whitesboro High School parking lot.)

No show.

March 18, Rhoyse City.

Shows were cancelled today as it didn't take very long for nature to catch up with the circus, exactly two days. Strong winds, torrential rains prevented the crew from putting up the tent; they halted after only a few attempts. It was doubtful anyone would have showed up in this weather anyway, as flooding and the occasional tornado warning must have kept most people in.
An this: almost all circus vehicles bogged down in mud last night following severe storms, the atmosphere turning muggy and unseasonably warm. The circus was parked in a grassy field outside an elementary school, and everybody knew what was coming, just not how messy and complete it would turn out. As for us we felt so snug in our confidence that the truck's four by four abilities would get us out without so much as a thought that we didn't see it coming at all.
So here we were, at 10 PM, ready to go; the circus was going to move out of the field and into a parking lot nearby after the show since the managers probably figured that if they were going to spend several hours pulling people out of their muddy holes they'd rather not waste precious hours of work during the day doing it; here we were and Fridman telling Dylan to wait for him as he was going to hitch the trailer then come back and pick him up so that he could ride with him in the truck, and out he goes and time goes by and soon Dylan is like a lion in a cage, he paces up and down the trailer doing his truck engine noise followed by "Papa" over and over and over again, circling the small space and getting more and more agitated until finally he gave up and snuggled up beside me, and soon asked to go to bed.
What happened was this: the trailer's front jacks broke; when Fridman was finished with the business of raising the trailer with the help of Sarah and others and started the truck he realized that the four by four didn't work anymore and got stuck in the mud trying to back up anyway. By the time he came back into the trailer Dylan was long asleep. We fell asleep too, Fridman on the couch and I on top of the bed with my clothes on, waiting for the crew to pull us out; they were doing the same with every trailer but one, that of Julio Rosales' family (their truck is a four by four and one that works, apparently,) and so by the time the voices outside woke me up and I looked out the window to see Sarah's trailer moving away it was two in the morning. The scene outside was eerie, trailers here or there on the field like beached whales, the beams of the flashlights and of the forklift in the engulfing darkness, the voices of the men shouting, and the deep gouges in the black earth, like battle scars. When they came for us I got back in the trailer to be with the babies should they wake up. As it began to move slowly, lurching forward a few feet only to slow down again and become still, the frame creaking and swaying like an old ship, it reminded me of a poem by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud called Le Bateau Ivre: my trailer "the drunken boat," indignant in its sudden infirmity.

A trailer with a view.

March 18, Rhoyse City, Texas (50 miles, Rhoyse City Middle School parking lot.)

No news, literally.

March 17, Honey Grove.

Honey grove is a hamlet west of Paris, population 1,746. Again I want to to know how it is it came to be called Honey Grove, were they, are there bees being harvested here and why here? was it someone prominent in town when it was founded that was a bee keeper and thus gave the town its name?
We have no internet connection so there is no way for me to dig into all this; I am writing in a void, well into connection-less space, far away even from any connection to National Public Radio, my lifeline. It is the one thing that is going to be hard with this circus, the feeling of disconnect, the way it creeps up after a few days when I cannot listen to NPR; softly the feeling of being left behind from the rest of the world, of being lost, almost literally, and of drifting even farther away from myself than I normally would, being in the circus and not among my fellow journalists, drifting from the news addict, my ever curious self, needing to learn, yearning for hard news and features and everything in between, small-town stories and international news, financial news and science articles, and the arts and the books and the movies, all the news and the knowledge that's fit to read and listen to and think about - and then more. There aren't any newspapers worth reading either in much of the country we'll cross, and most likely nowhere to grab a copy of The New York Times, or that other addiction of mine, The New Yorker.
The road ahead may bear the silence of words.

A trailer with a view.

March 17, Honey Grove.

Not in the habit of the daily move yet so yesterday I forgot, but here's the view from the trailer today.

Paris, Texas.

March 17, Honey Grove.

Paris, the only address worth having in Texas.
Paris, Texas, the French cult of Wim Wenders' movie and a heart full of memories, circa 1983. Paris, Texas, maybe because it was my father's favorite movie and because I miss him; maybe because my friends are in Paris, France; or just because you never got to see Paris, Texas, after all, in the movie. Paris, Texas, seeing it for the first time, barely eighteen, and not getting it at all; seeing it again two years later, stepping out of the theater and into the daytime street bustle of Paris, France, oh so far away from Los Angeles, and bursting into tears, overwhelmed by an emotion I still cannot understand some twenty years later but felt then raw and primal.
My mother and I stayed at the Holiday Inn in Paris, Texas, when I was pregnant with Dylan and relocating to Savannah, Georgia. I've never had the opportunity to take a good picture of the place, one that imagine would be banal and would remind me forever of that buried sorrow.

More glitches.

March 17, Honey Grove, Texas (73 miles.)

More circus fare: a motor-home slid off the road in a town called Blossom, on highway 82 in Texas, on the drive over this morning, and several other drivers, including Fridman, stopped to help pulling it up. There were three cows grazing in a field next to my truck as I waited, feeding Dylan the crumbs of a gas station muffin and later nursing Nicolas when he woke up. It was sunny but a fleet of low-lying clouds was racing across the sky under a stratus of other clouds much higher up that looked completely still.
Ironically crossing the border into Texas almost felt like coming home. Too many movies or just Thelma and Louise, and I kept thinking about how someone fleeing the law would feverishly run to the border, say, to escape Texas deputies. Speaking of, if you were ever in need of a gun in a small town called Detroit, Texas, the Red Oak Gun Shop sits in a shady grove a few miles outside of town; the surprising beauty of a short, single strip of downtown facades in Detroit, the faded hues of the mismatched, forlorn brick fronts, all the more beautiful for their decaying descent into the slow oblivion of rural America, beautiful the way I imagine Havana, Cuba, to be beautiful, its appeal exacerbated by its very shabbiness, at least for those of us lucky enough not to be scrapping a living there. And there is something about highway 82 and airplanes; outside of Blossom, on the left side of the road, the nose of an airplane in the dust of a yard, and later on, west of Paris, in a place called Toco (Toco?) an entire aircraft sitting there pointing at the road as if the crew were waiting for us to board; it is old and rusty but above all incongruously big; I had seen it before on the way to Hugo from Dallas over the years.

We're off.

March 16, Idabel, Oklahoma (44 miles, rodeo grounds.)

Opening day was yesterday; I wanted to see the show but couldn't, stuck in the trailer with three babies; Sarah leaves Gigi with me when she goes to work.
Short of people Jim asked Fridman if he could drive a truck over to the next location after finishing the second show and helping to take down the tent. He said yes. I felt him slide into bed some time after two in the morning, We woke up at five thirty to drive to the next town, Idabel, fifty miles away, the first in a long list of travels: the Kelly Miller Circus travels each and every day during the eight months it is on the road. It reminds Fridman, and me with him, of the first circus he worked at in the United States, Carson and Barnes, the circus in which we met when it stopped in Jacksonville, Illinois, and which also moved every day. The one good thing is that they travel in the morning, not at night like Circus Chimera; seeing the sun rise every morning I couldn't be happier, and then there is getting to see the country as we travel across states all the way to the east coast and back, I can't wait, I feel like a kid in a candy store.
It was pitch black still when we started out today but we had to wait a long time for Fridman's truck to be ready and when we drove into town the reddish pink arc of the sun was appearing above the tree-lined horizon in front of us. Highway 70 east was a straight shot through the southern Oklahoma countryside, pine trees towering along the road a little before Valliant, a small town dominated by a paper mill, smaller towns yet, lopsided houses, a run-down gas station and a brand new corrugated metal church building, long horns sitting in the grass, and then Idabel, "dogwood capital of Oklahoma." Why this obsession with being the capital of something in all these small towns? To make up for all that's not there? Lucky this was not dogwood capital of the world; Gilroy, now a suburb south of San Jose, California, bills itself "the world's capital of garlic" (and what of baseball's World Series, for a sport that is by and large restricted to an American public.)
Same two shows again today, and again the call for help to drive a truck over to the next town down the road.
Finally, the first trip already brought a serving of circus fare: Sarah got stuck in the soggy terrain leaving the lot in Hugo, and had to be towed by one of the tractor trailers, only to get stuck once again upon entering the fairgrounds here.


March 14, Hugo.

A day before the opening, finally, rehearsals all day, chaotic, long, hot. It reached 80 degrees today in Hugo, barely a week after a snow storm.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fears past.

March 13, Hugo.

There was to be a rehearsal this afternoon but it was canceled, the rigging still being performed because of the slim tent crew. Fridman has been off at the circus all day, nevertheless, setting up his equipment - and this and that, as always. My circus life has begun again.
A nasty wind which started early in the afternoon and looked like it was going to bring a storm then died off in a disappointing drizzle. I am reminded of the avalanche of storms and hurricanes that fell on Dallas last year as I was pregnant with Nicolas then nursing him through his first days of life, leaving my Mom in horror of the area and me in primal fear of a repeat of the same now that we are to travel with the circus, in our little toy houses, with nowhere to hide - at the raw mercy of nature's wrath.

Perfection is hard to get (the Nicolas factor.)

March 13, Hugo.

Some nights are perfect. Last night was Night Three of trying to get Nicolas accustomed to sleeping by himself as opposed to falling asleep on the breast and he went without a cry. And Dylan - Dylan brushed his teeth and let me finish the job, washed his hands and did not run the water forever leading to my frustrated yanking the soap and turning off the faucet, and when I asked him what it was that he did when it was ten thirty at night, he tilted his head and put his hand over his cheek while making a sweet " f' hoof" sound, Dylanese for "sleep," and there he went, off to bed with a kiss.
Did I say perfect? Only it got trickier at about four in the morning, when Nicolas woke up and tested our ears in Day Two of trying to get him accustomed to sleeping though the night without nursing; I am hoping this will be achieved before we start traveling, for we'll need all our hours of sleep intact then. Dylan never even woke up. Did I say perfect?

The first move of the season, down the street.

March 12, Hugo.

The circus moved to its first locale of the season, right here in Hugo, a mere few blocks away from the winter quarters, to set up the tent and prepare for the debut, on Saturday. The location is the Choctaw County Agriplex, which, the signs says at the entrance, is also the Hugo Fairgrounds and the OSU Extension. There is a ballpark, a roller-skaters' ring, and a sprawling building. There was a team of all white boys practicing when we drove in this afternoon, in black and white uniforms. We, along with Reina and Sarah and a few others, decided to stay in the winter quarters, where there is light all night long and no mud. We're enjoying the last days of sedentary life, its amenities soon a memory to be cherished and depended on for circus life longings.
The set up was not as scheduled: a third of the tent crew is missing due to some mix-up at the border. Jim called onto the artists to help, and so Fridman went; they will continue to do so until the crew is complete, sometime in April. The season has not begun yet but the first glitches have appeared - on cue, true to circus life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


March 10, Hugo.

The Kelly Miller Circus lot is next to where Circus Chimera's was, in Hugo, on the street where the Carson and Barnes Circus also has its winter quarters, the biggest of all three. The Kelly Miller's lot is beautiful, gently wooded and well-kept and quiet, and it has the look of a full-timers' RV park, if only for the bright red fleet of trucks lined up near the entrance, and the big sign over it. Kelly Miller is an old, small but well-established circus that two years ago was bought by one of the Ringling Brothers heirs, John Ringling North II, and revamped. Last season was its first as the new Kelly Miller and by all appearances it went rather well.
I met "Lucky Eddy" this morning, walking with Dylan and Nicolas out to see the horses and the camel and the donkeys. I play the drums, he said, and here's the rest of the orchestra, pointing to a computer he was carrying. He is maybe in his early sixties, tall and thin, with light grey hair and a Buffalo Bill mustache, an easy manner and an air of mischief.
He is the first person I met at the circus other than people we already knew: Jim Royal, of course, the general manager, who was a ringmaster at the Carson and Barnes Circus when Fridman was working there, and that's how they met; John Moss' wife, Reina, and their two sons, Johnny, nine, and Nathan, five; John Moss, who is not here right now, is the circus' ringmaster and artistic director; he worked with Jim Royal at The Big Apple Circus, and before that at the Carson and Barnes Circus too, where Fridman met him; and Sarah, whose last name I never knew, as with most people in the circus, and whom we remember from Circus Chimera, where, the first year Fridman worked there, she was the girlfriend of Martin, the tent manager and pony-ride guy, and helped taking care of the ponies; she left the year after that. She's now performing a trapeze act and has a baby girl, ten-month-old Grania, "a souvenir from Australia."
I am looking forward to Nicolas growing up hand in hand with Gigi, as Grania is called.

More of the same.

March 7, Hugo.

The snow melted fast but not before I showed Dylan how to make his first snow ball. We had a snow fight; I made an easy target, watched every second of him and even forgot to take pictures.


March 6, Hugo, Oklahoma.

At my insistence we left early this morning for Hugo, where the Kelly Miller Circus, Fridman's employer this year, is based. An hour after we arrived it started snowing and soon the snow flakes were billowing out and everything turned beautiful, but also treacherous. I'm glad we made it before it started.
It's been snowing all afternoon. I love it, Fridman does not. I took Dylan out to walk in the snow. He liked the look of our traces.

Fresh memories.

March 3, Dallas.

Ten days in New York, staying at my friend's Kristine in Jersey City to be exact, revisiting nostalgia, the suburbs where her parents live, and where I lived with them for some time over a decade ago, filled with longing in every imaginable form; the diner where we ate, Kris and I, during those months, she at her first job out of college at a company that, she just happened to be commenting with her parents over dinner the Sunday after I arrived this time around, no longer exist in the building I remember, and might not be existing at all anymore, that part of the conversation seems to have been lost in my memory; the route that we took, commercial and sometimes sordid and then vital and always busy as ever, the motley streets of Jersey City, which I remember cold and gray and still were because I always manage to visit in the dead of winter; the train ride into the city.
The ride was an altogether new experience for there was Nicolas, a few days shy of eleven months old, not walking yet, opening his eyes onto the great urb from the enviable vantage point of a stroller. For us it meant cumbersome folding and unfolding of the aforementioned stroller, up and down stairs not meant for anyone other than the fashionable and fast and lithe. The trips were framed by Nicolas' naps, and short. A much-anticipated trip to the Jersey shore felt like little more than driving there, walking down a hundred yards of boardwalk (exactly where, I discovered to my delight afterwards, watching the DVD, the dream episode in the fourth season of The Sopranos was shot,) practically running back to the car the wind was so cold, and driving back.
Short but good, invigorating and fulfilling, as I'd hoped it would be. This was my "vacation" from the 24-hour job of taking care of Dylan and Nicolas, and it had everything I'd wished for: the destination of my dreams, good friends, lots of time to read, see, think. Kris and I have known each other since her junior year at the University of Georgia in Athens, where she was majoring in art history and I an exchange student in the French department teaching beginning French. This was 1989; we've been friends ever since in spite of distances and time and the different worlds we live in.
Earlier today Nicolas and I flew back to Dallas, and left sunny skies and warm temperatures for rain and sleet and a damp cold. Fridman picked us up in one of don Sandro's typical cars, a 1995 Jaguar that has seen better days, and in this case lacks heater and defogger, leaving us to drive through the highways of the city at peak traffic hours as through a fogged-up water mask. This was the second time in his life that I left Dylan, the first only for two days when I had to go to Paris to pick up my visa at the American embassy; he was 13 months old. It was hard leaving him this time around; the trip almost got canceled. At the airport when I came back he saw me and froze, seemingly unsure what to do, then he started to smile, but it was the shadow of a smile, a smile of disbelief, and all my pent-up guilt over leaving him rushed back and slapped me. It lasted forever, that shy impression of a smile. When I finally took him up in my arms he held me tight, hard. These are all my own feelings; his I will never know, the guarded secrets of childhood. I cannot fathom now ever having left him.