Saturday, February 28, 2009

Forgotten picture.

February 28, Palmview.

McAllen, along the highway.

Corrections department.

February 27, Palmview.

Correction, it's Palmview we're in, not Mission.

Birthday list.

February 26, Mission.

Lots of birthdays on the route card this morning, the result of 1/a high number of people working with the circus this year happen to have been born in February and 2/Tavana not having had time to get organized in the birthday department yet. Birthday list: David 2-8, Janis and Josie 2-16, Armando 2-24 and Delena Fusco 2-28.
Janis is Myrna's help this time around (to be continued, most likely;) Josie is Armando's sister, doing the horse act's gag with him; and Delena is the youngest of the Fusco daughters.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Billboard, highway 83.

February 26, Mission.

Again a nameless vacant lot, and the exact same one we were at with Circus Chimera the two years I traveled with them. Gramo got lost here, straying in the bushes behind the trailer - we were parked almost exactly the same way too.
So much for the unexpected road.

A trailer with a (familiar) view.

February 26, Mission, Texas (43 miles, vacant lot.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sophie Leichte Jacobson.

February 25, Roma.

Another friend has reappeared through the bond of our child-rearing life.
Sophie Leichte Jacobson, a German, is a photographer I met while studying at the Savannah College of Arts and Design. I've just rediscovered her images; I wish I had taken them (unless maybe the one she took of me eight month pregnant with Dylan and titled "Trailer Trash.")


February 25, Roma.

One of the features of the new show is a Western theme (complete with a giant John Wayne banner) and the performers all have to wear a cowboy hat at the finale.

Any time now.

February 25, Roma.

My man has been gone three days and I miss him. He's gone to Hugo and back to fetch one of the circus trucks left behind to be fixed; he should be here any time now. The trailer feels big, like an over-sized coat hanging loose on the shoulders.
Have I become addicted after all?
Non-related news: we're baking.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


February 24, Roma.

There was a surprise baby shower for Natalie and Natalia today in the cookhouse.
Natalie, Natalia, both about eight month pregnant, Natalie with a girl, Natalia with a boy.
Reyna organized the showers and directed games such as eating jars of baby food and gulping baby juices as fast as you could.
(Red and yellow everywhere make for a nasty color picture.)


February 24, Roma.

Fruit cocktail.

February 24, Roma.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lost department.

February 23, Roma.

Oh no! I lost Guido.

The border.

February 23, Roma.

The route didn't specify the location, perhaps because it's a vacant lot next to a gas station off the highway crossing town.
Some time after Mission the freeway became a banal highway winding through dusty territory, "historic" Rio Grande City, crossways.
If we were parked the other way around, we'd look out of the window onto this, the Mexican border, the Rio Grande a few hundred yards away, the border patrol nearby. The frontera manifest only through an absence, the light bouncing off the lack of earth, a faint line in the morning landscape.
I'd always wanted to see the river, the border of all borders, fault line of our times, so filled with fantasies, as if physically seeing it would bring me closer to its intricacies, its vast echoes.
If the Kenyans were here they'd have gone fishing on it by now.

A trailer with a view.

February 23, Roma, Texas (52 miles, vacant lot.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Coming soon.

February 22, McAllen.

Credit master.

February 22, McAllen.

Ice cream parlor.

February 22, McAllen.


February 22, McAllen.

The Fusco family.

February 22, McAllen.

The Fusco family arrived late Wednesday. They'll be working with us for two months.
The patriarch of the family was once one of the best malambo performers in Argentina (malambo is a traditional dance there,) according to our friend Tito, who has known him all their circus lives. Tito has been staying nearby in Rio Hondo since Chimera closed; we've been seeing him.
The Fuscos were with Kelly Miller for a few days last year, I'd seen them at Chimera before that. They do two acts: a malambo act where they're all together, and a juggling act with only the twin brothers and the two younger sisters as sidekicks. We've worked with yet other Fusco siblings over the years.
They come in and out of the picture of our traveling life with a kind of erratic regularity, a reflection of the offbeat small-world character of the circus.

Friday, February 20, 2009


February 20, McAllen.

We are parked near the McAllen Convention Center, a sprawling complex that includes a mall, lots of parking spaces and a war memorial with black marble slabs, some blank. We were at this exact location three years ago with Chimera; it was a vacant lot with a hull of a building in the middle of scorched scrub grass, crews planting palm trees and shrubs along the recently emerging streets.
The shrubs are grown but the scorched earth is not far.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The lucky laundromat.

February 19, McAllen.

Speed Queen Coin Laundry, McAllen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Perfectly unnecessary.

February 18, McAllen.

Whenever I need a rest from all the ugliness and all the noise I pay a visit to The Errant Aesthete, a blog so delightful, intelligent and perfectly unnecessary it's like chocolate for the eyes - delicious.


February 18, McAllen.

Here's my maxim for our travails: He conquers who endures. Persius.
Or perhaps that one: If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. (Buddhist saying.)

A trailer with a (reverse) view.

February 18, McAllen.

(We turned around so that the front door wasn't facing the street, for the kids' sake.)


February 18, McAllen.

Ah, the maxims again.
Tonight's was: "Much effort, much prosperity. Euripides."
A useful ideal, but arguably remote if you happen to have been born, say, a girl in the slums of Bangladesh (or Congo, or Bolivia.)
We moved at night, presumably because, if I remember well from our Chimera days, traffic is horrible along highway 77/83 in this area.

A trailer with a view.

February 18, McAllen, Texas (54 miles, next to Convention Center.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vestige of Valentine.

February 17, Los Fresnos.

Two good clowns.

February 16, Los Fresnos.

I started shooting for the 2009 program today, wanting to make up for last year's karma. The clowns were an obvious choice because they're usually the easiest thing to capture.
They are Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs and they make me laugh.
I don't like clowns and only one has really made me laugh out loud in the past: Guennadi Tregoub, Chimera's artistic director of many years. (Our friend Genia did too, but his was a different kind of act, relying more on poetry than pure comic punch.)
They make me laugh.
Theirs is a slapstick, hit-in-the-face kind of humor, in the time-honored tradition of my childhood hero, Charlie Chaplin, and this seemingly effortless art is one of the hardest to pull off without falling into vulgarity or tired repetition.
They make me laugh.
Just saying that is everything.

Monday, February 16, 2009


February 16, Los Fresnos.

For rent.

February 16, Los Fresnos.


February 16, Los Fresnos.

Natalie is almost eight months pregnant and doing good. Casey won't let her work in the ring; he does the American eskimos act for her.
She still practices though, and was out with her dogs this morning.
It's a girl.

More than a photographer.

February 16, Los Fresnos.

A friend from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism recently came back into my life. A mother of two small boys, too, Mary Beth Meehan has been working for a few years on a project to document her home-town of Brockton, Massachusetts, and her images, thoughtful, personal, arresting, reveal many of the tensions at work in America today and are made all the more relevant by the current crisis the nation is facing.

The winning picture.

February 16, Los Fresnos, Texas.

The World Press Photo awards, an annual competition and the Oscars of the profession the world over, were announced on Friday in Amsterdam.
The awards are given in categories ranging from news to nature, and there is also a World Press Photo of the Year, capping them all. This year it was won by Anthony Suau, a wonderful photographer as well as, if I remember him well from my days as assistant coordinator for another photojournalism contest, a genuinely nice guy.
The picture shows a rather shocking foreclosure scene.

It's official.

February 16, Los Fresnos.

The first route of the season said: "Thanks to everyone for your extra work, making this the BIGGEST opening in Kelly Miller Circus history."
Very short trip, half what the route said.

A trailer with a view.

February 16, Los Fresnos, Texas (9 miles, rodeo grounds.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009


February 15, Brownsville.

My mother came home to the news that a good friend of hers had just been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.
Catherine Cousin-Zouaoui is the most gentle, giving, beautiful woman I have ever known. The idea of her always brought peace to my heart. She's 52 years old and has two sons as close in age as Dylan and Nicolas, now young adults. When my brothers and I were little and she was still living near her parents in the south of France where we were neighbors she used to baby-sit us once in a while. For years mentioning her name inevitably reminded me of one of the few childhood memories I have, that of her chanting playfully to nudge the tiny Fiat she was driving, nicknamed "the yogurt can," as it was struggling up the street leading to our house, us three kids crowded in the back stomping our feet in delight all the way to the top of the impossibly steep hill.
Catherine has hair down to her waist and has had it so ever since we've known her. Her hair is her pride and joy, after her family and her work as a speech therapist at one of Paris' leading public hospitals. She is devastated as much by the unexpected news of her cancer as by the fact that she will not be able to attend to her patients for the foreseeable future as she faces surgery, radiation and chemotherapy all at the same time.
My heart grieves.

Circus blessings.

February, 14, Brownsville.

It's just past ten o clock at night and the fourth show of the day is under way.
It is full, like the other three.
The shows were shortened and the order changed so that they could follow each other every two hours. The last show will end at midnight; performers and crew alike have been working since three this afternoon, without so much as a break for dinner.
John R. North, Kelly Miller's owner, was considerate enough to call a meeting at noon to confirm the fourth show and thank everyone for pitching in. John Moss went on reminding everyone to count their circus blessings, since things might be fairly rougher later on in the season, and indeed the economic crisis looms large in everyone's mind, here as everywhere.
It helps that Mr. North's speech also included the words extra cash.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The military option.

February 14, Brownsville.

It is a rather hilarious measure of my desperation that I actually for a minute considered with interest the news that the military would from now on give a path to citizenship to legal immigrants with special skills.
(Un)Fortunately speaking French is not exactly high on the list.


February 14, Brownsville.

From left, Johnnie, John Moss, Steve and Ryan, the new clowns.

Sara's missing.

February 14, Brownsville.

One big absent this time around: Sara.
She told friends, Lucky Eddie and Miss Vickie, Natalie and Casey, that she had hurt her elbow carrying Gigi and would come back in April; she drove back to New Hampshire with the trailer this week from Hugo. Dylan and Nicolas still mention "Haha," as Dylan would call her, and I'll miss the camaraderie Gigi would have given them at a time when socializing becomes so important.

The Brownsville factor.

February 14, Brownsville.

Not in Dallas, not in Ft. Myers, not even in southern California do we get the quality of health care we get in Brownsville, out here on the frontera.
I don't know what it is about Brownsville, but it has an extensive, first-rate health network, of which the Clinica Santa Maria I went to yesterday morning for an annual OB-GYN exam and my first mammogram is a prime example. The staff went out of their way to lessen the financial burden of the visit (Dr. Amanda Tyler, the OB-GYN I saw, simply did not charge me the visit,) but most of all they listened, they were friendly, attentive, a rare find in today's overburdened health care world. When we were here with Circus Chimera we went to the Brownsville Community Health Center for Dylan's shots and visits; this morning we took the boys to a pediatrician. At both places, again, we got above-average care delivered with genuine warmth and concern.
This means a mammogram that doesn't feel like an invasive, painful ordeal, two kids that giggle on the way out of the doctor's office, a sense of safety and well-being both unexpected and oh-so welcome. Unfortunately this was sorely missing in Florida, just as it is in so many other places in this country.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Opening shots.

February 13, Brownsville.

Three hundred people couldn't get seats tonight.
Both shows were packed, again.
On top of the three already planned for tomorrow another one is in the books to accommodate the 300 who went home without cotton candy all over their kids' shirts. The frenzy is not over yet.
2009 here we come.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Here we go again.

February 12, Brownsville.

The season started today with the premiere show at 6 o'clock. Lines of people, both shows packed, as it was with Circus Chimera's premieres. The frenzy then petered out quickly; tomorrow will tell if the Kelly Miller Circus fares better; if last year's attendance is any sign, it should.
From now on our nights belong to the circus.
How quickly you forget when you're living your life on the outside.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


February 11, Brownsville.

There were general rehearsals this afternoon. As John Moss said about one part of the show, "as you can see this needs a little fine-tuning."

Getting there.

February 11, Brownsville.

Two days of driving, two kids, no problem.
More than 1,500 miles and we would not have spent less time on the road if we hadn't had the kids with us, they never complained, never held us back, they are the champions of the road.
Failing to read our map correctly we followed I-10 and drove through New Orleans. It was late at night, it was raining, the five-lane highway was empty, glistening black, the city looked like an end of the world city, like the cities in the Cormac McCarthy novel "The Road," menacing, sinister, desolate. The Superdome, huge, charged with the memories of pictures of death and desperation, suddenly rose on the left of the freeway, and I almost screamed.
We spent the night in a Walmart parking lot in La Place, just out of New Orleans. In the morning I discovered that it claimed to be "The andouille capital of the world." Unfortunately, as a vegetarian I simply cannot prove this wrong.
Gleanings: JESUS LOVES YOU Moving sale (Life Oak, Louisiana;) the Tchoutacabouffa river (Mississippi;) Bouba Oustalet car ad (Thierry Oustalet was the name of my first boyfriend, I was twelve;) more junkyards than mechanically possible along I-10 in Beaumont, Texas.
Because we had to drop off my mother at the airport in Miami on Sunday we are the last ones to arrive, just one day before the premiere. Some faces have changed, it's good to see the others again.

A trailer with a view.

February 11, Brownsville, Texas.

Barber shop sign.

February 9, Live Oak.

A trailer with a (Walmart) view.

February 9, Live Oak, Louisiana.

A stopover for lunch.
Sometimes Walmart is surprising; this one is graced with majestic live oaks.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Here's looking at you, stump.

February 5, Ft. Myers.


February 5, Ft. Myers.

The seagull soared off.
(We're not giving up quite yet.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Dust to renovation dust.

January 27, Ft. Myers.

This I believe: in dust we shall be covered.
Right now post-home-renovation dust it only is (but there is no end to it,) so we are (grudgingly) thankful.
We finally moved into the house today.