Every time my more experienced teammates told me, “This is the easiest gig you’ll ever have,” I heard their words, and I believed them. But, really, now I know they were right.
Since I joined the Cortes 16 days ago, I’ve been through countless states, performed flying trapeze in three different productions, performed lyra in one production, and rigged five times. First, we did the Hamid Shrine Circus in Utica, New York, which you can read about here. Next was the Carden El Karubah Shrine Circus in Shreveport, Louisana.
Free Hugs in Ohio
On the way to Louisana, we stopped at a rest area in Ohio. I was standing on line at Subway when the manager walked by. She yelled out to one of the girls behind the counter, “Grab this girl!” Then, on second thought, she said, “Not literally, I mean.”
I said, “Hey, I like to be hugged.” So she gave me a hug. It turns out you get free hugs with purchase of a six-inch sub in Ohio!
Later, Alex decided to get the oil changed at a Pilot truck stop. We waited there for so long that gas prices went up from $3.17 to $3.29. (This happened again at a truck stop in Louisana. How often do truck stops change their prices?)
Going Big in Louisana
The Carden show was big. Whereas there were maybe 10 trailers and campers in the parking lot in Utica, there were probably 40 in Shreveport. The highlight of the show, in my opinion, was David Smith Jr., a.k.a. The Human Cannonball. He shot over our rigging. Yes, you read that right. He went right over our 40-foot-high flying trapeze crane bars–in between our 38-foot cables suspending those crane bars (the ceilings were 78 feet high)–and into a giant net at the other side of the arena. I’ve seen human cannonballs before, but I’ve never seen anything like that. Incredible.
I also enjoyed some of the parking lot sights, like the attractive woman in a purple genie-like costume pushing a baby in a stroller through the parking lot. While most parents wear a baby bag or something, this woman was wearing a giant snake.
The other highlight of the Carden show for me was the dressing room. It was so packed with Latina performers that we could barely find space to put our stuff. Everyone was incredibly nice, and it was a great opportunity for me to practice speaking Spanish. Of course, Bill got a lot of attention (and French fries). I didn’t really have much of a choice but to leave him in there when I worked because he’s taken to scratching at my trailer door and tearing up the screen when I leave him alone at home. Nobody minded, but I was a little concerned because the cannonball shot was loud (Bill is terrified of gunshot-type noises), and there were two wild four-year-olds running around sporadically unsupervised (a little boy who was spitting on people and a girl who was sticking things into electrical outlets), but thank goodness everyone came out unscathed.
You Know You’re in the South
We tore down the Shreveport rigging on Sunday night and headed for Jackson, Mississippi, on Monday. We met a few characters on the way. At a Pilot station Subway, a friendly guy who looked straight off the set of Duck Dynasty struck up a conversation with me about life being too short not to eat cookies (I agreed, of course), and then at the Jackson Walmart, a sweet-talking middle-aged Southerner cornered me. “I just looove yer hair color,” he said (insert Southern twang), “You must be a hairdresser.”
Um, have you seen my hair? It’s frickin’ awful. No, I’m most certainly not a hairdresser.
He asked me what I do, and upon taking Alex’s advice on how to cut conversations short, I decided not to elaborate. I probably should have said I sold lightbulbs at Sears or something, but all I could come up with was, “I have a different kind of job.” Great. Way to fail in cutting short a conversation. I couldn’t have anticipated his reply, though. He said, “Oh. You must be in health care.”
What? Anyway, after a brief conversation about how I had to get back to “my husband” (a.k.a. Alida and the kids), I managed to shake him from my tail. After living in Japan for two years, where men didn’t even look at me, let alone talk to me, I’m a little uneasy about speaking with strangers and thwarting unwanted attention. Maybe I should just start carrying a snake around my neck–a poisonous one.
Here We Go Again
The next day we set up the rigging at the Mississippi County Fair. We’ll be here until October 12th. It’s extremely hot and humid, and we’ve got three (and sometimes four) shows a day. I’m doing a splits and a tuck double now, with a double pike dismount. This will soon become a splits and a double pike, with a double lay dismount. Please send positive, healing thoughts to my poor little hands!
My previous teammates were right. POP Circus is probably the easiest gig anyone could land, and for what you have to do, the money is decent. With the Cortes, I feel like I’m constantly working. My sleeping and eating schedule is completely busted, as everything really depends on the show schedule, which is different from day to day. Even so, I’m happy. I’m learning new things, and I feel like I’m part of the family. I’m grateful that I had two years of professional work under my belt before coming here because otherwise, I’d be completely overwhelmed. Because of that experience, I feel pretty prepared to handle whatever this schedule throws at me.