I’m on the road again. Well, sort of on the road – taking the show to nearby cities on weekends, then back to NYC to work at the Coney Island Sideshow, then rinse and repeat. I leave for real July 5.
Even though I’m not yet continuously traveling, I felt so blissed out being back on the highway with Stormy the Mystery Dog and a van full of magic show. Normally I’m a rather anxious person, but a calm and wholeness comes over me just knowing I’m on the move and performing. Funny how being unrooted makes me feel so rooted.
I was flabbergasted to get an intro from James Taylor at the Baltimore show. Not the “Fire and Rain” guy – a far more important cultural figure, the world’s greatest sideshow historian. Back when I was getting into this business, I used to pore over the wild tales of carnies and showfolk in his journal “Shocked & Amazed! On and Off the Midway”. It was like a roadmap through a lost art. And here was my guide in person, in a pith helmet, explaining that in an era of lies:
“There’s something ennobling about the unreal being made real, and the fabulous made even more fabulous, and being the honest truth about the nature of this. And for that you need a truth assassin.”
Baltimore’s own circus strongman Hot Todd Lincoln got the unreal rolling with stunts like curling up a frying pan and crushing a spike.
And then I lied for an hour to a small but loud audience.
Todd let me crash at his house, full of hand-painted banners and props, framed things he’d crushed, and jars of nails waiting to be bent. We “cut up jackpots” (told stories, in the sideshow language James Taylor taught us) late into the night.
The next day, I filmed an interview with TV Free Baltimore, talked shop with Annie Montone from the magic duo The Encounter, and visited the American Visionary Art Museum which exhibits work by self-taught “outsider” artists. It was full of wonder and pain and beauty, but the most intriguing thing I saw was in a corner of the parking lot: Was this sculpture a sort of audition for the museum? The remnant of a mysterious ritual? A tribute inspired by the art inside? My hat is off to this artist who clearly doesn’t care about the size of their audience.
I suppose I should take a lesson from them, because I was bummed out by the turnout the following night in Richmond – just seven people. I’m not going to break even on this tour leg. On the bright side, the show was in a fetish club, and I got a photo of Stormy napping in the dungeon:
Luckily, I am a master of keeping costs low. I often sleep in the van, and my priorities for a camping spot are peace, safety, and shade in the morning. I drive til I get tired, but rather than sleep at a rest stop, I look for a suburban chain store hell, because no one hangs around there at night, and they are surprisingly peaceful.
I landed a perfect spot outside a fast food restaurant under construction, right by the pickup window.
There are always secret treats in these numb landscapes, such as the fun fair a couple parking lots away which I found in the morning.
And the pond behind the Dollar Tree, where Stormy met a flock of geese.
Then back to NYC to work at the Coney Island Sideshow. James Taylor taught me that showfolk never say goodbye…instead, “see you down the road!”.