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Jacksonville, FL

This week, I got to do an elephant walk!
(follow the link to see some photos)

The elephant walk happens shortly after the train arrives in any given city.
The animal cars are detached from the train usually within 5 miles of the arena,
and elephants and horses then walk down the city streets to the arena
with the handlers and a group of Ringling volunteers.


I got up around 7am and joined the animal walk volunteers at the Pie Car to wait for the bus.
Melissa (Production) got me a red Ringling shirt to wear, and reminded me to keep my eyes open,
and not to speak to protestors.
The bus came and took us to the animal cars, which were parked maybe 1.5 miles from the arena.
Police were already on the scene making sure our route was closed to commercial traffic,
and to keep protestors back while still allowing them to exercise their right.

The reason volunteers are needed is to keep people at a safe distance from the elephants
so as not to excite them, and so no one tries to touch them.
We were split into two groups and given a long yellow rope to hold between us, making a sort
of human fence. We stood on either side of the elephants, and the walk began.

It was a pleasant morning, cool air and a nice breeze.
The elephants had hay and grass on their backs (this is from a behavior called 'dusting'),
and clumps would occasionally blow off as we walked.
The horses walked behind the elephants.

Since it was pretty early on a weekday, we didn't see many people. But a few adults
on their way to or from work stopped to watch, and even came out of their office buildings to take pictures.
A few parents with young children were camped out to witness the spectacle too.
Even the police along the way had big smiles on their faces.
It was great to see the wonder and excitement on peoples' faces, young and old :)

I think there were only two protestors, a man and a woman, but they heckled us the entire way.
They both had signs with the same tired old photos and slogans on them.
I heard them yelling supposed "elephant abuse" statistics at us, and several times
the man said, "If you want to go to the circus, go see Cirque du Soleil!"
I don't know who he was talking to, as the only people present were circus employees...
Their goal was just to bother us, I guess. They seemed to avoid the bystanders completely.
At one point the male protestor started outright taunting one of the trainers or volunteers
(whoever-it-was was behind me so I couldn't tell), calling him "baldy" and "big guy", telling
him that this walk was good for him, he could "stand to lose a few pounds".
That, my friends, is harassment. I REALLY hope someone got it on tape.

Poor Elliana (cannon) was right next to the male protester for almost the entire walk :(

Anyway, imo, they were ineffective.
The few bystanders who even acknowledged their presence were disgusted.
I don't think calling a dude names and shouting propaganda at us helps the animals at all.

ANYWAY. Super-power kudos to all of the Ringling trainers and handlers, for silently dealing with this or worse levels of harassment day in and day out. For holding their heads high and taking pride in their work no matter how many crazies are screaming at them. I was totally awestruck and humbled by their professionalism and dedication today. It was a privilege to walk beside them.

On a related note, Mr. Feld recently appeared on The Today Show to talk about elephant conservation and his recent victory over the ASPCA.

Later in the week, my boss took me to meet Dave Steinmeyer.
Only, like, one of the greatest trombonists of all time!!!
Here he is playing Silent Night on the horn that I currently play in the show:


We had a nice lunch on the waterfront, and I enjoyed sitting back and listening while he and my boss caught up and talked shop. Both of them are great jazz players, WAY above my skill level, so I listened REALLY hard!
I loved hearing Dave talk about the way he 'feels' music through the trombone,
and how he manipulates sound.
He also very generously gave us each a copy of his new method book, Beyond Boundaries. It's a collaboration between himself and Alan Ralph (a renowned low-range player). The purpose of the book is to help the student extend the playable range of his/her trombone.
I can't even imagine playing in Dave's range. But heck, it's worth trying to get there :D

After lunch Brett and I went back to the arena and played some duets. Nothing special, just Christmas tunes, and they were written for four trombones so sometimes there were parts missing. But it was a great feeling to play 'pretty'. We don't get to do that in the show because most attempts at expression will not come through in a giant arena. I hope we get to play more duets soon!

On Saturday my friend Andrew came to see the show with his wife and son.
I was late letting him know we were in town, and unfortunately we were unable to get together afterward :/
But it was great to see him and meet his wife, and they had a great time!

Besides these events, nothing particularly fascinating happened this week.
Sorry I don't have any explorations to share this time...some weeks will be like that :P
Here's are some miscellaneous goings-on that might interest you!

Our Assist. Gen. Mgr. was on the news this week, talking about the show:

(photo missing)

Brian Miser, aka 'The Human Fuse', is leaving the circus and hitting the road with the crossbow cannon!

(photo courtesy Brian)

On Sunday we had church. This is a typical circus church...basically a pipe 'n drape dressing
room with lots of chairs, and a folding table altar.

Toy Store, who has provided several excellent photos for this blog, is out with a back injury :(
He's a true roustabout. Here's the proof!

(photo courtesy Toy Store)