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Jameson and I enjoyed one last day in Chicago. We had breakfast at Waffles and dinner at a new place called Asian Outpost. It was a cold rainy night so we were both in the mood for something hot and savory. Enter tonkotsu ramen!

In between these two meals we just relaxed. There were a lot of shows this past week and we definitely needed to recoup a bit. Just as we were getting ready for bed, we received notice that everyone on the train was required to get a mandatory PPD test first thing in the morning. We were worried because we weren't on the train, but were told that other arrangements had been made for people traveling overland.

The next day we drove the three hours to Indianapolis. As soon as we reached the train we were greeted by our General Manager, who gave us directions to a clinic where we'd get our tests done. Since the PPD takes 48-72 hours to get results, we both had to get chest x-rays too. I didn't have to get a PPD because I'd had one last December, for the elephant walk. The x-ray was easy, and I even had a chance to look at mine before the next person came in. Pretty neat! The nurse pointed out my heart and lungs, and said that I might be able to get a copy once everything has been processed. I hope so!

After that, Jameson and I got groceries and finally unpacked, and relaxed.

The next day was a day off. I got a haircut, ran errands, did laundry...the usual. I'm starting to pack to go home for December as well. It's a little difficult because I've got a pretty small suitcase that can only fit about a weeks' worth of clothing, so I've got to be really prudent about what I stuff in there.

On opening day we had a very long rehearsal, almost an hour longer than usual. We've got a lot of new dancers coming in (all of the Australians are going home) and they need to be trained, and that meant running through some numbers several times. The band is also training a new drummer, Chaz, who joined us in Chicago and is almost to the point where he can play full shows. Awesome :)

(photo courtesy Chaz)

The show that evening went well and was well-attended. There were quite a few protesters outside, but among them were some former Ringling employees sticking up for the circus. Eryn (former teacher) and Brett (former trainmaster) and some others made banners and encouraged folks to enjoy the circus despite the "hype". This was actually a very brave thing to do, as protesters can get very aggressive at times. Here's what Eryn said about the experience:

"There were a LOT of them. I was pleasantly surprised, however. From what I saw, they were very respectful. They didn't yell at kids or people coming to see the show. Quite a few came up to me to tell me that they didn't support PETA either. It was still frustrating to stand for two hours among the passionately misinformed, but I'm glad I did it. I'm proud of my time on the circus and I'm glad that I'm able to stand out there and support all the hard work that you do."

(photo courtesy Eryn)

After the show Jameson, Tim (sax), Gerome (bass) and I went to see Krampus. For a "scary" movie it was pretty darned funny! The soundtrack was fantastic, a bunch of demented arrangements of traditional Christmas songs. Krampus is definitely a great movie for those who feel grinchy during the holidays.

Friday was a one-show day. I packed some more and prepared a box of books to be shipped home. I also got some exciting news about a trombone I'd recently bought. It had been mailed from Japan and was being delivered today!!!

On the circus, I play my boss's trombone which was made by Larry Minick. Larry was well known for his revolutionary musical instrument designs and modifications, especially on low brass instruments. He is credited with having a hand in designing the "open wrap" system for trombones, as well as improving the design of the modern trombone rotary valve. In addition to instrument repairs and mods, Larry also made some instruments by hand. The trombone that I play in the show is one of these, a small bore tenor trombone fashioned from Conn parts. Very few of these instruments exist; my boss estimates maybe 15-20 tops.

A few weeks ago I took pictures of my boss's Minick trombone and posted them to a trombone forum, asking for help in finding someone who might be able to copy such an instrument. Most responses rightly stated that building a horn from scratch would cost more than the finished product would be worth. But one guy, Noah Gladstone of BrassArk, recognized the trombone and said he'd seen one while in Japan only a month ago. He sent me the contact info for a gentleman named Yoshi who works for JoyBrass, a specialty instrument shop in Tokyo. Yoshi confirmed that yes, they still had the trombone in the shop, and sent me some pictures. It looks exactly like the one I play (pictured below).

A few conversations later I'd purchased the horn, and after Thanksgiving it was boxed up and sent on its way. It's arriving much earlier than I expected. I'm so excited to try it out, and really hope it'll play like the Minick that I've enjoyed these past three years. I feel incredibly lucky to have found such a rare horn. Thank you to Noah and Yoshi for hooking me up :)

Saturday, three shows. The day seemed to go quickly, maybe because it's our last 3 show day of 2015. Over 400 shows in over 40 cities...and next year we'll do even more!

Sunday, our last two shows. People brought their luggage to the arena to leave for airports and hotels after the shows were done. I cleaned up my room and locked it up, giving Rebecca (crew) the key because she's kindly offered to water my plants. See you in a month, room...

The Cannon act was out for both shows. Nadia (human cannon) was unable to shoot for some reason...I hope she's ok :/ On the upside I suppose, because of the cut the show was a bit shorter for us, and time seemed to fly. Before we knew it, it was the end of the day and we were saying goodbye to our wonderful Australian dancers. These guys have been professional, hilarious, wonderful...just an absolute trip every day. I will miss them badly.

(photo courtesy Karlee H.)

After the shows Jameson dropped me off at a hotel near the airport. I've got a pretty nasty cold (go figure) so will be relaxing and getting as much sleep as possible before a day of flying tomorrow. Then it's a month in PA with my parents and other family. Cheers!!

Other stuff:

See you down the road Xianzeng Zhang! We'll miss your acrobatics, clowning, and great sense of humor :)

(photo courtesy Xianzeng Zhang)

Rachel (dancer)'s photo with the band. We'll miss you!