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This week was, like, the opposite of last week. So much happened!

On Monday Jameson and I got up bright and early, got to Union Station, and rode an Amtrak into Penn Station. From there we walked to a hotel that Jameson's Dad graciously reserved for us, right in Times Square!! It's a little fancier than I'm used to.

The view wasn't bad either!

After settling in we found pizza for lunch, then took an hour to chill before the David Gilmour concert. When we got to Madison Square Garden we stumbled upon a floor tile dedicated to Gunther Gebel-Williams:

The arena filled up quickly, and the show started just a little after 8pm with a freeform piece ("5am"). Very cool.

From then on it was three hours of music with a short intermission. David Gilmour alternated between songs from his new album "Rattle That Lock", and Pink Floyd hits that had the whole audience singing along. It was amazing to hear this guy play...just absolutely flawless and mesmerizing. The backup singers were SO tight, really in tune and powerful. The sax player was flawless as well, at one point switching from a tenor to a bari in like two beats (this is not easy). We didn't have the best view, but audio-wise things were perfect and the experience was just incredible.

Plus we were in Madison Square Garden, a historic arena that neither of us have ever been in before (the circus stopped touring there a few years before I joined). The whole concert was amazing. I couldn't believe that Mr. Gilmour played for three hours. Considering that he may not tour the US again, I was incredibly grateful to be present for one of his live performances.

After the show we ran into a celebrity!

That's right! Tom McDonough! Our former keyboard 2 here on the Red Unit. His face has gotten fuzzier but that winning smile still shines through :D It was great to see you Tom, even if only for a few minutes!

We went to sleep exhausted and satisfied, with the music still ringing in our ears :)

The next day was rainy and cold, so we opted to sleep in, eat a basic lunch, and just enjoy the hotel and each other's company. That evening we got all dressed up to go see Waitress, the new Sara Bareilles musical. But before that, a quick dinner at Amarone, an Italian place we found nearby. We had chicken parm and pasta al nero with mussels, very good!

Then it was time for the show. The staging was awesome, the curtain was a giant cherry pie and there were pie display "turntables" on each side of the stage! (I know it's hard to see from this photo, sorry)

We were both surprised and excited to see that the band was featured on-stage for much of the show! Most of the scenes take place in a diner. When they weren't playing, members of the band would sit in the "booths" and the waitress-actresses would pretend to wait on them! The piano itself was used as a sort of prop as well. The music was amazing, the acting was very impressive! It was a really heartwarming and heart-wrenching storyline. Definitely a must-see.

I couldn't take pictures during the show of course, but here's the band doing the ending music.
They were awesome!

After the show we were both in the mood for pie (there were SO many descriptions of pie throughout!), but luckily Jameson had anticipated this and found a pie place not too far away! We both enjoyed miniature pies, mine apple, his cherry :) A perfect end to a wonderful day!

On Wednesday it was time to go back to DC. We got to the train, unpacked, and enjoyed the rest of our day.

Thursday only one show and no rehearsal. Things were going well until the top of the BMX act, when Bob (biker) did a hard faceplant. The other bikers signaled that he was not moving, so the band quickly went to Finale music (when close to the end of the show, playing Finale can be a better option than Emergency Music). We left that night worried, not knowing Bob's condition. But the next morning we received word that he was conscious, speaking, and able to move all of his parts. He's gonna be ok! We wish you a speedy recovery Bob!

(photo courtesy "Sugar Foot")

Friday turned out to be an exciting day. For several weeks, I have been planning to pay a visit to the elephants, specifically Asia. Asia was the first elephant that I met on the day I joined the circus. Since she was there to greet me on my first day, I thought it would be fitting to say goodbye to her on her last. And since I won't be there for the elephants' final performances, I made arrangements to come see them this week.

Not surprisingly, elephant crew has been handling many such requests. At first it seemed like there wouldn't be time for us to come by. But Terry (Head Elephant Manager) graciously squeezed us in despite a very busy afternoon. After the first show, Jameson and I ran over to the elephant tent.

We were greeted by a beautiful sight: four elephants rolling in mud. Tonka was lying in a pile of wet sand, while Mable kicked at her in a futile attempt to get her to move over and share :) April had found her own pile of muddy sand and was rolling vigorously in it, legs flailing, spraying mud everywhere with her trunk. Luna satisfied herself with just reaching into the piles, grabbing dirt, and slinging it onto her back. These ladies are so cute!!!

Asia was waiting for us off to the side, recently washed, probably wondering why she couldn't stay dirty like everyone else :P As Jimmy (handler) put her headdress on, Terry asked if I'd like to "get up there". Umm...what???

When Asia was ready, Terry gave a command and she lowered here head and lifted her left leg in a sort of crouch. I was instructed to grab her headdress with one hand and the top of her ear with the other, brace my foot on her leg, and when Asia was given the next command she would throw me up to her back. Yikes! Terry gave the command and I felt several hundred pounds of muscle lift me quickly into the air as easily as if I'd been a rag doll. I managed to land on her massive back and settle on her shoulders with my feet behind her ears, as instructed. It felt precarious yet also stable to sit there, and it felt VERY high up. It was amazing.

If you watch this video from about 2:15 you can see how I mounted Asia, albeit far less gracefully. Thankfully she is a patient and professional elephant!

Jameson took lots of photos, like the amazing thoughtful guy he is. Bernadette and Adria (handlers) kept yelling "style!" so I struck a few poses (when someone tells you to "style" in the circus, it means, "strike a pose"!).

Then Terry had Asia walk in a circle. I could feel her shoulders rolling steadily as she walked. Like being on the shoulders of a giant.

We got back to where Jameson was and I dismounted (coming down was harder than going up!). Bernadette and Adria took some photos of us together with Asia.

Jameson and Asia had a good conversation as well:
"I got to have a nice long talk with my dear friend Asia. We talked music, bread, thoughts on retirement, the Cubs. I'm going to miss my friend, and I hope she will miss me saying hi to her every show when she comes through the curtain."

Major thanks to Terry, Jimmy, Bernadette, Adria, and all of elephant crew for your time and for allowing us to have this wonderful experience. As the elephants' last tour days creep closer and closer, I can't imagine what all of you must be feeling. I will always be thankful that you catered to our selfish request today.

All of us are dreading the elephants' last day. I can't even describe the crazy mix of emotions I felt while standing next to Asia. I hope and pray that Ringling's incredible animal specialists will all be able to find equally rewarding work with equally amazing animals. I hope that the elephants will be happy at the CEC, and that they will not be forgotten once out of the public eye. But real life is not always as kind as we would like. It will be interesting to see how the circus moves on from here.

The weekend shows went well, nothing to report. After the Sunday shows we met Jameson's aunt, uncle and cousins for dinner at a Mexican place. We had a great meal and great conversation :)

Now we are in a hotel. The train is not supposed to get into Charleston WV until Tuesday night, so we've decided to sleep in tomorrow and spend the afternoon visiting Jameson's grandparents, who are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. From there we will get to Charleston and wait for the train. I'm scheduled to do an animal walk and elephant brunch...looking forward to it :)

Other stuff:

We weren't the only ones to get quality elephant time. Congratulations Thom and Bethany on a beautiful proposal!!

(photo courtesy Shaggy)

Nikki and the Elephants (great band name!)

(photo courtesy Nikki R.)

Happy World Circus Day!!

(photo courtesy Kathryn N.)

(photo courtesy Vyacheslav T.)

Mable wincing in anticipation of her play-stick snapping! <3

(photo courtesy Adria C.)

Meanwhile, at the Center for Elephant Conservation, someone has finally gotten a good photo of Gunther doing the trick he made up himself!

(photo courtesy CEC)


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 19th, 2016 12:55 am (UTC)
Great writing!
I didn't know you were doing a Blog. Wow, what wonder stuff! Carl
Apr. 21st, 2016 12:19 am (UTC)
Re: Great writing!
Yessir! I have kept this blog since my very first day in the circus. Glad you like!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 21st, 2016 12:24 am (UTC)
I hope so too.
It was amazing. These animals and their handlers deserve our utmost respect. I'm so happy I've had the chance to see how circus animals are really treated over the course of these past 4 years. It has opened my eyes to the ongoing struggle between animal specialists of all kinds, and those who are against animal-human interactions. It's not just taking place in entertainment, but in zoos, farms, horse and dog shows, backyards, etc. This is an issue that is going to effect us all.
Apr. 24th, 2016 04:10 pm (UTC)
Well, hi. I can't even remember how I found your blog, but I did, and after reading this post I was hooked. So, I went back in time and spent the last two days reading all the posts. It was fun and dramatic, and really helped with my views on circuses. I've actually never been to a circus, and now I think I would really like to. I'm only 13, and I live in England, but if I ever come over to America I'll try and come to one of the shows, they sound and look amazing. Thanks.
Apr. 24th, 2016 04:26 pm (UTC)
Well hi!

I'm glad you've enjoyed my blog! I am lucky to work here and I wish everyone could experience circus life at least once. But since that's not possible, I like to share my journey with as many people as possible :)

If you ever have questions about the circus feel free to ask. I don't know everything, but can at least share what I've learned from my time here.

Hopefully by the time you get across the pond I'll still be here to show you around!!

Thank you for reading!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )