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Circus Xtreme - Thanksgiving Break Week 1

On Monday Jameson and I began the drive to Chicago. We had already driven two hours the night before, so expected only a few more hours of driving. But partway through the drive we saw something ominous in the distance: a small dark cloud hovering on the horizon.

At first, we speculated that it was from a factory or someone's private burn pile. But the closer we got, the darker the smoke looked, and it soon became apparent that something was wrong. Jameson pointed out that he hadn't seen any cars traveling in the opposite direction for some time.

We rounded a corner and came upon a horrible scene. Something was burning on the highway median. Thick black smoke and fireballs curled into the sky. All we could do was sit and wait as emergency vehicles arrived.

Eventually it became clear that the fire was not going out any time soon. We were redirected back the way we came, where we found an alternative route. As we turned around I snapped a picture, hoping to see what had happened, but all I saw was a damaged truck and an indistinguishable black mass of metal.

It turns out that there had been a three-trailer accident. One of the trailers was a tanker, and it had burst into flame. The driver was killed. Not knowing this yet, we spent the rest of our drive quietly worrying for those involved, and selfishly grateful that we ourselves were OK.

We arrived in Chicago without incident, and enjoyed a nice evening with Jameson's parents.

The next day we got up a little early for a nice breakfast at Little Goat. We were lucky...owner Stephanie Izard was there to taste-test some proposed specials. Very cool to see the boss herself doing some hands-on sampling and giving instruction to her crew! This time I decided to try the "bullseye" french toast: home-baked chive brioche with soft-friend egg hidden in the middle, topped with crispy chicken, strawberry slices, and bbq maple syrup. As always, Little Goat hits the spot!

After breakfast it was time to hit the grocery. Mrs. Boyce needed lots of ingredients for Thanksgiving! She'd also preordered a turkey from Local Foods, a grocery specializing in local sustainable farming and foods. I saw lots of things in there that I'd like to eat! Back at the condo we relaxed, watched some Cubs recaps that Jameson had missed (we don't have tv on the train), and enjoyed an awesome curry lentil soup made by Mrs. Boyce. After dinner I was able to premiere a project that Landon (Blue Unit drummer) and I had been working on: social media sites for the Ringling bands! We now have a page on facebook and a twitter account. These are just to share the awesomeness that is the Ringling circus band...and yes, let's be honest, to remind people that there IS a Ringling circus band! Live music + circus = magic :)

On Wednesday we went to a nice French bakery for a late breakfast, then went our separate ways for a while. Mrs. Boyce had a dentist appointment, Mr. Boyce went to the gym, Jameson set up some awesome retro game emulators on his computer, and I worked on the Ringling Bands page. Over two hundred people have liked it in the past 48 hours! Yay! Thanks for the support everyone! I'm excited to gather content and share what being a circus musician is all about. Speaking of, that night we got to go see the new Blue Unit show, Out of this World! We found our seats during preshow. I have to say, it was pretty strange to be in the audience instead of getting ready to work!

This show is different from a "typical" Ringling show in several ways. There's a lot of new technology, including projection and spotlight mapping (the spotlights follow performers using fiberoptic technology in the costumes). Even the Ringling-certified toys you can buy from concessions incorporate technology to change colors at certain points in the show. The biggest difference is that most of the show takes place on ice! I know a lot of folks were skeptical about having circus acts on ice, but from what I saw it worked really well. It's not an "ice show"...the ice is just a facet of staging that allows for different kinds of acts. We saw an amazing ice skating troupe...I've never seen hand balancing on ice before! It was also amazing to see performers transition from skating to aerial acrobatics. But many other acts remain unchanged, including trapeze, the animal acts, and clown gags.

I really enjoyed Alexander Lacey's big cat act! It's a very different presentation than Taba's on the Red unit. Each trainer has their own style of presenting. I got to see some tricks I'd never seen before!

I also really enjoyed the motorcycle globe. It's a little nerve-racking to watch, but also extremely impressive!

My favorite act was the Cossack horseriding act. A breathtaking performance with some really awesome music behind it. The level of trust between horse and rider is really something special. The music was pretty horn-heavy and there were quite a few cues, so I made sure to capture some of what the band was doing. In an upredictable act like this one, live musicians can react quickly and appropriately to what's going on. Smooth transitions don't make themselves!

Thursday was of course Turkey Day! Mr. Boyce was singing with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago for the parade! He had to get up SUPER early. By the time Jameson and I got up he was already back! We watched highlights from the parade on tv and munched on some snacks we'd picked out the day before. The Boyces have a tradition of eating caviar on Thanksgiving. This was my first time eating it! You take a blini (tiny pancake) and spread it with a dollop of sour cream, then top it all off with the fish eggs. It was pretty good!

At dinnertime we sat down to a fantastic spread. Mrs. Boyce doesn't like her picture taken, but at least I can photograph the results of her hard work! We had turkey, mashed potatoes, sourdough stuffing with squash and mushrooms, roasted brussel sprouts, sweet potato casserole with vanilla-infused egg whites, cole slaw, cranberry hash, and croissants. It was absolutely delicious!

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with the Boyces. I have to admit, while eating the delicious food, enjoying the company, and thinking of my own family, I also couldn't help but think of the tanker driver who lost his life only a few days ago. His family had to plan a funeral instead of a meal together. It's important to cherish not only the things we have, but also the people in our lives. It's all so fragile.

On Black Friday the Boyces got up early to get a Christmas tree! When they got back we all decided to visit the Chicago Christkindlmarket!

It was CRAZY. This wasn't a crowd, it was people packed like sardines into a plaza. We managed to get through two ornament shops, and that was very cool. Pretty much everything was handmade out of glass, wood, metal, feathers, and more. We had to wait in line to get in, and once in the store we had to shop in line as well! Bonkers. Still, I'm glad we went :)
(photo courtesy jhawart blogspot)

After fighting our way out of the market, we scooted across the street to an indoor shopping mall and visited Magnolia Bakery for some tasty treats! I got an apple cupcake. It was very good! Unfortunately someone had forgotten to put sugar in the buttercream frosting on my cupcake, but if I internalized it as an apple "muffin" topped with "butter", it was just fine! Heehee!

Back at the apartment, we decorated the tree together. Mrs. Boyce has worked for Hallmark and is a Master Decorator...she'll probably "fix" our ornament placement later!

She also made a beautiful display piece on her balcony. I mean just look at that. Professional-grade!!

We all went to bed fairly early. Jameson and I have a looooong trip ahead.

The next day we woke early and enjoyed some pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes and bacon made by Mrs. Boyce. Then it was time to say our goodbyes and hit the road. Addison was mopey...I think she will miss us!

We drove for a solid ten hours, covering more than 600 miles. We stopped near Chattanooga for the night. Sunday was much the same. Near the end of our trip we hit a pretty insane amount of traffic...LOTS of accidents in Florida :/ But we arrived home safely. We'll be at Jameson's apartment for the second week of our "vacation". There's a lot of work to be done on Jameson's place and I'll be helping him with that. I'll also get to meet some of his friends! Who knows what other adventures we'll have...stay tuned!

Other stuff:

Some photos from the Blue Unit as they prepped for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Looks like Johnathan's been replaced!!

(photo courtesy JLI)

Paulo and Johnathan ready to blast off!!!

Comedian and clown Davis Vasallo and his son :)

Queen Tatiana ready to rule the circus parade!!

(photos courtesy Nathalia De Roover)

Say turkey!!

(photo courtesy JLI)

Here's what some other circus folks are doing with their time off.
Robert Stipka (horse and camel trainer) has left the circus and returned to his home in the Czec Republic. Here he is with his father in his family's stables.

(photo courtesy Robert S.)

Ryan (animal specialist) and Irina (star performer) traveled to Paris! Wow!

(photo courtesy Irina)

And Nikki (train crew) was able to spend Thanksgiving with her family for the first time in years. When you travel for a living, it can be hard to get home. Whether we spent the holiday with family, at the train, or putting on shows, we were thankful. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

(photo courtesy Nikki R.)


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 28th, 2016 03:31 am (UTC)
Circus Xtreme - Thanksgiving Break Week 1
I always enjoy your excellent stories about life with the circus but this is a special one because you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Mrs. Boyce is obviously a very talented woman with her incredible cooking and professional decorating skills. I am just so happy for all of you that you had a beautiful holiday. Have fun, be well and always wishing you the best.
Dec. 5th, 2016 01:00 am (UTC)

I just realized circus Xtreme is coming back to Atlanta and I enjoyed the show so much I willing to go see a bunch of times. I love your stories and it's honestly brightens my day,cause I'm a huge fan of Ringling Bros and it's been apart of my life for many years. I don't wanna drag this on but I looking to seeing the show again also Happy Holidays

Dec. 5th, 2016 04:45 am (UTC)
Hi! Very cool, I'm glad you enjoyed the show! Sorry to repeat cities, but right now we are going through a major schedule change so a few cities are getting an "encore" haha. Maybe if we're luck there will be more people like you who won't mind!

If you decide to come out to a show again in Atlanta, let me know and I'll come say hi! Thanks for your kind words!
Jan. 18th, 2017 04:02 am (UTC)
This is a reply I just emailed:

Humane Society of the United States <humanesociety@hsus.org>


Today at 10:23 AM
Hi HOWARD, you've likely heard the extraordinary news about Ringling Bros. and its decision to shut down the circus in May. Read more on our blog»

Ringling Bros. brings the curtain down

Photos by Meredith Lee/The HSUS

© 2017 The Humane Society of the United States | All rights reserved
1255 23rd Street, NW, Suite 450 | Washington, DC 20037
donorcare@humanesociety.org | 202-452-1100

This message was sent to staffordmotion@yahoo.com.

Humane Society of the United States

Today at 10:52 PM

I have followed you and supported you for a lifetime and am so shocked that you would actually be happy about this. I personally know a lot about animals and also have a friend who has been with RBBB for five years where there is no poor treatment of all their animals. You have allowed yourselves to fall for the lying propaganda from those assholes at PETA who at the top are only interested in making money and lying about animal welfare. Sadly, if this is the leftist, extremist route you are going to take I can no longer support you. Fortunately there are many wonderful groups who really support wildlife and I will continue to support them.

Howard Alexander Stafford

Stafford Farms

941 NW 110TH CT

OCALA, FLORIDA 34482-6838
Jan. 18th, 2017 04:18 am (UTC)
I am surprised to hear that you've supported HSUS. Anyway, there's a list of legitimate elephant rescues/sanctuaries on the Center for Elephant Conservation page. Definitely check it out if you want to donate to groups that help elephants.
Jan. 18th, 2017 07:26 am (UTC)
RE: Humane Society of the United States
Dear Megan, I have never given HSUS any money but have signed some of their petitions that appeared deserving. As hard as I try to seek the truth it shows that anyone can be fooled by deceptive propaganda. Of course I will redouble my efforts to thoroughly vet any animal/wildlife groups that I support. It is so sad that in this modern world that bending the truth and even outright lying has become so broadly accepted. We all need to work hard everyday to seek the truth in a world of lies. Thanks for the advice.

Edited at 2017-01-18 07:28 am (UTC)
Jan. 20th, 2017 10:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Humane Society of the United States
It's not a big deal, I just don't know many people who do, that's all. If their petitions appear deserving, go for it. I'm sure that they do good work somewhere along the way. But just be careful, because they're one of those groups that pays their CEO a six-figure salary. Just know where your money is going.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )