During the break we returned to Jameson's apartment. The next day, Jameson had a meeting with someone working with Disney's entertainment management sector. I think we both hoped that it would turn out to be some type of job offer for him, or at least consideration for future work. Why else would they schedule an in-person meeting?
Turns out, he drove out there for nothing. They had him arrive at their offices in person just to tell him that nothing was available, and that he wouldn't be considered for management until he'd worked at entry level for a while (he's already worked for Disney for seven years). It was a huge disappointment. I felt terrible for him. I'm sure you can imagine how crushing it is to have a company that you care about and spent seven years of your life with reject you so coldly. We spent the rest of the day working on video edits and trying not to get seriously depressed.
We had planned to get to the train that night...it was only an hour or so from Jacksonville to Tampa. But for some reason the train was delayed, like SERIOUSLY delayed, and didn't get moving until nighttime.
The next morning we headed back to the train, stopping at Brocato's for one of their amazing sandwiches. The rest of the band was there enjoying the food and fine weather, but we decided to just get ours to go as we were both feeling down and not very social. I was piggy and got both an 8" Cuban and a "devil crab". The Cuban was delicious, salty and savory goodness! And the sandwich was huge so I got to have it for both lunch and dinner!
The devil crab I saved for the next day's lunch. It's a potato-sized croquette filled with lump crab, veggies, hot sauce, and seasonings. It was REALLY good, I'd definitely get one again! The next time I'm in Tampa. Whenever that is.
The opening day rehearsal went well. There was notably nothing to report from Feld HQ, other than that they will keep us updated on any news. We were also warned that shows may be added to our existing schedule, so I guess it might be hard to make plans on show days from now on. It was mentioned that any parents who will need to enroll their kids in a public school will have help from Feld in doing so.
After rehearsal Jameson and I found a local taco joint for dinner. We ate and talked about all our worries, and what we should do and could do, who to contact, when to take this or that next step. Nothing's easy right now, but I'm glad we have each other.
The show that evening was packed, and went very well.
Thursday was a one-show day. I spent the day applying to various jobs and entertainment companies. I'm holding off on applying to cruise ships for now. That might be an April project. I cleaned my room and cooked some chicken, and prepared some documents for our union. I took down some decorations...I've kept little scraps and mementos of my circus journey, and taped them to my fridge and closet. Ticket stubs, transit cards, postcards from special events, business cards from favorite restaurants. I put them all in a photo album and stored them. The first step in the painful process of packing to leave.
When it was time for the show, Jameson and I were bummed to find that his car had a flat tire :( We were able to walk to a main street and call an Uber. The show that night was pretty good.
Friday was a split day. Kenneth Feld was supposedly around, though I didn't see him. I wondered how he felt watching the show and coming backstage. I wondered if people were treating him differently, or the same as always. I was a little glad that I didn't run into him, because with all these conflicting emotions flying around, I've no idea if I would have smiled or burst into tears or what.
Friday during the break I decided that some sleep was in order. Haven't been sleeping well, can't imagine why! Jameson took the car to be fixed. The Friday night show was rockin', listen to that crowd.
Saturday was a weird one, a split. The change in our regular schedule probably had to do with the Gasparilla Pirate Festival going on downtown. We saw lots of people walking around in pirate garb. Neat :) During the break I packed for the overland and took a nap again...wasn't feeling great. The night show was well-attended. The band had a special guest: Keith Green! Keith was an infamous circus band director back in the day. He's the one who hired our current bandmaster, Brett. And he's a fantastic trumpet player. I've heard so much about this guy and finally got to meet him! Here he is with Brett and our trumpet player Bill.
(photo courtesy Bill D.)
Sunday was a two show day. I woke up with a pretty nasty cold, and so did Jameson. Relationship goals: getting sick at the same time :/. Mr. Feld was still around, and this time I did get to say hello and shake his hand (don't worry you guys, I washed my hands!). We only spoke briefly, but he told me that he likes my blog, specifically the recent post that I made after the announcement of our closing. I really appreciated hearing that from the owner of the company!
I know that a lot of people have different feelings about what's happening with Ringling closing. I know that there's a lot of anger (we're losing our jobs after all) and maybe a sense that it's a heartless, cold business decision. And in some ways I think it is, I think it has to be. But it should be remembered that Mr. Feld is a person. A human being with feelings and sentiments. He could have easily stayed away this week. He could have avoided the awkwardness of being here this weekend, of going backstage and being eye to eye with the people he'd just fired. But he didn't. He took time out of his crazy schedule to be here, not for just an hour or the duration of a show, but for several days. He was here, and if any of us wanted to rant at him or complain to him or smile and shake his hand, we had the opportunity to do it. That says something. Not every CEO would make time for that.
And he wasn't the only one. We also got to see our Music Director Dave Killinger (the guy who hired me). He's offered to help us find work, whick is pretty generous and I'm sure some of us will take him up on that. Scott Sena, one of Feld's longtime composers, was there as well. And Bello Nock, and many other people with personal and business connections to the circus. It was kind of amazing to see these people here, to know that they cared, and they wanted to be here for the last Ringling show ever to take place in Florida. It was a heck of a sendoff.
(Edit: Within minutes of posting this, someone has already read my comments about Mr. Feld and accused me of basically sucking up in order to get a good severance. Allow me to clarify. First of all, Kenneth Feld has nothing to do with my severance. That will be negotiated between the musician's union and Feld's lawyers at a future date. Secondly, "sucking up" gets me nothing; I still don't have a job. Third, the reason that I wrote what I did is because today I saw Mr. Feld as a human being. On the day that we were fired two weeks ago, I saw him as a coldhearted jerk. Tomorrow I may feel differently. Lastly, for the five years that I have kept this blog, I have gone out of my way to share events in my life as they actually happened. I also frequently share my own thoughts and opinions. I NEVER ask anyone to agree with me. If you have a problem or issue with anything I've said in my blog, I am happy to listen and make changes as necessary. I try very hard to stay open to constructive criticism. But if you just want to use the comments section to judge, troll, and personally attack me, I'm sorry, your comment will be deleted. Thank you for your understanding.)
After the last show on Sunday, Jameson and I drove to his place in Orlando. We have a few errands to run on Monday, and then we'll drive to Greenville SC. Greenville is one of my favorite cities on tour, and I am looking forward to one last visit.
Thank you to everyone who came out to the Florida shows. See you down the road.
It's an annual tradition for the circus train to be blessed by Catholic priests before leaving the state of Florida to start a new touring season. This year, instead of leaving Florida with the excitement of a new tour, we're leaving with the knowledge that we won't be coming back. To see a video of the train being blessed for the last time, click HERE.
Thanks and blessings to this amazing woman who stood outside the arena to "protest". If everyone were as passionate and heartfelt as you things might have gone differently.
(photo courtesy Jonathan M.)
Over on the Blue unit, the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC showed their appreciation by making a huge mural of photos from past Ringling visits. It was displayed right by the portal, so that performers and crew could look at it while waiting backstage. One thing that has not gotten much media attention is the fact that it's not just circus people losing their jobs. It's arena workers, too. Many shows come and go, but since the 1950s, people working in these arenas have always known that the circus would be a reliable source of income every year. No longer. Thanks to the employees of Colonial Life Arena for this beautiful display.
(photos courtesy Chad R.)
Members of the Blue Unit's talented Heilongjiang Provincial Acrobatic Troupe rehearsing for opening night.
(photo courtesy Humans of the GSOE)
Opening day rehearsals in Tampa.
(photo courtesy Ivan V.)
The Circus Skydivers.
(photo courtesy Ivan V)
Judah (the human) and Colonel (the Friesian horse).
(photo courtesy Judah)
The Mongolian Troupe.
(photo courtesy Dashka D.)