Jameson and I spent Monday in Orlando. We were both feeling crummy, so didn't do a lot, just errands and resting. I slept for most of the day. Didn't realize how exhausted I was.
On Tuesday we had one last wonderful breakfast at Keke's. Then we packed our things and said farewell to Florida. I wonder if I'll be coming back, or not.
We drove all day and arrived in Greenville around 9:30pm. The train made good time and was spotted when we arrived. Railfan Joe Dougherty was on hand for our arrival, and took lots of great pictures of Nikki and other members of train crew unloading the flatcars. The Greenville yard is one of few accessible, paved yards, and one where the flats are stored with the coaches (passenger cars).
Some of the cars are hand-painted.
On Wednesday morning Jameson had a job interview, which went very well. Afterward we went to Publix to stock up on groceries for the week. I bought several prepared meals, because it's going to be a busy week and I don't expect to have time to cook. Then it was back to the train. I spend most of the day applying for more jobs and resting, as I hadn't slept well.
We have a pretty weird schedule here in Greenville. There were 10am shows scheduled for both Thursday and Friday, so we all had to be up early and there was no time for a rehearsal. Plus our bandmaster Brett had to fly home for a family emergency, so we had a sub on trumpet and Tim will be conducting for the entire week.
I like Greenville, a lot. I've probably mentioned this before...it has a special place in my heart, being one of the first cities that I ever visited on tour as a trombonist. It is a beautiful city with a thriving economy, but it's HOW it got to be beautiful and successful that I find really wonderful. The town found itself struggling during the 70s, with WWII-era industries failing and commerce moving to the suburbs where shopping plazas and malls were being built. Both the private citizens and the city government officials decided that they would not sit by and watch their city decline. They formed an ambitious plan involving both private and public sectors, and began a total redesign of the entire town. From the structure of the buildings to the landscaping to the businesses and economic foundations, they laid the groundwork for their hopes, and worked hard to achieve it. And the result is a beautiful city growing at an incredible rate.
Every time I come here, I am amazed at the leaps and bounds being made. This time, the area near our train has gone from being a row of empty shop fronts to an active market area, with local grocers, art studios, bike shops, and more coming soon. On the drive to the arena, a once-empty stretch of land now houses a massive housing boom...new apartments under construction as far as the eye can see.
Anyway! Opening day was a little rough, because of the early start and Brett's absence and a union meeting scheduled for the afternoon. But it was made better by a visit from our sister unit, the Blue show, currently performing Out of this World in Charlotte NC. They were seated in the section closest to the band, which was really nice because we had a loud rowdy bunch cheering us on!
After the show they immediately came down onto the floor and started socializing and checking out all of our stuff. People were climbing all over the portal, playing with props, taking photos, laughing, talking. It was a lot of fun. I got to see some members of the Blue unit band, including Landon, the union steward on that show (we'd never met!). A large group photo was organized...I had already left by the time it was taken so I'm not in it, but I'm glad so many people stuck around for it. It'll be a nice memory for us to look back on, that day when Red and Blue circus families got together :)
(photo courtesy Steve B.)
Meanwhile, Jameson took me for a special visit to one of my favorite shops in Greenville: Dark Corner Distillery! They've recently rebranded their moonshine as "Whiskey Girl"...same great distillation process and flavors, just under a different brand. They've also moved to a much larger storefront, and now distill their beverages in an airplane hangar. Wow! I picked out two 375ml bottles, one peach flavored and the other apple maple. Jameson gifted them to me for my birthday, how awesome is that!! I don't drink a whole lot, but this particular shine is only made here, in Greenville, in small batches, so to my mind it's worth getting. Especially as I may never be back. The gentleman manning the store also let us try a sample of an espresso rum they've come out with. Pretty dang good! If you're ever in Greenville I can't recommend this place enough. Give it a try!
I got back to the train in time for lunch and a conference call to discuss severance. I was really hoping to have only one severance discussion, but it looks like there may be more. Patience is hard.
After that I took a nap, then went in to play the evening show. I was happy to receive a much needed pick-me-up: an Otamatone that my parents had sent for my birthday! It's a silly-looking little thing that sounds like a theremin with a wah-wah effect. Everyone seems to be enjoying it so I'll probably carry it around for a bit to cheer people up with.
The show that night was well-attended.
Friday was another early day. Jameson's grandparents and some of their friends came to the show, so we got to say hello. They told us how much they enjoyed the show and asked about our plans for the future now that everything's going to heck in a handbasket. We are both doing our best to stay optimistic, and are working hard to find new jobs. We took pictures with them. Nice visit :)
Jameson had to take me back to the train because I forgot my wallet (duh!). After that I went back to the arena to eat lunch and run some errands. I had things to mail and a hair appointment, then went looking for treats to bring to work for my birthday. I'd hoped to visit Falls Park too, but it was so cold and dreary out, I decided against it.
My birthday treats ended up being cupcakes from the Publix bakery. An elderly gentleman was working at the checkout, and as he was scanning the cupcakes he happened to notice my Ringling jacket and asked if I worked there. His chin quivered ever so slightly and he got this fierce look in his eyes, and said, "Ma'am, I am so sorry for what's happened to the circus. It's not right. I am so sorry."
He then proceeded to tell me about one of his first jobs as a young man, distributing flyers and other promotional materials for a mudshow that would come through town annually. Some of his fondest memories as a child were when the circus would roll into town. He wished me all the best in finding a new job, adding that he was doubtful that anything I'd find could compare to the circus. I agreed, and left the store with a lump in my throat but a happy feeling in my heart.
Back at the arena, we had an absolutely packed Friday night show. Usually when they say sold out, they mean there are a few seats still available "just in case". Well, I'm pretty sure it was SOLD OUT.
On Saturday we had three shows, as usual. All shows were packed. It was my birthday, so I woke up to many wonderful messages from my facebook friends. Thank you everyone. I know I've been a little difficult to approach lately, and I'm sorry for that. Thank you for being great friends and tolerating me through the tough times :)
Of course, since it was my birthday, I had to avoid those sneaky clowns and their pies! I came to work soooo ready. Very determined. Peeking around every corner. After the first show I took extra care to leave the arena floor from a different exit than usual. Take that, clowns! On the way to Pie Car Jr I saw Jameson, who assured me that no clowns were at Pie. I was still super cautious. I got there and got in line, looking all around. Finally decided that no clowns were nearby. Looked at the menu to see what was being served.
BAM. That's when they got me. The minute you think of ANYTHING other than getting pied, I swear, they get a notification. Thanks Stephen :P
In all seriousness, getting pied does make one feel loved. I'm glad I got to experience the birthday pie-in-face one last time :)
The rest of my birthday passed pretty uneventfully, with two more shows, cupcakes in the dressing room, and lots of well-wishes from my coworkers. Thanks everyone!
On Sunday we only had one show at 3pm. Then while most of the circus was working hard loading out, we had a little Super Bowl party in our dressing room! The band has done this every year that I've been here. This'll be the last one.
After the party Jameson and I went to a hotel. Tomorrow morning he has an interview, and then we'll kill time in Greenville waiting for the train to get to Greensboro.
Members of train crew relaxing after a long day of work.
(photo courtesy Nikki R.)
On Friday Steve (clown) offered me a ride in his newly-acquired wagon. I accepted of course!
There was no animal open house this week, but the animals were kept near the employee entrance where all of us could walk by them every day. This is their outdoor climate-controlled tent ("barn"), those are the heaters on the end. You can't really tell from this photo, but the tent is very big and could probably seat 250-300 humans.