On Monday I did absolutely nothing. Had not slept well, and neither had Jameson, so we decided to stay at the train.
I was bored. I cleaned my room, boiled some eggs, and did a little research on U-Hauls. I finished watching an anime series called Shinsekai Yori. It's pretty dark subject matter but a great story and great art. I really enjoyed it and am sorry to have finished it.
Later in the day I ended up getting an honest-to-goodness job offer. I haven't officially accepted yet, so more on that later. I spent the rest of the evening researching apartments and sublets near the job location, and reviewing the company's website.
At some point during the day it started to snow.
On Tuesday I borrowed Jameson's car to run errands. First I went to U-Haul to look at their smallest trailer (which is the only one my car could pull) and to get an estimate for installing a trailer hitch. I hope that this won't be necessary, but it's good to be prepared.
Then I hit a nearby Kroger, because the train run from Cincinnati to Norfolk is sure to be long and I want to be fully stocked for the trip. I know it's early, I could have taken an Uber to the grocery on Sunday night, but somehow I doubt I'll be in the mood.
Back at the train I unpacked and made a few calls related to housing in my potential new city/state of employment. Again, it's too early to know what I will need, but may as well give myself some options and know what's available.
Wednesday the weather was fairly crummy due to winter storm Stella. Although we didn't get accumulation here in Ohio, it was cold and wet and windy. I would have liked to go somewhere and do something, but there just aren't many options around here. Instead, I researched apartments and made appointments and tried to figure out what kind of furnishings (if any) I'd be able to afford for a new place.
Later in the evening Jameson and I drove out to our boss Brett's house for dinner. We arrived a little late, and were surprised to see so many circus people there. People from production, the band, wardrobe, the school...it was a big ol' get together! We had burgers and pasta and beans and other treats, enjoyed good conversation, had intense air hockey competitions, and sat around looking at old circus programs that my boss has collected. We had fun looking for our friends in the old programs...some of these people look very different now, or perform different work on the show. For example, it was awesome to find a program with Brian French on the high wire! I've always known him as an elephant handler.
(photo courtesy Chaz C.)
A big topic of conversation was of course "Have you found anything?" or "What are your plans for afterward?". Many people still aren't sure what they'll be doing once the show closes, while some have found jobs or are using the travel time between cities to hunt for work.
As it got late, Theresa (Brett's wife and a former Ringling dancer) handed out her famous chocolate pumpkin loaves as we said our farewells. I gave her an especially tight hug, knowing that we may not see each other again for a long time. It occurred to many of us that this might be the last time all of us would gather like this. With Jameson leaving, the band will be very different from now on. Others will certainly be leaving early as well. Everything is changing and will continue to change, up to the very end when this community, and this lifestyle, will fall apart and be no more. Not to be melancholy, it's just the truth.
Jameson and I talked about it on the drive back, about all the things we love about the circus community. I will miss being able to look around in any city and see at least one circus person among the crowd. I will miss the complete disregard for language barriers, and the deep trust that exists between people who have never exchanged a word. I remember being startled and amused the first time a non-English-speaker whom I'd never met thrust a phone at me in the train yard, with a frustrated Uber driver on the other end. Or the times I've been out sightseeing in a city, and a Chinese or Mongolian or Russian person grabbed me and thrust a map into my hands, knowing that as a member of this circus family, I would help them no matter what. And all the times I've needed help myself, and found it offered without reservation and often without even having to ask, simply because I'm a part of this amazing community. I will miss the cheerful greetings exchanged on a one show day, or the good-humored exasperation that we'd share at the start of a six pack weekend. I will miss seeing people breathing fire or flying through the air or riding elephants in my daily life, as natural as breathing. I could go on, but better save some of this sentimentality for May. The bottom line is, there is more being lost here than a job. I will miss these people and this life.
I woke up early on Thursday, intentionally, because with all of these days off plus daylight savings my body is confused about what time is "morning" any more. At this point I've been itching to get back to work. The day was just spent killing time while waiting for the night show.
At the arena I had some special visitors. Hans Pregler has been reading my blog for quite some time, and when he saw that the circus was closing, decided to bring his family all the way from Wisconsin to see a show. I met his wife, two daughters, and son, and we all went backstage where I showed them some props and dressing rooms and such. The animals are outside in climate-controlled tents, so we skipped visiting them unfortunately as it was quite cold. They had a great time at the show!
(photo courtesy Hans)
I also had a few other surprise visitors: facebook friend and drummer Ryan, who I barely had time to greet as preshow came to an end; and a random gentleman who's father had been a circus band director. Cool! It was great to finally meet Ryan in person, and to meet someone with a circus connection in his family.
After the show Jameson stayed at the arena for poker night (a somewhat traditional hang for some folks here on the show). It was his last poker night, so even though he lost, I'm sure he had fun :)
The next morning I woke early because I had visitors! Hans and his family came to the train to check it out! The weather was pretty miserable, but that didn't stop Hans from taking lots of pictures! I showed them the Pie Car and the generator car (from the outside), and then took them into the car where I live. I showed them how the vestibule works, how the panels can fold up or down to reveal stairs, and how the train is cut into parts to fit in the yard. They got to see my tiny little room, and our tiny little bathrooms and shower.
(photo courtesy Hans)
We made sure to get a family photo outside the train too!
(photo courtesy Hans)
Then we went to lunch at a nearby diner. I almost died of cuteness when the littlest daughter asked me to cut her chocolate chip pancakes. OMG!! <3 <3 Their son Brennan also kicked my butt at tic tac toe (I will have my revenge!!!). While eating we talked about the circus closing, Hans's work at a theater where he lives, life on the train, etc. I talked a lot actually, hopefully not too much!
Before going our separate ways, the kids presented me with a HUGE pile of cards they'd made for all of the people in the circus. I mean TONS of cards. I was astounded to see that each card had a different message and different artwork. I will be bringing these to work over the next week to share with everyone. Thank you so much Hans, Cindi, Auroroa, Brennan and Cecily. Spending time with you today was a great reminder of the importance of what we do. People like you give us a reason to keep putting on a great show, with a smile, despite everything. <3
After that, I was supposed to help Jameson disassemble his room and carry things out to his car. But he did most of that while I was out! It makes me sad to see his mostly-empty room. Amazing how you can put so much of yourself into one place, only for it to become an empty shell when you leave.
(photo courtesy Jameson)
Saturday was a typical three show day. After the first show I was in the dressing room eating lunch, and heard a low chanting, lyrical and sad, echoing through the arena. This was Mongolian music being played through the house speakers, because a funeral was being held. One of our Mongolian ladies passed away suddenly just a few days ago.
The show could not be cancelled, and the Mongolian troupe still had to particpate. If they wanted to mourn, the only time they'd have to do it was between shows. So a place was made on the concourse for her service. I chose not to go because I hadn't known her well, and didn't want to impose on the grief of her loved ones. 2017 has certainly been much more cruel than anticipated.
The show went on. Throughout the day the keyboard players did a lot of switching...first it would be Matt on the key 1 book, then he'd go back to key 2 while Tom watched him play, then Jameson was back on key 1 while Matt watched HIM play...goodness. But it's all necessary, so that Matt can learn Jameson's book and Tom can learn Matt's. I stole glances at Jameson at various points during the show and could tell that things are starting to become real for him. It's a hard thing to pack up and leave before the end of any tour, but especially this one. He's been here for SIX YEARS. And on Sunday, it all comes to an end for him.
We're both trying to find a name for the emotion that happens when you're equally happy and sad.
Sunday was The Day.
I met Jameson outside the train, after he'd said his goodbyes to his tiny room. His trunk was packed to the roof.
At the arena, many people came up to him throughout the day to say "see you down the road" or hug him or give him a hard time.
For the first show, Matt was playing the key 1 part by himself for the first time while Tom was on key 2. This will be the setup from now on.
Since Jameson had nothing else to do, Brian (guitar) offered to let him play the opening number!
Brian says that was the first opening he hasn't played in eleven years!! Looked like fun for Jameson!
For the final Cincinnati show, Jameson played his usual part for the last time. I can only imagine how he felt...but in a few weeks all of us will know. During intermission we took "shots" of liquor in Jameson's honor (this is a tradition done for musicians who leave the show). Here he is carrying the goods. What better to drink than Jameson for Jameson!
We played through the rest of the show. As the final note echoed through the arena, the clowns pounced on Jameson and pied him GOOD! Pictures were taken, but none have been posted yet. It was awesome.
We packed up as usual, and got changed as usual, and headed out to the car as usual. Only this time, I would not be going with him. And he would not be coming back.
I was doing so good until we finally had to just look at each other and say goodbye. We were both trying so very hard to be strong for each other. It kind of worked, because neither of us had a meltdown (though I badly wanted to scream "DON'T GO!!!"). We hugged and kissed, several times. "Thank you," he said to me, "for everything."
And with that he was gone. One final pained, tear-filled glance at each other, and we turned and went our separate ways.
If I were a different person, I would have broken down right there. Instead I walked slowly back to the arena, unable to stop the tears from flowing, not daring to look back for fear we'd lock eyes again and be unable to do this. I walked back, alone, and it was one of the worst feelings I've had. I sat and waited for the bus, the entire time trying to distract myself until I could be alone in my train room.
The bus finally came and I got on. I didn't look at anyone, I wanted to be alone and get back to the train as quickly as possible. But when we arrived in the yard, Roselli (bus driver) asked if we'd sign the banner put out by Arnold Printing (I mentioned it last week). I had a sharpie in my bag, so quickly signed it, snapped a picture, and ran away. This IS very cool...I hope they are happy that we did this.
Finally alone in my room, I cried and cried. I went to Jameson's room, which was empty and unlocked, and touched the place where he used to sit, and cried. I took a shower and cried. I'm sitting here typing this crying. Give me a break, it's only been an hour or so.
I feel very alone, and like there's nothing for me to look forward to for the rest of my time here. Jameson was the one who helped me when I started experiencing panic attacks, and I helped to alleviate his depression. He was patient with me, and calmed me, and was honest and caring. I'm a better person today because of our relationship. To see that relationship threatened by distance frightens the crap out of me. Even short month-long breaks from each other were sometimes difficult to endure.
There is no doubt that this will be miserable for both of us for at least a few days. I'm sure that Jameson is beginning his long drive home overwhelmed with similar emotions (and he'd better be driving safely).
This will not be easy for us. But despite the awfulness and misery that I feel tonight, I have faith in our relationship. I have great confidence in Jameson as a person, and in our feelings for each other, and in our determination to be in each others' lives. Whatever ends up happening, we cannot know yet. All we can do is take things one day at a time.
And today begins a new adventure for my dear Jameson. A new job, exciting performance opportunities, the chance to reconnect, recharge, and restart. I was impressed with his strength when we got the news about the circus closing. I was amazed at his determination to find work right away, and at the effort he poured into that goal until he reached it. And now, thanks to all of those wonderful qualities that I admire so much in him, he can move forward...starting today. Yes, I am sad that we will be apart, and that feeling may take a while to fade. But when I've finished crying my eyes out, I am also happy and excited for the possibilities ahead, for both of us.
I will see you again soon my love. Count on it.
On to Norfolk.
I found these photos in one of Brett's Ringling programs...a side-by-side comparison of the elephants doing natural things, and how that relates to their movements in the show. Nice to know that attempts were made to spread some truth. Too bad it made no difference.
This arena made us a HUGE card! They actually had to put a sign next to it saying, "Don't sign this card, it's for you!" because we're so used to being asked to sign things haha :)
Tom and Jameson playing cards just like they used to.