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The train started moving right on schedule, shortly after 8:30am. I went outside because I heard thunder and yes, it was pouring. I was still feeling miserable over Jameson and was gratified that the weather was matching my mood.

The rain was off and on throughout the run, making it difficult to be outside at times. Still, when it wasn't pouring I was outside trying to cheer up and capture some final train run memories. This will be my last "real" run...there's another one from Norfolk to Hampton that I'll be on, but it's pretty short, so for all intents and purposes this is it. I took mostly video, so that I'll have some clips to look back on and remember how it felt to ride the train.

I stayed in touch with Jameson throughout the day. He spent most of his day driving the ten hours down to Orlando. For dinner I joined Brett (bandmaster) at Pie Car for steak and eggs. This was the meal I had on my first train run ever, though I think I substituted a salad for the hash browns. I'm not sure why but steak and eggs are always on the menu during runs. I was happy to have it one last time.

Brett and I talked about various things. How we'd miss the job, how I was missing Jameson, what we'd do after the circus. Brett's looking into real estate, which is awesome; I think he'd be great at it. He's definitely got that self-starter personality. I'm rooting for things to go his way!

While we were talking and eating the train was moving. We'd keep looking out the window at the scenery. Soon it started to rain again, a big thunderstorm. We were both shocked to see a large group of people standing out in the dark, in the pouring rain and lightning, waving and taking pictures. I'm talking 20-30 people, and they weren't even trainspotters, just normal folks with their kids huddling under umbrellas. There was no visible residential area nearby, and all of their cars were parked in the dirt near the rails, there wasn't even a parking lot or anything. Plus we were nearly two hours early. How did they get there? How did they know we'd be there? How long had they been waiting in the rain? Even my boss, who's been here for 20+ years, was very surprised.

Apparently while we were at a crew change, a large group of people gathered around the train, shouting cheerful greetings and asking for autographs. Ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson took this awesome picture of some of the people who came to see us. Thank you for your kindness, folks. Usually when we get mobbed it's by people who hate our guts :P

During the night I could tell that we were passing through some mountains, because my ears were popping and the train was groaning on some mean curves. We had wonderful engineers for the whole trip, I thought it was a very smooth run.

The next morning when I woke we were sitting still at a water stop. I was surprised to see that we were on time, if not slightly ahead of schedule. I opened my curtain and this was my view, an auto transport car. Nice.

The weather was finally clear and much warmer, so I spent more time on the vestibule. I saw many things that I wasn't quick enough to catch on camera...a hawk in her nest, A deer standing right next to the tracks and watching us pass, a black llama standing in the middle of a country road, some tiny family cemeteries in the shallow woods behind farmland, the occassional hobo huddling under a tarp or next to a grocery cart. Graffiti and trash everywhere. Abandoned houses and cars. The underbelly of America as can only be seen by freight rail.

I did get some nice photos of the scenery around the Dismal Swamp area as we were approaching Norfolk.

And I took one more long clip. For the memories. It might seem boring now, but in the future I'll bet I'll appreciate having it.

For dinner I hit Pie Car again, this time for the infamous plate-sized pancakes. I wolfed down two of them, made some tea, and stood on the vestibule as we pulled into the Norfolk yard. Five hours early! Unheard of. Part of me wanted to hop off the train right away and walk around, but it was already dark out so I decided against it. Tomorrow.

The next morning I woke early and did some laundry, waiting for it to get warm outside. Soon enough it was sunny and warmer, so off I went. It takes about a mile of walking/driving to get out of the yard, but once you're out there are plenty of places to go. You can even walk to the arena if you're ambitious and the weather's good. I took a few photos.

The train is in five cuts in this yard, three passenger cuts and two flatcar cuts. Here are the passenger cars, the car I live on is right there in the middle. That red hose is our water line attached to a nearby hydrant.

The flatcars, unloaded.

The wagons that came here on the flatcars, unloaded and waiting to be taken to the arena via tow truck.

I walked the two miles to a grocery store and took my time picking out food for the week. I couldn't help but feel lonely and sad. For a while now Jameson and I have been grocery shopping together. I realize that it's not very "grown-up" to mope about something like this, but it's also not a simple thing to shut one's feelings off. Hopefully in a few more days, or a week, or a month, or at some point, this will not feel so bad.

The walk back was more of a struggle as I was lugging all of my groceries, but that's nothing new in the circus world. I spent all of 2013 walking to and from grocery stores, and have walked with more groceries and farther, and in worse conditions than I did today. Overall it was an enjoyable four mile walk. Back at the train I unpacked the groceries and cooked some food for the week, then relaxed.

Thursday was opening day. I took the bus to the arena, trying not to be mopey and depressed, and failing. Tom helped me to set up our dressing room (we usually have to move our road cases around and plug in the fridge and stuff) and I sort-of listened to the weekly meeting as I set up my things on the bandstand. Rehearsal was very short, however, and I was cheered by this because it gave me time to go get a much needed haircut. There's a mall walking distance from the arena. After the haircut I had dinner and shopped for some clothes to wear for an upcoming "interview" in Kansas City. More on that later.

I intentionally returned to the arena earlier than necessary, because Norfolk is PETA's headquarters and opening day is always unpleasant if you're caught outside at a bad time. Last time there were hundreds of protesters surrounding the building, and it was a struggle to get in and out without some nasty remarks or spit flying in one's direction. This time I only saw a group of maybe 20-30, and they were busy striking a pose next to the courtyard fountain as a bunch of news outlets took "provocative" or "controversial" footage, or whatever. I walked around behind them, because A) I don't need to hear any more blatant lies about what goes on at my workplace from people who have no clue and B) I guarantee that not a single person there would have cared to talk to a circus person about circus animal treatment.

The show went well, although it was indeed underattended. I suppose that's not surprising when PETA's headquarters is a block away. I got to meet a few circus fans before the show, and missed a few others...sorry. There are cities where my time is really limited, and cities where I have a high population of good friends, and Norfolk has both of these factors. So if I was unable to meet up with you, I apologize :(

On Friday we only had one night show, but I had a busy day. My friend Tim came to the train and to take me for lunch. I haven't seen him for nearly a decade (geez). I showed him around the train, then got to bring him backstage as I dropped my stuff off. Then we got all caught up over sushi near the arena. He's had some rough luck lately with work, but things are starting to turn around for him, and that's great because he's a good guy with a great work ethic. He's gotten into speed skating, which honestly I could never have pictured him doing! But he enjoys it very much and that's awesome.

After wandering around the mall for a bit we parted ways, mostly because I had some errands to take care of. Within the next hour I got a pleasant surprise: an offer of employment! Now I can finally share the news: I'll be joining BAC Music in Kansas City this May.

BAC is known throughout the professional brass world for their one-of-a-kind custom trombones, incredible artistry and manufacturing techniques, and skilled repair work. Recently they've started branching out, and the work orders are coming in fast. My job will be to help with maintaining the website, eCommerce, organizing school accounts, and working in their retail store. I received a verbal offer of employment some time ago, but it's my rule to always wait for something in writing. So there it is. After the circus closes in May, I'm moving to Kansas City!

100% honesty time. A part of me was hoping for a job closer to Jameson. But ultimately, I know that working at a job you're passionate about is fulfilling and important, and I think that Jameson and I agree that right now we need to do what's best for ourselves as individuals until the opportunity to live together presents itself. I'm excited for him, and he's excited for me. I'm truly excited to see what I can do for BAC Music, and to find out how my professional and personal life will go from here. There's a lot to look forward to after all :)

Around dinnertime I met with some friends from Busch Gardens, Don and Darla. Don plays the trombone and Darla is a flautist. They took me to dinner, and we got caught up and enjoyed each others' company! We got back to the arena just in time for the Animal Open House. After the show they found me to let me know they'd had a great time and enjoyed their last Ringling circus. It still catches me by surprise sometimes when people remind me that it's their last time seeing this show. It's easy to forget, when you do it every day, that for many the show they just saw IS the last.

(photo courtesy Don W.)

Saturday was a three show day. I was feeling sad again, so went to the Animal Open House to cheer myself up. I wasn't disappointed.

The day seemed to go quickly. After the last show I packed up and made a dash for the bus, but missed it by minutes. A nice floor crew gent offered me a ride back to the train and I gratefully accepted.

Sunday was a normal two show day. Crowds were better, closer to what we've been experiencing in other cities. After the first show I talked with Jameson a bit...he's nervous because he'll be starting his new job on Monday. He'll be great! It's the waiting that gets ya! I can't wait to hear how it goes :)

Between shows I did some resume work for some people. The last show went well. Next we'll play Hampton. It's not very far so the train should get there in one day.

Other stuff:

As promised, photos of Jameson getting pied in the face after his last show. Thanks to Claudia (laundry/wardrobe/queen of awesome) and Stephen (clown) for taking these!

A beautiful video from Fox News, giving us a taste of what will be lost when this circus closes.

Snake-y snack!

(photo of Jonathan M. courtesy Judah L.W.)

A type of reminiscing you'll only hear in the circus...


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 27th, 2017 12:44 am (UTC)
Congratulations on the new job. I hear Kansas City has awesome barbecue.
Mar. 27th, 2017 07:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
I'm half-excited haha. I'm sure after visiting and meeting everyone next week I'll feel more comfortable with the idea of working there!

I've heard that too and can't wait to find it. They also have this dairy farm called Chatto that makes flavored milk that is just fantastic. I'm lactose intolerant and don't even care, super hyped haha.
Mar. 27th, 2017 02:16 am (UTC)
Congrats on the new job!!!
Mar. 27th, 2017 07:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
Jim Hazen
Mar. 27th, 2017 04:33 am (UTC)
Echoing the congratulations!

Loved that quote in the Fox piece about your situation being like Broadway closing - so very true!

Edited at 2017-03-27 04:37 am (UTC)
Mar. 27th, 2017 07:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)

Yeah. He made many really good points.
Mar. 27th, 2017 02:24 pm (UTC)
Bittersweet. I can't imagine feeling your transitions....

Wonderful news about the BAC job and I hope it becomes an exciting journey.
Mar. 27th, 2017 07:03 pm (UTC)
It's stressful haha. Feeling pretty torn between a lot of places right now.

Thank you :)
Mar. 27th, 2017 09:05 pm (UTC)
I will comment properly soon, but wanted to say how scrumptious that steak & eggs look. MMmmmmm!
Mar. 28th, 2017 08:47 pm (UTC)
This post does a good job of capturing the ups and downs as your job and this history ends. I'm so glad that you've found a job that pleases you and certainly can imagine how much you miss Jameson, as he's become a little part of our lives too.

Aw, giant tiger doesn't know they're giant and are just big kitty cats.

I'm also glad that fans turned out to offer a positive moment. The swamp pics are surprisingly beautiful and life on the road, those glimpses of something your camera missed are so poignant. Here's to remembering the little things.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )