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Hi Everybody.

First off, many of you have suggested that I continue writing this blog, while others say that it's a good idea to end it here. I've decided to continue writing for those who want to follow. BUT, if you have no interest in reading further, fear not! As mentioned in a previous post, I am moving ALL of the circus-related posts to THIS WORDPRESS BLOG, and there you can read it down like a book. Please be aware that I'm going to have to transfer five years' worth of posts one by one, and this will take some time. Thank you for your patience.

This week I have gathered some additional photos and things from the final days of the Red Unit that I wanted to share with you.

This photo was taken by Amanda Stevens during the final Red Unit tiger act. Taba (tiger trainer) was holding it together pretty well until the final trick, which involved all of the tigers sitting up in a row. He lined them up for the trick, then broke down in tears. Absolutely sobbing in the middle of the arena with several thousand people looking on. His daughter was standing outside the ring, and although she wasn't facing me it was clear that she was crying hard. Thirty years. Taba has worked with these and other tigers for thirty years, and it all came to an end after this final bow. His daughter has been on the road and worked with the cats since she was a young child. I would cry too, if I were about to lose my life's work.

Eventually Taba composed himself enough to have the tigers do the trick, then sent them to their places. At that point he normally would have dismissed them, but he was still trying to stop crying. At that moment, one of the tigers got down off her pedestal, walked up to him, and nuzzled him, as though to ask, "Why are you crying?" And Taba grabbed her and squeezed her and cried into her fur.

Everyone in the arena was standing, and many people were crying. It was a heartbreaking and beautiful moment, and we should all thank Amanda for capturing it. <3

And if you find that touching, I suggest you read this interview with Taba, published on May 6th. Absolutely heartbreaking. (CLICK HERE to read)

As I mentioned in the last post, many people had not moved off the train yet by Sunday night. Most of the moving out occurred on Monday. For some people, this train has been their home for their entire lives. Ivan (clown) was born here, and had to say goodbye to the train forever. If this doesn't break your heart I don't know what will.

Circus people care deeply about their home on wheels. Nikki (train crew) even has a tattoo on her leg of her train car.

Come to think of it, many circus people have tattoos to commemorate their time on the circus. In fact, Matt "Toy Store" got this tattoo to commemorate the death of Ringling as we know it.

Some more photos of people with their train cars.

(photo courtesy Brian W.)

(photo courtesy Jade F.)

(photo courtesy Judah W.)

As this was happening, the train was also preparing for it's final, empty trip to Newark NJ and then Florida. Members of train crew loaded the flats one final time.

Father Jerry Hogan giving a blessing as the train prepares to travel to its final resting place.

(photo courtesy F. Jerry)

And that was that, I suppose. I wasn't there for any of this, so am very grateful that people took pictures. There are still some people following the train's journey...a few posts have indicated that the sold cars have been separated out in Newark, including those sold to scrap yards up there. The very few remaining cars and the flats loaded with show property will make their way to FL (if they haven't arrived already).

Thank you to everyone who came out to visit and support us in our final hours. And to my circus family, although we're scattered to the four corners, if you ever need anything, never hesitate. I'm here for you.

(Ok, THIS is the cast photo that was taken on our final day :) )

So. On Monday and Tuesday, I drove and drove and drove. Early on in my trip I was passing through Connecticut and was startled to see a sign for P.T. Barnum Square. Go figure.

After the first day of driving I ended up in Columbus OH overnight. The next morning I wanted something substantial for breakfast and found La Chatelaine Bakery and Bistro nearby. I was there just a few minutes after opening, so while they hadn't made much to sell just yet, everything on the shelves had been made just minutes ago. One of the bakers was setting down a piping hot tray of quiche as I walked in. Choice made. I was starving and burned my mouth on it, but it was one of the best quiche I've ever had...light and fluffy with a crust that just went "poof" in my mouth.

All fueled up, I drove the rest of the way to Kansas City with only minor construction delays. I was grateful to have an uneventful trip. I ended my travels at a hotel as I'd arrived after the leasing office closed. I went to sleep with the anticipation and anxiety of moving into a new apartment on my mind.

The next morning after a quick breakfast I drove to my new "home". Still can't wrap my head around that. The leasing office was ready with my keys. After a bit of searching I found my new place. It's on the third floor, which on the positive is great because I can comfortably have my windows open, and on the negative is a lot of stairs to climb with suitcases.

Ok, time to check it out. I was just praying that it would be clean.

Overall it was a good first impression. The amount of space was overwhelming. I was tempted to just keep everying packed...at least I'd know where it was in this giant space! Keep in mind that never in my life have I had so much space to myself. Though of course I've shared houses and kitchens and bathrooms with family and roommates, the biggest space I've ever had just for me is a 10 x 10 bedroom. And this is hundreds of square feet. Wow!!!

And now began the arduous task of dragging everything I own up three flights of stairs. It took quite a while as you might expect. When everything was inside I had a lunch break, then started unpacking.

I checked the mailbox and was surprised to find a small package addressed to me. Inside were two Ringling route books, one from 1955 and the other from 1966, both signed by Merle Evans. They were accompanied by a warm letter from Andrew Glover, a circus fan and fellow musician in the publishing industry. The letter described some of the history and highlights of the log books. Thank you so much Andrew. These are amazing :)

In the afternoon I did some serious shopping. First stop was Ikea to get ideas for what I'd need and pick up a mattress. Next, Walmart and Target for a vacuum, trash cans, bathroom supplies, and other basics. Then to several local thrift stores to scrounge for bargain furniture. By the time I got home it was late. I unpacked some more and unrolled the mattress so I'd have somewhere to sleep. My first hot shower in the new place felt wonderful.

For the next two days solid, I subscribed to this pattern: wake up, eat, unpack, go out to buy furniture, haul furniture up the stairs, build/clean furniture, eat, unpack, go out to buy furniture...
Seriously, from 8am-8pm, this is what I did, with no breaks other than to eat and sleep. In my mind, I'd thought I could do most of my unpacking on move-in day and take care of all of the furnishings the next day. Boy was I wrong. On Thursday night I was up until midnight assembling an Ikea bed frame plus a build-your-own box spring. Then I was unable to build a nightstand because some of the holes had been drilled incorrectly, so back to Ikea to get another one. Then I had to build a desk. At some point in there I got tired and frustrated. I missed my job. I missed my circus family and my family-family. Above all I missed my wonderful boyfriend. This apartment is nice and all, but it's just not important to me, you know? And right now, it feels like nothing that matters is anywhere near me. I had a good cry and sent messages to Jameson, who consoled and encouraged me and told me to eat something so I'd feel better (I hadn't eaten that day). What made me feel better was talking to him. We've still got each other's backs, even from a distance. I took his advice. I got some food, calmed down, and manned up.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday spent setting this place up, and getting used to the space. I'm sure that you can imagine how after living in a 7 x 7 for five years, there are things about Real Life that seem odd and also luxurious. Having a toilet that flushes is pretty high on the list of awesome things, and a bathtub is great too. I don't have to wear flip-flops in the shower. There is climate control that *I* can control without annoying six other people. There are windows that I can open, there's carpet. I can lie full length on the floor...heck, I can roll around if I want. The fridge seems absolutely gigantic; as just one human bean I don't see how I could ever fill more than a sixth of it. The oven intimidates me. When putting things away, I have to consciously remember that there's no need to store them as though they'll be experiencing movement soon...I can stack jars, and it's OK to put glass objects on the counters. One weird issue has been understanding that I need to go to another part of the apartment to get something. In my train room everything was within arm's reach. Several times I've started looking all around me for something that I should know is in the bedroom, or the kitchen, but I'm just no longer used to having to GO SOMEWHERE ELSE to get household items. And the strangest thing of all is just having so much space all to myself. Sooooo weird.

Here are some before-and-afters. Even after all of that setting up, the place still looks huge. And no, I don't currently plan to get a couch.

The big change here was the lighting. I didn't like how yellow it was so got some brighter white bulbs.

In the bathroom no major changes, just some towel rods and a shower curtain.
On the deck, my flytrap enjoys the sun and a stationary life.

On Saturday I finally allowed myself to relax. I slept in, had a slow breakfast, and just took it easy. My little brother Jonah graduated from college today!! I was upset that I couldn't be there, but it looks like the rest of the Diltz family were out in force to celebrate with him. Congratulations bro!!

(photo courtesy Raven D.)

In the afternoon I had to go out and get food. A few years ago my parents had gotten me a Trader Joe's gift card, and I'd never used it. I used it now to reward myself for all of the work I'd done. For once, I let myself buy whatever I wanted (well, almost...if I'd bought whatever I wanted I'd have one of everything in the store!!). Strawberry beet juice, wine-marinated roast, tempura cauliflower, golden chocolate...why the heck not. Who knows when I'll get to spoil myself like this again. I dragged it all home, enjoyed a very good TJ's lunch, and went back to much-needed relaxation and thinking time.

There are so many emotions to process this week it seems. My family and my boyfriend are far away. My amazing little brother has hit a life milestone. I'm starting a new job on Monday. This apartment is where I live now. What am I doing here? Whose life is this?? The circus is gone...and somewhere in my mind I haven't accepted that yet, I'm still waiting inside to go back to the train, waiting for someone to send the schedule for the next city. How long will it take for this reality to sink in? When it finally does, will I be ok with it?

I don't know. There's a lot I don't know. It's so odd, to watch facebook and see my circus family scattering further and further apart, to see each person struggle and adjust in their own way. For many of us, I think taking things one day at a time is turning out to be a good approach. That's what I'm trying to do. Or maybe mine is more like "one piece of furniture at a time" approach. Ugh.

On Sunday I reached out to my Mom just to say I love you and happy Mother's Day. I went to Walmart for a few cooking supplies, though I'm not going to start cooking just yet...I've always been terrible at it and don't want to add one more stressful thing to this week. One step, then another. I decided to do a load of laundry at the communal laundromat. My Aunt Chris called to see how I was doing, and chatting with her took a nice chunk of time. Back at the apartment I worked on setting up some new electronics, then had some tea and continued trying to relaaaax. As one final undeserved treat, I preordered some fancy sushi. Because after today, it's time to budget and crunch and get down to business.

To sum it up, while I am tired and worried and sad, I am also doing all right so far post-Ringling. There is life after the circus, there's no doubt about that. It just remains to be seen what kind of life.

Other stuff:

A few more Red Unit remnants...

HERE is a great interview with Matthew Lish, who joined the Red Unit as a First of May (novice) clown right before the closing announcement was made.
The Boston Globe made this beautiful collage of past and present Ringling memories. Most if not all of the color photos feature the Red Unit. (CLICK HERE to view)

And about the Blue Unit...

Most of my contacts on the Blue Unit don't tend to post tons of stories or photos about what's going on over there. Still, I'm trying to keep up on the final two weeks of Ringling's existence. As you probably already know, the final show will be streamed live on facebook.

Also old news, Stephen Colbert paid the Blue Unit a visit in a quest to claim the title of Greatest Show on Earth.

Photos and videos of the Blue Unit train making its final occupied run to Long Island (CLICK HERE).

The account of a NY Times reporter who spent two days backstage observing circus life (CLICK HERE to read).

A candid interview with Johnathan Lee Iverson, Ringmaster on the Blue Unit and circus person for the past eighteen years. In this interview, Iverson says "People don't realize how much they're losing. We’ve become so jaded, so self-centered and distracted, as a country and a culture. What's happened is a tragedy." I agree. (CLICK HERE to read)

CLICK HERE to read a recent interview with Mr. Lacey, who is the big cat trainer and presenter on the Blue Unit. Mr. Lacey owns all of his cats and has raised them from birth.

This is a lovely photo of the Ringling circus school's last ever graduating class. Congratulations kids, may your futures be bright!

(photo courtesy Alexander Lacey)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 15th, 2017 03:07 pm (UTC)
How can anybody after viewing that photo of Taba sobbing in the ring still believe the PETA lies about animal abuse at Ringling??? The bond shared by animals and humans at the circus is plainly evident to those "willing" to see it.

May. 16th, 2017 12:28 am (UTC)
Re: Thoughts...
Your sentence doesn't make sense. I think you meant to say, "...still believe that PETA is telling the truth about animal abuse at Ringling". Make more sense?

The goal of animal rights is to get rid of the animal-human bond. A person with that goal would look at the photo of Taba and his tiger and find it disgusting and wrong.
May. 16th, 2017 01:20 am (UTC)
Thanks for the correction.
I'm so numb with grief that very little makes sense to me anymore. The loss of Ringling is nothing short of a national tragedy and I believe that future generations will look back and wonder why it was allowed to happen.

One thing I've learned from this is that one should never leave it up to others to support the things you love. I never attended as many Ringling performances as I could have or should have as I thought the circus would always be there and now, too late, I see the foolishness of that. I'm sure there are others that feel the same way now. However I will do whatever I can to help keep the circus tradition alive and will attend as many shows as possible. In fact, I will be at the Kelly Miller Circus when it comes to northern KY this weekend.

Again, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with us and I hope you continue to do so. If possible, I would like to send you a small token of appreciation (a gift card or something like that)if you don't mind. Please understand that I'm not some psycho stalker and the only thing I've ever terrorized is the occasional six pack. Just advise as to what you would like and how I can get it to you. God Bless!
May. 16th, 2017 02:24 am (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the correction.
No worries, just wanted to make sure I understood what you were saying.

If the circus dies out, then it was meant to be. You as an individual can't be expected to support all of it. There are many art forms that die because interest/popularity die off. And that's ok. It's part of life.

You really don't have to send me anything, and as you're posting anonymously I don't see how that would work anyway. Don't worry! Thanks for your kind words and support <3
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )