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Monday was pretty normal, for me. Although the worst of the hurricane had passed, poor Jameson still did not have power (along with, you know, six million others!) Because of this I didn't hear from him much...he was trying to conserve battery. At work it was surprisingly busy in the morning, and then traffic died down a bit near the end of the day, so we got to leave close to normal closing time.

On Tuesday I got up early to practice, then went to work a bit earlier than usual. I cleaned up a bit and brewed some coffee for us. My boss was at the factory doing repairs. Kristy and Eric were busy with repairs for a local university. I spent my day helping customers and trying to inventory what instruments we've got in preparation for selling some step-up instruments during the fall. My progress on that was pretty slow as for each instrument, I have to consult existing records to find out if it's BAC-owned, consignment, Rent My Instrument-owned, on loan from a manufacturer, etc. And when I do finally find out what it is, I have to carefully log the info (model, price, condition, age, etc) and input all of that into a point-of-sale system. It's slow going but I hope it will be helpful later on.

After work I dropped by a luggage store to pick up my trombone case, the one that came with my Williams. I was hoping they'd be able to fix the latches, but they couldn't/wouldn't. I'll have to try again somewhere else. On the way home Jameson reported that his power had come back on. Awesome!

Wednesday was pretty straightforward. We finally got the Yamaha Advantage Primers we'd ordered...this was important because a local school started using them this year, but declined to tell any of the local stores (or the parents!) so even though everyone needs it it's difficult to get ahold of. I'd been taking names of people who needed the primer, and when they came in today I called each one, offering to either hold the book or drop it off at the child's school. Most parents were happy to pick it up :)

I should mention that on Wednesday morning before work, I had kind of an ugly interaction with a customer on facebook. I had recently listed a silver Bach 43 trumpet for sale on fb marketplace. As I ate breakfast and scrolled through facebook, I saw a message from this person asking about the differences between the bells on the model 43 and 37 trumpets. I replied with what I knew, which is that the 43 has a specific taper to the bell, and the bell is also made from one piece and hammered by hand. He snootily responded that "almost all" trumpets have one piece bells (not true) and then asked again what the differences were. I told him very frankly that I was not sure, and suggested that he consult the internet for the differences between the two trumpet models. I then did this myself and sent him the results of my search, where he would have easily found the answer to his question. Instead he continued to mock me, asking why I had "no clue" about an instrument I'm selling and basically going on about how I'm a horrible salesperson.

At this point I lost patience and ended up trying to defend myself, which ended in getting blocked. While interactions like this are commonplace in any retail setting, this happened while I was off the clock, in my pjs eating breakfast. I was more annoyed than I should have been.

But I mention this because over the next 24 hours, karma repaid me twofold. That same morning, a customer purchased a harp from me. This harp was in our shop on consignment and was one of few instruments that I personally got to choose to accept (because my boss looked at me and said, "Well? It's up to you.") I took it in about a week after I started working at BAC Music.

Over the months it became a sort of joke, a hopeless cause that took up space on the sales floor, periodically dragged to this-or-that corner to make room for some rental cellos or music stands or something. I swear, every kid who came into the store touched it, running their excited fingers over the sensitive nylon strings. Even most adults couldn't walk past without reaching out to give it a pluck. It eventually ended up in a corner near the register, where it gathered dust and made the occasional racket when someone's unsupervised child couldn't resist it.

Then on Wednesday morning, to everyone's great surprise, a woman paid for it in full. It will be a surprise present for her daughter, who has proven herself talented on several other instruments. I took great pleasure in processing the payment and then taking the time to carefully clean the harp, wiping away the dust and making the lacquered wood shine, tuning each string to the correct pitch. I must say, it felt pretty darned good on many levels.

But that wasn't all. The very next day, I had the satisfaction of selling the Bach 43 trumpet that I had "no clue" about. To a father and son who had seen my ad on facebook. If that isn't well-deserved karma, I don't know what is.

Thursday was nice overall...my boss was there for the first time all week, everyone was in a decent mood, and I felt like we got a lot done. I think that rental season might be winding down, and I'm honestly really glad about that.

After work I decided to stick around and practice at the store, something I haven't been able to do for about a month. I had brought the Williams trombone and my orchestral excerpts. You're not supposed to play orchestra stuff on small bore horns, but I was interested to see how it would sound. It was weird but fun! And it made me kind of understand why small bore horns are just no good for orchestra work, even one as rich and dark as the Williams. It's hard to describe, but it felt like the small bore sound was too "exposed". "Raw" maybe? It's definitely meant for a different kind of music. I was interested and intrigued by this discovery (as obvious as it probably seems to most professionals.)

Next, I decided to try EVERY small bore professional trombone in the store! To compare them. Something I've wanted to do since I began working here. I was very under-impressed by the Olds Super; the "tone ring" seemed to deaden the sound and the balance of the slide was all off. Sadly the Courtois "Xtreme" jazz trombone did not live up to my expectations either, the slotting in the high register was surprisingly poor for a horn supposedly designed for lead work. The Jupiter XO .500" bore was ok...not bad but nothing particularly great either. It was definitely the middle ground out of all of them. The BAC "Kansas City" model (or is it the "NOLA" model? I don't even know any more) was pretty decent, though not as responsive as other horns I've played. The biggest surprise was a very old and ratty-looking 1920s Holton "Revelation". Despite how it looked, it actually played quite well, slotting even better than the BAC in the upper register and putting out a big sound, though kind of tinny and harsh overall.

Keep in mind that every musician is different and has different preferences and needs. What doesn't work for me may be absolutely perfect in someone else's hands. These are all good trombones, just not the right ones for me. I already have the right one for me! And because of that, it was fun to try many different kinds of trombone models spanning multiple decades and designs. I hope to do that again!

Friday was very slow. Eric and I were in the shop alone for the most part. We listened to trombone and soundtrack music, and he did repairs while I handled most of the customers who came in. I left work 15 minutes early to get to Pinstripes, a bowling/bocce/bar inside the Prairiefire complex. Flashback KC was playing on the patio and I was filling in for their regular trombonist, Jeff. I really appreciate all these opportunities to play!

It was incredibly windy. I thought my music might fly away! But we got through the evening just fine and everyone enjoyed the live music :)

On Saturday I had four hours of work with Kristy. It wasn't a very busy day, so after we'd worked on inventory and repairs for a while we both used the last hour of the day to polish the showroom instruments. Back at home I took a nap in preparation for a wedding gig with Flashback that night...it was supposed to go rather late. I arrived at the venue around 6, set up my equipment, and enjoyed some of the delicious catered food that the band was invited to partake. The room filled quickly, and soon it was time to play.

There were lots of young folks at this wedding, and the dance floor was hot. Our first set was pretty long. It's still weird to hear the occasional circus preshow song pop up in the set list.

We played for quite a long time, from about 7:45 to 11:30pm. I was very tired, but it was a great crowd and people were really getting into it (open bar had something to do with that). By the time we were ready to close out with Beginnings, people were screaming for encores and coming over to give us drunken high fives. It was actually pretty fun. I'm starting to finally get comfortable with the music and understand how the band interacts, so it was easier to play without my face in the book. I even danced a little myself.

I'm always really nervous for my small solo in Beginnings. My improv skills are very poor, and what I have in my head doesn't always come out in the playing. But fortunately this band has very patient and professional members, who have chosen not to judge me by those eight bars of music. And fortunately I'm playing on an amazing horn, so I don't have to worry about things like missing notes just because they're high. This 60-year-old trombone is awesome and it's always a privilege to play it.

After the gig was over it began to rain and rain. We had to load out in an absolute downpour. The guys insisted that I go on home even though they weren't finished loading out yet. I got home soaking wet and went straight to bed, but had trouble sleeping as the storm was very loud and I was haunted by bad dreams.

On Sunday it was wet and dreary out, and I was exhausted. I stayed inside and cleaned and rested, then around 3pm headed out to a rehearsal with a community group I'd been invited to join, the Midwest Winds. Except when I went to start my car...nothing. I sat there, shocked...until I realized that last night, during the torrential downpour, I'd turned on my interior light to gather my things before dashing out into the rain...and completely forgetting to turn the lights back off...

I quickly sent messages to a trombonist with the group, and an email to the conductor. Rehearsal would begin at 3:45, and at the very least I'd be late. I chatted with the AAA technician as he worked on my car.

The verdict: charging abilities of the car are excellent for its age, but the battery was way dead...it was six years old and my mistake had killed it dead. He replaced the battery as quickly as he could. I debated with myself about whether or not to attend rehearsal, as it would take me 30 minutes just to get out there. In the end I decided it was worth it, just to get my hands on the music and show that I was sincere about playing with this group (this is the second rehearsal I've not been able to make.)

I got to play for about an hour, and meet the rest of the trombone section. And I was able to take the music home.
It seems that this week marks the beginning of the end of rental season at work. I hope to start having a little more time to myself...to practice, and to prepare.

In other news, I thought it might be nice to do a sort of "Where Are They Now" for circus folks. Here is what some of my circus family are up to.

First off, the Great and Powerful LaRena. LaRena was a Ringling clown, and after the circus folded she got a gig with a Japanese circus. Shortly after moving to Japan for work, she started having health problems that unfortunately turned out to be quite serious. No one likes to hear the "C" word...imagine having to hear it in a foreign country, far from home and everyone you know and love. LaRena and her mother have been documenting their battle with cancer, and her circus family has been watching with worry and love. After several long months of chemo and intense struggling, it seems that LaRena is coming out the victor. LaRena, we love you and we're cheering for you. You're the strongest person I know.

Next up we have Adria. Adria was an elephant handler for Ringling. After the circus closed, she tried to work at Feld's CEC so that she could stay with the animals that she loved. Unfortunately Feld chose to keep Adria on in another capacity that didn't allow her to interact with her charges, Mable and April. So Adria chose to take on a more fulfilling role with an elephant habitat in Texas. Now I'd say she gets to interact a LOT. It's great that she can continue working with these animals without being treated like a criminal by the public. Same wonderful human being, same loving heart, same quality of care. 

Let's check in on some of the boys. Ryan Henning, former Ringling animal specialist and spokesperson, bought many of the circus's animals and equipment before the show folded. Now he's opening his own attraction: Camel Kingdom, which is part of his preexisting venture, America's Show Camels. Congratulations Ryan! Ryan's hard work and dedication to his animals is apparent when you look at these gorgeous camels.

After the circus closed, Koji Kraft hit the ground running (or riding if we're being totally accurate). He participated in several extreme sports competitions and events, continuing to wow audiences across the country with death-defying feats...and his relentlessly positive dedication to the sport he loves. From what I can tell, Koji is currently on tour with ASA Entertainment, showcasing the art of BMX to promote acceptance and anti-bullying in high schools across America. Rock that modern bushido, Koji. \m/

Keeping track of the Mongolian troupe has been hard work, mostly thanks to that pesky language barrier. However most members look like they're doing well. Especially Monjok here. You don't need no language to see that he's freaking AWESOME. Congrats!!

And of course, there are many circus people who have not yet found their "life after Ringling". For privacy reasons I can't say any names, but I am aware of at least two circus friends who lost literally everything but their lives in Hurricane Harvey. Again, I hope these people know we're standing by to help in any way possible.
Members of the Red Unit circus band also seem to remain nomadic at this point in time. At least three members are relocating to different cities/states in the next few months, and some are starting to tour again with cruise ships or national productions. An unpredictable lifestyle is par for the course for many musicians, but that doesn't always mean it's easy.

There were hundreds of people in the circus, and it's hard to keep track of what everyone is up to. I'm seeing a lot of people getting married, having kids, finding new jobs, finding the next steps. I hope for a bright future for every one of us.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2017 02:18 am (UTC)
Thanks for the updates on your circus friends. I had the pleasure of seeing Ryan Henning with Camel Kingdom this weekend, and it's a fantastic presentation! Near the end he spoke directly to the crowd, without mincing words, about animal rights groups and their political influence. I could only imagine how he felt being able to have his own voice now after Ringling.
Sep. 18th, 2017 02:34 am (UTC)
Glad you like. Now that it's been a few months, people are beginning to share what they're up to post-circus. Hopefully I can share more updates later on as well.

I'm really glad to hear that Ryan is using his organization to promote animal welfare and reveal some truths about animal rights. As you know from my rather cranky, sarcastic, pessimistic facebook posts, I am sick to death of people pretending to care about animals. If you don't care, it's fine. It's really ok. It's better to just admit that than to pretend to care and then be revealed as an apathetic hypocrite later on. Siding with PETA and other such groups is not "caring", it's a pretense of morality that feeds a cause that ultimately no one supports, including many of PETA's own members.

Anyway. Thank you for being such a positive and caring voice. You remind me to at least TRY to be a better person.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )