Tuesday, March 29, 2005


The elephant cannot be rushed,
not like a sled dog to be mushed.
Should one you so prod
you'll soon meet your god,
as into a doily you're crushed.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Yesterday afternoon was the debut of a bright new red dwarf in the circus firmament; yours truly began his ringmaster duties with a four-thirty show in a half-filled tent. I had all of my announcements written on index cards, slipped into the inside pocket of my old-fashioned tuxedo coat. My robins egg blue cummerband was in place, as was my little blue tie and whistle looped around my neck. Keeping an eagle eye on the performance director, Don Raul, I carefully announced the litany of acts as it had been presented to me in rehearsal on Thursday night. Due to illness, the seven-man pyramid on the highwire was downsized to six and my index card on the dog and pony act went south at some point so I forgot to announce 'em, but otherwise the show ran as smooth as French silk pie. The peanut pitch, if I do say so myself, was especially professional; the kiddies overwhelmed the vendors, nearly plucking out a few vendor digits in their frenzy to buy a bag of peanuts with the special 'prize' coupon in it. The only fly in the ointment were my dress shoes, which have absolutely no arch support and so left my feet feeling as if they had traversed the Sahara. For the evening performance I switched over to my reliable Rockports, which I got as black and shiny as possible.
But today, Saturday, we are a world away from my sterling start. Real circus weather has come to Arlington -- a mean-spirited downpour that has turned the midway into paste, spattering mud like a political campaign. The rain thundered on the roof of my little trailer starting at four in the morning and, as of this writing on the same day at nine in the morning, it has not let up. I stayed snug & warm until I went to the cookhouse for breakfast at seven. It was a mere fifty yards to walk, but took me nearly a half hour as I tried to avoid whirlpools, quicksand and the occasional sea serpent that swam trimly by in the deluge. I should have waited in my bed; eventually the entire cookhouse would have floated by my trailer and I could've just reached out for a sweet roll and hot chocolate.
The leaden skies give no hint of remission. We do three shows today; 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30. I would gladly sacrifice a virgin or two to propitiate the weather gods but they are in short supply here at Carson & Barnes. Profanity, on the other hand, is so abundant and creative that the Webster's Dictionary people have been alerted to sail onto the circus lot to record the new and baffling ways people are inventing to curse their creator and impugn the purity of their own mothers.
Yet strangely enough, a Catholic mass is to be celebrated this evening after the last show in the tent. We carry several Catholic sisters with us. Why, I have yet to determine. But this is a very religious show. You would be, too, if you were drowning on dry land.
Now I must brave the elements once again as I leave the office wagon, where management graciously lets me noodle away on their computer, back to the dank bosom of my trailer to try and squeeze some of the moisture out of my clothing before mushrooms sprout on it. Man the lifeboats; women and children last!

Friday, March 25, 2005


So I'm driving through Arlington, Texas, at four in the morning, on my way to the circus lot at the Festival Bazaar Shopping Center. Right smack in the middle of Arlington is the small municipality of Pantego -- like a cancer in the midst of healthy civic tissue. I'm no more than two blocks within the city limits when the first cop pulls me over. Says I didn't signal a left turn. Asks for driver's license & proof of insurance, all the while shining a spotlight in my face that would've highlighted Messerschmidts over London during World War Two. He keeps me by the side of the road for twenty minutes while he drools all over my credentials in his cop car. Because I've put on a suit and tie (the better to make a good first impression on my new boss at Carson & Barnes) and am driving a spiffy little Mercury Capri, the copper probably thinks I'm a Colombian drug lord and lets me off with a warning.
I carefully pull out onto Pioneer Parkway and resume my law-abiding way. Three minutes -- count 'em, folks, count 'em! -- three minutes later another flatfoot pulls me over. This time the crimebuster insists my license plate number is partially hidden under a layer of mud. Suppressing the urge to tell him to lick it off, I explain I have just driven through Kansas City, where a major winter storm kicked up enough gumbo to sink a battleship. He grumbles, rubs his chin, looks at my driver's license and insurance registration, and then triumphantly announces that I am now wearing a different pair of glasses from those on my license -- which was issued nearly ten years ago. Yes, officer, I have a new pair of glasses. We terrorists like to pull that kind of crafty switcheroo all the time.
The smell of newly minted Krispy Kreme Donuts from a nearby Kum-n-Go convenience store finally tempts the long arm of the law away from harassing me further, and I make it onto the lot just as the sun rises over the red and white stripped big top. A glorious sight, with mocking birds wheeling over the waving pennants and scattering their liquid notes like a benison. I have arrived at my new destiny. My black tuxedo and ruby red cummerband await me in the wardrobe tent. The microphone is warmed up and ready. Stay tuned for how my debut as equestrian director (that's ringmaster to you townies) is received by these Texas cowboys . . .

Monday, March 21, 2005


After looking over Wartburg College I can now give you a definition of a Liberal Arts College: A place where the clerks wear suits and neckties and the professors run around in jeans.


I've officially begun my Grand Tour with Carson and Barnes circus. Rising at the crack of doom this morning I briskly packed my suitcase with underwear, a toothbrush, chipped ice, and some trinkets for the natives and set off for deepest, darkest Iowa. Traffic on 35W out of Minneapolis was light for morning rush hour; so light that I spotted several Hyundais take flight and sail off into the woolly cloudbanks above the IDS tower. Their drivers bailed out with parachutes before Homeland Security could shoot them down.
As I rattled south in my Mercury Capri it was hard to believe that just three days ago a howling blizzard had blanketed southern Minnesota with enough snow to sink Norway; now the barren fields are again a bleak, frozen black. The snow has evaporated. Only when I pulled into a den of iniquity commonly known as a gas station did I see any snow drifts, and I have a sneaking suspicion that under those snow drifts are buried all the poor souls who maxed out their credit cards while trying to pay for enough petrol to see them home. Gas prices are outrageous; but then, so is reality TV yet nobody blames OPEC for that. It's a conspiracy, if you ask me.
My destination today is Waverly, Iowa, home to Wartburg College, and a free overnight snooze on the couch of Rob and Karen Strong. Rob teaches Spanish at Wartburg, or so he tells me. I dropped into his office on campus just as another professor and he were discussing their upcoming trip to Mexico with a horde of students during spring break. Just exactly what two middle-aged college professors intend to do with a group of buxom and randy college students on the beach in Mexico during this bacchannal is subject to grave suspicion (and envy, if you're me.) No doubt each student will return fully able to crow: una cerveza, por favor.
I had the misfortune to miss Rob for lunch, arriving in town just after 1pm. The misfortune was not so much missing Rob (since I'll be seeing, and hearing, him all night tonight) but having to dine alone at a dismal shack called The Pizza Ranch. Some men fall for blondes, some are suckers for get-rich-quick-schemes, and some find destruction in a bottle -- I, on the other hand, continually meet my indigestable Waterloo at pizza shops. I never met a pizza I didn't like. Thus, I found myself this afternoon chewing manfully on something the menu waggishly labeled The Sweet Swine -- pineapple and bacon pizza. Had Moses written another volume to the Old Testament, I'm sure he would've banned this item most vehemently. I topped off my folly with a piece of fried dough deceptively labeled 'dessert pizza'. Rubber bands dipped in corn syrup, is more like it.
But let us not bandy but crabby words. The sun is out, the snow flees, the highway beckons and tomorrow I'll be on my way through Kansas City at the very least before stopping for the night in some modestly-priced caravannasery (it isn't spelled right but my spellcheck won't recognize anything remotely close to it, the dumb bauble, so go look it up yourself.) And tonight I have promised to mix together coconut milk, Thai curry paste, fish sauce, a few chicken bones, and a hank of galangeng to make a curry ferocious enough to scald the taste buds off a goat for mine host, Rob & Karen. Should you hear a foghorn racheting up during the night, please ignore; it is only a mild belch from the cornbelt.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


The IRA loves shamrocks.
The IRA loves peace.
The IRA will shoot you
if they think you're police.

They know Saint Patrick's watching
their leprechaun hijinks.
So everytime they murder
they treat their friends to drinks.

Their brogue is quite beguiling
as children they mow down.
You ought to hear them singing
"In Heaven There's a Crown".

Their money comes from Irish
who've settled in our land;
to subsidize such bloodshed,
'tis glory great and grand!

So raise a glass to killing
with dollars from abroad.
Till no one left is standing
upon the dear old sod.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Casinos are now all the rage
to pay Government's blossoming wage.
I'm willing to bet
they'll soon use roulette
our income tax each year to gauge.

Monday, March 14, 2005


A minor can no longer be
locked up on Death Row cruelly.
Our hearts are more tender
as we gaily render
the unborn into fricassee.