Sunday, April 02, 2006

How I Came to Be a Carny!

I always had trouble in school. I wasn't dumb, just bored. I was forever staring out the window like a prisoner stares out at the world from his cell wishing to be free. There seemed to be so much going on out there that was definitely more exciting than what was going on in the classroom.
I'd daydream incessantly about the adventures I might have if only I weren't trapped in that crappy boring classroom. When I'd get snapped back to attention by the teacher I'd resent her for popping my daydream bubble. 
Even at recess outside in the school yard I'd imagine making a break for it and never coming back. I'd be free as a bird to explore that exciting world. Of course little kids rarely dream past their own noses, many adults too. To this day I still feel like schools look like minimum security prisons with their fences and yards. I never liked school. Always forced to conform, be like everyone else. Follow the rules. Little conformity prisons is what they always seemed like.
You're sentenced to 12 years of boredom and rules. Stuck in a place where everything is a competition run by overlords, most of which don't even like you. You form little cliques and stick with your own. You either learn to play the social hierarchy game well or become a wallflower and try to avoid being noticed or picked on. Or you can become a trouble maker and act like the antihero in which case "everyone" leaves you alone, even the bullies. That was my path. It helped that I'd gotten the strap and spent a lot of time in the Principles office.
I can tell you the Carny world was the complete opposite! It was a world filled with antihero's and troublemakers, misfits and every kind of malcontent. But it was home to them!
I still remember the day my dad got the call. I heard him talking to an old friend of his on the phone in the other room. School had just let out for the summer that week and the weather was hot. I heard my name mentioned during the course of their conversation so I listened in. I didn't get the whole conversation but knew it had something to do with a job that summer.
Later at dinner my dad brought it up. His old friend had worked on "Royal American Shows" all through his childhood and youth and he'd had his own company traveling the Carnival circuit for a few years now and wondered if My dad would let me come out on the road with him and his crew that season.
I've known so many Carnies in my life and they were either born into it or they sought it out. In my case fate sent it my way. I was a kid when it came knocking. I was born to that life. I've never looked back and I've never regretted it. I learned more about how life and how the world really worked in one season than I ever learned in school.
I was a kid, how could I say no. I got to leave home for the summer, no parents, no bullshit, just the open road.

I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like had I never went out that summer and got the bug, but then again, it couldn't have happened any other way....because it didn't.

I've tried other things and never had the staying power, I've been fucked up on dope for years at a time, drunk too, and yet the carny life has always been there for me. It was a love and hate relationship at times but the love of it always won.

I always have a job, and the people I have lived and traveled with are like a second family.

It aint pretty, but it will always be home.

When I walk onto a fair grounds, I am home.  

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sword swallowers don't live long enough to get around to writing memiors.

Who Cares? said...

Touche my friend.