Sideshow Cubano…

 

With your host… Professor Laszlo…

 

As I sat on the terrace of the Cuban walk-up café in Little Havana, enjoying my breakfast of Café con Leche, Guava Pastry, and Havana Hydro, I couldn’t help but reflect that it had been a rough season…

Things were going a lot better now…

 

The “Creepy Menagerie”, and my other acts, were all a big hit with the crowds at the “Halloween Haunted House of Terror” amusement park, next door to the International Mall, right by the airport, in the sun and fun capital of the world… Magnificent Multicultural Miami…

 

The Cuban youth were quite easy to entertain, and were extremely enthusiastic in their applause…

 

And really loose with their spending…

 

The amusement park promoters seemed to like my acts, and were glad to have me at the show…

 

The Showground’s was packed every night with Cuban Cuties, these Latina Lovelies paraded around in groups, wearing skintight costumes, with many macho young men in hot pursuit…

 

The rapid fire Cuban Spanish of the crowd was like a machine gun chorus behind the lights of the Midway, and the music of the live bands…

 

It was an island of fun in the center of a city in love with play…

 

And my Show was a hit…

 

The first weekend had passed with all the business I could handle, and the play was to run through Halloween, another two weekends…

 

I had visions of grossing enough money to be financially secure through the winter…

 

I hadn’t counted on Wilma blowing in…

 

By the time I became aware of the hurricane, it was beating hell out of Cancun and the Florida Keys were under mandatory evacuation…

 

The projected path of the hurricane on the weather channel went right through the “Creepy Menagerie”…

 

I could mentally picture my productions disintegrating in a windblown cataclysmic explosion of debris…

This was in keeping with the way my life had been going…

 

Insurance had fallen by the wayside…

 

Just one of many luxuries jettisoned in the desperate austerity measures enacted during the roller coaster summer season of spiraling fuel cost increases and dramatically diminishing attendance at my events…

 

I was now carrying only public liability insurance. The risk of losses to the company were entirely mine…

 

I could easily be out of business, or better still, dead, within the next few days…

 

This sobering thought was quite unwelcome, as I had no desire to be sober…

 

I am in the business of fun, and apocalyptic annihilation is no fun…

 

This was definitely gonna be bad for business…

 

The first to go were the blue skies…

 

The second weekend had us under lead gray skies with Wilma stalled in the Yucatan Peninsula, looming over our heads like the axe about to fall…

 

Monday the vendors started to bail…

 

I found myself operating endless hours in the rain with business being slow at best…

 

Part II…

Wilma blows the show…

 

The second Friday of the date saw an upturn in business…

 

Saturday was the best day of my entire season. We had a huge crowd that was spending money like the world was about to end. I worked a full day and never got a chance to count up…

 

The minute the show closed (one AM Sunday morning) we started tearing down. There was a major category three hurricane only hours away and it was headed right for the midway…

 

The entire show packed up just as though we were leaving town. All the rides joints and house trailers were on the move…

 

We arranged the lightest vehicles, the joint and house trailers, in a tightly packed formation and surrounded them with the heavy ride semis…

 

I noted the ironic fact that we were protecting cracker box trailers, each worth only a few thousand dollars, with a ring of valuable rides worth millions…

 

After working all night long tearing down, as the sun was rising on Sunday morning, I had paused to answer the call of nature. In the process of discharging liquid into one of the many ubiquitous portapottys, I couldn’t help but notice that they were all filled to seat level, as I had mentioned previously, Saturday had been a big day…

 

Sunday evening we headed for the shelters…

 

We were ordered to evacuate by the authorities…

 

My contemporaries and I heeled in at the Baymont Hotel…

 

The hurricane party got underway…

 

There were two factions. The nervous, and the gay…

 

The hotel management now knows to put all the Show People on the same floor, as this would save a lot of wear and tear on the elevator…

 

Which, by the way, wasn’t the only thing going down a lot that night…

 

The wind wasn’t all that was blowing…

 

Turns out that in a crisis, Show people are the most decadent by far…

 

Some of us were simply nervous…

 

I drank coffee, stayed awake the entire time, and fretted in solitary misery…

The degenerates carried on the orgy without me…

 

Meanwhile, the wind was howling like a legion of demons…

 

We experienced six hours of sustained hurricane force winds frequently gusting in excess of one hundred and thirty miles per hour…

 

From the hotel window on the fourth floor I saw the entire metal canopy of a Marathon gas station go cartwheeling down a four-lane highway…

 

The metal roof panels of the warehouse next door peeled off one at a time, one right after another, like a pianist running his fingers down the keyboard…

 

Trees snapped in half, roof tiles became airborne shrapnel, and sheet metal was flying at Nascar velocity…

 

In the field across from the Hotel, a herd of cows were standing completely still, all facing the same direction, ass to the wind. Except for the bull, he kept turning around. I guess he got tired of his nuts hitting him in the chin…

 

As soon as the storm passed, we headed for the lot…

 

Part III

Spookyville was a ghost town…

 

 

Miami’s International Mall was a scene of disorder and chaos…

 

Countless trees were uprooted, light poles were down, not a single banner, of the hundreds heralding the haunted house, remained flying…

 

The amusement park was a scene of devastation…

 

Every building on the grounds had been knocked down…

 

The haunted house was spraying water from the sprinkler system like a geyser…

 

Much to my relief, the menagerie had escaped unscathed…

 

The giant snake was snoozing, and the giant rat was trying to chew his way out of the cage…

 

The trailers, rides, and show equipment were all in good shape…

 

Our fortress of show trucks, ballasted with tons of ride iron, had withstood the fury of the storm…

 

We had dodged a bullet…

 

Part IV

The Flying Donikers…

 

There was no shortage of flying debris during the storm. The evidence indicated that the most gruesome form of the massive barrage of flying artillery during the winds had to be the donikers…

 

The show grounds had been well equipped with portolets…

 

They had all been quite full…

 

These plastic outhouses had all become airborne during the storm…

 

Great big fully loaded flying shit bombs exploding against the walls of Macy’s and Sears…

The wind blew and the shit flew…

 

There are still blue and brown stains streaking the sides of these temples of commerce…

 

Despite the fact that the whole deal stinks, we planned to reopen for the final Halloween weekend…

 

Part V

The Show must go on…

 

The hard working Carnies once again embarked on a nonstop marathon of hard labor and set the show up…

 

Gasoline was unavailable, ATM s were down, traffic lights weren’t working, and power was out throughout Miami…

 

But the show was open…

 

Our biggest problem was now the curfew…

 

During the entire run, we had not seen big crowds until after eight. The predominantly Latin crowd preferred to party after dark…

 

The eight o’clock citywide curfew murdered us…

 

Thursday we opened at four and closed at eight. The show had a total of twelve paying customers…

 

We had burned sixteen hundred dollars worth of diesel in the generators, to set up and operate since the hurricane…

 

Not to mention the salaries of the actors in the haunted house, the strolling performers, and the ride operators and food personnel…

 

The promoters were constantly on their cell phones and the situation was looking grim…

 

Would the Show make it through Halloween?

 

Part VI

Curfew ends…

 

Friday the curfew was lifted, and we played through midnight…

 

Business was slow due to the fact that most gasoline stations were without power, and those that were still pumping had huge lines…

 

A few hundred people turned out…

 

The promoters bankrolled a last ditch, do or die, desperate gamble of a media blitz, letting all of Miami know that the show was still on…

 

Saturday had a packed midway…

 

Sunday was bigger still, coming close to the Saturday before Wilma arrived…

 

Monday was Halloween and the final day of the event…

 

Thousands of young people costumed in full Halloween regalia arrived to hear Latin hip hop in live concert, at ear splitting volume, with costume contests, dance contests, and performed the cha-cha slide in huge numbers by the main stage…

They rode the rides, played the games, visited my shows, and played late into the night well past the witching hour…

 

The biggest day yet, setting an all time record for the event…

Wilma had come trick or treating, and her final trick was quite a treat…[1]



[1] This story was written in parts, as the events unfolded, while the impressions were still fresh in my mind. I have avoided the temptation to rewrite or edit the story, as this would destroy the spontaneity of the piece.

 

 

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