Misery in Paradise

by  Prof. Laszlo

 


 

West Palm Beach was rocking and rolling. Traffic along Military Trail was busy and the Electrical Carnival was opening on its first weekend of a two week run…

 

The Snowbirds were down for the winter and most of Mexico seemed to be employed in the never-ending task of waiting hand and foot on the wealthy…

 

The Mexicans were our best customers. Hard working people who were enjoying prosperity for probably the first time in their lives, they were out with the entire family having a great time…

 

 

The wealthy Snowbirds, on the other hand, were somewhat skittish. These were people who were accustomed to getting what they wanted when they wanted it and damn the cost. This was the year when all that had changed. The turmoil on Wall Street had made them nervous. Still driving cars that cost more than I was worth, they rolled in and resented paying for anything. I kind of understood them. After years of effortless income, making money simply by having money, they had dumped a bundle in the Market. Still in shock, they all seemed to be intent on recouping the losses by not tipping the valet parking attendant.

 

The season had been less than kind to me as well…

 

The spring had been brutal…

 

First of May through the Fourth of July I trouped in Northern Indiana promoting and playing Ringmaster of the “Wild Animal Circus”…

 

We were the success story in the tent show biz for ’08…

 

 

A success story in the same sense that surviving a famine and emerging as skin and bones but still alive can be deemed a success…

 

As promoter, my job was to bill post and coupon the towns along the route. This was tough due to the fact that regular gas was over five dollars a gallon and the population is not concentrated but spread out in little hamlets and villages among the cornfields. We were dumping money in and pulling very little out, as the Hoosiers were pretty broke. Only the Amish seemed to be unaffected by the price of gas…

 

As Ringmaster, my job was to welcome the audience, conduct the performance, announce the acts and make the pitches. This all went well, with the exception of the pitches, as the Hoosiers were pretty broke. Except for the Amish, who seemed to be unaffected by the price of gas…

 

 

We weren’t exactly packing them in, but we were covering expenses, making payroll, and surviving…

 

I visited the Carson and Barnes while they were playing Naptown, and they were bigger than Big Bertha, with a giant menagerie midway and five thousand seats under canvas, you could have put our show complete with midway, menagerie, back yard, trucks, trailers, big top, and winter quarters under their tent, and still have had enough room to do a show. Of their five thousand seats, there were keisters in less than a hundred. We were playing to bigger houses than C & B…

 

The following week while playing to packed houses in Shipshewana, our big top blew down, and we folded the show…

 

 

Some success story…

 

I escaped from Indiana and had a less than banner year featuring the Serpent Spectacular playing west of the Miss. All was good until I came east of the Miss. at which time I started blanking hard…

 

Hadn’t won a nickel since hitting the Sunshine State and here I was in West Palm with things looking up at last…

 

It was a beautiful day, and the Cavalcade of Constrictors and I were set up in a great location. Forty Second and Broadway, head of the Midway, first on the right, ace loke, blue skies, temps in the eighties, booked on points, no dings, too good to be true, pinch me I’m dreaming…

 

 

I was already mentally counting and stacking the yard notes…

 

It didn’t take long for things to deteriorate…

 

First it got a little breezy, I failed to take note, and my buzz was unaffected…

 

Shortly after, a few sprinkles of rain plinked off my Frank Buck “Bring em back alive” pith helmet, and the temperature dropped at least ten degrees…

 

I headed backstage to set up some heat for the stars of the Worm Vaudeville Variety Follies and I was in the process of setting up my ticket box umbrella and still convinced that all was well when the skies opened up and a torrential downpour got underway…

 

It wasn’t long before I found myself shivering and soaked to the skin in my sopping wet safari costume under a leaky beach umbrella blanking out on an abandoned midway as the temperature continued to plummet…

 

 

It was definitely no day at the beach in West Palm Beach…

 

After a dreary and depressing steady downpour that was beginning to look like it had settled in for the day, I was beginning to believe that I couldn’t possibly be more miserable…

 

Turns out I was wrong…

 

A sudden and unexpected gust of wind sent my umbrella flying in one direction and my helmet in another. This pretty well killed my buzz and still mildly confused, I didn’t immediately know which one to chase. I made the executive decision to retrieve the umbrella first, as it was the most likely to cause damage. By the time I had the helmet and the umbrella stowed, the skies had really opened up and I thought maybe I should find a tape measure calibrated in cubits and begin construction of an ark…

 

Although I pride myself on being a good Showman, I am not a fanatic, and I decided that this was a good time to close the Reptile Revue and take a break…

 

After a refreshing hot shower in my little gypsy wagon, with my dripping costume hanging in the shower, I was in the process of brewing a cup of peppermint spice coffee when I happened to glance out the window and realized that the sun was out and the rides were turning. Somewhat reluctantly, I struggled into a fresh costume, grabbed my travel mug, dumped my coffee in, reopened the Python Parade, climbed into the ticket box, and resumed blanking…

 

 

I was beginning to believe that I couldn’t possibly be more miserable…

 

Turns out I was wrong…

 

A little depressed, I was sipping my coffee, and realized that maybe the creamer had gone bad and curdled. I spit the offending substance into my hand and examined it…

 

It appeared to be a cockroach…

 

He didn’t look too good…

 

There, in the palm of my hand, on his back, legs waving feebly in the air…

 

Evidently, an unlucky cockroach had climbed into my travel mug and been caught by surprise when I dumped my coffee in…

 

Believe me, it was an equally nasty surprise to me, but I was glad to see him…

 

Finally, somebody was having a worse day than me…

 

Photograph Courtesy of Lee Kolozsy

 


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