dooty is poop, poop dooty. that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know

-carnival games aren’t scams any more, as I’ve mentioned, but there is definitely some shady shit at carnivals sometimes. it really depends who is running things. my asshole boss brandon is guilty of a lot of shit that the other bosses wouldn’t do.

for one example, in my bottle break game we have like 100 beer bottles to break for prizes, but brandon also puts up a champagne bottle with a twenty dollar bill attached to it (as a brief aside on how stupid people are, I’ve had people spend sixty dollars at my game trying to break the twenty dollar bottle). now, this isn’t a scam. human throwing force can break the bottle at that distance. there are people out there who can throw hard enough and accurately enough to break it. those people are currently employed as pitchers by major league baseball teams. everyone else is fucked. I’ve had college pitchers come to my game and nail it three times in a row with 90mph pitches and nothing happens to it.

I’m not really cool with this. but, I don’t mind taking people’s money in the end, because my conscience is clear. I never tell people about the money bottle to get them to play, and if they ask about it I tell them they can’t possibly break it and they shouldn’t try. when even the carnie is telling you you can’t win, I guarantee you can’t fucking win. if you try anyhow, you deserve to lose some money.

one of the shadiest things he did involved Nessa’s game, though. he told her one day “the lights in a lot of these light-up bouncy balls have gone bad. try to get rid of them first, just don’t give them to kids who have their parents with them. if the kid comes back to complain about the broken toy, get him to play again and trade it up.” needless to say, Nessa told him to fuck off and didn’t give out any of the broken toys.

-a lot of carnies are hard to place politically on the left/right scale. most of them seem fairly christian, but at the same time cops hassle them all the time so they don’t like cops. I guess overall I’d say most of them are right wing, but with glaring left wing exceptions in their personal beliefs due to their unusual lifestyle.

one of the most interesting examples of this was an older man who worked the joint across from me for a week. he was always complimenting the people on their jesus shirts, and I got the impression he was pretty evangelical, but then at one point a college guy came up to him and asked if he could buy some weed (everyone thinks carnies are drug dealers. generally, everyone is correct) and instead of being offended, he pointed him in the direction of the right carnie to buy weed from. so weird!

-here’s a question: what’s the proper response when people say “you look like you blank”?

the one that I get most is:

“were you in the military?”
“oh, you look like you were in the military.”

what the hell am I supposed to say to that? I don’t know if its the tattoos or the good posture or the thousand yard stare or what but people always tell me I look like I was in the military and I have no idea what the reply is for that. the only thing I can think of is “thank you?” but that doesn’t sound right. and besides, even if that were the right response, I wouldn’t be able to thank someone for such an offensive compliment.

“you look like you surrender your own morals to others, and then commit murder.”

so usually when people say that it leads to an awkward silence.

then, a lot of people, including one of the carnies the other day, ask if I ride a motorcycle. I say no, and then I get the same “oh, you look like a biker”. again, what should I say to that? for one thing, anyone can ride a motorcycle, so saying you look like you ride one is meaningless. I guess, in my general experience, it means they are saying:

“you look like a middle aged man with a paunch who thinks he is a lot tougher than he is”

and that isn’t really a compliment either.

finally, when we first met some of Tony’s carnies, one of them looked at us for a second and said “do you guys smoke weed? you both look like tokers”. this one I chose to take as a compliment. I’m not really in favor of weed, but I am in favor of people doing drugs in general, so its close enough to a compliment that I’ll take it.

-saturdays are brutal. you wake up early to replace everything that got messed up in the business of friday night, then usually the carnival is open 12-14 hours, during which if you are lucky you will take one five minute break to pee. then as soon as the last person leaves, you tear down the entire carnival. despite how big some of them are, amazingly they come apart and leave no sign of ever being there within about four hours. then everyone takes a nap for a couple of hours if you’re lucky, and you head to the next town, getting there midday sunday. setting up a carnival takes much longer than breaking it down, so you do that until about midnight sunday. then, at long last you finally sleep.

-people say that the country/the south is full of nicer people and cities/the north are all rude and mean. I’ve fought this belief before in this blog, because its is bullshit.

It bears mentioning, while in Arkansas, I was walking down the road to the store from the fairgrounds one night and a guy pulled over and asked if I needed a ride. I must admit, this never happens. its hard enough getting a ride when you ask for one, people certainly never just offer them. so this, and other things I saw while I was down there, kind of let me know where this myth of nice people in the country comes from.

but whenever something like this happened I was very aware of the fact that it was only because I was a young white man in normal looking clothes. if given a choice between living in a place where people are either treated very nicely or lynched, or living in a place where everyone receives the same benign unhelpful disinterest, I will happily chose the latter every time.

-they stuck a second guy in my joint with me for some of our larger towns. this pissed me off, because it cut into my money. the official explanation was that if I got too busy and couldn’t take everyone then they would lose customers and money, and these towns were busy enough to warrant two people. in reality, my busiest night on my own I did almost a thousand dollars in business, while my busiest night working with another guy our combined figures didn’t come close to that, so we were definitely never busy enough to need a second guy. I did my best to estimate and as far as I can tell on average they made an extra ten bucks a night by having a second guy, while I lost eighty bucks a night by having a second guy.

you see, not only did I have to split some of my money with this guy, but he also decreased the overall money to split. every guy they put me with sucked at the job and I often saw them scaring off customers that I know I could have landed.

the worst, however, was in a town called mountain home. brandon took a liking to some fifteen year old kid. I think the frat boy in brandon liked the kid because he was fat and cussed a lot. frat boys are very amused by fat cussing kids, right? so, he was too young to work, but brandon put him in the joint with me anyway. the kid thought it would be fun and he was gonna get a couple of stuffed animals at the end of the week since they couldn’t legally pay him. so this kid, working for free, knowing everyone in town, stole a ton of customers and didn’t even make money for it. brandon technically, was supposed to be working the joint with me that week, so every so often he came by and took the kid’s money and put it in the stack of money he’d “earned” that week.

-people prefer their carnies scummy. when I don’t shave I do better than when I do, when I am kind of rude I do better than when I’m a gentleman, and in general people just seem to want me to fit a stereotype that amuses them.

a lot of people walk by my game with all the empty beer bottles on the racks and ask me if I drank all of them. when I’m honest and say that we just get them from bars, they look disappointed and leave. when I say “yeah, every night we all get drunk and then put them up in the morning” or when I joke “yeah, it took me almost an hour to drink all these!” people give me this knowing nod like “ha! you silly alcoholic carnie! I’ll play your game if you try not to piss your pants, drunky!” and I get a customer.

-I had assumed that carnies would mostly be free-spirited gypsy types or punks or whatever, but as I said most of them are christian right wingers. however, we also pick up local help in each town that doesn’t travel with us. that was another chance to get cool punk kids involved, but again that doesn’t happen unfortunately. our local help turns out to mostly be ICP fans with juggalo tattoos.

so, they aren’t much good for talking to either, since they mostly just brag to you about the last time they got really drunk and punched someone for no reason. its weird. still, sometimes they are good for a laugh. one of them came up to me at my joint in Jonesboro Arkansas and said:

“my girlfriend just sent me a text saying she’s gonna tackle me when she gets to the carnival”

I’m not sure why he’s telling me this, but I start to say something along the lines of “that’s sweet” since it sounds like she’s flirting with him. but before I can say that, he goes on:

“that bitch better not try to tackle me. I got fuckin mace on me. I’ll mace my old lady so fast!”

at which point I gave up on the conversation and went to have a cigarette.

-mexicans love my game to a confusing degree. I never even have to call them, they get to me faster than I can even open my mouth. at first I worried the language barrier would lead to more disputes about the rules and what counts as a win, but usually they don’t even seem to care about prizes, they just really wanna buy like six games and smash the fuck out of some shit. all of this seems to prove what I was already pretty sure of: mexicans are totally manly, unlike stupid gringos who would rather throw balls than break shit.

-I stand on a giant pile of shattered glass, under a huge banner that says “break a bottle!” but people still ask me “what if I knock it over? does that count? or does it have to break?” god that pisses me off. at first I put on my best retail slave face and politely explained that yes, you have to break bottles to win at bottle break, but by our last week i just didn’t give a shit anymore so typically when someone asked I would just point up at the banner while hocking up a big disgusting gob of spit on the ground.

-speaking of my last week when I didn’t care anymore, I had some ditzy girl and her boyfriend come up. she said to him “don’t bother, look at the prizes, they don’t have any panda bears”. I was just trying to be friendly to them so I said “yeah, I suppose we are somewhat deficient in the panda department”. this seemed a clear enough statement to me, but in her horrible ditz voice she shrieked “what’s that mean?” and I’d had it with the job and had it with dumb southerners so I just found myself shouting “it means we don’t have any fucking pandas!” and they both scurried off.

I almost felt guilty, like maybe I overreacted, until someone told me she had probably been looking for stuffed pandas because the panda is the mascot of one of the local campus sororities. so now I wish I had been meaner . . .

-jenny and brandon are currently at the “denial” stage of getting divorced. that’s the part where everyone on earth except you knows that you’ll be getting divorced soon. this generally made things pretty awkward, since you never knew when they might explode at one another, but they were sure to do it five times a day.

the worst case, however, came when they decided to have a thirty minute screaming match just when brandon had gotten inside my joint to check on something. when customers started arriving I tried shouting at them to get out of the game so that people could play, but they either couldn’t hear me or didn’t care. so I ended up spending at least a half an hour just shrugging at customers and asking them to come back later.

it was less than ideal.

-if a carnie gives you a good deal, don’t play. I can give people extra balls or change the price or whatever I want if I think I can make money. if I give someone a special deal and they win I get in a lot of trouble, but if I give people good deals to make money without losing money then the boss doesn’t care. so, at this point I’ve seen hundreds or thousands of people play my game. usually after a person’s first throw I instantly know if they are going to win something that day or not. so, the better a deal I offer you, the more convinced I am that you have absolutely no fucking chance of ever winning. so remember folks, if the carnie gives you a good deal, you aren’t going to win.

the one exception is, since I want a woman to win my damn game, I have started telling every woman who goes by that if she wins I’ll pay her back twice the price of the game from my own pocket. that deal is real. and yet still they won’t play . . .

-I hate to mention balls humor again, but it also comes up in another way. my fake southern accent isn’t perfect, so the way I say bottles and the way I say balls sounds almost the same. as I found out when another carnie came up to me asking why I had just shouted “which of you ladies wants to come over here and break my balls?”

-so, might as well discuss the money from being a carnie.

we were sort of misled on what our percentage would be, so our first couple of weeks we calculated what we were bringing in (they told us not to keep count of what we brought in. they told us it would look suspicious. we told them that saying that was suspicious and we counted anyhow) we figured out that we were making about the same as stripping, although for about 50 times more work. when we first got paid and found out our actual percentage, it turned out we were making a bit less than half as much as stripping, but for 50 times more work. this almost made us quit, but we wanted to have the experience and it was only for six weeks so we decided to suck it up and deal with it.

the money you make as a carnie, when you look at what you make in a week, sounds like a decent amount. until you realize that, between the carnival itself and other things like setup, teardown, repairs, etc, you tend to have a 70-80 hour work week with no days off, ever. when you divide your week’s money by your hours, you have the depressing realization that you actually make significantly less than minimum wage.

another shady thing they did was they told us not to discuss our percentage with other carnies. needless to say, we broke that bullshit rule too. it turned out some of our friends were making less than us, some were only getting half the percentage we were getting. we couldn’t figure out any logic to who was paid what, other than just the idea that they pay each person as little as they think they can get away with for that person.

still, vanessa and I avoided the worst part of the carnie money system. a lot of the guys who travel with them are on a system where they get paid in one large sum at the end of the season. in the mean time, the bosses give them a ten dollar a day advance on their income so they can eat. of course, at carnival food prices and with no other options, ten bucks leaves a lot of them hungry.

do you remember in history class, hearing about how mining companies used to pay you in special mining money that you couldn’t use anywhere else but the company store, and pretty soon they ripped you off until you weren’t working to make money, you were working to pay back your debt to the mining company? well, laws got rid of that shit back in the 1800’s, but not for carnies apparently.

our friend Mike, who I mentioned in an earlier blog, was one of the hardest workers in the group. he took a major role in all the setups, takedowns, repairs, etc. but we don’t get paid for any of that. we just get paid a percentage of what our game makes. his game did shitty for several weeks, and I was there when they told him that he needed to do better before the end of the season because as things stood he owed them money.

how the fuck are you going to tell someone who works an 80 hour week that he isn’t earning enough to make up for the 70 dollars you gave him that week? how are you going to tell a man that he has been working for the last four months and has zero income to show for it? I didn’t blame him when he disappeared without warning that night and never came back.

-in jonesboro they had just this year decided that carnies weren’t allowed to smoke in their joints because of some kind of PC bullshit. this did not work for us. our shifts are often 12 hours long and when we aren’t working we don’t get money so we never ever take breaks.

and one hundred percent of carnies smoke. for some reason I always end up in jobs where everyone smokes. there’s no such thing as a stripper who doesn’t smoke, either. about ninety-eight percent of bartenders smoke, but the two percent that don’t smoke are shit at their job and I refuse to drink anything a nonsmoking bartender makes me.

so, everyone smokes and no one takes breaks, so the rules began to shift throughout the week as people got more creative and less polite. originally we had to leave our joints and go out around behind all the trailers. by day two, by consensus we had agreed that just going slightly in between two joints was far enough back. then we figured that just taking one step out from behind our counter should count as not being in the joint anymore.

my joint has nets on either side of it to prevent stray balls from hitting people, by the end of the week my version of the no smoking rule meant that I had to stick the lit side of my cigarette out through one of the holes in my net. the burning part was outside! that counts, right?!

-so, another brandon story. he was working the beer bottle joint for a while. a group of 7 or 8 year old boys were playing because he was egging them on and calling them weak and such.

one of the boys had a prize already from another game. brandon bet him his toy that he couldn’t win the next game. the kid lost and brandon actually took his toy away, forcibly. then he made that kid and his friend pay for like seven more games trying to win back his own prize.

I had been busy with customers on the other side of the joint so at first I hadn’t noticed what was going on or thought maybe they were joking around, but at this point it sunk in what was going on, so I yanked the toy out of his hand and gave it back to the kids. I didn’t say anything else to brandon because I knew if I tried to say anything I would lose control and beat the shit out of him, so after I told the kids to run off I just went back to my side and went back to work.

fuck brandon is an awful person.

-none of my bosses ok’d my sales plan. I figured out the best possible way to sell my game but they didn’t see it that way. tell me that, if you saw a guy in a bloody loin cloth standing in front of a booth screaming “bwaaaah!” and smashing beer bottles over his own head, you wouldn’t be compelled to go play his game!

-if 13 year old boys are the best customers, college boys are the worst. I said some of the 13 year olds would grow up good, and some would stay aggressive cocky douchebags forever. well, the ones that stayed douchebaggy are the ones who still play my game at college age. they are every bit as easy to milk for cash as the 13 year olds, but now they are drunk and they get really pissed off when they lose.

one group in particular, started off nice, but they kept coming back to play more games throughout the night, and I think drinking more as well. I was joking around with them, doing them favors like giving them extra balls, they won a couple prizes, they had no reason to complain. but they kept going for that fucking champagne bottle. I told them from the beginning it wouldn’t break. every time they handed me more money I said don’t try it, you won’t win. but they blew like a hundred dollars trying to break the damn thing and then got really pissed at me.

for the most part, its been handy having been a stripper because it makes me a good carnie. in this case however, having been a bartender and a bouncer came in handy instead. the last thing I needed was a fight that would lose me customers for the rest of the night and probably lose me my job. I’m not a big guy but I know how to talk. in this case I figured I’m a tattooed guy in a job where everyone thinks you’re a criminal, I might as well use that stereotype, so I said “back off, I’m not going back to prison for punks like you.” and the bluff worked.

I had been tempted to be even more colorful and say “back off, I raped bigger dudes than you in prison” but at the last minute something told me perhaps that line was a bit too far. anyhow, it worked and they left, but after that I started just being a dick to any customer in that age group right from the start, so there was no chance of anyone else taking my niceness for weakness. it sucks when you have to do shit like that.

-this one guy we traveled with ran the funnel cake truck. he was about 80 years old and had been doing it for years. he also had speakers coming out of his truck so that he could do this weird sales pitch every fifteen minutes. imagine the most feeble, monotone, emotionless old man voice you can. throw in just a touch of pedophile (no pun intended). now imagine it saying things like “best funnel cakes on this side of the mississippi. funnel cakes are yummy yummy yummy for your tummy.” it was really bizarre. apparently at some point you get too old to put any kind of variation or feeling into your speech.

but his best known one was when he’d say “two days until the fair is over and we go. and you’ll be standing all alone. without a funnel cake. oh, what a terrible feeling.” it was almost disturbing to hear. but, it did become a running joke amongst the carnies, like “you better win this next poker hand, bobby, or you’ll be standing all alone without a funnel cake.”

-carnies seem to be fairly regressive when it comes to gender roles. even though jenny grew up as a carnie and brandon has only done it for a few years, he is still in charge. women, in general, aren’t allowed to do much or any of the hard physical labor, even though much of it is well within the limits of what most women could do. nessa got pissed about this a lot.

-a few years back I was reading something about tribalism, and various modern things that are still run in a tribal system rather than a hierarchal capitalist one. one example given was that some carnivals are essentially run as tribes, with everyone sharing equally in profit and work, and with choices and leadership spread widely with a lot of consensus. this was one reason I was curious to try it.

while I did see some evidence that things used to be more that way, and some troupes are more that way than others, the company we were with was not really at all remarkable in that way. our company was very corporate, with very few people at the top who did very little work and made a great deal more money. I can’t honestly say that this shocked me, but, just like the secret anarchist society in a cave somewhere that I was hoping to find while we were hitchhiking, I was sad not to find it.

likewise, I went traveling partly because I couldn’t bear how much of my life was burned away on killing time, or silly amusements, or pointless drudgery. I’ve tried lots of different ways of life in an attempt to find a way to live wherein every moment is meaningful, whether it be work, play, or whatever, so long as it has a purpose. as the situationist movement used to say, to “live without dead time”. none of the lives I have tried thus far have come close to this, probably unattainable, goal, but being a carnie is perhaps the furthest. as a carnie, a great deal of time is spent waiting, killing time, thinking about things that aren’t happening yet. so, philosophically, it isn’t a very alive way to live.

another reason we travel is to just learn about other ways of life, both for the learning itself, and in my case for the stories. being a carnie quickly lost its appeal in that regard after our third week, since we already felt quite sure that we had learned all that we needed to know and seen all that we were going to see. now we were just going to keep doing it over and over again. endless repetition, even of something we enjoy, was less appealing once there was nothing else to be learned.

-so, we left the carnival before the end of the season. it was partly the way they kept fucking with our money. it was partly the fact that several of our friends quit already. it was partly a lot of things. but about 90% of it was the fact that we absolutely couldn’t stand the management, especially brandon. I’ve already told several brandon stories, but there are dozens more. I could bitch about the bad management at our carnival for pages, but I feel like that would be boring for the reader, and since I’ve already left I no longer feel the need for such a catharsis. so, I’ll try and limit it to a short list of examples to show what I mean.

brandon would never give details in any of his instructions. he would shout “get me a piece of wood!” and if you asked what he needed it for he would tell you to just do it already. then when you came back it would turn out it was the wrong kind of wood for the purpose he needed it for and he would yell at you about that. then he would shout “pick up that thing over there!” and sort of swing his arm in the direction of seven different things. as you picked up wrong things, one after another, he would get louder and angrier, shouting “no, I said pick up that thing!” but never ever specifying what thing before finally sighing and coming over to pick it up himself.

nessa would often spend three hours repeatedly asking tony to unlock the air compressor for her so she could blow up inflatable toys. he would repeatedly put off doing so, until three hours later he would come by to yell at her and demand to know why she hadn’t blown up any inflatables yet.

if the bosses told you to be up at nine that could mean one of two things. either you would get up at nine and then find that none of the bosses woke up until noon, or you would be rudely awoken at eight by a boss demanding to know why you weren’t up yet.

brandon made no distinction between work time and off time, and tried to act like a boss 24 hours a day. this meant that even while playing poker with other carnies, or out at a bar, he would still try to give me orders or demand that I fetch and carry things. he also tried to give orders for work that had nothing to do with the carnival, like fixing the sewage line on his trailer.

he had a massive addiction to painkillers that made him either half conscious and useless at work, or angry and cranky from withdrawal, depending on the day. I heard him trying to score cocaine off a 15 year old customer at his joint. he ignored safety procedures if they didn’t have to do with his own safety (e.g. “the shovel is all the way over there, just scoop up the broken glass with your hands” “we are in a hurry to get driving, put the sway bars on my trailer hitch but you don’t need them on yours”).

one day when brandon wasn’t making much money in his joint, he went to one of his employees’ joints that was doing better and made him switch. then, when that employee finally got a customer rush at the bad joint, brandon made him switch back. when he didn’t think I was looking and he was too lazy to walk to a trash can, he would just drop garbage in my baseball buckets.

he warned me once “make all your money before eight pm while we’re in jonesboro. after eight the carnival fills up with niggers.” (incidentally, I had no trouble selling games to these “niggers”. as a matter of fact, that was only one of a number of ways in which they almost seemed like real people. someone should warn him that they appear to be learning how to walk amongst us, pretending to be human!)

before a 14 hour shift they once told us we weren’t allowed to take a five minute break to buy food because it was going to be too busy a night, then brandon left his joint empty seven times that day to buy snacks.

the carnival has pet rats for one of the joints, and on one jump they forgot to put them in the proper trailer to take them to the next town. they said we had to put them in our trailer, and when we asked if we could put down newspaper first they said there wasn’t time. our bed smelled like rat piss and shit for the next week.

one day it was over 100 degrees and humid. I didn’t manage to get any water for about six hours so finally I passed out. when I came to and went back to work they told me I was being lazy.

brandon had a weird thing about control and trying to be some kind of alpha male. when all the carnies went to the lake, people kept offering to take the wheel of the boat so he could try water skiing, but he always got really offended, shouting “no! I’m the captain! you hear me? the captain!”

at one point we had just gotten out of the drive through at mcdonalds and they forgot to give him napkins. he proceeded to go on an extremely angry twenty minute rant about the jew conspiracy to save money by never ever giving him a napkin anywhere he goes.

and perhaps most damning of all (perhaps only to me, in my weirdly prioritized mind) brandon is one of those guys who buys cds and then only listens to the tracks he has already heard on the radio. he would put in a nine inch nails cd and every time a song came on that he didn’t recognize he would scowl and change it to one of the three hits that had been on the radio. god I hate people who do that!

ok, no, I don’t think anyone else will see that as the most important one, come to think of it. anyhow, that’s just a short sampling of why our bosses were so intolerable that we had to quit a job we enjoyed.

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tis better to have loved and lost, than to have gotten the clap from a thai prostitute

-when you have a good crowd in front of your joint and you don’t even need to call people in any more it is called a tip, as in “I had a good tip going there for an hour or so”. as for why, I have no idea. etymology does not appear to be a cardinal interest of many carnies, so I was unable to find any information on where this slang term comes from.

tips themselves are interesting. in some cases they make sense, like when someone plays my joint there are bottles breaking and lots of excitement and noise, so a crowd forms to watch and soon other people in the crowd want to play. but in many cases a tip still works even though it doesn’t make sense. nessa, when she had several people playing her game, no longer had to talk new people into playing it since parents would start walking up to her, handing her money, and only then asking “so, what is this game?”

It reminds me of a psychology experiment they did decades ago where they paid several people to stand in line in front of a random closed door on a city street. within an hour the line had grown as more random passers-by began to stand in line behind the people who had been paid to stand there. people are fucking sheep.

this may be the last of the carnie slang section, as there isn’t as much of it as I would have hoped. it appears, from what I can gather, that carnie slang arose much like cockney slang as a way for criminals to speak without risk of being overheard and understood by police or victims. when carnivals went straight, a lot of the slang quickly died off.

-I regret to inform you that carnies don’t party that hard. I had always imagined, as many people do, that since carnies are crazy-ass drifters who live at the carnival when the customers all leave it turns into some kind of giant bonfire orgy or they throw knives at each other or something similarly exuberant. sadly, I must disabuse you of that myth, since in reality we are usually quite exhausted at the end of the day. carnies at night mostly gather in small groups of four or five to smoke a joint, drink a few beers and go to sleep.

on a related note, one of the carnies came up with the brilliant idea of filling his trailer with fridges and stockpiling beers to sell to other carnies at night when we are stuck in dry counties. from what I understand he makes far more money selling beer to us at night than he does from his joint in the daytime. brilliant.

-Tony, father of my boss Jenny (our carnival met up with theirs so now I have four bosses, awesome), has caused me to have another etiquette question for ya. I saw a girl walk by in very short shorts and I looked for a moment. Then I looked up and I saw Tony looking the same direction. I looked where she was going to see if there was anything else he could be looking at, but I didn’t see anything. I looked back at him and he was still looking, even though she was getting quite far away. I checked one more time, still saw nothing else that way, and when I glanced back he was still watching. it had been like 90 seconds! who stares at an ass that long? who stares at an ass that is like a quarter of a mile away at this point?

so I kept watching him in disbelief, waiting for him to get bored of looking at an ass. then suddenly he looked away from her and saw me. at that moment I panicked, because I didn’t know: which of us is supposed to be embarrassed? is it weirder to be caught staring at an ass for two uninterrupted minutes, or to be caught staring at a guy staring at an ass for two uninterrupted minutes?

-there is nothing more pathetic than an Arkansas goth. that’s all I have to say on that.

-the worst part of my job is little kids spending their last five bucks at my game. often I get a group of two or three boys around seven or eight years old who come up and pool their last dollar bills so they can play. they aren’t old enough to be assholes yet, they aren’t old enough to win it yet, and in thirty seconds they are going to be out of money with nothing else to do. and on top of that when their parents find out they will probably get yelled at for being so dumb about their money. but nothing dissuades them!

when my boss isn’t around and this happens I tell the boys “don’t play my game, you can’t win it, buy a funnel cake. I promise, my game is completely rigged and it isn’t any fun.” but nothing works! so every time I have to take their crumpled up money and look at their sad little shoulders as they walk away with nothing.

-carnies get laid a lot, I think. amongst they young carnies, everyone seems to sleep with everyone else, and the townies who play the games flirt with you constantly. I think carnies get hit on more than strippers, and only slightly less than flight attendants (the most laid job on earth).

because carnies gossip so much, and more importantly because of our very cramped living conditions, Nessa and I decided to be temporarily monogamous while we were traveling with the carnival. so, it hasn’t been much of a factor for me, but to any of my single friends who want to spend a summer doing nothing but screw constantly, I’m pretty sure carnie is the job to get.

-there are various ways I can make the game harder or easier. I can bend rules, like you are supposed to break two bottles in a row, if you break two at one time it technically doesn’t count as two but I might count it. I can distract you, like loudly barking other customers right when you’re trying to throw. We have some baseballs that we just bought and others that are old and getting soft, and I pick which ones you get. and so forth. I can also vary how persuasive I am and how hard I try to sell you on playing more games.

all of this means that when I get a nice family I try to make sure that they win something fast and don’t spend too much money. more importantly, the point of my story: if you are wearing a “these colors don’t run” t-shirt then I am going to take a shitload of your money and you aren’t going to leave with a goddamn thing. I love the vengeance part of this job.

-a disgusting thing to make you ever eat fair food again: crickets. at several of our fairgrounds, especially in the south, we found that all the lights and smells attracted thousands of crickets and grasshoppers to the fair. sometimes they would be on every surface, it was fucking disgusting.

so one night I went to one of the food trailers, which was covered in crickets, and as I waited for my burger I was chatting with the food lady about how gross it was to have them everywhere. she pointed out to me that all the ones on her trailer were actually inside the glass, not outside like I’d thought, and they were a giant inconvenience when she was grilling. I made some joke about how she should start grabbing them and throwing them in the fryer since they are a delicacy some places, and she made a face.

that’s when she told me they are attracted to the fryer grease and constantly jump in. the reason my fries had taken so long was because she’d had to pull five fried crickets out of them. that whole week it became a running joke with her, with me betting on how many crickets she would fry that night. I think the record was three dozen in one night.

enjoy your corn dog.

-it turns out I’m really fucking good at being a carnie. I think I’ve been second highest earner (after Jenny) almost every night for a month, and even beaten Jenny a couple of nights which she claims has never happened before. amongst the lower carnies, we don’t generally talk about what we made in a night, but from little bits of info that have come up I’m under the impression that I bring in two or three times as much as any of the other guys usually. So, I can add this to my list of useless bullshit in which I excel. now, if only I could be good at something useful . . .

-on one of our jumps the right front tire blew out. it made a sound like a cannon right underneath me and I nearly shit myself. from what I was told later, usually if that tire blows on a truck and trailer it typically send you rolling and kills everybody, so hooray for that not happening. I could tell the whole story, as it was quite a long night after that, but suffice it to say that changing those tires is a great deal more of an ordeal than changing a car tire is.

-I’m not giving carnying the gogo hobo seal of approval as a mode of travel. there aren’t really any cross-country carnivals since, for obvious reasons it makes more fiscal sense for each company to stay in a three or four state area. every fairgrounds looks the same, and you don’t have much free time or any of your own transportation to go explore anything. so, while its nice to get paid to travel for once, if you want to see the country I still would recommend any of the other plans I’ve tried (hitching, stripping, farming, etc) over being a carnie. its traveling, but it doesn’t really feel like traveling.

-one of my best friends working the carnival, jesse, used to be in prison, so he’s been showing me prison workouts. I almost wish we could stay with the carnival longer just so I could learn more of them because they are all so fucking good! He can do more reps on some, but I actually beat him on some others, so I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder than this: I’m as strong as a dude from prison!

I’ve done football workouts and martial arts workouts and military workouts, but anyone into fitness knows that prison is truly the holy grail of fitness. its all low equipment, no budget, bare bones stuff, and its designed for and by people who have to be jacked or get shanked, why wouldn’t it be the best workout program on earth?

jesse himself is awesome. if it weren’t for the tattoos you’d never know he was ever in jail because he is the nicest, funniest, most generous dude you’ll ever meet. I kind of have a super mancrush on him. when I finally got around to asking him why he went to prison it only made me like him more.

he was walking one night in the wrong place and cops stopped him, thinking he was someone else. they told him to lie on the ground, so he lay down. but they sent the dogs on him anyway and beat him with night sticks. when they booked him they didn’t even take a mugshot because they didn’t want evidence of how badly they’d fucked him up. he then lost seven months of his life before the governor finally responded to his letters about his alibi, the description that didn’t match him, etc and the state basically said “whoops, we made a terrible mistake” and let him go since he hadn’t done anything.

when he got out, he did what any sensible person would do. he tracked down the cop who had arrested him and sent the dogs on him, went to his house pretending to be a salesman, and when he answered the door he dragged him out into the yard and beat him with a tire iron until he was almost dead (but not all the way dead since the cop had kids). so, after that Jesse went away for a much longer time. Jesse is so my fucking hero.

I trust every part of his story, and I’m good at spotting liars at this point, but I thought about it and even if he is fudging some details, I can’t think of any variation on that story where I wouldn’t still love him:

any set of details + beat a cop with an iron stick in his own front yard = hero

so, I asked Jesse some questions about prison and what its really like. he mentioned that the whole rape thing is just on tv. you get in a lot of fights with people trying to take your shoes, candy bar, whatever, but there are enough voluntarily gay men in prison that it isn’t really worth the risk of injury or death to try and rape someone.

most importantly, he gave me the best compliment I’ve ever received. I asked him if he had any pointers for me, if and when I go to prison (when people ask that question “where do you see yourself in five years?” I always find myself answering “prison”) and he told me I’d be fine. he said that being just how I am now I would do very well in prison. I’ve seriously never enjoyed a compliment that much in my life.

-several of our carnie friends are very southern. we like them a lot, but vanessa and I carefully keep steering conversations away from things like religion or politics because no good could come of that.

sadly, the other day I accidently got a taste of it. our friend Mike is an incredibly nice, friendly guy, but I didn’t want to know this about him. we were talking about tattoos, I thought it would be a safe topic. then he said “I hope I have enough at the end of the season for my back piece. its gonna be jesus fighting the devil.” I kinda gagged a little, but I liked him so my mind started thinking that maybe it isn’t such a bad metaphor, maybe it could be sort of philosophical, how would it look if a renaissance painter had drawn jesus grappling and struggling physically with the devil, and so forth.

but, sadly, before my mind could finish making excuses for him, he kept talking: “yeah, it’ll be bad-ass! I drew it in high school. its got, like, the devil has his pitchfork shoved up his ass, and jesus has him by the neck and he’s like pulling back to punch him in the face, UFC style!”

-I think I’ve figured out why women don’t win my game. women are always the enemy to my sales. the guy wants to play more, but the wife or mom or whoever tells him to stop and sometimes he listens and I lose money. I don’t know whether women are cheaper, or more paranoid, or just plain no fun, or what, but they are always the killjoy.

now, most men who win, win on the second game. you need your first game to get your arm warmed up and figure out the aiming, unless you’re really good, and if you didn’t get it in two games you aren’t good enough and you generally don’t win at all, no matter how much you pay me, so the second game is the winning one. so, with men, sometimes they ignore their wife and play a second game so they win.

when a woman is playing, its amazing enough that she’s playing once, and there’s no way on earth of talking her into playing a second game. so, I think that’s a big part of why we have no female winners. I had hoped to come to a conclusion that would make my feminist side happy, instead I concluded that women are cheap, fun-killing harpies.

shit. this didn’t work how I planned.

-I’ve found out something disturbing to me. when I bark about breaking stuff, like “hey, who want to break something? come smash some glass!” I don’t get nearly as many positive responses as when I bark about sports, like “hey, who wants to throw some baseballs, we got any good pitchers here?” This is bullshit. any man, anywhere, should be drawn to the siren song of breaking stuff. all real men like breaking things. frankly, if someone asks if you want to break something and you pass on it, I’m pretty sure a government agency should come take your dick.

on the other hand, baseball is stupid. sports are not as cool as breaking things, and baseball is not as cool as real sports. so, since I have a game where you throw baseballs to break bottles, and the ball throwing is a big draw while the bottle breaking isn’t, then I can only make one conclusion about most of the men of the world: they are fucking gay.

if you would rather throw a baseball than break something then you also like anal sex with dudes. and contrary to popular belief, whether you are a pitcher or a catcher on the field does not determine whether you are a pitcher or a catcher in bed. actually, all men who play baseball are bottoms, since they are incapable of getting erections. the gay men who are tops like breaking things, and they have baddass manly jobs like lumberjack, professional assassin, and being David Bowie.

-one of the carnival booths sells airbrushed license plates with various sayings on them. Vanessa saw one that said “you can’t love jesus and defend the koran”. fuck I fucking hate the south.

-much of my embarrassing myself comes from the fact that I work with baseballs and I never think about what I’m saying before I say it. this has led to me saying things like “pardon me, ladies, I’ll be with you in a moment. first I have to grab this man’s balls.” I also, on a particularly muddy day at the fairground, shouted all the way across the midway to a friend “are your balls dirty? my balls are so dirty I don’t even want to touch them!”

but there was one time that definitely beat the rest. to explain it, I have to first explain a sales technique. if you offer someone something and they say “no thanks, because blank” then you have to immediately say “I like blank!” if you don’t talk fast they will get away, so just say you like it and you hope that as you’re talking that gives you time to think of a reason why. for example:

“no, I don’t wanna throw balls, I have a weak arm.”

“I like people with weak arms . . . um . . . they aim more carefully!”

so if you think fast you can usually think of a plus side to whatever reason they give for saying no. which is why I’m in the habit of immediately parroting back whatever blank is without even thinking about it.

so, a fairly attractive girl walks by my game and I ask if she wants to throw some baseballs. she says “no thanks, I just got off the hurricane and I’m dizzy.” and, gesturing to the bucket of baseballs right in front of her “if I tried to throw I’d probably puke all over your balls.”

to which I immediately and automatically reply “no problem darlin! I love it when girls puke on my balls!

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there’s no farting in baseball!

A couple more weeks of carnying under my belt, time for another quick update.

-More carnie slang, your first customer of the day is “breaking the ice”. That one is worth mentioning mainly because it turns out carnies are really superstitious and there are certain things you have to do or can’t do before you break the ice for the day, and people around you will freak the fuck out if you violate one of those rules.

-I got to drive metal spikes through solid concrete with a sledge hammer the other day. I have never felt more manly.

-As with stripping, cashiering, really any job where you have a lot of repetition interspersed with periods of boredom to think about things, I spend my slow time working the bottle joint thinking about fun ways to mess with my routine. One of my latest was playing the accent game. I would switch accents every hour and see how people responded.

I thought it would just be a fun way to fuck around, but it turns out people really do have strong preferences about where their carnie is from. No one likes a british carnie, it turns out. Everyone argues with him and nobody trusts him or wants to play with him. On the other hand, people want their carnie to be a southern hick. It started off as a game but I got such a better reaction with a redneck southern accent that I’ve just kept it and now I never work the joint without it.

As an update, I originally figured all this out while still working up in Illinois. Down in Arkansas where we traveled next, I found that I still had to use my southern accent because if I talked like a yankee people got mean, but that using it was now just a basic requirement that didn’t confer any special advantage since everyone had one. I figured that maybe if I could sound even more southern than they did then I would get my advantage back, but it turned out sounding more southern than the people of Arkansas was outright impossible.

-Parents are stupid. If a little boy, even like a two year old, tries to pick a prize like a pink bear or something, the parents freak out. I’ve seen parents spend fifteen minutes trying to talk a kid out of getting a girly prize, and I’ve seen other, worse parents actually get mad enough at the kid that the kid started crying. These parents are so silly! Don’t they realize, if your infant boy wants one pink thing, there’s no reason to talk him out of it! He’s already gay! Wait, that’s how it works, right?

-In one town, our fair was right next to a gun show. People kept coming up to my joint and asking which way to the gun show. Naturally, I couldn’t help but flex my arm, point at it, and shout “right there, baby!” This would be a story about me being an idiot, if it weren’t for the fact that not one of the people from this small Midwestern town got the joke, and each time it happened they would politely thank me and wander off in whatever direction my finger had been pointing. So instead it’s a story about how those people are idiots.

-Carnie slang seems to match up with trucker slang I picked up from hitch hiking, and with biker slang. For instance, carnies never specify wife or girlfriend but always just say “my old lady”. I thought about this crossover, and realized the one place all three groups get together is at truck stops. Maybe this is only interesting to me because I have a thing for linguistics, but I find it fascinating. People don’t spend that much of their lives in truck stops, yet interactions in that one place have synchronized the language use of three disparate groups. I wonder what gives a truck stop such an important role in the formation of speech patterns.

-I can’t tell if carnies are racist, generally. There’s only one black guy working in our carnival and all the white guys treat him like he is a fat lazy retard. However, by coincidence rather than racial inclination, our one black guy just happens to actually be a fat lazy retard. So its hard to say if that actually means anything . . .

-Still no female winners on my game. A nine year old boy can win my game but a twenty year old softball pitcher can’t. I have no idea why, but my inner Alice Paul is getting pissed off.

-Ever wonder what carnies do in the off season? From what I hear, prior to the recession if you were thrifty you could just not work the rest of the year. Not generally the case now that income has gone down. A lot of them do things you might expect, like construction, factory work, etc. But the reason I’m mentioning any of this is that the other most common job came as a surprise to me. Since the seasons match up well, a lot of them work at tax offices when they aren’t carnies. So, next time you’re at H and R Block remember, you might have a ferris wheel jockey doing your taxes.


Once we finished working a couple of small towns in Illinois, we headed down to work in Arkansas and Alabama. Vanessa and I have technically been to the deep south before on our journeys, but when we were traveling from New Orleans to Georgia the first time we just sped through everything between them as fast as we possibly could. Since I’m now in the deep south for real, living and interacting with people, here are some of my observations on that.

-Basically, I never liked the south. Its full of rednecks and bible thumpers, everyone knows that. But I assumed the worst things people said about it were just mean stereotypes. I thought some people just took hating on the south too far and made shit up. It turns out that, no, this shit is real.

One thing that I had assumed was made up was the whole “they fuck their relatives and then get deformed and retarded” thing. That just sounds made up. Well, it isn’t. I’ve had several people talk to me openly about fucking their mom, sister, etc. Two or three isn’t many, but compared to zero in the prior twenty-seven years of my life its quite a high figure.

The number of visibly retarded people I see walking around is insane, and at one site we worked at I estimated that every fourth or fifth person to walk by had some kind of notable deformity. You know how people talk about a New York ten and a Midwest ten, because of the different standards there? A girl could be a Midwest nine, because when she is surrounded by the rest of those horrible corn-eating beasts she looks great, but she’s only a New York six because she is competing with real people. Well, Vanessa and I have come up with a new term: an Arkansas ten. Look in a mirror right now, if all of the parts of your face are in the proper size and location, you are officially an Arkansas ten.

-In the deep south guys replace words like “dude” or “man” with “bubba”, as in “hey, bubba, hand me that tire iron.” Now, I know, mentally, that there is nothing wrong with that. They mean it in a perfectly nice way and its just a different word for the same thing. But, something about the word bubba really pisses me off, especially when it is applied to me. Every time a guy down here calls me bubba I almost rear back and punch him in the jaw and I have to talk myself down a little bit. Why does this word bring out such a visceral, hateful reaction from me? Fucked if I know. I can’t figure it out, I just know I can’t stand being called bubba.

-One good thing in the south, the country girls who aren’t mangled and deformed all wear cowboy boots with super short jean shorts. I think its my new favorite eye candy. I guess in theory I knew they did this, since hot girls in country music videos always dress that way, but I just figured that was music video bullshit. Ever since I found out that rap videos lied to me and that black women aren’t perpetually wearing thongs and pouring jugs of water on themselves I haven’t trusted music videos to tell me anything!

-Random thing about being a carnie in the south: I now know how to shout “big prizes!” in spanish. I plan on this being a skill that I continue to use throughout my life, though I’m not sure to what purpose . . .

-Seriously every second or third person who walks by my joint in Arkansas has some sort of jesus-related t-shirt on. I attempted to make this work in my favor a few times by calling out to people, “Drinking is a sin! Lo, come and smash these beer bottles for the lord!” So far that has gotten less than positive reactions for some reason.

-Vanessa has had customers that couldn’t figure out what three times five was. I have to re-explain the rules of my game to customers an average of two or three times each down here. These people are dumb. But here is another area where I thought something was a stereotype but it turned out to be true. You see, I’ve had intelligent southern friends tell me that they hate how everyone hears them talk slow and assumes that they are dumb. So all this time I assumed that northerners talk fast, southerners talk slow, its just a speech pattern thing and it doesn’t reflect on intelligence.

It turns out, with the exception of those smart southern friends I mentioned, it is an intelligence thing. Because people actually ask me to slow down! They can’t understand me and they have me repeat myself slower! If two people talk at different speeds that doesn’t mean anything, but if everyone in the north understands me when I talk this way but you can’t follow the English language at that speed . . . then you’re stupid!

-One weird thing about the south is that you can’t spot hipsters. I saw a guy about my age with a bushy moustache and an REO Speedwagon shirt on and I immediately thought hipster. Then, I remembered where I was and realized that it was entirely possible that he wasn’t going for irony. I spent like the next twenty minutes watching this dude walk around the fair and trying to figure it out but I never did.


Ok, I know what you’re saying: “but mylz, what the fuck?! Two whole blogs about a new job that you have and you haven’t had any embarrassing stories! Have you finally found a job where you are so adept that you don’t humiliate yourself regularly? Or, more likely, have you found a job where everyone is so uncouth that you are unable to stand out as the most socially awkward one?” The answer to your questions is fuck no! so here’s what you’ve been waiting for: times I embarrassed myself working at the carnival.

-Now, I could tell you about all the little things I’ve done. How, the first time I went to bark a customer I suddenly realized I had forgotten what to say, and got so distracted trying to remember what I was saying that I forgot to stop walking? Vanessa tells me I just sort of awkwardly followed some guy down the midway, opening and closing my mouth like a fish, for a solid thirty seconds before I snapped out of it. Or, I could talk about the time some big guy smashed the only Heineken bottle I had on the wall and I blurted out “ouch, dude, you just popped my heiny!”

But no, these meager, pedestrian embarrassments are not what you want. You want serious awkward moments, the kind that only someone with absolutely no common sense or understanding of human interaction can deliver. So here’s a couple of my latest ones.

-While we were in Colchester Illinois we set up a new joint that hadn’t been taken out of the truck for a while. This meant we had to stock it with all new toys, which is when I found out that all of our stuffed animals actually have names so that you know which ones you’re ordering. Some are generic, like a cardboard box labeled “ten large monkeys”, some are understated, like a box of tie-died bears that are apparently named “color bears”, some are inexplicable, like dogs wearing sunglasses that are for some reason “French dogs”, and some are just awesome, like the box that is the subject of our story.

This box contained stuffed kittens. They were normal in every way except that these particular kittens were, for some strange reason, designed to look like they were wearing whore makeup. They had blush. They had purple eye shadow. They had tons of red lipstick and mascara, despite the fact that cats possess neither eye lashes nor real lips. All in all, they were already an incredibly tacky and bizarre toy, so you can imagine my excitement when I checked the box that we were pulling them out of and saw that it “contains fifteen sassy cats”.

Sassy cats! Does anyone else find that phrase as amusing as I do? Or am I just weird? And on a side note, I shall from now on refer to all whores as “sassy women.” So, Vanessa and I spent a couple of days making jokes about sassy cats.

Then one afternoon I’m working in my joint and I see a couple walk by, a real big shaved head dude and a hot chick carrying one of these cat toys. So, I completely forget that it only says sassy cat on the cardboard box they come in. None of the toys are actually labeled or anything. Which is why I look at this couple, I say “hey there, I see you got yourself a sassy cat,” and I give them a really big wink. I’ll leave the events that ensued up to the imagination.

-One of my biggest problems in my joint is that it is for dudes. I am a guy, but I am not a dude. I mostly hang out with women, I don’t know sports, I can’t do handshakes with multiple parts, I don’t call anyone bro, etc. So, I know, in theory, how to call people to my joint but in practice it often goes wrong.

Brandon can easily, as a frat douche, talk like a dude. So sometimes he uses the tactic of pointing out how manly a large customer is and how easily he could win a game of breaking bottles. When he says it, it comes out something like “Hey you with the muscles, you oughta be able to break a couple little bottles! Come on over here!” However, when I try this tactic . . . well, as Nessa put it, “It comes out way more gay than its supposed to.”

The worst incident was one of my first attempts at this type of call. I went to shout to a big dude in a muscle shirt and I meant to pose in a manly fashion and say something that meant “you, large fellow, you should do quite well at this game”. Instead I sort of watched with horror from outside my own body as I cocked my hip to the side in a jaunty fashion and called out “hey there big boy! Wanna come play with me?”

So, there you have it. You can take the hobo out of the gay bar but you can’t take the gay bar out of the hobo.

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hornier than a unicorn in a gay bar

First, a quick recap:

after the car broke down we got stuck in Pittsburgh for a very long time, over two months. Since our last car had broken down so quickly, we decided this time we would do our research. We spent hours online looking up what you should check out on a used car, what fluids should be what color, what noises should come from where, and so forth. We went out, got a new super cheap car that was totally perfect. Then since Vanessa’s mother works at a car place, we had her mother’s friend check it out just in case. It turns out that everything that could possibly go wrong with a car that doesn’t show an outward sign had gone wrong with it and all of our research had still landed us a car that was worse than the last one. Like, if we had just taken it out on the road it would have killed us inside a month.

The people who sold it to us promptly disappeared, so we had no choice but to fix it. We had saved up a bunch of money in New Orleans and planned to do a lot of traveling without having to stop and work, and when we bought the car it only cost half our money so we still had hope, but then the repairs took the rest of it, even though Nessa’s mom’s friend gave us a really good deal. We spent a couple months helping him fix up his house in exchange for free labor on the car.

One problem with getting the repairs done using Nessa’s mom as a middle man was that we couldn’t get her to understand the whole hobo thing. I think we partly got stuck in Pittsburgh waiting for things we didn’t even need. We tried to explain to her mom: “we are hobos, we are going to drive this car until it dies on us and then dump it in a ditch or something. Just fix what we need to get it running, nothing more.” But I think she still had him fix the kind of shit that a mom would worry about but that doesn’t really matter.

So, broke, and with most of the summer gone, we had to drastically change our travel plans. We will have to hit burning man next year, and also put off going up to Alaska. Instead, our new plan was to work a bit in the Midwest, like Chicago or Minneapolis, then head down to New Orleans in time for Halloween and spend the winter there saving up money again.

On our way out to Chicago we stopped in to visit my mom in Eureka Illinois, and we ended up arriving just in time for Reagan fest. My mother now lives in the town where Reagan, history’s greatest monster, went to college, and they have a yearly celebration honoring him. Out of morbid curiosity we went to this thing, and it turned out really useful that we did. Part of the celebration was a traveling carnival, and we saw a help wanted sign. Neither Nessa nor myself had been too excited about killing a couple of months making money in the Midwest instead of doing more exciting traveling, and it seemed like we had gotten into a bit of a rut. When you are a possessionless traveler wandering around the country and you still feel trapped in a rut, that’s bad, so we decided it was time to do something spontaneous and we signed on to work with the carnival until its time to go to NOLA again.

So, sorry for the really long expositional intro, but I had to explain why, temporarily, the gogo hobo is now the carnie hobo.

-So far we like it, mostly. The work setting up and taking down carnivals is hard, and I’ve never had so many cuts, scrapes, and bruises, but its satisfying. I have a permanent sunburn, and I’m probably significantly dirtier than when we were homeless hitchhikers sleeping in alleyways. I live in half of a trailer, the other half folds out into a carnival game. Its very cramped, and there is a lot of vermin, but I’ll get to them later. Yet still it is one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.

The only downside that bothers me is that we are less free than we have been. When we were hitching we could walk anywhere, when I was stripping we could drive anywhere, but at the moment we are generally stuck on a fairgrounds with nothing nearby and no place to go except for riding with the boss when he drives to wal-mart.

-We have been proud, so far, that our homeless experience prepared us so well for this. One of our bosses (Brandon, the other one is his wife Jennifer) commented that most people who sign on start complaining about air conditioning, or whining that they can’t get tv, but every time he came to get us we were just playing cards under a shady tree or something.

-It should be relaxing, after a couple years of using my body as a commodity, to not have to worry about my appearance for a couple of months. It is nice in a way, knowing that if I don’t work out or shave or shower, there is definitely a way dirtier, more slovenly carnie than myself somewhere nearby. Mostly, however, that’s a bit stressful, since I need to be ready to get back to work in New Orleans by Halloween so I can’t get too out of shape. Trying to stay healthy on a diet of corn dogs and funnel cakes is hard enough, without adding the fact that our trailer literally doesn’t have enough space to do pushups, and the only other option is usually doing them in a muddy cowfield. So, my body is a bit of a stresser in this job, but one that I can live with.

-I’m really starting to hate portable toilets. That’s another downside. Ugh.

-Some carnie slang: a booth is a joint. A rigged booth that you can’t win is a hard joint. A booth that is in a tent instead of the side of a trailer is a stick joint. Someone who doesn’t cheat and gives out plenty of prizes is running things hanky pank. A carnival is a show. Switching towns is a jump. That’s all I can think of for now, more later probably.

-We sometimes switch around, but for the moment Vanessa is running one of those kiddy joints where there are little rubber fish floating around and little three year olds try to grab them, then when they do she gives the kid an inflatable hammer to hit their parents with. Nothing to it, and it gives her an excuse to paint bubbles and fishies on her face.

I mostly work the bottle break, where you throw baseballs at beer bottles to try to break them for big-ass stuffed animals. It’s a girlfriend joint. Not an official carnie term, just my term for booths where you only have prizes that women or kids would want, but you have a game that mostly only attracts men. It means I have to split my attention between getting a three year old excited to get a toy while also getting a forty year old excited about breaking a bottle. But I like it because I have a fair number of winners and it’s a skill game so if you win a prize then you earned it. So far I haven’t had any women win, and the feminist in me hopes that changes, but I have had little leaguers as young as nine win so I don’t have to feel too guilty when kids play.

-One downside of me being a carnie is that I already look really sketchy. I have evil pointy eyebrows, tattoos, and my five o’clock shadow arrives by ten am. So, I have that working against me. But, I’m actually still doing really well so far at my job, mostly because I’m managing to find parallels between being a carnie and stripping. They are both jobs where people give you money for no real benefit other than ephemeral enjoyment, so they are both jobs where you are really just selling your own personality.

Like, when I’m stripping I know that a lot of people might be embarrassed to tip me, or having second thoughts about spending their money, so instead of just focusing on the people around me I learned to be very good at scanning a crowd to find those people. Spotting things like the person across the room who is sheepishly trying to look at you without looking at you. And it’s the same at the carnival. People feel silly playing, or are worried your game is rigged, or whatever, and you can spot that same look from far away! At first my boss Brandon got annoyed that I wasn’t barking at everyone who walked by, until he stood there a while and noticed that I had a near 100% rate where everyone I chose to bark came over and played my game because I knew how to spot them (oh yeah, bark, more carnie slang for ya).

-Nessa and I also made a point of getting sexied up so we can sell better. Our first carnival they made us wear these stupid big purple shirts. I haven’t had a dress code in almost two years and I didn’t join a carnival to dress like an ass and feel like I work at target. Plus, if you don’t look good then people don’t want to talk to you as easily, and even more importantly if you don’t feel like you look good then you aren’t confident. So, before our second carnival we hit the walmart and bought tight sexy purple shirts (well, as sexy as purple can be, fucking carnival colors!) and so far it seems to be working.

-Another of the downsides to carnying: with stripping the people who hit on me were sometimes attractive and were always at least of age; as a carnie, I keep having to come up with ways to ward off the advances of thirteen year old girls. On the opposite side of the coin, I now love thirteen year old boys (no, not that way!) because those little cocky aggressive douchebags are the one group I don’t feel the least bit bad about taking for every dime they have. Some of them will grow up nice, some will stay douchebags, but at that age every last one of them deserves to learn a hard lesson about giving all your money to skeevy man in a purple shirt.

-I try any number of things to get customers, but my boss is really hung up on the idea of the girlfriend joint, so whenever he comes over he always just tries to shout at guys that they should be manly and win something for their lady. If they aren’t biting he gently insinuates they might be gay, throw like a girl, or be otherwise unable to satisfy their woman. While Jennifer is very nice and a fourth generation carnie, Brandon is kind of a frat-style douche and thinks that this kind of shit should really work fantastically on every man. I can’t seem to explain to him that those fifties gender roles don’t really apply to a lot of people and you can’t shame or gay-bash a lot of men into playing anymore (for the record, he isn’t old or anything, in fact he’s a year younger than me. I blame it on him being from Arkansas.)

But, my favorite story related to that is the time I had to explain emo kids and hipsters to him. A teen boy and his girlfriend walk by and Brandon tries his usual bark, and after they leave without playing I’m talking to him and I’m like “that guy has the same haircut as his girlfriend, he’s wearing eyeliner while she isn’t, and her arms are bigger around than his. And he is ok with that, nay proud of that. Hell, those kids are at this carnival because they mistakenly think that going to the carnival is somehow ironic, no other reason.” So I’m trying to gradually teach him to spot hipsters and help him out, but they don’t allow hipsters in Arkansas so it may take a while . . .

-Neat facts on the side, at olden days carnivals they had liquor joints and porn joints where you won shots of booze and nudie cards. Man the olden days were awesome. On a related note, nessa found some prizes in the back of her game that were sort of like a string of colorful feathers on a clip. We spent ages trying to figure out if it was supposed to go in a girl’s hair or what. Then Brandon walked up and said “hey, you found our old roach clips from the 70’s, cool! We can’t give those out as prizes anymore.”

-Another random side story, we were driving out to wal-mart for some kind of supplies and Brandon was telling us about all the things we do in carnival games to try and get people to play and keep playing. Going on and on about how silly some people are. Then, as nessa and I walk out of wal-mart ten minutes later we realize we lost him somewhere. I go back in to find him and he’s at the little arcade playing the game with a hook and crane where you try to grab some chintzy stuffed animal. He’s playing it! I ask him what’s up and he’s like “I almost got the bunny last time, hold on”. And I proceeded to watch a carnie spend ten dollars in quarters trying to win a cheap toy from an excessively hard game. Karma, irony, what do we wanna label that one?

-One of my new pet peeves is people asking me what the trick is, or asking me if its rigged. If your four year old throws a ball and it barely reaches the bottles, don’t try to say its fake glass. If you barely ding a bottle and amazingly it doesn’t shatter just because you want it to, why try to say the baseballs are fake? You were just holding it, you felt it!

Even when we have been out at bars talking with people, once they find out we are carnies their first question is what scam do we use. From what I have seen directly, there are no scam games around anymore. From what I hear from our bosses, those haven’t been common for at least a few decades. I’m not saying it never happens, but for the most part the idea of a rigged carnival game is an anachronistic old wives tale.

What’s really fun, though, is the total irrationality of people’s accusations. Remember Nessa’s game, what we call a gimme? Your kid grabs a floating fish toy, yay he grabbed it, take any inflatable toy you want, we make a small profit on the toys. The end. People actually ask her if its rigged! How would you rig that? Why would you rig that? What possible scam could be involved in that?! People are weird.

So, etiquette tip for you guys, asking a carnie what the scam is is right up there with asking a stripper to tell you their real name on the I-have-no-fucking-classometer.

-Speaking of etiquette, I have a question for you all, well, mostly for dudes. A lot of the guy carnies play poker at night. I’ve only been once so far, partly because I’ve never done the whole macho playing poker with the boys thing. Are there weird social rules I need to know?

As for my particular question: on the night in question, I was kicking ass. I’ve almost never played poker but I am really good at math and really good at lying so it appears that means I’m also good at poker. At the point where it was late enough that I wanted to leave, I had just won a hand. So, I made an etiquette guess that it would be rude for me to leave right then? Just in case that was rude, I stayed three more hands to bet heavily and then lose on purpose so that I could give back some of the money I’d been winning. So, am I correct, is that sort of thing in the guy code? Or did I just waste some money?

-Oh, I almost forgot the mice! We have tons of them in our trailer and they keep eating all our food.
Now I’m against killing things needlessly. I eat meat and such, but killing vermin like spiders and rats bothers me because we don’t eat them and they generally don’t hurt us. It is basically saying that I’m willing to end a life because that life is gross, which is a very valley-girl philosophy I can’t get behind. I grew up with rodents as a kid on the farm, and I always got very angry at my parents for killing them because having rodents on the farm just meant occasionally washing poop off silverware or losing a bag of cereal here and there if you weren’t careful.

So, I was trying to calm nessa down about it and get her to coexist with them peacefully. Then I discovered: living with a few mice in a farm house and living with dozens of mice in a tiny trailer are very different things! These fuckers don’t just steal food you leave out, with that many of them they were sliding around on ziplines and using walky talkies and executing mission: impossible-style spy shit!

And they don’t try to get your food at night when you aren’t looking; the second you come home with new food to replace the food they ruined, they strut right out in the light, flip you the bird with their tiny paw finger, and start going for it!

And they aren’t scared of you. Shouting, banging things, running at them, Vanessa even got down on hands and knees and meowed at one of them and it didn’t work!

So I went Rambo. I said “fuck this shit Vanessa, these mice have crossed the line.” And bought poison, death traps, everything! And that resolve lasted exactly one night. We caught one, and he didn’t die right away, and he cried for hours, and in the morning when I went to throw him away I was looking at his little eyes that no longer said “fuck you mylz, I’m getting inside your food boxes and pooping on what I don’t steal” and I realized that I had, in fact, not had a change of heart about things.

And I may have teared up a little.

So I got rid of the poison and the death traps and finally found a place with mouse-sized live traps and I set out to safely, humanely catch them and leave them outside some place safe. This then began an ongoing black comedy wherein every attempt I make to keep these mice alive results in them dying. Whether it is my boss finding the kill trap I got rid of and thinking I just lost it and putting it back in, or its my attempt to get to the live trap and free a mouse but accidentally tripping and knocking something heavy directly onto the trap, or forgetting where one of the live traps was and thus letting a mouse slowly die of thirst in some forgotten corner of the trailer . . . it has been, I imagine, quite hilarious to anyone who was watching me in a movie instead of living it. The more I try to save them, the more of them I kill, each time going out into the field to dump the body and sob a little and say a little prayer to mouse Buddha or whoever.

The worst was the time I found two babies in the live trap that didn’t even have all their fur in yet. I thought about letting them go again, but I realized that if they were out foraging that probably meant I had already killed their mother. I debated taking them out to stomp on them so they’d go quickly, but I didn’t have it in me. So I took them outside and abandoned their little hairless bodies in the hot sun, hoping, as they scurried for the shade of taller grass, that they didn’t burn and maybe got eaten by an owl really soon after sundown so they wouldn’t spend too long being cold.

Well, I’m sorry that’s kind of a downer ending, but its Friday and as I’m writing this people are starting to filter into the carnival. Time for me to go bark at some flats.

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the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep demands oreos. all the oreos.

ok, a couple days ago I posted the good blog, the one y’all want with the embarrassing stories. but, I did have like a billion other things too, so I may as well post those. I never meant it to be one blog of the best stories and one of the second-string stories, but it looks like I’m not joking when I say that all my good stories are the ones about my own humiliation. so, now that I’ve admitted this one is the shit blog . . . have fun reading it!

-apparently in Montreal there is some trend of opening topless breakfast places. they serve breakfast all day and all the waitresses are topless, other than that it is just a regular restaurant. god Canada is awesome! sadly we didn’t have time to check one out, but this is definitely an idea that needs to be exported!

-I’m not the only one with no social skills. we were couchsurfing with this really nice punk couple in Asheville, NC and they ended up taking us to this hipster party one night. neither Nessa nor myself are very good at parties, and hipsters hate talking to people they don’t know anyway, so Nessa and I found ourselves sitting on a couch in one of the less populated rooms staring at the bowl of dip while we waited for our hosts to be ready to leave.

this one girl comes up and starts trying to talk to us, but neither of us is feeling very chatty so the conversation is just kind of halting and awkward. but then, the girl stands up and quietly says “so, do you guys, like, wanna do a pound or something?” Nessa and I are still silently trying to figure out if this is some kind of drug reference when the girl gingerly puts out her fist. we both, confused, give her a fist bump, at which point she whispers “awesome . . . “ and then turns and walks away. we didn’t see her again the rest of the night. I don’t know much about social skills but I feel like maybe I’m less awkward than her . . .

-the music festival we went to in Montreal was five days of industrial. now, I love industrial but I have to admit industrial fans are largely goth douchebags. moreover, some of the bands are brilliant, but some are pretty gay in their attempts to sound badass or scary or something. one thing I absolutely can’t stand is that so many of the bands start off sounding cool until the singer starts singing and you find out they do all their songs with some kind of stupid vocal processor. mostly they go for sounding like some kind of cross between a robot, a demon, and cookie monster.

so we are watching this band on the first day called Detroit Diesel and they are fucking awesome, then the singer comes on and he is using seriously the lamest vocal distortion I’ve ever heard and it sort of ruined the band for me. so, since I’m no longer interested in the music I get bored and I turn to Nessa and joke about “how on earth is he gonna do his between song banter?” and she’s like “I was just thinking that!” so the song ends and sure enough he forgets to turn off his vocal thing and shouts “how you feelin’ montreal?!” into the mic with his gay robot voice still on. it was priceless watching the look on his face as he realized he had forgot to hit the off button. poor bastard didn’t say another thing between songs for the rest of the show.

-we have only had two more hitchers in the last four months. once we go out west they should be more common but for now we haven’t had much chance to pay back karma. one of them, up in vermont, was pretty easy. we were worried he would be bad because his hitching sign mentioned jesus but he ended up being perfectly normal. the other one in texas, on the other hand, got in and five minutes into the trip started badmouthing Obama and talking about how the south was no good now that they let blacks get all uppity. still, I have to assume that almost none of the people who gave us rides would have agreed with our world views if we had talked about them, so we have to give rides to bigots too. all the same, I pretty quickly turned up the stereo real loud so we didn’t have to talk to that one anymore.

-a couple of rules for strip clubs:

first, I can see you taking pictures with your camera phone, you aren’t sly. now at least give me a dollar or I’m gonna tell the manager you tried to sell me cocaine.

second, I know you’re trying to help when you say “smile! you’ll make better tips!” but trust me, it isn’t my first day on the job, I know that already. quit being condescending and accept that on some bad days I’m not that excited to be at work any more than you are.

third, I had a number of customers confide in me that they don’t tip the straight guy dancers. these guys are idiots, partly for not having good enough gaydar to know who they’re talking to, but more for caring in the first place. yes, the straight dancer isn’t going to fuck you and secretly thinks touching you is gross. but, you know that twinky gay dancer over there? he isn’t going to fuck you either, and he also thinks you’re gross.

-we kept paying for things like takeout and gas and such in all one dollar bills in texas. well, we kinda do that everywhere, actually, but texas was the one place where almost every single time we paid a guy he would see all the ones and go “hell yeah! I’m gonna go to the titty bar with these!” man texans love strip clubs.

-the whole time we were in dallas we heard about this one gallery in fort worth that was supposed to be like the best art gallery in texas. so, our last day in town we headed over to check it out. we paid our money, walked in, and the guy at the door said, “you’re in for a treat! we took out all our normal stuff and put in a special exhibit of tons of andy warhol’s work on loan from the warhol museum in pittsburgh!” so, yeah, that was a waste.

-oh yeah, a couple blogs ago I mentioned there seemed to be no racism in dallas and it was strange (the racist hitcher was on our way out of texas was from mississippi, he doesn’t count). well, one of my last nights in town I was at a party with a black dancer from the Tin Room who I had become friends with. at one point I decided to ask him whether I was right or if I was just being a dumb white guy, and he actually confirmed it for me. so, if any of you were thinking I was just a dumb white guy, I now have confirmation from a black guy that he was shocked when he moved to dallas and found out it was some kind of haven of perfect racial harmony and everybody holding hands. so, I now know that it really is.

. . . though I still have no idea why. I mean, fuck, its dallas! it makes no sense!

-in Austin there were no places I could find regular stripping work but we needed money so I did two different amateur contests. if I can help it, I’m never doing one of those again.

in regular stripping when you have a bad night you can blame a lot of things, it isn’t like you’re being directly compared to anyone else. people just weren’t tipping that night, that other dancer had some friends in the crowd, etc. but in a contest it was kind of horrible and demeaning. there’s no psychological way out of a crowd directly comparing you with some other guys and then an MC says “yep, you’re third best. those two guys are better than you”. that shit will give you a complex!

by the way, for the record if anyone was curious, I won one of them by a landslide and the other one I came in dead last . . . not sure what that means, so I just try not to think about it, lol.

-we often find ourselves staying in seedy extended-stay roach motels, but the one we stayed at in austin was the only one where it was really bothersome.

they had some kind of extortion deal going with a local towing company, so our car got towed from right in front of our room because they said our parking pass wasn’t visible enough. even though we had every right to park there we had to waste $200 on getting our car out of the tow yard.

I couldn’t pop out the door of our room to have a cigarette without a dozen people asking to bum a smoke. I stopped lending them out on the first day because of that. at one point someone even called our room and when Nessa picked up the phone they didn’t say hello or anything, they just said “hey, can I get a cigarette?”. that kinda creeped us out.

but the creepiest thing was one night when Vanessa had gone out to do something so I was sitting in the room alone when the phone rang. I picked it up and got this:

“hey, is tony there?”
“um, no, there’s no tony here.”
“bullshit, you got any coke for me tony?”
“seriously, I’m not tony, he isn’t in this room anymore.”
“you’re not tony?”
“oh . . . you got any coke?”
“what? no, I’m not tony!”
“I know man, but I wanna buy some coke.”
“don’t have any coke, really.”
“shit man. well, ya got any girls up there?”
“um, no.”
“aw, come on man, I know you do, I’ll pay you two hundred if you got a girl for me”
“yeah, um, ok bye.”

so, yeah, after that I stuck a chair under the doorknob until it was time to go meet Nessa in the parking lot.

-you know how sometimes I mark down notes about stories for my blog and then by the time I get around to writing I no longer remember why I wrote it? got a couple of those. I wrote one note that just says “shit, I have a period now.” since I am not currently menstruating, nor did I menstruate at any point in the last four months, I’m not really sure what I was getting at with that one. another one says “vegan burger tease” . . . god I wish I remembered a story to go with that phrase . . .

-when we were in San Antonio we went to the Alamo because Nessa wanted to and I nearly got us tossed out since I cracked up so much. see, most museums down that far south have the captions under the exhibits in english and spanish, so when I realized that the alamo museum doesn’t contain a word of spanish I found it so off-putting that it was hilarious to me.

-speaking of odd things about various cities, like how dallas has no racism, I also discovered that New Orleans has no hipsters. my local friend Nate even took me to something that he warned me was a “hipster bar” and it was all just full of regular people, by the standards of anywhere else in the country. it was paradise! but even more confusing than Dallas . . . how can a whole city be devoid of hipsters?

-the alamo had this one exhibit on the bowie knife, with various old knives and articles about it and such, including one article which mentioned that a lot of people a couple hundred years ago wanted them banned because they were too dangerous and their only purpose was to kill people and they cause murders and all kinds of shit like that about how nobody killed anybody before the bowie knife came along. it was fucking hilarious to realize the bad arguments for gun control have been around for centuries.

(by the way for those of you who are wondering why a pacifist such as myself is against gun control, I’ll explain that I’m all in favor of a world without guns . . . so long as the government gets rid of theirs first.)

-on a random note, while in New Orleans I accidently drunkenly disproved copernicus. the earth does not revolve around the sun. I’d love to explain it here but I can’t really put it into words, it is better explained by scribbling on a cocktail napkin, so get a beer with me some time and I’ll explain it to ya.

-so, our lifestyle has changed pretty significantly over the past year. sometimes we are still mostly homeless and broke, except that we have a car to sleep in. but other times we get to a city where the money is really good and we stay a while and it is almost like regular life for a while. those are the times that feel weird.

we made really good money in New Orleans, and we went to the pool a lot for advertising, as I said, so we had a really hilarious moment there. we found ourselves sitting in a hot tub drinking margaritas and Vanessa turned to me and said “you know, we are the shittiest hobos ever right now.”

-I’ve found that if I was talking to a customer when I wasn’t dancing I could get them to tip me just by touching my money, for some reason. I’d talk to someone for like ten minutes and then I’d go to scratch my leg or something and my hand would brush against a dollar sticking out and I guess they picked up on this subliminally and would always tip me right then.

I need to find some way of transferring this subliminal “give me money” signal to other parts of life! I’m thinking I’ll start by walking into a wendys with a chicken sandwich sticking out of my pocket and just accidently brush it while I chat up the cashier and maybe they will feel compelled to give me sandwiches!

-while in Dallas Nessa made me go to yoga classes with her. on our first day our instructor kept remarking on how I was really stretchy for a guy my size. finally she asked me about it and I said “oh, well, I’m flexible because I’m a dancer.” and foolishly thought that would be that. but instead then she asked me what kind, so I replied “pole” and she went “pole, what kind is . . . oh . . . ” so, yeah, as if doing yoga for the first time isn’t awkward enough, then I had to do it with like twenty people giving me weird looks.

-one down side of my job is you get colds all the fucking time. for one thing, you’re always in a crowded place being exposed to germs, but for another thing your immune system is usually shot because you don’t get regular sleep and you drink so much. the unfortunate thing is, you really can’t cut down on the drinking. I never get drunk at work, with my job that would just be retarded, plus usually I have to be sober in time to drive home. but I do have at least a drink or two almost every shift because for some reason people tip you better when you’ve been drinking. which kind of creeps me out.

-one of the sunday regulars at Bourbon Pub always requested the DJ play “Sweet Transvestite” from Rocky Horror Picture Show, every damn week they played it. I hadn’t realized how much I missed doing RHPS until I found myself kinda singing along while I was up on the bar dancing. then I realized I’d done that show so many times that I still remembered every move Tim Curry makes in that scene, so every week when it came on I would do the whole Frankenfurter dance up and down the bar. fuck that was fun.

-there was a second time when some girl in the crowd was looking all sad because she was out of cash to tip me. however, unlike the girl whose eye I gouged out, this girl was really fucking hammered. so, it started off cute and quickly got annoying as she whipped out her wallet and tried to tip me with random things from it. I think first she tried to put her library card in my underwear, then she tried a couple other things and finally she started waving a Cracker Barrel gift card at me like “hey, its cracker barrel! its delicious! just take it!”

-so, the only really bad thing about New Orleans was the cops. they were the worst of any place I’ve ever been. it was so bad that by our last couple of weeks in the city if a cop pulled onto the same street as us, either in front or behind, we would immediately turn off the road and park until we were sure they were gone before continuing on our way. you never knew what they might stop you for or what they would do once they had.

my first run-in with the cops came on my first week in the city. I had just gotten off work and Vanessa and I stopped in a late-night diner to grab a bite. when we’re done we pull out of the parking lot, drive maybe fifty feet, and suddenly cop lights flash behind us. we only just got on the road so I assume we just got in their way and I start to pull off to let them pass, but a voice comes on the loudspeaker saying “keep moving!” so we keep going. we pull up to a red light and the voice says “run it!” so we do.

finally a half a mile away they have us pull over and I’m wondering what is up, what was such an emergency that they had me running lights. when the cop lady comes up and says to me “sir, have you been drinking tonight?” I thought to myself “you think I’m drunk but you had me run a red light? you’re retarded” but I don’t say it. I just say “yeah, I had two beers about four hours ago. now what made you think I was drunk because when you flashed the lights I hadn’t even driven far enough to swerve even if I were hammered?”

so she said I was slurring my words, I said that I wasn’t and Nessa chimed in with “he’s not drunk, really, that’s just how he talks!” at which point the cop tells her to shut up. then she says that she can smell it on my breath, and I have to hold my tongue to avoid saying “I just left a restaurant where I had a meatball sub doused in hot sauce, there’s no way I smell like anything else.” but I was trying to be polite and I knew I wasn’t impaired so I tried to get it over with quickly by asking if I could take a field sobriety test.

this is the point where she told me I was being belligerent and she yanked me out of the car and threw me up against it. she cuffed me and searched me (illegally, at that point all she could technically do was pat me down for a weapon) and of course since I just got off work I have my work manties balled up in my cargo pocket. so, she pulls a sweaty pair of underwear out of my pocket and at that point there’s no convincing her I’m not up to something. she takes the car keys and my phone and gives them to Nessa then tosses me in the car and we drive away.

she takes me to some weird little mobile home type thing in the middle of an abandoned parking lot like five miles away. we go in and there’s a cop there whose job, I guess, is to sit around all night waiting for them to bring him drunks. so he talks to me for a minute and as he’s talking to me I can tell he keeps glancing over at her like “why is this guy here, he doesn’t seem drunk” but he doesn’t say it because they’re on the same team. he has me do three or four different field sobriety tests and I do them all completely fine because I’m stone fucking sober, and I can see in his eyes that he knows.

so I ask if I passed, and the lady who arrested me says “it isn’t pass/fail, we’re looking for certain indicators” so I say “well, did I have any indicators?” and that’s when she told me to stop being belligerent or she’d have to taze me. so they finally give me a breathalyzer and I blow fucking nothing of course.

now, I knew better than to expect some kind of apology for roughing me up and wasting my time when I was so obviously sober, but I at least thought they would quit giving me shit. instead, the whole drive home she is berating me about how I still shouldn’t have been driving since I had a beer four hours beforehand and I’m stuck holding my tongue because I know she still wants to hit me.

we get there and I point out to her that its five in the morning and she took both my house key and the phone so i can’t tell anyone I’m home, and she just says “you’ll figure something out” and drives away.

now, our car wasn’t registered because we had to buy it in Texas. texas wouldn’t let us register it because we didn’t live there, and Pennsylvania wouldn’t let us register it without coming there in person, so there was literally no conceivable way we could have registered the car . . . which to me makes it not a crime, but they didn’t see it that way.

she gave us a ticket for that, and I wasn’t too worried because a registration ticket is like $150 or so and we could cover that. we found out later, when we went to pay it, that she had been so pissed that I turned out to be sober that she had actually written us a ticket for four crimes! failure to register, no registration, failure to present registration, and no registration sticker. and by charging us with four “different” things the ticket was over seven hundred dollars. fucking cunt.

so, for my second run-in with the cops I actually was drunk. Nessa and I had been out partying, I got too drunk, so I left her out with friends and went to walk home. I got most of the way home when suddenly cop lights flash and a voice tells me to put my hands up against the wall. when I’m allowed to turn I see not one but two cop cars has stopped because of my crime of walking while drunk. this time, since things went so badly the week before, I know there’s no point in being nice, plus didn’t I just say I was drunk? so I’m pretty much shouting the whole time.

“have you been drinking sir?”
“fuck yeah I’ve been drinking! that’s why I’m walking! I am TOO DRUNK to DRIVE! so I’m walking home!”

one of the cops kind of half-assedly points out that drunk in public is a crime and I reply with “you know damn well that’s just so you can arrest people who are peeing on buildings or walking down the middle of the street or something!”

so then for some reason one of them starts trying to give me a field sobriety test and I’m shouting “why do I have to walk a straight line?! I’m drunk! I said it! very drunk! oh look, I’m swerving all over, look how drunk I am!” and at this point I have no idea why, since I was doing absolutely nothing right for this kind of situation, but for some reason at this point the cops come back over and are like “well, we’re glad you’re not driving, you can be on your way.” I have no clue why they let me go, but it was just about the only nice break I got with NOLA cops so fucked if I care.

seriously, who gets arrested for Walking While Intoxicated?

-so, I had some questions for people about social skills. I don’t have any so sometimes I’m not sure what to do, I’d love to find out the etiquette.

first, what’s the deal with line friends? at the south by southwest fest in Austin we spent a lot of time waiting in lines outside of bars waiting to get in and see bands, and when you are stuck in line that long you invariably start chatting and “make friends” with the people near you in line. but once you all get in, are you still supposed to talk to them?

I have no desire to unwantedly keep hanging out with the people I met in line if that’s creepy, but it also feels weird to just walk away and not acknowledge them again for the rest of the night once you get in. is there some kind of etiquette for that?

second, I was at a bar in austin waiting to get served and ended up chatting with one of the dudes in front of me, so when he got to the front he bought me a shot with him. so, then I spent the rest of the night panicking to Vanessa cuz I had no idea what I was supposed to do.

I have like three guy friends in the world, everyone else I know is either a woman or gay, so I’ve never been any good at straight guy interactions. I felt like I needed to buy him a drink too, but I wasn’t sure how to do that without seeming gay. just about the only thing I do know about how straight guy interactions is that any minor social blunder means you are gay and then there has to be a fight. I’m right on this, yes? aw, who am I asking . . . I don’t have any straight guys who read my blog! dammit!

so the whole night Nessa and I bicker back and forth “next time he goes up to the bar I’ll go up too so I can make sure I get him a drink to make up for the one he got me. what, that’s creepy? ok I’ll just buy one now and bring it over to him. that’s even gayer? fuck!” never did figure out what to do . . .

third, what are you supposed to do when dudes show you pictures of the women in their family (wife, daughter, etc). I know enough to know that you’re supposed to compliment them, but at the same time it is the guy’s wife or daughter so you can’t sound dirty about it, so you have to walk that fine line between “you’re a lucky man” and “your wife has a killer chest”.

for some reason straight men want to show off their wife so that you can say they have a hot wife and they can feel cool, but you aren’t supposed to actually say it that way or its rude. man social skills confuse me. so, about the only thing I’ve found from experience works is to say “oh, she’s lovely” because it sounds friendly but can’t be interpreted as dirty. the only thing is, I’m screwed if they show me more than one picture because I’m out of adjectives!

so, its four am in New Orleans and I’m sitting in a bar because I just got off work and its the only place open with food on my way home. while I’m waiting a very drunk mexican man comes up and talks my ear off about everything on his mind. he’s kind of annoying but he is so friendly I find myself liking him a lot anyhow. but then, shit, I haven’t finished my food yet when he whips out the wallet!

he pulls out a picture of his wife, a funny looking kinda pudgy blonde lady, and in my head I’m like “haha, I got this, I know what to do . . . “ and say “she’s lovely!”.

this seems to please him and I think I’m safe, but then to my horror he whips out a second picture, this one of his daughter. she’s really hot, and I’ve already used my only safe adjective! so, I think “screw it, he’s drunk and kind of silly seeming anyway, I’ll risk it” and just said “shit dude, your daughter is super fucking hot”. and he laughed and patted me on the shoulder, I was safe this time, thankfully, but I can’t get that lucky every time! I need more safe adjectives!

ok, for the most part that’s all the random notes I had for the last few months. I’ve got a few more stragglers but I’ll just throw them in with the next one, whenever we finally get back on the road and start having stories again . . .

anyhow, till then remember never to poop out the pee hole.

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I practice poodaism

oh jesus. I just wrote for an hour and a half, and before I clicked “publish” on it I highlighted it so that I could hit “copy” in case it didn’t publish properly and crashed or something. but instead I hit “paste”. and for some reason the “undo” option in my edit menu is inactive at the moment. so, yeah, this is going to be really crappy because I’m too OCD to just let it go for the night, so I’m gonna rewrite it right now as fast as I can and it will be total shit. hope you can all understand. god I’m pissed.

holy shit, four months? I had no idea it had been so long since I blogged! sorry for the slacking. it is partly because I’ve been busy, but also partly because I haven’t had much to write about. struggle, strife, and horrible embarrassment make for good writing. happiness doesn’t. I’ve spent the past four months traveling, exploring, meeting cool people, and working at a job I love. I sometimes have to pinch myself because I can’t believe how happy I am with life . . . and that is deadly boring to read about! for instance, we visited Savannah Georgia and it was beautiful and we had some spare cash so we took a guided tour of antebellum architecture. it was an awesome day. do you wanna read about it? fuck no, you don’t! but, it has been four months and stuff has happened, so lets see if I can’t find some stories for ya . . .

first, to summarize for ya, after Dallas we went down to Austin. it was a really cool city and we serendipitously arrived just in time for the south by southwest music festival so it was even more spectacular. after that we toured the rest of texas, then headed to New Orleans and stayed for almost two months. I loved it completely and might even think of moving there. then we did a quick tour of the southeast coast, headed up to Montreal for a music festival, then down to NYC to visit friends. in NYC our car broke down, so we had to hop a greyhound to Pittsburgh and we’ve been stuck here for about three weeks while we get a new junk car and get it fixed up so we can head out west again.

so, lets start with what you all really want, stories of how I horribly embarrassed myself in the past four months!

-outside the Bourbon Pub, where I worked in New Orleans, there was this streetside hotdog cart. dancing makes me hungry, so every night I would be gazing covetously out the window of the bar at the hotdogs. finally, one evening I said to myself “fuck it, no one will miss me for five minutes, I’m gonna go grab my clothes and get a hot dog.”

then a customer called me over and I talked to him for a minute.

when that was done, I remembered I wanted a hot dog but forgot about the clothes. I didn’t even realize something was wrong until I noticed the hot dog guy giving me a funny look as I was fishing money out of the front of my underwear to pay for my hot dog. that’s when it dawned on me I was standing mostly naked on bourbon street.

luckily, it was New Orleans so I just went with it. I ate that hot dog in the dirtiest manner I could. why be embarrassed when you can fake like you know what you’re doing?

-so, the Pub had a lot of drag shows and only one dressing room, so often when i arrived for my shift the dressing room would be full of men in various stages of turning themselves into women. one night I arrive and as I’m changing I’m looking around and realize that even though they are only halfway into their costumes they are already really convincing! so to be friendly I say to them “wow, guys! great job tonight! you really look almost like women!”

that’s when I found out that on this particular night we were having a drag KING show and I had just pissed off a room full of lesbians. I haven’t run that fast in years . . .

-while staying with Vanessa’s parents we got a visit from the census people. I hate the census, the government shouldn’t know anything about me ever. fuck them. Nessa and her family pretty much agree. so, we are home and her parents are at work when the bell rings. she goes to answer it and she is gone a long time. when she comes back she says it was census takers, and she had awkwardly tried to get rid of them but they weren’t really taking no for an answer and wouldn’t leave. when she finally got rid of them they said they’d be back later when her parents were home.

so I ranted to her that she clearly hadn’t been mean enough to them and she should have called me to the door to get rid of them for good. I was really pissed that the government had been fucking with my girl.

so the doorbell rings a few hours later and we assume its them again. I grab the nearest blunt object, puff myself up, throw the door wide open and shout “get the fuck off our lawn!” . . . right into the very confused and frightened face of Nessa’s aunt.

-at Bourbon Pub, instead of dancing on a stage, they just have you dance right on top of the bar. most of the bartenders are cool and just think its fun but some of them were really annoyed by that setup. the especially grouchy ones all had their own rules about which parts of the bar you could or couldn’t stand on when you were in their section.

so, one night this poor customer keeps having to lean across three people to tip me and I start thinking he must think I’m really rude not to just dance in front of him for once, but he was in that bartender’s “forbidden zone”. so finally I kneel down and lean over and say “I’m not trying to ignore you, its just that this bartender hates when I get anywhere near HIS fruit”

the guy gave me a really weird look but I ignored it, until two minutes later it sank in what I said and I ran back over shouting “no, the limes, I meant the limes!”

-so I’m terrible at small talk. I have no social skills to begin with and on top of that if it is small talk then I probably just really don’t care. I’m the guy who when you show me pictures of your baby I’m likely to accidently just blurt out that his head is a funny shape. so, being this bad at regular small talk where I have practice and its all the same, I’m really terrible at unusual small talk where I have no practice!

I’m at this party in Dallas talking to this transexual who for some reason has walked up and started talking about her breasts. I don’t care but I have to say something so I ask when she got them done. she replies “oh no, no implants, just hormones, I grew these”. again, I don’t care but I have to say something, and they are pretty big boobs for a man, so I say “wow, you grew those? you should be very proud of your accomplishment!”

I then realize that sounds weird, and try to fix it, but instead I just keep going with “yeah good for you! well done on that!” and so forth, all while the voice in my head is screaming “shut up! you’re making it worse!”

-I had this girl at the Pub making a sad face so I leaned down and asked her why she looked so glum. she said she felt bad because she was out of cash and couldn’t tip me. I figured she might be back with money some other night and it always pays to be nice, so I leaned over to say some flirty stripper bullshit about how her pretty face is tip enough of some crap like that, but as I lean forward I realize that someone spilled beer on the bar by my foot. instead of leaning in to say something smooth I kinda tip forward and jam my thumb in her eye really hard. really really hard.

that was not a repeat customer.

-Nessa and I are having a good day. well rested, full of pep, and very cheerful to be in a new town. we are walking through downtown Austin on our first afternoon there, smiling and happy.

we start walking up to this girl passing out free samples of some new drink, as people ahead of us pass her we hear her tell them how healthy it is, or that its full of electrolytes, or whatever bullshit like that. as we walk by she starts to offer me a can and when she sees my face she gets this pitying look and her sales pitch is “you should take one, these are good for those really bad hangovers.”

ouch, bitch!

-I’m standing on the upstairs balcony of the Bourbon Pub looking down at the crowds on bourbon street. I’m standing behind some huge “vote for so and so” banner that they have hanging from the railing. some guy in a suit comes out and starts trying to cut it down so he can move it to a more visible angle, and he is having trouble cutting without dropping it off the balcony so naturally I walk over to help him and hold it while he cuts.

as I’m waiting for him to cut it, I’m happily yammering away about whatever’s on my mind, saying “hmm, hope this guy isn’t a douchebag. all these people can see me holding up this dude’s sign and I don’t even know if I like his platform. hey, you work for him, I assume? is he an asshole? bet he is, all politicians are such . . . ” and so forth. all the while the guy is just chuckling. when we finish up I say nice to meet you and he shakes my hand, then that segways into an awkwardly gropey hug, which isn’t really that uncommon when you work at a gay bar.

I think nothing else of it until a half an hour later when I go to find my manager for some reason and when I see him he’s talking to the guy in the suit. as I walk up he says “oh, mylz, did you have a chance to meet the congressman yet?”

-so, In New Orleans we spent a lot of time at this one pool. it was partly just because that’s a damn fun thing to do, and partly because this pool was mainly attended by gay men so I found that it was good for business. every time someone hit on me I could plug the bar and get more tips later. but, one time I did kind of freak a guy out.

you see, I’m not really into “beach books” so I was usually reading chomsky or chekhov or something. this one day I’m sitting there happily reading H.P. Lovecraft when a guy comes up and tries to flirt by asking what I’m reading. so, I hold up the book so he can see the disfigured skull on the cover and say “oh, this? its called Dreams of Madness and Death.”

-you know that joking voice you use when you aren’t joking? when you say “oh, you’re a cleveland browns fan? we can’t be friends!” and you say it so it sounds like a joke but deep down you totally mean it? have you ever had that voice only work for about half of the sentence and then fail?

these two women had been tipping a fair bit at the Pub so I got down and chatted with them a bit. as I’m asking them questions I find out that they are down from Alberta Canada for an energy conference. so, I make the connection and ask “oh, so you both work on tar sand extraction?” and they answer affirmatively.

I’m at work, I have to be nice to the customers, so I try to pull off the fake joke voice and say something like “oh, so you’re the bad guys, eh? shame on you!” in a jovial fun voice so that we can all move on and they can get back to giving me their blood money. but, my short jovial sentence kinda keeps going and going, with my jokey voice falling away a piece at a time, as I say “oh, tar sands? you do that? you’re involved in the dirtiest, least efficient method of oil extraction possible? you’re selling out your country for the last dying gasp of a shithead industry that’s gonna drag us all down with it in the next thirty years? get the fuck out of my bar!”

and meanwhile, to picture it properly, you have to realize at the end of this sentence, I still think I pulled it off! I assume my jovial voice worked and give them a big smile, ready to move on with the conversation. that’s when I realize half the bar is staring it me and the two women are very quickly getting their things together and heading for the door. so, I apparently didn’t pull off “jovial.”

ok, I know I said I’d start with embarrassing stories first, but in the end I had so many I ran out of energy before I got to any other kind! I’m strangely proud of that . . .

anyhow, I have a ton more notes but no more energy, hopefully I’ll be back to do more in a couple of days. until then, as President Lincoln once said: “go fuck yourself”

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elephants have big cocks, but I have a big elephant. wait, that doesn’t make sense . . .

well, it has been about three weeks since my last post. I’ve been pretty busy lately with getting a new car, and then when we finally got it I had to get back to stripping just about every night because we have already spent way longer than we intended to in Dallas and we still need to save up for the next leg of the trip. But, I got home from work tonight and I had some energy so I figured I’d try and post something. If I find I’m too wired to make sense then this may be a really short one and I’ll have to try again in a day or two . . .

first of all, I seem to have managed to get back into my groove with dancing. sure enough, I can be top earner anywhere, it just takes me a week or two to figure out some of the tougher towns before I can get there. in this case, I fixed two things and it seems to have taken care of it:

first, the Tin Room is full of twinks and roided-out prettyboys, so I decided fuck being prettier when I’m already grittier. I’m manlier than any stripper out there, I have more testosterone than a football helmet full of bull testicles, so I decided to take advantage of that. I grew a beard and shaved my head and it seems to have made a big difference.

second, I stopped dancing down to the level of the club. most times in a new town I try to adjust my dancing to fit the local style because I figure people will prefer what they’re used to, plus its fun to learn new moves in different regions. but, Texas “dancing” mostly seems to amount to awkwardly shifting from one leg to the other while trying to pose and show off your abs. after a couple weeks of trying to do as the romans do, I got bored and I wasn’t making any money anyhow so I said “fuck this shit, I’m a good dancer, I’m just going to flip out and not worry if I look silly doing it next to everyone else”. Sure enough, that worked too.

hmm, what’s that? you want an assortment of odd stripping stories? ok you little fuckers, I can do that!

1. one guy tipped me a ton the other night, and after coming up several times he told me “I’m tipping you a lot because you remind me of my dead brother”.

is this as creepy as I think it is?

2. one guy got a lap dance from me, then when he came back to get another one later a woman pulled him back and he was like “sorry, my wife won’t let me.”

which I found insanely amusing.

3. I had a guy open up his wallet, take everything out, and drop it in a pile in front of me.

I really have to remember that dance move in future . . .

4. there was a guy at the Unicorn in Indianapolis who liked to fold his tip dollars origami-style into little roses on stems. every dancer there thought it was really neat the first time, then grew to hate it very soon after. you see, a folded up dollar rose is, as you can imagine, quite sharp and pointy, and its going in your underwear. you get three or four of those loose in your manties and you can barely walk, let alone dance.

my worst moment at that bar was when he tipped me right before I got called back on stage so I had to go on with one of his roses in my underwear. it wasn’t too bad at first, until I flipped upside down on the pole and suddenly let out a shriek that surprised the whole bar. everyone thought I must have thrown my back out or something. but, no, what had happened was his rose had worked its sharp pointy way down my underwear to just the right place that when I flipped upside down it crammed the rose right up my asshole!

5. some hippy girl came into the club last night, clearly sort of baked. she watched me on the pole for a few minutes and when I got down she called me over. then, she proceeded to explain to me in her best rambling stoner fashion that I don’t dance like the other guys. she explained to me that spinning on the pole I resemble the snake wrapping around the apple tree tempting Eve.

stoners are weird.

6. I had a guy ask for a dance the other day, and as I’m about to take him to the back room his buddy goes “give him a good one, he’s a cop!” so I spit on his money and handed it back to him.

no cop will ever touch me.

7. there’s one dancer at the Tin Room who is in insanely good shape. like, the kind of shape where you see him and you want to go wear a burqa for the rest of your life because it would be wrong to expose anyone else’s flesh to the light. so, I asked him what his workout regimen was and he replied “you’re pretty close, man. the key to finish it up and get where I am is to find just the right mix of steroids and crystal meth.”

hmm . . . I’ll take that under advisement.

8. I ran into one of my Pittsburgh regulars from P-Town in Dallas. it turns out he got transferred here a couple of months after I left, and the bar I’m now working at is his favorite Dallas bar.

small fucking world, eh?

ok, how about some other things then . . .

1. everyone in Dallas says I have an English accent. not sure why. I had one earlier in life from growing up partly in England, but it is long gone and no one has mentioned it in years until I got to Texas. here, everyone is convinced I’m fresh off the boat from London.

2. everyone here thinks I’m hispanic. not just the white Texans, but even our Mexican customers tend to walk up and talk to me in Spanish. for those of you keeping track, yes, that means Dallas folk for some reason believe that I am a Mexican with a British accent.

3. the other day I said a completely original phrase. just about everything on earth has been said before, no matter how odd. think of the weirdest phrase you can and I guarantee someone has said it at some point . . . except for this phrase I came up with which I guarantee to be fully original. I was riding the bus with Nessa, bored, so I was talking about how strange it is that technically “buttle” is a verb. a butler is one who buttles. I’m not making this up. which, it suddenly occurred to me, means that a person could end up being “caught in mid-buttle”!

4. Dallas seems to be a city with no racism, somehow. I would not have expected that at all. but, in every other city I’ve ever been to I’ve found that, while they may be perfectly nice, the black people I meet walking around a city always treat me a little differently because I’m a white guy. In Dallas, when we have been talking to black people waiting for the bus or whatnot, I have never even had the feeling that they noticed I was white. who on earth would have thought that Texas was a haven of racial harmony?

5. Since we couldn’t get to a bank without a car, one week we couldn’t get large bills to pay our weekly hotel fee. so, we had to pay it in singles. you haven’t had fun in your life until you’ve handed a hotel manager $200 in ones to pay your bill. for added amusement, wait until he counts to 198 to tell him “yeah, all of those were on my balls.”

6. for Valentine’s Day Nessa decided she was too much of a feminist to deal with this sexist holiday which is supposedly about love but is really about men showering women with things. so, she insisted she was taking me out instead of the other way around. instead of a candle-lit dinner she took me to get hot-wings and beer at a place with the hockey game on. she is the most romantic girlfriend ever!

7. oh, one thing I forgot to mention a while back . . . remember when Nessa and I had to go to the hospital and get a massive bill just so we could tell the doctor we had strep, have him say “yep”, and get a prescription? well, a while back we got the itemized bill and in addition to the several hundred dollars for the doctor visit, there was also a charge for a nurse visit. we were confused until we thought back and realized that before the doctor walked in we had talked to a nurse for a minute who asked for our names, addresses, and whether we had insurance, then left. it turns out that her asking for our information was a $200 nurse visit. isn’t the american health care system great?

8. When we had just finished up the hitch-hiking and living outside portion of the trip and went to visit my mom, it turned out that she had been using my stories in one of her social psychology classes. I guess as examples of fringe behavior or something. so, she decided since we were in town and the class was wrapping up she decided to have us come in and give a presentation/q-and-a thing for the class.

it was fucking awesome, because throughout the whole trip Nessa and I had been keeping track of and discussing all sorts of sociological things about hitch-hiking, but I always felt like it wasn’t really blog-appropriate. we had been sort of keeping track of who picked us up based on race, age, socioeconomic status, political affiliation . . . even weight (for a while we had a theory that fat people never pick up hitch hikers, but it turned out to just be an anomalous month-long streak).

so, I got to talk all about it for an hour which was really exciting. by the way, if any of you actually want to hear me ramble about any of that shit, just let me know.

ok, well, I feel like this is turning out half-rabid and random. I’m definitely too wired. hopefully I can write more tomorrow or the next day . . . until then your homework is to make pies and mail them to me.

I mean it.

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