Tuesday, October 25, 2011

outback steakhouse

Friends, family and fellow bloggernauts, fear not because I am still alive. It has been an eventful two weeks since I have last checked in and boy do I have some stories to tell you. If you’ve been following along since the very beginning, then you know I have since joined the carnival for a seven-week stint with a company called Sideshow Amusements. I worked for a week with them at the Perth Royal Show and now have taken to living in a caravan for free and trekking through small town Western Australia to put on spectacular spectacles for eager young country bumpkins. Let me paint a quick picture of my first two weeks with this insane group of sideshow freaks.

Exactly 14 days ago today, I lugged all my baggage via train to the Claremont show grounds. I met with Bridie (an English girl who also agreed to this crazy adventure) and her best mate, Libby. Together, we all crammed into this 1970s era trailer with a peeling linoleum floor, four bunk beds and a defunct refrigerator. Thus began our journey into madness. First up was our show in Waroona, a very small town of one street about one hour away from Perth. We arrived there on Tuesday night and spent all day Wednesday setting up for the weekend festivities.
Now this includes building tents, stocking toys into the game stalls, decorating the area, washing the rides, washing our boss’ truck and generally carrying bags of stuffed teddies from one location to another only five feet away. Generally we work from around 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Wednesday and then repeat the whole process again on Thursday, until everything is up to John, our ringleader’s, standards. Oh, I forgot to mention John. He is our 40-something boss who inherited the carnie business from his father, Jack. He has been working in this line of
business since the tender age of 10 and runs the whole kitten-caboodle with his two brothers, Matthew and Darren. They are quite a rowdy bunch and exchange more cuss words than actual English with one another. Most of the time I am just referred to as muscles, brains or freckle, none of which I can contest. I seem to get along well with them and they seem to like me, but boy are they a handful at times and mighty sarcastic.John also has a young fiancĂ© from the Philippines who casually “helps out” with the work, but she is more there for the eye candy than anything else I am sure of it. Besides, her fingers look like crawling caterpillars when she lifts anything. So I am happy when she flutters away to idle her time elsewhereAnyways, back to the work: these country shows usually last Friday night and all day Saturday, with me standing in a stall shouting at kids to come waste their money. Yes I have been harassed and yes I have been flirted with all in the same night. I saw a little girl get hit in the head with a pointy dart that ricocheted off a balloon that should have popped, been threatened for not being honest with a child and even witnessed a girl fall out of a ride that flips you upside down. She was 12-years-old and screamed a lot. No one knew anything had happened until it was after the fact. I have also seen far too many livestock auctions to actually count, so many flies nesting on peoples’ backs it would make your head spin and been degraded by many a mum for “cheating” their precious babes out of hard earned money. Needless to say, the carnie life is quite an eventful one.

But through it all I have been having an absolute blast. Like in Waroona for example, after we were finished with our tasks, we have free time, meaning we can do whatever we want.So, in typical fashion, I find things to do in a town that lacks any notion of the word fun. Like when Bridie, Libby and I walked an hour to the Weir (giant lake in Waroona) and took to the beach and rolling hills.Or when we hitch hiked in the small town of Brunswick to the neighboring city of Bunbury with this nice lady named Amanda who owns a shop full of cow related merchandise. She picked us up in her Mercedes, showed us the town and then picked us up later in the day as well! Her husband, Mike, works in the mines and her three sons (David, Ben and Chris) fancy us so much, they plan to take us out this weekend. Amanda even took us to her house for dinner and we watched as her cousin hosted a Tupperware party. After that, we had morning tea with her 83-year-old mother, Faye at the store as she crocheted a scarf. Other antics include hopping to thrift and antique stores in every town we visit, decorating the caravan for Halloween, only cooking on a barbecue or in a microwave and generally finding ways to do laundry or shower since most places we seem to find ourselves in lack public bathrooms. So in an effort to keep clean, I actually snuck into a caravan park down the road and used their private showers today and yesterday, risking trespassing in the name of shampooed hair. It was truly an experience.

Other than all these little tidbits, not much else has transpired. I am enjoying the pay of $600 a week, which comes after we tear the whole carnival down on Saturday night (yes, we work 14 hours straight on a Saturday: in our games from around 8:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. and then ripping absolutely everything down for another four hours following). I have more bruises, blisters, scrapes and cuts than I ever thought I could get, but boy am I having a time here. I am seeing so many beautiful pieces of Australia I would have never seen otherwise, including these small cities with so much charm and so many nice people. I mean, come on, I am the only American I have met thus far while here (aside from a Cincinnati man who runs a store called Taffy in the city of Bunbury…but he doesn’t even count because he’s been here for nearly 30 years) so of course they love me. And don’t worry; I have not forgotten about any of you back home, it is just incredibly hard to find stable Internet anywhere in Australia, especially since they seem to be light-years behind us in how to properly govern a functioning town. But that’s beside the point.

Now I know you are all craving more, but I can only use the wireless in this community center for a brief hour, so must sign off for now. But keep checking back, as more things are to come in the near future.

And you can be sure I am taking loads of pictures for all of you to see, if I could now just find a damn kangaroo crossing sign! Ok, I must go and try to find a way to fix our leaking ceiling (it rained last night and yes, all the seams in that piece of shit we call a home began springing cracks at around 6 a.m. this morning after a torrential downpour) and play Frisbee with these three Estonians that also came along for this effed up ride. Sometimes I truly wonder what I have gotten myself into.

Oh, and on a random side note, Australia does NOT celebrate Halloween, which is mighty devastating to such a ghoulish connoisseur of my caliber. But I did manage to decorate our caravan with a skeleton aptly named Steve. And there have been numerous shark attacks here recently, one even at the beach I frequented quite often. But fret not, this American is still treading water....for now!


Alright, love to you from the down under! Stay in touch mates.

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