Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Carnies/Carnival Came to Us!

On Monday morning a few weeks ago I sat at the dinette table of our thirty-foot Jazz fifth-wheel trailer and meditated with Oprah and Deepak Chopra. The night before had been a rough one at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds RV park as John's and my sleep was interrupted many times, but especially between 3 - 4:30 a.m., by the sound of loud diesel engines, banging and clanging metal, men talking with one another, and rolling doors being slid one way and then another. Our cavalier spaniel's warning bark at each loud crack emphasized it all.
Fear filled me as I meditated alone there in our traveling home of the previous three years. John had left for work a couple hours earlier. I felt fear for my safety. Carnival workers crunched the graveled ground outside as I breathed deeply with eyes closed and palms open. I heard myself say silently in my mind "Please God help me." (Or was it please "Mommie" help me?)
The View of the Bunkhouse from my Window
The day before, John and I watched as eight long white trailers were hauled into the park and set up in the row directly behind us. A few of the trailers had many doors. Others had only one or two. The multi-doored trailers reminded us of bunkhouses. But there were no people other than the drivers of the trucks to occupy the trailers and they left once their job was complete.
John verbalized concern for the rest of our otherwise peaceful Sunday about the prospect of being surrounded by carnies, thieves and meth heads. I told him that he was expecting the worse and to let it go. He wondered over and over why the camp host had put us in a location knowing that the carnie bunkhouses and trailers would be next to us. He feared that the carnies would be up all hours of the night talking and drinking and going on. I reminded him that there is a 10 p.m. quiet rule and tried to soothe his concerns with calm words about taking things as they come.
I did not want to be afraid. I wanted to go with the flow. Deal with what was when it was there to deal with. I did not want to anticipate the worst.
We decided to watch a movie before bedtime. "Master" had a talented cast who acted out the journey of one lost soul's struggle with some hidden inner demon that he himself did not know existed. He instead focused his talents and skills on making beverages that contained anything and everything that he might mix and turn into a cocktail - paint thinner, radiator water, elixirs, fine or cheap rum or vodka, whatever was around.
Carnival Workers Making Use of the Space Beneath the Bunkhouse
The Master and his cult followers tried to cure the lost soul through hypnosis and compulsive exercises designed to tear him down then build him back into a better man. Maybe they succeeded because by the final scene of the nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie, he was able to connect in the biblical sense with a real woman, though she was a stranger. And as he related with the stranger woman, he spoke the same tremendously seductive talk to her that the Master had talked to him.
Both John and I felt dismayed by the paucity of change in the main character from beginning to end of the movie. He started out as a alcoholic looser and seemingly ended the same way. Regardless of our dismay, we both felt the movie was extremely well-acted by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman Jr. I tell about the movie to set the tone for our previous day's ending and our night's beginning before being awakened in the wee hours of the morning by the carnies as they set up their camp.
Before meditation, I drank coffee and watched through the tinted windows of The Jazz (that served as a one-way mirror due to the absence of light inside and the dim drizzly light outside). The carnival people reminded me of a traveling troupe of group home residents. Young men with tics smoked cigarettes and adjusted their over-sized pants. One thin man in a forest green jacket with its hood pulled over his head walked past within inches of my window. I could not see his face and decided that he had something to hide.
Older men gathered. One had the appearance of someone with a mouth absent teeth. As he clinched his gums, his lips protruded so far as to look like a duck bill. A fat man with a mid-calf-long black t-shirt that exposed bare ankles and flip flops walked by as casually and comfortably as someone strolling down a beautiful beach, until he harked and spit. One man with a dirty bandana tied around his head rushed by with a double dog food bowl. Maybe to fill the one- liter plastic Seven Up bottle that sat upside down in the bowls' water hole. Cigarette smoke wafted up into the moist air toward the overcast sky. A skinny woman, no man, no woman with long stringy hair under a dark blue baseball cap carried her backpack over one shoulder toward the bathhouse. I observed adults of every age and most races. I heard quick choppy Spanish that sounded familiar after decades of living in the west and southwest.
All this I watched before I found the recorded meditation on my computer, hit the play button, settled into my seat with eyes closed and open palms. With eyes shut, my fear and the noise from outside seemed to intensify. I reminded myself to return to repeating the mantra silently each time I became distracted by what occurred outside and inside my body.
I asked myself ’Why do these people frighten me? Because they live minimally? Am I worried that they will want what I have? Take something from my car, my RV? Maybe steal my dog? Maybe take my money?' I feared the thought of taking Gingee out again and being amongst them. What is my discomfort with these apparently poor souls? A part of me reasoned that the people outside were probably harmless, maybe some even kind and friendly. They do work in the hospitality industry after all I reasoned.
Concluding my meditation session, I reminded myself that this is the life of a fulltime RVer. Sometimes we find ourselves in common places encountering not so common humanity. Sometimes we are forced to dig deeply within ourselves to know that we are safe although the environment is foreign and conjures fear-filled thoughts and fantasies.
In that moment I was grateful for contrasting experiences. For I knew I would feel so much happier when I returned from the difficult to the familiar. When I was to be back environed by that which evokes beautiful and peace-filled thoughts, my happiness would seem that much grander.
(Reflection: Upon returning to our safer-feeling little campground, I was out walking Gingee one morining and it occured to me that I'd let my fear win again. My fear kept me from knowing the experience of the carnival workers. There was a world that I knew little to nothing about and I let it all slip past, or better said I hid from it. What an adventure it could have been had I been able to overcome my fear and meet some of the carnival workers and get a closer look into their lives. Everyday provides a test to overcome something as a writer and photographer and a fellow human being.)

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