Summer is coming, you can just about feel it in the air. The days are growing longer, the temperature is steadily getting warmer and I’m starting to get that certain itch one gets when they feel like they’ve grown too complacent over those long winter months.
The arrival of summer always marks a special time for yours truly. See, this is normally the time I take to the road, assume a new identity and embark on my secret life’s ambition. Why, I’d be willing to wager that the majority of you out there who think you know me would be shocked about what I’m about to reveal.
It’s a dream I’ve kept mostly private, hidden from even my closest friends and next of kin for fear that they’d make fun of me and that’d I’d be lectured about selling myself short. They’d go on about things like “potential”, job security, retirement savings plans, and I”d sit there with a glazed look on my face, nodding in mute agreement, pretending to comprehend the words they were saying while all the while, in the back of my head, I’d hear the sound of children. Some of them would be laughing with delight, some whining with anger and others would just stand there wide eyed taking in the majestic scenery. My nostrils would be invaded with the imaginary mixture of the smell of cotton candy, hot dogs, soft pretzels and deep fried twinkies. The promise of cold beer after a longs days work and a few extra bucks in my pocket would be enough to see me through to the next day, the next city.
My dream is simple, my life long ambition, the one I’ve kept secret for so long, is to be the best darn carny the world as have ever known.
Let me tell ya, chasing a dream is no picnic. All the self-help books in the world won’t help me in my elusive pursuit and for as long as I’ve been searching, there is no College of Carnies for me to attend. You learn this mysterious trade by learning from the ways of the masters who are, in my eyes, legends in their own right. These were the men and women with more miles under their belt than they’d care to count. After the crowds had long since left for their air conditioned rooms and nice cool sheets these veterans would gather en masse under the stifling main tent, still oppressive with the odor of horse shit, popcorn and spilt beer and recap the day. For some, the money that they pocketed seemed a fortune, for others, there was only the promise of the next day.
Some might call that method old school, some might call it on the job training or lessons learned but no matter what you call it, it’s easily the most interesting job I’ve ever had. The tricks of the trade are passed from one generation to the next. Theirs is not a classroom of notebooks and computers. Theirs is an oral tradition that can only be learned by keeping your ears open for the stories that they tell are seldom repeated.
So there you have it folks. Step right up and see the sights as you venture out this summer and make your way to your local state or county fair. And, when you do, be on the lookout for one slightly overweight graying middle aged man who smells like a combination of sweat and grease, whose clothes look worn and tattered and whose face, arms, and the back of his neck are bronzed and tanned from too much time in the hot sun. He’s the one whose raspy voice is calling out to you trying to make you part with your hard earned money in exchange for a kewpie doll and a memory or two.
It just might turn out to be yours truly, finally getting to live the life he thought he could only dream of.
It’s a little known fact but us Carnies have memories too. Sure, they might differ from town to town and booth to booth but one thing is certain.
None of them ever forget a good mark