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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Carny "Roommates"

I suppose these 2 qualify for worst roommates evah! but, really now, they were also fascinating glimpses into other, even crazier worlds, from my own.

It was my first season out on the road with the carnival. I was “living” in the back of a fellow jointy’s pick up truck. (all definitions are from and their dictionary of carny  lingo. Jointee or Jointy — An agent, a person working a game -- AKA a joint) He put in a Twiggy-width, one inch thick, foam “mattress” and a small light -- you know, so I could read at night after the show closed. Honestly, it was great -- it was a place of my own to escape. This was much more than I would have had otherwise.  If not for this generosity, I’d have been sleeping on the ground, in the joint at night. Amongst other obvious discomforts, just imagine how it would feel to sleep where you work every night. Not that the pick up was more than a 2 minute walk away at most spots.

There was also a cap over to keep out the rain and bugs. In the September Houston heat this also served as a sauna. You know, it was awesomely posh if you stretch your imagination around the world and back.

And then...and then....they gave me roommates. I suppose truckmates would be more apt.

The first was a girl, Jessie, around 21 to my 19 years of age, who’d just joined up. She’d been a  truckstop stripper/hooker but was getting away from all that. She was movin’ on up to the ultra swank carnival lifestyle.

My first thought on hearing of my new roomie was “Gee GOSH, fascinating! I really want to understand where she’s coming from.” My second thought, upon meeting her, was “wow, total skank but still, this could be interesting.” After three days of sharing the back of a pick up? “You bitch! You borrowed my shorts without asking and now you’re telling me you have crabs so I better burn them and take the ‘crab cure’ too, just in case?” You can well imagine how much this endeared me to her and her to me.

No worries, in short order she found some sugar daddy biker who, inexplicably, found her appealing, wanting her to move into HIS pick up truck bed. I wished her well.

My next roommate that season was a huge step up. OK, he seemed a step up in the beginning. Nice, respectful, hard working guy. At first. He was awesome on set up mornings -- up and in the truck throwing the lumber (the bones of the joints) without me having to clobber him awake, as was necessary with the rest of the crew. (Waking the crew was my job and yes, I was born an annoying morning person. It’s in my DNA). He helped drive stakes (incredibly, this isn’t a Buffy reference) and even helped me flash my joint -- one of the largest on the midway. (Flash as a verb: "to flash your joint", to make your joint more visible and attractive, and/or to set up an attractive display of prizes. One former carny said, "Flash is everything - the prizes you put out there and the way they are arranged.")

As we all got to know Jimmy better, we found out that, like a lot of other carnies, he’d blown probation. He was on the run. Hiding out. Sure, I got a few interesting prison snippets (such as ‘NEVER sit at the head of someone’s cot.' This was either a profound show of disrespect or a come on. I forget.)

In any case, it didn’t take long before, at spot after spot, there were plain clothes cops trolling the midway. They were looking for Jimmy of course and asking each of us all about him. A big shrug and “gosh, the name doesn’t sound familiar” were our standard responses.

Around the same time it was discovered that Jimmy had stolen some money and property from the boss. Jimmy was DQed (D.Q. — Short for "disqualified" (probably from wrestling parlance). To be thrown off the lot and ordered not to return. Might happen to a rowdy mark or to a worker who steals or messes with something he should leave alone, or causes more problems than he's worth. An employee fired from one joint can consider himself d-q'd, because no one else will hire him).

This trip into an alternate universe with it’s attendant major annoyances, was worth it -- fascinating shit. Better still, in the larger view of life, the annoyances were intensely brief.

I can very well imagine that we’ve all had bad, inconsiderate, crazy roommates without the extra, added, crazy, yummy benefit of them being carnies.

Tell me you stories, please!

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