Prologue

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This story is about teenagers growing up in a Traveling Carnival in 1970.
Particularly, it portrays an important chapter in the life of Lindsay Thomas, then 13 years old… as told by his friend Lawrence Botomier Feinstein, known then as “Lobo”.

The B & J Fantasy Carnival, currently on their usual 6 week winter hiatus in San Antonio, Texas was being prepped for the opening season, 1970.

San Antonio – renown for “remember the Alamo” is weird amalgam of Mexi-Americana… Tiajuana dressed up in an American suit. A cheap, gaudy colored clay pig stuffed with American money and business cards. A perfect breeding ground to spawn and shelter the grotesque, voracious beast.

What is a Carnival? A carnival can be seen as a collection or package of entertainment: rides, game booths, novelties & concessions… and some boasting of a (small one ring) big top.

Now, people react either with a feeling of charm and nostalgia or a sense of apathetic disdain or mild disinterest for things gone by. Like “Antiques”. To me most of the stuff sold at thousands of cottage industrialists as precious Antiques is shit my grand mother would of tossed in the trash 50 years ago. One person’ garbage is another’ treasure. Who’s to say?

Carnivals as a “medium” of entertainment really peaked in popularity in the 1950’s. Baby boomers taking their kids and money to visit the thrills replicating the excitement of war gone by. It’s hard to imagine in the media, visual entertainment saturated culture of the 90’s that the Carnival was a very big deal… a spectacle of epic proportions. The television and motion-picture age usurped it’s position. Any one remember 8 track tapes? You get the idea.

What were carnivals like in 1970? Absent of child labor laws, they were a safe haven for run-aways and would-be adventurers. Some could say the dregs of society congregated there. It was without a doubt a school of hard knocks. A hard-edged system with it’s own set of rules and enforcement. Modern day gangs mimic some of the same style.

Most traveling Carnivals during the late 60’s and early 70’s disposed of the use of a “Big Top” with it’s typical circus fair; Master of Ceremonies, performing animals, clowns, trapeze acts and the like. It became an issue of economics. Supporting, feeding, housing, traveling with such a huge crew in the wake of declining ticket sales overall became an impossible burden.

BJ Fantasy Carnival kept a tiny semblance of it’s golden era of two rings and a fully decked Big Top by maintaining one relatively small tent capable of seating 160 people. There were only a handful of performing animals. Butch, the Carnival Owner doubled as MC. Some say he kept the tradition going more out of personal vanity than respect for his two previous generations of Family Carnival Magnates. It usually had spotty attendance, even though it only required a 50 cent admission.

B & J was started by Bob and Jenny Corisso in the mid 1920’s. They were third generation Italian immigrants. Their family were originally enterprising Gypies who, in the late 1800’s built a small entertainment empire. A band of up to 16 would travel town to town presenting a variety of singing, dancing and juggling as well as serious slight of hand and magic. A side line business was always special remedies and potions. Hand made crafts and sweet treats were also money makers.

In the early 1920’s, before the Stock Market Crash and the resultant Great World Wide Depression, money was plentiful. The atmosphere was filled with optimism, lust and gayety. While playing a Chicago Suburb, Bob struck up a friendship with Dick, the “Knife” Motselli. He was a middle manager in “The Family”. All the mobs were trying to get legit and find entertaining ways to plant their money. He decided to invest in Bob’s fanciful dream to create a Carnival.

Well, Bob’s dream materialized and, with a few occasional set backs along the way, became a very lucrative business. It peaked and reached a plateau in the early fifties. It’s gradual yet steady decline continued for over a decade. In the early 60’s Butch, the indulgent, lazy (but only) Son of Billy Corisso (Bob’s second son) inherited the Carnival. His father died rather suddenly from a chronic heart condition in his fifties. Under Butch’ leadership, or lack thereof, the Carnival spiraled into swift decent and decay. Truly a shadow of its former glory.

Where do we start to understand the nature of growing up in a Carnival environment? First of all, it is important to understand the physical elements that constitute the “system”. Much in the same way that medical students study a cadaver to peak at the mystery of life and healing. Life surely transcends the constituent parts, it is however a good place to begin.

One common denominator is clear in people’s minds… when you mention Carnivals, they think of the rides. They are the draw. They get the people to come, then you can carefully extract their dollars with the other things.

The rides… They are the “bait” that draws the patrons in to begin with. They promise thrills unmatched in the average rural persons life. That is until they had to compete with free sex, drugs and Rock & Roll.

Typically, rides were located on the outer parameter of the Carnival arena. This served to physically and psychologically fence the patrons in. Keep them in the land of illusion, happily spending their dollars as long as possible.

It’s commonly known that present day movie theaters make their money on the concessions… popcorn, candy, pop. Most people spend as much or more on grease and sugar as tickets. In the grocery business they call advertised specials, “Lost leaders”. They loose money on a couple of things and make up for it on the rest. The famous showman, P.T. Barnum is known to have offered free tickets to his three ring circus. However, he more than made up for his generosity in parking fees, games, novelties and concessions.

B & J at one time had over forty rides. Now, in the wake of their decline they retained 14 to 18, depending upon which were working and the particular city they were playing. Most were characteristic of most Carnivals as a mainstay.

• The Ferris Wheel lifting patrons high above their mundane life with a glimpse of the clouds. A cotton candy, sweet to the taste treat that melted quickly. Adolescents, on their first date had a good excuse to touch and hold and cling together against the fear of falling.

• The Merry-Go-Round for the younger crowd with it’s horses or imaginary beasts pumping to a happy rhythm. It is the core, the necessary hub of activity, the nexus or focus of parental obligations. No sober parent with a conscience can deny their little ones the opportunity to travel to distant lands via this endless circle of delight.

• Bumper Cars always a favorite among the young teens, especially the boys. Better than drivers training. Gives them a chance to test and wield their weapons in the relative safety of several hundred foot confinement.

• Space Rocket twisted in three different circles all at the same time. It was the most dated in appearance. It didn’t reflect the technology and imagination brought to television through Star Trek, which was canceled this year. Or even the Moon landing of the previous summer. Rather it looked like remnants of the Deco Atomic age of the 50’s.

• The fastest, most challenging of all the rides (and the shortest) was The Snake. It would climb to an equivalent of 50 MPH in just over 45 seconds as it cascaded it’s way around. The favorite among older teens and adults alike… always guaranteed to stack a big line of paying screamers. A good initiation to manhood in general.

• Then there were the lesser known and popular rides such as the Mansion of Mirrors with it’s distorted images and moving sidewalk, House of Horror which again, unfortunately was out-dated, it didn’t even reach “B” grade horror film quality. In The Cage, as it’s name implies, a small group of ticket holders would spin upside down according to their own particular degree of stamina and intestinal fortitude.

• Rides for the little tikes included Little Bumper Boats chugging along in 18 inches of water, Choo Choo Alley with a brightly colored train winding slowly through the course, the Caterpillar was a slug version of the Snake created for jealous siblings.

Behind the rides, hidden in the shadows of night, were stashed trucks, equipment, utility trailers, personnel tents, anon. A convoy, a fleet of trucks and trailers that crept along during the late night hours, from town to town, week by week across the rural face of America. Like the Gypsies of earlier lore, the Carnival band was a self contained unit, hauling everything needed. The small exception was set-up/ tear down personnel and expendable supplies.

Carefully laid out in the center of the strip were the games and concessions. These were the most lucrative. They were designed all up and down the walk way with “barkers” to lure in the passersby. The games were tilted so that on the average they only returned about 2-5% in prizes. The food and drink concessions were also highly lucrative. Two cents of sugar and stick would return $1.50. Soft drinks were not far behind.

• Shooting Gallery- BB guns and metal moving targets
• Ring Toss- futile efforts to throw little wooden rings over Coke Bottles
• Speedo – 8 little 1/32 scale race cars driven by frenzied patrons around an oval track. The winner awarded points toward prizes.
• Duck Float- A Myriad of motherless yellow ducks endlessly bobbing along a prescribed river. Tots match numbers tattooed on the ducks underside with branded novelties adorning the adjacent walls.
• Balloon Bust- Throw darts at thick skinned balloons in an effort to break one and reveal a prize.
• Crane Grab- Double handled knobs direct three claws to suspend over stuffed animals tightly packed as to avoid the cranes clutches.

I contend that these Games and the like, were originally invented by the “Mob” as a way to slowly addict children to gambling. In fact, the money needed to start B J Fantasy Carnival was first Fronted by a Las Vegas Consortium. In an average life cycle a person evolves from Duck Float or Crane Grab, to Marbles or Tittiley Winks, then Betting on Sporting Events or Bingo…

It is all designed to lead to complete loss of control and abandonment of morals, integrity and responsibility. In the chronic stage, the Gambler wanders in a drunken stupor from Casino to Casino having abandoned his lovely family in a desperate however numbed and vain attempt to regain his losses and return home to “make it all up” and recover his sanity.

The Novelty acts, or “Freak Shows” also brought in a sizable crowd. Although with the rise of television and it’s inherent ability to reach into the dark and weird crevices of human experience, capture and broadcast it, for free! Such acts were doomed to slowly disintegrate into more perverse, horrible and sexual oriented subjects until it faded away altogether.

Not coincidentally, the first play date… signaling the opening of their 1970 season, was always San Antonio. In fact, it was among the larger of the 38 odd cities on their 46 week itinerary. Opening was regularly set for the second weekend of January. This allowed the entire first week for set-up, repair, modification… a time to flush out any problems (hopefully) before the road trip began. Once on the road, troubles were more difficult to deal with, incurring greater cost not only in dollars and time but especially in wear and tear on morale.

Usually, B & J, as well as most other carnivals, stayed in a smaller city 5 days… Wednesday through Sunday. Tore down Sunday night, traveled Monday, set-up on Tuesday, opened Wednesday…anon. It was typically a 14 to 16 hour day. More a life style, an adventure than a job. A rather rigorous schedule. Sundays were the worst. Work all day, tear down, then drive… the next set-up was a “bitch”. Particularly in wake of the infamous “wrap parties” that marked the transitions.

The half a dozen or so larger cities, like San Antonio, on their circuitous route
across the country were occupied for two weekends and the week in between.
Ordinarily 10 or 11 days. These were relatively relaxed and lucrative. More time off and larger, richer crowds. They were however, harder to come by as the industry in general waned. Only a decade previous B & J played mostly large cities, at the fair grounds. Now it was smaller, rural population centers. County fairs pulling from the surrounding region. Poorer farmers and small town folk.

For the “Carny Rats”, or just “Rats” as workers were sometimes called, “time off” consisted of traveling to a new city and a few hours on either side of set-up, depending on the mood of the supervisors (supers), the distance between gigs, the success/failure of the last play date, and the unpredictable mood of the Big Boss; i.e. Butch.

This particular day the scene at the Carnival site was bustling with activity. Tents being raised. Stakes hammered into the ground. Sweaty strong muscled bodies. Hot, humid gulf winds blowing. Pre-summer time blues. Loud music blaring in the background anesthetizes the agonizing labor. Promising future revelry or reminiscing back to previous sport.
Buster, the construction super, is clearly and confidently in command, pointing cussing and yelling. Even though people can’t hear exactly what he’s saying most of the time. Above the noisy fray, his body language says it all. He’s a tough, mean, no nonsense kind of guy… you better not fuck with him… and you better be working damn hard.
His muscularly etched body has been built by many laborious hours of toil. Browned by the sun, hardened by the endless dust and dirt. Not particularly tall but large framed, not unlike a bull dog both in build and disposition. He never seems to care much for making appearances and impressions, by clothing that is. He does wear his antagonistic attitude. Like a cowboy and his boots, never parted. He intends to die with it on. His working clothes are jeans, an old tee—rolled at the sleeves and a gray cap with a long horn bull on the mantle.
Buster has been employed with B & J Carnivals for 5, going on 6 years. Like many of his kind, he was initially just a Carny rat, a run away from some bad situation or another. On the streets at 10 or 11. Hooked up with an older kid. Lied about his age (said he was 16) and got a job with the Carnival. Through tenacity and down right meanness Buster was able to rise within the ranks. First from laborer to ride operator. Then to concession super, where he was over 5 or 6 people who run the game booths or food stands. He really showed his knack for riding herd on the other rats using coercion, brawn or violence to get the job done.
For the last year or so, Buster has been construction super, head of the set-up & tear down crews. Many times he will direct the efforts of as many as several dozen strong arms. More than half the members of these crews will be obtained from the respective local community. It’s cheaper than keeping a lot of people on payroll and hauling them from town to town. It’s a good way to recruit new talent as well. The down side is that in each and every city new laborers have to be found, hired, trained (although there’s not that much to learn about swinging a sledge hammer) controlled and let go.
Wolf, Carnival mascot and “watchdog”, is Busters constant nemesis. He challenges Busters every aggressive act with a nagging bark of his own. Wolf is Buster’s conscience. As such, Buster endures him with apparent scorn and hidden respect. He is a scraper with many a scare to testify. Wolf’s life is pretty simple. Priorities are numbered on one hand, or paw. There’s Eating. Chasing. Protecting. Exploring. And finally, bugging Buster. He enjoys all of his duties. Whatever he finds to do, he does with gusto and enjoyment.
Originally, they picked him up outside Waco a couple of years ago, just a pup. Kept hanging around. Like shit on a shoe, he just wouldn’t shake off. He’s a mutt by breeding, or lack thereof. Hair tangled and sticking up and out everywhere. The colorful array of gray, brown, black, white depicting the rivers of genealogy converging in a dark alley somewhere. Nevertheless, he carries himself with self assurance and dignity.
Currently, Wolf is following on the heels of Buster as he makes his rounds. Echoing Buster’s commands with exhortations of his own. Buster yells to shut up and tries to kick him. He easily dodges… a usual part of their ritual.
This is a very important time for the Carnival. The first set-up. Everything must be inspected and tested. It’s now or never. A $100 spent on repairs now may save thousands on the road, in repairs and downtime. It’s been tighter lately, more than ever though because last season was so awful. Pressure has really been on. It’s also the hardest week of Buster’s year. All the tents and trailers cleaned and painted. The attractions touched up. All the machinery oiled and checked out. All the booths repaired from the misuse last season.
Some times it seems like dressing up an old whore for stage. There’s just no way to make her seem young and seductive anymore. Especially at close range. From first glance she looks quite tempting. The closer you get, the more time you spend with her the more repulsive she becomes. She ages very quickly in the light. The angel becomes a demon. The entire aging process – twenty or thirty years can transpire in a few hours. On stage to off stage.
It was Busters job to apply the make-up and stitch-up the satin dress for another show. Show after show. Try to hide the stench of sweat stains. The wrinkles. The sagging flesh. The death in the eyes. Make large sweeping movements to distract the audience’s blank stares. For the carnival that means layer after layer of garish paint. Thick so the previous layers of crackling and flaking doesn’t show through.
One more season. Maybe they’ll be able to buy some more rides, more modern ones, like the big shows. Part of Buster was tired to the core of trying to make this old whore look perky. Make a sow smell sweet. It discolored his view of life in general. People were easily fooled. In fact they preferred illusion. All you needed to do is make it somewhat believable. Not make any major blunders. People’s imagination would do the rest. Sometimes it was laughable how superficial and vulgar things looked to him now. Really how everything appeared that way. Like the carnival was the only thing real and the world was the theater.
The Freak show tent is erected on the left fringe of center. A polarity of perversity. The psyche of the Carnival. Canvas banners are draped from metal poles. All manner of oddities are promised. Portraits of cruel deformity and natures mistakes are displayed proudly and prominently. The most magnetic advertisement was the ½ boy – ½ girl exhibit. This snagged the crowd more than the snake boy, the bearded fat lady, the cow with 2 heads or the 1500 pound melon from Arkansas.
Smoke and mirrors. Smoke and mirrors. It was mostly just a matter of plastic, prosthetics, lighting and staging. Thick glass made the over sized melon larger than life. Hormones and chromosomes endowed the fat lady’s face with hair. Mirrors and lighting reflected a composite image of a live python and a boy. The crowning accomplishment was the turning a girl into half boy. Make-up was important.
Really, it was nothing new or novel. In Shakespeare’s time wenches were played by men. China’s grand theater the same. The sweet song of the nightingale was really the cawing of a crow. Hindu’s Vishna had many breasts. People are always looking for a vicarious expression of their lost, split-off feminine or masculine part of themselves. Here they could jeer, cackle and mock the semblance of their hidden selves with impunity and safety. One dollar was a small price to pay for curiosity and catharsis.

***

Inside, Jackie and Sweetie were prepping for the soon coming crowd. Jackie, a pubescent, out-of-control, in-your-face kind of teenager. Sweetie, her shy gentle, snuggly companion. Soon with Sweetie’ help, Jackie will become the amorphodite of peoples fears and fantasies.
Jackie’ face was angular yet feminine. Her hair strawberry blonde on one side and ash brown on the other… tinted to aid the effect. She wore a one cup bikini top, like an eye patch concealing one breast (stuffed and pressed to enhance the cleavage and size). Her other breast, which was naturally smaller had a patch of thin strands of hair growing around it. As with the fat lady, hormone injections – gotten on the black market- had aided the development of hair. One side just needed to be shaved regularly. Her bikini bottom appeared to be stuffed to one side displaying male organs, the other side only slightly bulged as if covering female genitalia. Although most onlookers were curious with regards to what was underneath, no one knew for sure, as it was a “family” carnival.
What make-up, clothes and setting lacked was more than compensated by Jackie’s wild, sexy provocative behavior. She had female’s physical assets with a males aggression and wantonness. She plays a shameless vamp quite well… on and off the stage. Be careful what you pretend.
Sweetie, like the straight man of a comedy duo, preens and primps Jackie for the show. The Id and the Super ego in partnership. Sweetie mostly watches, listens and supports. She thoroughly enjoys Jackie’ spontaneous nature, reveling in the exuberance and daring by which she contends with all of those she deals. She carefully applies the facial make-up, taking special care with the eyeliner. To Sweetie dressing up Jackie is like playing with some overgrown, naughty doll. She relishes her privileged position in Jackie’ life. No one is allowed into the inner sanctum but her. Only her and her alone.
Sweetie is 9 going on 5. Petite for her age, many take her for a much younger girl. Her cute, old fashion way of dressing amplifies the effect. Many times this is to her advantage. Most people tend to ignore her or think she’s cute. She likes to hide in the shadows, remain inconspicuous. She conceals her thoughts and feelings even from herself. To stick out, to assert herself, to be noticed would be dangerous. Has been dangerous before. No she’d rather conceals her deepest self, even from herself. Her nickname, derived from some grandmother type when she was three, “Oh, what a sweet girl, can I hold her. She’s such a Sweetie.” It stuck. Since then she has found her niche in the saccharin shadow of other people’ reflections. Somehow the emptying of herself fills up others.
Much like a chameleon takes on the colors of the background upon lay. Or some ethereal Morph, which changes shape to conform to the contours of the body it inhabits. Sweetie is a ghost, a friendly ghost, but a ghost all the same. It’s quite convenient, charming actually wise given her circumstances. People have always taken to her. She has no enemies. She always out of the line of fire. After all, how can you shoot into a mirror? A rather brilliant survival technique. Especially in the land of illusion. Smoke and mirrors.
Her elder brother, Brian, is twice her emotional age, although only 12 ½ . A bit of a know it all and extremely smart. Just ask him. He is a math whiz. Just for fun one day, he shuffled a deck of cards and memorized all 52 at random. He is always counting odd things like how many icons (384) displayed on the Merry-Go-Round. Number of tickets sold and how money taken in… without even counting it again at the end of the day. How many faces in the crowded tent.
His obscure talents are put to good use in the Carnival. He not only is the ticket seller but also the assistant bookkeeper as well. Intellectually equal or superior to any adult. Trouble comes from the fact that his small size and aloof attitude sometime appear as arrogance, thus alienating folk. Although he is proud of his mental prowess, it is not so much arrogance as exercise. Brian enjoys using and displaying his muscles. Is just plain bored and intolerant of people who can’t keep up with him. His primary difficulty is that he relies upon this strength too much. It is the singular way he attempts to interpret and deal with his environment and society.
Some things just fail to yield to analysis and defy understanding. Particularly matters of the heart, about which Brian is an absolute onjayneau.
Brian and Sweetie were inherited by the Carnival by default. Their grandparents originally played the circuit for many years. They were talented musicians and performers. Their daughter, Alicia, who unfortunately didn’t have their inborn skills, stayed within the context of Carnival life, but was relegated to an array of menial or organizational tasks. She wasn’t really suited for administration or parenthood for that matter.
Their father left them when they were 1 and 2 respectively. Alicia struggled to perform her Carnival and parental responsibilities for a couple of years after. However when a charismatic adventurer intersected her course promising a exciting European excursion, she split. Brian was 6 at the time. The rest of the Carnival folk, surrounded and cared for them, in their brusque fashion. They proved to adapt quickly and become assets to the band. After all, what was the alternative? An orphanage? Foster home? Or on the streets?
Alicia never came back. She probably knew, or so Brian and Sweetie would often comfort themselves by saying, that “the Carnys would raise them better than she could and in the long run they would be better off”. They would learn to be independent, resourceful and most of all learn how to survive. What better skills could a parent hope to transfer to their offspring? Yes, they were much luckier than the pampered, spoiled kids whose parents showered affection and attention upon them. Normal kids were stupid, dependent, brats who didn’t know anything. Anything really important anyway.

***

Carnival entrance, front & center, stands the ticket booth… directly in the path of the patrons. The first stop along the Carnival adventure. Inside, Brian is preparing the money and tickets with skill and speed. Outside, on either side of the colorful shack two “bouncers” keep a watchful eye. Every three hundred dollars merits a quick low-profile jaunt to the main trailer to be recounted and deposited into the safe. The other guard would remain. Thus they would rotate throughout the day.
Buster, with Wolf trailing stops in to check on the ticket booth set-up. He inspects it for needed touch-up. His two assistants quietly behind him. “I want these baseboards touched up.” Buster motions at the upper and lower paneling framing the booth. Paint them dark blue, you’ll only need one coat that way. The rest looks pretty good.” They nod. Brian pokes his head inside. “Hey Brian, how’s it going? We only got an hour or so, you going to be ready?” Buster’ tone is doubtful and authoritative. He has always been rather intimidated by Brian’ quick whit and abilities.
Brian looks over his thick glasses condescendingly, “Come on Buster, have I ever Not been ready when we open?” “Yea, right…O.K. Just asking. You know how the Boss gets the first day.” Buster gives Brian a quick ½ wave and heads along his way. Wolf “barks” expectantly and waits, sitting patiently according to a regular script. Being ignored he repeats his inquiry. Just a reminder. “O.K., O.K… here you go” Wolf wags his tail and jumps onto his feet. Brian pats his head, scratches his ears affectionately and tosses him a piece of candy. Wolf barks his appreciation and dashes off to catch up with Buster.
Buster hesitates outside the freak show tent just at the edge where the two canvas panels meet. From there he peeps through the tent, catches slight glimpses of Jackie and Sweetie making ready. He snatches a quick look of the side of Jackie’ bare breast as they adjust the bikini top. Buster darts a sideways look around to guarantee his solitude, when his revelry is disturbed.
“Bark! Bark!” declares Wolf, blowing his cover. Jackie catches Buster peering in and yells at him. “Hey!” she demands. “Who’s out there?” Buster barges in arrogantly and aggressively. “Me, so what? I’m trying to get everything ready. Why aren’t you getting your stage set-up. You better get your sweet little ass in gear or… “Shut up Buster, I know what to do. Just mind you own business. I don’t need you bugging me every time.” “Yea, like last season?” Buster snaps back. “You were always late.” Jackie turns back away from him with contempt and tries to ignore him. Buster continues, “If I wasn’t there riding you, you wouldn’t even have made it out there at all!” “Yea, yea surrrre.” mocks Jackie. Buster is embarrassed but covers well. Jackie is on to his tricks but enjoys the banter. She winks at Sweetie who muffles her giggle.
Jackie gives her top a final shake and returns to her hair and eyes, staring intensely into the make-up mirror. Buster checks her out from the corner of his eyes as he feigns inspecting the interior of the tent. Jackie too keeps checking back in his direction, both avoiding direct eye contact. Playfully parrying young hidden hormonal advances and retreats. Wolf approaches Sweetie and lays contentedly besides her feet. Sweetie slowly strokes his body from head to tail. Wolf basks in her touch. They exchange loving looks. Wolf beats his tail with a happy thump, thump. Sweetie smiles.
Outside, the Music is blaring loudly throughout the Carnival speaker system, “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf. The bearded fat lady, Enid who totes a big black bible accompanied by her skinny husband, Dewey, truck driver and general mechanic, meander their way toward the freak show tent to get their act together.
Their kid, Tommy, a rotund freckled soul is occupied digging through the trash searching for treasures. Dewey, lazily with a drawl, “Come on Tommy, you need to help your ma get things’ set-up.” “Daaad!” he responds defensively, “I already hauled all her stuff over there.”
“Son,” more seriously, “I said come help your mom.” “All right, I’m coming.” Tommy answers begrudgingly as he throws a broken cigar box back into the trash container and pockets some trinket.
The couple is surrounded by a plethora of 50’s and 60’s art work… cheap Deco with lots of flashy curvilinear chrome, cascading line and heavy ornamentation.
On route they pass by the House of Horror. Displayed on it’ facade are an eclectic collection of gruesome scenes mostly extracted from cheap horror films. One face on the left corner facing seems reminiscent of The Scream, by Munch. In the center by the door, there appears a eerie display of butchery as a gang of teenage zombies terrorize and stab scantily clad sorority sisters. Even though developed almost a decade previous, bears an uncanny resemblance to the recent Manson murders of Sharon Tate and company.
Next on the path, between here and there, they encountered the Space Rocket. A Sci-Fi ride from the late 50’s and early 60’s. Decorated with space age art work- stars, planets, comets & Moon stuff. Sexy space girls jetting through the clouds, suited beatniks with laser pistols, alien creatures with multiple heads and appendages. At one time, very awe inspiring and futuristic, now most of the images are dated and weather worn.
As they round the corner to the Freak show tent, they catch the little odds and ends that aptly representational of Carnival life. Expect after decades lived in ultra intensity and flashy colors these impressions numb and fade into subconscious obscurity. What is more noticeable are the costumes of the young patrons who are starting to gather in the parking lot and by the entrance gate.
A clusters of teenagers pour out of a gray Volkswagen “Bug” in a cloud of Marijuana smoke fighting over the last few tokes. Clothing characteristic of the time; tie died bell bottoms, colorful mini-skirts, over sized army outfits draped on hippie chicks, flower tattoos on exposed stomachs and ankles, layers of beads dangling from necks and wrists, bra-less mid drifts.
A crowd of 30 to 40 begins to assemble expectantly. Only 20 minutes to opening.
Buster is running around nervously making final adjustments. Carney rats take their positions at rides, game booths and concessions. Now the ensemble of excited patrons has swollen to 70 or 80 as the gates are opened. Many rush to check out the games located in the arcade. Most however, begin to swarm around the ticket booth.
The painted whore awakens from her 6 week slumber. It’s Show Time! 11:00 am Friday, January 5, 1970. The inaugural of the new Carnival season. The age of Aquarius casts it’ long shadow on the beginning of a new decade.

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