Friday, February 06, 2009

A Pound of Flesh

I’ve written often in the past about how the field across the street from where I lived granted me several opportunities for me to earn kid money. The field was known as the Bean Field, but it had always been just a hay field as long as I had lived there. It is now filled with a shopping center, a bank and hundreds of condominiums.

The Bean Field was the host of annuals events like a massive soldier bivouac where I would sell bottles of soda to the soldiers and then collect empty bottles for their deposit value. There was an annual Turkey Shoot where I’d get people at a neighborhood bar to take a chance and let me shoot for them and if I won they’d get the turkey coupon.

The strangest money making opportunity at the Bean Field came to me in the form of a Carnival. As a kid I go over to watch the Carnival set up for opening night. I’d get to see the real behind the scenes of the dirty and lonely people who spent their lives on the road hauling trailers, generators and machinery. They were a community onto themselves.

One of the Carneys asked me if I wanted a job for the week taking tickets at the house of mirrors. He offered me a dollar over minimum wage and I thought that was pretty good. There were two pieces to this puzzle that made me understand why he was paying more than the minimum wage. First I was going to be taking a crap from the customers because the house of mirrors was a normal trailer sized building that one could walk through in less than a minute. The second reason was that he played music through the sound system on the trailer. It wasn’t a variety, but rather an endless loop of five songs off the Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline album. 10:00AM to 10:00PM for five days straight. It was like the Clock Work Orange aversion therapy.

To this day I still cringe and feel slightly sick when I hear Lay Lady Lay, or Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.


Blogger Donna said...

That's my favorite Bob Dylan album! I'm glad I don't have anything but good thoughts about those songs.

4:21 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

If you want to be taken back to your carnival days, read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I never worked at a carnival but I found it fascinating.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Patrick McGee said...

North Carolina State Fair, James E. Straights(sp) Shows.

Man you evoke good memories.

My family having a booth at "The Fair" for as long as I could remember, gave me free access to the fairgrounds, pre-fair and an opportunity to make money working for the "Carnies" assembling rides or doing whatever "Slave Labor" did and by doing so and observing the cavalier way those rides were put together, gave me a "One-up" knowing the risk fairgoers were at and thanks to a young, beautiful "Carnie Girl" gave me insight as to what my "Marriage Tackle" was really all about.

What a life, that of the "Carnie"

7:17 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

I used to think being a carnie would be cool. Then I got a little older and started really looking at the people and the way they lived. Five or six people living in a travel trailer meant for two. Lots of difficult physical labor coupled with long long hours standing in one place and being polite to people who thought you were trash. Between seeing that and watching HBO's "Carnivale" broke me of wanting that kind of life. It's sad about the bean field. There's not many places like that left anymore. Everyone with property either wants to make money or is afraid someone will get hurt and sue.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Patrick McGee said...

I believe, if I had been invited to come along after the fair was over, even as romantic as it seemed, I am certain I would have hightailed back to Gramma and Granpas for that comfort of security that, at time overpowered all else.

5:53 PM  
Blogger g said...

karma - heard Lay Lady Lay on the way home tonight. can't remember the last time i heard it.

freaky deaky

6:45 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Donna, all I can say that it is much better than it sounds.

Beth I didn't travel with them, it was just a kid job for about five days.

Patrick, I was never wirery enough to fit in. I was a well fed kid from a rich suburb, I lacked that suspicious look in the eye that they possessed. Some day I'll have to write about the day I nearly ran away (as it was called by my family) with the circus.

Darev Carnevale was creepy.

g, too bad it's ruined for me and it's been nearly 40 years. I have a memory from hell.

8:16 PM  

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