Thursday, June 23, 2011

Do You Smell Buttered Popcorn?

Some of you know my latest novel revolves around a New Jersey boardwalk amusement park that is ground zero for a time grid that temporal agents use as a kind of super-highway.  This grid surfaces in pockets of high, naturally-occurring electromagnetic energy, but also in places where humans have contributed to that energy.  I've long thought about residual emotions that abound in places of extreme terror or joy or sadness. I envision a century-old carnival as that kind of place.  It is a place where people go seeking escape, hungry for that charge that will pull them from their reality into another one.  A place where time is suspended and we reconnect with that innocence we've all but left behind.

A few nights ago, the Sundance channel ran a documentary called Carny. Filmmaker Alison Murray followed a traveling carnival for a season and recorded candid interviews, life-changing events, the good, the bad and the ugly of living life as a gypsy for the sole purpose of entertaining others.  The work is hard, physical labor at below minimum wage.  Some join up because they're running away from the law, from their problems, from addictions.  Some are carnies because there were no other options.  Some missed out on their childhood and spend their lifetime filling in the void. Most come because they are different and stay because they realize they're not as different as someone else.

I've attended these carnivals, clutched my purse a little closer, held on a little more because I worried the guy who put the rides together did a half-arse job. I've thought the carnies were fringe and kept them at a distance.  I'm guilty, but I'm not the only one.  Otherwise, the impetus wouldn't have been there to document the truth. 

This knowledge came at an important time in the writing of this story. I need to dig deeper, write my hero from a place of enlightenment, not misconception. 

If you walked off your job today and joined a traveling carnival, what kind of carny would you be? Now's the time to cough up any bizarre talents or preoccupations. I'll start.  I used to be able to contort so that both ankles would rest behind my neck. I know.  As attractive as you can imagine that was, I'd give all that up to run the-you guessed it-Ferris wheel.

Friday, look for pictures from my adventure to a Big Cat Sanctuary.  Trust me, carnies aren't the only ones that smell like buttered popcorn.


Charles Gramlich said...

I suppose I'd have to be a barker. about all I can do is talk.

the walking man said...

Like Charles all I can do is talk too, but I would be the guy in the dunk tank so I could hurl well worded insults at the marks and rubes who couldn't hit a bulls butt with a basketball.

L.A. Mitchell said...

@Charles and TWM-You would both be excellent dunk tank insulters. Makes me almost want to start up a Vortex carnival. Almost :)