Monthly Archives: August 2010

Comp Time with Ahmed Etemish

Ahmed Etemish, 27, has witnessed and endured horrors few can fathom, even as the soft-spoken Iraqi describes them in candid, unequivocal detail. For him, the bloodletting – first under dictator Saddam Hussein and then the insurgency that took root after the fall of Baghdad in 2003 – was merely a thread in the fabric of Baghdad’s civic life. As he puts it, “[Iraqis] are used to blood and war.” In 1971, Saddam, who then headed Iraq’s network of secret police, imprisoned Ahmed’s mother and grandfather in Abu Ghraib prison on suspicion they were working with the Iranian and Israeli governments,… Continue Reading

My Last Days with the Carnival

Bangor, WI, wasn’t only the last spot I worked before jumping off the carnival, it also has the distinction of being one of the creepiest cities I’ve ever visited. Technically, it’s a village, with an alleged 1,400 residents, all of whom seem never to leave their homes. Day and night its streets were virtually unpeopled. There was no bustle. No commotion. No cacophony of sound suggesting the presence of sentient beings. Its three-block business district lay largely vacant, with the exception of an antique shop, four taverns and a bowling alley. On occasion you’d spy a pedestrian. One lady I… Continue Reading

Meet the Carnies

Thank you to everyone who has followed my adventures this summer. The Carnie Chronicles have generated substantial interest. It was a pleasure and honor to work alongside these great and fascinating people, all of whom I consider friends. I’ve been gone only two days and already I miss them dearly. I hope they find these words I’ve written about them a faithful and accurate snapshot of their summer 2010. Who’d have thunk that I’d love being a carnie? Life is a carnival, indeed. « Previous Next » /* 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12Continue Reading

The Boss Ladies Angered By My Story

A terrible thing happened in Spooner: the boss ladies didn’t like the article I wrote for Isthmus. Except for Liz, who never made her opinion known. Personally, I don’t think she gives a shit either way. Like Harley, she’s a straight shooter. Tells it like she sees it. No kid gloves. Crass and to the point. Conversely, the others are more sensitive, their nerves more easily unsettled. To say they didn’t like the article woefully understates their outright rejection of it. I was at McDonald’s when Ann called that Saturday morning, all but demanding I hightail to Corina’s trailer.… Continue Reading

Rumors, Time and Drunken Dramas

Time with the carnival doesn’t pass like time in regular life, but more like it does in rehab or other institutional settings. Everything is accelerated, the good times, the dramas, the chill moments and other shenanigans. Missing an hour can feel like missing an entire day. A simple walk to the store can be fraught with possibility. In the course of 24 hours you can fall in love and have your heartbroken. Alliances, friendships, romances are ever-shifting as time itself ebbs and flows to an irregular rhythm. Though our days are governed by a routine – packing up the bunks… Continue Reading

It Was One Helluva Weekend

What makes a spot bad or good? Proximity to things – bars, stores, laundry mats. County fairs tend to be self-contained, with the local 4-H chapters selling burgers and ice cream, as well as food vendors other than those provided by the family I work for. Some spots, like in Wales, are so far out that the nearest gas station is close to a mile away with nothing but the rides and bunks on-site. The best spots are in the hearts of cities and towns, like Spooner in far northern Wisconsin, which last week celebrated 100 years of existence. The… Continue Reading

Sex Seekers, Sex Bans and Near Death Experiences

Carnies bridge jumping in Spooner, WI. Yesterday we decamped Black River Falls, tearing down our bunkhouses in the rain. Having come off a five-day spot, and without a full day off since July 3, everyone’s in a fairly foul mood. Making matters worse is Sam, our suspected pill-popper who now openly crushes and snorts her opiates. The girl has a black cloud over her, which she brought with her today when she rode with us for the three-hour haul to Spooner. After Sam decided to hop in our truck to hang with Black Nate, Jeremy jumped ship to ride with… Continue Reading