Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sunshine Day at National Orange Show

I am going to try to blog more often. I hold myself back because I think each entry has to be the perfect epic. That is a waste. Little, everyday moments are epic enough... some are even quite brave or reveling. I want to live in each one of them.

So today was Sunshine Day at the National Orange Show. Gil and I are here performing our Wild West Turkey Stampede and the Comedy Parrot "stand up" act, Funny Birds.

For those of you who don't know, Sunshine Day is the day when physically and mentally handicapped (or handy capable... whatever is politically correct these days) come to the fair in the morning for free shows. Another name for it is Special Peoples Day. You can look at this any way you want to. You may choose to make fun, you may choose to pity, you may choose to ignore and just do your job.

As a society, heck, as people or primates or whatever you believe, we are programmed to shun those who are different. I know this because when I pick volunteers for my show that have to answer a question by holding a box to their vocal chords or hold a bird on a metal and plastic claw instead of a flesh-and-blood hand, a blanket of discomfort often descends over the crowd.

But today, on Sunshine Day at the National Orange Show, I was overwhelmed with such a feeling of gratitude as these individuals demonstrated the true meaning of living in the moment. The laughter and enthusiasm, the complete embrace of our ridiculous Turkey Racing Show by this mass of humanity labeled as handicapped was a thrilling encounter. Every move the turkeys made, every turn and flip of Big Red the remote control truck and every squealing, laughing, cheering guest made each moment a perfect picture of joy and fun and celebration.

We do our shows everywhere, for all kinds of audiences: All races, all ages, from soccer moms to rednecks and from yuppies to gang bangers. There is always laughter and smiles. But to rest eyes upon someone who is completely "there" with you, in the moment, sharing with you on a level of pure enjoyment unfettered by rules, responsibilities, and what some might call the typical rigors of life, really did make this day, a sunshine day.

Today I met people that truly live in the moment and are excited about living life in a way that thousands of people spend millions of dollars trying to learn how to do at seminars and through self help books... and most of them never get there.

Today was a good day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


My husband Gil and I put some serious miles on our trucks taking the Wild West Turkey Stampede to fairs throughout the Western United States.

When people hear that we travel to fairs as performers, they often romanticize about our adventures on the open road, seeing the country, the allure of travel.

The Story of the Grape Soda truly encapsulates the adventures to be had while traveling the West as a fairgrounds attraction.

So I give to you, the Epic Story of the Grape Soda: a tale of love and forgiveness.

Firstly I would like to say that my husband Gil, who is anything but your average guy, loves super sweet sodas like orange and grape. I've really never known an adult, especially a thin one, that loves those. Now, don't get me wrong, I love sweet, syrupy stuff but it better be maple and it better be poured over a crisp Belgian waffle.

This story takes place in beautiful Salt Lake City Utah near the State Fair grounds. As much as I try to put it off, at some time during a long run, we are going to have to find a Laundromat. Now, I have nothing against Laundromats. I actually enjoy the efficiency of washing everything at once, drying everything at once, etc, etc. However, cris-crossing the country in an endless search for a Laundromat that doesn't cause one to pause can be unsettling.

Luckily, in this case, we found a fairly nice, very spacious Laundromat near the fair. Now, I don't want to say Gil and I were in a big fight that day, we weren't, but we were both just sort of "off". We had experienced horrible car trouble driving to Utah, I mean some really scary stuff with tires and fuel pumps and although we were settled in, the show was rolling along and everything was pretty great, we were still a little post-traumatic from the trip.

So, we are in the Laundromat together, but giving each other a lot of space. I wasn't happy about it and I'm sure Gil wasn't either. Yet we just couldn't seem to connect. So there I am on a little plastic, gum encrusted chair facing the spinning dryers and reading the local penny saver. Frustrated that we aren't together, I start looking around for Gil. I see him, a couple rows back and against the glass windows relaxing on an equally gum clad, yellow chair, also reading the penny saver. And as I look at him, I notice his grape soda on the chair next to him.

I looked at it and thought, of all the things in the machine, you picked a grape soda? What the? But then I just smiled to myself. That was Gil. Gil was the grape soda guy. Gil was the guy that often reached for the choice not to many others would pick. And although I consider myself adventurous, and creative, I owe much of my unusual existence to the fact that I too was picked by the grape soda guy. Maybe I wasn't the obvious choice for most but my unconventional qualities made me the perfect choice for Gil. And thinking all this I was suddenly overtaken by how much I loved him and how lucky I was to have found him.

Whatever awkwardness or squinkiness that had been between us that day, floated up and away like hot air. I put down my penny saver and moved to join Gil. In one smooth motion, I scooped up his grape soda and took a long sip, savoring its over-the-top sweetness as I sat down beside him. Gil was smiling too although he did look a little puzzled. I extended the can to him and he just shook his head. "Don't you want any more of your grape soda?" I asked lovingly.

Gil looks at me dead faced and says the most terrible thing you could ever hear after taking a drink from your loved ones can of soda... "That's not mine"

Then... Silence. Not a sound could be heard save the low tumbling drumble of the gas dryers. We just stared at each other, unable to move, disbelieving what had transpired. Somewhere, far in the distance, a dog barked.

Oh.... my ...... GOD

Pause now and imagine all the wonderful, possible "lives" of that can grape soda. Where had been,? What had it seen? Who had perhaps used it as an ashtray or maybe a spittoon?

And that, my dear ones, is a slice of the special kind of heavan that can be found traveling Americas highways and byways, performing a racing turkey show with the one you love.

Note: The turkey stampede really is a show! You can see it on our website: www.turkeystampede.com or just go to Youtube and search racing turkeys, turkey races or turkey stampede... there is some pretty funny footage! Our turkeys were also shot casual style for our Oasis Camel Dairy epsisode for this Fall's season of Dirty Jobs w/ Mike Rowe.
To find our everything new and exciting, go to www.cameldairy.com

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bubblegum Girl... the next generation of fair acts.

I remember the first time I got up in front of a group of people to give a presentation. I was in sixth grade English. Each of us had to prepare a short speech on how to do something. During my presentation, something struck me as funny and I quickly incorporated it, pretty much without thought, into the talk. The class fell apart. I felt like a million, trillion bucks and knew, right at that moment, that to make people laugh would just be the greatest job in the world. I remember it like it was yesterday. That was probably THE moment that set me firmly on my path, such as it is. That feeling I get today; when something perfect and spontanious and hilarious happens in the show and everyone errupts in laughter... it is the same feeling.

I wonder If I have ever been witness to someone's "moment".

Last Halloween eve, Gil and I took two of our camels to a trick-or-treat house in Los Angeles to be part of their elaborate Egyptian Mummy theme decor.... just for trick-or-treaters man!?
It was wild. It was a normal, two story house in a fairly normal, middle-class neighborhood but this guy was WAY INTO HALLOWEEN.

There were costumes of every shape and size; from home made to expensive, elaborate rentals. Everyone dressed up. Hands down the best costume had to be this nine year old girl . I first caught her out of the corner of my eye and had to take a double take. She was dressed all in dressed all in pink: pink hoodie, pink sweats, pink slippers.... She made a big, globby hat out of spray foam insulation and painted it pink too. Then she stuck a tennis shoe in the glob.

I don't know what caught my eye more; the strange get-up or the gleam in her eye, huge grin flashing left to right. I had seen that look before. I had worn that look before. It was the look of pure enjoyment as she showcased her unique genius. As goblins, ghost busters, Gumbys and Grouchos filed passed the camels to pet them and say hello, she waited her turn, shoe perched precariously atop her pink goo glob headpiece.

When she got close enough to meet the camel, I smiled admirably at the girl. I leaned over and asked, "You are dressed as the gum under someones shoe; aren't you?" Her smile and nod burst over onto the entire crowd.

How completely amazing is that?? Nine years old and what a great sense of humor! She thought of it herself and was really proud of it. As she walked on to go meet the mummies I looked after her and thought, I wonder when we're going to see her on the fair circuit?!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How did I get here and why am I in this handbasket?

There I am; a 46 year old, California grown, married gal who, like most California growns, works pretty much seven days a week. Work is precariously balanced with household responsibilities: mail, bills, groceries, cleaning, yard work... the usual stuff. No children but that doesn't seem to lighten the load. Laundry is never, ever completely done. It is either in the basket waiting to be washed, in the washer waiting to be dried, in the dryer waiting to be folded or on the bed waiting to be put away; most often, its a combination of three or four of the five.

My husband, Gil works from home and works with me on an amazingly eclectic variety of projects, all of which seem to miraculously culminate in someone paying us to do it!
Our newest car is a 2000 Ford F350 that, thanks to Ford Motor Company's lack of imagination or design capitol, still looks a lot like the new ones. Though not new, our vehicles are paid for and, for the most part, problem free. Except for the family of mice that have taken up residence in my '91 Suburban, making it not quite pine scent fresh, I have no automotive wows.

I rarely like what's on TV, in the frig or hanging in my closet. So I guess my life rolls along pretty much like most; right?

Well, not exactly. You see, my commute doesn't end in an office between nine and five. It ends at a fairgrounds between the lines on Highway 5. Laundry is as much sequins as it is linens. And if you look past the peeling paint on the house and weeds pushing up through the gravel drive you will see a flock of gorgeous tom turkeys strutting about their enclosure next to an African crowned crane taking a bath in her kiddy pool, accidentally splashing the snoozing potbellied pig relaxing in the mud wallow he has made outside her fence.

For the past seventeen years, the first seven of which I did solo before I met Gil, I have made my living as an entertainer, particularly with my traveling bird show, at state and county fairs.

I did not always think it would be this way. When my bird act and I first stumbled onto the San Mateo County Fair entertainment line-up back in 1993, I considered it a perfect transitional habitat between my former, quasi prestigious career as an animal trainer/show presenter for the San Diego Zoological Society and my obviously eminent TV, celebrity animal show host career.
(viva la naivete!)

With the 2009 fair season, (my 17th) off and running with the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, I find I have seasoned and settled into a great life at home in Ramona, California with my husband and our thirty four acre Camel Dairy http://www.cameldairy.com/ and a wonderful, ongoing relationship on the road with fair audiences (some of the best crowds in the world) and my troop of performing birds, some of which have been by my side for over twenty years.

How do we do it? A bird show? A camel dairy? Does that support us? Well, sort of. In addition Gil is a crystal cutter http://www.crystalcutter.com/ and we also work together performing the Wild West turkey Stampede http://www.turkeystampede.com/ the worlds first and only racing turkey show.

Holy crap! How do we do it?!

All I can say is follow along and I'll show you!
I have a lot to share with you. Some of which, you may, after reading, feel that you might have been better off not knowing. But I am a seasoned fairgrounds act performer. I entertain in the trenches and survive by my wits.
I can tell you without fear of contradiction or challenge that it doesn't matter who you are... standing next to a Chinese acrobat DOES make your butt look big. And if that small snippet of information somehow helps even just one person... than exposing my onstage insecurities and backstage catastrophes will have been worth it.