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    What do you see in a 12 months on the street with traveling carnivals? A father tells us in ‘American Oz

    Wednesday, August 5, 2020, 1:00 AM WIB Last Updated 2020-08-05T08:00:02Z
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    © Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS author Michael Comerford together with his 15-12 months-old daughter, Grace Comerford, on July 31 in Barrington. Michael wrote a book about his yr on the road with traveling carnivals.

    Some years ago, a no longer-so-younger and shut-to-penniless journalist named Mike Comerford took a visit. It turned into now not his first trip, however was an extended go back and forth, taking him throughout this country and into Mexico. He traveled by bus (5,740 miles), teach (2,130 miles) and with the aid of that vanishing potential of transport, hitchhiking (13,seven hundred).
    This journey changed him, as you may imagine, however in ways that he could not have expected when he got the bold (to a few) and foolhardy (to a couple) concept of joining and working for the country’s touring carnival companies.
    The result is a brilliant e-book, colorfully active and full of a forged of characters that might do a Fellini film justice, in addition to deep observations of existence. The booklet is titled “American Oz: An fantastic 12 months internal go back and forth Carnivals at State fairs & festivals” (Comerford Publishing) and in it he writes, “Carnival individuals are the untold experiences in the usa. They put tens of millions of people on rides a year. The carnival industry rakes in a whole bunch of tens of millions of dollars every year. The carnival employee deserves to be seen.”
    The ebook is via turns humorous and sad, romantic and tough-edged and it's inconceivable to argue with his claim, in its first few pages, that he takes us on “a magic curler coaster never ridden earlier than.”
    I first met Comerford when he changed into a younger and keen journalist, beginning his decades-lengthy profession that would find his byline in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago sun-times and daily Herald, as well as papers in Moscow and Budapest. He changed into ever be chuffed to tell you that he had visited practically a hundred nations, swam in the Nile, studied Buddhism in the Himalayas and “danced an Irish jig in the Amazon with an upraised jug of local White Lightning.”
    He hit the carnival street, he says, “as a result of journalism jobs were drying up and that i thought this might be a good way to birth a ebook-writing career.”
    He become, in a fashion, born for the highway, when you consider that, as he writes, “I’m the oldest of four children in a household that moved ten instances before settling in the Chicago area. In my younger mind, I linked relocating to a brand new home with a lifetime of discovery. attractions unseen. awesome americans. ask yourself.”
    I caught up with Comerford when he changed into in the midst of his experience, stopping with a carnival for the Puerto Rican festival party in Humboldt Park in June 2013. at the time he was operating a blog (still in existence at eyeslikecarnivals.com) which contained photographs and words and became, he stated, “written on the run, in quick food joints.” I wrote about it, noting its “vitality, life and immediacy.”
    He needlessly thanks me for that in the acknowledgments of this booklet and that i can vividly don't forget that in Humboldt Park he wore what he referred to as his “Crocodile Dundee” hat which, as he particulars in “American Oz,” became part of 1 of his moving carnival identities, together with Cowboy, El Grande, Mike Love, Slim and others. “after I deep-sixed my precise identify, I felt like a fiction in a traveling fiction land,” he writes. “each day in carnivals, I sang along with the track of the halfway. I made up reports for riders and customers. I helped individuals have a good time.”
    He has his fun too, as well as lousy drowsing preparations, nasty and potentially unhealthy encounters. He writes: “where you find the most efficient happiness, you locate essentially the most pain.” He artfully details moments of both.
    finally, of path, he left the carny existence although, he writes, “leaving carnivals wasn’t easy. … I shared whatever more than adventure with many carnival americans. I had no salary and no permanent home.” He then offers us a sad carny persona named Scott, “headed towards a have-now not existence in a gotta-have-it world.” Scott tells him in the e-book, “I haven’t had a real job when you consider that i was sixteen. Now I even have a prison list and just carnies for references. individuals don’t like carny references. They consider we’re all drug addicts and idiots, which is fairly genuine. I’m thirty years historical. How can i save 1000 bucks for a deposit on an condo?”
    when you consider that returning here, Comerford has worked a few revenue jobs, bought a detective’s license, been a security guard and brought “any job that could pay the bills.” He also worked on his publication, sculpting a cohesive narrative from the series of vignettes on his net web page. He tried the general publishing route and “with every rejection I obtained, which didn’t feel decent, i might remodel the e-book and it grew to become improved.”
    He collaborated with editor chums and the self-posted book took its latest compelling shape, accurately together with his hitchhiking encounters and impressions as a result of he discovered that, he says, “cars turn into confessionals.” He got drivers and his carny colleagues “to relate the actual inner geography of their lives. Yet they observed their lives in their personal approaches. They noted looking for love and that means in their lives on the highway.”
    Now involved with a number of booklet promotional chores, he is decided, in the face of the decreasing variety of obtainable jobs in the ever-contracting newspaper business, to hold writing books, most likely one focused on environmentalism, a passion he shares along with his 15-yr-historical daughter Grace who says, “I neglected him an excellent deal when he became long past but he known as practically daily.”
    She is a creator too, and a younger activist. She has written a book, “energy of crimson: Jackie’s purple Ninja Story.” She has, understandably, a proud father who writes, “Grace stored me in touch all year with the family aspect of carnival lifestyles.” Amicable divorced a long time ago, he lives close Grace in the northwestern suburbs and spends a fine deal of time with her.
    he's in his early 60s now and keeps in touch with some of those he met on the road. Most are out of work and that's why there could be no carnivals on the town this season.
    There might be none of their rough-and-tumble pleasures bursting forth in a single day in a vacant lot or playground in a jungle of neon and sound and movement, with concern-inducing rust striking from rides, the weirdly outstanding look and mannerisms of the guys and ladies working those rides and touting these why-can’t-I-win-at-these video games.
    I actually have always loved carnivals and that i leave out them now. “American Oz” is as shut as i can get and in its powerfully persuasive means, it brings me nearer than I even have ever been.


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