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Thursday, October 9, 2014

TRAVELERS DO SPARTA



david hayes

The craziness of the gypsy circus passing through town continues in my mind. It wasn't until later that I realized they were gypsies. Yet I knew it on sight when I saw each individual. The woman taking admission money I knew was a gypsy on sight, but didn't take it seriously. I took them for possibly Cubans. The truck with the sign CIRCUS TODAY had Florida tags. I stepped inside and saw the man who evidently was in charge sitting by himself watching people come in. On sight, I thought: that guy is a gypsy. No. Probably Cuban or Latin from somewhere like El Salvador or Panama. They had an accent, but I didn't pay close enough attention to tell if it was a Spanish or other accent? I automatically took it for Spanish. The woman with the hula hoops I thought gypsy, but threw it out of my mind, assessing it too dramatic a supposition. I do know a lot of gypsies have left Europe and come here to USA, because they are hated so much everywhere in Europe. In Moscow, any gypsy found in the city after sunset is arrested, a recent law under Putin. The Nazis exterminated 6 million gypsies, as well as the Jews. The gypsies don't know it. Illiteracy is their way of life; therefore, their history goes back as far as the oldest person remembers locally, and no further. As far as I know they came out of Romania, hence Roma. They live all over southeastern Europe, the countries of the Ottoman Empire, and spread throughout Europe. In some places they're called Travelers. They stay on the move. After the circus, when I realized they were gypsies, I had a laugh at myself for missing it. I recall looking at the woman taking admission; her complexion was not clear like a Cuban's, or any other Latin, but had a layer of what looked like a thin film of dirt from seldom washing her face. I noticed the others had similar complexion. Possibly this is why they are referred to in Europe as swarthy and black. 

david hayes

Once I realized they were gypsies, I had to look at everything I saw in retrospect with new eyes. I did not have to convince myself they were gypsies. I remembered I'd thought that of each person I saw directly involved with the circus. Even thought it was good I went to the car, to protect the car. I didn't see anyone going through cars, but those kinds of things are not seen. In every one of them I saw, my first intuition said, gypsy. And every time, I talked myself out of a conclusion, because I have little to no experience with gypsies, except reading about them and seeing several obvious gypsies in Food Lion parking lot several years ago. I recalled an interesting book I'd read years ago about gypsies in southeastern Europe by Isabel Fonseca, Bury Me Standing. The day after the circus, I wondered what was missing from Sparta. I noticed that the people I saw as Latins first, had an unhappiness about them, a harsh unhappiness that is not Latin, except maybe in gangs and prison. They all had far away countenances. The woman taking money never made eye contact with anyone, only looked at the money changing hands. They never looked at anybody. I thought that a little odd for Latin people, too. Everything that did not compute came together once I realized they were, indeed, gypsies. Another thing difficult to compute was the absence of any county authority, like fire marshall, rescue squad that is often present, on alert for possible need at the fair grounds with a crowd. No law enforcement, either town cops or sheriff deputies. That seemed very odd. My guess is nobody engaged in booking them noticed they were gypsies, like I automatically took them for Cuban without it feeling right. We have so many Latins passing through the county now from all over Latin America, the local people take everyone of a tan complexion for Mexican and think nothing of it, like everything that flies and stings, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, mud daubers, bumble bees, are bees.  

david hayes

Every one of them I saw had a darkness about them that was not in their complexion. They looked furiously angry with one another. I remember the monkey did not like the man it was performing for. He had to threaten it to make it do its "tricks." It would chew at the leash in fits he had to scold it for. The monkey's countenance said it was not a happy monkey. Its face looked like a cat's face when it's really mad, not mad ready to attack, but in a rotten mood, an impotent rage. I'm glad I did not see the miniature pony. A teenage boy who carried props onto the stage area and removed them had a dark attitude about him. Circus people in my experience tend to give stage smiles and attempt to look happy for the crowd. Only the clown had a smile. It was painted on. The boy looked like he was ready to leave the whole mess of them and start his life over, but it was also a look of permanent interior anger with one another they all seemed to share. I'm not saying any of these conjectures is the case, only this is how I interpreted what I saw. I remember being puzzled by the people of the circus I took for Latin, who had no Latin characteristics. I wrote it off as unhappy family. Nothing odd about that. The sign in the back of the pickup was the first give-away if I'd paid attention. The letters were hand-painted, not fancy circus painting, but slashed like a teenage boy might do who had never touched a brush to paint before. The admission booth looked like a sorry stage prop made of painted cardboard. Suspicions were aroused when I saw no tent, but let it go as maybe something one-ring circuses can't afford to do anymore. I thought: how corporate they are. Take the most money they can get and give the least product they can get away with. When it's over, they're gone. It's the Traveler way. Make a hit on a town and run. I've wondered what they did in Sparta between the time they arrived and set up the circus.

david hayes

Most of all, I wondered why there was no county representation present. I felt like anybody of the county government would have freaked out seeing the crowd at least double the number of people in the space that state law allows, and that in only half the space. It became incredibly unsafe in there by the time the circus started, to say nothing of the absence of oxygen and the heat. Possibly part of my motivation for leaving the crowd was a powerful feeling of being completely out of control vulnerable. Walking out, I had to push my way between people and force my way to the exit door. It was a struggle. I could not have made it through the impenetrable crowd to the door I came in. I thought: if one big surprise were to happen, very regrettable mayhem will take place immediately. I sat in the parking lot thinking, why is no law enforcement here? The county rents the building, telling me somebody involved in county government scheduled the circus. I liked not having cops there, but remembered the Rolling Stones hired Hell's Angels for security at the famous Altamont concert, keeping cops away. Turned out, they needed cops to protect the crowd and the bands from the Hell's Angels. But they had no cops. It went to hell in a hurry. If anything untoward had broken loose at this circus, it would have made headlines on national news. Again, I'm not saying any of this is fact. I'm interpreting what I saw, realizing I did not even let myself in on what I knew at the time, that they were gypsies. My interpretations are subjective, colored by my own attitudes and experience, meaning: limited. I did not see everything. I just felt an overwhelming need to be out of there unto a mild panic attempting to reach a door. It was a feeling that if I don't get to the other side of a door now, I may collapse from light headedness. Approaching the door, I felt an urgency that if the door doesn't open, it will take too long to struggle my way to another door. Opening the door, I felt like I'd been underwater until I couldn't hold my breath another second. The fresh air was another world. It was home.
       
david hayes


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