Hope is the pillar that holds up the world.
Hope is the dream of a waking man.
—Pliny the Elder
One of my young customers once said, "Gee, Mr. Roland, you've been everything but a pirate!"
I didn't tell him that to earn my way through college I had worked for a tax preparation firm, so I had even been a pirate.
He might have thought I was bragging.
I have incorporated some of my life experiences into my books.
I have been laboring for some time on CARNIVAL OF THE DAMNED.
And yes, I worked as a young carnie for a time.
Carnie life is rough, demanding, and harsh.
Carnies tend to work 16-hour days.
When they’re not operating rides or luring people to games, workers spend much of the time making sure concession stands have hot dogs,
generators have fuel and simply “putting out fires.
Carnivals often operate until midnight, even on their last day at an event.
The next day, workers typically begin tearing down rides by 8 a.m. and don’t finish until 10 p.m.
The carnival and its workers then travel to their next destination, usually hours away.
No days off and very little sleep.
Yet, there was a time when it also provided a community of haven for the outsider ... but no longer.
This time of year (mid October to the end of November) reminds me of Gibsonton, Florida.
The Marks like to call it the town of the freaks.
Yet, I found the true freaks were to be found in the gawking ranks of the Marks.
(I never thought of the customers as Marks, and, of course, that made me an outsider even in a community of outsiders.)
Gibtown was the Carnies' haven, their reliable retreat, the one place in the world that was truly home. From mid-October to late November they headed toward Gibtown.
Gibtown became the retirement or home-base for a variety of show folks
where your next door neighbors might be Priscilla the Monkey Girl, the Alligator Man, the Lobster family, or Dotty the Fat Lady.
In other places these strange people would have been met with some degree of social rejection,
but in Gibtown they were treated as average people bonded by the nomadic lifestyle of the traveling show.
Now, of course, side shows are rarely found in carnivals. You find them these days in the halls of Congress.
I hear there is a horror TV show about a freak show. I will not watch it ... for a variety of reasons.
While on the road, regardless of where their business took them during their nomadic season, they held fast to the ideal of Gibsonton,
and they returned every night to a familiar place, to their Gibtown-on-Wheels, (their travel trailers).
The rest of modern America seems bent upon fragmentation:
Year by year there is less coherence in every ethnic group; churches, and small neighborhoods,
once the glue of society, are frequently said to be worthless and even oppressive,
as if our fellow citizens see a perversely appealing chaos in the world around them and wish to adopt it,
even if adoption leads to extinction.
Among carnies, however, there was a strong and treasured sense of community that, year by year, never diminished.
But being human, this chaos mind-set has infected them. And Darkness has made its home among them.
In November 1992, Gibtown was hit with negative publicity when the Lobster Boy was murdered.
Years before, he shot and killed his daughter's fiance.
Found guilty, he was sentenced to 15 years of probation as the prison could not meet his physical needs.
His wife endured years more of abuse from the alcoholic man and pleaded with her son-in-law for help.
The solution came with three shots in Stile’s head as he sat watching T.V. in his trailer.
The son-in-law was found guilty of murdering the Lobster Boy and handed a life term in prison.
Mary Stiles was sentenced to 12 years but continues to maintain that she was only doing what was necessary to protect her family.
The case left a heavy dent in Gibtown’s reputation that is still talked about today.
Have any of you noticed a coarsening of the people around you?
It is commonplace for folks to invade your sense of privacy by speaking loudly on their cell phones right by you while waiting in line.
And don't get in their way if they are leaving an airplane, bus, or movie theater!
The internet makes us faceless and anonymous, free to be cruel without consequences.
There’s probably more sex, violence, and salty language in the opening credits of Keeping Up with the Kardashians
than there was on all of prime-time TV in the 90's.
Gallup finds that 72 percent of Americans are convinced that “moral values” are getting worse.
Perhaps it is not that God has forsaken us, but that much of society has forsaken Him?
What do you think?