by Ctein

In 1975, I was making a photo trip around the country. My next-to-final stop before heading to Illinois to photograph a customer's family home was a science fiction convention in Louisville. There, I met up with an artist friend of mine, Freff, who had recently graduated from Ringling Brother Clown College (he unfortunately did not make the pick for the circus). The circus was in town, and he was seeing old classmates.

Freff brought a clown friend down to the con to hang out. Well, we had a delightful time together. Turns out I get along really great with clowns (ahem). Towards the end of the weekend Freff's friend asked me if I was local. I told him I was from San Francisco and traveling through on photo business and fun.

He said, "That's where we're going next week. Do you want to ride back to California with us? You could probably make some photographs."

And I replied...

"That would be fun, but I have to do a photo shoot up in Illinois next weekend; maybe I could do it some other time?"

And he said, "Sure," and that was the end of that.

Yes indeed, people. I was offered the chance to ride cross-country on the Ringling Brothers circus train.

In the clown car.

With the clowns!

And I turned it down.

Why? Because I had this over-developed sense of responsibility, and I was your typical, white, 20-something, filled-with-a-sense-of-self-entitlement male. I just knew that opportunities like this came up every day. If I didn't ride the circus train this week, surely I would some other time. Right?

Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid.

And it really was stupid because I could have told the folks in Illinois I'd be coming a week later. I could have cashed in my refundable airline ticket (ah, the good old days) bought a new round-trip ticket to Illinois and flown back after the train got to SF. It would cost me a few hundred bucks, a little inconvenience and several extra days of my time, and that's all.

But, I didn't even think of that alternative, I was that certain that I'd have another opportunity to do this. Like I said, really typically-stupid, 20-something male thinking. Or lack thereof. I
remember this once in a while just to knock a little sense back into my head. I'm told that builds character and keeps me humble. So far, it's worked great!

It is that "road not taken" thing. It makes ya wonder. I'm not complaining about the road taken; It's gotten me to two solar eclipses, three space launches, close enough to red-hot, flowing lava
to get myself a "sunburn", and if the gods continue to be kind, the South Pole. Not too shabby.

But, jeez, man...circus clowns!

The Moral, kiddies?

When someone offers you a chance to ride The Circus Train, TAKE IT!
It only comes through town once.

There's no photo for this column, because...well...that's the point.

Posted by: CTEIN


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