Ok, today is April, 10 2005 (although we're only ten minutes away from April 11th and it more than likely will be the 11th before I finish typing this). I have less than a week to find out if my life is going radically change. Let me explain--by going much further back in time than is necessary (to set the scene of course):
A few months ago I had given up on my plan to move to Canada. In fact I was nearing the giving up point on a lot of things. I was feeling tired, weak, broken and out of shape. This usually happens to me toward the end of winter when I haven't performed in months, I'm nearly out of money and wondering who the fuck really wants to be a professional circus performer. I start to get down on myself, I start to wonder if this is really worth it, if I'm maybe too old to be pursuing this, or if it's even possible to do. I start to wonder if I'm maybe just a hack or a wannabe. Am I any good at this at all?
Then (dramatic pause), the sun comes out. It's spring, things bloom, work comes in, I get in shape and once again I am on top of the world. I'm performing and holy crap, I'm actually good at this. This is the cycle, at least it has been for the last two years. I know this cycle, I know that it's partly because of where I am and the work that's available. I know that it's coming, I know what it is and how I'm going to react to it. I know all of these things--
But knowing doesn't help.
I still feel lonely. I still feel like a loser, I still feel desperate and I still feel like a hack. It's really a big pain in the ass. But this isn't the story. This is only the background.
This cycle was playing out in mid march this year. I had finally finished recovering from the orchie and starting to get back into shape. It was a bit of a depressing process. I had gained a lot of weight (for me) and lost a lot of muscle because of the orchie. I felt bad about my body, and was starting to wonder if circus is really right for me. When I did decide to get off my ass and start getting back into shape it was hard. My body was not happy about working again after such a long break.
But I did get off my ass. This is very important because if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been prepared to recieve the email.
I was working out again, juggling, starting to gear up for the season, but wondering if this would be my last (I was being shortsighted and melodramatic, but these are my raw emotions, not logical thoughts so give me a break, ok?) Then suddenly, one day I checked my email, as I do several times every day (compulsively), and I start to panic.
As I said in the opening, I had just about given up on my dream to move to Toronto--actually I had just officially given up on my dream to move to Toronto. I was instead going to bring my closest friends to me. My two closest friends in the world were making plans to move halfway across the country to be with me. We were going to create our own Scene. We were going to make something amazing happen out here.
Then I got an email.
Some time in January I had heard that a small circus company based in Toronto, was looking for artists and having auditions. The information I got didn't specify when the auditions were, but I sent in my information anyway. By mid March I figured they had already cast the show. I almost forgotten that I had sent them anything. So, I was pretty surprised when on March 22, I got an email entitled: "Audition Information".
Here I had all these plans. We were going to move out here and change the world and then my world changed. But I had to take it. There's no way I couldn't take the audition, this is what I do, this is what I've been working for. I want to be on a show!
One more small detail: the auditions were in Toronto on April 2. Eleven days after I got the email. Fuck. Again. Now, there are problems. Now it's time to panic. I have creditors beating down my door. My roommate would like to see some rent from me and there's the little matter of having a week and a half to get into the shape I hadn't been in since September. Yeah. Good times.
Reasonable people might have passed this one up. It was nearly a financial and physical impossibility. However, I'm not reasonable and nearly isn't entirely. So, I broke out my trapeze (which I hadn't touched since my last show with it, in September) and hauled my ass off to the gym. I trained at night while during the day I did acrobatics with my checkbook and credit lines. I begged the money for the plane ticket from the lovely Jessica Star, whom had also financed my orchie. I begged my rent money from my mom, with a promise to pay it back (which I will mom, I swear!). And, I put out a plea to the trans community to give me shelter. Whew!
Did I mention that I was also working every day at my day job during this time? I definitely didn't think I was going to make it at times. I didn't think my act would be ready, I didn't know if I would look like a fool. I didn't know who I was competing against. I had almost no information on this troop. I didn't even know if I would pass.
But I went to the gym or the Circus Center every night. I was sore, bleeding and exhausted, but by the night before I left things had come back and come together. I felt comfortable on the trapeze again. I felt strong. I felt good.
And then I got on a plane, went to the audition and returned triumphant. If this was somebody else's life the story from here would be as simple as that. But this is my life.
It was cold and gray when I left. We had to wait on the runway for the plane to be de-iced. This wouldn't have been a big deal if it hadn't been in 70's the day before. Blah. It was cold and gray when I landed in Philadelphia. Why was I landing in Philadelphia? Because I'm poor, we can't do this the easy way. Not on less than fourteen days notice. So I flew into Philly and had a hour layover and then landed in Buffalo, where it was ugly and gray, but not so cold. This was the easy travel day.
In Buffalo I hooked up with a good friend, whom some of you might know as Andrea Portman. So, we went out to dinner, I had a place to crash, an internet connection, all was good. I had no idea where I was staying Friday night, but Thursday night was all good.
Friday night? Oh, yeah, since I'm poor, this was no weekend trip. This was a five day adventure. We tried everything was could (Jessica, KT and I) to make the trip as short as possible, but the plane ticket would have been unaffordable for any other combination of days. So, it was a long ass trip.
Friday morning AP dropped me off at the bus station which was very nice because it meant I didn't have to walk. However, I did have to wait. I got to the bus station at 8am and the next bus left at 11am. I made a lot of friends at the Buffalo Bus Station.
After three hours of reading, juggling, making friends with the staff at the bus terminal, and trying to recover from jetlag, I was pretty tired. Fortunately, I had a three and a half hour Greyhound ride ahead of me...err or something like that. I'm terrible at sleeping on buses and planes, so I was pretty much awake the whole time. At least I got to watch the Canadian countryside go past, which was actually interesting to watch for a while since I had never been to Canada before. Even though it's the same continent and only miles north of where I had spent the previous night, it is a different country, one that I had never been to, so the scenery seemed foreign and exciting.
I also learned that Canada has hicks too. Obnoxious hicks, with obnoxious screaming children who won't shut up.
My amazing amazing amazing friend Dar(k) picked me up from the Toronto bus station. I have missed her to death for the last two years and I can't tell you how excited I was to see her and her green Rodeo again. Dar and I had a class together when I was living with my folks in Florida, recovering from a badly broken leg. This was when I was twenty just before I started seriously thinking about transition. Dar lived pretty close to my folks and she used to pick me up in the morning and drive me to class in her green Rodeo. She later moved back to Toronto with her folks and I hadn't seen her in nearly two years-- and err she hadn't seen me at all yet.
But, she's been here and she's seen this website, so it wasn't a total shock and Dar is amazing and took it all in stride. So when I hopped--well kind of crammed with all the stuff I was carrying--into her car there was much rejoicing. We ate, we hung out, we explored the city, we watched the weather slowly deteriorate, we generally had a great time. Dar fed me and then I had to find a place to live for the evening (she lives with her folks, so that was kind of off limits). Eventually I found a nice ghetto little hostel, said goodbye to Dar and crashed.
It was the day of the audition and I woke up to snow. Wet, rainy, miserable ass snow. It was Saturday, the day of the audition.
My sleep cycle was way off from traveling and irregular sleep so I woke up really early. Like 8am. My audition wasn't until 5pm and I had nothing to do (Dar had exams coming up so she had to study). I went back to sleep. But the best I could do was 10am and then I needed to get out of bed.
Here's a fun little sub plot: I was staying in a hostel. In the dorms. In the girl's dorms. I haven't had laser in months and months. So figuring out how to shave my face, shower and change were all fun little obstacles. Unfortunately they only managed to take until 11am or so and I still had a lot of time to kill before the audition.
I managed to kill another four hours with reading, stretching, television, anxiety, and compulsive juggling, but by 3pm I couldn't take it anymore. I had to get out of the hostel. I had already eaten (I went to a diner earlier) so I had had my food for the day, so I went in search of nutrients. Namely: Gatoraide. Did I mention it was snowing?
It was snowing and raining and slushing but I really couldn't sit around anymore so I trudged off. For some reason I was being picky about what convince store I bought my Gatoraide from so I wandered downtown Toronto searching for the right one. By the time I found the one I wanted it was 3:40 and I was about a block from the Circus School. I didn't want to walk all the way back to the hostel, sit around for a half an hour and then head back, but I was also obnoxiously, unprofessionally early.
Fuck. This was a fun little problem. Coffee shops were out because I had no money for coffee and therefore couldn't even pretend to have a reason to be there. Book shops and libraries are generally pretty good for this kind of thing, so I set out. All I really wanted was a warm place to sit and rest before I had my audition. Surely down town Toronto would have a book shop I could sit in for a little while. Did I mention it was cold out? It was really cold out, I had no gloves (I lost one a few weeks ago, this happens to me every winter) I was bright enough to bring my winter coat, but the snow was coming down like rain and I was getting soaked. I was also unable to find a bookstore or library, so I wandered. I was really setting myself up for disaster, it was cold, I was getting numb, this was a crazy idea anyway. But for some reason, I didn't feel an impending sense of doom. I felt good (albeit cold).
After wandering for twenty minutes or so, I finally gave up. I went to the circus school. It was 4pm anyway, close enough. I got in, talked to the circus director, stretched, juggled, met some of the other auditioners, all was good.
There were six of us auditioning and several parts to the audition. The first part of the audition was "movement". Which was really dancing. Or rather trying to learn a dance routine. I failed spectacularly. It was every nightmare moment from ballet and modern classes all over again. I can move, but I'm horrible about learning sequences. I just don't remember them, they slip out of my head. The only person failing more than me was this boy--the only boy at the audition, who had kind of taught himself acrobatics--he was too cool to participate. But I did. I failed my best. I got lost and couldn't remember sequences, I just sucked. Here again, I should have panicked. I should have felt an impending sense of doom. All the girls could do the routine. They could do it better than I could, but I didn't panic.
Then next part was flexibility. Here again I was the bottom of the field except for Mr. Coolguy. I didn't feel that bad though, my flexibility isn't phenomenal, or even great for a girl, but I'm ok. My flexibility is better than my dancing.
Next was acrobatics. Now, it was my turn to play. My handstand was better. My back tucks were higher. Some of the girls there had more complicated formal gymnastic training, but my stuff was bigger. Here too, Mr. Coolguy started to shine. I was starting to feel better about myself.
Then came strength. They wanted to see how many pull ups we could do. I went first. I felt bad for Mr. Coolguy because he really didn't want to be beaten by a girl. It was too bad for him. He did ten, two shy of my twelve. Oops. Here I could be concerned about sandbagging. I mean one could argue that I was born a boy and it's not fair to compare myself to the other girls, but one could also go fuck himself. I have lost so much strength. After the orchie I was struggling to get through five and maxing out at eight. When I was a boy I was able to do 25 easy 27 on a good day. I built my strength back up from eight to twelve (actually fifteen, I was just saving strength so I wouldn't fall off the trapeze when I did my act later) without the aid of testicles. So I feel no shame in my strength.
So we're building here. The last part of the audition was optional. You could present a choreographed piece if you chose. I had been busting my ass for a week and a half to get my trap act up and running again. Now was the time to see if that effort was worth it. I didn't have to go, but I had come this far, I wanted to show something. So, I went first.
I rocked. I mean it wasn't perfect, but I really felt good about the piece. It was in my body and it flowed out. I knew what I was doing so I got to concentrate on the performance. I feel like I got to show my particular style of performance. I felt really good. I miss performing. I miss performing. I felt like a circus performer. I'm sure that if I see the video tape I'll cringe and groan, but on the trap I felt glorious. When I finished people burst out in stunned applause. Not "we're all auditioning together, congratualtions you did something, we support you" applause, but random people watching from the balcony and other areas applauded. I don't think people had seen an act like that before. It's a little old school. I don't have a lot of pretty, arty, dancey, tricks in it. It's simple, energetic, and several of the tricks look physically impossible.
I felt really good after that. Which was good because the next morning I couldn't move at all. I and the other girls from out of town were invited back to train at the school the next day. I don't think the invitation means much beyond them being nice to us for having made such a long trip. I didn't do much because I couldn't really move, but I went to show gratitude for the invitation and because I had nothing better to do.
This is the dénouement, this should be the happily ever after. The audition was over, I should have been home, soaking in hot bath, congratulating myself. Nothing in my life is simple. The saga continues.
After training, I hung out with Dar. Through my connections with the trans community, I was able to find a couch to sleep on that night (Sunday). An aquantiance, hooked me up with a friend's couch. I was nervous about crashing on a stranger's couch, but she is a lovely lady who saved my a significant amount of money. Thank you so much. The next morning, after graciously cooking me breakfast, she dropped me at the bus station where I began an EIGHTEEN HOUR travel day.
I won't go into details, because the important part of this essay is over, we're heading towards the happily ever after, but my day included an hour and a half wait at the bus terminal, a three and a half hour bus ride, having the city bus to the airport fail to stop at the bus stop in Buffalo, a three hour wait at the Buffalo airport, a delayed flight in Chicago and a forty-five minute car ride home and a very tired girl crashing in her bed at 2am.
Today was my first day off since the trip. I went back to work on what was technically the night I got in. I had a show the day after that and I worked every day since. Tomorrow I work again, but I've had a few seconds to catch my breath and recharge. It's been one week since my audition, I find out some time this week. I'll keep you posted.
Update: what we know now
Ok, the adventure continues... The month after the audition saw me almost lose my mind. Seriously, I didn't hear anything from them for a long time. Everything was in doubt: my abilities as a performer, the future of my career, my financial future, my passability--everything. It was a very stressful time, I had put all my eggs into this basket and all I could do was wait. I couldn't book other gigs, I couldn't commit to a housing situation, my lease was running out, I was freaking out. The date that I was supposed to be in Toronto was drawing closer and I still didn't have an answer.
Finally I managed to get in touch with them and I found out what was going on. It's the government's fault. Apparently there's a huge backlog for visas and they were waiting to hear from them before they called me. It turns out they really wanted me, they were just having trouble with the visa so my start date was pushed back until the end of June.
That turned out to be perfect I got to eat my cake and have it too.
Last year my friends and I produced this show for a mountain resort. There were five of us and we created a whole new show, with completely new acts for substantially less money than we would normally ask. The plan was that we do it that year for less money than we want and they love us so much they ask us back the next year and bump up our salaries.
The plan worked, they did ask us back and the budget was expanded. We went from a five person show with no lights and the five of us running the sound ourselves to a twenty person show with live music and lighting effects. You can see how I might have wanted to be a part of this--I had put in so much work the first year, I really wanted to be around for the pay off.
So, I get to be a part of my show, yay! But, where do I live? The show is the first weekend in July and my lease runs out at the end of may--what to do? Simple, I pack up my crap and couch surf at cast member's houses until I leave...It's only a month right?
That was the plan until I spoke with Toronto again (yes I can speak to an entire city...what? you can't?). The next thing I heard was that the visa was delayed yet again, this time until the end of July. Not a problem, just take off after the show head down to my parents house in Florida and take--what do you call it? A vacation, a good way to recover after nearly losing your mind. Great.
Next phone call (it just gets better and better doesn't it?): the visa is delayed even further until August, maybe September. Fuck. That is really too long, I don't have enough money to make it that far and I can't mooch off my folks for two or three months. Bummer. Or maybe not... Resourcefulness and adaptability, that's the name of the game kids. It turns out the friends I had been staying with were willing to rent me the room I was staying in for as long as I needed it and a few phone calls later, I had a but load of performance work that would get me through the end of the summer. So much work in fact, that I quit my crapass pizza delivery job and I'm now entirely supporting myself through perfomance. I've been working my ass off and I'm now in the best shape I've been in since I started transition. When I get to Toronto at the end of the summer, they are going to freak the fuck out at how good I am. Hell yeah.