The weather is drop dead gorgeous--you can smell death creeping in, as it will in autumn, yet you don't care.
The honeybees will chase you down if you wear a colorful shirt, and the impatiens are flowering like there's no tomorrow.
Tomorrow never comes.
The carnival came to the town green, and the carnival left.
The colors were unreal, or maybe just too real--a monitor has 16.3 million colors, and cannot capture the light of a carnival at dusk on the equinox. Nor the smells . People working. No, really working. Laying tracks. Flexing cable. Smiling and joking. Cussing. Living.
I used to work on the docks. Not for long, but long enough to help rebuild a boom on a crane anchored to a barge. I helped thread the cable once we were done welding the boom back together.
I felt like I did something that day. I could point to it. Look what I did.
Feeling useful beats feeling used.
I once took care of a carny mother and her two young ones. Life was not easy, but she took good care of the children, and they were happy.
They were not, however, in school.
Now I've missed a few things while playing doctor. At least one cost a life. Rarely, however, does anyone call you on it.
I got called on this one.
The NJ Division of Youth and Family Services wanted to know why I did not report the older child, well into her 7th year.
Well, um, they get home-schooled while traveling with the carnival.Truth was the mother said her said carnies school their children on the road, and I had no motive (though plenty of reason) to doubt her. I practiced medicine; I cared about kids. Her child was healthy, her child was sane, her child was happy.
How do you know?
Carnies face a lot of prejudice. They're different. They're transient. They're drunks. They're shifty. They're loused. They're ne'er-do-wells. They're a lot of things according to the townsfolk, but their biggest sin might be their strengths. They do useful work, and they have reason enough not to trust the future, so they live more in the moment.
A few of them are even, well, happy. Perhaps their biggest sin.
We should all be carnies for a day.
When I was a pediatric cardiology fellow at Mount Sinai, a short-lived disastrous turn early in life, I spent an afternoon poolside with a dozen docs or so, and their clans. The hostess sniffed at her perceived happiness of one of her gardeners--"they're too ignorant to be unhappy."
It's hard to pretend class lines do not exist in the States when you're a doc, and even harder when you think that as a doc you've fallen on the wrong side of the line.
I was, I think, a good doc, but never a "gentleman." I wonder about the child from the carnival--she's a young adult now, and by now DYFS has given up on her, one way or the other.
I wonder whether the extra few month with the show made any difference one way or the other.
I know this much, though. She was happy once in her life.
The photo was shamelessly lifted from the Dixieland Carnival Company until I get my own photos uploaded here.