The butcher of Casablanca

For some strange reason, I never went shopping for meat to cook myself when I was in Morocco. I always felt more comfortable eating my meat over there as anomolous charred lumps on sticks from stall holders.

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As a matter of fact, if I had to buy meat like this every day, I’d probably be a vegetarian. It’s a bit too “real” as one can still see how the meat was once an animal, not like the way the meat is packaged in plastic like here in the west. On reflection I find it amazing how quickly things have changed in the western world. A scene like the image above would’ve been common in 19th century Europe. No refrigeration, no plastic bags, just a cloth sack you brought your self. At least you’d know that the meat was fresh.

This photo was taken in 1982 on Kodachrome 64.

Conklin’s antique carnival, Calgary Stampede, Alberta, Canada

For the 50th anniversary of Conklins Shows (they used to be the largest travelling amusement company in North America) in 1978, an “antique carnvial” was set up as a carnival within a carnival. The antique carnival had rides and games from 1928. All us staff were given period costumes and haircuts from the 20’s. It was a blast! We did the Calgary Stapede and the CNE in Toronto. Below is one of the ride jocks in costume in front of an authentic 1928 ride called the whip (a predecessor of the octopus) at the Stampede.

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1978 was a great year at Conklins. After Toronto the “Antique Carnival” was put back into storage and the rest of the carnival (me included) headed south into the US and then onto Peurto Rico where I met up with the guys from “Laser 1”.

Momma don’t let your babies grow up to be carnies

This is part one of of a three part chapter from my “all the dumb things” series, about my time as a laser light show operator.

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Back in 1980 I used to work in the U.S. as a laser light show operator in the carnival with a company called “Laser 1”. We used to do the carnival circuit in the warm months and car shows in the winter months. Russell Rauch, the originator of the original “Roach T-shirts” was the owner (with a few partners) of the Laser show and he started in the carnival business with strobe light in a tent, at a time when strobes were still a new thing to the public. Russell had a fairly long history of making money out of new or novel things.

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The laser show was performed in a 50ft (about 15m) diameter air inflated dome attached to the side of a semi trailer that had a folding sheet metal facade housing the entrance and control room. Two large blower fans supported the dome and the entrance was a revolving door with rubber seals (to keep the air in). The dome had a capacity of up to three hundred people, who would watch the show while lying on their backs on the carpeted floor.

At the time, it was a real rock and roll, dream job, for a guy of my age (24).

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We’d pump out a show every fifteen minutes and we used to often turn in14-hour days. Show after show, we’d take turns, selling tickets, spruiking and performing the shows.

The beginning of the spruik went a bit like this:

“Laser 1, the ultimate in light and sound!”
“A dazzling display of laser lights in fantasy flights!”

Sheesh, it sounds so corny now, but at the time, when we were on the mike, we thought we were just so cool. There were also lots of people who wanted to meet us and it is the closest I’ll ever come to being a rock star. We were sure we had the best job in the carnival. There were usually only three of us working, Buzz, Jordan and myself. Because of the rock and roll nature of the show and our head spaces at the time, Buzz, Jordan and I looked like the Furry Freak Brothers, which was cool in the big cites in the northern states but it went down “like a fart in an elevator” in the south.

We all had beards and long hair. Buzz had long brown loose curls, Jordan a big dirty blond Afro and I had blazing red, shoulder length hair. The people who ran the Kansas State fair (in Hutchison) told our head office that, “they didn’t want people like us, back”.

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Buzz, a New Yorker, was the manager and was educated in the technical side theatre. Buzz was definitely the brains of our little group and he was always calm, organised and decent. Buzz took things in his stride and not many things disturbed his calm aura. He once beat at a game of chess while he was driving the truck. As the manager, Buzz tended to look after the financial side of the business, which meant he also used to spend most of his time in the ticket selling tickets and spruiking.

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Jordan came from Philadelphia and despite his “peace, love and mung beans”, outward appearance, was into modified cards. He was basically a music loving, motor-head, in freak disguise. Jordan’s father was (from my naive perspective at the time) the last word in cool and he had a car collection that included a 1969 Lamborghini Miura, which he once took me for a ride in. Up until I’d met Jordan’s father, I thought all fathers were remote and out of touch.

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One time in central Florida (I think it was Ocala), our truck’s timing chain broke and we had about four hours to kill while it was being repaired, so we went to a bar. I guess the first mistake we made is that the three of us walked in, imitating the “Three Wild and Crazy guys ” sketch from the T.V. show Saturday Night Live. We were always ready to have some fun and we thought this would be a good strategy to start the ball rolling. Everybody in the bar (about five guys), as one, got up and walked out before we got half across the room. In retrospect, I suppose I should be glad that’s all that happened.

No big deal, we ordered some drinks from the nonplussed bartender and put some money in the juke box. There was only country and western which I knew very little about, so I chose several Charlie Rich songs. As soon as the music started, the bartender came over and told me that the music was too loud. I, in return pointed out that it was his jukebox and that, should he desire, he could turn it down. He pulled the plug out of the wall. By this time the three of us had picked up on the vibe (I didn’t stop being insensitive until I was about 40), but that didn’t deter us and we stayed in character for the rest of the afternoon, playing pool like Steven Martin and Dan Ackroyd would’ve as the “Wild and Crazy guys”, laughing our heads off. We though it was hilarious and had the bar to our selves for the rest of the time we were there.

I hadn’t seen the movie Easy Rider back then. Now that I have, I thank my lucky stars that the “good ole boys” who left when we first came in, didn’t come back with their friends and some sporting equipment to put us in touch with their feelings.

Another time in Van Horn, Texas, at about 11.pm, Buzz, Jordan and I were playing pinball in the lobby of the Holiday Inn where we were staying. When a stereotypical southern redneck Texas Ranger (you know the type, chewing tobacco, huge beer gut, wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses, indoors even at night) came up to us and told us to stop playing the game and get out of the lobby. We told him we were paying guests of the hotel and had a right to be there. He pulled out his baton and told us if we didn’t stop playing and leave the lobby, he was going to crack our heads and arrest us for disturbing the peace. If I had seen such a thing in a movie I wouldn’t have believed it. Up until then I thought such stereotypes were just mythical counter-cultural bogeymen.

Part 2

Cambodian AT-28D, 1974

This is a picture of the attack version of the “North American T-28”.

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I tried to get a ride on one but the pilot wasn’t interested in taking me up (strangely enough). I never was successful in getting any flights in Cambodian combat aircraft. I even tried to get flights on “Huey” helicopters as well. The only military aircraft I was able to hitch rides in were transports and they were always “Fairchild C-123K”s.

On a photographic note, the dark vertical streaks (bromide streaking), were caused by the fact that I had the film developed locally and since the ambient temperatures were so high, most of my negs were over developed and that’s why they look so grainy and the skies look so blown out. The higher temperatures also meant that the development times were accelerated, making problems like bromide streaking, caused by insufficient agitation much more likely.