Catechism for Carnies

Everybody is in search of something. Some people know what we are looking for. Others, have a vague idea. Many, have no fucking idea at all, never have never will.

For some it’s, material wealth, others search for love and acceptance, I suppose we all do to some degree, while some of us search for the most elusive thing of all, happiness. Happiness can be a ghost, for a long time, I found mine at the bottom of a bottle. Finding it doesn’t matter as much to some as it does to others.

Maybe I’ve never known where I’m going but I’ve always known where I’ve been. Well, at least when I wasn’t in a black out. Knowing where you’ve been and what you don’t want in this life is half the battle, right?

It’s always been about the experience for me. When I could only crawl, I wanted to stand when I could stand, I wanted to walk, when I could walk, I wanted to wander. I’ve seen a lot, been a lot and have done a lot.

I’ve been nomadic since I can remember, with a wanderlust that was well beyond my control. Like ma, I’ve been a bit of a gypsy most of my life. I think that’s why she understood me when I was a kid and didn’t come home at night, her only request was that I check in.

When I was young, I had a penchant for running away with the carnival, which I had an occasion or two to do.

I heeded the call of the streets, was lured in by the decadent, the unknown. If I was told “you shouldn’t do that”, I was the first in line. Usually, I found myself going wherever the local carnies go. They roll into town, take your money, violate the milfs and teenage girls and torment keepers of the law. Sounds like my kinda fun.

Life has been many things, but it’s never been boring. I’ve seen things and have lived lives. Sinners and saints have been my teachers. I’ve spent a lifetime witness to mayhem, madmen and murderers, extortionists, drug dealers, pimps and thieves.

Yet, I’ve also been schooled by the real do-gooders, people of God, and decent, hard-working people. I’m a hybrid of sorts I like to think of myself as a well-rounded reprobate. A thoughtful degenerate.

Again, like ma, those saints, they instilled in me my undying faith in something larger than myself. Maybe it’s the universe or that Higher Power who I choose to call God. No matter what it is you’ve gotta have something to get through this ride.

Now the other folks? The sinners. Oh boy! They offered me the fun. Like when you’re a kid and they tell you if you eat that candy your teeth will rot out. Gimme two pieces. Or when the nosey prick says, “that good girl ain’t for you”, I’m right there behind her in the Communion line. I’ll just go to confession later. Hey, if it’s good for the priest.

I was that nice kid on the block, who parents told their kids to walk on the opposite side of the street of. A real personable kid, girls’ dads said, “nice kid, friendly boy, stay the fuck away from that kid.”

I have some mad respect for the wise who taught me the positive values and good manners. But like I always say, it seems I learned the best lessons in life where always learned from the worst people.

I’ve been in the company of priests, pirates and politicians. With the holy rollers you usually know what you’re going to get, so long as you don’t let them touch you. Pirates, they just take what they want, most pirates have no qualm about being a pirate. It’s the latter that are usually the worst, they lie to you with a smile, kiss your baby while they steal its first tooth.

Which one fascinates a young boys mind more?

I’m a hopeless romantic, eternal optimist and a good Samaritan, a lover, womanizer and a home wrecker, a fighter, swindler, thief and I’ve dropped the silver I’ve stolen into the homeless poor box, but most of all, I’ve been a survivor.

I’ve always cared about other people if that makes any sense. I was born with a wayward streak to some and way too much empathy to ever be a real gangster. Empathy for your fellow comes at a price. I’m an altar boy who spent years of his youth behind the walls of Joliet, a place I hated and still miss today.

I’m a traveler, an air-conditioned gypsy in search of stability, with a pragmatic side. I love to roam until it’s time to return to my safe place called home, wherever that might be at the time. Most of all I’ve always been a daydreamer. Even through much self-doubt I’ve never stopped daydreaming and believing.

Like I said earlier, life is just a carnival and I’m just along for the ride. But if you roll with me, you’ll know you’ve been on a real ride and not just a walk-on.

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Stephen P. Conrad

A Gypsy Nomad, Writer, actor, artist, semi-nomad, anti-sycophant, socially maladjusted and comfortably near complete insanity.