Click Free Pest Control Quote
to fill in a form to obtain a free pest control quote today.
In search of astounding stories for his book, "American Oz," journalist Michael Sean Comerford of Barrington spent a year trekking 21,570 miles, mostly by hitchhiking across North America as a modern-day Odysseus. Facing trials of hard labor and staving off the wrath of carnies, he worked for traveling carnivals and spectacular state fairs across 10 states.
"I'm a part of this story. I'm not imagining what they're going through; I'm experiencing it," says Comerford, who learned the carny lingo and how to construct and tear down amusement rides and Midway games, bunked with roommates and bedbugs packed into tight trailers, slept outside despite worries of being eaten by bears in Alaska and alligators in Florida, ate out of trash cans when hungry enough, talked to literally thousands of people, cried and laughed with those he got to know well, and developed a gift for avoiding fights.
To unearth the stories, Comerford traversed the continent in 2013 and 2014 by thumb, rail and bus, from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Veracruz, Mexico, and from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
The idea of harvesting tales from carnies came to Comerford at age 25, when he spent some time working at a carnival that had set up camp in Cody, Wyoming, and wondered about the workers.
"They seemed to me to be secrets living on the road," Comerford says.
Now 61 years old and the survivor of a glorious, dangerous, lonely, exhilarating, joyful and life-altering year, Comerford knows their secrets.
"We aren't stabbing anybody," assured a man known as Ugly, who told Comerford about the heroism of being a hobo hitching rides on freight trains. "But if they (mess) with us, we'll stab them."
When a car of passing teens in Butte, Montana, threw a full can of soda past his head and yelled, "Get a job!" Ugly and his pit bull gave chase with no hope of catching them and no plan if he did.
"That," Ugly said, after giving up the pursuit, "is what turns us into stabbing hobos."
During the years when he graduated from Marquette University, earned a master's degree in journalism at Northwestern University, and studied and worked in Europe, Comerford rode his bicycle from Barrington to each coast and to New Orleans, hitchhiked behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany, and stowed away on freight trains.
"It's a relatively dangerous thing to do," Comerford says. "And a blast."
Comerford says people chose that life with low pay, unhealthy conditions and high stress because they love the freedom and the chance to bring joy to children. Men who are trying to make a life after prison, single moms, a lady who never had children of her own -- all gushed about making the games and rides a glorious escape for children. Many of them wept as they told Comerford how they joined the carny world as teenagers, running away from abusive childhoods.
"Their real home is on the road. There are no state fairs now, so they have no home," says Comerford. Sunday was scheduled to be the last day of the Illinois State Fair, if COVID-19 hadn't shuttered the carnival business.
Comerford writes about the ugliness. "I ran out of words to describe drunk," says the writer, who didn't partake in the booze or drugs shared by his fellow carnies and spent many early morning hours writing at local diners. He explores racism and the unfair treatment of Mexican migrant workers. During a winter off-season surprise visit to Veracruz, Mexico, Comerford found his old co-workers and says he now has a better understanding of how hellish work conditions with traveling carnivals "was paradise for them." Every one has a story.
"None of us are just carnies," Comerford says. He learned how to make kids squeal while riding the mechanical elephants on the Dumbo ride, how to "hypnotize" men and women into thinking they'd win a big prize tossing softballs into a laundry basket, and when it is OK to give away rides to needy children.
"One of the great privileges of being a journalist is meeting people who astound you," Comerford says. He is comfortable with people, no matter the circumstances.
As a reporter, he's garnered bylines for the Daily Herald, the Elgin Courier, the Barrington Courier, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, the Budapest Sun, Budapest Business Journal, the Prague Post and the Moscow Times. He's dined on caviar in Budapest, eaten at Maxim's in Paris, was the one who christened his father's 60-foot yacht "Seancha" -- Gaelic for storyteller, has visited nearly 100 countries, studied with Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, danced with Imelda Marcos in the Philippines, and won a heavyweight boxing championship as a student at University College Cork in Ireland.
A divorced dad with a 15-year-old daughter, Grace, who wrote her first book ("The Power of Purple") at age 10, Comerford breaks into a grin as he describes that time she visited him while he was working at the Minnesota State Fair. He's back in Barrington for now, but he's comfortable being on the move.
"I was born on the road," Comerford says. His parents, Gordon and Alice, were high school sweethearts from Wisconsin who got married before they drove to San Diego to begin Gordon's Navy officer career. "I was born nine months and one hour later. I could have been conceived on Route 66," says Comerford, who has three younger sisters.
His family lived in 11 places, from California to Washington, D.C., as his father transitioned from the Navy to a finance job with IBM and a home in Barrington to a career as an executive for Motorola. After graduating in 1977 from St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, where he was a 6-foot-5 starter on the basketball team, Comerford majored in political science at Marquette University.
Even though hitchhiking is illegal in most states, Comerford's background put him at ease. He talked about everything from Russian literature to lepidopterology (the study of butterflies) with the diverse cast of characters who gave him rides. They include "an Arctic Circle teacher, an Arkansas preacher, a Chinese cook, a balloon clown, a magician, a denturist, an environmentalist, an FBI bureau chief, two Navy intelligence officers, a nuclear engineer, a pizza delivery driver, authors, cops, drifters, hillbillies, hippies, mechanics, miners, refugees, religious zealots, rodeo riders, truckers and a former wolf who became a man," Comerford writes.
Comerford's book title, "American Oz," brings to mind "The Wizard of Oz," where a girl named Dorothy embarks on a magical journey to a fantastic world with amazing characters only to be stunned to discover she was at home all that time. In his quest for astonishing stories, Comerford has wandered the world, mingled with misfits and millionaires, and vows to keep looking even if the most astonishing stories are his own.
"My background didn't hold me back because identities shift in carnivals," says Comerford, who was known as Crocodile, Cowboy, El Grande, High Street, Mike Love, Slim and The Priest during his carnival odyssey. "I'd be privileged to be called a carny."
Read more from the original source:
Constable: A year of hitching rides and carnival jobs in search of astounding stories - Chicago Daily Herald
- How Fast Do Bed Bugs Spread | Terminix - August 30th, 2022
- A landlord let squatters take over. Tenants are paying the price. - Minnesota Reformer - August 30th, 2022
- Last Chance to Get Hitched at the Mall - Racket - Racket - August 22nd, 2022
- How Can I Permanently Get Rid of Bed Bugs at Home? - July 8th, 2022
- Everything You Need to Know to Get Rid of Bed Bugs - Yahoo India News - September 8th, 2020
- Minnesota Bed Bug Hotel and Apartment Reports ... - March 18th, 2020
- Bed Bugs | LawHelp Minnesota - March 18th, 2020
- Gross! What you need to know and do if your hotel room has bedbugs - USA TODAY - November 2nd, 2019
- Bedbugs Found In Cases Of Student-Issued iPads In St. Paul - WCCO | CBS Minnesota - September 21st, 2019
- St. Paul schools say bedbugs have invaded some iPads - PostBulletin.com - September 21st, 2019
- just how cold should it be to kill bed bugs - BedBugsBites.net - April 25th, 2019
- Bed Bug Lawyer Minnesota Injury Accident Lawsuit - February 28th, 2019
- Bed Bug Furniture Removal Minnesota | 11th Hour Clean - September 29th, 2018
- Austin MN Exterminator, Pest Control & Termite Inspector - September 29th, 2018
- Bed bugs | UMN Extension - August 21st, 2018
- Minnesota Pest Control Services | Plunkett's Pest Control - May 15th, 2018
- What To Do About Bed Bugs - adamspestcontrol.com - April 13th, 2018
- Pest Control: Bed Bugs and Cockroaches in Minnesota ... - April 5th, 2018
- 5 Reasons Bed Bugs are the Most Disgusting Pests Ever - KOMO News - June 6th, 2017
- Using Freezing Conditions to Kill Bed Bugs | Let's Beat the Bed Bug! - March 10th, 2017
- Using Freezing Conditions to Kill Bed Bugs | Let's Beat ... - February 12th, 2017
- The state of Northfield Estates: City officials respond after months of complaints - Southernminn.com - February 6th, 2017
- Minnesota mom pleads guilty after poisoning, smothering son to death - New York Daily News - February 6th, 2017
- Have I found a Bed Bug? - Let's Beat the Bed Bug! - January 9th, 2017
- Invisible Bugs crawling on skin? Strange sensation ... - December 11th, 2016
- Does Cold Kill Bed Bugs? - University of Minnesota - May 11th, 2016
- Bed Bugs 101 | Plunketts Pest Control - April 7th, 2016
- Got bedbugs? New U of M resource center can help ... - March 7th, 2016
- Bed Bugs: Symptoms, Bites, Prevention, Treatment and Removal - September 27th, 2015
- Bed Bugs - Adam's Pest Control, Inc. - August 23rd, 2015
- Mosquito Experts Meet To Eradicate Summer Pests - April 12th, 2015
- Bed Bug Registry Database Minnesota, Usa, National Bed Bug ... - March 6th, 2015
- Bed Bugs in MN | Bedbugs Minnesota - Local Pest Control ... - March 6th, 2015
- K9 Bed Bug Inspections Minneapolis MN, Quad Cities And The ... - February 6th, 2015
- Traveler Q & A: Preventing bed bugs from hitchhiking to ... - February 6th, 2015
- Guidelines for Dealing with Bed Bugs in a School Setting ... - February 6th, 2015
- Minneapolis, MN Pest Exterminator | Pest Exterminator ... - January 29th, 2015
- What Temperature Kills Bed Bugs - November 19th, 2014
- Minnesota - Bed Bugs - May 20th, 2014
- How to spot and manage springtime bug infestations - May 4th, 2014
- Bed Bugs City of Minneapolis - Official Website of the ... - April 13th, 2014
- Minnesota - Kill Bed Bugs | Best Bed Bug Treatment ... - March 10th, 2014
- Let's Beat the Bed Bug! - - University of Minnesota - February 20th, 2014
- NDSU Treating Student Housing Pest Problems - February 2nd, 2014
- Bed Bugs Ramsey County PH - January 31st, 2014
- Bed Bugs - City of Minneapolis - Official Website of the ... - January 22nd, 2014
- Cold kills dust mites in pillows, stuffed animals - January 18th, 2014
- Company: Bed bugs on the rise in Dayton - January 18th, 2014
- Bed Bugs Minnesota | The official bed bug blog - January 16th, 2014
- Pillow talk: Does extreme cold kill dust mites? - January 13th, 2014
- Understanding and Controlling Bed Bugs - December 20th, 2013
- A creepy, crawly issue - December 13th, 2013
- Detection and Control of Bed Bugs in Lodging Establishments ... - December 6th, 2013
- Bed Bugs - Ramsey County PH - November 27th, 2013
- Travel Q&A: Bed Bug Prevention – University of Minnesota ... - November 23rd, 2013
- Guidelines for Dealing with Bed Bugs in a School Setting - Let ... - November 18th, 2013
- Travel Q&A: Bed Bug Prevention - University of Minnesota Extension - November 11th, 2013
- Guidelines for Dealing with Bed Bugs in a School Setting - Let's ... - November 9th, 2013
- Bed bugs: What you need to know — Hennepin County, Minnesota - November 8th, 2013
- Understanding and Controlling Bed Bugs - National Pesticide ... - November 3rd, 2013
- Traveler Q & A: Preventing bed bugs from hitchhiking to your home ... - November 3rd, 2013
- Let's Beat the Bed Bug! - - November 3rd, 2013
- INTERVIEW: Bed Bug Prevention - Video - October 2nd, 2012
- Pest control experts: Bed Bugs a growing problem in Minnesota - Video - September 30th, 2012
- Exterminating Bedbugs in Savage, MN using Heat - Video - February 21st, 2012
- Bed Bug Exterminating without Pesticides Down Town Minneapolis - Video - January 27th, 2012
- arsenal - Bed Bugs mix vol 1 - Video - November 26th, 2011
- arsenal - Bed Bugs mix vol 1 - Video - November 26th, 2011
- BED BUG OUTBREAK! :: Part 1 :: It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle - October 6th, 2011
- BED BUG OUTBREAK! :: Part 3 :: It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle - October 5th, 2011
- Bed Bug Guys Killing BedBugs St. Cloud, MN - October 5th, 2011
- Eradicate BedBugs without Pesticides Minneapolis Minnesota - October 5th, 2011
- Have Bed Bugs Will Travel :: PART 1 :: It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle - October 4th, 2011
- California Girls (Gurls) - Katy Perry, Protege, - October 4th, 2011
- Rid Bed Bugs in St. Louis Park with Heat Treatment 8-30-11 - October 4th, 2011
- Bed Bug Heat Treatment Jeff St.Cloud 5-27-11 - October 4th, 2011
- Have Bed Bugs Will Travel :: PART 2 :: It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle - October 2nd, 2011
- BED BUG OUTBREAK! :: Part 2 :: It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle - September 25th, 2011
- Have Bed Bugs Will Travel :: PART 3 :: It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle - September 25th, 2011
- Plunketts Bedbug Heat Treatment WebPromo - September 24th, 2011
Click Free Exterminator Quote
to fill in a form to obtain a free exterminator quote today.