Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Clown (nearly) dies in circus act


News item:

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DUBLIN--A clown was crushed to death during a cirus stunt that went wrong when a hot air balloon caught fire, police and witnesses said Tuesday.

The accident at the Touring Russian Circus happened Mnday night in Cariff, county Clare, a village in western Ireland, in front of about 100 people, most of them children. Police identified the dead performer as a 26-year-old man from Belarus, but didn't release his name.

Witnesses said the man, dressed in a clown oufit, was hanging from a cage that was being suspended from a hotair balloon inside a canvas tent. When the baloon exploded in flames, the cage crashed to the ground on top of the man. They said circus workers struggled to life the cage off the man, but he was pronunced dead at nearby Ennis General hospital.

The man's wife, who was also performing at the time, suffered a broken arm, police said.

.....................

I've always had trouble with balloons as symbols.

When in love, the balloon is a beautiful symbol of the moon being a balloon, of things going swimmingly, of you being David Niven in evening wear and she in a silk taffeta gown, the two of you in a brisk foxtrot.

Kinda gay, what?

Don't worry, it gets dark.

At least darker.

Little did you know that you were dancing with a witch. You had no way to prepare for this. All your science, all your degrees. She got you by your your female side that you could never see, could never see in a lifetime if you hadn't met this woman who had just written and published a Texas novel, My Sister Gone, all about torturing and murdering her rival, her sister. Can a writer's worst enemy be another writer? But no. She seemed a friend.
In between drinks she is is telling you that you had been a clown all your life, a professional clown of course, but a clown all the same.
And even at this, you have already lost your touch.

So she slips you a book, The Clown, by Heinrich Boll, and you see, finally, that you are a clown who is fast losing his skill and it is only the booze, the alcohol and the drugs that are greasing your optimism. That and the blonde Texas girl with the Betty Grable bangs.

She has shown you a part of yourself, the clown part, old guy who'd lost his turns, has been losing them for years in fact, and only the alcohol and cigarettes were in there greasing your optimism.

You listen to her. After all, she'd just been published by Alfred A. Knopf. Borzoi Books don't come a dime a dozen.
The lady has class.

At least she had some till we reach my aparment,
at the front of which is a fountain with faun in it.

She leaps into the fountain, hikes up her bouffant gown, drops her pants and has herself a pee.

Ah, Fata Morgana. Morgan Le Fey. Witchie-Poo. Strange Cindarella.

In the apartment, she is not yet danced -out. All she wants to do is dance.
Dancing on the coffee table. Dancing on the end tables. Dancing on floorspace that I hadn't littered with my manuscript pages.
We get to the moment of truth and out of her purse she produces a vibrator, and I'm wondering what the hell I am there for. To be a courier for Radio Shack batteries?

The turn excites me.

She might need a soother through all that action.

Saucy fellow.

Somehow, we got each other off. I was damned if I was going to put on her gown, her idea, but largely for a laugh.
"You like my gown so much? Why don't you wear it?"

Ah, the Night Full of Rain Syndrome. Liberated woman with antique Alpha male.

There is a strange song running through my mind, something from the time I had been in the service:

Her father was a brewer
But she was a ...ing hooer.

No wonder she wrote My Sister Gone. Look what she was doing to me.

In the morning, she was gone.
I groped around for her...just the empty side. She had left a drawing on the Parson's table. A big red balloon.
And me on the shoosh end, hanging on for dear life.

Balloons.

I went on with my lonely little life.

The professor with the Blue Angel now so sadly vanished.

Jalbert in the clown outfit. Le Balon Rouge, chasing my balloon. Chasing her.

Crowing like a cock in between my juggling act. Cuck-a-ruck-a-koo.

It was only a matte of time until I was fired.

I applied for a number of jobs, some with a circus. I even offered to be shot out of a cannon.

"We might be able to use a man of you calibre," the manager laughs. I could tell it was his favourite joke.

How does it come upon a man, so steeped in his philosophy, his physics, his science--that he has no idea at all of
the Bob Dylan line: "Don't put on any more airs when you're down in Rue Morgue Avenue
They god som hungre women there
and the'll really make a mess out of you."

Well, one Isis leads to another, and this one a bit kinder.

"She was going to kill you. But you somehow broke the spell, you little warlock you. And you escaped.
"Now I'll lie down with you, but I won't f*ck you."

Ah, easy conquests says old Herodotus.

Stay with the easy conquests.

Otherwise you'll be all on fire for the one you can't get, your whole being honed to get her, to get the unattainable.

I found an easier conquest, or, I suppose, let myself be conquered.

The obsession with The One was almost gone.

But the following morning, I peered out the window and say the most beautiful balloon, red-and-white striped, like peppermint or an oldfashioned barber's pole.

Fell into the goddamn rosebushes.

I used to know some wild guys who had been studying for the priesthood, something I was halfway now seriously considering. "Crown or no crown. Get the f*ck out of my rosebush!"


It is twenty years later. I had long ago given up my gig as a circus clown.

I had sensed for years that my Morgan Fey was probably in the clutches of the Mafia, like Richard Brautigan, who, some say, offed himself. Or was offed.

My hormones were acting up again.

Had to find Morgan Fey.

I had kept following her. Tracked her down. She was living with a Don. Beware of Italians bearing gifts.

I caught her witht he don and took a swing at him. Strangely, Don Corleone dropped like a stone.

The next night the phone call. "You'got a problem, Ivan. If you don'lt fix the problem, I will." Musta been high on something. A few minutes later, the ring of the phone. "You got a problem, Ivan. If you don't fix the problem, I will."
And:
"I will, Ivan."

One night the don had enough.

Bikers were dispatched.

I woke up in the morning. There was the red ballon again.

This time I jumped into the rosebush, almost as if St. Francis of Assisi, the Dali painting. St. francis with the hairy legs, waving his cross at the naked tempation in the sky.

Behind me, my apartment exploded.

Strange how words can jog memories and associations.

5 comments:

doubtingthomas said...

"Clowns on the right of me, clowns on the left of me, stuck in the middle again." says the old song. I have circus people in my family tree. Lots of them. And a few clowns. Real clowns, with round red noses. The kind that are stuck on, not the kind that come out of a bottle. The patriarch, Benjamin Moore, had a small circus of his own, but did not make paint. He had a red nose, but it came from a bottle. Some of the many children stayed in the circus, but some, like my father, "went straight." My aunts, Eva Mae and Mitzi had a successful act together, but Eva Mae had eyes for a trapeze artiste. They eloped, and were scared of the patriarch because the sister act was broken up. Eventually the trapeze artiste saw clowning as The Next Big Thing, and he and the lovely Eva Mae went their separate ways. She found another clown, one who dressed as a cop. The first clown was forever sad, but sometimes I see him in an old movie on television, sadder than ever.

Sometimes, I wonder if there is a circus gene, and if I have a virtual red nose, the kind one glues on, and if tents, the kind that cover acres are still around. Pardon me while I just take my broom and sweep this spotlight away.

ivan said...

What fascinating stuff.

Emmett Kelly, and not from a paint can.
And a touch of Jimmy Durante.

Here I thought, from earlier correspondence that you didn't know much about show business or contemporary music...First line nails Sam Roberts right down.
(Dare I say Pakistani Dylan from Montreal?...No matter. Indies rock
rocks).
...And from the Sam Roberts song to
Benjamin Moore the circus patriarch.
...And very like Jimmy Durante saying goodnight to Mrs. Calabash.

Kind of a stereoscopic mini-novel here...Possibilities, anyway.

doubtingthomas said...

Liked the sniff, did you? Just a peek, it was. I paraphrased (lyrics straight from a faulty memory) a Stealers Wheel song from the 70's. Seventies are kinda contemporary for me! Stealers Wheel were Egan and Rafferty, every bit as Irish as Moore and Kelly.

Now this Sam Roberts you speak of...South African parents, born in Canada, Dylanesque? Would love to hear "An American Draft Dodger in Thunder Bay." Does he know me? Just read the lyrics. (Shiver)

Noses that everyone knows ;-)
Jimmy Durante
Cyrano
W.C. Fields (a bottle nose)
Uncle Emmett

Listen to a Murray McLauchlan song called "Sweeping the Spotlight Away"
Pretty well captures the man as I knew him.

ivan said...

Yeah, and I didn't get this nose from sniffing coke bottle either.

Didn't know that about Sam Roberts.
Thought he was just an Indies rocker from Montreal...Writes and sings amazing stuff though...Didn't know he lifted a phrase or two from the Irish.

Egad, Tom, I've lost all my women.
I am of two minds on this. Those who know I know they can't write suddenly take it personally and blame it on me. Ha.

Those who can write seem to see me as the local god. And, of course, I see them as goddesses.

I think I drink too much.

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