Tag Archives: circus

And another thing…


If you’re going to have an esplanade, you should be required to fill it up with people, at least periodically. No having esplanades and letting them sit. (I’m talking to you, St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, right smack in the middle of San Francisco, with your big, flat, gray space.) That’s just open concrete. With no people. And that’s not friendly.

You should have planted trees if you weren’t going to have parties. So have a party already. Invite some friends. Or have a prom. Or a motorcycle rally. Or a circus. I know you’re all worked up about the pedophilia and the mean new pope, but live a little. Get out and do some jazzercise on your esplanade. You can wear your robes if you want. Glittery jumpsuits would be more festive, but whatever.

If I had an esplanade, I’d definitely get a jumpsuit and a trampoline and have at it.


Yeah, I’ve lost that. I used to have it. Now? Gone.

Me ten years ago: Yes, I am going to go Rollerblading in traffic! In Manhattan. At rush hour.

Me on Saturday morning: No, I do not want to climb up that six feet of embankment…overlooking a sheer drop to the ocean…that is marked with a sign warning me of possible death.

I did it anyway, but only because I’m stubborn.

Me: I think my nerve took off when I got seriously injured. It proved I’m destructible.

R: You were always destructible.

Me: Before, “destructible” was theoretical.

R: Only to you. Normal people know they’re destructible without having to prove it.

That’s a valid point. Maybe I just got lucky all those years, not getting killed and so on, pushing an envelope that didn’t need pushing.


“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
– G.B. Shaw

I’d like to have my nerve back, but, in hindsight, that particular nerve was definitely tied to willful obliviousness to risk, mostly physical. You can’t be courageous and think a lot. The thinking will get you in trouble, without exception, whether it’s stepping off into the void of actual air (trapeze) or into the void of the unknown (in my case, writing and not corporate life).

If you remain rational, you remain cautious. There isn’t a way to think through to a successful outcome on anything you haven’t tried. You can see it in the distance maybe. You can state a goal, have a plan even. But you can’t taste it yet. You can’t know that you won’t fail or fall. Your mind and, likely your parents, will remind you – with the best intentions – of the likelihood of risk ending in broken bones.

Here’s my Monday morning calculus on risk:

  • Which risks are needless? Recreational risk is optional. Changing your behavior to save your marriage or changing your career to save your sanity are different. Taking someone’s word for the hot stove is probably fine but staying in a dead-end job that you hate are too different categories that deserve different consideration. Decide what’s actually important to you. Be smart.
  • How risky is it actually? Get a second opinion: maybe you are safe and you’re just risk-averse or just used to your current situation. Maybe you just like standing right side up on solid ground but you’ll have a safety net and health insurance.
  • Mitigate risk where you can. Bike helmets? Yes. Vaccines? Yes. Full-body scans every month or cryogenic freezing after death? Ummmm…
  • Related: see the small. Build up to it. Take the first steps first. Focus on the next step in front of your foot. Get in shape for the big risk and when it comes, it’ll only be the final step in a series of small, daily steps.
  • Figure out how much risk you think you can stomach. Risk a little more than that.

DIY Linguistics

bigtop-sm.jpgI’ve been training on the trapeze for a couple of years. Doesn’t that sound awkward? “Training on the trapeze.” You can’t say “playing trapeze” as if it were soccer, baseball or Red Rover. You can’t say “trapezing” the way you say “dancing” or “pole vaulting.” I tried “doing circus” but that sounds wrong. And dirty, but not in a good way.

I suggested “to circus,” as in, “I just got back from circusing,” but then R asked, “As in, I just circused all over my shirt?” so I had to stop using that.

“Circused” was followed by “three-ringing” and “big-topping.” As in, “I was so three-ringin’ it last night,” and, “I totally big-topped on Saturday.” See? You have no idea what I mean. The truly great words are multi-purpose like that. See: f***.

Moscow Circus: God Help ‘Em

circus.gifPicture this: an empty stage designed for a full orchestra, three long banners vaguely depicting strips of St. Peter’s Square at the very back, music piped in from some Eastern European disco still playing remixes of tracks from the early 90’s, costumes that look like they were designed by a crazed lunatic let loose in a spandex factory with a pair of scissors and a bad case of colorblindness, a set of ten performers only three of whom appear on the cavernous stage at one time, no choreographer, no set designer, and no artistic director. What’s that spell?? FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!!! NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES!!! A GREAT WAY TO SPEND $36 AND A SUNDAY AFTERNOON!!! Welcome to the Moscow Circus.*

I had the misfortune to attend their final performance at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall last week, and, let me tell you, by the end I was just grateful no one had died or been raped. It’s too late to hope that they weren’t all dropped on their heads because, judging by the quality of the show, most of them already have been. All the acts were either downright disturbing or just a series of stop-and-start moves and poses with very little to connect them.

In the first category was the family of two jugglers/acrobats and their “son.” I use quotation marks because after bringing him out in a full clown suit and tossing him around like a doll – including throwing him down on a table, grabbing his ankles and bouncing his legs beyond the edges of the table repeatedly, spinning him around and doing it again – I doubt he’s going to be functionally male for much longer. For the record, forced contortion is about as entertaining as watching videos of skateboarders riding railings and landing on their crotches. It’s even more unsettling when the person doing the molesting is the kid’s mother and she’s wearing what appears to be a bright yellow G-string panel bikini over a skin-tight, wildly striped bodysuit.

The boy appeared later in a hand-balancing act with his dad. I don’t think he set a trick (meaning hit the position and held firm) through the whole routine, a clear indication that he was not performance ready. It wasn’t a surprise then that on his second trick, he fell from about shoulder height to the floor in a heap. His dad gave him an arch look, they went on, and three or four tricks later, the kid lost his balance again and came down like a sack of potatoes. I’m just hoping that my $36 is going into a fund for his future therapy or catastrophic accident insurance.

The rest of the acts – a couple of silks routines, two redundant hand-balancing bits, some low-level clowning – were old-school circus, and not the good kind with elephants that can count, a guy with six heads, and lots of raucous tearing around. This kind is a bunch of unrelated acts performed back to back like a talent show. The performances follow the same formula: they consist of a series of tricks and almost no choreography. You can almost hear the aerialists whispering, “Ta DA!”

The thing is, no one likes a show-off. It just makes you want to take the guy out back and kick his ass for being such an arrogant prick. If the event – like the ski jump or the 100-meter dash – is purely technical, a demonstration of strength or fitness, fine. We all know what we’re getting when we buy our tickets.

In contrast, when I go to a performance, I expect, well, a performance. Not a demonstration. A performance. And a performance does not consist of you and your boyfriend climbing up to the ceiling on bands of silk, spending a minute or two setting up some complicated contraption for hanging from your neck and then, well, hanging from your neck. I’m excited for you that you can hang from your neck – go you! – but that’s not a performance, that’s a trick. Plus, the obvious during-act set-up thing is a no-no in my book. It’s like someone explaining the mechanics of a magic trick and then yelling, “Surprise!” I’m just not that surprised. Go figure.

It’s clear why we’re all so excited about Cirque du Soleil if this is what was on offer before they came along.

*Don’t be fooled by their web site: there were no trapeze acts, no bars, no rings and no dogs on this tour. Probably just as well for the dogs, given how it’s working out for the kids.

Pump You Up

steriods-sergioOliva.jpgI got my first shot of steroids today. It was kind of a letdown because it was not paired with a Major League Baseball recruitment letter or a yellow jersey, but I can still report that the experience was a pleasant one for the fractured rib.

Dr. Luke, my excellent Canadian sports medicine doctor, had offered a steroid shot into my sternum as a last resort if the pain got to be too much but the shot itself sounded so painful – needle to bone?? – that I didn’t jump on it. Today’s injection wasn’t quite that brutal. The cheerful assistant physical therapist taped two pads to my body, one with an internal pouch filled with steroids on the fractured rib, the other flat one on my abdomen. Both patches were hooked up to an electrical current. The vibration and heat force the skin to osmose the steroids into the wounded area and the flat pad acts as a ground. How cool is that?

I wish I could think of another application for the technology. If we could liquify common sense, perhaps we could send the patches out to minimum wage workers and they’d all vote Democratic?


MRI.jpgI’ve been benched. For twelve weeks. First six, now twelve. “No hanging from anything,” were her exact words and by “anything” she meant the trapeze or other bars of any kind.

I’ve seen more doctors and trainers and acupuncturists and physical therapists and chiropractors than I care to count and the verdict is still frustratingly fuzzy. What was first thought to be a sprained fifth rib that might have caused a strained muscle became a torn pectoral minor on further examination. Now, they think it’s a stress fracture in the fifth rib and a dislocated first rib that has resulted in an arrangement of strained ligaments and muscles. I have sheets and sheets of films from my MRI, none of which I can read, but I do see the big white spot where that first rib is protruding like a mini alien out of the top joint on my sternum. It’s disconcerting to see in the mirror, more so to feel the bump, but, strangely, it doesn’t hurt. The places that do hurt are just outside the range of the MRI, which it seemed like they would be when I was at the hospital. There is no protocol for scanning the chest. The lab has instruction sheets for every place on the body where there are joints. I saw them. But there’s no chest slot, so they made it up as they went along. Apparently if you want the top of the chest, you can’t have the side too. Cake. No Eating.

Since the fifth rib isn’t in the picture, that leaves the stress fracture as pure conjecture, but it hurts like it’s cracked, so I’m going with it. I’d be more uncomfortable with an unsubstantiated diagnosis if I thought it would make any difference in the treatment plan but it won’t. There is one plan for cracked, broken or stressed ribs: don’t move it. This is the same plan as the one for torn chest muscles or ligaments. Not very inventive, if you ask me, but I see their point. To immobilize it, they’d have to put me in a body cast for six weeks to prevent me from lifting my left arm. The strain of living with me might break R, so I’m glad we’re not doing that. Keeping your ribs from moving is well near impossible. My rib cage shifts when I do anything. Arms, abs, shoulders, all of it. The only things I can move without danger are my legs. Riverdance, here I come.


A conversation between me and my Russian trainer. I am currently injured and down for the count.

Me: I can feel my pull-ups slipping away with each day I have to sit on the couch.
E: You should not be so…
E: Paranoid.

Static Trapeze – Update

front balance sm.jpg

Front Balance

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Transition to Cheek
back balance sm.jpg
Back Balance

one-knee hang sm.jpg
One-Knee Hang
coffin above sm.jpg


seated smile turn2 sm.jpg

rollover-up2321 sm.jpg
Rollover to Stand
ropes2 sm.jpg

rolldown2289 sm.jpg

Rollover to Stand

seated wide sm.jpg
Just happy to be here…
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Pike Stretch

Man Down


Bruises? Check.
Strains? Check.
Abrasions? Check.
Landed on neck? Check. Landed on face? Right on.
Dropped steel bar on head? Check.
Displaced rib? Yup. Both sides? Yes.
Fallen into net? Of course. Fallen to mat? Pretty much. Fallen to floor?? No…oh wait.

Last night, I was on the trampoline learning to helicopter around 360 degrees. I got it and then lost it, only making it 3/4 of the way around. I came down off balance, skidded sideways, fell half on the bed half on the side mat, caught my leg and dropped over the edge four feet to the ground. If I’d been able to get my hands up, I might have been able to stop the momentum. As it was, I got my arm down only as I hit the floor, preventing a head-hitting incident that might have required me to wear an embarassing brace or helmet of some sort. Good thing I only had to deal with the embarassment of a spectacular fall and whatever yelling I did on the way down.

I can see how the fall happened. I run into doorframes on a regular basis. What I can’t sort out is my trajectory. Facing forward, I fell sideways onto the RIGHT side of the trampoline. How the hell did my LEFT leg end up stuck on the trampoline when I landed on the floor on my right elbow facing downward?? I need one of those crime scene reenactment teams. And a new knee. And possibly that helmet.

On a related note, who knew Colbert could tumble? (Well, tumble a little bit.)

Public Notice:

I am not in any way permanently handicapped. I am neither in a wheelchair nor a cast. I am upright. I am mobile. I am still trapeze-operational.

It has come to my attention that my post below – “The Pain” – has caused concern and alarm in the reading ranks. I am damaged but not daunted. “The trapeze eez not for girls. Eez for the hard b*tch.” That’s from my Russian trainer. I don’t know if the statement is causal or descriptive, but it’s certainly true. I’m fine. Bruised and battered but standing and strong.