Especially interesting speculation with regard to whether the newfangled cirque is a durable long lasting incarnation. And it comes while finding by accident this other iteration of circus, something that seems to have survived against all odds.
Time will tell. Fortune telling is not my specialty. It seems the era when Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Chaplan, Groucho etc… all spawned from vaudeville and in some stroke of change were able to rise and command a place in these new high dollar venues of broadcast radio, the pioneering days of television and motion pictures.
But, in this journey vaudeville theaters withered and closed, those that could adapted their acts to playing fairs, nightclubs, and circus. They had the Catskills and Pocono’s, the senior circuit in Florida and to a lesser extent the winter resorts in Arizona, maybe Vegas.
There are revues still most times you see them on cruise ships. This is what is left of what we’d call vaudeville. Cirque has provided a vehicle for well trained circus artists, but they seem to design the shows to feature the cirque and we never seem to witness the creation of that new phenomenal individual must see performer or act from the show. Our attention is drawn to the concept, the costumes, the colossal new this or that…
with you, more comfortable visiting the lower rungs of the pyramid of success
and show, where miracles of virtuous skill and rehearsal can be savored at a
graspable level. Of course Disney on Ice, and other large arena spec type shows
seem to endure and remain fixtures on the scene. Cirque with the wind at their
back are likely to remain influential for some years ahead, but all around them
the world is changing and one difficult day they will likely find they are no
longer as synchronized with the trends and tastes of the moment and their scale
and size will shrink to something other than what is happening now.
I am up for a couple of shows this weekend. One is in Berkeley while the other is in Oakland. The Temescal Festival on Telegraph Avenue on the Oakland/Berkeley border is an event I played a few years ago. I’m born in Oakland. People at this show get that. It is like cool, the fire juggler is from the East Bay. We’re easy to pick out of a crowd if you know what your looking for. We linger around customized motorcycles. We comb our hair back. We talk in a certain slang style peculiar to people who’ve come up on this side of the bay. We’re lunch bucket types. We drink beer. Feel at home in Hayward. People from the East Bay vacation in Twain Harte, gamble up in Tahoe and for real pleasure and adventure go at the shore in Alameda. Emeryville is a newcomer. Piedmont remains a mystery to us. We all knew someone who had a hot tube up in Montclair or saw James Brown at the Oakland Auditorium back in the day. If you are a true vet of the East Bay you even know that Sly Stone used to play at joint called Frenchy’s out on Mission Blvd in Hayward long before anyone knew who he was. Jason Zazo who does great automobile upholstery rolls a fine Chevy short box big block he’s had since forever… This is a glimpse of the unchangeable changes, a kind of slice of the life, the time machine you don’t have to buy. All you need to do is head to San Lorenzo. My people are there exactly the way I remember them.
Bankrupt Heart The Second Novel
Ry pushed against the varnished oak tiller. Jasmine’s
bow bent off to the side of the onrushing winds. The mainsail stiffened, she
began to move out at a smart clip. This was a sizable triangular sail rising 43
feet in height up the mast, eighteen feet in length along the boom, capturing a
bellowing breeze the sail created a tremendous force that thrust the hull ahead.
Ry steered a southbound course out into the deeper bay waters playing with the
angle of the mainsail until Jasmine’s most
rapturous stride was dispatched.
It started out as a stunt in the act, then Pier 39 in San Francisco asked if I’d come down with Lacey and do some publicity shots, and the shots were for a long time part of the promo at the Pier, and let’s face it a cute dog standing on a jugglers shoulders is cute. I thought it was a good stunt, gave Lacey one more bit in the show, and didn’t mind the way it looked, thought it looked cool. But, never thought it would be a shot that a major tourist attraction in the United States would think would be just what the doctor ordered to perk up those lagging indicators and sluggish attendance figures. It comes as something of a shock when we find our work changing other peoples ideas of what they will and will not do. With regard to this particular image, but of course……….it’s a help wanted sign. And if you have a dog on your head it is pretty obvious you might need help! And remember that in the midst of all this is a man finishing his second novel. I know the question that is going through your mind right now, your thinking to yourself, does a man who balances animals on his head have a future in fiction?
That would be me in the center of the brochure. I didn’t runaway with the circus I took a Peerless Stage System bus. I began this journey in downtown San Jose, a not altogether bad place to begin. At least people stuck there are honest. I traveled the highway in the bus by way of the long way with stops in Pleasanton, Livermore, Tracy, Stockton, Lodi and finally to Sacramento. I slow walked my change. The circus had just been gifted a Red fox that was pacing back and forth in its cage in the backyard where the circus was parked for the night. If you haven’t heard a Red fox do its impression of a chicken clucking you haven’t really seen or heard it all yet. I found the animal’s invention and mimicry a curiosity of the highest order. I studied the animal for hours. He was wild and never going to be tamed. I think we were in agreement on that. Some animals would rather die than go against their nature. Of all the things in this foxes life he’d confronted changing the fix he’d found himself in was about the only thing he wanted out of life. He’d either have it the way he wanted it or be defiant in the involuntary captivity he’d found himself trapped into. We turned the fox over to a man who knew a good place for an animal like that to thrive back in the wilds. A few months later I found myself with a miniature horse to train. This is an animal that will open up to you, if you feed it, provide it water, good pasture, and attend to the horse’s needs it will come to trust you, care for you, and learn to enjoy being part of your life. This miniature horse was a stallion that was named Othello. Perhaps no sight in nature has been more beautiful than when Othello, the miniature horse met up with prettiest mare he’d ever seen, and she liked him too. Of course like so much love in the world, sometimes it’s just not meant to be. She lived in Ohio. He lived in a traveling circus. She was a full blooded draft horse, probably stood 17 hands, weighed 2500 lbs…Her head and neck was probably as big as the whole of Othello… head to tail. Still, it was one of the great romances, and like so many of the truly great love affairs, the one’s you remember often are the one’s where for reasons hard to understand it just never ever was going to work out…Othello I’m sure thought given half a chance if we’d just let him take a stallions chance he was sure could change all that…Honest to god I swear I heard Othello tell me to go get the stilts from backstage…
Highway Home The Novel
” Jasper heard the horse approaching and rolled up off his side and stood for a better look. The rider had two dogs with her, a pair of Border collies, herding dogs. Jasper walked out toward the dogs. The animals slowed at the end of their approach and walked up, respectful of each other. The three canines traded sniffs and identified each other with caution. Jasper had a good nature and his tail wagged and the Border collies seemed harmless and ready to make friends.”
Union street street shows…playing the Easter Day Parade. Street shows are eternal movie palaces, an art that no civilization, no amount of time will force to die. It’s just cheaper rent, we don’t have to fill the seats, we just have to fill the hat, we can always sleep beneath the stars, where we set our dreams and wishes for one more embrace of an audience……….The Street of Dreams, you can’t play the game unless you absolutely have to…….
Into the mix of changes comes mortality, birth- life- then death, then………..In some belief systems there is the notion that after death comes rebirth and after rebirth another incarnation and that this incarnation is part of many former lives and that we’ll likely be born again. I have a hard time buying in on this idea, but I have no difficulty seeing that after this version of being here that there are going to be other versions of being here even though I might not have the pleasure of a really fabulous human mind to play with in the next visit. We know that we know we are here and we can think about being here and reflect on the idea that it will end. Perhaps we come back as a tree and its hard for me to get my mind around the quality of a trees consciousness, whether it knows that it knows….I’m here in Seattle for a memorial for Hokum W Jeebs… his work as an eccentric musician is part of my second novel, Bankrupt Heart, and in this one sense Hokum’s life extends into the future in an absolute sense. And so we can view end in the strict sense of the word as having a final point, or we can see it to be a movable feast, that in another way nothing ever ends, things continue on and on and on……..