Let me preface everything by saying that I have always hated clowns. I am not alone in this feeling. There are many others and our numbers are legion. As with many people, I had a negative childhood experience with a clown: One of them came to our school – somehow he was allowed to wander on to the premises; people were very careless in those days – and he put on a show for the kids. He had a big painted on shit-eating grin but I could instantly see through all the greasepaint to the fiend beneath. I knew what he really was. And somehow, he knew I knew. He was doing that oh-so-lame trick where you pretend to pull a coin from behind someone’s ear and he did it to everyone – everyone but me. Then he glared at me as if to say “Keep your perceptions to yourself, if you know what’s good for you.” It was a defining moment in my life. I saw the scam that these evil beasts were pulling and yet I was helpless to do anything about it. My peers remained blithely unaware. I wanted to stand up on the bleachers and yell, “Stop laughing at him, you’re only encouraging him!...You’re only laughing because you think you’re supposed to laugh! You’re being swindled!” But I didn’t. And I have to live with the knowledge that those kids grew up thinking everything was OK.
Later in life, I became a stand up comedienne to avenge myself. On occasions when I would run into a clown (which happens a lot more often than you might think), I would look them right in the eye and say, “I do real humor.” then I’d stare them down until they looked away in shame. Bottom line: If you need oversized shoes, red nose and to paint your face like an asshole; you ain’t funny. Hang it up and go do something useful with your life. I mean it.
There is proof of their evil emerging constantly. John Wayne Gacy, one of the world’s most notorious serial killers was also a serial clown. Think about this: People actualy hired John Wayne Gacy for their children’s parties. Someone actually took a look at that on their doorstep and said, “Hello sir, come on in. There’s ice cream and cookies and punch or beer if you’d like something stronger.”
One time, at a low and depressed nadir of my life, I made out with a guy who had just graduated from clown college on the hood of a car; such was my self-loathing. I don’t feel good about saying it, but it’s one of those thngs that must be talked about in order to be purged. Some people abuse themselves with drugs and alcohol to express their dispair, I just let a professional clown stick his tongue down my throat. Would that I had had enough self-esteem for a drink habit. The next day he winked at me as he was juggling and it was all I could do not to vomit on his oversized shoes. How could I have? How could I? Ah, but sadly they don’t have 12-step groups for girls who abuse themselves with clowns. More’s the pity.
Oh I could go on about clowns and how and why I think they should be stopped, but I’ll leave that to the politicians and religious leaders. I just needed to mention clowns so you would understand the true depth of my abhorance for them and therefore be able to share in my astonishment of having now met Good Clowns.
Yeah, you heard me: Good Clowns. I know it sounds like an oxymoron. But that’s what I saw at Cirque Du Soleil. Yeah, you heard me: Cirque Du Soleil. I honestly never thought I'd go and see it. I’ve been watching bizarre ads for Cirque du Soleil for 20 years now – you know; people with freaky masks and weird makeup giving enigmatic looks and enticing you to come see them with all the seductive powers of something that is completely not seductive. (Sorry – I couldn’t think of anything). I always hated them because I thought they were just a bunch of limber French people trying to prove how weird they were. Point taken, Gaston, but why should I fork out 100 bucks to see that?
So the only way I was ever going to see Cirque Du Soleil was if my guy got free tickets at work. Happily, that is exactly what happened.
The show was at this big tenty place in Brussels. The minute I walked into the outer lobby bit of the tent, I could tell that these were freaks on a mission. There was all sorts of Freaky French (OK, "French-Canadian", but French is French!) Circus-themed merchandise on sale, among which I spotted a dazzling array of handbags, and then I was done for.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have struggled with a rather serious handbag addiction for several years now. It all started as late-night sessions on eBay to anesthetize a broken heart, but long after the healing was complete, the addiction still remained. That’s not the sort of thing there are 12-step programs for either. This is just one of those addictions you must learn to live with. Is there a cure? I don’t know. I live in hope. But meanwhile I must experience constant Jonesing when walking by expensive boutique windows. I avoid shopping areas for this very raeson. You would know this if you could see my wardrobe right now. So anyway, there I was in the Freak Merchandise tent, and these bags were just damn gorgeous. And so unique. Multi-colored backpacks, oddly-shaped Medieval looking thingies, and even a big beautiful pink, yellow and blue bag with tightrope wire as the straps. When I spotted that one, I was sort of embarrassed looking at it – as if everyone could see the lust on my face. I became overcome with the all-too-familiar need to possess it. All the well-worn symptoms were there; the quickening of the breath, the slightly sweaty palms, and the automatic primitive instinct to make doe eyes at Wim. Unfortunately for me, the bag cost 265 Euros (which is about 300 dollars), and nobody’s eyes are that “doe-y”.
Just as a sidenote about my addiction; I have actually had daydreams (daydreams!!!) of how great my life would be if I had one of the two Cirque bags I fell in love with. “It would change my life!”, I muse, wistfuly. OK, but enough about handbags. (sigh). Now on to the show.
When we first sat down in our seats, I was overcome with my usual flush of hatred at seeing a bunch of clowns prancing casually about up on the stage – acting like they didn’t know they were in a show or why the audience was gathering. All I could think was: “I can see right through you, you asshole freak clowns.”...And believe me, these clowns were more annoying than most at first glance. They had this sort of Mad Tea Party look to them: Kind of a Lewis Carol meets Alice B. Toklas thing that gets right under my skin.
Then I started to panic a little because we were seated right in the middle of the row and I’m the sort of person who has to pee alot. I was afraid that if I had to get up at some point during the show and make an obstruction of myself getting out, that these were just the sort of confrontational clown fucks who would dance over and call attention to me. I sat there seething in my chair worrying about the possibilities and wishing that it were socially acceptable to pee on theater seats. I focused some of my hatred at a woman I had seen in the lobby consuming a giant drink. I knew that even though she had downed at least 12 liters, she probably wouldn’t even need a toilet until she got home that night, whereas I go running to the facilities if it gets a little humid outside. Such is life with the bladdar of a sparrow. Perhaps, all things being equal, there is a sparrow somewhere who’s friends are freaked out by her ample bladdar capacity. “Damn! You never have to go!” They say, admiring her enormous abdomen.
So anyway, the show started much how I thought it would. The Freaky Clowns were dancing about trying to draw us all into the (nonexistant) story, while one freaky clown started singing this dischordant Freak Music. The only reason I wasn’t grimacing was that I always think people on stage are looking right at me, and, like I said, I don’t want no problems with no freaky clowns. I smiled politely in an “I’m on to you, but I’m also tolerating you” kind of way. Then the oddest thing happened: All at once, the show got good.
Real good. Synchronized acrobats were Power Flipping all over the place, doing stuff that didn’t even appear humanly possible. The Freaky Clowns sank into the shadows and now appeared to be there only to support the acrobats. You hear that? The clowns knew their place! Even the Freaky Singing Clown wasn’t too annoying, because she didn’t try to steal focus, you know? She faded into the background while all the acrobats did their thing. And I must say, I was totally impressed. I’ve never seen anything like these acrobats. I mean, you know sometimes when you’re watching those ridiculously infantile acrobats doing floor excersizes at the Olympics? They leap a little bit and throw hoops in the air and do so fancy shit with their arms and you lean back in the couch, take another sip of your beer and think, “I could do that”? Well these acrobats were nothing like that. These acrobats were amazing. I was watching them thinking, “Not only could I not do that, my ass actualy hurt just watching that!” I mean really? How can a human being flip repeatedly in the air to land with such precision on a thin beam 10 feet away? And I’ve got a question for you: Why aren’t these guys in the Olympics? I mean they can do stuff that those anorexic Russian teenagers couldn’t even dream of doing! I’m beginning to think of The Olympics as being the consolation for those who didn’t make the 2nd cut in casting for Cirque Du Soleil.
OK, so there I am, totally impressed, saying “Wow” repeatedly, while the Belgians around me say “wauw” (the effect is the same, you just think of a different spelling while you’re doing it); then along comes this chisled little blonde Star Acrobat guy doing amazing things on top of an ever-higher series of poles. At one point, when he’s on the highest pole, (that’s a vertical pole, by the way, not a horizontal one), I can see the pole wobble more than it should and I can see that brief flicker across his face; that expression of distress only perceptable to other performers that in his case says, “Those fucking clowns didn’t secure the pole! Fucking clowns!”....And I’m right there with him, I mean he’s still performing everything perfectly, but damn it, I’m thinking it now. Repeating it over and over again like a mantra, “Fucking clowns! Fucking clowns!”. I can no longer enjoy anything I’m watching because I’m with the guy now, psychicly. His demise is my demise. “Please don’t fuck up, little chisled Adonis! Please be OK...”....I imagine the scene later backstage should he fall - as his equally beautiful boyfriend holds him back from attempting to sucker punch one of the clowns: “No, Yves! Think of your wrists!”.....But a miracle happens and everything is alright. Thank God and Fuck the Clowns, a tragedy has been averted, with only only Yves and myself the relieved witnesses. I wipe my brow, and once I’ve calmed down, I realize I have to pee. But thankfully at that moment, a Good Clown (for they are now back in my Good Graces) does a little performance that signals the Intermission. I move may way through the herd of People Not Peeing, and find the Ladies Room.
During the intermission, I stare at the bags once more. I soon become aware that the cute little backpack would be awfully easy to steal. I mean it: There is nobody looking. And I hate myself for thinking this way, but damn it, I am thinking this way. I’m standing there looking at this beautiful (I mean really damned beautiful!) backpack and I’m having an existential crisis. I mean “stealing is wrong”, OK I get that. But is it only wrong if I believe it’s wrong? Because right now, I don’t believe it’s wrong! Right now, if I’m honest with myself, I’m only NOT casually walking across the room with it because I know that Wim will figure it out. I won’t be able to cover it up by casually pulling it out of the closet a few weeks from now and saying “This old thing? I’ve had it for ages!”....And he’ll know that I’ve stolen it and he’ll think Less Of Me. I will no longer be that sweet gal who makes him gourmet vegetarian food and laughs at his jokes; instead I will be The Bitch That Broke His Heart When He Found Out She Was A Kleptomaniac. A dirty, horrible criminal. And then he will start to question my character in other ways and I will at some point be driven to a trailer park and told to get out of the car and stay. Why?? Why is stealing wrong if you really want something. And I know he knows what I’m thinking because I see it in his eyes but then the intermission is over, I replace the packpack and he can’t prove a Goddamned thing.
After the intermission, the show got even weirder, but by now I didn’t mind the weirdness one bit. And besides, I was happy to have something to distract my mind from the backpack. (I mean would anyone know now if I had it on my lap? Stop! Stop! Stop!). Two tiny Chinese girls walked onto the stage and proceeded to fold themselves into pretzels. They were doing things that were impossible. The human body is simply not meant to bend that way. This act pushed the very edges of weirdness as far as I was concerned. There was a certain hushed silence, and I’m sure I was not alone in realizing that this act was one ping-pong ball away from being pornographic. Is this not PC to say this? I’m sorry. I’m just being honest. Overall, I didn’t like what people in the audience were thinking and I just wanted it all to end.
The final act of the evening was a trapeze performance which was so amazing I couldn’t watch it at times. I kept thinking one of them was going to have sweaty hands or just miss catching the other guy and I’m going to die under the corpse of an angry acrobat who’s last thought will be that he was convinced he got set up. After they take his body away, I of course will be found underneath, having pissed myself in the final moment. So anyway I swallowed my anxiety by just looking down and thinking about those handbags again.
When the curtain call came, I stood up and clapped louder than anyone. I even cheered for the clowns. The entire cast was brought out for a second, third, and fourth curtain call and I felt entirely responsible, such was my enthusiasm. Again, I got that thing where I think people on stage are looking at me, only it was even more intense now, because it felt like they were all staring at me. Each and every one of them. And I began to think, maybe, just maybe they’ll see that I’m the very best audience member, and then maybe tehy’ll all gather around backstage and say “Did you see that lady in the 4th row? She’s the reason I went into acrobatics”, then they will gather together and come running to find me in the lobby saying, “We wanted to tell you we think you’re great and to thank you, we want you to have anything you want from the gift shop.”
“Anything?” I reply breathlessly, “Even this cool handbag?”
“After an applause like the one you gave us?” They say admiringly, “You can have as many handbags as you want.”
It’s just a fantasy, and I’m aware of that but damn it, I’m sure that they are looking at me, and damn it it’s not totally impossiple like monkeys flying out of my ass. I applaud like crazy and I can feel them loving me and it gives me hope. I briefly think about questioning my sanity, but it just seems such a waste of time.
When we make our way out to the lobby, Wim wants to go, but I lag around visiting the ladies room again and looking over my shoulder a lot. Nothing happens.
Yeah well, it would have been crazy to expect it. Fucking clowns.