Saturday, September 22, 2007

Live show

Today Ulysses and I went to see Circus Boy perform as part of the free Kids in the Rotunda Series at the Overture Center downtown.

We've gone to these events before. Or, I should say, we've attempted to go. Or, even more precisely, we've been briefly present in the auditorium while some of these events were going on. Let me tell you, for a 90-second payoff, that's a lot of work. Not the least of which is just finding a parking spot and hauling a 30-pound bundle of joy several city blocks in at least one direction. (Use a stroller? Ulysses don't sit in no stinkin' strollers!)

So I was amazed when, a few minutes after arriving at this show of circus stunts -- juggling and such -- Ulysses got me to my feet and pushed me (he steers with little gentle, but insistent shoves to the backs of the knees) around the back of the crowd and down the steep slope of the bench seating area -- it's sort of terraced right into the topology of the room, and not built into individual seats, thank goodness -- to the very front row, by the stage apron.

A dilemma presented itself: signs described the empty bench area as reserved for those needing sign language interpretation, so it would be wrong to try to sit there. On the other hand, if we sat right where we were, at the base of the steps in the aisle, someone would come over soon and tell us we had to move because of fire regulations. (Like at the Indian classical dance concert for kids in 2006.) And if I tried to move us back to watch from the back of the house, there'd be heartbreak and screaming and me carrying a thrashing bundle four blocks to the van.

I saw -- or convinced myself that I saw -- a thinning of the throng front row center. Guerrilla-like, I threw myself belly down and scrambled to it. U followed. I squinched as low as possible on the floor in front of the stage, as close as possible to the little feet on the bench behind me, hoping to not attract the attention of the fire rules enforcers. Ulysses practically danced with glee -- and not at a height that would disturb the people behind, so that was good.

His eyes took on that shine of excitement -- the all-consuming world-of-wonder look of happiness, awe, thrill, that only a child's face can register.

He laughed at all the jokes, even the ones he couldn't possibly get. ("This trick is the reason that for seven years ... I have never ... had a single ... girlfriend.")

Circus Boy stuffed his mouth full of ping pong balls in preparation to spit them high in the air and catch them back in his mouth. Ulysses laughed. Before starting the mouth juggling, Circus Boy paused to waggle his tongue, incongruous between those enormous ping-pong-ball-stuffed
cheeks. Ulysses practically fainted with happiness at the sight. He rode a tiny, tiny bicycle -- the world's smallest, he called it -- in circles around the stage (this was the clue from which Don and I figured out later that this was the same guy we'd seen at Circus World Museum years ago, I think in 1999).

Circus Boy climbed a wide, metal runged ladder and balanced atop it, holding it clapped between his knees, his legs improbably threaded through the rungs. He needed to keep rocking the ladder from foot to foot on the ground to keep the balance, apparently. He ladder-walked around the stage, gently making fun with the audience volunteer while juggling a trio of long-necked, silver clubs. Ulysses loved this so much that I had to throw my arms around him and hold on tight to keep him from running up onstage. I looked up at Circus Boy's face. He knew he was balancing on a ladder, but had he ever had to do that while an enthusiastic toddler tried to climb on? I wondered. I tightened my grip a little.

After the show, we stood in line for an autographed DVD of Circus Boy's greatest feats. Ulysses didn't understand the line -- why we should be standing stock still instead of going somewhere and doing something. Fortunately, the merchandise table's skirting was coming undone, so Ulysses threw himself into the task of repairing it. Our turn came, and I pulled him away from his work and handed him a five-dollar bill. While Ulysses looked at the money, seemingly wondering why he was holding it, Circus Boy took it out of his hand and replaced it with the DVD. That Ulysses understood. "DD!" (DVD) he exclaimed, happily.

The disc came with our choice of a poster or a set of juggling balls, with instructions. I chose the balls, of course. Something to learn from and do versus something to look at, or figure out where to store? Easy. Ulysses handed me the DVD so he could receive the clear, plastic three-pack of colorful, sand-filled juggling balls from Circus Boy (I learned later, from the DVD, that his actual name is Bobby Hunt). He regarded them seriously.

"He loved the show," I said. "Thank you," said Circus Boy to me, and to U: "What's your name?"

"Ulysses," I answered.

"What a great name!" he said, "How old are you?"

U looked briefly up at Circus Boy, then returned his attention to the balls. "He's three," I supplied.

Circus Boy smiled at Ulysses, but got nothing back. "He couldn't care less," he said, with a disappointed little laugh.

It was reasonable enough, I knew, but it was completely wrong. Not only had Ulysses been rapt throughout the show, but it was the first live show ever that Ulysses hadn't walked out on. It was a milestone. Then U was struck hard when he understood that he'd purchased a DVD of the live show -- I saw it register on his face when he saw the picture on the case cover, and it bore out after we got home and he played the disc with his new DVD-operating skills. To top it off, he'd been presented with a pack of not one, but three beautiful balls. "Balls," he whispered. "Boi--ng, boi--ng..." he trailed off.

And now Circus Boy thought I was only being polite when I said this boy loved the show.

"He's overwhelmed," I said. "He loved the show."


"He loved the show," I said again, with emphasis. "He's going to watch this DVD eight thousand times. Tonight. And now he can learn to juggle," I said, indicating the balls.

Circus Boy looked in a new light at the way U was studying the balls. "He's three? He can learn to juggle. It's a lot of fun."

"He can learn to juggle, and then I can learn to juggle," I said. "Then we'll take our act on the road!"

"You can be my competition," he said.

I smiled.

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