As kids, we knew we could become anything. It was just a matter of deciding what. And that was usually determined by which Disney movie we’d most recently seen. After my buddy Jeff and I saw Walt Disney’s Toby Tyler: 10 Weeks in a Circus (starring Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran of Old Yeller fame), the handwriting was on the wall.
Unlike other professions, e.g. being an accountant or a superhero, for which you had to, 1) be an adult and, 2) have superpowers, to be in the circus you simply had to run away and join–but as a kid. So there was no time to waste!
Being a trapeze artist was best because you got to fly through the air and catch beautiful vaguely-European girls in leotards. But we didn’t have a trapeze, or leotards, or a beautiful vaguely-European girl. So we opted for the next best thing: tightrope walking. And we even had a tightrope! Sort of. It was the chain link fence in Jeff’s backyard. Which was pretty much the same thing, right?
Every day for a really long time, like maybe a week (!), we’d meet, talk circus life, and practice walking the fence. Problem was, I’d already learned how to skateboard and how to stand on a moving bike seat, so fence-walking was, well, kinda easy.
Plus, real circuses never seemed to come to our town.
The closest thing was the L.A. County Fair. Dad would take his best paperboys as a reward every year, and I always brought along Jeff or Rory. After a cursory viewing of prize-winning jello molds, and petting a few sheep, we’d head for the almost-a-circus Fun Zone.
Sadly though, my circus aspirations ended abruptly the day I threw up on Judy’s Egg-Beater. Clearly designed by a sadist, the ride consisted of egg-beater-shaped cages dangling from geared shafts. As the whole ride spun around, each cage would additionally spin in the opposite direction! A pimply teenager (clearly the sadist’s son), would lock you in your cage, then hit the start button and gradually increase the speed. He’d shout, “Faster?” The horrified kids would scream, “No!” And then he’d giggle maniacally and push the speed lever forward.
Once pretty much everyone had hurled their corn dogs and funnel cakes on each other, and watched in horror as the remainder circumnavigated the interior, he’d finally turn the ride off, and wash the cages out with a bucket. Ah, the glamorous life of a carny.
I knew then I needed to stay in school.
However, I did throw a ping pong ball in a bowl and score a pet goldfish. He lived for months in my room, before I finally dumped him in our backyard pond. I found him a year later, now roughly the size of Flipper, and wondered, “Would that happen to me if I moved into a bigger house?” If so, I might eventually develop superpowers, after all! Which would open up…
A whole new range of career options.