Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sick with Circus

Circus AMOK played a show today in the gymnasium at Judson Memorial Church, which served as our rain location since Seward Park, where we should have been, was dealt a soft mist that seemed easy, but over time becomes a drenching cardboard disaster. I was, honestly, not looking forward to it at all. I've got some kind of head cold, going on 2.5 days, and the last thing I need to be doing is unpacking and repacking a truck full of circus stuff, and then of course, sweating through my clothes during the show, and running around being fabulous.

But I did it. It was a nice show. There were probably about 75 people in the audience--which is about 70 more than we thought might show up. Despite this being the circus's fifteenth season, and despite the fact that we perform for who knows how many people (1,000? 2,000? 5,000?) we still look around at each other before some of the shows and say "Do you think anyone will show up?"

I thought a lot about taking the show somewhere else, about touring. I wondered how the audiences might be different, how it could look more like theater to those other audiences, look more like a foreign spectacle. Because if you listen to our audiences, the way they scream and cheer, laugh and boo, all the right places--it really feels like the circus belongs to this city. If you took us out of that context, I'm not sure how it would come across.

I still think we should tour. Please, if you know someone with a few hundred thousand dollars laying around, or if you yourself have a few hundred thousand laying around, send it our way. We could use it wisely and well.

There is a moment in the show, just before the vaulting act, after a few "slower" acts--the animal bits, the wirewalking, the kind of acts that people really watch, and watch closely--where Jenny Romaine asks the audience if they are ready to see some of the something something (it changes every day, and I don't hear much of it anyway.) The point is, it ends with her asking the audience to scream their heads off like babies. And never fails--they do. It's easy to forget that they're out there sometimes. We are so focused on getting through the next costume change, the set change, the hurry-we-need-an-ice-pack-now.

So. Thank you for coming, for listening, for tossing money into the hat, for writing emails to unknown recipients about what our circus did to make your day better, for sitting your squirming, squealing children in the first row, for standing in the back and waving, for never failing to boo at the right moment. And for screaming your heads off like babies.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Surface Temperature, Part 3 of 4

Many years ago, I wrote this short story, "Surface Temperature" -- I think I was 18 or 19, or something like that. It's mostly bad, but there's something charming about it, sort of, maybe. It's a bit heavy-handed. Lately, I've felt the need to go back and read things I wrote long ago--maybe it has something to do with turning 30. Or maybe not. So, for what it's worth, part 3 of 4:

I continued down the road. I took off my shoes. There weren't any cars. Although the man who sells UFO kites was still parked on the west side of the highway. His sign had changed. It used to read "UFO KITES $10." He had added the words "EVERYTHING MUST GO" to the bottom. As I walked past he slathered white sunscreen across his flushed flesh. He was wearing a straw hat with the brim flipped up, a severely ugly bathing suit, and some well-worn purple flip-flops. He looked like John F. Kennedy with a couple of earrings. Maybe he was in the navy at some point.

"Where you think you're going?" He shouted lazily from his lawn chair.

"Just down the road a bit."

"You live around here?" He added. I could tell by his tone that he didn't really care.

"Yeah, I live down in the Three Palms Apartments."

"Really? Mind if I ask how much you pay for something like that?"

"Four sixty. Plus utilities."

"Really?" He pulled his head back and the skin on his neck folded up. "Do you like it much?"

"Oh yeah, it's got a great view." I told him what I tell all the people who ask. Mostly only tourists ask me how I like my apartment. In Florida everyone makes the balcony sacrifice. If you want to see the ocean you pay five times more than you would if you want to look at sea oats in front of a line of pine trees.

"Maybe I should look into getting a place there. I'm looking into moving you know. It's just that I'm waiting to really get up on my feet. You know, financially. I'm trying to save up to get my daughter to college by selling these damn things." He sat forward. “She wants to be a baby doctor. You know, deliver babies.”

"Yeah." I pretended to be interested.

"I mean I can't just go out on a limb and take a chance like moving into a snazzy apartment like the ones at Three Palms. I don't have that kind of security. Oh well, one day." He sat back.

"How much?"

"Ten dollars." I thought the kites might be drastically reduced.

I reached into my bathing suit pocket and pulled out a twenty that had been through the wash several times.

"I'll take two."

"Sure thing! Do you have a color preference?" He inquired honestly.

"No. Just whatever you have will be fine."

"Okay. Here you go." He handed me two long strings with kites attached. They fluttered in the wind twisting around each other like sea serpents.

"Thanks. So I'll see you around."

"Yup. I'm here every afternoon." He waved as I walked away. I just turned and went, like it was a regular day, like it was a regular conversation, like I wasn't consumed by fear.

When I got to the beach nature had gone a bit askew. There were sea turtles hatching. Sea turtles aren't supposed to hatch in the daytime because the sand is too hot to crawl on. Normally, they hatch out of their eggs then crawl to just underneath the surface of the sand and wait there until it's cool enough to make the mad dash for the ocean. The movements of one turtle inspire the others so that when one breaks the surface, so do all the others, and all three-hundred or so baby sea turtles burst out at the exact same time. Nature.

Why is this happening now? It's almost noon and the blast made the temperature rise even more. The turtles were braving the hot sand like they didn't even feel it, flapping their tiny flippers as fast as they could go, chasing each other towards the water. Their backs each caught a single shimmer of blue light that sparked across the sand in waves. Most of them made it to the water. I hadn't the heart to tell them that it's tainted. Their one chance at life has already been poisoned.

I walked a few hundred feet down away from the turtle’s nest to where the sand was fresh white and I couldn't see any footprints. It was warmer there, but I sat down anyway. I took deep lethal breaths and my mind wandered. A short while later, I'm really alert.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Some Circus Pics

As the circus arrives at its final four days of performance -- I've scoured the web for some pics. We just show up and do the show, and of course, thousands of people are out there watching and taking pictures. Here is the evidence. I stole all these from Flickr.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Surface Temperature, Part 2 of 4

Many years ago, I wrote this short story, "Surface Temperature" -- I think I was 18 or 19, or something like that. It's mostly bad, but there's something charming about it, sort of, maybe. It's a bit heavy-handed. Lately, I've felt the need to go back and read things I wrote long ago--maybe it has something to do with turning 30. Or maybe not. So, for what it's worth, part 2 of 4:

Slowly people began to realize that the very air was tainted and some began to cover their mouths. They looked like they were halfway between hypochondria and sheer disbelief. I began my way through the cars towards the road and stepped off the curb. I even remembered to look both ways before crossing the street. I looked up. I didn't really know what to look for. Would there be another one? I let the wind blow across my face and my hair fell into my eyes. My skin was tingling and pink. It was the same feeling you have right after really good sex, and I was breathing the same hard slow breaths. I burrowed my eyes into my palms, expecting the skin on my face to rub right off. Isn't that what's supposed to happen?

"We have to move out of here!" A man in a long black trench coat was tiring the stunned masses ever more. He was trying to fix us, and most didn't yet know they were broken. He had smooth cheeks that faded into curious black hair that lined the curve of his ear. It was pulled into a braid that slid down his back and pointed to his hips. "Listen to me! If we don't get to a shelter fast the air is going to kill us. You feel hot because your skin is burned. Listen you people; there isn't much time! Five more minutes and you're sure to die. If you made it through the blast get your asses off the pavement and get inside!"

Several of us peered into the store. We saw faces that mirrored ours, only they weren't us. They were the faces of strangers, fear flooding silently from every opening.

"It won't help,” I said. All the glass is broken and the walls aren't thick enough to do any good." I could hardly hear my own words. My hair began to blow into my mouth and it tasted like red wine, a charred finish and a suburban bouquet.

"Quit arguing and get inside. If we get inside the freezer case, we'll be safe from the radiation." He stirred once again.

Lots of the women who had gathered their children were obeying and most of the men too. There were a few of us left out in the parking lot. I could do nothing to stop them. At least the tourist moms could die with their children huddled tightly against their stomachs.

"I'm telling you, it won't help. The wind is blowing through just as much in there as it is out here." I heard myself contesting, even though I didn’t really care. There was no way I was going to get cramped up in a tiny broken freezer case in the basement of the Save-A-Lot. I began walking towards the beach.

"Look, stay with us. When the police come we will all be together. I won't come looking for you." The man in trench coat was sincere. I didn't turn around for another twenty feet and when I looked, he was gone, just as quickly as he had appeared.

The road was hot. When I was a child I would stand on the black paved streets without shoes because I liked to feel the bottoms of my feet burn. I thought that the heat would make my skin stronger and tougher. I thought I would be able to run faster through the mowed fields, through the musty pinewoods. Tough feet were equal to limitless character.

After three or four minutes standing on the burning streets, your mind begins to play games with your body. You can't tell whether your feet are burning or freezing. It's the same feeling when you put your fingers into scalding water. First it feels terribly cold, then hot. As I was standing alone in the parking lot, when the bomb actually detonated, there was unbelievable heat. It was like all of America's suburban ovens were thrust open at the same time and everyone's glasses became foggy. The concrete heated up so fast that my heels began to burn. I stood there and savored the heat, knowing that I was becoming stronger, knowing that I was on my way to limitless character.

But if you want to know the whole of what I was feeling – the heat was closing in on me from the outside, and the cold was exploding from my insides. I felt with such lucid clarity my own isolation. The cold began to emerge and wrap itself around me. I was alone. In this way what I felt was the opposite of what I normally feel. It wasn't the stinging cold of hot water, but the caustic heat of solitude.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Some Updates

--The severely-talented Charlie Vazquez have an interview together over at, where we talk about our creative processes, music we like to listen to, the state of gays and gay marriages, and even blowjobs in expensive cars. You can check out the interview by clicking here, read an excerpt of mine by clicking here, and read one of Charlie's stories by clicking here.

--Who wants to see a queerly-situations, politically-themed, glitter-guilded, fantastical spectacle, all for FREE in your very own New York City park? You have only 8 more chances, to see "Subprime Sublime," Circus AMOK's 2008 fantasia on financial themes. Check out the schedule by clicking here.

--My parents arrive on Thursday, for a weekend of excitement, birthdays, food, food, and food. It's been years since they came to visit, maybe 4-5 years. They stopped coming once my brother had children. Who wants to spend thousands of dollars to come to this dirty, stinky, crowded, loud place, when the magic of your grandchildren are in sunny Orlando? I'm kidding. Maybe someone will take pictures and I can get them on Flickr. I've basically given up picture taking--I think I don't have the patience for it. More so, I'm just not that interested it.

--This idea that I'm not interested in things. I've been trying to figure out what that is. It seems to be my answer, or my initial impulse, quite often these days. So, is it indeed the crux of what I'm feeling, or is it some kind of laziness, some kind of apathy, some kind of fear?

--I'm also obsessed with this game Zuma, which I got for my iPod. Mary Steenburgen was on some late night show talking about meeting people on airplanes, and they were always catching her playing Soduku on her Blackberry. And she worried that this was such an uninteresting experience for the person who stopped to talk. I have the same thought when I play Zuma all day. My fans will find me so uninteresting!

--Kip and I had the best sushi last night, at Sushi Kyoto on Smith Street, near Atlantic. The highlight for me was something called the Tuna Tortilla. It was a small flour tortilla, layered with toro, panko, and who knows what else, then cut into pieces like a pizza. Oh, baby.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Surface Temperature, Part 1 of 4

Many years ago, I wrote this short story, "Surface Temperature" -- I think I was 18 or 19, or something like that. It's mostly bad, but there's something charming about it, sort of, maybe. It's a bit heavy-handed. Lately, I've felt the need to go back and read things I wrote long ago--maybe it has something to do with turning 30. Or maybe not. So, for what it's worth, part 1 of 4:

Hiroshima happened on an ordinary day. This morning when the sky was blood red from dawn, I could see it wasn't going to be an ordinary day, and that's why I didn't worry. I woke up fast and hot − night sweats, except the air was cold. I opened the east-facing window and the air smelled of wet rust. There were no yard sale signs posted, as usual. There were no women walking dogs, as usual. There were no metal-detecting tourists on the beach, as usual.

Work started in forty minutes and I was only half prepared for the hours ahead. I work at the Save-A-Lot on A1A. I am a bag boy. I studied at the University of Southern Florida for four years. I have a bachelor’s degree in advanced mathematics, but don't ask me to recount the list of events that promoted me to bag boy. It's a very short list.

I force myself into the bathroom and cough up some phlegm into the sink, (ahh…Florida mornings.) The hot water is steaming my nasal passages open and my eyes are still foggy from sleep. My face in the mirror looks like a frightened mouth gaping open. The steam rises from the fake porcelain to surround my head in a smoky wreath. It smells like a dirty mixture of ocean water and all-you-can-eat seafood buffets. It’s that smell that Floridians know too well. The smell that arouses the tourists attached sentiment. I gather up enough of myself to begin the day. Half a stale everything bagel and a fifteen minute walk later the glowing Save-A-Lot neon casts red light across my face and I can feel it's warmth.

What people allow themselves to buy when they're on vacation--every cart looks the same: half a gallon of skim milk, one tub kool-aid powder, several ice cream flavors, lunch meat, Wonder bread, tortilla chips, mild salsa, Chips Ahoy! Cookies, and salad dressing (no salad ingredients.) I make sure to bag the bread separately. The tourists seem to like that and they always ask for plastic.

The registers were beeping at their usual random intervals when all of a sudden they began to beep in unison, one after another like a giant bar code countdown. Only the beeping continued, and the freezer case when out with an almost silent whimper. Babies quit crying and mothers quit sorting through coupons. Everything in the entire supermarket stopped and we all stood there silently listening to the countdown of the laser registers. Five, four, three, two, one, and then even they stopped. The radio in the store buzzed static like it does during a hurricane. We began to look out the windows and up at the sky. There was nothing. It was clear and empty only the blood red that I woke up to was gone, now it was a loose striped olive color. The air blew through the aisles and smelled like sweet rotting fruit.

I started to walk out into the parking lot; most of the customers were already on their way outside. We stood there in the strangely empty lot staring up at the sky, looking for it, waiting for it. A seagull flew in a growing spiral above our heads. There was an incredible flash of light, like God taking a picture of us. There were smoke circles in the sky high above; an atmospheric crystal pond − and someone had tossed an atomic pebble into the center. The greenness of the sky faded to yellow, then burned orange, then was black. The smoke lifted upwards, away from us and wind blew plastic bags around our feet in miniature tornadoes.

Then there was the noise of a thousand freight trains skidding to a cold dead halt − the noise of a dozen hurricanes thundering in over the coastline in one fatal swoop − the noise of a massive herd of charging bison − the noise of a cheering crowd − the noise of one hundred Fourth of Julys. Then the cry of a tiny baby, strapped into a car seat. She stretched her arms and legs out as far as they could reach, reaching with every bit of sacred life inside of her. The child screamed with such innocent terror − it was the sound that all of us would have made, if we could have made any sound at all. We were thrown to the ground. As I lay there listening to the nuclear holocaust above us my mind raced to find a conclusion. I tried to think of something that would set my mind − not at ease − but in a still quiet place. I tried to remember my mother. I tried to remember my first love. I tore through all my experiences trying to find something that would give me the courage to die. I could think of nothing.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Okay, I'm Back

Not very much of a break, maybe. Just a few days. But they were thick days, long hours, with huge meaningful leaps taken in various directions. I've just come out of the shower, with water much hotter than is perhaps necessary or healthy for the skin, but I needed it. I needed to just stand there and stare at my feet. I seemed to have forgotten what that was like.

Kip and I went through a pretty intense crisis. Things were teetering on the edge of ending there for a while. Among all the lessons that I learned in those hours between our initial breakdown and our subsequent apologies and mending conversations, I learned that everyone has these conversations--some people have them every week--but it felt like I'd never had this one before. It also occurred to me that perhaps the fact that I've never had this conversation before is really just the proof that when this conversation comes up, I've steered it, or whoever has steered it, into a different place. And then there was a different outcome.

I have bread in the oven, three loaves that I let rise earlier after having come home from the half-performed Circus AMOK show in Riverside Park--as much of it as we could do before the rain came. That meant, Stilts, Chari, Juggling, Lectures, Interruptions, Singing, Blue Jay, Wire-Walking...and then the sky opened and everything went under a tarp. Well, everything except for us. About 5 hours ago, I was changing my clothes in the ATM area of the Chase Bank on 79th Street. As in, stripping down to the nearly-nothings and putting on whatever I could find in the bottom of my bag that wasn't soaked. As much I love to look fabulous, I just don't have the courage to ride home on the 1 Train in my tutu. (This paragraph is meant to transition into the next one, but also meant to make you excited about seeing the AMOK show--wire-walking? Singing? Tutu? You can see the schedule here.)

So, back to the bread. I needed to do something earthy, something that would feel simple, healing, and also beneficial. I needed to complete something. It's possible that they will turn out terribly--I don't make bread often--but it's more about the process than the product. For me, that's always been the truth.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Everything is Shitty

I'm taking some time away from the blog to deal with some personal stuff that's swirling me around in bizarro land. Just a little break. Not too long.

Please stay tuned....