Balloons on the loose or in bondage in east end Toronto
Picture Perfect 51
Dan could smell popcorn even before he had opened the front door of the Maritime Circus Museum. As he opened the door, calliope music announced his entry. Man, that must get irritating for the people who work here, he thought.
The inside lobby was a ceiling to floor front of a circus tent – a ticket booth in the middle, a partially opened tent flap, & two large canvas posters on either side of the ticket booth. They had to be at least twelve foot high. The ones on the left were for ‘Cora! Queen of the King Cobras’ – it showed a wide-eyed, smiling woman clad like a bellydancer, charming a king cobra by staring into its eyes. ‘Cora can charm the most dangerous of poisonous snakes. Think of what she can do with mortal man.’
Beside it was one for ‘Sharko – The Fish Man’ A thin man in bathing trunks was half twisting to show the fin on his back, his legs were covered with scales and there appeared to be gills under his jaw. ‘See his scales, his fin. Watch as he dives deep and stays underwater longer than humanly possible.’
On the other side were posters touting first, ‘Fireball.’ It showed a man putting a flaming touch into his mouth. He was wearing a flame painted costume with a what appeared to a lighting bolt of flame flashing from his crotch. Beside the ‘Fireball’ was one for ‘Madama Cabanalla’: a Gypsy woman staring out at him with a crystal ball floating over her palms. ‘Madama Cabanalla sees all! Tells all!’
A sign on the ticket booth invited him to ring for service. An arrow pointed to a rope that he followed with his eyes as it went through a series of pulleys to a fire-station type bell on the wall behind him. A group came in the door as he was about to pull the rope. Two adults and six children.
Dan pulled the bell rope. The alarm rang loudly for a minute and then res & yellow balloons shot up from the roof of the ticket booth with a loud bang. The children screamed and laughed. Dan shook his head in amazement.
A man dressed in a red blazer, with a striped yellow vest and black check pants stepped out from the tent entrance.
“Welcome! Welcome.” He reached his hand out to one of the adults. The adult was leery and squinted as if expecting a hand buzzer as they shook hands. Nothing happened.
“Welcome one and all to Chamberlain’s Maritime Circus Museum. I am Winston Chamberlain. The Happy Hippo Travelling Circus has been in my family for several generations since 1899 when Grant and Isabelle Hill started it. It toured the Eastern Provinces changing with the times over the years until it could no long keep up with the times.”
“You are free to explore the exhibits and the grounds as you want to for free, or you can take a guided tour with ME.” He pulled a bouquet of flowers out of his coat sleeve and presented it to one of the young girls in the family group. “The cost of the tour is your soul … just kidding. It’s a mere $10.00 each.”
“How long will that take?” One of the adult asked. “An hour.” Winston answered. “An hour you will never forget.”
“Can we Daddy?” one of the children asked. “Can we?”
“Is there a children’s rate?” The man asked.
“Only if their feet never touch the ground.” Winston answered. “And their hands don’t touch an exhibit, unless instructed to.”
Dan laughed at Winston’s spiel. He saw that it disarmed the parents of the children, who reluctantly paid the admission fee.
“And you kind sire?” Winston asked Dan.
“I think I’ll explore a bit first. It might be quieter.”
“I hear you.” Winston nodded. “If you want the printed guide to the exhibits that’ll be $5. Which you can pay to my lovely assistant right though here.”
He lifted the tent flap wider and tied it back so they all could enter.
“That included with the tour Mac?” The dad asked.
“Nope.” Winston said. “But you each do get a free bag of popcorn.”
Dan went into the tent and bought the guide. The assistant was an automation pirate that dropped the booklet down a slot & out into his waiting hand. The museum was divided into several areas. One that dealt with the history of it, one that had a display of the various flyers, posters, costumes; another that devoted the various carnival games and food; in an out door area were rides dating back to the first years of the circus. Not all of them were functional and the ones that were would cost $10.00 each to ride or any three for $20.00.
“We’ll start with the Carnival Food Fair,” Winston said to the family, who were joined by several other people.
Dan went in the opposite direction to the first of the exhibit rooms. The guide book gave a concise time line of the carnival, explained the difference between a carnival and a circus. A circus always had animals, lions, tigers; always had performs like clowns, trapeze or tumblers; rarely had rides. Whereas a carnival had more games of chance; rides; some would have freak sideshows such as The Fish Man; large ones might have simple animal acts like dogs or the occasional snake charmer like Cora. Animals always slowed down travel time and over the years were phased out as the rides became a bigger draw.
The exhibit hall Dan went into had a map of the Maritime provinces filling one wall. There were different coloured and sized circus flags representing the decades and places various carnivals had traveled to when they were on tour. The Happy Hippo was the only one based the wartime’s but a couple of the bigger ones, like the Conklin, sent touring midways to Halifax every summer. The larger the flag the more frequently it visited a particular town or city.
Some would get an annual visit, others every two or three years. It would rarely stay longer than a week at any one place unless there some other festival or event going on at the same time.
There where three Happy Hippo touring shows. Dan hadn’t realized this before. He’d always assumed that there was just the one he recalled from his childhood. Each of them had different rides, games of chance. The larger the town or city the larger the carnival would be, hence the three different shows. It also meant three of them could be on the road at the same time and participate in more than one local festival at a time.
There was a computer interface with the map where one could input year, month and see what locations which show was performing. It would also tell you what rides, sideshows and specials where appearing with it, how long it stayed. But not how much money it made.
Dan typed in the month they had left for Toronto. All three shows were on the road. The one nearest Stellerton was the smaller number 3. It played in Truro the week before and had moved on the day after his family left. He saw that a Madam Cabanalla was featured in all three shows. So there must have been more than one of her. Though perhaps her psychic power allowed her to appear in three places at the same time. He’d have to ask Glaucia if the was possible. The Truro special was Cora Queen of the King Cobras in the Court of King Tut. He took pictures of the various pages before they disappeared.
Was Cora why he was so disappointed in not getting to the circus that last weekend? He had been so into Tut that summer for some reason. Following links on the computer screen he found a flyer for that area’s carnival. It also said that the actual flyers could be found in Exhibit Hall two. He consulted he guide to see where that hall was.
Week Twelve of The Artist’s Way talks about faith – a sense of spiritual connection that isn’t tied to any particular region or dogma.
‘spirit of the universe
with your dynamic productive energy
as you create through me
that helps open others to
thank you for all’
I wrote the above as one of the Artist’s Way tasks – to write a prayer/affirmation as part of the process of making thought into an action. I recently had a conversation with a friend about prayer. He was concerned that as he held no organized religious beliefs, was his use of prayer hypocritical. Was he agnostic atheist heretic blasphemer? I told him those terms were based in a Christian construct. As I said that I thought about what Toni Morrison said about the nature of the white gaze which dominates so much of our thinking without us realizing it.
The past few weeks I have been realizing how much of my spiritual ideology is still seen though a Christian gaze, even though I don’t consider myself Christian. The prayer about was written with that gaze over my shoulder, an invisible editor that bargains with the universe in this trade off – like the Biblical trade off in which if you’re good you go to Heaven – we have to be bribed. Why can’t one be good for the sake of being good.
Why can’t I have ‘dynamic productive energy’ without bargaining for it by being of good to others as a result? Can I develop a sense of faith that steps out of the Christian gaze? Even though I say ‘spirit of the universe’ I see that I am engaging with it so as not to appear selfish, or self-serving. That my creativity is only of value if it feeds into the needs of others. Not that I expect faith to exist in a vacuum isolated from culture but I’d like one that doesn’t depend on a culture to approve or validate it. I have faith that that faith is possible 🙂
from Aug 2013
the phone rings
what is it this time
time after time the same
never enough to last a week
if only hanging up could break a jaw
the phones rings
see you in an hour
the heart dances
faster that the clock ticks
the phone rings
how did you get this number
I don’t want to talk to you
there’s nothing left to say
that’s the price you have to pay
the phone rings
stirring me from dreams
into the charms arms hold
everything to anticipate
nothing to resist
the phone rings
have you heard
didn’t expect to be the one
left here dial tone dangling
cold receiver of sobs
The Toni Morrison bio-documentary/interview A Life In Pieces is amazing. One reviewer was quoted as saying something like ‘she has transcended race in this latest book’ – the implication being that this is a good thing that makes her an even better writer. You know I’ve never read a review of novel/books by authors such as Joyce Carol Oates or Stephen King that says that they transcended race, or gender.
One of the things that Morrison said was that she decided not to explain issues in her characters lives but to merely present them because she felt her black readers would already understand & she felt no need to tell them the why of what they already knew. This resonated with me as I often felt need to give my queer characters backstories that explained their coming out – something I still find in movies & novels about the queer experience – explaining things for the heterosexual gaze. There is more to my life than my coming-out experience.
As my poetry became less concerned with explanations or making emotions universal I did get some negative feed back for being too insular – very similar to critical response to some of Morrison’s work that was too race oriented to be ‘quality’ literature. That is until she transcended race. Which I don’t think she really did, or had to do, it’s just that the culture around her became more educated & caught up to her.
I have a few of her novel on my shelf that I may reread. I did download her book of essays ‘The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations’ & have bumped it up to the front of the read next on my Kindle. I’m in the middle of two other books on it now & can’t start yet another one until one of them is finished. Emile Zola’s “La joie de vivre” & Koji Suzuki’s Edge – both amazing & highly recommended.
(from July 2007)
Racking Up Bonus Miles
more never leads to enough
satisfaction is a sigh of defeat
too much stuff is a nice beginning
the constant scratch seeking struggle
doesn’t matter if it fulfills a need
or even a want
it’s just stuff
lots and lots of stuff
fill every nook & cranny
empty is a sign of defeat
bare space isn’t spare simplicity
it is need poverty
only the rich can afford empty space
which they fill with their satisfaction
satisfaction is defeat
more is better than equality
life is a pointless staring glazed at TVs
that aren’t big enough
too much empty space
between the neutrons
making up picture
it’s too easy to fall between the cracks
in the waiting glazed fumble
give me stuff or give me breath mints
bursting at the seams is a start
time to look for bigger seams
to get more stuff in
stuff the up the cracks
stuff up your ass
stuff stuff stuff
how good it feels
to bring home bags of unopened books
the smell of the paper
the space between letters
waiting to be filled
new cds flash in the sunset
as I peel plastic skin off them
new shoes not laced yet
new helicopters new tanks
to keep our boys safe in war
war that never gets enough
there is no such thing as enough death
no quenching that hunger
that smokey smell
is life burning away the past
to make space for the future
why learn lessons
there are new mistakes to be made
mistakes like forgetting
that more never leads to enough
satisfaction is a sigh of defeat
too much is surrender
will that be cash or visa
you get more bonus miles with visa
I was running out of excuses
no not excuses
I was running out of lies
it’s not easy being a nice guy
it’s a conundrum
when you have great sex
with a guy who isn’t your type
who says he had a great time
and wants to see you again
while you aren’t just that into him
if the sex were boring
it wouldn’t be so complicated
so that’s when the lies start
why can’t he take a hint
why can’t I just say
I’m not that interested
there isn’t enough chemistry
between us for me
it’s nothing personal
well I guess it is pretty personal
it is him you are saying no to
even after the second time
when I had run out of excuses
the sex was good
but good isn’t enough for me
I want to feel
not necessarily an emotional connection
more than the need to make excuses
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee at Capturing Fire 2020- sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet
there is a time & place
because this a time for nothing
a time to do nothing
to save nothing
this isn’t that rainy day
this isn’t when
the cows come home
when the crows roost
so stop waiting
for those eggs to hatch
no matter what you have on your hands
this is not the time or place
to save stitches
to waste your breath
or make yet more excuses
no more chances
there is no grace period
its now or never