Sometimes you just have to join the circus [June 2012]

When Groupon offers opportunities to try ones hand at anything resembling a carnie, one must oblige.

I bought two tickets, one for me and one for Brian for Christmas. I almost didn't give him his when he almost ruined my vacation, but I'm glad I did. Brian likes experiences for the sake of something new. And he's good company.

We met at Emerald City Trapeze. Less than a half mile from my office, the building had been taunting me for at least a year. What IS an Aerialdrome, anyway? I've seen a velodrome. Drome is a suffix? The foam pits I pictured were instead, I found out, wide nets (makes sense, considering the velocity of the fall. All the better, foam pits are always somehow dusty and slimy at the same time. Like the foam squares are deteriorating with people's sweat and saliva and who knows what other bodily fluids. Nets should replace all foam pits).

We were given explicit instruction to stretch - some thirty suggested on poster board tacked to the wall. Brian told me about the Flexibility class he took in college. Mostly stretching with a little bit of meditation. My kind of class.

As we stretched, I assessed the room. A few other students were waiting their turn to climb a tall, narrow ladder to approach the launch station, where a trapezist (as I've dubbed them in memory), waited to hook the flyer (as dubbed by trapezists) to a set of ropes and caribeeners. Another trapezist belayed from the ground and gave calls. Flyer grabs the bar, jumps and swings forward, swings back to hang by the knees, swings forward to grab imaginary hands, and drops. No one seemed headed for the circus. Actually most everyone seemed pretty bland. Our instructor reminded me of my old boss Mark Conrad, who reminded some people of a hippie Harpo Marx.

The only exception was the far end of the aerialdrome, where the 'Aerial Arts' trapezists were practicing. You know, when someone swings and sways, twists and turns, all while clutching a cascading curtain between their thighs or ankles. The music they chose (and played on repeat) was pretty awful, but I can't think of a much more physically difficult task than remaining perpendicular to the earth at all, much less while keeping to some sort of choreography. These aerial artists seemed more destined for Cirque Du Soleil.

So stretching time was over and we got the run-down of events. As observed, we would climb, launch, swing, and drop. Hooked into pulleys the entire time so not even a remote chance of injury. We took turns with the 3 other people there, one girl on her second class, another two on their 3rd or 4th. They were working on different tricks. We swung from our knees, they jumped up on the bar and swung from the arches of their feet.  The main goal was to follow command and thus work with gravity and velocity well enough to catch someone's hand instead of dropping after the launch.

That guy was Hans, or Frans, or some other Scandinavian name, I don't remember. When the time came, he monkeyed up shirtless and made it easy to catch. Scariest part of the launch was leaning over the ledge, necessary in getting your center of gravity moving forward. It doesn't feel good having your center of gravity not above your feet, especially when it's 50 feet up.

But it does feel pretty great to fly.

I don't plan on joining the circus, or even going back for lesson two. They give you just enough that you feel like you could though, so maybe someday when I'm looking for a hobby or a future career I will.

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