Haircut in Harajuku

I recommend that all visitors to Japan get a haircut.

It reminds me of how a professor I had at MIT, Professor Dorothy Hosler, explained how knowledge of materials science actually amplified our understanding of a human artisan who crafted a given artifact.  Once you know the immutable properties of the basic working materials, you are able to separate design aspects that are purely utilitarian and dictated by physics from those design aspects that are rooted in the creative spirit of the craftsman.  In other words, a lot of what a blacksmith does is directly related to the iron itself.  Anything beyond that is based on his own tastes, etc.

 

Getting your haircut in Japan and getting your haircut anywhere else are two experiences that are quantitatively identical: you get your hairs cut.  Iron is iron, a haircut is a haircut.

 

But there is a truly ritualistic feel to the 90 minutes of your basic “walk in” haircut in Japan.  I want to try to relate the experience I had last Sunday.

 

You walk into the store and all of the attendants greet you individually.  Your bag and coat and umbrella are taken from you and whisked away to a back room.  You then sit down with a hip-looking friendly guy who just seems to want to talk about hairstyles.  You flipped through magazines and comment on which hairstyles you like and hate and why.  Then, surprise!  He reveals that he is the one who is going to be cutting your hair. This ‘rapport-building’ approach has been a pretty common thing in my Japanese haircut experience.

 

Then they led you to the hair washing sinks which are often in a separate part of the store with dim lighting and calm music.  You are situated in a chair with the utmost attention to detail, and then receive a combination of shower and massage which can last about 10 minutes.  The water temperature is selected according to your taste, and the stylist makes sure throughout the shampoo that you are comfortable, that there is no water getting on your face or running down your neck.  Very nice.

 

Then you get walked to the stylist’s chair.  On the way, all the other stylists acknowledge you by saying “otsukarasamadesu,” a phrase which suggests that you are going through great pains to maintain your good looks as well as you do.

 

Once you are seated, the stylist proceeds to cut each hair on your head individually.  It might sound like I am exaggerating, but it is absolutely true.  They cut it with razors and clippers and thinning scissors and shears, just so that when you walk out of the store, it will look like you got your haircut a month ago, and it just happens to look this good today.

 

They select magazines for you from their impressive library based on their interpretation of your personality, and they will talk a lot about parts of the city that you have never even heard of, so time goes by pretty quickly.

 

When they are done, they walk with you back to the little yoga studio in back for another shampoo, with all of the other stylists acknowledging you as before, and once that is finished, they literally pack your face in hot towels and then place you upright.  Once you are unwrapped, they offer you another hot towel to use on your face, and walk you back to the chair (otsukaresamadesu…) for the real massage.

 

Ah, the scalp and shoulder massage as your hair dries.  The best part, according to me.  Finally they style your hair (again, one hair at a time, I promise you), and you go to the register to pay and receive your free thank-you gift.

 

They put your jacket on for you, and hand you your bags.  The stylist bows deeply and presents you with his personal card and the card of the shop as you walk out onto the street with a brand-new haircut, and not a stray hair clipping on you.

And on to Korea

As The Rocker says, “Apply for things and forget about them.  You’ve lost nothing if they never happen, but when something does come through, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

And so we wait for confirmation on project after project: a 1-hour made-to-order multi-media/acrobatic show at an international film festival in Taipei, various residencies in Japan, the budget for an international new circus festival in Taiwan, the possibility of performing or creating a new show in Singapore.

I also wait for responses from several proposals I have sent out on my own: residency at MIT, working with my former dance company in Boston, even applying for a Data Analysis Specialist position at Mauna Kea Observatory in the naive hopes that this life of show production and promotion might someday provide me with an easy exit ramp back to the life of a responsible, financially-secure scientist.

Last night, after returning from a limited Golden Week roadtrip with The Political Scientist and her friend, I received word that the Chuncheon International Mime Festival was indeed counting on me to present at the end of May as a graduate of the National Circus School of Canada, a former freelance performer for the Canadian circus company Cirque Theatrical at the 2005 World Expo in Nagoya, and assistant director/new project coordinator for the National Theater of Taiwan.  All this despite their notice in April that due to budgetary constraints, they would not be able to sponsor me after all.

It was a last-minute change, the kind that I have had to learn to accept in my profession.  The only way around it is to maintain flexibility in your commitments at all costs.  Luckily, on the particular week in question, I was able to reschedule all commitments except for one, so on to Seoul.

It has been a long time since I was last in South Korea.  The las time was in 1991 as an incredibly awkward 14-year old travelling with my family.  I remember nothing of the language, except for “thank you,” and nine of the numbers from one to ten (I have no idea which number I am missing).

Whenever I travel to a country, I like to learn enough of the language to order a local specialty in a bar or make a request of a DJ.  I think that if you know that much of a language, you are well on your way to fluency.

“Excuse me, a drink please.”

“……………..”

“What do you recommend?”

“……………..”

“One of those, then.”

“……………..”

“Thank You!”

or,

“Excuse me, do you have ‘Dirty Water’ by the Standells?”

“…………….(negative)”

“It’s ok.  Sorry to bother you, but do you have ‘Kids in America’ by Kim Wilde?”

“…………….(affirmative)”

“Excellent!  Thank you!”

By living abroad in non-Anglophone countries for the last 6 years, I have learned that I had been far too anxious when it came to learning foreign languages.  It took me about one week to learn ‘bar Mandarin.’  I didn’t understand responses word-for-word, but body language clears up a lot of ambiguity.  The only problem was that I had no idea what they brought me that night and was unable to order it again.  I just asked for recommendations everywhere I went.

So for Korea, I am supposed to talk about my studies at the National Circus School, what the “theatrification of Circus” involves, and what it is that characterizes the Canadian thrust of the movement.  I have 24 hours to get my mind straight about this subject, compose an article and lecture and then send it to the festival for translation into Korean.

I will also probably have to provide a technical demonstration, though I am not really sure what that might entail, as theatrification is not a real word.

And Tomorrow It Will Be Forgotten…

There is nothing more to say.

Imagine the scene:

There is a clown on stage. not one of those modern clowns that make you laugh but at the same time make you think about the frailty of the human condition; just a normal clown.  Loud colors, loud noises.  Just a clown!

The kind that if you see him when you are older than say 15, you feel a little sorry for them, but you are happy that the kids seem to enjoy him.

Maybe even your kids.  You are maybe even a little too embarrassed to laugh, but you keep a grin plastered on your face.

But in the middle of this act, he stops abruptly.

Nothing cliche, here.  No taking off the red nose and regarding the public seriously for a moment of truth, this is a real thing that is going on.

Maybe it is a clown in the classical entree sense.  Maybe it didn’t even make sense in this play that is about the communist revolution in Bulgaria that seems so heavy, serious, reflexive.  But this is the last entree, and all this shit is about to come together, and when it does, it will be like a whirlwind.

I love these writing whirlwinds.

It is the sound of an audience full of people realizing something all together at the same time.

It is the sound of a sigh over here, a sob over here, an exclamation of disbelief here, someone verifying with their neighbor if they understood this little twist correctly or not.  It is the sound of understanding something clearly that you didn’t even recognize as a problem.  These characters are this way because the author needed them to be that way, not because they can be changed.

Lucy will always pull the ball away from charlie brown.

This is the way that characters are made, the way that we come to understand them.

Two characters that are tied together for the duration of a show beg the questions “When are the going to get tangled up?  When are they going to cut the rope?”  But less evident is why they ever started out on the journey in the first place.

But there is a discrete way of changing characters, one that is not really discussed in any literary schools that I know of.  Not discrete for the character themselves, but discrete for the audience, because the character is perhaps not at all surprised with the change they took, etc.

But for the audience, it changes the whole story.  It is a plot twist, but there is a necessary emotional component, here.  It is where the audience understands that this is more than a funny show with acrobatics in it because for fuck’s sake now I’m crying!

“I need to talk about this more sometime.  Because for the longest time I have been feeling something empty inside of me and maybe it is this wanting to change the world thing that you were talking about.  Whenever you achieve mastery of something, you are always going to have admirers, but it is like that marathon thing you were talking about.  So you’ve arrived, now what?

So I just want to say ‘go for it.  To the end.  Why not you?’  ‘Why not you?’  I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who works hard to make other people’s life better; who suffers to change the world, but I just hope that through it all, you are able to realize that life is in the present.  And that you don’t go too fast to your goals to remember that.  Because I worry that you are going to find yourself more and more alone because it is a specific thing that you want and not many people feel this way.  Mais rêve, vas-y, jusqu’au bout. A tous ceux qui te disent de ne pas rêver, je dis ‘fuck off, man’  pourquoi pas toi?”

It is my time to be silent.  It is me the ignorant one.  It was not them who did not understand me, it was me who was to shy or too stuck up or presumptuous to communicate to them.  Sure they said I was always to serious, that I can’t let go and have fun, that I don’t laugh.  But it was me who was holding off like I was too good to enjoy these people who care for little else than the next party or the next one-night-stand.

And I expect to be an artist when I grow up?

I wasn’t communicating.

And there is no excuse for that.

A frustrated artist is not a good artist.

A frustrated artist is not skilled enough in his metier to ease this frustration through artistic expression.

So it comes full circle again, I guess.  This is where the training comes in.  And of course you need to take into account the audience and your message and the bottom line, but if you are frustrated, you are no good, and you have a right to be frustrated, so go out there and work harder so that you can communicate yourself better instead of sitting on the veranda of a ryokan mulling over for the millionth time all the facons to end your life in an shocking or amusing way.  On schedule.

So the vacation was different this time, maybe more real.  The moments re-recorded on the wax cylinder of my brain in just that way.  Surreal in their clarity and seeming irrelevance.  To each other and to my life.  But they fit together, like what I have just described and the way a Kitano film spills up against itself.  Abutting.

Buying fireworks.  Her head thrown back, surrounded by futon.  Good god, this hotel is a three-dimensional maze with no end.  An empress’ poem.  A diving gramma.  Two rocks tied together for a human eternity in foul water.

Fear of heights and fear of fear of highs.  Paralyzed even as a fish is practically leaping out of its own tank.  Suicide.  This is a strange city.

These boat rides and this scenery, this is like a walking corpse with no soul.  Nature purgatory.  It is only beautiful when I see it a hundred years ago, but even for that, perhaps it is worth it.

A birthday party for a woman who offers me raw fish and wine before I work.

I barely know her, but this is enough to know that I like her.  And we sing like creatures who have never heard music except in legend.  Theoretically.

And we drink enough that it sounds good.  A friend I have just met and may never see again leaves, and I do not say goodbye because I always have this assumption that it is not too late, that I will see him again.  But this time I am wrong.  This time is not the first, and maybe it doesn’t matter, but sometime it might.

Saying goodbye in the right way is very important.

This guy has to know that knowing him was important to me, that he made me laugh and brought me spaghetti and taught me how to say ‘happy birthday’ in Lithuanian because I was scared I was about to have to make a speech…  he wanted to celebrate my half-birthday because the Expo would be over before my real birthday.

And I didn’t say goodbye in the right way.

I didn’t think about these things at the right time.

This shit is important, because it is what defines our pasts.  The people that we have known and what they have taught us.  Not what we have taught them.  And because I was not able to seal this relationship, short though it was, it is like a wine-glass, tipped over.  And I will always feel that it was incomplete.

People are leaving the party in order of interest in the birthday girl or karaoke, or the times that they need to work the next day.

In the end, we are five, those who are the hardest core into karaoke.

Is there any way to describe how I feel at this moment?

The floor is sticky and wet, and when we dance on the couches, they move under our feet.  One of us is done, Andrius.  Les genoux qui fleche, we say in French, and we wake him with YMCA.  There is a woman here who talks to me with her eyes only.  There is another one who talks to me when she is not even there.  And Victoras is there who does not speak to me because we both know that it is not the time yet.  We are going to put this shit off until the right time.  And then the genoux will really fleche, and everything will be clear.

The taxi ride is nonstop chaos, and I can’t stop laughing.  It is nice to laugh without being haunted by the desire to have been the one to have said these things.

We are weaving down the street, the five of us, in the aleatoire choreography of drunken cameraderie.  Groups of two merging and transforming with one person who is suddenly interested in the song of the birds flying overhead and who lags behind, gazing skywards; having a moment that, whether he knows it or not, will never reoccur in his life – and tomorrow, it will be forgotten.

 

http://www.getty.edu/museum/media/images/web/enlarge/00799501.jpg

Muse

Mutherfucker time to plug in to the old flow.  get those juices flowin’ and don’t stop till I find myself crammed up against the side of a bent up rusty drainpipe somewhere south of the Louisiana turnpike.

Maybe in the end we don’t ever travel so far as we feel.

Fingers stroking lightly over the keys, the questions living under my eyelids, unable to see anything except  for the words that are not even on the paper yet.  Nonexistant.  presoit.

He tells me it is a pleasure, and honor.  we talk briefly about the Bulgarian writer and what he says:

A man is most himself when he travels.  A liar is a even more of a liar when he travels, but a good man is always good.  “My English is not so good,” he tells me.

I tell him that I understood perfectly.  I understood before he even opened his mouth, but I did not have the luxury of knowing that someone else said these things in this way earlier.  Now I can rest in it like a little idea bed, a conceptual cupola.

I see it as a naked Tinkerbell dancing in a dewy ivy leaf, flirting with the camera lens like a faerie fucking Marilyn Monroe.

We head to the Red Cross pavilion.  “It is hard to see,” he agrees, “but people need to think of such things.”

“I wanted to get a Red Cross watch,” I tell him.  “I’ll go with.”

So we walk to the pavilion under the same umbrella, in that uncomfortable way where you feel like the person holding the umbrella is trying to force you out from under it because of how close they are trying to walk next to you, so you walk in a zig-zag like some sort of passive-aggressive pushmepullyou until you arrive at the Red Cross pavilion where there is a 25-minute wait and you decide that after all, 25 minutes is still a pretty long period of time to buy a watch, much less save the world.

So we head back to Bulgaria to drink wine.

I want to believe that I am in Bulgaria, nestled in snugly next to the Black Sea like an arm under a pillow, smiling at the ceiling in some dream soaked in the snoring self-consciousness that is personal resentment.

I want to feel the history that is seeping through the cobblestones that the uneven cafe table that I am sitting at rocks gently back and forth to the rhythm of my involvement in my conversation.

Thunk.  Chink.  Ca-chunk.  Scrch.  Whunt.

I feel the wine on my lips and the slow path it blazes to my stomach.

I am hearing their words, “the presents are not important, what is important, what is important is the friendship.  In our lives, the most important thing is our relationships.”

They are piling wine and yogurt and cookies on me.  At first, it was “only honey and yogurt.  no wine.”  the tell me this proudly, mis-remembering that I do not drink.  It is clear that I do in short time, and they make up for there blunder of familiarity by stocking my bag to the top with cold bottles of white wine.  The condensation is already starting to soak through the bag and I hope it will get to my house without dissolving, because, god help me, it is OK wine.

“Every time I look at this pin,” Nic tells me in earnestness, “i will remember our friendship.  We are like best friends.”

There is no irony here, there is not drama, there is no jadedness.  we are indeed like best friends.

I am embarrassed by my presents.  Three metal pins in the shape of music-playing robots.

My friends have given me a traditional Bulgarian perfume container, a CD of their traditional dance show, cookies and wine and yogurt to eat, and more than I can comfortably carry to take home.

“It doesn’t play music, smell good, or taste good.”  I say.  It is a pin.

“Is it ‘pins’ or ‘pin?'” asks Bobi, through Georg.

“It is pin.” I say.  “One pin, two pins.”

“Pins,” repeats Georg.

“Pins,” repeats Bobi.

When people do not speak the same language and yet are still able to be like best friends, there is an acceptance that we are going to sound mentally retarded to each other.  The trick in these situations is to assume that the natural state of interpersonal relationships is fundamentally retarded, mentally.

Later, Georg will take the Bavarian to see the Bulgarian dance show, “too many Germans come to visit Bulgaria.”  I know that he means to say “very many,” he has made this error consistently in the two months that he and I have made semblant the state of “best friends,” but she is shocked.

Georg doesn’t like Germans?  He wishes that they would stay in Germany where they belong — those fucking fascist Nazi history-rewriting pig-dogs?

Oh, wait.

He means “very,” I say, embarrassed to correct my best friend in front of him.

His English is no better than mine in terms of how well he can express what he means.

He says “too” and means “very”.

I say “we need to figure out a way to somehow share each others interests at a level more sympathetic and commensurate with each others’ experience in that interest,” when I mean to say “I feel alone.”

I write an essay, and mean “I feel surrounded by compassionate people.”

I feel so sure that what I am about to say will flawlessly convey what I am feeling.  I trust in communication as much as the next guy, but there is a level of honesty that is abandoned the second that I stop feeling and start reacting.

The Bulgarian writer, as Georg explains to me later, was killed by the communists in a political revolution in Bulgaria in the nineteen twenties.

He had written a story about a typical Bulgarian man, one that was scathing in its apparent honesty, and was so well communicated, so transparently transferred from this artists heart to page, that the fears of the ruling class were reflected in its unpolished clarity.

The pebble, still wet,

jumps from my hand to the pond.

the stars disappear.

And another intellectual’s brains are spilled like canned beef stew exploding languidly over the starched institutional sheets of a freshly-made bed.

Life is slower in Bulgaria.

The lamb is cooked for hours outdoors over a fire.  You tap the bone on your plate, and the meat slides off.

This tasted heavenly in my mouth.

My friends, Bobi and Nic, do the second-to-last show of their time at the Expo.  It is the last time I will see them in japan and i see and feel that they are doing this show for me, and it is true, we are like best friends.

———————————

I go to the Lithuanian pavilion.  hundreds of kilometers north of Bulgaria, bordering another sea.

My friend The Political Scientist is famous there, and her Japanese puts mine to shame.

Seeing her there with her radiant smile, I realize that no one would ever know that she is shy, or afraid to dance swing just because she doesn’t know how.

They would never know that her mother is not used to her or that her father is in Austria – maybe – or that she put flowers on the grave of her grandmother’s twentieth dead chicken.

They would simply see her and say ‘what a friendly and secure woman representing her country with poise and charm.  And what a nice linen suit.”

But I know she uncovered the elusive bol weevil and braved the firestorm that is Cody.

And i am still impressed by her poise.

—————————–

I am typing vertically and furiously on a computer that doesn’t see how my questions are exactly the sorts of questions that it would dream of if a computer could dream.

“He is getting smarter,” The Political Scientist says, “every day he learns.”

Kezboards in Europe

So I guess I have entered the part of the trip where I have very little internet access.  We spent a couple of days in Torino after the time in Barcelona.  It was boring from a performance perspective, but I saw an Egyptian museum with dried up people (dead) and the Shroud of Turin.  Then we went for three days to a mini town in Italy where we performed in alleys and on the seaside for an appreciative public.  We had to change the show into a two person show and also adjust to a different country’s public.

The Italians are weird as an audience, but fun to play for.  In alleys and squares, the people who lived in the apartments high up watched the show and afterwards threw money.  It was nice when it was paper, but when it was coins you had to look out if they didn’t warn zou that it was coming.

We spent a daz at the Paleo Festival in Nyon, Swiss, and we got in for free because our friends were performing there in a special circus space they had set up.  I saw Jimmy Cliff and REM, for free.  Good show, made me nostalgic.  Never saw REM live.  Now in Geneva, and the rest of the summer is clear, now.

We go to a small festival for theater tomorrow to perform zet another new show with a new cast of four.  After that, I go to Zurich for a day, Germanz for three dazs, and then end up in Holland for the last week of vacation.  Still searching performance space in Boston and Amsterdam and Arnhem.  Anyway, summer’s well and I’m well and I have no internet access ever and the kezboards here are all different from countrz to countrz.  makes typing a pain.  See zou soon!

First year circus students at the National Circus School of Montreal outside of a big top

First Full Day of Training

Day started at 7:30, got to the gym at 8:00.  Jeu class was awesome, and not nearly as hard as I had expected, probably because it is being translated for us right now.

I did three hours of voluntary handbalancing (my real handbalancing and my fil de fer class were cancelled due to teacher absence).  I am feeling pretty good with one arms right now, and my two arm feels really nice and steady.  I want to hit one two armed handstand for a minute before the end of the week.

New exercise:  balance with one hand on the stalk and one hand on the ground for one arm work.  Tough!

Tumbling was fun and not too hard, Noah, my second coach from the MIT gymnastics team gave me really good background for that.  Tramp was hard only because I do not have the technique, but I trust that I will get that down pretty quickly.

 Straps Guy asked me if I wanted to try banquine today, and I said “of course!”  I learned how to do a layout out of the porters.  It is pretty tough timing to get down, though.  Well it’s late, so here’s a few quick thoughts:

The Contortionist is turning out to be pretty cool and much older acting than I thought she would be.  We have a more playful and sarcastic relationship now which I enjoy.

The American is warming up a little bit, and she and The Contortionist have hit it off.

I have a lot of fun with The Aerialist and learning each others languages is proving to be a good way to become friends.

Alright.  Enough for tonight.

I can do this stuff!

Woke up after a good 7 hours of sleep or so, showered and headed to the school.  Waking up had never been easier.  I just opened my eyes and realized “Holy crap!  I could be at circus school right now!” 

Got to the school about 10 AM and watched a bit of the high school kids’ training.  They all are very friendly, but I think they are amused by the fact that I can’t speak very much French.  That’s okay, though.  I’m pretty amused by it too.

The Contortionist was in the chapiteau stretching out.  I’m beginning to really appreciate her discipline and dedication together with her confident modesty.  We talked about the second day being the hardest, and she told me that her legs were sore.  I didn’t know contortionist’s legs got sore!  After about an hour or so of stretching, I started working on my handstands.

Working handstands for an hour is a luxury that I never had with an MIT student’s schedule.  Here, though, I can really fill the time with whatever I want.  I’m still finding, however, that no matter how much time I have to train, it’s never enough for me.  There’s always room to improve, and it’s hard to see anything but that deficit. 

Anyway, I was working handstands in the chapiteau with The Contortionist and was having a real off day as far as the handstands were going.  I was really having to bend my arms to planche my handstands and when I didn’t do that, I would fall over forwards. 

I noticed Byamba, the Mongolian equilibre instructor watching us from across the room.  He had been working with some of the high school kids in equilibre class.  Byamba doesn’t really speak French or English, so when he eventually came over, we communicated mostly via simple French phrases and by motions and gestures. 

Byamba moved the blocks I had been working on about an inch closer.  They were now only about eight inches apart.  A far cry from the eighteen or so that I had been used to in gymnastics on parallel bars.  “Hup!” he said, and then “groupe,” meaning that I was to jump up into a tucked handstand and then straighten up.

I did so, and immediately felt him making little adjustments, a hand to my head, tucking it under, pushing my hips under and my chest in.  Barely making contact, really, and he seemed everywhere at once.  The hard part was letting myself relax and just giving in to his sculpting of my spastic bodyline.  “Hup!”  And I was to come down again.  The next time, he had to make less adjustments, and ended with me holding a handstand for my own for a little while.  All I did was try really hard to keep from moving a micrometer away from the position he had placed me in.  This wasn’t about balance anymore, it was about focusing my energy towards freezing every muscle in place while maintaining a generally relaxed disposition. 

Byamba alternated between The Contortionist and myself, with a different exercise each time.  We did handstands on blocks and then lifted up one hand at a time, moving the blocks to the side and then back again.  We did handstands on towers of blocks, switching from hand to hand, knocking off one block at a time.  We did handstands on towers of two blocks, gently placing the two blocks to the side and then fetching them to rebuild our tower.  We jumped up into handstands on the balancing stems, groupe, and carpe, five times each.

As lunchtime neared, he would motion as if to ask if my wrists hurt.  “Do you have the time?”  I asked in French.  He nodded, and I said “Alors plus, plus!”  Asking for more of this private handstand lesson.  We finished up with one armed handstands, and with Byamba’s comforting guidance, I held a strong and sure one-armed handstand for a good two seconds!  Doesn’t sound like much, but for a first time really feeling the position, it was a great feeling.

It felt good to have Byamba adjusting my muscles in my back and shoulders as I held handstands and hearing him say “good, good.”  I can’t wait for my equilibre classes.

When it was noon, he said that he would see us tomorrow.  I thanked him for the lesson, and The Contortionist and I went to lunch.  I really do appreciate how willing and able our instructors are, and I feel terribly lucky to be in this situation.

The Contortionist and I talked about all kinds of things.  She wanted to know if there was an Abercrombie and Fitch in Montreal, I asked her if she had seen “The Fifth Element.”  We agreed to always remember how lucky we were to be able to study at this school.  We walked around for a while trying to find a good and cheap place to eat, but ended up at the same place we had eaten at yesterday.  This time I brought money, though.

When we got back to the school, it had once again exploded.  When we left, we had been the only college program students around, but now there were probably about twenty in the gymnasium.  Four of the other first-years had been to a party the night before, as far as I could tell, and were feeling it a bit today.

A bunch of the older students were there as well, including a crazy-looking guy who looked pretty big and strong as well as a smaller guy who did straps and trampoline and equilibre.  They were fooling around and eventually brought out a teeterboard.  I was playing around on floor and on still trapeze after seeing some of The Contortionist’s work (she is incredibly talented with beautiful lines, and the contortion on trapeze is languid and lyrical.  Can’t wait to see her act!), but noticed that some of the first year’s were trying the teeterboard.  After learning the words for easy and hard (fascil and difficil), I asked one of them if it was hard.  He said “No, just very dangerous.”  He told me that all I needed to do was keep my legs straight while one of them would tilt me back enough to do a backflip “whether you want to or not.”  I listened, but ended up not driving my toes in the air and only did a back dive, much to the amusement of the other students.  “Do something,” they implored, implying that I still needed to drive my toes into the air.  On the next one, I did a flip, but barely made it into the pit.  Evidently I had not been letting the spotter move me well, so on the next one I really relaxed and travelled a bit too far.  On my last try, I hit one really well.

 It’s amazing how much air time you get, and how bizarre it feels to get such an impulse off the board.  The older students were doing some sick skills, triple twisting double backs and the like.  Amazing.

One of the other first years wanted me to tech him how to do gainers out of a walk, so I worked with him on that for a while.  In return, he tried to teach me how to sidesummie out of a walk.  Hard stuff.  I also got out the minitramp to try and do some dismounts into the pit.  After working up a front full, I did a Rudi and a then a double twisting front for the first time in my life!  A clowning student had tried to do teeterboard as well, but had bent his knees and ended up not getting height and whipping around like mad.  I worked with him on front twisting a bit, but after the excellent coaching I had received that morning, I felt like an idiot trying to coach anyone on anything.

I also climbed a circus rope for the first time and tried the La Nouba-like trampoline on the wall.  I also saw an amazingly strong woman on flying rings.  Wow.  Great technique.  I keep meeting some of the female students, but somehow their names never stick.  They are all very confident and  carry themselves with such confidence.  They are amazing artists, all of them, but not as competitive and inclusive as they guys are. 

At the end of the day, I asked one of the older students if he would like to try some hand to hand again since I had worked with Byamba.  We managed to “benchpress” my handstand, and to do a foot to hand bench press and then walked, turned and jumped with me standing on his shoulders.  I feel a bit of pressure to do hand to hand, but it really is enjoyable.  I talked again with a girl, The Flyer, who was maybe going to be my hand to hand partner.  She is really sweet and friendly.  Forgot her full name already, though.

I like the encouraging amusement that the student and teachers have here.  I never feel afraid to try anything with them all standing around me.  I am also the happiest that I have ever felt professionally in my life.  It is 11 PM right now, and I can’t wait for tomorrow’s practice.  Sylvain was telling me that the first few weeks are tortuous.  The teachers all laugh at the student who are all still smiling, but walking slowly.  I am walking slowly, and I’m very sore, but “plus, plus, plus!”  I feel like I’ve been running on empty my whole life and that I have suddenly been infused with high-octane fuel!

The rope student, The Aerialist, was not in school today.  I saw her as she was leaving, and she said that she had been in physio for a prior knee injury.  She seemed really sad, and I felt bad for her.  I hope that it will not hinder her here, because in the short time I have known her, she really seems like a great person and that she will be a great friend.

The cast of characters: 

The Contortionist – The youngest, and very sweet.  Has beaten me into the gym two days in a row.  Tomorrow is my day to get there first!  Very dedicated and serious in her work, but so naturally talented it blows me away.  A real observer, she seems pretty shy.  I like training near her because she is so quiet.  She drinks a little, but nothing else, not even meat!  We both indulge in chocolate, though.  Night people, not interested in partying.

The Tumbler – Funny and social, good at trampoline and tumbling.  A show-off in a very good way.  Always willing to teach you things.  He is the most bilingual of the first-years that I have met.

The Clown – Really funny clown who really wants to learn tumbling!  He seems a little timid to try things yet, though, probably because he has never had the opportunity to train in them before.  I’m intimidated by the things I see people doing!  He is easygoing and always smiling in a mischievious way. 

The Aerialist– From France, she is very patient and kind when I try to speak with her in French.  She is injured, and that bothers her.  I really want to get to know her better, she is very mellow.  She does corde lisse. 

The Frenchman – Not sure what his specialty is, but he will jump in and try anything.  Goofy, affable and fun to be around.

The Artist – Don’t know him too well yet, but he speaks French.

I learned that the audition was video taped and that the school has them all on file if you want to see them!  Crazy!  I want to see them, but will cringe when I see mine.  The Flyer saw mine already!

I keep meaning to check out a tape to watch, but there is always something to watch or to try.  This is definitely where I belong.  I want to milk every second of it.  Every second.  Night!