Whirlwind Tour Part 5 – Boston Again

Now I am on the road.  It is strange driving across the continent.  Knowing that you have at least 20 hours of driving to do, and yet still, you have to be there before a certain time.  I need to figure out when I need to be at what place in order to make it to Boston on time.  I have no places to stay, just a lot of people I know.  At worst, I know I can make friends with someone at one of the places I am going and stay at their place.

It is pretty uneventful on the road.  I want to get into New York before I fall asleep for five hours, but I only make it to within 70 miles of the Ohio-Pensylvania border before I can not continue safely.  I curl up in my car in the parking lot of a gas station and sleep from 11:30 to 4:30.  Waking up, it’s time to go!  I make it to Pennsylvania and need to sleep for another hour.  now I am really worried I won’t make it to Boston on time, so it is 80 miles an hour for the rest of the trip.

Back to MIT, at the NASA lab, now.  I wanted to have a drink with my former boss and my former co-worker (once a grad student, now a doctor himself) but my co-worker is at Boston University for the day, and instead I see their secretary.  We talk all about life and art, etc, etc, science and travel.  Again, they seem to be really positive about the way I live my life.  Does no one understand that I have no money and no security and worry every day if I am going to live the next couple of months?

They say that whether I go into science or political science, I should be able to turn the last five years away from school into an asset.

My former boss is like 70 now, and he has retired, officially, like my dad will in a day or two, but he keeps coming into the lab to research the mysteries of the universe.  I guess when you look at it that way, you really don’t have a very difficult choice to make, do you?  his daughter is studying somethinhg called “public art” at Boston University.  I tell him she should contact me to see if there is something fun we can do together professionally.

They pay for my beer and it is time for them to go home.  They have shown me around the campus, the things that have changed.  It is nice to see.  The world has changed, and students have changed, and it is the teachers who need to keep up with them, not the other way around, as I had always thought.  Interesting to see it all from that perspective.

This walk down MIT’s infinite corridor last month was bittersweet in a way.  I was touched by how it has really remained relatively unchanged from the vision in my memory.  Even the students seem timeless, in a way.  as much 1976 as 1996 as 2006.  It is like that small core of a person that remains unaltered from infancy to adulthood – that charming part of a person.

I have to run to the dance studio for my former dance company’s gala event for investors and the like.  I have been sneaking into this studio for quite some time to take showers right after arriving in town when I have no place to stay.  When I show up, the dancers are all warming up, and I say my hellos to all the people I am supposed to before grabbing some wine to power up my shmoozing muscles.  Then I just sort of target the richest and most gullible looking people around the room to go and talk about how great a dance company this is and how supporting them really reflects on how great a person they must be as well…  ah to travel around the world, vicariously through a dance company.  You must be a real saint!

I sit through my dance company’s presentation.  They are working interactively with video.  Later, when its just us around, I tell them later that I thought 40 percent of it is really good and that the rest has really good potential.

After the persentation I talk to the video artist about the people I met in Montreal who are doing the same kind of things… he is a real MIT guy, so I soon get back to flirting with rich gay guys and old rich women; the best way I can help this dance company get money.  As the audience slowly files out, I keep on enjoying my wine and the cheese, and reminice with the people whom I actually danced with back in the day…

They ask if I can do a handstand now, drunk as I am.  I tell them the same old story; I have never been so drunk as to be unable to do a handstand or a backflip.  I prove it, and we turn the whole dance studio into the site of a drunken, impromptu acrobatics rehearsal.

Things are great, we talk and laugh and share the newest gossip.  I encourage them, try to get them to like me, I tell them that I’d like to be back in September to work with them, and try to make them excited about it…  if a person does make people like him, how does he know if they would have liked him without his help?  Does it matter?

Getting money at these events is telling people what they want to hear in a way they never expected to hear it.

I show up late at my Bulgarian friend’s house with a stolen wine bottle and a bagful of lifted cheese.  Americans don’t care about cheese, so they didn’t mind me taking it away.  It is some nice stuff… French brie….  soft cheddars…  smells nice.

We drink together, her a couple glasses, me just one or so because I am already almost on the floor.  Her roommate is asleep on the couch I am supposed to sleep on, so she invites me into her room.  She is Orthodox Christian, and is obviously uncomfortable doing this, but her instinct to be a good hostess takes over.  I lie on the floor, and she lies on the floor far away from me.  I am tired, jet lagged, as always, and she is telling me about her life and her boyfriend.  How she is unhappy with both…

I feel concious and I am replying the way I want to, but at a certain moment, I lost conciousness…  I am dreaming about what she is saying, but I sleep there, on the floor, under my jacket, for the whole night.  the roommate who had taken the place on the couch stole into her room and dropped a blanket on me.  It was nice of her.

In the morning, my friend wakes up to go to church, and I read for a while…  when she gets up, we conclude the discussion from the night before.  She doesn’t seem to mind that I fell asleep when she was talking to me.  If anything it put to rest her persistant fears (hopes?) that I was an evil player trying to take advantage of her kindness…

It was a real pleasure seeing my former acrobatics partner again.  Hearing her talk about her fatigue regarding romantic challenges against the backdrop of a lifestyle of constant travel was painful.  On the romantic end of things, I am sure that she’ll be able to work things out, and quickly, too, because I do not believe she are the kind of woman who is able to live in an unhappy situation for long.

The infinite travel side of things is a much more delicate one.

Personally, I think that once she finishes your work at MIT, she’ll have a drastically different view of everything.  For example, I can imagine that the quasi-stable situation of being a graduate student is what makes het travels so unpalateable to her now.  It is hard to see the liberating side of a wandering lifestyle until you are finally able to pull up all anchors and truly float where you mind and fortunes can take you.

Of course, I feel how deeply she is affected by living her life so geographically distant from her parents, and this is something that might never change, at least not for the immediate future.

So she continues her handstands and her research.  If a researcher’s life is destined to mirror her research, it was either a cosmic joke or a great blessing that she chose complexity itself as her personal field of expertise.

We go for coffee, and I invite her to the lunch that I called for all of my former college friends, citing the fact that I doubt anyone will actually show up…

She declines, saying she needs to work, and I show up at the restaurant; my favorite restaurant in Boston.  Chinese food.  It is very crowded, to my dismay, but I soon discover that it is crowded with old friends whom I have not seen in a million years!  We take several tables and I try to talk with everyone, but it is impossible to do!  After two hours or so, people need to go, and to my dismay there are still people I have barely even said hello to yet!  Catching up on everyones lives, who is married, who has kids…  I am Uncle Acrobat to them.  strange, and wonderful all at the same time.  I ate too little, spoke too much, and now my stomach hurts…

We leave such a wake of friends behind us in life, and it is so rare that we can manage a full loop and see them all again in an organic way; and unofficial way.  There are a million other people I would like to see, a million other things I would like to do, but I get invited to my friend’s house to play an old strategy game with a bunch of other friends.  We used to play all the time in the years after college, and it feels like old times.

What can I say?  The dynamic was special, and transported me to my early twenties.  I had a beer and sometimes just sat and smiled.  It felt nice.

I had to run to get sushi with my Bulgarian friend and her brother.  They are very smart, and the conversation was interesting.  About Bulgaria and Japan and America.  He had never had sushi before, but seemed to enjoy it ok.  I am getting tired, and have had a lot of sake; I say my farewells and head back to my friend’s house to see him and some other good friends for my last night on mainland USA.

We talk until 1am, I need to leave for Hawaii at 5 the next morning.  We talked about the gossip, about memories, funny pictures and events that I have missed.  About my friend’s death and his service, about what we are doing and want to do.  Everything just feels nice.  we aknowledge the fact that there is not nearly enough time to say and do all we want to, but that it has been great to see each other.  And it really has.  Sharing a drink with the two of them for our lost friend was a very important experience for me.  Being exactly one continent and one ocean away from the people who knew him best made it very difficult for me to share any immediacy in the mourning process and kept me from getting even the small amount of closure I needed after losing a friend I never really knew as well as I should have. One shot of whisky with my two best friends from college washed all that regret away.  They get me a lot of blankets and I sleep on a couch, happy, again.  I feel loved and missed; two things I never expected to feel.

At 8am the next morning, I am alone again, flying towards the tropical islands that are my familial home…

One week on the continent that felt like one strange day to me; a convention of ghosts from my pasts telling me all about who I was and have become.  It was strangely liberating; like giving voices to memories who have become mute and static in my mind…  to just open myself up completely to what all these people around me had to say and had never, for one reason or another, managed to tell me before.  Perhaps I had not been listening.

Next on the agenda:  Hawaii adventures!

Tequila Guinea Pig

Something about travel makes a person introspective.  Maybe I am more open, maybe more closed.  Either way, I am able to more easily step outside of myself.  Perhaps it is the anonymity – no one knows who I am here.  This is true of most places on earth, of course, out here, I can create a new identity.  Everything is reinventable.  Maybe I always wished I wrote more.  Now I can.  Maybe I had too much attachment to physical things.  Here I can let it all go.  Maybe life moved too fast.  Here I can slow it down.  I must first and foremost, however, reinvent myself as a local by mastering silence.  At worse is a person stays silent, people will assume that he wasn’t paying attention.  Or deaf.  Or stupid.  Actually, I guess you can do a lot better than stay silent, but you can definitely do a hell of a lot worse.

There is a Taiwanese baseball team on the TV called “Sinon.”  A man can’t help but think of it as the French “sinon,” “otherwise.”  A man who speaks French, that is.  But this makes a man think of all the languages he doesn’t speak.  To think of all the baseball teams named “desolation,” “until,” or “should.”  If only we spoke more languages, my friend.

But what would that really do for us other than to provide a moral high ground in being able to speak to people in their mother tongue?  “Multilingual.”

I read a book about translation by Umberto Eco.  It dealt with the idiosyncrasies of different languages and the impossibility of a one-to-one mapping between them.

But there is a flip side.  The way that discovering these idiosyncrasies yourself can open your mind and your life.  It’s like when you live your whole life in Tokyo, riding the subways, and just by chance you take a ride in your friend’s car and you discover that two places that take 30 minutes to travel between by train would maybe take you 5 minutes by bike, 10 walking.  In learning a new language, this happens intellectually and emotionally.  A language is a system that defines our passage through life.  Another language is like walking into a whole new universe.

I have committed myself to 3 shots of tequila after a rum and coke and a dead cow’s worth of grease in the form of fried American-style bar vittles.  What do I need this courage for?

It’s less courage and more a commitment to the time that it will take to drink these three shots.  I am trying to write deliberately.  Seeing each word before writing it down.

The tequila is room temperature.

I am sitting in a bar called “Roxy” in Taiwan.  Taipei.

Lately I have been the victim of digital robbery.  Memories and writing stolen away from me by failure of media and hardware respectively.  In the past it would take a fire or a flood to destroy this shit.  Now it takes a scratch or a power source failure.

Where has my voice gone?

I have been trying to let go for so long now and succeeded in general. What is holding me back now?

I found a nice tailor in Taipei.

After only one drink I am at that stage of drunkenness where you feel like your energy is seeping through the whole room, infecting the ladies like a madness.  But I know it is not true.

The Taiwanese are loud compared to Japanese and quiet compared to Americans.

Dutch beers here.

I like a country where you can’t drink the water.

But I love the feeling of tequila flowing from your stomach to the rest of your body.

The pen on paper is fingers on skin.  Little hairs on your arms rise.  Lips part.  A sharp inhalation.

And now my handwriting resembles so closely that of my father and it makes me wonder if he had these thoughts ever in his life.  It makes me wonder about how handwriting is not about how you write an “a” or a “b,” but how you write “love” or “fuck!” or “death” or “loneliness” or “failure.”

I pulled on a stick today; got a fortune out.  Time for Shot #2.

Lately I have been feeling like I disappear.









Like that.  Did you see me?  In these moments I feel like I can observe without being observed.

In Japan I was seen as white.  In America and Europe I am seen as Chinese, and in Taiwan (China) I am seen as being Japanese.  Full circle.  Full circle.

Is this just another one of my experiments?  Just a way to determine after how many drinks my writing changes to what?  Marijuana, LSD, THC, what more can I want?

Here is a list of the last 3 years: USA, Canada, Holland, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and, effectively, Lithuania.  Where the fuck is my home?

Here is my life.  This is what I do: one-armed handstands.

2 more tequilas.  This is fun and alarmingly so.

Why is my dead grandfather in my thoughts so often?  I was a damned pall bearer for my grandfather and I had forgotten about that until I was watching an Ally McBeal episode of all things that talked about pall bearing.

Did I mention “phony” as one of those words before?

But there is a buzzing in my head that gives a slight feeling of urgency to what I am trying to express.  Want to see a straight line?  Here:



And a back flip?  There.  See?  I am not that drunk.

And the Red Hot Chili Peppers are telling me that what they got I gotta get it put it in me so here we go with Drink #3.

The American in front of me has finally let it all hang out and is now revealing his Americanism to this song.  The two beautiful Taiwanese girls accompanying him have left the table.  Gone home.  But as far as I can tell he speaks perfect 普通話.  AS DO I, OBVIOUSLY!

“Otherwise” has won the baseball game.

I am going to go to the bathroom and then walk around the bar.

“The Killers” are playing.

I almost walked out of the bathroom without washing my hands.  I think they have a 32-channel mixer.  Has that ever helped anyone?

The baseball game has finished.  A movie is playing on cinemax.  The bar is nothing special.  Sinon… Sinon…

A big group has moved from their side of the bar to mine.  A Nirvana poster on the wall.  Take a good look at the gouges on a table the next time you are at a bar.

| || || || | ||| <- A killer riff.

1999. Remember that time? The Gymnast? The Old Money? The Half-Breed? The Communist? The Quebeqoise?  All the others?  There was a 1999, a 2000, all over the world.  But I only knew mine.  I keep having flashes to go back and talk to people but I promise myself that I will not.


To be an American in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, to be Japanese in Taiwan?  German in Europe?  What about English in America?

Building for building there are more Taiwanese flags flying in public in Taiwan than American flags flying in the USA as far as I can tell.  Maybe I have not been back in too long a time.  No, probably not.

“Otherwise” is still celebrating their win.

Me, my girlfriend is coming tomorrow and I’m not sure I’m still the only one in her life.  And that is OK.  We lead lives without comparison; it is a small price to pay.

My father has not written me since I wrote him a loooong time ago.  That is a first.  His girlfriend has moved in.  It is time to move to fiction, to writing slowly, but first: Shot #4! And it was good.

The DJess does not know who sings “Dirty Water” and neither do I.  I was drunk enough to think I could just email Boston real quick.  Nor “Kids in America.”

Did you know that God is helping me on this trip?  He told me to go to Terminal 1, he told me to oversleep and miss Narita Airport, he made me skip the beautician and go to the funky beautician, he made me choose the wrong bus line that got me closer to my hotel, he made me walk longer through the nightmarket to find the place with a straight razor, to find the tailor, and he helped the DJess find the “Kids in America.”  Now I need to listen to it.

Thank you.

Congratulations, you are an alcoholic.

I start from 2nd grade and count a continuous string of 12 girlfriends to age 15 (Shot #5).  Another 13 take me to age 28.  Slowing down a bit.  Best guy friends in my life only number 16.  Hm.

That is some strangeness. And that’s not counting my family.

Two more shots.

His name is Kieth, the American, that is.

Two circus acrobats at a special event for Cirque du Soleil

Third Eye Burned

First Thursday after final exams.  I just got back from Boston at 5:30 this morning because I missed my bus and had to go through Albany to get here.  I was exhausted for a makeup workshop but I got my handstand canes and am sporting a third eye (rugburn on my forehead) from Boston from doing a gainer for distance and not getting enough height. 

In rehearsal today we got our costumes – I’m pretty happy with my tough-guy costume for the animation and my normal costume for the old people scene.  We had to separate into groups and there was a lot of discussion around if we should be in groups of mixed skill levels or similar skill levels. 

I’ll be joining a group with The Clown and The Trapezist.   

In Boston I got to work out with an old friend of mine who was learning some acro for tae kwon do and see my best friend one last time before he moves to the Southwest. 

I’m exhausted and am heading to bed now even though it’s only 9 – good night! 

Circus acrobats doing a tumbling trick at the National Circus School exterior show

Setting Records

The Gang has decided that the seven guys are going to start working on circus projects outside of class next year.   

Estaban had to leave the country due to visa problems and is replaced by his boyfriend Mario but he should be back by September.  Some people think that Mario is too tough, but thanks to him I have fixed my side summie, my standing back full, and I’ve been working rudi dismounts into the pit and backtucks off the wall from trampoline.  I trained at the place where Mario and Esteban’s work during the summer. 

Went to Boston and had a lot of fun seeing friends and doing karaoke.  My best friend from MIT is moving to the Southwest which was a bit of a surprise. 

My wrist is hurting a lot right now and I can’t do any handstands.  I did 31 pullups which is the new school record and I’m aiming to up that to 40 for next year.  I managed 60 pushups in a minute which I think is also pretty good.  The Clown and my juggling piece is getting pretty nice and locked in.  We’re going to hopefully perform it at a juggling convention that is coming up.  

Dance evaluation went surprisingly well, I hope, and we have the atelier presentation the week after this week.  This is the last week of classes and evaluations and then we have big evaluations coming the week after.

My roommate is back and now we have a new pregnant cat that hangs around.  Summer is here with 75, 80 degree weather.  It’s been really nice. 

The Clown and I are getting to be good friends and all of the guys in our class just got matching German submarine sailor haircuts which looks pretty funny.

It really sucks having my wrists not work, but I was able to do my splits without even warming up which was pretty exciting.  But I have my split, pike, center split evaluation tomorrow so hopefully my luck will hold out.

We had a second big working day for the outside show for the annual show and I think The Clown and I saw some of the same patterns as the evaluation concept – no real discipline or order until the camera was set up and then everyone just does all the tricks they know.  This was last Friday which was the first day I did a standing full, but I didn’t get it on camera.

Again it was just the guys who were doing things full-out while the girls were always spotting each other.  I’m getting to be better friends with The Aerialist.  I’m writing a show this summer with Tori and she’s asked me for some notes on how to get in shape for some acrobatic stuff since its so much harder to lift people if they don’t have strong cores.

I went to go see a dance show.  The first one was very physical and quirky with very good balance on the stage which was interesting because it was done in this big open warehouse with windows that weren’t covered up and you could see an apartment across the street where this woman was getting ready for bed with her boyfriend.  Funny seeing someone stripping outside while you’re watching a dance show.  The second one didn’t work so well – it was based on shocking violence and rape with a live DJ and heavy metal music, but the dance just wasn’t that good which was my main problem with it.  

After the show, the guys from school were messing around playing their quirky comic characters at the reception in this art and dance world event clowning around having problems in the men’s room, in the foyer, doing art dance numbers in the street and tripping all over themselves enjoying how when you trip and try to recover people just think that’s funny.  Two high columns, etc – fun to play with people who know how all this fits together.

Circus clowns at the National Circus School of Montreal's annual show

Things That Are Interesting After 7 Months Of Circus School

years of failure at a trick can be fixed by a russian coach telling you ‘do it with no falling.  is much more beautiful for the public that way.’

after you control your fear, anything is possible.

there is nothing that is physically difficult in acrobatics.

flexibility is the most important thing in the world.

juggling does not suck.

unicycle does.

if you do a trick correctly the first time, you will never, ever, ever forget how it is done.

there is no expectations on a person that cannot be raised by their success.

sometimes, you are right.

sometimes, you even know it.

a one-armed handstand is just holding yourself up with one hand.

a standing full twisting back somersault is just jumping really high, arching your body, kicking yourself in the chest with your knees, hugging yourself while looking over your shoulder, and then straightening out.

strength is the most important thing in the world.

if you feel the responsibility that goes along with holding someone over your head and then throwing them for a back flip, there is no way that you will let them fall.

if someone you trust tells you that you can do something you have never done, they are right.  So do it.

charisma is the most important thing in the world.

if skill is developed by learning, then creativity is developed by playing.

people like seeing you do something you enjoy more than they like seeing something that is difficult.

show an acrobat a skill they have never seen and they will try it.  if they fail, they will fall in a funny way.

when a russian tells you to do a double back salto from a wall, do it. 

even if he is kidding.

sleep is the most important thing in the world.

good night!


Circus artists in the National Circus School of Montreal's end of year show

Dead Cat And Monkey Style

All day I think about things that I want talk about and when I get here at night I can never remember it. 

Byamba was back and had a really nice couple of hours of handstands interrupted by a trip back home to pick up rice, which I had forgotten, whereupon I discovered that our cat is dead.  Probably sometime two nights ago.  It looks like he was hit by a car.  Poor guy.  Dead.   

Today I thought it would be fun to do equilibre all day, doing handstands against the wall, feeling the position, and sliding easily into one arm with legs together, one arm with legs apart, etc.  Felt good.  I held about 2-3 seconds on my right side in one arm with legs together and on my left side with legs apart. 

I saw a tape that Larissa had brought me of the Russian circus school.  Interesting to see them, their technique is really really really good despite some weird artistic stuff.  Some great Chinese pole kids from China were on there and rolla bolla acts.  Two of us in the first year train together and seem to have a natural equilibre mindset.  Another first year trains a lot with us, but has a much more relaxed mindset – this seems to make a big difference in speed of progress. 

I only did aerial cradle today and Alex had a new move for us which he called “monkey style” but which The Clown and I are calling “monkey sex” because basically on the upswing in front I pull up on his arms, grab his body, and push off into a back somersault.  Alex says we can do it without the line if we want and that it’s not hard.  It was fun but The Clown kneed me or hit his head into my groin like 4 times today, which you can imagine felt great. 

Juggling was normal and in hand to hand I got to be a flyer again; The Clown is glad to work with me because I’m not afraid to fall and don’t panic. 

I’m definitely slipping into more of a morning schedule, I woke up around 5 and went back to sleep but still woke up at a reasonable hour without an alarm clock.  Going to bed at around 9:30 or 10 at night.  

I really need to start writing things down during the day when they seem interesting so I have more to write about at night!

Graduating class of the National Circus School

Be Careful What You Say In Handstand Class

Ah well, where do I start.  I learned that an ex-girlfriend started dating one of my friends, and I ended up staying home from school for 2 days.  It did my knee well though, and Friday went pretty well.  I was embarrassed to discover that in dance I was unable to do any of the sequences, and that Martine was being very picky about the music.  I am still way behind, and still have no music.

Monday was nice, being back in jeu.  Larissa got really mad at me when I showed The Clown how to do a skill though, and she had to have one of the other Russian teachers come over and yell at me “if you want to teach the course, I will be happy to stay home.”  So I decided to not talk anymore in her class, which seems to work.  The Clown and The Dreamer had a fun time trying to get me to talk.

The Trapezist needing teachers to be all supportive and happy about her and her weight.

Being told by another two teachers that I think too much.  The Trapezist really seeming to get a vindictive thrill about it.

My disturbing dreams for movement, with the “I am I was I was I come I love’ song.  I did the dying dog dream, The Trapezist did one about her parents killing themselves over and over, another girl did one about almost being raped, and The Contortionist did one about being a bird flying around and not caring.

Byamba playing with things in the equilibre area, like sliding on the canes and throwing the water bottles to the window.

Byamba massages that hurt but feel really good.

Two extra equilibre classes this week to make up for last week.

Me being a ‘sausage’ in trampo course.

This is a lot like high school, even in the way I interact with teachers.