Monday, January 25, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Now Appearing in the Center Ring...

As many of you already know, I write differently than a lot of people. Not better. Just different.

I write sports and love the X's and O's, but I love to write about life's events; the stories that make the legends. I guess it's my niche.

The pages are like an artist's easel. We start with a blank canvas and create our journalistic masterpieces. Sometimes about sports, sometimes about ourselves.

My wife frequently reminds me that sports writing is my hobby and that chasing that elusive next job should be of greater concern. And it is. But writing is what gives me life. Writing is what gives me the confidence and courage to chase the next pay check.

Writing allows me to get up each morning, get dressed, and build my confidence before trying to sell myself to the Five and Dime known as employment.

We are in the midst of financial confusion in the world today. I was laid off in November and have done everything possible to keep my head held high. I try to keep my spirits from getting stomped on daily by the reality of the situation. My friends consider me one of the lucky ones because they have to go to work, while I can play with my dog.

I smile every day despite not having a place to go. I suspect my friends think that unemployment isn't bothering me. My friends are wrong. They don't know how green their grass looks to me, how intimidating that Help Wanted section or can be.

And so, in writing, I find solace. I find peace and tranquility. I have fans. I have friends that I've never met. Friends who tell me I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. (Frankly, I like to tear mine off the loaf in chunks as opposed to slicing it).

But as writers, we have fears, too. Am I any good? Will they like me? What if I don't get any reads? Should I delete it or let it stay on my profile?

Metaphorically, we are sort of like the guy on the tight rope, balancing himself along the overhead wire of life. And no, this story isn't about sporting events per se, even though the World High Wire Championships are held every May. This story is about walking the high wire we refer to as Life.

And so...I present to you...The Tight Rope Writer.

Where nearly half a day earlier laid the desolate sun-scorched field, now stands a towering circus tent. Through the dark of night, erected pole by pole, rope by rope, draped with canvas the size of a football field, stands the once bright but now faded shroud of the Big Top.

The wind of the early fall morning races across the surface of the crisp brown grass, only to be blockaded by the tattered red and white tapestry that will soon house center ring. It is far too early to inhale the familiar odor of hot, buttered popcorn.

It is hours before the clown smears on his first fistful of white disguise. The ring master has yet to bellow his forever famous, "Laaaadies and Gennnntlemen," yet the excitement of the circus has the small Midwestern town bursting with anticipation.

In the middle of the center ring stands a slight man, clad in faded gold tights, covered with the glimmer and shine of a thousand sparkling sequins. He slowly walks towards the towering pole at the side of the ring and pauses for what seems like an eternity.

His left arm rises slowly as he grasps the first rung of the ladder, which appears to travel to the heavens. Seconds pass before another muscle flexes in his slightly quivering arm.

The circus calliope plays tunes in the background as he reaches for the next rung. A deep breath, a nod of the head, and his right arm reaches skyward. His white knuckles leave a trail of perspiration on each rung.

The slight man finally reaches the small platform atop the mountainous pole and begins to weep. He recalls a day when he ascended the same, brightly painted pole with the confidence of a matador preparing to wage war with an on-rushing bull. His every breath was heightened by the joy he felt upon hearing the thunderous applause as the ring master bellowed, "The one...the only...the magnificent...."

Now quickly snapped back from his day dream, his hand trembles as he reaches for his pole. The pole that had always supplied his life balance. Only days before, his pole had betrayed him as he tip-toed halfway across the steel wire, barely one-inch wide, bouncing high above the straining necks of the crowd below. Step behind step, he deftly made his way across the cord overhead.

Then, suddenly, as if someone had kicked his feet out from under him, he faltered. The wide-eyed children shrieked as he tumbled, tumbled, bounced into the tightly woven safety net below. Their parents, who had been transformed into an equally wide-eyed bunch, "oohed" and "aahed" as he bounced down..up...down, finally nestling into the web that had rescued him from doom. The crowd exploded into a deafening ovation.

He, however, laid silently, the sole person under the inflated Big Top, who knew that his descent to earth had been a stumble and not part of his meticulously choreographed routine.

Over the side of the net bounced his balance pole, as if forever deserting him. Onto the sawdust-covered floor tumbled his pole, his courage, his confidence.

Now...he finds himself snapped back to reality, inching toward the edge of his perch like he's returning to the scene of the crime. Frame by frame, he sees himself tumble toward the earth, much like a film editor carefully examines each clip of his upcoming feature film.

He tightly squeezes his pole, face quivers, his heart quickens, and his Adam's apple bounces as he swallows hard. He suddenly takes a step backward, his grip loosens, and he heaves the pole from the platform. It does not even bounce, but slips through a space in the net and punctures his confidence which has been swept into a pile below the net. He slowly descends the ladder, leaving a trail of fear on each rung. He reaches the dusty ground and walks away, his head hanging low.....

....At a desk in a dimly lit room, sits a man. Before him rests three sheets of paper, one flat and pressed, two crumbled into balls of frustration. On the floor below lies a trail of previously aborted attempts at literary success.

He grasps his pen, knuckles white, heartbeat heightened. He slides to the edge of his seat and gazes at the blank sheet below. He attempts to write of the tight rope walker at the small mid-western circus. A bead of sweat forms on his brow and drops slowly from his forehead. It flips in mid air and stains his "Center Ring."

He recalls a day when words seemed to flow from mind to hand with the swiftness of a flood-swelled river. These days, however, the flow is that of a stream in the midst of a midsummer drought.

His hand trembles as pen approaches paper. His face quivers, his heart quickens, and his Adam's apple bounces as he swallows hard. He suddenly pushes himself from his desk and heaves his pen like a javelin toward the slightly opened door.

The pen lands at the feet of a young boy, who picks it up and hands it to the now-weeping man. "Here, Daddy," says the wide-eyed young boy. "You dropped this."

The man smiles, dries his tears, and takes the pen from the hand of the small child. He hugs him, takes a deep breath, and begins to write feverishly on the page below.

Life back in perfect order.

"Laaadies and Gentleman," he writes. "Now appearing on the dangerous high wire directly overhead...the one, the only...The Magnificent."

The slight man is now accompanied by a small boy, identically clad in sparkling tights. The boy hands him his balance and smiles. He smiles and waves wildly toward the wide-eyed crowd below.

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