Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Rings And Things

A man goes to a doctor for a rash on his arm.
"What do you do for a living?" the doctor asks him.
"I work at the circus, giving enemas to the elephants," the guy says.
"Quit doing that and the rash will clear up," the doctor says.
The guy replies, horrified, "What? And get out of show business?"

Step Right Up
Bess and I attended the circus last week. Invited by friends who had the good fortune to win tickets, we were excited to take a peek under the big top; even if the "big top" itself was no longer a large tent, but an amassed assemblage of wire, steel, pulleys and rigging. Though our admission was gratuitous, and the trip to the arena relatively simple - we did have to leave the planet for a little bit. From the moment we entered the parking lot, we were entirely inside the circus universe.

Strange for the Greatest Show On Earth to leave one feeling so otherworldly. I imagined a trapeze artist hundreds of feet above us viewing our journey through the realm of wonder, amazement, sequins, and commerce that attract us satellites to the warmth at the heart of such an age old curiosity.

As we approached the venue we breached the first ring of the entertainment entity - "The Perimeter of Don't Do It." Truth be told, there were more elephant activist protesters than actual elephants at this show. Both groups - pachyderms and their protectors- it should be noted, did their tasks more admirably, quiet, and calm than one might expect - without creating too much of a mess for those that followed in their footsteps. Once past their polite yet blatant posters and kindly offers of pamphlets on cruelty - we marched into the arena.

We had now entered ring #2 - "The Chamber of Forever Souvenirs." From "collectible" hats filled with cotton candy to flashing plastic glassware brimming with futuristic desert - no opportunity for thematic marketing was wasted. Every inch of every lobby portal was replete with dragon-faced squirt guns, day glow t-shirts, green screen photo booths, and electric mohawks. It took a little while, and a few tasty yet filling mementos, but we eventually escaped to the inner sanctum of the circus orbit.

We took our seats within the inner ring - "The 'I can see most of it as long as no one stands up' Corner" - and began to enjoy the spectacle. Shaolin Ninjas bending steel with their necks, manic/depressive Lions, bouncing Beefcake doing back flips, girls descending from bubbles, dwarves on wires, an over exuberant ringmaster (in suits that I may just have to steal) - and, of course, the Metal Globe of Death.

At the center of the arena, motorcycle after motorcycle entered a giant steel sphere. Risking life and limb, swirling at high speeds inches away from each other, the finale of the evening cast their engine's roar loudly into the night - directly from the hub of this target formed by those three concentric rings.

From that imagined trapezeist viewpoint - I'm sure it resembled a kind of cosmic bulls eye.

The Process
Many of you may wonder (and then quickly ignore this thought) what it takes to put the Dispatch together every time I do it. Well, not many authors will give you a glimpse into their secrets - but I'm special, and so are you. Here's a quick look at the steps that bring this all together:

1. I rouse myself out of bed. Fighting myself all the way. Even though I know that eventually, I'll sleep forever - I still can't resist trying to sock away a few extra moments of slumber here and there.

2. Make coffee. Drink coffee. Drink coffee. Make coffee. Drink coffee. Repeat.

3. I gather my notes. Sounds simple, I know - but I've got notes everywhere. In pockets to jeans I haven't worn in three days, on sticky paper that had found its way inside my wallet, on back pages of magazines which have re-circulated themselves throughout the house. My lack of organization is a real chore, folks.

4. I create a loose organization of my ideas, notes, and sketches for the piece. Then I usually throw out half of them, either because they just won't work, or I've already used that bit in something else.

5. I take a walk. For exercise, and to clear my head of all the thoughts that say "You're wasting time, you should take a few more blocks to ponder that."

6. Next, I write a first draft, editing my self along the way. Then a second draft, editing myself along the way. (I've tried do a third draft, but after all the editing along the way, the piece in it's entirety is about 5 words. Easy, yes, but not entertaining.)

7. Make Coffee. Drink Coffee. Take Walk. Drink Coffee.

8. Finally, I panic and rush to finish. Then I brag about my brilliance in the online forums as I wait for my minions to send fan mail and ask to do my bidding.

Minions, I'm still waiting.
I guess that means I get to do this all again soon.
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Clown Car Stuffer

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