Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Just in case you thought I was dead

Hi! I'm not dead! I've been really busy building stuff and doing kid stuff, and doing some writing, but not so much in this space. Life is full and rich and interesting and dizzying.

This just occurred to me: Kids, like grownups, are sometimes inconsistent in their thinking. For instance, the other day, after watching a movie, walking around a fun part of town, stopping for hot chocolate, getting a treat from Ye Olde Candye Shoppe, pizza from our favorite joint, receiving an unexpected boon of awesome toys from an almost-stranger, playing with said toys for hours on end, one of my kids announced, "This was the most boring day ever!"  I asked her what a good day would be, and she answered, "A good day is when there are no parents and we can do whatever we want."

Today--about an hour ago--that same kid was crying at preschool drop-off (which hasn't been problematic in over a year, until recently), and said, "I don't like going to school because I miss Mommy and Daddy all day." Go figure.

Look! I (micro) posted on the blog!  Read on for something I wrote in San Diego Uptown News.  Following that, there's a teaser and a link to something I wrote recently for the Atlantic that I thought was pretty funny and a lot of people didn't get. Whatevz.


 What a Clown Taught Me about Work-Life Balance

There aren’t very many things that I’m really, really good at, but I’ve always felt like I’m kind of a master at the “work-life balance” that eludes so many of us—especially, it seems, those of us with kids.  Of course, I usually err on the side of “life,” and have bailed on a couple of careers that interfered with it too much.  And thankfully, I have been able to spend the past four years (since my twin girls were born) scheduling my work around my kids, which has tilted the scale way over to the “life” side.  Next year, my kids will be in kindergarten, which will leave me more time to work.  The balance shifts back and forth with time, and I hear that careers can be very fulfilling, but most of us hope to have more memories of quality time with friends and family than of punching the clock.

Last weekend, however, I met a dad who made me look like an amateur work-life balancer. 

To hear Jon and Laura Weiss tell it, they never planned for the life they have now.  They met in high school, married some years later, and started a family with whom they now spend almost all of their hours, on the job and off.  According to them, it all just kind of fell into place.  But it’s hard to imagine that the line of work Jon, Laura, and now all three of their kids are in doesn’t require an extraordinary, innate sense of balance.  The Weisses are circus folk.

I got the opportunity to meet Jon and Laura and their kids when my family and I went to see Circus Vargas at Mission Bay Park.  (They have moved on from that location, but will be in Mira Mesa until March 3rd, after which they set up in Temecula, so you can still catch them pretty close to home.)  I think I must have been expecting them to be shifty-eyed vagabonds or something, because I was very pleasantly surprised to find that they were some of the most open, friendly, laid-back people I’ve met.  Jon introduced us to his two teenaged boys who were manning concession stands and acting like teenaged boys; i.e., rolling their eyes at Dad’s jokes and exuding the impression that they knew much more about the circus biz than the old man did.

When we were done embarrassing the boys, we went to the “back lot” behind the big-top, to see where the circus families live.  According to Jon, Circus Vargas is definitely a family affair.  Many, if not most, of the performers and crew travel with their families.  There is a trailer that, when not on the road hauling equipment, functions as a school for the dozen or so kids who are enrolled this year.  Many of the kids will go into the circus business—some of the performers’ families have been in it for several generations—and some won’t.  Laura and Jon’s eldest daughter, whom we met briefly while she was on her way to get into costume and makeup, is continuing the family tradition.

Jon and Laura invited us into their home for the brief time before the performance was to begin.  While the interior was tasteful and neat, I have to say that the landscaping (dust and woodchips) left something to be desired.  Of course, every few weeks, they hook their home up to the back of a dually pickup truck and join the caravan to the next performance location.  I sometimes feel hemmed-in by our narrow, 1200-square foot cottage; but all five Weisses (and their tiny dog) live in a 43-foot fifth wheel trailer.  My kids were fascinated by this house-on-wheels, especially the big-screen TV tuned to the Disney Channel. 

As we lounged around in their kitchen, the Weisses explained how they ended up as a circus family.  Jon graduated from clown college in 1981 and planned on performing for a year or so, while he figured out what he was really going to do with his life.  Laura joined him at Ringling Brothers a couple years later, and they ended up staying with that organization for 26 years before moving on to Circus Vargas.  It turns out we had a lot in common with the Weisses, between moving from the East Coast to California (Circus Vargas mostly stays in the Golden State), traveling, raising kids, being shot from cannons…oh, wait—I never actually did that.  The point is, they seemed like the kind of people who had figured out how to live in a way that made them happy, and those are the kind of people I really like hanging out with.

The circus itself is very kid-centric.  There’s a pre-show (don’t miss this if you have kids!), hosted by Jon and Laura, where the children come out to the ring and learn tricks like hula-hooping, juggling scarves, and balancing peacock feathers.  If you don’t find this adorable, you are dead inside.

Once the pros take over, it goes from cute to mind-blowing pretty quickly.  I have to admit that my opinion of the performance may have been colored by seeing my four-year-olds literally agape and applauding wildly for most of the show.  It was a classic circus performance—thrilling, silly, amazing, cheesy, and just a lot of fun.  It also has the benefit of not having any animal acts, so we didn’t have to feel terrible about our complicity in the degradation of noble jungle beasts. 

There are very few things more engaging than seeing your small children losing their minds with excitement; and yet I still found myself reflecting, as I watched Jon Weiss balance progressively bigger things on his nose and chin—a dollar bill, a shoe, a hat, a folding table, a Costco-sized shopping cart, a 12-foot stepladder:  they’ve got a pretty good thing going, these circus families. 

As usual, I grilled the kids afterwards to see what their impressions of the show were.  They loved it all, especially the parts where some fire turned into a lady, and the guys jumped on the trampoline, and the lady changed her clothes a lot, and Mr. Jon balanced a shopping cart, and…and…and.
“So, what do you want to be when you grow up,” I asked.

“Circus girls,” they both said.

I hope they take me with them.     


Your Workout Looks Ridiculous 

Have you ever seen people riding those two-wheeled elliptical trainer contraptions? It looks like they just tore free of their moorings at the gym and started cruising down the street. Are they supposed to be scooters, NordicTracks, bikes, or what? They should decide whether they want to run or ride a bike or cross-country ski. They look ridiculous.

Of course, so does most exercise. We humans face an inherent conflict: Our bodies are meant to subsist on only the foods we can hunt down, scavenge, or coax from the earth by endless sowing, tending, and reaping. But our actual lifestyles consist of sitting on soft chairs and eating unlimited, delicious, and inexpensive calories. As a result, we engage in outlandish activities that are, when considered objectively, completely preposterous.
While less jarring than the sight of someone riding a piece of cardio equipment from the gym down the street, cyclists are a bit of an eyesore themselves, what with their loud, matching Lycra shorts and jerseys emblazoned with logos of Italian bikes that cost more than most of the cars I’ve owned.

By the looks of these Spandex harlequins, they’re more obsessed with their outfits, shiny components, and carbon-fiber frames than with the actual riding of their bikes, which, by the way, is accepted by much of the world as a means of transportation for people who wish they had cars.

Runners, on the other hand, with their minimalist equipment and dedication to doing only the most primitive and laborious of human physical activities, are the ascetic monks of exercise. It looks like a penance as they chug grimly along in whatever unpleasant conditions nature throws at them. Their faces weather-beaten and haunted, and their dead eyes fixed on the horizon, they seem just steps ahead of their personal demons, usually nursing a half-dozen or so repetitive-stress injuries.

I'm only allowed to post a teaser here, so please read the rest at The Atlantic...


  1. Haha, I know that guy on the elliptigo! I can't believe so few people got any humor out of that. It goes with my theory that too much exercise drains your sense of humor. Which is why I strictly limit exercise. But I recently tried lunchtime yoga at my office, right up there on the ridiculous spectrum.

  2. I didn't think you were dead, just hibernating.


Don't hold back.


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