...So I put on the clown make-up, a tall felt hat, which keeps my hair out of my eyes, and a multi-colored vest. I trot out to my booth as if I am wearing shoes too big for my feet. As we trundle down the service corridor between ballrooms, Kelly says, "Look at Tim. He's so much fun." I've got the under-20 crowd impressed. (Actually, everyone is impressed with my work. Which is nice but I can't say I'm impressed with everyone else's-- why were they hired? I think perhaps because of their looks or winning personalities-- but many are not even actors....)
So in the clown makeup I'm selling the face-paints, not selling, really, since everyone at the convention is in sales. I'm promoting, really, and I keep mentioning law school, which gets a laugh. It's nothing particularly witty but somehow the idea of a law school graduate becoming a clown is so incongruous as to produce a chuckle. The bar exam is being administered in the other side of Moscone Center, and the sheer numbers of examinants, who exit an lunchtime looking tired, relieved, shocked-- makes the possibility of employment as a clown not an altogether unlikely alternative.
There is a similar amount of respect (that is to say, none) accorded each profession (any respect accorded a lawyer is based on his money, not his profession, nor his integrity) though the salaries are skewed-- then again-- salaries have never been based on respect but on perceived contribution to society. It is a sorry indictment of our culture that only clowns without makeup-- the ones that appear on talk shows or cable specials, make a decent living.
This is speculation, of course, reasonable, I hope-- I must confess to no first hand knowledge of clown pay scale, union rules, or work ethic.
I pretned I am the clown of the Apocalypse. "The end is nigh," I say.
"Does that mean 'near?'"
"Well, why don't you be clear and say it?"
Especially since the world is about to end.
I tell the others that I have learned a secret: to avoid pickups, to cancel any signals of possible romantic misinterpretation, to be left alone-- clown make-up.
Is my effort that obvious? I mean, my concerns pop up into the light... how is it perceived? Am I clowning? Does anyone think I care? It's glossed over as another routine, or just a concern best left to closer friends and relations.
At the second booth, I step in for Mr. Rogers
, but as Carl Sagan
. I have to say words like "cosmos
" and "billions and billions" in order for anyone to get it.... Cosmos
came out-- what?-- 15 years ago. Tomorrow I'll add "numinous
" and "stuff" to the shpiel
. If I practiced more, if I styled the hair, patched the elbows, practiced the inflection
s. If I cared. But the product sells itself. Maybe if I grab a quote. Maybe Emerson's "The earth laughs in flowers." Or something about Voyager 2
15 minutes is about as long as I can sustain the character without exasperation. John comes back, all smiles, and steps in, and I'm off to push spelling.
The songs that leap unbidden into consciousness
They don't play them on KNEW.
I go to see Chris Bogart and Kirk Livingston in their a capella group, Vocal Designs, there in Rincon Center, behind a waterfall, and boy I wish I was in a group like that --no-- I want a group that would sing our own weird covers of cool songs. I was impressed with Vocal Designs' arrangements of "Karma Chameleon,""Georgy Girl," and "I Can See Clearly Now," as well as "Destiny" (which I hadn't heard before.
I want a rock to sing around.
I look at Celia, lean and refined. Chris, tired and sturdy. Shannon, Clara, Rachel. New names-- John, Dave, Spencer, Kelly. A small community has grown, thrown together by the whim of circumstance and the decision of Corporate headquarters. Age range from about 10 to 40. We don't all click, but we've got something in common now, a shared experience-- this is not to say an intimacy but a foundation (or in some cases, a continuation along a continuum) and I am glad to be working with new people (and to my surprise (despite my initial reluctance to talk to folks) I can, in a sense, create my identity-- the way I do with kids at camp-- maybe because there are younger folks, teenagers, who see me differently-- older, formed, complete (oh. if they only knew.) and it is the kids then that allow me to be myself around my older peers (nonsense. It's my abilities that are identifying me)). Even if it is only six days (That's quite a bit, actually).
"Bartending," he says. "It's all personality. You can bullshit your way through the rest. What are you drinkin'? A gin and tonic? It slipped my mind-- what's in that? Oh, gin and tonic. Okay, no problem."
I say: "We should switch. I'll be a bartender and you teach summer camp to 10 year old boys."
To sing, in beautiful harmonies, or approximations thereof-- cartoon theme songs, Nanci Griffith
covers, Christine Lavin
es, instrumentals, neglected folk classics, stories, poems, truths, half truths, barefaced lies, lite snacks-- aah, heaven