Circus

Circus: (n) a traveling company of acrobats, trained animals, and clowns that gives performances, typically in a large tent

I’m about to break one of my own cardinal rules when it comes to writing.

I don’t mention too many “pop culture” references from the past because they’re irrelevant to the majority of the people who read my blogs.
. But when I saw the word “circus,” my mind went to only one place.

When I was a kid I was portly. (Now, this is a “grandma word” used to describe a fat boy.)

I fell in love with a TV show called “Circus Boy.” I can’t tell you much about it but there was a little kid just my age, with blond hair just like mine, blue eyes–the same–and he was part of a circus. He walked around wearing an adorable hat which might cause the worst cynic to beam a smile.

I loved that show.

So one day when shopping with my parents, I noticed they were selling a replica of Circus Boy’s hat. Oh, my God–I begged. I pleaded with my parents to get the it for me. It must have been very reasonable because they didn’t quibble.

I never took it off. My greatest joy was that when people saw me in the hat, they often commented, “He looks kinda like Circus Boy.”

It was almost like I was a leper and Jesus had just touched me.

One day I was in the grocery store with my mom and dad and a man and woman came up and the lady said, “Is this your son?”

My mother nodded with pride. Then the lady said it. “You know, he really looks like ‘Circus Boy.'”

I was about to explode with a huge smile and share with her that “Circus Boy” was my favorite show on TV when the man piped in, “Yeah, kind of. Except he’s fat.”

The earth stood still.

I couldn’t breathe.

I couldn’t look in any direction without seeing human beings who needed to be far away from me at that moment.

I turned on my heel and ran out of the store, wedging myself against the back of a Coke machine in a corner, crying.

You see, the guy wasn’t mean. Just matter-of-fact.

It was such “matter-of-fact” that even I knew it was true.

To this day, “circus” brings up “Circus Boy,” which stirs a memory of my fondness for the show, circulating images of the hat I wore, pretending–but deep in my heart, knowing I couldn’t be him.

I was too … portly.

 

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Circulate

Circulate: (v) to pass or cause to pass from place to place or person to person.

I have recently been accused of being anti-social.

The diagnosis was offered because I failed to attend a party. It was assumed that anyone who didn’t want to come to this social adventure
had to be out of his or her mind.

I was supposed to come and circulate among people whom I have known for years, and read about ever-too-frequently on my Facebook page. As a matter of fact, I know so much about these folks that I could probably write personal bios for them.

But they were convinced that I had sunk into some sort of despair because I wasn’t going to come and hear the same old stories while partaking of a dip with only subtle new inclusions.

I do need to circulate–but I need to do it among people who are not necessarily related to me or benefit from me personally or financially.

A great man once said that if you only love those who love you, what in the hell is so special about that?

For instance, I just came back from the grocery store. I encountered at least twenty-five people I have never met before.

I circulated.

I conversed.

I opened up my heart to the possibility that these were good folks and I would benefit from the exchanges. I suspect about half of them thought I was crazy for being so talkative. But the other half took a risk, jumped in and, well…circulated.

We do not circulate when we only hang around those who resemble us or are friends because we buy presents for them on birthdays or Christmas.

We circulate when we allow the blood of human relationship to mingle among castes, races, genders and ideologies.

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Cereal

Cereal: (n) a breakfast food made from roasted grain

When I was a child, I ate as a child. Now that I’ve become a man, I’ve put away good taste.

As a boy, breakfast was sweet cereal. I had many favorites. My choices were layered–there were those cereals I begged for at the grocery
store, but my mom refused to buy because they were too expensive (though she insisted it was because of the sugar content).

I ate those varieties when I stayed overnight at my friends’ house. For the record, Lucky Charms were magically delicious. And if you’re going to spend some time with Captain Crunch, make sure he’s peanut butter flavored.

Then there were the cereals my mother would buy, which were sweet enough for me to be tantalized. Sugar Smacks. And one of my personal favorites–Honeycomb, which I would describe as very sweet air.

But my mother preferred Raisin Bran, Puffed Wheat (because it was cheap) and Life cereal.

I remember throwing a tantrum for nearly fifteen minutes because I was required to consume a bowl of Life cereal. I explained to my mother that there was something wrong with the concoction–that it tasted rotten, fermented, or maybe even poisoned. She disagreed, citing Good Housekeeping’s approval.

Then one day–oh, and it was sudden–I woke up and became an adult, and started considering the nastiness of nutrition.

No one has actually proven that fiber, vitamins, minerals or oat bran actually lengthen your life. Perhaps it just makes you feel like you live longer. But now I check the fiber on the side of the cereal box instead of whether there’s a prize inside.

Something is missing.

Something is amiss.

I miss something.

 

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Butcher

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Butcher: (adj.) a person whose trade is cutting up and selling meat in a shop

Growing up in Central Ohio, it never occurred to me that I was surrounded by German immigrants. The last names of my friends should have been tell-tale–Steinmetz, Moodesbaugh, Ristine–but I took it in stride, as normal.

So when our local butcher was named O’Dell (which was his first name) it didn’t even register on my young mind that this was unusual.

First of all the whole idea of having a butcher is relatively uncommon–except I guess some large grocery stores have sections where somebody dons a white cap and does a good imitation.

But O’Dell was a character. He hawked his meat to everyone who came into the little shop with great aplomb and grace. He was famous for his ham loaves. The ingredients were, of course, a secret. (I don’t know whether that’s because there were mysterious spices or perhaps unknown meats.)

But what he was most famous for was grinding his own hamburger–and then to prove it was really fresh, he would reach in, grab a small pinch, roll it into a ball, throw it in the air and let it land in his mouth, consuming it raw.

I don’t know how many times a day O’Dell did this. But certainly enough that he got a gut full of raw cow.

Unfortunately, about twenty years later, O’Dell got stomach cancer and died. Now I’m not saying this happened because he ate raw hamburger.

But it does give me pause … and has prevented me from ever indulging in uncooked meat of any type.

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Brouhaha

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Brouhaha: (n) a noisy and over-excited reaction or response

In a grocery store that only offers vanilla ice cream, strawberry seems radical. So for a brief season, the introduction of this particular flavor stimulates great interest and conversation.Dictionary B

But the human race, being what it is, soon tires of two flavors. So here comes peppermint, followed a few days later by Rocky Road, then Caramel Twist and Bubblegum, as the progression of varieties increases at a furious rate.

In no time at all, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins get together and say, “If 10 flavors tweak their fancy, just think what 31 would do…”

Pretty soon we have more flavors of ice cream than we could ever experience, and spend much time defending our own personal predilection.

So what was once a snack, or even a delicacy, becomes a source of conflict as people argue furiously in favor of their favored concoction.

Soon we forget it’s just ice cream.

It becomes an issue of pride–maybe even a symbol of patriotism or eternal salvation.

Once matters are blown out of proportion, we need to continue to blow into them to justify why they became so large in the first place.

In no time we find ourselves arguing over the art of debate, exchanging facts based upon our interpretation of available statistics.

We might even conjure a lie or two, suggesting that Devil’s Food Cake ice cream literally is.

I seriously doubt if anyone would disagree that we have become a nation which favors the brouhaha over consolation.

It should be no surprise that this has occurred–considering we are also a country that thinks judging people is religion, dieting is nutrition, reading books is education … and watching a football game is exercise. 

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Bottle

Bottle: (n) a container with a narrow neck, used for storing drinks or other liquids.

Kids like money.Dictionary B

I suppose you can try to change that.  Good luck.

Actually, the best you can do–so as not to become a personal ATM for your offspring–is to instruct them on various methods they can use to earn small sums of cash.

When my seven-year-old son came to me complaining that he didn’t have funds to buy a toy, I suggested that he go out and collect bottles. This was a time when such an adventure was plausible, and paid off with two cents per container.

He became extraordinarily industrious. In no time at all, he had collected 268 bottles. He was so proud.

So I drove him down to the local grocery store, which had promised to pay the deposit, and let him go in with a  cart, completely packed to the brim.

He was gone a long time. I almost decided to go in and check up on him, but felt he might consider that interfering.

He finally returned to the car with a little money in his hand and tears in his eyes. He didn’t say a word. So I finally asked him why he was so upset.

He shared that the store manager told him that today they would only give one penny for each bottle. He didn’t want to argue with a grown-up, so he accepted his half payment.

We just sat there for a moment in silence. Finally I asked him, “So what do you feel about that?”

The tears avalanched down his cheeks.

“I think it stinks,” he said.

I explained to him that since he felt that way, he should probably go in and make a stand. He nervously agreed.

Being a proud father, I couldn’t miss this. I made sure he didn’t see me sneak in behind him, but I was bound and determined to catch the discussion.

My little fellow was very respectful, but he challenged the manager and said that he had worked very hard to collect the bottles because he had been promised two cents.

Amazingly, the manager decided to stonewall. But as my boy made his case, a few customers came around, listening in on the exchange. One of them took my son’s side, and before you knew it, there were four or five people frowning at the store manager.

He realized he was going to lose more business than the $2.68 he was withholding. So he reached into the drawer, handed the money to my son and told him to be about his business.

I quickly scurried to the car to be there before he arrived. When he opened the door, he had a big, beaming smile.

He learned to stand up for himself–even though there was the risk that nothing would change. The truth of the matter is, if you’re being cheated by a penny on your bottles, you’d better pipe up.

Because bottling up your feelings can leave some nasty deposits.

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