Online Extra: “Running Away to the Circus” (On Maui of All Places)

THE KULA KID – Supplemental (13.50;1.1)

Were economic prospects better, I’d best be suited as a circus freak. Worse than Friday Kahlo stranded on a deserted island, or the Bearded Lady herself, my tent marquee could easily read “The Missing Link.” (Even chemotherapy has proven to be a blessing, of sorts—never eliminating the issue, but quelling it to some degree.) As such, I’m  appreciative of Society for politely smiling and accepting me, recognizing the great pains I take at integrating myself into it. As for Nair, well, I’m still waiting on that sponsorship…

But my intrigue du cirque extends beyond my genetic predisposition. The circus aesthetic—especially its weird, darker side (a la Something Wicked This Way Comes)—has long been a source of fascination for me. Over the years, my poor parents suffered through myriad room redesigns at my indecisive hand; most notably, my steam punk circus phase. Inspired by an antique, gorgeously handmade porcelain clown cast in dreary colors, with crying eyes and a crushed fist (that I picked up at great pocketbook sacrifice, for a middle-schooler, from Kalima O Maui‘s thrift store) my room was swiftly overtaken by things like wooden dispensers with glass orbs labeled “NUTS” in Old English (this, I still think, is rather hilarious) and what might have been the world’s largest herd of harlequins.

What I considered the cleverest of my design scheme was raiding the craft store for whole spools of red and white tulle, in greater quantities than even Amy Hanaiali’i had for this year’s Na Hoku Hanohano awards (which is saying something). [NOTE: Sadly—after an exhaustive search—I could find neither video nor photo record of this online. I can only presume the massive amounts of tulle clogged the servers when attempting to upload.] This I draped from a bare, hanging bulb at the center of the room, creating a stylized circus tent that cast everything a dusty cerise. My grandmother, on the other hand, did not find the same rapture in my trappings as I did. Every time she visited, she’d mock playing the organ and ask, “Who died?”

As with all the transformations my youth’s room made over time, the circus theme—while perhaps the longest-lived—did pass in its own time. I was getting older, which meant vague/vain attempts (and I stress attempts) at femininity, and old-timey circus naturally morphed into Parisian parlor. Fortunately, not long after realizing I’d become the cat lady of “Le Chat Noir” prints, I moved out of the house. Without the luxury of my parent’s richly textured cedar walls, the whitewash of the renters’ world meant I had to go indie or go home.

Still, I reflect on those days and designs with a heart warm enough to pop corn. So it was with relish that I had a behind-the-scenes look at the world of fo’ realz circus people, when interviewing for “The Family Circus” story, in the June 3 edition of MauiTime.

The stage door lead to the pale expanse of converted tennis courts, with khaki tarp tents set along the inside edge of chainlink fence, the rolling foliage of Ka’anpali links behind it. To my great surprise, things were surprisingly calm and overwhelmingly “normal.” Mostly quiet, there was but the performers’ soft speak as they stretched on worn rugs laid out on the ground, and the quick brush of a push broom tending away the debris of dried leaves. Readying themselves for the show and still in athletic wear, stars Lyric and Simon seemed more Olympic gymnast and transient surfer, respectively, than circus performers. I couldn’t help but feel I’d seen them before, maybe at party or in line and the grocery store and both were totally mellow. Listening back to the interview tapes, my bubbly banter was a clear disturbance—everyone else loose and calm with an air of practiced focus.

But hell, I was nervous for them. They were about to defy death before a paying audience! (Not to mention an audience of mostly Tommy Bahama-wearing almost-elderly, who have the means to travel to Maui. They likely have seen more than their fair share of Vegas-esque entertainment, and are often only impressed by things “cultural” enough so as to find them novel… But I digress…) Being so anxious myself, I kept prodding about pre-show rituals and jitters, to which they repeatedly shrugged. This is what they did. This is who they are. The trapeze slips as comfortably into their hands as does a BIC Lady in mine.

This enlightened me to the fact that though freak I may be, circus freak I am not. Perhaps the antiquities of the circus have been appealing to me because that’s the only world I could ever hack it in. The old model of weirdo-ogling only is long dead, and I’m both lacking in athleticism and training (let alone will) to do anything in this modern age of cirque. Hell, Cirque Polynesia is entirely freak-free, casting only the dashing and dexterous.

Unless, that is, people are willing to pay to see some eyebrows-untended fool bend their thumb flush to their wrist. I’ve been told this is merely mildly gross rather than impressive. But imagine a drum roll and a glowing “Ta-da!” and it’s enough to earn a polite smile. Hey, I’ve subsisted on as much so far…

Lucky bitch!