Quite often I have someone email me to ask “Tim, how do you produce such brilliant work on circus clowning, and so consistently? What is your professional secret?” There’s no need for any false modesty between you and I, dear reader -- we both recognize that my work is outstanding and ought to become a bestseller as soon as I can number all the pages; so I’m going to lay all my cards on the table right here and right now. After you’re done reading my guidelines, you, too, will be able to jot down your circus memories in a fascinating and coherent manner. Guaranteed or your cotton candy back!
The first thing I always do prior to starting one of my clown mini-memoirs is to wake up. Now you may think this is already happening, but that is not the case. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night to use the facilities, and then, still in only a semi-conscious state, I wend my way to the fridge for a light snack of pickled herring and Triscuits, washed down with a Mountain Dew. Thinking myself wide awake and ready to create a masterpiece, I settle into my recliner in the living room and begin typing random words on my Chromebook. When I actually wake up fully in the morning still in my recliner I’m covered in Triscuit crumbs and all I’ve managed to bang out is “Now is the time for the quick red fox . . . “
Once I know I’m awake and fully conscious (they are NOT the same thing, once you pass a certain age) I pull out some photo albums and rifle through my journals. I’ve kept an extensive log of my activities for the past 45 years, as many LDS adults do -- so I have plenty of material to resurrect and scribble about. Unfortunately, I wrote most of my journal entries in pencil until about 2004 -- they are pretty blurry now. Plus my kids spilled a great deal of grape soda on my photo albums when they were little and liked to go through them when I wasn’t around. The baboons.
So I often just sit back in my recliner, after a hearty breakfast of braunshweiger on a toasted bagel, two hardboiled eggs, a can of sardines, and a bowl of cottage cheese sprinkled with cayenne pepper, and let my memory take me back to those halcyon days in the Ringling clown alley when Prince Paul called me “Schmutz Finger” and Performance Director Charlie Baumann had to keep an eye on me at all times lest I pin a balloon to the back of his black tuxedo coat. Should I tell of the time the midgets Stanley and Lester Janus dressed up like children to get the special airfare rate on a trip back home to Hungary? Or maybe it’s time to reveal how Otto Griebling actually cheated at pinochle.
Once I have a memory I want to pull out and limn in detail, my work is nearly done. But first I have to find the proper motivation. A true artist cannot just come up with some harum-scarum thought and then commit it to the laptop. Certainly not! The first rule of all good writing is that it’s an excuse to get out of doing chores. The breakfast dishes are piled high in the sink, and last night’s mistaken attempt at shrimp scampi is also hidden somewhere in the depths of the kitchen sink. They need to be taken care of immediately, which is why I go into my bedroom, close the door, and get to work on my clown posting. Two paragraphs in, when I’m feeling my oats, I decide to check my email; then see what’s happening on Facebook; then check the weather forecast for Provo; then double check my banking accounts online to see if the rent check came through yet (I hope not -- I want to buy some Xanth paperbacks at the used bookstore down the street, and they don’t come cheap, and my Social Security won’t kick in for another week and a half!) And then I watch a few episodes of The Bernie Mac Show on Netflix, just to get my comic juices flowing -- and then I start to fall asleep, so I set aside everything and put the lavender-scented gel pack over my eyes for twenty winks. When I wake up refreshed an hour later I am reminded of the last time I vacuumed the carpet -- Christmas, 2015. I probably should do it right now -- and that motivates me to finish my clown article. I always try to end it with a salty quote from Swede Johnson or some bathos about clowns with broken hearts.
But before I post it I always call one of my daughters in the area to see if they’ll take me to Costco so I can buy a case lot of black olives or marinated artichoke hearts. That way I forget to proofread the darn thing before posting it. And when one of my old friends from Hawaii or Thailand emails me to say “Hey birdbrain, you misspelled ‘lycopodium’ again!” I get into such a snit that sometimes I delete the whole damn article -- so you readers never see hide nor hair of it.
And that, pupils, is how to write a great circus blog! Or, as Swede Johnson once said, “Why don’t you try putting your thumb in your eye, Pinhead?”