19 September 2011

Injurious Harm

Found here.
Wife Megan and I have been preparing for a couple of aerial silks performances this weekend at The Gowanus Ballroom (henceforward, "TGB"). TGB is a very cool space - a former factory that now serves double-duty as a metal shop and an art gallery, and it would seem they're eager to have as much aerial performance in it as they can get as well. I've been looking forward to this opportunity in particular, as it would be my first professional aerial gig, and I really love the space itself.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I've hurt myself a little too badly to carry on.

I'm fine. I mean, I'M FINE. I feel a little silly, in fact, since our teacher very recently had a serious injury that's keeping her off the silks. (Hers had almost nothing to do with the inherent dangers we tend to think of for climbing arts - while she was standing on the ground, a rigging hook fell from the ceiling onto her hand, which is miraculously unbroken but very swollen.) By comparison, my ailments are exceedingly minor. I have a strained right shoulder, and a tweaked left. Were I in Cirque du Soleil (henceforth, "CdS") or some such company, these would indubitably be suck-it-up injuries.

Well, I'm not in CdS. ("What?" I know: right?) Giving it twelve hours after the second tweaking, in which time I napped, took some pain medication and got a decent rub-down, I made the decision I have the luxury to make. In my experience, the reason these sorts of things happen in threes is not because of some cosmic predestiny or communique, nor because it's funny (though, Dudes: it totally is). No, they come in threes because some moron decides he doesn't have to listen to the world around him. I'll not be that moron.

Today, anyway.

That's not to say I feel good about the decision. Why write about it if I feel smashing? No; even past the call, I'm struggling with it. I don't question it in any rational sense. Hauling myself up and catching myself down a thirty-foot ribbon is not what the doctor ordered for a couple of twinged shoulders, and a bad or even hesitant performance doesn't add to my fellow conspirators' performances in any way. Our fearless leader even made sure we knew going in that the commitment was negotiable for this kind of concern.

What is difficult about this is the lost work that went into rehearsal. What is difficult about this is that this is the second time in a row that a silks performance of mine was compromised by health concerns (see 5/25/11). What's difficult is taking the long view, and returning to the dual considerations that:  1) I might need to give silks a rest for awhile, find something else in the physical arts to study; and  2) I am older than I once was, and that's all I'll ever be, because that's how life works.

Stupid life.

I try not to think about things this way, that I'm getting too old for anything. It makes far more sense to me to think that as I age, I need to keep improving my approach to physical arts so I can work smarter and be prepared and more attuned to my body. Of course, part of the beauty of physical expression is that it can be so pure and independent from analysis. This sets us up for a classic showdown: Body versus Mind. Will Mind's rationale wither under the indomitable impulse-control-problem of Body, or will Body be left baffled, staring into an empty corner at its own mortal shadow whilst Mind proves irrefutably that it is the very construct of reality?! Sunday, SUNDAY, Sunday! Two enter the octagon, only one may leave! Except that, oh, well, they kind of need one another after all so let's all sing kumbaya, ma' lord, oh lord, kumbaya...

Anyway. It's not a complete write-off. When I was last in Scranton I finally retrieved my first pair of stilts, which had taken up residence there for almost two years now. My plan is to perform a sort of metalworker character, a tall guy from a different time dropped into the art space and trying to find his way to Gowanus, unable to recognize that he's already there. It's a theatrically satisfying idea, regardless of how physically simple the act ultimately is.

It's funny. I've been practicing my stilt-walking after work on the odd afternoon since I got the pair back, just taking a walk around the block to reacquaint myself with the sensation. It's difficult to avoid the cliché about bike riding, but there are things I forgot about stilt-walking. Primarily, how taken with it people are. Just carrying the stilts around invites folks to ask questions, and actually walking on them (the stilts; less-so the people) inspires an incredible repetition of jokes and questions. ("How's the weather up there?" has become to me a challenge to make my response as original as possible in contrast.) I engage in this repetition too. My line is, "It's easy. I could teach you in an hour." And it's true. It took me five years to learn to ride a bicycle, and fifty minutes to walk on my own on stilts.

People very rarely take me up on the offer, however. I think I've taught only two folks in nine years. Most people have talked themselves out of it before they've even considered the possibility, which I think is a shame. Sure - you could fall, you could get hurt. Worse, you might even have to give up. The catch is that the best opportunities available are within that risk. It's those painless injuries of never trying that really tear me up.

5 comments:

Davey said...

Sorry your body is not cooperating with your goals man. But seriously good advice on the whole "it happens in threes because you didn't listen the first two times" thing. Reminds me of the pulpit joke about the woman caught on her roof during a flood.

dave said...

I believ this calls for a hearty listening of "Dear Madam Barnum" by XTC.

Jeff Wills said...

@Davey - Don't think I've heard that one; do tell.

@Dave - Listening as we speak.

Davey said...

So a flood comes to a town, and a woman climes up on to her roof to wait it out. But instead the flood continues to rise. When the flood has reached the windows on the first floor a row boat comes by and offers the woman safe passage. She says no thank you, God will save her. Later, as the water rises up above the top of the second story windows, a power boat comes by. The offer to take her away safely but she again responds that she is fine, God will save her. The water continues to rise, and is now up onto the roof, and the woman clings to the chimney. A helicopter buzzes by, and the pilot begs the woman to grab onto the rope dangling out to her. She responds again in the negative. God will save her.
The woman drowns, and as she stands before her creator she looks up and says Lord, how could you have let me down? I believed that you would save me, and yet you let me drown? The Lord replied Daughter, I sent you a rowboat, a powerboat, and a helicopter, what did you want an engraved invitation?

Jeff Wills said...

Ah! Yes, I now remember hearing this one somewhere (likely not in church). It expresses my point perfectly. One might even say...divinely...?

(One really shouldn't, though.)