Tightropes and Juicy Fruit

It was Sal’s job to catch the high-wire performers if they fell.  He was equipped with 200 extra pounds of his own self, a hand towel, and a gymnastics mat.

Catching a falling tightrope walker is an impossible task, but Sal took his role very seriously.  He paced under the wire watching their every move, nervously chomping Juicy Fruit on the side of his mouth that still had teeth.

He was loved by everyone, especially the kids.  He knew all of our names, handed out sticks of gum, and grabbed our sides.  We ran away squealing, and then ran back for more just as fast.  The circus was his home.  He was important there.  His name was proudly sewn in navy blue thread on every one of his uniforms.

I don’t think anyone believed there was any real need for him to be marching around under the high wire.  Pedro and Daniel were the death-defying Colossal Carrillo Brothers.  They were famous for crafting and executing some of the most complex and dangerous high-wire feats ever performed.  Circus legends.  Precision, showmanship, and their sequined bell-bottom costumes made them two of the brightest stars in the Greatest Show on Earth.

Carrillo bros

The Carrillo Brothers were unrivaled in the art of pretending to almost fall.  Their weebling and wobbling produced rolling collective gasps from the audience, always followed by thundering applause when they steadied themselves.  Those alternating waves of gasps and applause all sound the same backstage.  Loud but muffled. They’re a subconscious indicator that all is well.  The white noise of circus life.

daneiel1

It’s very rare for the sound of the gasp to change.  But when it does, the hair on the back of your neck stands up before your ears have a chance to tell your brain. When that kind of gasp sweeps an arena, everything stops backstage.  Children stop playing, wardrobe ladies stop pinning, showgirls stop tugging at their fishnets.  It’s just suffocating silence while you wait, hoping to hear the applause so you can exhale.

One night the gasp changed, and the applause didn’t come.  That’s how we knew Daniel had fallen 42 feet, and landed on the concrete floor of Madison Square Garden.

Three long and eerie seconds passed before the ringmaster blew the whistle.  Then the band started playing, and clowns rushed into all three rings to distract the audience from what they’d just seen.  My dad watched it all unfold from behind his drums.  Daniel did a backward roll on the wire and he wasn’t pleased with it.  He put his finger up to the audience to indicate he wanted another chance to get it perfect.  He completed the backward roll again, and rolled right off the wire, making that his very last performance.

Was the first one good enough?  Absolutely.  Was it necessary for it to be perfect?  Definitely not.  The quest for perfection crippled Daniel for life. He walked with a cane and never worked again. If I could ask him if it was worth it, I know what he would say. We all do.

I try to keep that in mind when I’m driving myself crazy trying to be perfect.  Most of the time, good enough is actually really great.  I like the peace and happiness in that.  And I won’t need an emotional cane if I don’t get it exactly right.

We’re all good enough.  Actually we’re already perfect.

If you’re wondering what happened to Sal, as Daniel was being driven away in the ambulance with a shattered pelvis, Sal was still standing there under the wire, frozen in horror, with a mouth full of Juicy Fruit.

Comments

  1. Wow. That just made me realize the crappy post I just did, didn’t have to be perfect. I’ll make up for it by being mostly perfect next time.

  2. This is a great story and you tell it very well.

  3. This took my breath away. How did he survive?

    • Girl I have no idea. He was gone for several months in intense therapy, but he made it out alive. I remember the first time I saw him afterward – he had come to visit (can’t remember the town). Seeing him hobbling along the track being greeted by everyone was uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. I was only about 10, but it’s burned in my brain forever.

  4. Dianne Ramsey says:

    Chilling tale. That is so well written and poignant. You have a way with words. Look forward always to you next post.

  5. That was a great read. I always got freaked out with the high-wire act. That and the motorcycles that drove around inside the cages.

  6. phillybookpicks says:

    Love today posting, take care !

  7. Just watching these people doing these high wire acts makes me nervous. I can’t image what makes them be able to do this in the first place! I guess this shows there is something for everyone. Right?

  8. As I was reading this I was thinking WOW, a great read, thanks.

  9. I was so sure it was going to end in death. Glad it didn’t, but certainly an unsettling example of what can happen when you push yourself too far.

  10. buskattungen says:

    wow… this post really gave me goose dumps!
    It’s su true 🙂
    My jewelery is created with the text “so you can be unique” because everyone is already perfect in it’s own way!

    Love your blog!

    • I can’t read a single word on your blog haha but your jewelry is GORGEOUS! Thanks for reading and commenting : )

      • buskattungen says:

        Sorry :3 my blog is in Swedish.
        Thanks!!! I love making jewelry ^-^It’s my way to keep away from stress.

        I will keep reading your blog :3

  11. Makes me grateful that in my life, most of the time, good enough is good enough. It’s not a life or death mistake.

  12. What a story! And well told.

  13. chilled me to my bones. have always feared the trapeze artists or stunt men of any sort. it is sad to know about Daniel. makes me wonder how is he now? has he recovered? did he ail mentally as well (i mean emotionally)?
    you are so correct – ‘We’re all good enough. Actually we’re already perfect.’
    gorgeous…i hope everyone understands this.
    thanks for your wonderful thoughts and congratulations!

    • I LOVE the trapeze, and all aerialists. They amaze me! I don’t know what became of Daniel later. I remember him visiting the show one time after the accident, but I was really young, so I’m not sure how his life unfolded afterward. Thanks so much for reading and for your lovely comments!

  14. An intense story, very well-told, with a great message. You helped us relate to a high-wire performer through his quest for perfection and brought empathy for Sal, who was simply helpless to the situation. A well-deserved Pressing. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Incredible story, Mollytopia. It really drives the message home about knowing how/when to be satisfied. Thanks!//mm

  16. Loved this! I always want to write stories with a message in them, but always feel like I’m being so preachy or transparent in my goals, but this post sucked me right in and really hit your points on perfection home. Fantastic job!

  17. If you want to become whole,
    let yourself be partial.
    If you want to become straight,
    let yourself be crooked.
    If you want to become full,
    let yourself be empty.
    If you want to be reborn,
    let yourself die.
    If you want to be given everything,
    give everything up.

    Lao Tzu

    Great Post mate. A good point well made. Beautiful prose… and a genuine homage to the memory of Daniel. Couldn’t help thinking about Phillipe Petit… as well as Lao Tzu! And it also brought to mind “The Fasting Artist” by Kafka! And the trapeze sequences from “Wings of Desire”… Hell, this really was an evocative post!

    Thanks for sharing… a class act.

  18. I’ll remember this next time I want something to be perfect.

  19. I love what you did there. I was enveloped in the narration the entire time and I really like the tidbit at the end. I try to do that a lot with my posts but it doesn’t seem to turn out quite right. This was amazing and it’s something I’m going to be taking notes on.

    Fantastic work! Cheers mate!

  20. in a materialistic world that strives for perfection and measures everyone accordingly, this is a perfect message!!! x

    • Thanks so much! I like the pics of you and Elf – I thought you guys were really unicycle riders at first haha!

      • lol, thanks! you should read our very 1st post (titled – 1 unicycle, 2 souls scrabbling for the pedals) and that will explain where the name came from…I wish we were that talented! 😉 (although i have tried it and didnt do too badly – stilts and juggling too) NP on the reblog – it’s a cool post, so thanks for writing it!

  21. Reblogged this on 2souls1unicycle and commented:
    love the moral of this…but sadly, a heartrending story to illustrate it!

  22. Wow! Did Sal try to catch him?

  23. Thank you for this post and congratulations on being FP’d.

    Perfection is a killer, literally and figuratively. I recently read that “if we can’t stand criticism, we become perfectionists.” Your story is a gentle tribute to a man who tried to quiet his inner critic. We can all identify with Daniel on that front.

    Allan

  24. Thanks so much – I love your About Me page, and that you have the Elizabeth Gilbert quote on your home page : )

  25. Thank you so much – I really appreciate your comment.

  26. Very well written and a great message for everybody. I needed this. I was just wondering if my last post needed to be tweaked a little bit, there is a little something missing in it , i think 🙂 But now, i’ll let it be. 🙂

  27. excellent entry! i enjoyed it.. brings back old childhood memories… 🙂

  28. Great read but so tragic. What an eye opener for perfection! When did this happen?

  29. My goodness…You won’t believe it!!! I just read this whole post with a bated breath. Great reading. An eyeopener indeed!!!

  30. Great blog! I could “see” it all. Great writing, great message!

  31. Love it! Great Blog as well. On a side note, maybe he should have gone with “Hubba Bubba” for a different outcome… 😉

  32. What nice writing to make a point 🙂 Inspiring!

  33. Great story! Thank you for sharing it.

  34. What an interesting childhood you must have had, Molly.

  35. I hate you now for being such a great writer and making me feel like a total dick for making fun of fat people and women who tinker with recipes. Plus I see from Just One Chick’s blog post that you’re also incredibly beautiful. I feel like a worthless failure now, so thanks for that.

    • Oh hush. You’re 19 kinds of awesome and my life would be devastatingly incomplete without your blog. I suck at compliments so I’m not saying another word bc I feel so awkward right now my butt is starting to clench. Big squeeze to you – THANK YOU!

  36. I love your title as well as your style of writing… What a vivid capturing… Felt like I was there to hear the gasps and Sals heartbreak…

  37. i’m glad to have stumbled across your blog as i find your stories very entertaining.

  38. Great blog.

    A book you might like is The Circus At The Edge Of The World, by Charles Wilkins.

  39. I always kinda assumed it was that conservatives tend to see how far we’ve come and how much we’ve got; progressives tend to see how far we could still go and how much more we could have. In that way, conservatives are the “half-full” crowd and the progressives the “half-empty” crowd, which explains the happiness of the two sides.–Luke G.

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