NICK’S BOOK PROMOTION DATES:
JULY 25TH, 7P, BOSWELL BOOK COMPANY, 2559 N. DOWNER AVE. MILWAUKEE, WI
JULY 30TH, 1:30P EASTCASTLE PLACE, 2429 E. BRADFORD AVE. MILWAUKEE, WI
SEPTEMBER 19TH, 7P, ST. IGNATIUS PARISH, 3235 ARDEN WAY, SACRAMENTO, CA
[Sugar! Not only refined, but colored and flavored. And corn grown from oh-so-genetically modified seeds. The merry harms of showbiz. Royal Lichtenstein Circus.]
Even before they got their bags of peanuts, those who had raised their hands were nearly uncontrollable in their laughter. The pitchman, with the suavity and charm of an over-coiffed televangelist, was reminding them to open their bags carefully and look for the all-important coupon they might discover inside their purchase. That coupon just might read “You have won a 2013 Coup de Ville Cadillac.” Indeed everyone was laughing, with the energy and timed responsiveness a congregation might use in their “And also with you/your spirit” response to “The Lord is/be with you” at a non-televised Catholic mass.
The pitchman was the archpriest of all U.S. sideshow impresarios and he was performing a rubric from the classic circus ringmaster’s script, “The peanut pitch.” The congregation was a convention of circus aficionados who knew the script backwards, sideways and forwards. Everyday, in many somewheres, that pitch is being made and some of those bags of peanuts do have coupons; they never have coupons promising Cadillacs—or even Chevys.
Such a pitch is not a cause for whistleblowing or flagraising. Even among the unlettered and overlitigated, it is a recognizable part of a wondrous adventure, the circus. The visitation of wonders typically begins way out front of the bigtop, with very unusual displays of human oddities. While Sealo, the Penguin Girl, and the Alligator-Skinned Man are long gone (and it was enough that their deformities only suggested their association with the animal kingdom) there are other human attractions that make us wonder about the scope of the human. Electra, the Human Pincushion and the Rubber-skinned Lady engage and enlarge our appreciations of what might be possible.
The entire trip to some open space and temporary enclosure that will disappear by tomorrow morning is an invitation to re-imagine what we thought was the landscape of human capacity. Of course the Big Show is the force majeure where we confront humans and animals who have trained and been trained to surpass quotidian expectations. At a gesture from a human, huge beasts waltz together to meet the three/four discipline of their music, and athletes really do defy gravity and fly. Anything can happen. Okay, just maybe not a Cadillac in a bag of peanuts.
You don’t have to be Auguste Comte, the father of sociology, to remark that this form of welcome-wonder mixed with playful chicanery happened along before some dangerous and unwelcome deceptions. We were not out for entertainment when General Mills, Proctor and Gamble or Monsanto began ignoring scientific and medical research, all lured by Wall Street into the misrepresentation of foodstuffs and health aids we needed. Gradually, not nearly soon enough, we have come to resent such lies about what really counts.
More seriously still and far closer to daily life fall the neighborly trespasses we commit toward each other. The genetically modified seeds of agribusiness and the disguises of sugar pale in their healthbreaking damage compared to the heartbreak of downright interpersonal lying that can occur between friends. There’s wonder indeed. To save a face hitherto memorized and trusted? To protect an issue or personality we’ve barely met? To devalue a friend’s intelligence by assuming she won’t eventually detect the untruth? What evil magic makes that possible? On what shadowed midway lurks such a Svengali so bent on radically misleading the human heart?Peanuts (even roasted and salted)? Cotton candy? Not so bad, maybe.