People I Met on The Great San Francisco Midlife Crisis Circus Adventure
So… I went to San Francisco, took 6 classes at the Circus Center in two days during the apocalyptic Storm of the Decade, had an amazing, life-affirming experience and decided to move there, quit real estate and never come home.
Well, except for the last part. I did, however, develop a serious love of both the city and the Circus Center, despite the uncooperative weather.
I’ve been mulling how to describe my experience here and I’ve decided the only way to really convey a sense of the awesomely weird, difficult and joyful of what I went through last week is to break it into two posts: People I Met, and Things I Learned. So without further ado, these are the people of note I met in the 63ish hours I ran away to the circus in San Francisco:
1. Kelli – Mid-late 20s? Works the front desk at the Circus Center. We exchanged approximately 23 emails with her preceding the trip in order to get prerequisites to take some of the upper-level classes. We expected her to hate us but she was super nice and helpful. When we told her we were staying at a hostel in the Tenderloin neighborhood, she told us to watch we don’t step in human feces on the sidewalk on our way home.
2. Elena – Late-40s-ish, immaculate, tiny blond Russian. Elena was a gold-medal winning aerialist in the 80s in Russia and revolutionized the swinging trapeze (not to be confused with the static or flying trapeze). She’s performed all over the world and has been teaching at SFCC for 10 years. We took Static Trapeze 1, Hoop 1 and Aerial Conditioning from her. In static trap, while I was hanging upside down by one knee, she took a long stick and poked my butt cheek not once, but several times while admonishing me, Too soft! in a thick Russian accent. In the spinning hoop class she was fond of shouting, Nipples to the ceiling! (pronounced “neepols”). An hour and a half into the two hour, torturous conditioning class, she demanded I attempt a straddle climb on the rope (legs held in a straddle position, you climb with only your arms). When I told her I couldn’t do that, that I’d never done it before, she said, You haven’t done it because no one has told you to do it before. You will do it now. I want to be her when I grow up.
3. Kalani – 19, tall, gorgeous brunette from Hawaii. Moved to San Francisco a month ago to become a professional aerialist/circus performer. I took Hoop and Acro with her. She had just finished taking the One-Month Intensive deal at the center that allows you to take an unlimited amount of classes in 30 days for $990. She took 61 classes. I overheard her telling someone she’d tried an aerial straps class, but the instructor said she would never be really good at it because her butt is too big. I wish my butt was too big like her butt is too big.
4. Lizette – 50s?, small, thin, with white-blonde hair. Lizette was working on her spinning hoop routine for a student show they were having during our hoop class. Every inch of her looked 25 years old except her face. I think she might bathe in the blood of infants at night.
5. David – 40s, Kalani’s dad. He told us he was visiting her from Hawaii and she’d made him take a flying trapeze class with her. I’m doing it again tonight and I can’t wait, he said. It was the most fun thing I’ve ever done.
6. Herdlyn – Mid-late 20s?, Jamaican, flying trapeze and trampoline instructor. He taught us trampoline basics like, The First Rule of Trampoline is not to fall off. Friday night we watched from the bleachers as he did a run-through of an amazing duo-trap act while wearing fantastic gold pants. He’s pretty.
7. Adam – 30sish. Adam took trampoline with us. He said he’d been doing it for about 6 months and had started because his wife took aerial classes at the Circus Center. I’m kind of a circus unicorn, he told us. I’m the husband who got just as addicted to this stuff as my wife. If I knew him better I’d make him a shirt that said Circus Unicorn.
8. Marijuana guy – As far as we can tell, the same guy stands at Stanyan and Haight every day asking everyone who passes if they want to buy marijuana and making it known he has the best marijuana on Haight. He’s a hard worker. He didn’t even close up shop during the torrential downpour.
9. Leo – 50s? But for his greying goatee, Leo could have been 30. He took Aerial Conditioning with us Friday morning. He brought his dog to class and leashed her upstairs in the bleachers with her dog bed. He told us he was a retired SF Firefighter and training to be a professional aerialist performer. He did the straddle climb without bitching.
10. Xiaohung – 49, super nice Chinese dude who taught Acrobatics 1. I only know how old Xiaohung is because he was telling stories about his 20-something year old son and I turned to the girl next to me and said, Did he have him when he was FIVE? She laughed and said, I know, right? He says he’s 49, but I’m pretty sure he’s ageless. He told us he trained as a gymnast in China in the 70s when there was no heat in the winter or air-conditioning in the summer. He had us hold handstands for what seemed like hours and do elevated handstand push-ups down past the negative point and all the way up. The middle portion of the class involved him stretching us until we cried (ok, I was the only one who actually cried), but then he gave us each an intense 5-minute back massage and I forgave him. During the final third of class he called me out on all of the cheating I usually do to get through my front and back walkovers. He just seemed so sure I could push a little harder when I was giving him every ounce of strength and flexibility I had in my body. I felt bad for letting him down.
11. Annie – 17, spunky teenage girl with a long ponytail and no makeup. Annie was in my acro class. When she walked in, she announced she’d just gotten into Georgetown and was so excited. She referred to me (and everyone else) as “Bro” or “Man”. As in, I like your hair, Bro. (All teenagers like my hair.) She told me she’s not interested in being a professional circus performer because she’s going to major in International Public Health and work for the CDC, but she intends to be the captain of the cheer squad at Georgetown. Both her parents are attorneys. She could do 10 handstand push-ups past negative almost totally unassisted. If I had a daughter, I’d want her to be just like Annie.
12. Dave – 60, seemingly normal grandpa-ish dude with white hair. Who could do 10 handstand push-ups. When he found out I’m a mom he told me I must be the ‘cool mom’ and that I was an inspiration. I told him he was confused about which of us was inspiring.
13. Klonopin guy – Looked weirdly normal. Tried to sell us Klonopin for $1 a pill as we walked from our hostel to the train on Saturday morning. Sounded like a deal?
14. Heather – 31, pretty brunette with great bangs (the flight attendant was obsessed with her bangs, to the point of coming over more than once and asking to touch them because she planned on duplicating them later that night). I sat next to Heather on the plane home. She’s a family and child therapist in the bay area. She recently broke up with her boyfriend of 6 years (who she was living with) because she decided she just wasn’t that into him, primarily because she’s actually interested in women. Shortly thereafter she met her current girlfriend. She’s trying to take it slow, but she’s also decided recently she wants to have children. She was fascinating.
I already miss them all.