I lived with James aka ob1 for a year at ye olde frat. I knew a great many things about him: he was a triple major; had a fiancee; captained the gymnastics team; played guitar in a rock band; walked up the unstable banisters of the center stairwell on his hands; tried to imitate tricks he saw Jackie Chan do; was built from pure muscle. Then he went off to circus school in Montreal. What I didn’t know was that he’s a good writer, too:
Ten years ago: Circus school teaches me how to drink, how to smoke, and how to love a woman only until morning. My classmates and I are the shaggy, unshaved future of the circus arts, sleeping in the hardwood corners of each other’s apartments. In the candlelit Montreal winters we vow to fight the good fight together. “The future of circus,” we tell each other through late-night veils of smoke and alcohol, “is whatever we make it.”
Six years Ago: Our growing collective of circus artists dedicated to theatrical expression through circus arts has been tapped to receive funding and international tour support from the French government but is forced to disband when two of the four members accept Cirque du Soleil contracts.
Four years ago: I am homeless in the streets of Tokyo until an expatriate Flamenco dancer from Madrid takes me in. She teaches me how to seduce a woman and how to dance with her close. “You smell like cinnamon,” she tells me, and then, like a gypsy curse, “you will be the boss of your own company someday.”
Two years ago: I am the boss of my own circus company with projects in fourteen countries and annual revenues over 300,000 dollars. The future of circus, it seems, is business.
Three months ago: I drink absinthe beside Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River with one of my best friends, a French acrobat. Seven years ago we were street performers on the Ramblas of Barcelona. “The future of circus has forever changed,” he tells me. We are the last generation of artists who knew circus pre-Cirque du Soleil – just as the generation before us was the last to know the great circus families of Europe in their full glory. The trunk has been severed from its roots.
Last time I saw him was in Taipei in 2007–that’s in the “two years ago” section of the time line. It was surreal even then. I’d gone to grad school and worked in Silicon Valley. He’d gone to circus school, busked in Europe, started his own company and lived out of a suitcase. We watched football and played foosball in a sports bar in the Xinyi district of Taipei, not far from Taipei 101. In many ways we picked up where we left off, but our experiences were so different in between.
It’s worth checking out the whole article.