This blog is now at http://kyladuffy.com . At the new website, you can subscribe by email to receive updates. If you follow me via Facebook, you’ll still see updates in my news feed when I make a new post.
I’m moving to America!
Just kidding. During the next few days, I’ll be moving the content of this blog over to http://kyladuffy.com, so soon you’ll need to re-sign-up for Facebook alerts or emails about when I post something new. I’ll let you know how to do that as soon as I get everything reorganized.
The reason for the move is that I simply don’t want to continue paying for so many domain names, and it makes more sense to keep kyladuffy.com than circrifice.com (nobody can even spell this one…and I thought I was being clever!).
I’m working on a post about my wonderful family vacation during the past two weeks…so that will probably be the first one on the new site. Work will be starting again in Toyama soon, so that should give me some things to write about as well.
Thanks for reading!
“We are the 99%” is a widely-used slogan by the Occupy folks, but it’s also something we strive for as professional flyers in terms of how accurate we’d like to be in our flying. If you consider the fact that our success is not only related to skill but also to timing, and that some of our tricks require the participation of our whole team (six people), you can see this is no small task. Even the most seasoned professionals–who were literally born to fly–sometimes miss.
If you catch your tricks in the 95% range over the course of a city (+/- 100 shows), you have mastered your skill, in my opinion. With new tricks, an 80% — 85% catch rate is reasonable, and it’s okay to take some time to notch that up into the 90s.
I looked back on my notes and saw that a year ago in Kobe, I was 90% on my doubles. I had been throwing them in the show for seven months at the time. That was out of 120 shows, but I only did double in two-thirds of the shows, which adds up to about 80 shows. In Ota, we had 83 shows, and I did my double in all of them. I only missed it twice. Once was my fault, and the other time was because Daniel thought I was Harmony and called my timing wrong. But…Daniel has saved many a double that should have gone to the net, and I counted them as catches, so it’s only fair that I count everything that goes to the net as a miss.
Since I arrived in Japan two years ago, my full-twisting layout has been at about 97%. We generally catch them all, but then once in a while, I get into a funk. Luckily, in Ota, there was no funk…and only one brainfart!
Despite the many moving parts in our passing leap, we rarely miss it anymore, although the very last one we did in this city was HAIRY (see below). I had a little problem on my return and only got the bar with one hand. Yikes!
My only other miss in this city was a climb to Jeremy. It was the first time I had ever missed a climb out of lines, and it was horrific. When Jeremy and I connect, I’m about 40′ off the ground and directly over Daniel’s catch trap. Usually I don’t even notice; the trick goes by like a blur, and before I know it, I’m styling to the audience from the pedestal. This time, I did a crappy full, which killed our swing. Daniel did his best to climb me anyway, but I tend to get grabby when I’m desperate, and because of this, Jeremy couldn’t get a good grip on my hands. He touched my fingertips and then yelled, “No!” but I didn’t need a heads up. The feeling of spiraling toward the earth was a pretty clear indication that I wasn’t in hands! As I flipped backward end over end, I watched Daniel’s catch trap go by and was momentarily grateful I didn’t collide with it. I got into a little ball, which is the safest thing to do when you can’t tell your face from your ass, and I landed in the net near the ridge rope on my knees. Ewww! Not the best position, but at least I didn’t get injured.
As a whole, I’m proud of my stats this city. In 83 shows, I did 249 tricks and 83 climbs. I missed a total of four times. That puts me at 99%!
Here’s a rare video of us in action, on the final day of shows in Ota:
Yesterday was the first day in a while that we had the opportunity to throw our tricks across to a catcher in practice. The first order of business was for Cindy to catch her forward over, as she needs to get a second trick into the show asap. Luckily, she caught two good ones, and “asap” is shaping up to be today! We’ve got three shows, and she’ll be putting her trick in for the second two. Please wish her a big “Ganbatte!” (Do your best!)
The second order of business was Harmony and my double layouts. Harmony has caught hers many times and has even done it in the show, but it’s been a while. As for me, this was the first time I’ve ever thrown my double layout with a catcher up. I was understandable nervous, as sometimes the pressure of having a body swinging back and forth in the “strike zone” causes the other “projectile” body to misbehave, but luckily, my body apparently didn’t want a time-out for bad behavior. I threw the trick just about the same with the catcher up as I did without a catcher. That also turned out to be the unfortunate thing, though, as throwing a trick with the expectation to catch is different than throwing a trick with the expectation of going to the net, and since I’ve yet to experience going across to a catch on that trick, I threw it like I was throwing it to the net, even though the catcher was up.
So Cindy caught some nice forward overs, Harmony caught several beautiful double layouts, and I came very close to catching my double layout…but didn’t actually catch it. At least I know what I need to do. I have to go in with the expectation of catching it; then, actually catching it should be a breeze.
I was going to challenge myself to get a 180-degree splits on the trapeze bar (at catch point) in a year, but “180 Degrees in 180 Days” sounds too catchy to pass up, so I’ll go with it.
Over the next 180 days, I’m going to work on my passive and active flexibility (passive = sitting in a splits; active=holding my leg up in a splits-ish position) with the intention of being able to release the bar to the catcher with my legs in a 180-degree splits.
Why do I care about a splits?
Many people scorn the idea of being a “splits girl” because it’s synonymous with being the least-skilled flyer on the pedestal. After all, doing splits is the third thing most people learn when they go to a trapeze school (after the take-off and the knee hang). It’s a very basic trick.
When I started working professionally, I certainly didn’t want to be the splits girl, but one’s perspective tends to change with time and experience. First, the financial difference between my doing three “breaking” (flipping) tricks and a climb to the top catcher in each show and my just doing a splits is no more than $100. Second, the physical difference is like the difference between walking from one corner of a gymnastics floor to the other or traveling that same route via “run-run-run-front layout stepout-round off-back handspring-double back-punch front.”
You get the idea. Not. Comparable. And definitely not worth $100.
It’s a good thing we don’t do this for the money!
I’m not putting this out there to complain about the inherent unfairness of the exertion/reward ratio of my job. More so, my point is that right now, I’m doing a lot of physical exertion (which–right now–I’m enjoying) for a low financial reward. However, as I age and swing off into the sunset, I’m not going to be able to continue exerting myself at this same level for 14 shows a week.
As Harmony and I stand up on the pedestal in the 100+-degree heat preparing to flip and then climb, we smile knowingly at each other and half-joke about how nice it would be to be the splits girl. The pay cut wouldn’t really be that drastic, and for the lack of workload and stress, it sometimes seems like it would totally be worth it.
So that’s what I’m working toward.
Someday, maybe two or three years from now, I want to be the splits girl. But of course, I want to be the best splits girl I can possibly be. Right now, I’m probably about 20 degrees off from 180 when I release the bar. Here’s what I’m starting with:
Ironically, I wanted to do a comparison photo of where I’m at and where I’d like to be, but after hours of searching, I haven’t been able to find any photo or video of a professional flyer with a 180-degree splits at catch point. If I hadn’t seen it at Cirque with my own two eyes, I would think it was impossible. But it’s not. So by December 2nd, 180 days from now, it will be mine!
Now, please excuse me…I have to go stretch!
I had heard of the seven-year itch and that a dog-year is equal to seven human-years, but before this week, I had never heard that the human body changes significantly every seven years. It’s something that nobody has said to me even once in the past 36 years, but just this week, while consoling me for my third cold this year, no less than three people have told me this fact. Jeremy pointed out that I’m 36 and not 35, so really the big change should have happened last year, but I am sometimes slow to come around to new ideas, and I guess my body is, too.
Whatever the cause, during the past few months I’ve been uncharacteristically plagued by health issues. I’ve had cold after cold, whereas I usually only catch a cold twice a year, in the spring and the fall. I have high blood pressure, a toothache, some other minor lady issues I’d prefer only discuss with my mother, and anemia. If my diet or lifestyle had changed during this time, I wouldn’t be so darn confused, but I’m generally a healthy person, and I haven’t been doing anything differently.
Yes, I enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner, but that is surely my worst vice. As far as my diet is concerned, I eat salad for lunch almost every day; tea, toast, and natural peanut butter for breakfast; and dinner always consists of a home-cooked meal of balanced protein, fat, and carbohydrates. I take a multi-vitamin and a B-complex, in addition to iron and my blood pressure pills. So what’s my problem?
Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter.
It’s kind of like the weather. I don’t check the weather because whatever it is, I’ll still be walking my dog, doing my chores, and spending a few minutes in the hot-as-hell copula flying on the trapeze.
The same goes for my physical and emotional state. It doesn’t matter. Whether I’m sick or healthy or my leg is falling off, I’m going to work.
Since dwelling on feeling shitty isn’t going to get me anywhere, I try to look on the bright side: it seems like sick actually suits me, as whenever I’m sick, I have good shows! I think the reason for this is that I have to muster every ounce of my being into every trick, and I have to take each show trick by trick, so I’m more focused on every little thing that I do. And I work HARD. Not that I don’t always work hard, but when I’m sick, I know that I have to work as hard as I possible can.
Back To Those Sevens
Going back to the sevens, in addition to a measurement of years, “seven” is a body position in flying trapeze. When you’re swinging, it’s the position you’re in when you’re over the pedestal, and when you’re returning from the catcher, it’s the position you should be in right before you leave him.
I’ve been struggling with my returns ever since I arrived here. I never really had problems at Imperial Flyers, but for whatever reason, the longer swing with Daniel and his cradle has not gone well for me. Having poor returns is extremely frustrating because in all other aspects of my flying, I’ve improved immensely since my arrival, and because it’s the last thing people see before my trick is finished. It’s like serving guests filet mignon for dinner and then freezer-burned ice cream for dessert.
This week, even though I’ve been sick, I’ve resolved to do something about those dastardly returns. Yesterday was the breakthrough day. During the first show, I tried just sweeping back later before setting up for the seven. This did not work, and my returns were worse than ever. In the second show, I decided to just do whatever I do, but at the end of my sweep, I would lock my shoulders down and back and just squeeze my body tight. Daniel has continuously told me to just get in that seven position and he’ll do the rest, but like I said earlier, it takes me a while to come around to new ideas. The thing that has stood in my way of committing to this position in the past is that it really feels like a commitment; I can’t easily move once I’m there.
Long story short, it worked, and I had my highest return ever out of my double in the third show yesterday. We’ve got three shows again today, and I’m going to make that my focus: sweep back, pull into the seven position, and lock my shoulders down and back. Get ready for launch!
Sudafed Suits Me, Too
Sudafed has really been helping me get through the day as my cold runs its course. It’s been so helpful that in addition to working, I’ve been able to practice a little. While the tent is hot as hell during shows right now, during practice the heat reaches a new level…we’ll call it “super-tropical.” It makes it difficult to practice when you’re not feeling bad, and when you’re sick, it makes it nearly impossible.
So I went into practice the other day with the intention of doing to things: a splits and a good double layout. I wanted to do a splits because I wanted to see on film how far away from 180-degrees I am, as my new aspiration is to become a splits girl sometime within the next five years (more on that another day). Then, I wanted to throw one good double layout so that I could go home happy.
And go home happy I did! I took Harmony and Daniel’s advice after the previous practice that I should open a little bit later, and just that one change allowed me to have the necessary spin to complete the trick well above catch height. A few more of these, and Daniel will go hang for it. With any luck, I’ll still be sick because then we’ll be sure to catch it first try!
Our practice has been cancelled frequently in recent weeks because the circus is changing their opening act, and they need the stage, so Cindy and I have been out and about finding other things to do with our time. One such adventure brought us to a series of hiking trails Cindy discovered while riding her bike.
If Only I Had a Car
Of course, I would never go on a hike without Bill, but after a relentless uphill “test” ride to a lower trailhead, I decided that biking to the mountain was definitely not something I wanted to do with Bill on my back, nor did I want him running alongside of me, considering the traffic and the heat. The trail-covered mountain is only a few miles away from the circus, but with Bill in tow, a taxi was a much better mode of transportation than a bike.
On a partially-cloudy day when practice was cancelled, Cindy and I decided we’d take a taxi to the top of the mountain and then mosey our way back to the train station from there. It was a good plan–to start at the top and just walk down…easy peasy. The only problem was that there were no taxis waiting at the taxi stand at the mall. There was, however, a sign with a phone number for taxis, so I decided to put my Pimseleur language course to the test by picking up the phone and calling the taxi service.
“Mushi mushi,” the man said when he picked up the phone.
“Mushi mushi,” I replied. “Taxshi ga hoshin desu ga. Aeon maru desu.” (“I would like a taxi. I’m at Aeon mall.”)
I thought things were going rather well, but then he replied with a real sentence in Japanese, and I was up shit’s creek with only “daijobu desu ka?” (Okay?) as a paddle.
He parried my feeble response with more Japanese words, so I daijobu-ed him again, and this time I was rewarded with a “daijobu” back at me. Touché!
After a bunch of “arigatos,” I hung up, and Cindy and I proceeded to wait under the assumption that my communicative effort would, indeed, yield us a taxi. After 15 minutes of waiting, however, a taxi never came. But the bus that goes to the train station did, so we decided to hop on the bus and then take a taxi from the train station, which was on the way to the mountain anyway.
At the time, we had no idea what a favor we were doing our wallets by getting on that bus. The 15-minute bus ride from the mall to the train station cost us 340 yen (about $3.40). The 10-minute taxi ride from the train station to the top of the mountain cost us a whopping 1,800 yen (about $18)! We would have paid double had the taxi taken us directly from the mall to the mountain.
Not All Trails Lead to Ota
Once at the top of the mountain, we spent a few minutes poking around in an area that was said to have castle ruins, but all we saw was overgrown brush. There was a path that perhaps led to actual ruins, but we decided that since it went in the opposite direction of the train station, we should reserve it for another day.
We knew we had to keep our bearings because the mountain was situated between several cities, and there were trails leading down every side. If we weren’t careful, we could easily end up on the wrong side of the mountain, and neither of us wanted to pay the price for that mistake (be it a never-ending uphill trek or another shockingly pricey taxi ride). With that said, the map at the top of the hill, which was not-surprisingly more of a “verly-cute-o” cartoon than a guide, showed a drawing of some sort of amusement area in the middle of the woods toward the backside of the mountain. It was hard to get much perspective on distance from the map, but we felt we could safely go check it out without straying too close to the point of no return.
After walking for only 10 minutes or so, we came upon a gate, and we could see something that looked like a playground beyond. At first, it appeared that the playground was closed, but upon further inspection, we saw that the gate wasn’t locked, and the playground was, in fact, open. There were some signs presumably about construction, but since we couldn’t read them, we just ignored them.
Palace in Wonderland
We went through the gate, and it truly was like going down the rabbit hole. We could not believe what we saw! Standing before us was the most incredible play palace ever. Situated on a steep grade, it was a vertical marvel of playland engineering worthy of Wonderland.
I giggled maniacally as I approached a slide made of little horizontal rollers that went from the top of the hill to the bottom, which was at least a football field away. Bill must have known what I was thinking because he quickly backed up and occupied himself with busily sniffing nearby bushes. This wasn’t his first rodeo.
To Bill’s dismay, it took but a second for me to snatch him away from his important detective work. I entered the chute, situated him on my lap, and wheee were off! As we careened down the mountainside, we passed by many other smaller slides, poles, and pits made of webbing that kids could climb in, on, and around. At first, the rollers felt like a massage, but about two-thirds of the way down, they began to really burn my bum, a sensation that lingered for several minutes past the end of our ride. I guess that’s the clever playground engineers’ strategy for keeping adults off the slide!
At the bottom, beyond the vertical playland, was a giant community park with more play structures and a large, white, wave-looking dome-thing that kids were bouncing on. Every time they jumped, they looked like they were walking on the moon.
On an opposite hill was a tram/gondola hybrid shuttling people up the mountainside. It was flanked by an alpine slide, a steep concrete run that people ride sit-scooters down. I was surprised Cindy hadn’t seen an alpine slide before, as she’s a Colorado native, and they are very popular at ski resorts as a way of drawing in tourists during the off season. The slides are known to be very dangerous; every year many people are injured when they flip off the side after taking a sharp turn too quickly. I would blame the accidents on daredevil stupidity, but even my dad, the world’s most hesitant driver, once got bit by the concrete snake. But, hey, a little blood on the track is nothing that the rain won’t wash away. Safety third when you’re having fun!
Sorry, I digress…The tram looked like it was going in the direction we were headed, but since we were there to get exercise, and we started at the top of the mountain, we figured a little actual uphill hiking wouldn’t hurt us. We set out on the road that paralleled the tram, and about 10 minutes later we crested the top of the mountain and headed back in the direction we needed to go.
After a few more minutes of mild ascent, we came upon a shrine. It was a decent-sized compound with several small out-buildings from which I assume they sell prayer boards (little wooden signs you can write wishes and prayers on) and other trinkets on weekends. I laughed at the thought of people taking the colorful amusement park tram up the side of the hill to make a pilgrimage to this sanctuary. I’m sure some walk, but they would have to be determined–it’s a steep hike!
Last year, when my parents came to visit, we had an ongoing joke about the “shrine clap.” Traditionally, one goes to a shrine, donates some money, rings a bell, claps twice, and bows. When I instructed my dad on the proper etiquette, he gave it his best effort, which included an ad-libbed “Yayyyy!” while he was clapping. So, of course, since I am my father’s daughter, when I made a donation at this mountain shrine, I gave the gods a little extra cheer as well.
Downhill From Here
As we left the shrine on a downhill path, we thought for sure we’d be descending the rest of the way into town, but we were wrong! The remainder of our hike included several uphill sprints before we finally made our way back to the road and, subsequently, the train station, where we again picked up the bus. The views from the hike were beautiful, and from one angle, we could even see the circus tent.
Our adventure in Wonderland lasted about three hours. The money and energy we spent on the endeavor was well worth it. Next time, though, I’ll walk past the shrine first, so I can ring the bell and make a wish that the slide doesn’t burn my butt. With my enthusiastic Duffy clapping, how could the gods deny me a more comfortable ride? (Maybe I should bring a butt pad just in case.)
After one glimpse of what goes on under the big top, most kids dream of running away with the circus.
But it’s not all glitz and glamour:
In our circus, we live at the tent in containers (there are usually two-to-four “apartments” in each container). Our community is tightly arranged and comprised of people from many different cultures, so at times, there are some misunderstandings. For example, this poster had to be mounted in every shower because some people here have “unique” ideas about how to use a shower.
Sometimes the circus has to take drastic measures because our “town,” a space usually only used for parking cars, is suddenly required to house 60 people for two months:
(Sometimes some of us don’t get the memo and are therefore in the middle of doing laundry when the water is turned off…for eight hours.)
Finally, at times we are so excited to have a day off that we have a little too much fun at night.
(Why couldn’t the circus have posted this last year when I wanted to sleep and my neighbors wanted to party!)
Circus dreams are grand!
They spark our imaginations and empower us to be the best we can be. In abstract ways, they remain with us into adulthood, and we revisit them each time the circus comes to town. For most, however, these dreams end with the activities happening within the tent. People don’t put much thought into the practicalities of life at the circus.
Circus reality is pretty normal.
Performers are real people with parents, friends, and sometimes even children of our own. We eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, just like everyone else, and in our free time, we work out (well, not me, per se), go to the mall, visit friends, play video games, etc. People here have the same complex relationships with each other that people have in any other community, although here it’s magnified because we work and live together and because we are from many different cultures.
What happens between shows?
We’re not robots, so we don’t get powered down and shoved into cubbies until our next curtain call. Instead, we get our chores done (in full make-up, of course). We watch movies and read books. We check Facebook about 400 times a day. When it’s sunny, we sit outside together painting our nails, watching our dogs knock around their Kongs, laughing at the circus children splashing around in the kiddie pool, and enjoying each other’s company.
And when we’re done with work?
The signs say it best. We shower and we party. That’s about it.
As I did more research on the one-sentence challenge, I realized that for the most part, people wrote a short, uncomplicated sentence. I had taken it as a challenge to pack as much into one sentence as possible (doh!).
Even so, I’m happy with my previous sentence, and I had fun boiling the fluff away from it to arrive at the following:
People made her feel weird, but as she allowed the kaleidoscope of life to shine through her, she realized she was just light on her feet.
Too much time on my hands? Perhaps.
Yesterday the Createspace newsletter issued a challenge to write an entire story in one sentence. This challenge perfectly coincided with my desire to say something meaningful to my niece, who is on the cusp of high school graduation. My gift to her is the following, which took me two days to write. (Oh, and there’s also a plane ticket to Japan waiting for her when she has time to come visit).
Yes, the following technically is one sentence. I dare you to tell me it’s not.
About Face (For Jenny)
Throughout the years, our relationship has been a bit intermittent due to the distance between us and perhaps a lack of effort on both our parts (though as the elder, the burden of communication clearly should have fallen on me), but you should know, my beloved niece, that I want you to have the most wonderful life possible, and to this end, I sincerely hope you take meaning for your life from the following reflection on my own: when I shaved half my head and dyed what was left of my hair pink, people faced me with ridicule; when I pumped my fist on the podium of major televised snowboarding competitions, people faced me with envy; when I graduated from university with a master’s degree, people faced me with respect; and when I left my teaching job to join the circus, people faced me with bemusement; but regardless of how others’ faces have changed in the wake of my decisions, my face has remained the same–a reflection of my heart via a broad, contented smile, the outermost tips of which tickle the corners of determined, fiery eyes–because as time marches on, and I do the same down the twisting, turning path dictated to me by a mechanism deep within my soul, the kaleidoscope of life continues to unveil new experiences that shine through every fiber of my being and lift my spirit to soar so high that I face only the heavens and my own reflection in the clouds.
What this obnoxiously long sentence is trying to say is that the formula for living a pretty frickin’ awesome life is 1) being true to yourself, 2) remaining steadfast in your beliefs, and 3) ignoring what the haters say.
In the end, you only have yourself and your beliefs to face.
Today is the day to start heading down your own special path, the one dictated to you from deep within your soul. You’ll know you’re on that path when, despite whatever hardships and challenges you face, deep down the universe just feels right.
How do you get there?
You don’t need to drive a car or use a GPS to follow this path. You only need to dream big and work hard. That’s it! Just give life your all, and life will give you the same in return, and before you know it, everything you need, you’ll have. And when you have everything you need, you’ll be free to fully experience the real essence of what your life is meant to be.
When you find yourself there, basking in the rays of the most incredible experiences available to you, send me a postcard (or at least an ecard), okay?
I love you.
Your inherently crazy (and apologetically crappy) aunt,