Monday, April 7, 2014

Laughing Inside Hurts My Face

             I saw a clown going into a liquor store on Saturday night. I kid you not, an actual clown, in full make-up and brightly colored outfit walked into a liquor store.  He wasn’t wearing the big clown shoes though. Which is only logical because he drove there and there’s just no way for those huge clown shows to operate effectively on the gas and brake pedals. The very picture though, of this actual clown, walking into a liquor store made me laugh hysterically.

             This act was incredibly tragic and comical. It felt like the complete devastation of joy and death of childhood imaginings. A clown, really just a regular guy, an entertainer, going to fill his comedy guts with as much booze as he could possibly muster. I wondered what would drive a clown, a fully decked out clown, to drink. Of course there’s the whole death of clowning to consider. I’m sure clown college enrollment has plummeted since most clowning has been deemed beyond dorky and simultaneously horrifying. I suppose that this clown’s life ambitions of fame as a bringer of merriment have been dashed too many times and a trip to Whiskey Avenue might be his only solace.

             He was fully grease painted across his face, a red smile extending far beyond the natural realm of human smiling, a jaunty little blue hat, yellow shirt with colored pockets, a pink flower and royal blue comically short overalls exposing long socked legs, and gym shoes. (Again, driving in clown shoes just isn’t safe, come on now.) His pace toward the doors to the neon mecca of booze was a funereal cadence. I could almost hear a clown version of taps playing amid my chuckling.

             I laughed. I laughed hard. It was the clown nightmare of children coming true and it was too damn funny. As the traffic light changed and I pulled away from the corner, I looked back in my rearview mirror to see the clown step into the corner liquor store and I suddenly felt bad. I felt as if I shouldn’t have laughed. It seemed wrong to laugh at a clown’s pain instead of his colorful antics with a seltzer bottle. It was a tragedy. As I continued to look back I saw the beat up old car the clown had parked. It wasn’t a clown car, it was a compact car. Just a regular late model Honda, beat up but running. Probably the best vehicle this clown could afford on his meager clown wages. There’s nothing funny about that.

             I started to think about myself, as an unpainted clown, trudging my way into bars and late night greasy spoons. I wear a smile on my face, but inside there’s a circus of sadness. I make jokes and pull the occasional sight gag to hear the laughter of those around me. Laughter is the real drug, not the booze. The people don’t know the depths of how terrible it is to be a clown. I thought about how I might actually respect that clown. It must have taken some considerable guts to walk into a liquor store in full clown make-up and order a six pack of Old Style and a bottle of Old Granddad, maybe a nudie mag, and still hold his painted face high.

             A down on his luck clown, just like me, waiting for the perfect pie in the face. A pie made of opportunity, of love, of admiration, respect, decency and financial security. I wonder who throws those pies and if I would have had to go to clown college to get a Master’s degree in Dessert Comedy Sciences.

There’s the joke. A cruel hilarious joke.

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