Tuesday, March 01, 2005


"Hey, do you want to go see Varekai?" Gloria asked last week.

"Is that some kind of modern dance thing?" I'm wary. One of our first dates, nearly ten years ago, was to a "modern dance" performance that consisted of men smeared in mud wearing cloth diapers stomping around on a stage. Even now, when she uses any word that I don’t immediately recognize, I’m on full modern dance alert.

"No, silly,” she said. “It’s Cirque du Soleil."

"Is this the show where men spray paint themselves gold and run around in banana hammocks?" I asked. "Because I have absolutely no problem with men who want to do that, but I’m not paying to see it."

"No, it’s fantastic," she said. "Everybody says so."

See, I have a problem with everybody. I don’t like most of them.

"All right," I said. "You’ve still got two points this month. This can be one of them."

After years of haggling over doing crap that I didn’t want to do, I came up with a system. We get to go out about four times a month. Gloria has two points a month that she can use in getting me to do things I have no interest in doing. After those points are used, I’m done for the month. No carryovers to the next month. Use them or lose them.

If you’re married, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The conversation about doing something can last longer than the actual event. Sometimes the conversation itself was a point, practically. So now she doesn’t have to negotiate to get me to do something, and I know when I don’t have to go.

"They’re not my points," she said. "They’re your points."

"No, they’re your points," I said. "They’re my points system."

"Great," she said. "Just great." I drive her crazy. It’s a gift.

I went online and found a description of Varekai from the official web site:
From the sky falls a solitary young man, and the story of Varekai begins. Parachuted into the shadows of a magical forest, a kaleidoscopic world populated by fantastical creatures, this young man sets off on an adventure both absurd and extraordinary. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of all possibilities, begins an inspired incantation to life rediscovered.

What the…?

I’ll tell you who wrote that. The girl you went to college with who would start singing a Broadway show tune in the cafeteria. That girl.

Theater types. This is why I’m concerned.

And the website also said they have their own language. I know I'm looking forward to that.

Like I said, though, they’re her points, so we’re going. And I know that Cirque du Soleil has a fabulous reputation as being amazing and all that. So I’m curious.

Then we find out it’s two and a half hours long.

Holy crap. I don’t watch anything for two and a half hours unless there’s a scoreboard.

I’m still in—the points system guarantees that—but that is a long, long time.

We go with two people who’ve seen one of these shows before, and they said this was the weakest one, by far, that they’d seen, so keep that in mind. The traveling shows that are inside a tent have much smaller stages than some of the other shows, and that was the case here. It’s harder to pull off that whole grandeur thing on a small stage. And in spite of that, it didn’t suck. It was better than about 2/3 of the regular season NFL games, although it wasn’t as good as a playoff game. Any round.

If you’ve never been to one of these shows before, they’re kind of a cross between a Tim Burton movie and cheerleading camp.

Actually, they’re really a cross between The City of Lost Children and cheerleading camp, but I think only about five people saw that movie, so I went with the broader reference.

So this is what happened: some dude with wings fell from the sky via a pulley, and he wrapped himself up in a net and wriggled around like a shrimp. It was at this point that I think I began to lose the thread of the carefully crafted story.

Here’s the kind of thing you’ll see quite a bit: there will be some guy in this fantastic, elaborate, hallucinogenic representation of a snail (or a lizard, or a grape), and he’ll perform a triple loogie somersault, then do the cheerleader head snap when he lands. You know--the one where they jerk their heads down and back up like they’re having a muscle spasm. That move.

Dude, you spent six hours putting on makeup and a costume to look like a snail. Snails do not go to cheerleading camp.

There was also a guy with a light bulb on his head. I liked him.

After a while, the show settled down into a pattern. The dude with the light bulb would come onstage with a bunch of people who looked like they belonged in a Fruit of the Loom commercial, and then he’d say things like “Esperanto millstream Canadian petroleum je ne se quai HA HA HA HA!” Then ten people in tights would come running onstage and hurl themselves around with total abandon.

They jumped with expert timing.

I like acrobats. I like them because they’re not gymnasts. They’re not named Bret or Bart and they don’t wear a cheerleading outfit. So the acrobats were excellent, in between men with light bulbs on their head and men with wings and human lizards coming out of the floor and all the HA HA HA HA and the whole “My God, aren’t we just fantastic?” feel of the whole thing.

I’m not sure it was worth seventy bucks, though.

Not that I could tell you what else would be.

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