Saturday, May 28, 2022
May 28, 2022

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Everybody Has a Story: Learning new tricks after 30


Young people today may not know that there was a certain amount of consternation among my fellow baby boomers about turning 30.

Some were freaking out about it, in the parlance of the day. I like to think I took the aging process in stride, even though I found myself a single dad raising a young daughter. Because of a Michael Keaton movie, men like myself were referred to as Mr. Mom.

But I also remember feeling a certain relief when I learned two new tricks after turning 30.

The first trick I learned was roller skating backward. I took my daughter roller skating so many times (cheap, fun family recreation) that, I think during the Hokey-Pokey (“You put your whole self in, you take your whole self out”), I realized I could skate in reverse. I quickly learned that stopping in reverse was the real trick.

The second trick I learned, post-30, was when someone showed me the basic three-ball juggle. Take this new skill and couple it with the fact I had learned to play a little guitar and harmonica when I was in my 20s in the 1970s, and I found I could entertain my daughter and her young friends and classmates.

I performed for them on numerous occasions, starting with kindergarten and also at Girl Scouts meetings and camp. I even won the first-place ribbon (adult division) at a talent show her school hosted.

My performing reached its peak in July of 1987 when I entered the Battle Ground Harvest Days talent show. Battle Ground was much smaller then, and I guess my small-town act appealed to the judges. I won $100 and my picture appeared in The Reflector with the headline, “Juggling, singing wins top prize.” (But, in the article, The Reflector dropped the second “s” off my name!) With the prize money, I bought two nice sleeping bags and then was able to take my daughter camping.

There was never any possibility that I would take my amateur act and turn pro. Beside lacking in any real talent, I was an extremely nervous performer. Any time I performed, my favorite part was when the performance was over and people would want to shake my hand and say kind things. It was sweet.

There were two frequently asked questions. First, people asked if I ever juggled bowling pins (jugglers call them clubs). But I only juggled what I could find lying around my house. Juggling clubs were never in this Mr. Mom’s budget.

The second frequent question I heard from my audiences was, “Have you ever seen the Flying Karamazov Brothers perform?”

I had never heard of the Flying Karamazov Brothers until people started asking me about them. I did not own a TV at that time, so I was in the dark about some of the pop culture of the era. Eventually I heard their act on my favorite radio program, Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” It was testament to what true professional entertainers they were, that I recall enjoying their performance even though I never saw any of their juggling because they were on a radio program. How could that even have worked?

In early July 1989, I happened to be free of my parental duties for a weekend when an artist friend of mine invited me to help him with his booth at the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, Ore.

As a vendor he had a special pass that would get me in free. Free was the only way I could attend, as I barely had gas money to get down there.

When I arrived at the fair, I saw a playbill stating that The Flying Karamazov Brothers would be performing there, but I never did see their act. Anyone who has ever attended the fair knows it is difficult to catch a fraction of what it has to offer.

But I did explore the fair during my time away from my friend’s booth. There was a large grassy area set aside for jugglers, who were showing one another tricks and practicing group routines, and they all had their own clubs. I had never seen so many jugglers in one place. They not only generously let me try their clubs, but even gave me tips on how to toss them.

I visited that grassy spot a few times on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday evening, as the fair was winding down and I was preparing for the long drive back to Woodland, I wanted to try the clubs one last time. It was easy to find a set to borrow.

Just as I got the clubs in the air, in my peripheral vision, I noticed one of the The Flying Karamazov Brothers taking an evening stroll with a woman, along a path that would go right past me. For no logical reason, this made me extremely nervous. However, I resolved to keep the juggle going — and I did, but my nervousness was on full display.

Just as he and his lady were about to be pass me, he turned to me and said, “Don’t forget to breathe!”

As much fun as I had, I have never returned to the Oregon Country Fair and have never had juggling clubs in my hands again. I’m still astonished that the two most-asked questions from my performance days resolved themselves on that same weekend — and it turned the question about the Karamazov Brothers on its head, as one of the Brothers saw me juggle and even commented on my form.

Self-help books have always promoted the importance of breathing properly. To all of you, especially my fellow baby boomers, I say: “Don’t forget to breathe.”

Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.


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