Saturday, June 9th 2018
Leaving my gig in Cambridge at 4:40pm, I see this text from my 5pm client in Malden:
“No one here yet can jennythejuggler come @5:30?”
My booking manager has already replied: “Sorry she can’t change times last minute.”
But seeing as I am late I chime in anyway; “How about 5:15?”
“OK” she replies.
When I arrive I take an extra moment to catch my breath, since there is no trace of a party happening from the outside, I have a lot of heavy gear on wheels, and this little slit to steep stone stairs is the opening to my event.
After humping all my gear up the stairs in three trips, folks are saying, “OH, CAN WE HELP YOU!?”
“Sure!” I say, “Where would you like me to set up?”
“HI JENNY!!” A girl comes running and hugs me.
Her mother appears, “See? That’s why I wanted the discount!” she says. “You did her first birthday party!”
“Oh!” I say, hugging the girl, “I don’t do the fees,” astonished this is the first thing a client would say to me upon arrival. I ask the child how old she is now -nine- and fawn over how much she’s grown!
I’m set up on a deck in the middle of the party and start painting the few kids that are there. I supply sweet tunes through my modest sound system. “Don’t Worry” by Bob Marley suddenly becomes LOUD. The client is now playing it through their own very powerful sound system. Cool, I turn mine off. Then comes on a most shrill birthday song in chipmunk style electronic voice, SO LOUD my ears feel like they are physically being stabbed. Then for reasons I will never understand, the DJ comes over and aims the speaker directly at my head. This is not the first time I’ve worked near an absolutely punishing speaker. And did I mention I was about three feet from the most elaborate and delicious-looking spread of FRUIT I’ve ever seen!?? I know I will never have a taste of that fruit and put it out of my head.
You have no idea how loud and piercing this actually was.
Fast forward over two hours later and kids are still trickling in and getting face paint. The gig is for two hours and I still haven’t started the juggling show or balloons. It’s three hours in when I finally close the paints and throw out the paint water. Another kid shows up. Honestly all the kids have been delightful and sweet. Very few moms have even been overbearing. In fact, hardly any adult has spoken to me the entire evening. I’ve already made up my mind that I am committing love to these kids. I do not have it in me to turn down this one last kid, even though it is insanely unreasonable that I should have to paint him now.
To fulfill my contract I want to perform some juggling, magic and balloons. The client asks me if I want her to quiet the music. Because I don’t care at this point I tell her only if she wants people to pay attention. I start juggling for the same girl from the beginning who is still with me. All the kids come over, the music goes down -not off- and I do a sort of show. One juggling routine, one magic trick and some balloons. The magic coloring book really blows all their minds and it’s a privilege to share this communal art form with these folks.
As is my custom I incite the kids into a frenetic joyous dance-off before administering balloons. They each get their balloon and I am OUTTA… nope. Mom says she has a pinata and asks “Can you pop it for me?” I suggest we use the ribbon pull method in this setting rather than bashing at it. One year old birthday girl is up from her nap and I give her the first string. Someone helps her pull it and the bottom of the pinata busts open. I pull it back together just in time, carefully hand out ribbons to kids all around and count to three.
Now it’s time for cake, can I help? Why not who cares it’s only 9pm I was supposed to be done two hours ago let’s do it! DJ gives me the microphone to help corral the kids. I know just how to get their attention.
“You guys don’t want any cake do you? You already had all the sugar from the pinata. Maybe we should just skip it?”
“Oh you DO want cake? OK then let’s get ready to sing to the birthday girl!”
I am finally packed up to leave and they ask several times if I want a piece of cake. Usually I decline but at this point I’m like, “Sure hell why not. How about I just move in with you guys?”
THEN she says, “Do you want Haitian cake?”
“I don’t know Haitian cake,” I say.
She waves for me to follow her into the kitchen where she opens a huge pastry box with a beautiful pineapple-upside down looking cake.
“Don’t cut it for me,” I say, but she does. She gives me the first piece. I put it on my plate with my cake, take a paper towel to cover it for the road and say some enthusiastic “Merci! Au revoir! A la prochaine!” as I finally head OUT.
I make it home eventually and feel fine about it all. I wasn’t taken advantage of because I chose to stay. I can’t explain why except that it’s all a privilege and I chose to do twice the time for them. I do feel bad for my poor exhausted bunnies though, and marvel that they aren’t now deaf.
My dear hubby is available for a nice evening chat, and I tell him the whole story accompanied by some nice Haitian barbeque, followed by birthday cake and Haitian cake! We enjoy it with some nice Carribbean rum and then play a heated round of Backgammon.
And that is one half of one day in the life of a juggler.