It’s not like swinging around on a flying trapeze is something
I’ve ever felt I must do in this life to feel whole.
know, the way some people feel they absolutely must try skydiving,
or swimming with sharks. No, it wasn’t quite like that.
decision came about as a result of smoking a Marley-sized blunt
of that Jack Herer reefer going around lately and subsequently
checking my e-mail at 2 a.m. to learn the Mirror was looking
for pitches for this Sports supplement you’re reading.
And then, suffering from the anxiety an über-strong doob
can sometimes unexpectedly deliver a man, remembering that I
was flat broke and doomed to stay that way forever if I didn’t
start seizing these types of opportunities when presented with
what was I gonna pitch? Try as I might, the only thing that
kept popping to mind was to offer to learn the art of the flying
trapeze at the Trapezium, a place I’ve been hearing about
for several years now. Conveniently forgetting in my marijuana-induced
haze that I was, um, scared of heights, and temporarily, at
least, in piss-poor physical condition, I fired off my pitch
only to awaken the next afternoon to read an enthusiastic “Yeah,
let’s do it” e-mail back from my editor.
so now I was committed, with no way to rescind my offer without
looking totally lame, or at the very least, unprofessional in
the eyes of da boss. Worse, I started feeling like backing out
would be lame. You know, that it was finally time to grow up
and be a man, to get over these silly neurotic fears I have
over things like heights or eating vegetables, and just, like
Phil Knight and the Nike gang keep telling me, just, well .
. . just do it. It was time to stop being a sissy!
a couple of Thursdays ago, when I simply couldn’t avoid
it any longer, I mustered up my courage, called up Mirror photog
Rachel, who the powers-that-be rightly felt should be there
to visually document my becoming a cripple, and out we went
to the Trapezium.
Trapezium shares a locale with Horizon Roc, which, by the way,
is one of largest indoor rock climbing centres on the planet.
I notice that it’s 90 per cent guys doing the rock climbing
thing, whereas in the back of the space, where the Trapezium
is located, it’s all attractive young chicks, mostly hard-bodied,
learning to perfect their acrobatic skills. Just what I need,
I figure, a bunch of sexy chicks around to witness my humiliation.
soon introduced to Jack, a friendly, encouraging but no-nonsense
type of guy who acts as the head trapeze instructor there. He
senses my nervousness and without prompting informs me that
there’s nothing to fear, I’ll be all hooked up to
a harness and that, you know, the big safety net underneath
the trapeze apparatus is there for a reason. I get the impression
he’s pretty familiar with this spiel. When I point out
that I’m an old guy, in shitty physical condition to boot,
he looks me up and down and decides he’s having none of
my sissy-esque whining and reminds me that anyone, at any age,
can learn the flying trapeze.
takes me aside and, on a chalkboard, shows me what he wants
me to do once I muster the nerve to climb up the seemingly endless
ladder to the top of the trapeze platform. It basically involves
my learning how and when to jump and what I need to do once
I’ve started flying around in the air. Which is, essentially,
to swing my legs up over the trapeze bar at the right time so
I’ll be hanging from my knees, swinging to and fro, while
arching my back as far as the ol’ spine will allow with
my hands outstretched so Claude, Jack’s assistant, and
one motherfucker of an impressive trapeze artist, will be able
to catch me mid-air should the time ever come that I actually
get the procedure down correctly.
try taking in Jack’s instructions but find myself too
distracted by my nervousness to really hear what he’s
telling me. After several, “Uh, so then what am I supposed
to do”s, he sends up one of the hard-bodied chicks to
demonstrate. He’s a patient guy, this Jack, but possessing
your classic athletic coach personality, meaning he’s
not afraid to push your boundaries in the pursuit of turning
you into the bestest trapeze artist you can possibly be. After
watching the demonstration, I finally decide I just want to
get this shit over with and tell Jack I’m ready.
straps me to a safety harness to climb the 40 or so steps up
to the top of the trapeze platform, where I’m met by another
trainer named Michelle, a sweet-as-all-get-out brunette who
tells the sweating, clearly nervous, borderline hyperventilating
me that I remind her of Rufus Wainwright. Rufus Wainwright!
Jesus, one of the reasons I’m doing this in the first
place is to prove to myself I ain’t no sissy, and she
tells me that?
now more determined than ever to take the plunge. But it’s
scary up there. You’re leaning over the platform, both
hands on the trapeze bar, with only Michelle’s iron grip
on your harness holding you back from falling prematurely. Jack
barks from below that it’s time for me to jump. But I
don’t want to jump. Instead I whine and cry and laugh
until nobody finds it funny anymore, and then I finally leap
out into the oblivion before me.
it’s not so bad, after all. I suspect it’s like
skydiving the first time: The scariest part is the initial leap,
and once you’re out there and swinging around, it’s
not really outrageously terrifying anymore -- only moderately
terrifying. Still, even though my leap didn’t quite come
off like it was supposed to -- I took way too long to finally
get my knees up and around the trapeze bar -- I’m hoping
Rachel got her shot and that I can now thank Jack, call it a
day and go home.
no such luck. Rachel needs to shoot my adventure from a few
different angles and Jack is simply having nothing of my leaving
until I’ve accomplished at least one successful manoeuvre.
By the time I’m walking out the door, he tells me, I’ll
have not only learned how to do the basic initial swing correctly,
but I’ll have done one where Claude will have caught me
in the air, just like an acrobat in the circus.
is a coach’s coach, and he’s a loud, persuasive
character, so sheepishly I surrender my will and go up the ladder
to try it all again. The hard-bodied chicks, Jack, Rachel and
the assembled hordes below are all very supportive, cheering
whenever I do anything right and crying out stuff like “You
can do it!” when they see me hesitating, fighting back
fellow student, Jackie, a McGill gal who’s been going
to the Trapezium for six months to, besides the exercise, get
over her fear of heights, tells me she thinks I’m very
brave, that on her first time out she stood on the platform
crying for five minutes before finally jumping. And it’s
true, with each successive jump, I feel a little more confident,
a little braver -- damn, at this rate, I’ll be starring
in a Cirque du Soleil production before you know it.
the time of my sixth jump, I’m exhausted, my arms aching.
I’ve pretty well gotten the procedure down though, albeit
at this point just climbing to the top of the platform is reminding
me why I need to stop smoking cigarettes sooner rather than
later. But this is gonna be the one, Jack tells me, he can feel
it, this is the jump where Claude is gonna catch me mid-air
and all is going to be wonderful. After that, I’ll be
able to go home feeling like a man, a success.
I come close. I do all the moves I’ve learned over the
past hour with relative grace, and Claude and I do connect mid-flight,
but I fuck up somehow and fail to hold on to him tightly enough,
eventually making my way gently into the safety net below.
Jack is happy, Rachel has her shot and she’s happy, I’m
getting the hell out of there so I’m happy, and, I suppose,
when all is said and done, you might even say I kind of enjoyed
myself. Kind of. Can I now say I’m over my fear of heights?
Hardly, but at least I’m in slightly better physical shape
than I was yesterday -- and a little richer.
by Chris Barry: