Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid story–flies & (155) ARTSY Juggling

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid story–flies & (155) ARTSY Juggling


Dating and Flies

So I was about sixteen.  It was June.  Warm.  Beautiful.  Fantastic day!  Ah!  And for about a month I had had this almost uncontrollable urge to walk back and forth in front of this girl’s house.  To catch glimpses of this particular girl.  She was always just out of reach.  Always seen in the middle distance somewhere.

And she was magnificent!  First of all, a sensational figure.  The kind that makes Sophia Loren look like a Brownie.  You know that kind?  She really—and at sixteen, ah…you know.  Girls really, mature much earlier than males—let us put it this way, she was the real thing, the true article.  Magnificent.

The only way I figured I could get close to this girl was to get to know her brother.  I sort of knew her brother, just a guy down the other end of the block.  He was a year older than I was.  So I began to hang around this guy at all opportunities.  Down at the bowling alley, I’d see him at the Shell station, and I’d start to cling to this guy, see.

Next thing you know, I’m down in his basement with him.  Now, this is what I wanted.  I wanted to get into this house where this girl was, ‘cause I figured the closer I got to her, the better chance I had of finally achieving  my goal, which was, incidentally, very, very—amorphous.  Just to be there.  Just to talk to her.

So I’m hanging around down in the basement at this guy’s house, slowly trying to work my way to the upper side of the house where she is.  A couple of days go by of this campaign and I finally get to know her.  While me and this guy, Johnny Anderson, are sitting in the kitchen having a sandwich, she comes in and she says she wants to have a sandwich.  The next thing you know, I’m having a sandwich with this fantastic girl.  Whose name, by the way, is Dorothy.  Dorothy Anderson.  Swedish, remote, pristine, icy, magnificent, carved from alabaster, a true Swedish beauty.  You know the kind?  Kind of an Ingrid Bergman-type.  Ah—wow!

Well, a couple of days go by and I’m hanging around their house every day.  We’re talking.  And I finally get to asking her for a date.  I say, “How about going on a date?”

She says, “That would be nice.  Where would we go?”

“I don’t know.  I’ll figure out something, you know.  I’ll get the old man’s car and…and we’ll go on a date.  How about next weekend?”


Well, I go back home after that fantastic moment of success.  I have a date.  The old man is home.  I bring up the subject of getting the car, doing something—can I cut the lawn? “

He says, “You want the car for the weekend?  Is that what you want?”

I say, Yeah.”

“Then why didn’t ya ask?”

I was trying to sneakily get around to it.  The simple solution rarely occurs to you.

He says, “Yeah, you can have it.  When do you want it?  Saturday or Sunday?”

That hadn’t occurred to me.  “How about Saturday?  That’s a good day.”

He says, “Fine.  But I don’t like you driving around at two o’clock in the morning out there in that car.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah.  We’re going on a picnic or something.”

So I get that can of Simonize and by Tuesday, for the following Saturday, I already have that baby with six coats of Simonize.  I’ve got that thing shining.




I have little sense of body rhythm/coordination. Which is why I’m awkward at dancing and can’t even keep my clapping in sync with a concert audience’s applause. (However, in my exhibit work at the Museum, I often had to mentally “juggle” several design projects at a time, and found that exhilarating. I also find that in my writing, early drafts containing ideas separately conceived over time require, on the page or computer screen, much manipulation to juggle into felicitous arrangements.) Those may be causes for why I’m fascinated by physical juggling—and decided one day decades ago that, despite my limited physical abilities, I would try to learn how to keep three objects in the air at the same time by reading a book.

The Juggling Book author, Carlo, comments: “…juggling is a meeting ground for various arts and skills: theater, dance, mime, physical culture and sports….a beautiful synthesis of form and motion, economy of energy, minimum movement, solidity, calmness, balance, equilibrium, and the control and direction of body forces.” He writes: “This level of awareness can bring you into contact with the ‘music of the spheres,’ or more accurately for juggling, the ‘rhythm of the spheres.”

Quickly finding that when I dropped balls they went bouncing away, I switched to small beanbags meant for juggling–they don’t roll, but land in place with a thud. I practiced over a couch’s seat cushions so I wouldn’t even have to bend over to re-grasp errant objects. Over a period of a couple of months, working at it in several fifteen-minute periods per day, totaling what I estimate as about seventeen hours, I learned to do the basic three-ball cascade juggle. I was very proud.



I’m a fancier of penguins—poor flightless birds (though they “fly” through the water). I bought three penguin-shaped beanbags and gave them names. I’m sure they’ve been happy that, in my juggling, I’ve also given them some notion of flight in the air. For my own amusement, I sewed onto the poor blind things, eyes of thread with yellow, blue, and red, one color for each of the three.

One sad part of the story is that somehow, maybe in our moving from one house to another, Rosso Penguini got lost. I picture him wandering through a traveling carnival encampment in hopes that some kind roustabout will find him and reunite him with his siblings so that, together again, they may in concert, fly.

Another sad part is that, as I haven’t kept up the activity, I’ve nearly lost the ability to juggle three objects, and the additional skill I also acquired of doing the even more difficult—juggling two objects in one hand. (Two objects in one hand being more demanding than three objects in two hands. Author Carlo puts it: “Therefore, in one sense, juggling two balls is harder than three.”) I then easily learned to transition without pause, switching back and forth between the two and three-ball cascades.

Even another negative aspect is that I’d acquired five of the basic, cubical, juggle-able beanbags, in the outrageous hope that I’d someday learn to keep all five in the air. That dream, alas, will never fly.



In the meantime, I encountered and saw on TV, on YouTube, and in live performance (at New York’s Joyce Theater, which described him as “America’s greatest conceptual juggler”), the elegant, phenomenal, one-of a-kind creative artist/juggler, Michael Moschen. (Yes, that’s his real family name!) Watching other master jugglers, we’re amazed what humans can do. I’m amazed with Moschen’s performances as elegant works of art in motion. Among other juggling-like feats, is his work with crystal globes, and, while standing at a large triangular structure, the speed/agility at which he manipulates balls against the two upper sections, is beyond all normal human preconceptions!

The New Yorker article about him says that jugglers embody “the human effort to cope gracefully with more demands, from more directions, than one person can reasonably be expected to manage.” Their writer comments: “Nobody is quite sure how to define what Moschen does,” and says that, “He has been called a movement artist, a sculptor in motion, a dancer-physicist, a performance artist….”






  1. Anonymous says:

    One of the most amazing jugglers is someone you would never suspect of having the skill. W.C. Fields at one time was the worlds greatest juggler and did a tramp juggling act long before his movie career. You tube has a couple of clips of him doing a portion of his act late in his life. Still quite good even then.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: