by Tracy L. Carbone
In the e.e.cummings poem in just- cummings refers to the “goat-footed balloonman.” He’s a whimsical mischief maker, full of life, a figure who personifies spring.
It’s a great image, but how many merry balloonmen are really all that happy? How many street-entertaining, balloon-animal making men remind you of Pan?
I took the picture above of a man in the park the other day. His demeanor wasn’t jolly. He seemed defeated. Tired. He wasn’t dancing around, making balloon animals, or tossing them about to the children who romped nearby. He simply leaned on his cart.
I was reminded first of Levon by Elton John. Who’s sadder than Levon who “sells cartoon balloons in town” with a son who blows up balloons and dreams of moving away? Levon certainly doesn’t come across as a happy character.
A balloonman is supposed to represent joy and in cumming’s case, to symbolize spring and the god of fun. I was then reminded of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods.” It’s the foremost fiction novel about disillusioned gods. Okay, maybe it’s the only novel on that topic but it’s brilliant.
As I looked at my tired balloonman that day, I had to wonder if underneath he was just a modern-day Pan. The worn out Pan of our generation. The one kids ignore because fun is acquired too easily. Compared to a Wii or X-Box game, an old man in a clown costume shaping balloons into dogs pales in comparison.
Maybe one of these days they’ll invent a holographic balloonman who smiles and jumps around like Loki, who twists rubber into amazing creations; and then the children will flock to him and the archetype will be restored. Till then though, if you see a balloonman, smile at him, encourage his whimsy, and please tip him heavily.
Tracy L. Carbone , is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be released August 15th, 2010, and can be pre-ordered now.
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Very moving,and the picture told a story all by itself.I read “American Gods”,it was brilliant.