disillusioned balloonmen

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’sAmerican 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.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.

I Want a Duck Like That

by Tracy L. Carbone

Yesterday  I met a friend for lunch at the Frog Pond on the Boston Common. We planned to buy nachos from the snack shack and then spend our lunch hour discussing and lamenting the undecipherable complexities of relationships.

As I waited for her to arrive, I spotted a couple of old ducks sitting on the grass. It’s them in the picture above. At first they seemed to be run-of-the-mill ducks, common Mallards, not markedly different from all the others milling about who had claimed the historical Frog Pond as their Duck Pond.

Once they stood up though and waddled to the water’s edge, I saw that they were older ducks. The male stood up first,  restless to swim, and limped under his chubby feathered body. He took a few steps, excited to jump in, but then stopped, turned, and waited for his mate. She then arose, also a little heavy, and limped over to him slowly. Then side by side they entered the water together.

I was touched by the relationship they had, but as I watched them further, I saw how close they really were. The male kept swimming ahead, then would stop to wait for her.  It was obvious he was stronger and more eager to swim all around the pond, see the sights, look for crumbs or bugs or whatever it is the Boston ducks eat, but he never swam more than a few feet away from his mate, Mrs. Duck.

He didn’t appear resentful that she slowed him down, didn’t leave her for a younger duck who could keep up. Instead he’d go just a bit away then stop. And the way he kept turning around to look for her, make sure she wasn’t too far out of his comfort range was beautiful.

I know a lot of human couples like those ducks, who have stayed together through crisis and disease and old age. And I know my share of humans who didn’t want to wait for their Mrs. Ducks to catch up, who wanted to cruise the pond alone.

That little Mallard couple inspired me and that male was a good guy. Next time I fall in love, I want a duck like that.

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 available this summer, and can be pre-ordered now.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.