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My Parents Are Clowns: The Atomic Bomb Of Clowning

Part of a series that starts here.

I never did get them to tell me just what they were doing with all that PVC pipe until it was too late.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ultimate clown weapon of mass destruction stood on a metal base. It was about three feet of pipe. Three more feet of pipe slid snugly over that pipe but moved freely up and down it. That top pipe had handles and a cap on the end, with a valve protruding from the top of the cap.

Late one night, I came home and found this thing standing in the living room.  I had no idea what it was, and it wasn’t saying. The only two people who could explain it were asleep. I went to bed and waited for sleep, pretty sure that I was not a fan of whatever that pipe thing was.

In the morning, we played the “what do you think it is?” game. The only thing I was certain of was that it would not explode. My dad was still a Federal Agent; building a bomb was not the sort of thing he would do.

On the other hand, if you’d have asked me before it happened, I’d have told you he was the last man on earth who would ever put on clown make up.

It turned out that I was right. It was not an explosive device. But it was equally as sinister.

A Bit Of Self Revelation

When someone refers to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, I think everyone knows the sound described. That noise sends an uncomfortable jolt along the spine of just about anyone.

Through some accident of biology, I have been gifted with a central nervous system that allows two other things to give me the nails on a chalkboard sensation. The first is styrofoam. The sound of it breaking or twisting gives me that creepy feeling all over.

The other is balloons. Inflated latex balloons, twisted or rubbed together give me that feeling so badly that I have to leave the room. If the day ever came that I decided to participate in a riot, the police wouldn’t need tear gas to get rid of me. One officer with two balloons could drive me from the streets.

The Atomic Bomb Of Clowning

A balloon modeller's toolkit contains hundreds...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My parents had constructed a balloon pump. It was large enough to inflate one of those long, skinny balloons in one stroke of the pump. They needed this because they were learning to make balloon animals.

Soon, the house was full of squeaking balloons. They practiced making things out of balloons constantly. Anyone who came to our house got a balloon hat. They neighbors got them, so did my grandparents.My girlfriends got balloon flowers whenever they stopped by.

Little kids in the neighborhood had balloon animals. When the animals popped, the kids would ring the doorbell and get a new one. Giraffes, dogs, birds, bees, cats…a menagerie of colorful creatures squeaked to life in my house, and then exploded in the front yard.

Of all their creations, the worst was balloon swords. Think about two little kids, drawing balloon swords from balloon belts and having a sword fight. I counted and found that two kids averaged 1400 squeaks before someone’s sword popped and gave me a few moments of peace.

That squeak sound was a regular occurrence. It was awful. Sometimes they’d even inflate scads of those long skinny balloons and shove them into plastic trash bags so they’d be “ready”.  Ready for what? Would they use these things to prevent some sort of clown apocalypse? Whatever it was, they had sufficient balloons to be ready for it.

Imagine living in a chalkboard house with long nailed roommates. Life after the balloon pump was that kind of awful.

And Then The Sound Stopped

My dad took a job transfer while I was in college. It seemed like they told me they were moving, put the house on the market and moved out within a matter of days.

I stayed in the house until they sold it. It was a very quiet place, with a few exceptions. (You can read about when my parents left home here)

Once, I thought about building a mallet like they had. It wouldn’t have been the same.

One more installment of this series to go!

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23 Comments on “My Parents Are Clowns: The Atomic Bomb Of Clowning”

  1. The day the balloon-squeaking died. Bye, bye Miss American Pie.

  2. Wendi says:

    So freaking awesome that your parents mass produced balloon animals. I can’t imagine how this story gets any better.

  3. Sooooo…are you and your parents cool now on the balloon animals? Do they do requests? Cause I’d really like a balloon butterfly.

    Too soon?

  4. Lenore Diane says:

    I’m with you 100% on the irritating sound of balloons, styrafoam, and nails on a chalkboard. That said, your parents are still the coolest folks in my eyes. Without a doubt, I know every single member of my household (myself included) would have a field day with your parent’s invention.

  5. I’ve never known anyone else with the styrofoam issue. For me it’s the smell of balloon, but it’s not as bad as the styrofoam. Don’t even get me started on popsicle sticks: if my parents had taken up popsicle stick crafts, I’d have had to put in for a job transfer.

    Since I’m a fan of the Tom (not Tony) Robbins quote, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood,” would your parents be interested in adopting a non-hippie?

    • omawarisan says:

      Dont you hate getting a package you’ve been waiting for and then realize your prize is packed in styrofoam?

      But I’m the non hippie. I’m not allowed to have hair.

  6. List of X says:

    I think you were right the first time about that thing being an explosive devise – it’s purpose was to blow stuff up 🙂

  7. Debbie says:

    And here I thought I was the only person alive having a hate-fest with balloons! Mine started when I was a kid attending another kid’s birthday party. Needless to say, I passed my phobia on to Domer, who mercifully never insisted on receiving balloons of any sort!

  8. The Jagged Man says:

    I’m so glad I wasn’t drinking a glass of milk when I was reading this because I am sure it would have shot out of my nose when I read “so they’d be “ready”. Ready for what? Would they use these things to prevent some sort of clown apocalypse?” I snorted!

    I cannot wait for the next installment!

  9. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I can’t wait to hear about the clown car they made! How in the world did you ever concentrate on homework with all that going on??

  10. mikegee64 says:

    I remember the balloon pump well, but when you mentioned PVC pipe I thought you were going to talk about the giant structure Mom and Dad tried to make out of PVC pipe…

    It was right around the same time. They had booked a gig on the 4th of July making balloon animals at some city festival and wanted to have shade and also be able to allow the proper space they needed to work without all the kids crowding.

    It was about the size of a trade show booth and it was made with 3/4″ PVC pipe and was wrapped in black and yellow striped fabric. It was meant to be something they could put up and take down quickly and be lightweight enough to carry. It was also meant to double as a puppet stage.

    You could do a puppet version of Ben-Hur in this thing and had room to spare. It was enourmous. Unfortunately, even with using the larger size of PVC pipe, the entire structure wobbled like a giant jello mold even when it was built indoors. Wrap it in the fabric and put it outdoors and even the slightest breeze set the thing undulating…

    I don’t think it was ever used after that initial 4th of July gig. I think it is still in the closet downstairs. In hindsight, I guess they would have been better off buying one of those Easy-Up things people use for tailgate parties, but that was not going to be.

  11. […] My Parents Are Clowns: The Atomic Bomb Of Clowning […]

  12. Bill says:

    Enjoyed your series on your folks. Truth be told they were always clowns at heart even before putting on the oversized shoes. I look forward to more!!
    Uncle Bill

  13. […] My worst fears are confirmed in the next chapter. […]


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