Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Freak Show

Dad didn't go overboard with tricks.  He didn't steal my nose, and he found a coin behind my ear only once.  Perhaps more tricks would've come out of the box if he'd lived to be a grampa, but maybe not.  It wasn't his thing.  Except for:

The Creepy Eye Thing
Dad had piercing blue eyes that were also really strong.  He'd been a sharpshooter in the Marines, and you could see why.  Until later on when he had to wear reading glasses, he had excellent vision.  (I did not inherit his eyes' strength or color, dag nabbit.)  One day he explained that the secret behind his vision was the eye exercises he did:  He'd cross his eyes, then leaving one eyeball in the center, he'd let the other one go the far opposite direction, then bring it back to the middle.  Next he'd do the reverse.  It looked freakier with blue eyes, and he was the only person know who was able to do this 'exercise' perfectly.  If you want to imagine what it looked like, picture Marty Feldman and you'll be close.

The Fogmaker
If you live in Queens you probably ride the subway a lot.  Though we always had something to talk about, sometimes Dad would decide to be entertaining instead.  So on one ride he demonstrated a way to breathe fog out of your mouth in a non-freezing environment.  He pursed his lips tight and did some kind of pressure breathing inside of his mouth.  Then he exhaled.  It looked like he was blowing smoke!  None of us kids could really replicate the effect.  He could've been a science teacher.

Helium Guy
Okay, a lot of people do the helium voice.  It's funny every time, I don't who you are you're gonna laugh.  The first time I remember Dad doing the helium voice was when I had some balloons that were slowing losing their oomph.  He undid one, took a breath and became one of the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.

What was better than hearing him do the voice was hearing about the story of his helium adventures while in the 'service' as he called his four years in the Marines.  At one point he was on a ship in the Pacific Ocean, and most of the crew members that were not Marines were Filipino.  His description of them in letters home deemed them "the finest people you can meet in all of Asia & if it wasn't for the fact that I have such a wonderful family to go home to I'd probably spend the rest of my life here [Manila]".  He must have started getting this impression from their reaction to the little joke he and some of the other guys played.  Dad was pretty tall, about 6'2, and most of the Filipino men on the ship were substantially shorter.  So he and some other big buddies inhaled a load of helium, charged up to the Filipinos and gave them the laugh of their life.  It was also one of the few stories of the 'service' that gave Dad joy to recount.  One of the best things about Dad was that he didn't play practical jokes that intended to humiliate others; he really liked getting a good laugh out of people. I hope to continue his legacy, at least in this respect.

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