That Baby Took My Dingo
by Mark Nizer
I was performing at Sea World in the early '80s, a time long ago, when the skin-tight parachute pants I was wearing were considered in style. I was thrilled to be so close to the amazing creatures housed there and yearned to wander the park between shows to check out all the cool exhibits and rides.
Full discloser here: I was early in my "glorious career" and was basically street performing at the entrance to the killer whale show to keep the incoming crowd entertained before they entered the amphitheater. I got free parking, a small fee and tips from the crowd, but on this day, I got a little more than I expected.
Between shows, I decided to wander over to the SeaWorld Sky Tower, which gave its passengers a slow rotating ride up to the top of a 320-ft. high structure and offered breathtaking views in all directions.
I had never been on it before; mostly because I didn't want to leave my props unattended. This day, however, was a special day. A large religious group, with hundreds of members all dressed in white flowing robes, had engulfed the park and the place looked like heaven itself had descended onto SeaWorld. It was like a Biblical flood, but without the water. The place felt safe and righteous.
So there I was, 320 ft. off the ground, looking out of the "gyro" tower and decided to get my bearings by finding my performance area. That's when I saw him. He was dressed all in white robes, looking around to see who was watching. After seeing that the coast was clear, he started going through my stuff on my prop table. First, he tried on my black derby, which not only was my special show hat that had been treated with fiberglass, but also my "collection plate" for tips at the end of my shows. "Fit's good," he decided, and put it on his head. Next up was my large apple I intended to juggle while on my 6 ft. unicycle along with a couple of machetes. "Looks delicious!" he seem to think, as he put it in his satchel, fiddled with a few more props and wandered off to enjoy the rest of the day.
The funny thing is, during all this, I helplessly witnessed this fiasco in progress from a high altitude, as the spinning platform/prison continued to rotate. To keep this guy in view, I had to continually run in the opposite direction of the rotation, smashing into everyone leaning against the glass as they looked out at the grandeur below. All I could do was scream "that guy is stealing my hat" while frantically trying to maintain a bead on his changing location. As we got closer to the ground, I (covered in sweat) positioned myself right at the door I came in, determined to be the first one out so I could get my stuff back. Of course the door that opened was the one on the opposite side. I literally clawed my way out and started sprinting toward the thief's last location.
I cut around the dolphins, past the penguins, over to the far side of the park and there he was, sauntering along with his new hat and a snack for later.
"Excuse me," I said. "Can I have my hat back?"
"This is my hat," he stated, confident that no one had seen him take it.
"Really? Then why is my name written inside?" I countered.
"How did you know?" he stammered.
"Jugglers know when you touch their stuff," I said " … And my apple! It's in your left pocket."
So, I got my stuff back, security escorted him out of the park and my comfort with people in white robes claiming the moral high ground began its slow but steady degradation.
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