946- The Orbiting Human Circus – A Tribute
A very special version of an amazing podcast, rest easy in the sweet embrace of your favorite dreamer and janitor Julian.
Episode 946 – The Orbiting Human Circus – A Tribute
[START OF RECORDING]
SCOOTER: Patrons, friends beyond the binary, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, sorry about that. I’ll probably have to edit that out ‘cause if somebody’s listening all night…I’ll probably shorten it or fade it in. I don’t know, but I just…that’s what a false start…that’s another kind of false start there. How come I’ve never accidentally said false fart? Is there such a thing? Sorry, patrons. It just popped in my head. What do you say we get on with the show?
INTRO: [INTRO MUSIC] Hey, are you up all night tossing, turning, mind racing? Trouble getting to sleep? Trouble staying asleep? Well, welcome. This is Sleep With Me, the podcast that puts you to sleep. We do it with a bedtime story. Alls you need to do is get in bed, turn out the lights, and press play. I’m gonna do the rest. What I’m going to attempt to do is create a safe place where you could set aside whatever’s keeping you awake. It could be thoughts, things you’re thinking about, things on your mind, so like…I don’t know, my mind just went blank as soon as I said things on your mind. It could be that, though. You say why…I mean, that happens to me a lot. I say why can’t I remember that? Then I try to remember it and it’s like trying to find a…trying to find something in one of my…in my closet or a pile or when I put stuff down.
Yeah, and I say what happened to that letter that I needed to open, that I needed to think about opening? You heard that tangent a few months ago. Anyway, whether it’s thoughts you’re thinking about that could be from the past, present, or future, feelings that come up related to those thoughts…obviously I’ve had a few but it could just be feelings that are there, sensations or…anything physical going on with you, schedule changes. I talked to Gavin yesterday and a lot of times Gavin’s gotta go to sleep at noon. I hear from a lot of listeners that have to go to sleep at those times of day. It’s not easy especially when it’s irregular, right? Could be some other thing or it could be something you just don’t know. Whatever is keeping you awake, I’d like to take your mind off of that and keep you company while you drift off.
What I’m going…or what I propose to do and what you could see if you’re willing to come along is I’m gonna send my voice across the deep, dark night, I’m gonna use lulling, soothing, creaky, dulcet tones. Oh-so creaky are my dulcet tones; pointless meanders, superfluous tangents, so I’m gonna go off-topic, I’m gonna get mixed up and all that stuff, all to keep you company while you fall asleep. I don’t know, my mind just went blank again. Oh, yeah, I guess I kinda said…so, here’s a couple things if you’re new that you would want to know or you might want to know; this podcast does not work for everybody so just give it a few tries. That’s not coming from me; that’s coming from hundreds of thousands of people that said hey, it took…believe it or not, hundreds of thousands of people have told me it took two or three tries to get used to you.
I say yeah, that sounds about right ‘cause of course if you’re…if somebody told you about this podcast, you say well, it’s supposed to put me to sleep? What do you mean? Not sure about this guy’s voice and he doesn’t seem to…this content seems to be…he plays loose and fast with his content. I say, you’re correct about that. Just see how it goes. That’s one thing; if you’re skeptical, doubtful, or unsure, that’s a normal response to the show but I hope it can put you to sleep or at least keep you company while you fall asleep. This is also a podcast you don’t really listen to. You just kinda barely pay attention to it. I barely engage you and I give you something to kinda listen to while you drift off. You say okay, I can listen to this and it takes me…ideally, it barely…I barely distract you from whatever’s keeping you awake.
Oh, the other thing is not only is this a podcast you don’t really listen to, it’s also a sleep podcast that doesn’t put you to sleep. This is strange but I’m here to keep you company as you drift off. I’m really just here to be your bedtime borey-teller. First time I made that word up, maybe. But really just to keep you company as you drift off. That’s why the shows are over an hour, so you have plenty of time. If you can’t sleep, I’m gonna be here to the very end, so I’m here just as much to keep you company…I’m here to keep you company whether you’re awake or asleep and whether you’re listening or not. Really, hopefully you don’t feel any pressure; no pressure to listen, no pressure to fall asleep. I’m gonna be here for about an hour. I used to say that all the time.
I don’t know what part of the podcast I used to say that in. Maybe I already…you say Scoots, you say that right…okay, yeah, I said it right at the beginning? I don’t remember it. Okay, so those are a couple things. The other thing that throws people off — podcast listeners in particular — is the structure of the show. The show’s structured very deliberately but also it’s very malleable. I’ll tell you the normal structure and then how people use the show in different ways. So, the show starts off with a greeting so you feel welcome. Then it has resources for listeners and sponsors. That’s how it’s able to be here twice a week for free. Then there’s an intro and the intro goes from like, minute six or eight to minute twenty-something. That can really throw people off ‘cause you say well, the intro’s like, one-third of the podcast?
I’d say well, twenty, forty, sixty, yeah, about one-third of the podcast. You’re right. But the intro kinda serves two purposes; one, it introduces new listeners to the show so I can tell y’all this stuff. So you say oh, okay, I was skeptical and doubtful and now I still am but at least I know what to expect and I’m kinda getting relaxed here. So, that’s one purpose the intro serves, to introduce the show in a long-winded, meandering way with kindness ‘cause it’s really my job to earn your trust. You don’t really owe me anything. Even listening two or three times, I just can ask because I hope I can put you to sleep. Yeah, it’s my job to build some rapport, so that’s part of the intro to.
But for regular listeners, what up, my regular listeners and all the pets; the fishes and other pets out there, mammalian pets…and warm-blooded or cold-blooded, I got a warm spot in my heart for you as long as you’re keeping a distance, cold-blooded beings. I can share my warmth metaphorically with you but that’s it. Sorry, that was a tangent. But so, the regular listeners, the podcast…the intro serves as part of their wind-down routine. So, you can listen as you’re getting ready for bed or as you’re in bed drifting off or as you’re doing something else; relaxing, even if it’s just sitting around. I mean, that’s pretty relaxing. I don’t really…I barely have the ability to do that, just lie around, but when I do I say wow, I should do this more often, just lie on the…you know when you lie on the floor and look at the room upside-down?
I say, this is great. Why don’t I do this every day? I say well, because I…as Popeye once said, I am who I am and it’s not…so, oh, so the intro…what was I saying? Oh, so it just gives you some distance from the day and eases you into bedtime because for most of us, we’ve tried other sleep solutions, right? And those are supposed to work right away. They’re not as sustainable or realistic. Even Sleep With Me is only sustainable and realistic for the people it kinda fits like a puzzle piece with. So, that’s how the intro works but some people skip the intro. They start the show at twenty minutes, about 3% of listeners. Then a few thousand people listen to story-only versions on our Patreon. Then some people listen all night, even though the podcast isn’t really designed to be listened to all night. That’s an option, too.
Then some people start the podcast when they wake up in the middle of the night or whatever, and other people listen during the day. It’s kind of like…you see…first start off listening to the intro and then kinda see how it goes for you is the only advice I can give, is see what works for you. Then there’s business between the intro and the show. That’s just how podcast structure works. It’s called the mid-roll even though it’s not in the middle of the show. Those are the sponsors that, again, enable us to be here for you. Then there’s a story. Tonight it’ll be a crossover tribute episode to Orbiting Human Circus of the Air, a brilliant and amazing podcast that I love so, so much. I hope you discover it and if you’re still using your phone right now or you have a pen or paper, write down to subscribe or use the link in our show notes tomorrow [00:10:00] to check out that show.
It’s gonna…it’ll make your daytime almost as good as your bedtime, maybe even better. It’ll be a meandering version of the Season Two premiere, so that’s the story, will be a bedtime story woven out of another podcast. Then there’s thank-yous at the end of the show. So, that’s the structure of the show. The reason I make the show I guess is threefold. I usually say it’s twofold but tonight I was thinking it’s threefold. It’s like, you deserve a good night’s sleep. That’s the main reason I make the show. You deserve a place where you can rest, get the rest you need, and ideally live your life and not…and have it more manageable or even be in a place where you could flourish. So, that’s one reason.
The other reason…the reason two is I’ve been there at night tossing, turning, mind racing, trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep, all those things, so I know how it feels. I know the deep, dark desperation in the deep, dark night very well. If I can offer any kind of salve or balm or distraction from that, some reassurance that you’re not alone, that is the greatest honor I could ever have in my life, really. I mean, besides being the parent of the coolest daughter in the world, but…so, that’s why I make the show. The third thing is I guess is the daytime, right? The daytime kinda sticks around at nighttime. I was thinking of that fast…false start and then I was thinking of the word false fart, I’ll be honest, so you can go ahead and bore-giggle. For some reason that word makes most people giggle no matter what.
But I was thinking about it. When I said it I was like, well, false farts are a thing that could keep me up at night. I’m sure a lot of people have experienced the old false fart. There’s probably another term for it but I don’t know why people don’t just…sorry, in a meeting or a conference or a Zoom, nowadays. You say no, no, that was a false fart. Just wanted to let everybody know that was my chair or that was my elbow on the…whatever this linoleum is. Instead of…for me, if I do a false fart, then I say oh boy, everybody’s gonna think it. Everybody’s looking at me. Or poor Mildred; they’re thinking Mildred did it. I hope and I don’t hope. I feel bad and I feel good that everybody’s looking at Mildred. Maybe I should make another false fart. Don’t you have…always have that one?
That’s usually how I do it, is…okay, let me wait a little while, then I’ll see if I can recreate the sound multiple times in a row so that people know it’s not real, right? One time that happened in high school and the teacher stopped teaching the class because he still didn’t realize that it was…that I was doing…I was covering up my false fart with more false farts so they would delineate that it was my shoe. This time it was the tip of…I think I must have had a new pair of boots or something and if the tip of your boot…you scrape it on a linoleum floor…and they stopped the whole class and they said do you need to go to the…do you need…and I said no, no, it’s my…it wasn’t actually embarrassing because it was so over the top. The teacher was laughing but not…like, it was one of those moments of relief.
It was so obvious that it wasn’t…there was no negative feelings involved. It was also funny ‘cause the teacher was just in hysterics and the whole class was, kinda like you just say…maybe they thought wow, this kid has such self-esteem. He’s just going. He’s just letting his body take its natural course which is of course, they…I say well, you don’t really know me, obviously. But then I said no, no, it’s my shoe. Then I made the sound a couple more times. Sorry about that, I didn’t even know about it. Wasn’t trying to…oh, so it wasn’t a…from a teacher’s perspective, you could think you were doing it to be disruptive which at the time I guess I was saying well, is…I mean, I could have said well, this is accidentally disruptive because my first disruption, I didn’t want you to think that was an actual eruption.
It was just an unintentional disruption so now I’m being disruptive to make it clear. You know what I’m saying? That’s the kinda stuff that can keep some of us up at night. I mean, right? You say oh man, what…I wonder what people are thinking from that meeting. I was there to pitch the newest…my idea about Boo Berry’s cousin and Count…that was best friends with Count Chocula, and I made that false fart but I’m…I think they think it was real. But I guess, yeah, when you think about it on the reverse side, you really don’t hold it against people, I don’t think. I don’t know, maybe…do I? Now that’s…are you the kind of person that holds false farts against people, Scooter? That’s what’s gonna be going through my head tonight.
But I think one thing that you’re listening, if you get over these bore-giggles, is that this kinda unites us, right? We’ve all been through that. Sometimes we’ve been through it on the real…you say well, that was not false. It was unplanned for sure. So, we’ve been there and we’ve also all been there in the deep, dark night, so I’m glad you’re here. Give the show…please give the show a few tries just to see if it can help you because you deserve a good night’s sleep. I’m glad you’re here. I yearn and I strive to make the best possible show I can and I really hope I can help you fall asleep. Thanks again for coming by.
Alright everybody, this is something I’m very excited to present to you tonight. It’s another Tribute Crossover episode of an amazing, amazing podcast, The Orbiting Human Circus of the Air. If it’s your first time hearing of The Orbiting Human Circus, open up your podcast app of choice and type it in and subscribe. I’m gonna be doing Season Two, Episode 1, Naughty Till New Years: Firstly, the Janitor. I highly suggest…you have a lot of options. You could start with Season Two and listen to Season Two, you could binge Season One. There’s also the extended edition of Season One. I mean, if I was saying well, what’s your best bet? I would listen to Season One, the original version, then I would listen to Season Two. Hm, well, maybe I would listen to this episode, then Season Two, Episode 1 if you’re really, really excited.
Then listen to all of Season One, all of Season Two, then the extended edition of Season One so you could hear all the behind-the-scenes. I don’t want to reveal too much about the show because I think you should really discover it for yourself but it’s made by Julian Koster. Julian and Christy Gressman came to my first live show I ever did at the first PodCon and both have been really encouraging throughout the history of Sleep With Me and very supportive. I just remember listening to this show. It really is joyful and it’s exciting, it’s visionary, it’s dreamy, it’s super cool. But it’s really fun and so I just highly recommend discovering it for yourself. That’s why I’m doing this episode. So, without…and I’m really saying well, this is gonna be interesting. ‘Cause it’s a very, very…this, I guess will be a sleepy version of it.
I say well, what’s this gonna be like? I don’t know. I haven’t recorded it yet. So, without further ado, I’d like to present The Orbiting Human Circus of the Air, Season Two, Episode 1, Naughty Till New Years: Firstly, the Janitor. As you start to relax, your mind starts to journey all the way out to some farmland where just on a rise sits a barn, right on the top of that hill. You could see it there. There’s the barn and the silo and you can hear those barnyard sounds. Then also you hear the sound of…this is a dual…narration within a narration as another narrator comes in and takes the narration over from even me and says in a barn deep in the country as night falls upon the earth, the animals turn their expectant gaze towards a small radio mounted on the wall. What animals?
You may say well, there’s the cows, there’s the sheep, there’s the chickens and the hens and the roosters. There’s some bunnies, there’s even some local M-O-U-S-E…mouse-poohs, there’s some ducks and some ducklings. I don’t know if they’re actually farm animals but they live on the farm. There’s a kitty, a peace-loving kitty cat, [00:20:00] so well-behaved. Oh yeah, what other farm…oh, of course, of course, those farm animals are there too and you can just hear the radio. It’s crackling. That joyous radio, you could feel it in your chest. It’s playing this wonderful and strange exercise broadcast. Let’s get…come on, let’s pump it now. Get those knees up. There’s brass music behind the exercise. You could just see someone, about 1917, one of those 1917 working out radio shows, pumping and lifting and stretching your sides.
Just past the barn is a farmhouse and inside that farmhouse it’s still school time but it’s the end of that school day. Narrator; and in the farm house children rush ‘til their homework is done. Hey Scooter, why don’t we work together here and become…why don’t we take two narrators and make them one? Sounds good to me. There’s writing on the paper, there’s text pages turning. The children are trying to get done. The farm boy; well, this is gonna be the best show ever, isn’t it? I can’t wait. I’m your sister. Hurry, we gotta get our homework done. Oh, I’m done. I’m gonna be done in a second. Just have to shuffle some more papers. I have to erase this one part of the equation. Come on, let’s pull our chairs out. Let’s get that radio on. Can you turn the radio on, please? I just…oh, I’m done too, brother.
Are you putting it on? Yes, sister, I am. I’m tuning it. Oh, it’s still the exercise broadcast. Must just be finishing up. He’s doing his cool-down stretching. I was somewhere else. Not faraway from the farm but not too close, either, there’s the sounds of a street. There’s cars going by, there’s people talking and college students hurry home from their evening out; some alone, some in pairs, holding hands and glancing at the clock as they hasten their pace. Everywhere there’s hands on dials, hands on dials tuning that radio, that sound of the radio dial tuning, searching, searching for something in particular, searching with anticipation. It’s a colorful, rhythmic sound of fuzz and different genres of music. Elsewhere we hear buttons being pressed and dials being turned. Maybe even a crank or two.
Oh, those radio sounds layered upon layer, window upon window, room upon room. Because you see all of these radios, we are moments away from the appearance of a very special new star whose capturing of the public imagination can be likened to nothing since perhaps a group of Beatles went on the Ed Sullivan Show. Life has stopped and as all goes silent, people realize they will someday ask each other where they were at this moment. The sounds of the city play against the shuffling of the radio dials and a woman says hey, bub, you gonna listen? Yep, we got a radio in back, ma’am. A bunch of us are gonna be listening in back, in between our shifts. Short order cooks right about here, right about now. I gotta go…I gotta flip these eggs and get back there. Such a nice image, isn’t it?
Even backstage at the Grand Theatre from which the broadcast will come, the crew glances around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the star. Chief stagehand Leticia Saltier running the whole show can’t help but be swept up in the excitement as she gathers her crew around her. Hello, Bernard. Hey, you can’t watch here forever. No, because they’re going to exit this way. I’m going to talk to everyone in five minutes, okay, by the loading dock. My job…hey, I’m going to talk to everyone. I know, but you could come back. You could come back. Yep, come on, I’ve got to talk to everyone right now. I mean, in five minutes. That’s right, in five minutes that passed almost instantly. We’re getting close to that loading dock as we hear people cheering, squealing, anticipation, the chattering of people waiting in line who can’t wait to get inside the theatre.
Okay everyone, come close, come close. Come a little closer, just a…no, no, even closer. A little bit closer still. I know you’re worried about getting too close but don’t worry; not tonight. Okay, stagehands, this is it, huh? We waited a long time for this and it’s here now. I know I’ve been a little bit tough on you but you deserve it. Ah, stagehands, you know, we’re stagehands, what can we say? Yep, bantering, bantering with the other stagehands, here. Ah, you do, you do truly. I want you to know that I’m proud to work with you and I’m proud of the work that we do here. You’re the best crew that I know. If I could choose a group of people to go into…on a reality show with a lot of challenges or a game show even, or even some sort of competitive dancing or where you dress up as a costumed performer whether it be a dancer or a singer, or break-dancing.
Or is there any skipping competitions? What if it was just skipping for…whatever it is, competition or just a joyous experience, I would be proud to be with all of you, to go there at your side as your leader and as your equal. We might not end up…if it was for a competition, we might end up losing. We may even buy the big farm. Well, maybe one of those competitions where that’s how it ends up…but if I did, if we did, I’d be happy. I’d be happy about it to be with all of you. But what, as the narrator, I have to ask in a non-rhetorical way but an inquisitive way; what has brought us to this remarkable moment? Well, it all started with a song. Before it was a song it may have been just a spoken word, a song sung on that very stage, just a little song sung by someone of so little importance that even their trying to sing was, well, touching.
You see, it made us feel that if someone so small, so insignificant could raise up his voice and find happiness, so could we. So, we in our rooms reach for our radio dials across the globe. We hear kitty cats, we hear rain, we hear the sound of freshly-painted nails on a teenager turning a dial. We hear the anxious steps of the parents wondering what their teenage daughter is tuning into on the radio and then realizing and their own excitement building. Yeah, I’m trying to tune it in but the antenna’s not working. Well, my dear, do…would you want me to help? Would you like me to help with your antenna? I can get some tinfoil. Dad, get out of my room, please. Okay, I’ll just walk away slowly.
If I miss…I don’t think tinfoil would help anyway but if I miss this show…please, if I just can…the reason I polished my nails was just to get this one dial…if I just move it a fraction of an inch, a billionth of an inch…there it is, the fluttering orchestral banjo line. There’s some familiar, sweet, sweet sounds. Oh, the music, the static underneath, the chattering. My heart is beating. In the Grand Ballroom at the top of the Eiffel Tower, the red velvet curtains part and suddenly the giant on-air sign above the stage lights up. Broadcasting from the top of the Eiffel Tower; The Orbiting Human Circus of the Air. [00:30:00] Friends in the audience, friends at home, it’s so good to be here with all of you. Now, you all know there’s someone very special in the building. Oh yes, I love hearing your cheering.
The crowd is going wild but get ahold of yourself, please. Stay calm. Thank you. Well, it is appropriate that we who brought you the tap-dancing mice, the aerialist bovine cannon balls, should at last bring you a certain someone who sang a certain song. Oh, your enthusiasm, my ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and friends beyond the binary, makes us want to start the musical intro but before we bring him out, hold your applause. Okay, wait, wait, oh, that’s powerful applause. First with their very own version of the very song that started it all, I give you The Orbiting Human Circus Orchestral featuring Romika the extraordinary singing saw. Romika here. I’m not allowed to sing tonight but to calmly voice this in my saw; creaky, dulcet saw voice. But I want you to think of a tranquil sound.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a saw sing but I’m confident you’ll like it, so when you listen again, when you listen in the day with that same anticipation, when you tune me in, you won’t just hear me singing; you’ll feel me singing. I want you to remember that tranquil feeling. It’ll probably hit you right in the center of your chest and it’ll feel good. As a singing saw, I’m confident of that. Thank you. So, the saw song rings out, filling the ballroom at the top of the Eiffel Tower and out into the night, reaching radios. We can see in the barn the animals enjoying the song, looking at one another and feeling it in their chests and even singing along, baaing and mooing and crowing, meowing. Hoofs strike the floor not in protest but in a…I don’t know, an involuntary exclamation.
Radios in the farmhouse, brothers and sisters looking at one another, do you like it? I love it. Radios the world over, across the globe in cities, in the countryside gathered around the radio, being touched physically, emotionally, and orally by the song. But there is one lonely soul who’s not listening to the radio. At the back of the stage, behind the singing saw, behind the shimmering backdrop, inside the brick wall is a heating duct. So comfy and cozy within there, all curled up, all snug like a bug in a bed is Julian, the janitor here at the Eiffel Tower. Ouchie-pooh, I bumped my head. I thought…who hit his head? It’s okay, it’s…I just more brushed my head. And who’s okay, who just brushed his head inside the heating duct, the duct which he’s accustomed to sneaking into the theatre and from which he can hear and just barely glimpse a world so beautiful it could only exist in his dreams, the Broadcast Ballroom.
But why does he seem so incredibly nervous? We can be there with him inside the duct, so cozy, so comforted and so calm, and a little bit nervous as we hear the sound of applause. Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh god, listen to the size of that audience. Good heavens, why, his heart is pounding, a bumpity-bump-bump-bumpity-bump. Calm down, calm down, we’ll just read along. We could do it. All we live and all we know and all we laughed together. Who alone…oh no, as the narrator, I don’t know if he can sing along or read along. The audience may hear him saying how we sing, knew how we knew, and all we ask forever is may we go. So, we’ll be old and weary friends. God bless and let this never end. But that singing, that reading along, he does sound very right reading along or singing that song.
It’s almost as if it’s his song and yet there are certain songs we like because we feel as if it’s really us singing. It’s true that he’s not the only one singing or going along with it. In the wings of the stage of the Broadcast Ballroom, stagehand Jacques is also going along. Backstage, Jacques is using a technique he called talking, humming, singing. Yes, I cannot sing but I can go. This is a nice song. I hearing singing. I wish I could sing along. Jacques, you sing a bit like a fish. Merci. Backstage, even chief stagehand Leticia Saltier, running the whole show goes along. I know we sang together. Oh, Leticia, sing it. Thank you, Lily. As she walks to our host John Cameron’s dressing room door, behind which we find him fixing an uncharacteristic drink; I’m gonna put some ice in here, then I’m gonna take the ice back out.
Oh, there’s a knock at my door. Come in. Ah, Leticia, your kind of singing is beautiful. Leticia, please, please don’t sing that song. Oh, I’m sorry, John. Wait, wait, is it time? I can’t believe I have to go on stage with him, this night of all nights, our first show back. John, pull yourself together. We have to go. Let’s go, let’s go. Meanwhile in the heating duct, cozy and comforting is Julian, our janitor, still singing and reading along. All we live and all we know and all we laugh together, and who alone sings how we sang, knows how we knew, and all we’ll ask forever is bring us, too. Oh, we’ll be old and weary friends. God bless. Let all this never end. Oh, oh, something’s poking at me. Julian, this is the narrator. What seems to be the matter? I don’t know. Something’s…some sort of forest friend just kissed me.
While on stage, the song comes to an end, the song being sung by the singing saw. John Cameron prepared to make the introduction the whole world waited for. The show goes on the air. The audience applauds and John Cameron opens up his purely dulcet tones. That was The Orbiting Human Circus Orchestral, featuring Romika the singing saw. As the narrator, I just hope he doesn’t start with any jokes related to our…the next…please, John. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you a young performer who’s short of everything except inspiration. Oh, no. Here to debut a brand-new song as an artist of whom I could say so little. So little; John Cameron, please. As the narrator, I’m cringing. John Cameron, please, no. Please, no. So easily overlooked, a talent so atomic in its scope that [00:40:00] he needs no introduction.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends beyond the binary, I say to you here he is. The audience goes wild but nothing happens and John Cameron speaks again; here he is. Play the intro, please. Nothing. Okay, here he is. The audience is confused. John Cameron, please take control. Is he here? Where is he? Where is he? John Cameron’s on his hands and knees looking for something. Oh, you’ve…come on, I don’t ask a lot of you. Where are you, you little F-L-E-A? Did you flee, F-L-E-E me, you F-L-E-A? Perhaps one short joke less and none of this would have happened. With the whole world listening, there is nothing but the most dreaded sound of all; big farm in the sky air. The stagehands run to and fro, looking all over, but our star performer is nowhere to be found because he’s hiding in…he’s snuggling with…in the heating duct?
Now, let’s not jump to any hasty conclusions. I know the fact he’s hiding in a heating duct seems to narrow it down greatly. Let’s think clearly. There doesn’t seem to be anybody else in the heating duct. Hm. I mean, the janitor does look pretty small, especially curled up that way. We know his biggest dream is being on stage. Is it possible that he is the small soul that the whole world has waited for? I’ll tell you what; let’s go back in time and listen to him singing once more because there lies our answer. Oh, we’ll be old and weary friends. Now, you’ll remember this; it was just moments ago. He was in the heating duct. He’s singing and we listen for a moment. Yes, it’s just as I thought. He’s pestered by a clinging distraction as he sings and nobody is quite as critical of vocal interpretation as the song’s own author.
Oh, we’ll be old and…oh, why are you poking me? Especially when our small, little friend has not been fed proper pre-show buffet, you know, what…for dinner. You see the whole world is waiting for a flea, a musical flea which is hiding in the janitor’s sock, unbeknownst to him. I know we’ll need a moment to process this. There is an explanation but let’s stay with the janitor right now, here exactly as he is because this is the feeling the janitor loves so much, all of us gathered together, the joyful presence of a crowd. Isn’t it when we’re dreaming that we’re closest to our dreams? He really is dreaming. Under the starry night sky of Paris, there’s not another soul within a thousand feet. You can picture the Eiffel Tower above the city of Paris at night, the wind blowing.
There up high but snug as a bug or a bug in a sock in a…snug is our janitor in a very, very, very secure spot up on the top of the Eiffel Tower, sleeping, totally strapped in with a silver bucket wedged between his feet and a rag in his hand. He of course is supposed to be working but wait, he’s waking up. Oh boy, come on Julian, you can do better than this. No good will come of you if you fall asleep when you’re supposed to be working. I gotta get up and start mopping. They said they want these girders shining in a…with a…in a matte way so they look good. But let’s get back to everything you’ve heard up until now. It’s important. There’s a story to what the janitor’s been dreaming. He dreams when he’s awake, too. You see, the janitor likes to imagine he’s part of the show. It’s something he’s always done.
He can’t help doing; in fact, he’s doing it right now. It helps him pass the twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes he spends alone each day. Oh, I gotta get…let me dip twice, then wring, then dip again, then wring out the mop, and then scrub the girder. He likes to imagine a narrator. It’s me. As I mop, I say to my…please let some good come of me. He likes to imagine something can hear him when he speaks into the void that way. That’s you. I’m gonna keep scrubbing here and mop…I gotta use a rag on this one. Okay. Hi, I’ve just had this feeling I haven’t felt in so long but something just reminded me; you know when something just reminds you? When I was a kid, my great-grandpa took me to a radio broadcast at this Broadcast Ballroom. He was performing on it. He was a stage hypnotist.
I kinda headed out on my own to be with him, away from my parents. I stayed with him for a little while but at some point I realized it couldn’t last and I’d have to go back to my regular life which made me sad. Of course, my great-grandpa saw this so on this night, he invited me to come be a part of the show. It was in this big, beautiful theatre. There was lights everywhere and all this radio equipment. Normally Zach would be…all these stunts with hypnosis; people seeing things that weren’t there, wonderful things. People would hear things that weren’t there, even smell things. It was amazing. But he said tonight was gonna be different. As soon as we got to the ballroom he took me backstage and he pulled me aside and he said Julian, this has got to be a secret between you and me.
He looked around to see if anyone could hear, and he took me in the dressing room and he closed the door. He got down on his knees and he looked at me and he said Julian, tonight I’m going to attempt a great stunt. It might be the most important thing I’ll ever do but nobody can know except for you. Then he checked the door to see if anyone was listening and he whispered in my ear and he told me, I’m going to hypnotize all of Paris. He was going to hypnotize everybody listening to be happy. That’s what he was doing but he wasn’t going to tell them he was doing it. He was gonna slip all the suggestions into his normal act secretly so no one would notice. He said everyone listening, later tonight they’ll begin to feel happy.
He said you know how sometimes you feel a cool breeze and it’s like the first breeze that lets you know autumn is coming? Or when you smell something and it reminds you of the first time when you were so happy? I said, yeah. He said someday when that happens, you’re gonna remember tonight. Then there was a knock at the door and they came to get him to take him onstage, but he told them to wait. He got down on my level, on his knees, and he looked me in the eyes. He said do you believe me? I didn’t know what he meant but they kept knocking. He said, I don’t have time to explain; what I need you to do when I do this…I need to be able to see you by the side of the stage and when I look at you, I need to be able to see in your eyes that you really believe I can do it. Then he just looked at me.
I had never seen him care about something that way. He said, do you believe I can do it? I said yes. Then he got up and went with them. But then he stopped and he turned around and he said I want you to cross your fingers for me. I did, and I showed him. Then they went off. I followed them as far as the end of the stage and he went out, and the audience applauded. Then he stopped in the middle of the stage and he turned around and he looked right at me. The whole theatre saw it. I looked at him and I loved him with every inch of my soul. I believed he could do it as hard as I can. Then he started his act. I got so absorbed, I forgot how sad I had been. Then I watched and it was the same act I’ve seen him do before, and then that’s it.
The audience applauds, he comes offstage and he doesn’t want to talk to anyone but me. He comes straight to me and he shook my hand and he said, I think we pulled that off. Then he tells me he’s [00:50:00] gonna take me out to see it happen. I got my coat and I go out the door. So there we are, me and my great-grandpa walking into Paris. We’re going out on the town and I had never been out on the town before. He says that suggestions can start to take effect at any time. He takes my hand and he says I hope it works. He actually looks nervous. I wanted it to work. I wanted it to work so bad. I wanted to see it. I opened my eyes wide and I looked for any sign I could find that it was beginning to happen. We go into this restaurant because I have to pee, and when I came out of the bathroom, this lady at this table looked at me and smiled.
Then I heard people laughing. I didn’t even hear a joke. It was coming from the kitchen and they were working. They weren’t having fun like us. I showed my great-grandpa there were two people hugging goodbye and they kissed. This old lady was petting a cat and she didn’t even have to smile. This woman was sweeping the streets all alone and she had no reason to be happy but you could see she was happy. I started looking at my great-grandfather and smiling. He was smiling too because we were the only ones that knew why. I looked around with my great-grandpa. We went all over Paris and everywhere everyone was laughing and smiling. We couldn’t stop laughing. Everyone I looked at was smiling back at me. Julian, it’s the narrator, and Julian, you still haven’t figured it out, have you? It worked. On who?
It worked on me. That’s right. Now we return to the girders at the top of the Eiffel Tower where the janitor, a bucket balanced between his feet and a rag in his hand has just told you about his great-grandfather. Now, this was different from his more fanciful tales. You’ll understand why later. In fact, the story of The Orbiting Human Circus began the moment the janitor was asked. Oh boy, I just squeezed that rag over the edge and the water’s pouring down. It’s gonna get somebody’s head wet. But I can’t tell you right now because the janitor’s just dripped some water from his rag and if it drips…oh no, it’s…water’s dripping and it looks like it’s gonna drip on someone’s head and make their head wet. Who could it possibly…who could this water possibly drip on, Julian? Oh, Coco.
You’re right, Coco, the nightwatchman, your only friend, Coco. Oh, Julian’s rushing down to make sure, with a…hopefully with a dry rag. It looks like he forgot that, though, to dry Coco’s head. Rushing down staircase after staircase after staircase, flying proverbially down the staircases, past the janitor’s closet in which he lives. There’s something about a janitor descending the stairs of the Eiffel Tower that is absolutely comforting. Flight after flight of dark and empty, lonely stairs. Maybe the stairs smile, for they’re being used. Far below, he hears the drip, drip, drip, and the splat, splat, splat of water on hair, hair on the skull, on the head. Even a little bit of a squeal because the water’s a little bit cold. Now the janitor is a little bit out of breath as he gets towards the bottom, huffing. Coco, Coco, Coco.
There, looking at Julian as he comes down the stairs is Coco. Oh, Coco, Coco. Just looking, ‘cause Coco had not even registered ‘cause it was only…was only hit by one drip of water. But Coco’s also surprised at the worried look on Julian’s face. He says no, I didn’t squeal because a bunch of water dripped on my head. Now that you mention it, I thought there might have been one drain…rain drop but oh, it’s okay. Calm down, buddy. Take it easy. Relax. What happened? Well, I was in the heating duct behind the stage in the Broadcast Ballroom, you know, and Mr. Cameron, he was coming on stage to introduce…and we hear Julian recapping his evening but there’s something quite usual about this interchange, the two of them conversing this way; Coco asking a question and then the janitor answering with something he’s dreamed up.
While this may sound familiar…Coco, Coco, do you remember when The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan Show? Yes, I do. Now, as Julian talks about The Beatles being on the Ed Sullivan show, I could tell you that the janitor spends twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes alone each day. This is how he usually spends the other fifteen, telling the old nightwatchman a story about a ballroom at the top of the Eiffel Tower. As the janitor talks, his features soften and his body becomes relaxed and the expression of concern and tension on the nightwatchman’s face slowly transforms into a look of interest and amusement. Then in just a few minutes, neither of them is aware that just a few minutes ago Coco could have had multiple drips of water on Coco’s head because now he’s being removed from the world by something much nicer.
Then Mr. Cameron says here he is. Then the crowd goes wild. Now we begin to see our janitor as he really is, and not a moment too soon because there’s a mystery the old nightwatchman is trying to uncover. There’s a chatter of all the stories told yet tonight, all of those things. I’m speaking over them but you know, they’re lying there, drifting in and out of your mind. It’s been said by philosophers that our entire universe might exist on the head of a pin, like the flea that is too small to be seen singing in the palm of John Cameron’s hand. To enjoy it, you have to believe in it if only for a moment. When the janitor’s telling it, Coco does. It’s another example of symbiosis in nature much as even fleas need their snacky-poos before they perform, and then they give us beautiful songs in return.
The janitor provides the old man nightly with the products of his imagination and the old man provides him with a kind of hope. Wait a second, a flea? Yeah, yeah, it was just…it was in my sock and then I cupped it in my hands and I held it. Then what happened? Then there was silence ‘cause when the janitor runs out of story, he also runs out of words. Oh, okay, okay. Uh-huh, uh-huh. Awkward. Awkward and just now, the janitor’s face might illustrate the word paralyzed or pain or even pathetic in the encyclopedia. Then you could almost picture the janitor’s boss on the phone with his wife last night describing the janitor’s social graces. Ah, the janitor walks around like somebody who’s been hit over the head with anvil in cartoon, like he doesn’t know where he is.
He’s surprised every day; whoa, what am I doing on the Eiffel Tower? Boosh, boosh, boosh. Give him this simple task, I say. Here in your hand is a mop. You move it like this; to the left, to the right, but he can’t do it. No, no, no. No, I know, I know. But of course, he has a reason to be the way he is. Oh, I have to be quiet, you know. I know they will fire me, I know that. But you have to believe me. Please, my…believe me. I know what I’m doing. I can’t let him go. I just can’t. I cannot let him go. I can’t explain to you why. No, no, no. I’m not keeping it a secret from you. Oh no, no, no. Oh, he’s a [inaudible]. If you only knew the truth about the janitor, you would not believe me. No one would believe me. No, I cannot tell you. You’re the only one I can talk to but I cannot tell you because…besides, I could not explain because I know how you are.
You talk to everyone. I love you but you can’t help it. Nobody knows; only me. I think maybe Coco suspects something but you never know the truth, you know? He could never know. No, no, no, I’m [01:00:00] not going to…okay, okay. Look, are you alone? Are you very alone? Okay, I’ll give you a little itty bitty hint. Okay, but I have to talk quiet. You’re not going to get anything from this, okay? But the janitor, he never talks except to tell the nightwatchman this long and bizarre story, okay? No, no, no, that’s not the big clue. The big clue is he began telling the nightwatchman the story. When the nightwatchman asked a…hello? Hello? Oh boy, we got cut off. I’ll have to call later. Narrator back, everybody. We’ll have a little bit more about that later but for now, let us look for a moment at Coco; an elderly black expatriate of pre-civil rights America.
He’s outlived his wife, his friends, his family. He looks at the young man in front of him who, having run out of stories, simply stares at him. He can tell the young man would like him to go, and so he does. I guess it’s time for me to go close the ticket booth. Okay, Coco. Goodnight, Julian. Goodnight. We hear the footsteps of Coco go off into the distance but later that night in the Eiffel Tower, when the janitor settles into his old cot up in the cold janitor’s closet in which he lives, getting my…I gotta puff my pillows and get my…I’m gonna get my blankets all set and my blankie-poo. He comforts himself by remembering parts of the story he’s told Coco in the past. He pictures the stagehands putting on their jackets after a long night’s work.
Pierre and carpenter Lily listen and Jacques, having got a taste of singing like he’s a lion on the prowl, howling in the night. Yes, I’m Jacques. I’m howling in the night. Oh, Jacques, sing it. Jacques, man. Hey, you guys going home to bed? Oh, my poor little puppy. He’s probably dancing around, doing a little pee-pee dance. I gotta get home. Yeah, that’s why I don’t have a…the dog. I’m going out. I’ll see you guys later. What do you mean you’re going out? Where are you going? I’m going out with my buddies. Wait a second, you have buddies? What buddies? Yeah, my kung-fu buddies. Kung-fu buddies? Wait, you do kung-fu? My, Jacques, you gotta take better care of yourself. Well, I’m going to bed. Pierre, going to bed. Yeah, I’m Lily. I’m going to bed, too.
Look, I appreciate it from both of you but if you don’t live your life, what are you doing? Jacques…anyway, you guys enjoy your rest. I’m getting out of here. Okay, then you go. We’ll see you tomorrow. Alright, say hi to your puppy, okay? Oh yeah, sure. Forty-five minutes later, here are Jacques’ kung-fu buddies. Inside a house, Jacques knocks on the door. Hello? Auntie? Hello? He knocks quietly and he opens the door. Auntie? You want some tea? I’m gonna make some. Helps me sleep, you know? Okay, Auntie. Goodnight. We hear him gingerly close the door and as the nightwatchman Coco prepares for a deep sleep in the heart of Paris alone in a drafty apartment in which he lives, he thinks of a moment from a story the janitor once told him where the chief stagehand Leticia, at the end of a long night, was closing up the ballroom with the stagehand Francois.
Okay, I gotta put the little props in the small props box and the medium props in this medium prop box. Oh, this is so calming. Organizing props, Francois, is very calming. What did you think about today’s show? We did good. We did real good. We kept our cool. We didn’t worry about anything, not this or that. Yeah. You know what? The show could not go on without us. I like that ‘cause I’m not so great in front of people, you know? Uh-huh. But I like to secretly know that without what you do and what I do and even Jacques…yeah, even Jacques, none of this would happen. Yeah. Do you know where this goes? Is this a medium prop or a small prop? It’s a prop. It’s a propeller. That goes…that’s above the radiator, the props…prop props. Okay. Shelf…oh, above here, right? Yeah, no, no, I’ll take…Leticia, I’ll take it.
No, no, no, I see the outline of a prop in the dust here. Yep, that’s it, that’s the prop spot for the prop props, yeah. Okay, so that’s everything, right? They’ll know in the morning. Yeah. You know, it’s raining outside. Oh, it’s raining. I’ve got an umbrella. If you want to, I could walk you to the bus. You could walk me to the bus. Yeah, you could. Okay. Yeah, no, sounds good. Yeah, and as the janitor and the nightwatchman both lay in their beds, their thoughts of The Orbiting Human Circus turn slowly into dreams. The janitor remembers John Cameron saying as he has so often; as millions of people prepare for sleep, broadcasting from the top of the Eiffel Tower, The Orbiting Human Circus of the Air.
There’s our goodbye music and that’s about all for this week, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and friends beyond the binary. This is John Cameron broadcasting from the top of the Eiffel Tower. The Orbiting Human Circus wishes you a good night. The goodbye music plays and it slowly fades out and you know that tomorrow you have two seasons of podcast to listen to. You could get to know the nightwatchman a little bit better; the stagehands, Coco, maybe you’ll even discover what’s going on and everything. Maybe it will seem a little bit closer. Goodnight.
[END OF RECORDING]