I had become a clown for Portland, Oregon’s Rose Festival and had two parades under my belt and headed for the start
of the Grand Floral Parade without a worry. Thirty clowns gathered in a meeting room in the basement of the Memorial Coliseum. A few put the final touches on their carefully drawn faces. Delores, another new clown, and I re-glued our big red noses. I had
tried to wipe my nose and had toilet paper stuck to my nostrils. She also worried about whether her big fuzzy eyelashes were on straight.
We stood in a big circle while a clown said a prayer. The Clown Prince reminded us not to cross the pink line drawn along the parade route. That meant we wouldn’t be able to high-five kids, something I had come to enjoy. He told us, “Go bump a nose,” and he and several clowns left to board his float; they would leave before the main bunch of clowns.
An hour later we all jumped for joy as we joined the parade. We had two unicycle riders, one miniature bike rider and two who held signs. One demanded rights for balloon animals. My sign said, “Smiling is contagious.” The other clowns pranced, danced, twirled and juggled as we marched down the street. I wondered if I’d make it 4.5 miles and decided to reserve my energy. I held the sign, waved and smiled; that was all I could do. Another clown showed me how to twirl my sign but I didn’t, fearing I’d tire out too soon. Another showed me how to egg on the band members behind us with the sign but I didn’t because I feared I’d tire too soon if I did this.
As we marched, I felt great energy from the crowd but realized I was competing with two dozen characters in fabulous costumes with perfect faces who were probably born to be clowns (and I wasn’t). I decided to march at the front so the crowd would see me before they were distracted by the gaggle of good clowns. This approach had worked for me during the Starlight Parade.
One of the unicycle riders fell and the clowns rushed over, screaming, “Is the bike okay? Is the bike okay?” They ignored the man and studied the bike. Then they announced to the crowd, “The bike is okay,” and they walked away from the clown laying on the road. After they did this five times, I realized it was a gag and stopped trying to help the unicycle rider.
Photographers took pictures of me and my sign. The crowd yelled, “You’re right.” Some traced a smile on their face. Many showed me an exaggerated grn or pointed to a sad neighbor. Someone screamed, “You’re wrong. It’s laughter. Laughter is contagious.”
By the end of the parade, my shirt was wet, my shoes hurt and I needed something to drink. I followed a group of clowns to
the Max train station and found my way to the Yellow Line and home.
Today, I took my silk costume to the cleaners and put my clown supplies in a place the puppy couldn’t get into. I joined a clown club and intend to keep on clowning. Maybe next year I’ll go to clown camp.
So where’s the clown in the J.J. Kay books? He’s in Hurricane Duty.