Behind Every Wonk Is a Story
My closest friend during my fresh-from-high-school year at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh was a small-venue professional wrestler. (Were I inclined to categorize it as a sport, rather than a form of performance, I’d have characterized him as a player in the minor league.) He and his twin brother were a bad-guy tag team of sufficient success to figure prominently in a small budget movie with a wrestling theme. As it happens, he also works closely with the director of a famous B horror movie franchise who was related to his long-time girlfriend.
Some people are attracted to exotic activities out of a need to assert their own differentness, but I think it is most often the case that talents and interests tumble with circumstances to bring some of us — the fortunate among us, in my book — to unique experiences. What could possibly possess a graduate from a top-notch college like CMU to overnight on a field in rural Pennsylvania with a film crew and a bunch of people made up as zombies? Well, the fact that it’s cool!
I have a similar reaction to the fact that local left-wing wonk Tom Sgouros was a circus performer before he became a researcher and pundit:
About 20 years ago, when I was earning my keep as a rope-walker and fire-eater, I prevailed on Roger, an old-time circus performer who wintered in Fall River, to give me a lesson in rigging. Roger was a cool guy, and performed atop a 120-foot sway pole that wobbled back and forth while he did handstands and the like way up there. Circus performers all do their own rigging — because who else would you trust? — and he turned out to be as expert as any long-term survivor of a career like that.
I went over to his place one day, and Roger showed me the sequined capes and clogs he made his entrance with. I seem to remember a chimpanzee costume, too, though I can’t remember how that fit in.
I’d love to know how Mr. Sgouros found his way from (as it were) the kindergarten classroom to the workshop of that high-stakes pole dancer and would find of even more interest the route from fire-eater to rhetorician. Unfortunately, the path that leads to the exotic activity of right-wing opinionating tends to make one an outcast among outsiders, and in conversation, things like the Economic Death and Dismemberment Act seem usually to get in the way. One becomes the noun in the phrase “fraternizing with the enemy.”
Whatever the case, you won’t find me looking to peculiar backgrounds for a dirty blow in debate. What perspective the tightrope walker — like the wrestler balancing on a turnbuckle — must gain up there! One wonders whether the affinity for ghouls is related or merely coincidental…