Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Robyn Hitchcock "Balloon Man"

If you asked me a week ago, what does "Balloon Man" remind me of, I'd write some warm, fuzzy memory of being in college and having some roommates/friends who were infatuated with this song.

But the personal meanings of songs can change, when some striking modern day event happens.

It's my daughter's birthday this week, and last Sunday, we had a party for her.

We had rented out the studio where she takes her dance class, and had planned on piling in a gaggle of 4 year olds, to eat cake and do an art project and bounce off the walls.

My wife left the house early, to go set up, leaving me and our teenage nephew to bring the birthday girl and her 18 month old brother to the party.

As I'm loading the kids into the car, my wife calls.

"I stopped by the grocery store and ordered a whole bunch of balloons to hand out at the party. Go by and pick them up. You can leave the kids in the car with my nephew, while you go grab them."

Being married to an artist, I have learned to roll with the punches and the plan-changes. So even though this sudden extra task was going to make the birthday girl late to the party, I tried to be good-natured about it.

And really, how could you not feel goofy, and perhaps a little joyous, walking through the grocery store, and out into a sunny day, across a parking lot, holding nearly 20 primary-colored, old-fashioned latex balloons?

It was really just wonderfully picturesque . . . a man, on his way to a birthday party, carrying balloons.

Then I got to the car.

How many balloons can you fit in a Honda CRV?

Uh, not 20.

And I found this out, because as I was trying to corral the balloons into the hatchback, one popped, loudly.

Naturally, the 18th month old was startled (hell, 4 year old, the 13 year old, and the 42 year old were startled) and he started screaming, sobbing.

So now I'm trying to work quickly, so I can get in the car and soothe the little guy, maybe give him his pacifier, when, POP!

Another balloon pops. And this one popped right in my face, with the latex snapping back in not just one, but both of my eyes.

Reflexively, without thinking, I just yelled, "SSSHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIITTTT!!!!!!"

I must say, the acoustics in the parking lot of my local grocer, rival Red Rocks, because there wasn't a person for 200 yards who didn't stop for just a moment to see what the deal was with the angry man holding the balloons.

Eyes watering, stinging, balloons now in the car, I got in the driver's seat only to realize that I didn't have the diaper bag with us. So no pacifier. Which meant that my boy just wailed and wailed.

With no other options, I just drove. It was only a 1/2 mile to the party. And yet we were stuck at a light for a solid 5 minutes, during which, yet another balloon burst. And this time, because the windows were closed, it was really loud.

It's this moment that we all recognize. The moment where things are just so bad, but there's nothing you can do about it. So you imagine you are somewhere else. You ignore the moment. You disappear inside your brain.

And inside my brain, pushing the fuzzy warm memories of college aside, was Robyn Hitchcock's song, singing:

"Balloon Man, blew up, in my face*."

See the video, with an awesomely free-associated intro by Hitchcock himself.

See the video on Youtube.

* the original lyric is "hand" not "face," but in this instance I imagine him singing the line more appropriate to this story.

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