Theater of the Absurd

Posted: September 19, 2006 in Culture, Tacky

After I detrained at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago this morning on my way to work, I stumbled unbeknownst across the staging area for what I later learned was — what else? — a media stunt. Via word of mouth, I was able to gather that one of the famous Flying Wallendas was going to attempt crossing the Chicago River on a high wire. As if that weren’t strange enough, add in the tidbits that he was making the attempt on a bicycle and that he is paralyzed below the waist. All else that was needed was balancing three men on his shoulders and juggling flaming swords during the crossing.

Anyway, as the local news reports, the event went off successfully at 9 A.M. with 64-year-old Mario Wallenda crossing the river both directions despite some wind and sway. I didn’t witness it as I was already at work. Apparently, only a few people knew about it. No one seemed surprised when I mentioned it, though a few were curious. I guess we’re trained to expect or believe just about anything these days.

The really strong impression made on me, though, was a trio of bagpipers on hand to accompany (?) the event. I walked past over an hour before the stunt, and the pipers were rehearsing on the street. I mainly associate the mournful sound of the Highland bagpipe with funeral services for fallen firefighters and police, less with parades and other more positive celebrations. There aren’t really many things that bring a tear to my eye, just as no one seemed surprised that a paralyzed guy might be crossing the river on a bicycle on a wire. We’re all so jaded. (Torture? Genocide? Apocalypse? Just another day ….) The bagpipes didn’t cause an emotional meltdown for me, but I might have sniffed once or twice.

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