It was love at first sight and I don’t say that often.
When I was young and headstrong, I lived my life from one coup d’foudre — literally, lightening strike — to another.
Whether the bolt of lightning struck a tiny Ecuadorian mountain town that I could make a home base, a new drug, a new lover to follow to the ends of the earth (sometimes literally, which is how I got shipwrecked in the Amazon) or when I saw my by-line in print for the first time and found my calling, the earth would move, every cell in my body would vibrate with electricity and off I’d go on another adventure.
Now that I am settled, happily married, a much-published Vermont writer and a more or less respectable human being, these coup d’foudres happen far less frequently.
But they happen.
A few years ago, on a Saturday morning at the Townshend Auction Gallery, I spotted the Balloon Man on a dusty shelf along with other abandoned knickknacks. To me, this porcelain figure came straight from a Paul Gallico novel, or an early Fellini film, or a 19th Century French carnival.
Wearing a soft high hat, a long green coat, a striped jabot and full, draped pantaloons, the Balloon Man carried a sack in one hand and a group of balloons in the other. His sweet sad face was tilted to one side. I fell in love with him, bought him (I don’t think anyone else bid on him) and he’s been my icon ever since.
When it came time to do a Web site and collect the many threads of my writing, it seemed natural to put him here, on the home page. And that led to an overall carnival theme. The idea, which I won’t push too far, is that I still have adventures, but they are adventures of the mind. I am still driven by curiosity about the world around me, so now I explore, learn and write about art and music, politics, the creativity of business, my beloved Vermont, my adventures during the 14 years I was on the road in Central and South America and my relationship with my indomitable 93-year-old mother.
I have been lucky in that which attracts my curiosity also attracts the curiosity of my editors and readers. It has allowed me the extraordinary luxury of supporting myself entirely by my writing for more than 20 years, even though I’ve had to take a vow of poverty to do it.
The Balloon Man, hopefully, gives a whimsical, eclectic, experimental, “out-of-the-box” feeling which captures all the different kinds of writing I do. I hope you will join me on this new adventure.