Bosco the Danger Clown
Roller skates. In my junior year of high school, I joined the mini craze that was showing up everywhere. I had enjoyed skate boarding, but roller skating was a very different experience. Going to the rink that popped up in the old IGA was interesting for about five laps, but the real challenge was skating everywhere but a rink.
So I saved up some money and went to Action Sports. They had this amazing pair of blue sneaker-skates with yellow stripes and laces. They just screamed at me and I dropped way too much money on those Jogger skates. They were good quality and fit perfectly. I was on my new adventure.
Being on skates full time was dangerous. And not just for me. As I got better at it, I became less of a danger and more of an annoyance. I wore them to school and skated to class or between buildings or up and down the access roads. I had to take them off to play soccer, and a few teachers wouldn’t allow them in their classes, but some days I just wore them everywhere.
Perhaps that is how Justin remembers me around the time we met. I had joined with a little group of strange kids who were rolling dice a lot. I wasn’t part of their group, but I enjoyed playing Melee, rolling dice, and sitting in on an occasional game of Dungeons & Dragons. I preferred to be outdoors, but when it was inclement out, I would hang out in the common area of the school with these gamers.
Justin gravitated toward this group. In my junior year, a new flock of freshmen had joined the group, and the membership jumped to about ten. So gaming was the first thing I had in common with young Justin. The other was clowning around. As in, he was actually a clown and a juggler, and I acted like I just rolled in from the circus.
Learning to juggle was a natural next step after riding everywhere on roller skates. Well, I knew how to juggle a bit, but not like Justin. He could do batons and clubs and rings, not just bean bags or balls. Later he even showed off with a set of flaming torches. Very impressive.
Soon I was learning to juggle batons. I never got good at it, but it was an interesting exercise. And as winter closed in and roller skating got too impractical (never ice skate on roller skates), we both spent more time with the gamers.
Justin was a professional clown. He had the outfit, the makeup, the skills, and even a clown name. I don’t know where it came from, but he referred to his clown persona as Bosco, and even signed my yearbook with the name. And he was up for a challenge.
I owned two machetes and one of them, a bolo style, seemed like a decent juggling candidate. I suggested, or rather, dared him to do a juggling routine with the machete, a small hatchet he had, and one of his flaming torches. He rose to the challenge, and the routine was impressive. It was too dangerous to do regularly, but he proved his mettle by carrying it off at least once.
Justin was a smart kid and a good clown, but he was naïve enough for me to fool or prank regularly. But he was good-natured enough to take my teasing and we could keep the comedy rolling. And we both learned to enjoy the role-playing games, especially Traveller, a science fiction game that allowed us to experience what it might be like to be our favorite sci-fi characters.
Outside of school hours, we didn’t have much time to hang out. He lived in Middletown while I was in Old Saybrook. I worked at various restaurants, like Chello Oyster House, Dock and Dine, and Copper Beech Inn while he was clowning around at various venues and keeping up with his schoolwork. But we got together a few times on school vacations.
With his juggling and sense of humor, he was popular at my house. My siblings thought he came straight from the circus and my mother thought he was hilarious. But his reason for hanging out at my house was to play Traveller and test new concepts for science-fiction adventures.
Over the summer, we got together at his house more often. His home differed totally from mine. He was the younger of two children and his parents both worked at the local university. His older sister was away at college, so we hung out in the minor disaster that he called his room.
We never terrorized the town, but we searched the countryside for stores with games and miniature figures. We practiced juggling, but I never caught on with rings and clubs. We even hung out sometimes after I joined the Navy. We kept in touch for a long time and I even met up with him once while he was in college up in Boston. I was in town on my first wedding anniversary and we met at Durgan Park for dinner.
Over the years, we looked each other up on Yahoo and Facebook. He went into web design and then into photography. He got married much later than I did, and he lived out west for several years. More recently he moved back east and lives near Boston. I see what he is up to and look at his photos when he posts images, but we are much different now. And that’s okay.