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Bindlestiff Family Circus

It’s when I see The Amazing Amy, an 80-year-old grandmother doing contortion onstage that I realize I’m in for a strange night.

The Amazing Amy

Let me back up.

“It’s got monkeys and fire and stuff” the text reads on my cell phone. “Come out.”

It’s an invite to the Galapagos Art Space, which is a club in DUMBO I’ve been to a few times. My memories are kinda vague…variety acts and overpriced drinks. A huge venue (huge for New York, anyway) that’s entirely suspended over an indoor pool, which makes for nervous waitresses.

Galapagos Art Space

I can forgive the ridiculous drink prices because admission costs nothing, and because I’ve got nothing better going on that night.

I buy a Guinness for about eight bucks, groan, but sit and wait for my friend. We talk about work when he arrives, and compare notes on beer, on women, on the pursuit of happiness. We head upstairs for a better view.

Tonight, the show is being brought to us by Bindlestiff Family Circus. Our MCis a juggler of some kind who does a few tricks that he can pull off and many that fail miserably, often resulting in bowling pins falling into the pool below. He also has less than zero stage presence and a weird lisp that’s distracting me.

Mr. Bindlestiff, MC

Uncharitably, I can’t help but think what a more entertaining show it would be if he gave the hosting reigns over to someone who’d actually had some theater training.

It’s an open variety night, with the kind of bizarre mix of absolutely shitty performers and quite talented performers. There’s a cowboy who does lasso tricks I didn’t think anyone still knew how to do, much less anyone in New York. There’s a hip-hop juggler who upstages the MC. There’s the contortionist granny, who scares the crap out of me with her freakishly large chin and the weird hump in her back that grandmas get when the osteoporosis starts setting in real bad, who does a series of yoga poses accompanied by a guy doing obscene sound effects with his mouth. I quickly order another four Guinnesses because I can’t be nearly drunk enough to see shit like this.

I'm getting too sober for this shit

Keeping with the elderly theme, a pair of girls in mumus and Depends perform a bizarre strip tease that may be the least erotic thing I’ve ever seen and is, in fact, mildly terrifying.

I have no idea what's going on here

A couple does a pantomime to a song about heartache, the guy comes pack to perform with guitar. Bindlestiff announces that they have an open performance slot available for anyone who wants to come on stage. The guy who does is gut-wrenchingly terrible, playing a crappy song, throwing himself around the stage, and making farting noises with his mouth. My friend and I drown ourselves in our beers as we wait for him to leave.


Then, she comes on.

She wears black dancing attire on a bare stage. A red drape falls from the ceiling at center stage. She climbs it. Her arms flex with an upper body strength that’s significantly more impressive than mine. Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” comes on. She starts doing stuff.


She twirls. She falls. She makes me want her so bad I can feel it in my bicuspids. Floating above the stage on that red drape, she looks nigh-angelic. Not the stupid heavenly angels that come down to earth with Della Reese to help put right what once went wrong. More like one of the cool angels that hung out with the naughty crowd and got kicked out for smoking and doing tequila shots with boys under the bleachers.

You know, the kind of angel you want to take home to momma.

When the show finally ends she comes out, just happening to pass by my table, and I just happen to ask her name, and happen to chat her up, which is becoming more and more of a reflex for me these days and less of a conscious decision. She tells me her name and the name of the venue where she’ll be performing next.

I file the information away in a safe part of my brain, but, after my fourth Guinness, I realize I cracked the safe place open looking for spare change and old pizza crusts, because it’s midnight and we’re drunk and starving, and it’s only Monday, and we’ve got a full week of work to get through, and my body has to bike his way home in Crown Heights, and I’ve got to find a pizza joint that’s still open.

Tomorrow night, karaoke.

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