Gather 'round, people,
and you I will trouble
With the very strange tale
of Barry and his double.
It's true - I lived in Saskatoon for many years, and for a while I couldn't go anywhere without being mistaken for one Flyin' Bob (Palmer).
I'd be travelling up an escalator and some stranger would shout "Hey, Flyin' Bob! Great show!" I'd be walking down the street, some passerby would wink, and coo "Oh, Flyin' Bob!" at me. I had more than one friend say, "Barry, I didn't know you could juggle!"
At one point, Flyin' Bob's portrait appeared on the cover of a community arts magazine. I could see he did look quite a bit like me. I've kept the cover of that magazine ever since - almost 20 years. But I never did meet Flyin' Bob.
So when my daughter informed me that a unicycle rider named Flyin' Bob was performing Wednesday morning at T.M. Roberts School, a strange, uncomfortable chill went down my spine, almost like a reckoning with my supernatural destiny was at hand.
The existential question: When confronted with one's double, would one or the other cease to exist? Was it possible for two doubles to share the same space, or would one vanish? Which one would it be - Flyin' Bob or ground-crawlin' Barry?
I pulled out the old magazine cover, and down I went to find out. The answer: Both Flyin' Bob and I are still here. One's still flying through the air, one's still trudging on the ground.
But enough about me, more about my double.
I stuck around for Flyin' Bob's show. Turns out he is much more than a juggler, or even a unicycle rider/juggler, or even a high-wire walking/unicycle riding/garden chair stacking/magician/comedian/juggler. Flyin' Bob is the real entertainment deal, a full-on three-ring circus in the form of one man, who had the entire studentry of T.M. Roberts roaring in delight from start to stop.
He warmed up with the good ol' peacock feather balanced on the nose routine, then on to hat juggling. He broke into voice all of a suddenly, warming up that aspect of his act by echo talking, a trick he encouraged the kids to learn, as teachers and parents wouldn't be annoyed by that at all.
Both the hat juggling and the following ping-pong ball juggling involved deft sleight-of-hand-moves - if that term even applies to swallowing a ping-pong ball after spitting it high in the air, then mysteriously pulling a number of ping-pong balls out of his mouth.
Flyin' Bob juggled while riding a six-foot-high unicycle, peddling with one foot so he could throw juggling clubs under one leg. He stacked a dozen garden chairs into an ornate giant flower, and balanced it on his chin. As a finale, he set up a nine-foot highwire and performed a perilous routine, including changing his clothes in extremely dangerous (and thus much more hilarious) fashion.
Yes, Flyin' Bob came through our town, like a colourful, kinetic, comedic, self-disciplined whirlwind.
I feel that I have achieved some sort of closure. I've lived all these years knowing that I had a double walking the earth, wondering if destiny would ever put us in the same room, and what would happen when it did. Well, destiny put us in the same room, and this is what happened: I was immensely, profoundly entertained.
Also, I must finally, and reluctantly, report this observation: I always thought one's double should look just like you, not be way better looking, have more hair, be more charismatic, be in infinitely better shape, or be way more able to keep a crowd roaring with delight from start to stop ... well, I suppose that's always the case when one confronts one's double.
See dailytownsman.com for a Flyin' Bob photo gallery.