Mexico is a land of traditions: Day of the Dead festivities, Cinco de Mayo drunken revelry, and conspiracy theories about gringo intervention in the Aztec nation’s internal affairs. These, among multitudinous traditions, are part and parcel of Mexico’s heritage and cultural landscape. A few hours ago, I discovered yet another tradition, one to which I will lamentably be irretrievably adhered in the coming years when Zuli is old enough to demand it: the Mexican birthday clown.
I’ll wade in slowly by stating that I despise, even fear, clowns of all stripes. I’ve never known a clown to make a positive impression. They’re all sinister, addicts, or just plain suck. Pennywise from Stephen King’s “It”; serial killer John Wayne Gacy, also known as the “Killer Clown” since he performed as one (Pogo the Clown) at children’s parties; the Joker from Batman; Sideshow Bob, whose life is devoted to murdering Bart Simpson; and Dr. Rockso, the drug addled and alcoholic clown from the Metalacolypse cartoon. Then there’s the Insane Clown Posse, who cut the most wholly loathsome profile in the music scene, even worse than Fred Durst, which is REALLY saying something. In sum, I want absolutely nothing to do with clowns.
People go, “But dude, clowns are FUN. They’re HARMLESS. What’s your BEEF?” And to that I retort: I’m not alone. According to Wikipedia, “[…] the irrational fear of clowns, known as coulrophobia” is the anchoring concept for the hatred of the so-called evil clown. So there are at least enough of us that a psychological condition has been thus defined. And I take exception to Wikipedia or anyone else categorizing my fear as irrational; indeed, it can be scientifically measured. A study at England’s Sheffield University found that children universally dislike clowns.
That is, of course, unless you’re a Mexican kid, in which case painted faces jeering at you, bulbous red noses, and oversized floppy shoes are the funniest f**king thing you’ve ever witnessed. I got to experience this first-hand tonight at the second birthday party of one of Maria’s friend’s children, Bruno.
I ask very little of life, and this simplicity keeps me satisfied: a large Mountain Dew, some good metal, and to spend as little time as possible at children’s birthday celebrations. It’s nothing against the kids; instead, it’s the parents, who put me to sleep force feeding me their boring diatribes about the merits of diaper genies, which stroller has the best wheels, and their potty training childrens’ bowel movements. So all I wanted was to roll up to Bruno’s party, say hey to everyone, eat some pizza, and bust out, maybe come back to the apartment and “clown around” with Maria, since it’s Friday night and papi chulo needs his m-e-d-i-c-i-n-e. But then there was the clown show, intervening for an hour in the middle of Bruno’s fiesta. This particular troupe of payasos, “Los Amigos Munequitos” (“Little Doll Friends”), treated their clownery with the pomp of an Iron Maiden gig, coming prepared with a lighting truss, smoke machine, and sound system. But like former Seinfeld actor Michael Richards’ last ill-fated stand up performance, they also brought a baker’s dozen tasteless tricks which, I was convinced, would result in a brawl with the fathers and husbands present.
Early on, the clowns riled the kids up by asking a series of questions designed to elicit each child’s competitive participation in hopes of winning a prize. But the result was red-faced parents, given the nature of the questions to which the kids were prompted to screaming responses, thrusting hands into the air and shouting ME, ME, ME: “Who’s got the most alcoholic dad?” “Who’s got the hottest mom?” The kids were SO down with this, some of them even racing amongst the tables to locate and out their alcoholic dads and sex kitten moms to the rest of the audience. Then they held a dance competition, putting a bunch of brats in line and bading them shake their moneymakers. One of the kids was especially adroit, a fleet-footed nine year old boy whose Jagger-like moves cut a sexually suggestive rug under the glare of the payasos’ beer lights, “You Spin Me Right Round” blaring over the speaker system. He finished, folks applauded, and instead of dissipating the bizarre kiddie-eros tension in the room, the lead clown accelerated it by asking the kid if his mom works at a strip club (ironically, the big local one is called Joker’s). Cue nervous snickers all over. Then the clowns called up Bruno’s parents, who went thru a divorce last year and are still sweeping up the shards of their relationship, and began asking invasive questions about their status. This resulted in a lot of shoe-gazing by the parents and rabbit laughter ’round the uneasy room. Finally, the clowns fired up a cow-themed piñata. Once the kids busted it, some walked off with candy, but others walked off with entire paper mache limbs. I feel like if the limbs, and not the candy, were the objective, then this bodes poorly for PETA’s future in Mexico.