After a fourteen-hour bus ride to Valparaiso, Chile, I dragged my backpack up the steps of Luigi’s apartment and rang the bell. He opened a doorway, smiled and waved me in.
Surely that guy did not look like a clown.
Luigi showed a cut at the Mohawk and was studded with tattoos, and his apartment looked like the seat of a “circus” fraternity-a hoard of empty beer cans, top hats, dirty dishes, and juggling pins.
To some it may seem like a nightmare because the clowns make us immediately think of IT, the pedophiles of Law and Order SVU, or that doll that terrifies Carol Anne in Poltergeist, but you must know that in South America the clowns are much “cooler”.
Inside, a circle of hippies with tattoos, ridges and pigtails was sitting on the floor smoking a cane. Virtually no one spoke English. But after a few minutes, they began to give me balloons in the shape of an animal.
I learned that Luigi was a clown from his profile on couchsurfing.com . But it never occurred to me that I would sleep in a house full of clowns. In any case, it seemed like the kind of extravagant adventure I would normally find myself in.
Some of them were already looking at me like a lion watching a succulent steak, so I immediately went into “big sister” mode. After working and attending mostly male environments as a rafting guide, climber and ski instructor for years, and later as a comedian and a member of the troupe for the New York film industry, I was now an expert on how to make myself completely “non-sweaty” .
Sit down like a man, talk like a man, do not forget the burps. Do not flirt in the most absolute way and keep your head when you talk to them like a footballer. When sent correctly, these powerful non-verbal messages convince them to treat you like one of them rather than a hole in your legs.
It seemed to work like a spell. Finally I felt safe and could relax for once.