Balance and the Bongo Board


There’s something to be said for an all too unknown “extreme sport” called Bongo Boarding. Actually, it’s only “extreme” for old farts like myself who are more likely to break a hip trying to do it at my age than bring home the Bongo Board Olympic gold medal. Titanium rods and screws is more like it. My childhood friend Joel (who is still my friend after all these years) and I would spend endless hours and summer days as kids trying to perfect the art, science, and metaphysics of the bongo board, which is really nothing more than a rounded wooden board that (theoretically) balances on a short rolling wooden log,  somewhat like a giant cut-off Lincoln log. Rumor has it that Bozo from Bozo’s circus was a fairly adept bongo boarder. I also suspect by using those last two Baby Boomer references I just lost any potential readers under the age of 50. Anyway, it’s sort of like a modified circus act that bored young people who are yet to discover sex, masturbation or marijuana can engage in legally and impress their less-coordinated friends.

Balancing on a moving, see-sawing piece of maple wood is not as easy as it looks. Joel and I would devise all kinds of bongo board “routines” that involved acts of “daring” that required complete and total concentration on our parts and worried silence on the part of our audience, which usually only included our parents, our equally bored siblings, and an occasional friend. To be fair, Joel, unlike myself, was a multi-sport athlete who also specialized in shooting basketball free throws in his driveway. That guy could stand there for hours successfully shooting free throws time after time after time. Eventually I would get bored watching him and just leave him in his Zen-like free-throw “zone” and go inside his house to get a handful of large pretzel sticks that his mother kept perpetually stocked in their kitchen. Of course, Joel, like myself, wasn’t tall enough to actually play competitive basketball or anything else not counting Risk and Monopoly, but if they ever had a designated free-throw player position in basketball, I would have bet all my money on him. Also he was pretty damn good at “HORSE” too, which demonstrates how one semi-useless skill can carry over into another equally useless game.

Ok, maybe I exaggerated a bit about the bongo board and the need for total concentration and silence. That really was more for dramatic effect. Given both of our predilections for theatrics (Joel was and is a good actor and I watched TV constantly) we, somewhat like Harry Houdini the famous escape artist, had already mastered the so-called difficult tricks like “hanging ten”, balancing while turning in a circle, and jumping off the bongo board in mid-air only to land 180 degrees facing the other way….all without killing ourselves.  The key to a good bongo board routine,  like trapeze artists and body builders doing their absurd “pose-offs” during muscle competitions, is to project an air of supreme confidence while also grimacing and grunting a bit like you’re doing something near impossible and might possibly break a leg at any moment. The other secret, which is something one learns by doing magic tricks, another popular pre-pubescent hobby that is dropped like a hot rock once a boy discovers his penis, is to offer other people the chance to try balancing on the bongo board themselves. It’s something that really just takes a lot of practice, so inevitably everyone falls off and thinks it’s “impossible” except maybe a pre-pubescent Ukranian gymnast named Nadia or maybe Olga. Even they have a little trouble at first.

Ok, so why a whole blog about bongo boards? Because, my lovely readers, bongo boards and bongo boarding are the perfect metaphors for how to best approach life. “What??”, you say? “how can that be? It’s simple.  The best way to proceed in life is in a balanced and alert manner. So many things in life try to knock us off course, threaten to cause us to lose our mental or psychological “footing”, or plain and simple just throw us for a big loop and land us on our butt. I dont need to enumerate all the many different ways life teaches us difficult lessons and tests our patience, our resolve, and our resilience, which is a fancy psychological word for getting back up on the bongo board. It takes a certain amount of crazy determination, practice, guts and a desire to keep on trying…..all the while maintaining a balanced, centered, upright and noble posture that says, “I can do this. I can get better at this. I can fall and get back up. I can do things that others who are taller, thinner, more muscular, smarter or generally more athletically inclined cannot do. I occupy a special niche in my bored childhood while I wait for real life to start. I am a bongo board champion!”

Bongo Board video:

About captaincliff

Psychologist by day, insomniac Pirate blogger by night, this Child of God likes to share sarcastic social commentary as well as topsy-turvy observations about life, love and the pursuit of zaniness, a functional form of insanity in an increasingly insane world
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