Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 08/28/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/28/1995 01:00AM

>Bruce Feiler

CLOWNING AROUND, TAKING NOTES

"I've always been a sucker for adventure," says Bruce Feiler, 30, an accomplished juggler and mime with degrees in history (Yale) and international relations (Cambridge), who spent his 20s rafting the Zambezi river, diving the Great Barrier Reef and teaching English in Japan (which inspired his first book, Learning to Bow Inside the Heart of Japan). "After five years abroad," says Feiler, who grew up in Savannah and now lives in Washington, "I thought it was time to come home and explore America, and what better way than from the back lot of a circus."

How did the performers treat you?

At first they didn't think I would last. I've never worked so hard in my life. Two shows a day, seven days a week, every day from March to December. That means in 30-degree sleet, 120-degree heat or six inches of mud, and three times on Saturday. When I did it alongside them day after day, they began to embrace me.

Were they hard to get to know?

The first week I was there, they all flocked to my trailer to tell me the worst things they had ever done. It was like a confessional: "You should know that I'm married to two people."...They were worried that someone else was going to tell me first.

Do you miss the circus?

Every other day. I feel toward these people the way others may feel about those they've gone through military service with. We came from different backgrounds, we're headed in different directions, but because we went through hell together, we're bonded forever.

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