Have you ever seen the movie Man on Wire? We did, a few months back. It’s a very nicely done 2008 documentary that probably fell under your radar, about Philipe Petit’s 1974 illegal walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Oddly, though, a few weeks later, a friend gave me the book Let The Great World Spin. It’s novelist Colum McCann’s fictionalized account of that same tightrope act. So balancing acts have evidently been working overtime in my brain,

Last Saturday, then, when our local paper reported the King of the High Wire Nik Wallenda was slated to perform a stunt at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, I knew I had to go. Who’d want to miss the chance to see a man taking a stroll around a 52-foot Ferris Wheel? Definitely not me!

The early morning fog was giving way to blue skies as I gathered Kid Two, his Buddy, and a pocketful of quarters. We set out for a bit of morning adventure, and the boys took in a few rides while we waited for The King of the High Wire to begin.

When the time came, a crowd of two hundred or so gathered under the Ferris wheel, jostling for position. The wheel s-l-o-w-l-y started to move. Parents and teens brandished smartphones in anticipation. Roller coaster oriented children complained loudly at the interruption. Finally Nik Wallenda appeared, riding s-l-o-w-l-y to the top of the wheel. He summoned his balance pole from the ground, straddled the top of the ride, stepped out to the top, and strolled s-l-o-w-l-y around the wheel as it made a rotation. It really was a spectacle – quite awesome.

Nik Wallenda starting his walk on top of the 52-foot Ferris wheel

Here’s a photo of the King of the High Wire getting ready to sit back down after he walked a full rotation; it gives you better perspective from the ground:

I was happy to be there, and happy for the spectacle. It had been a while since I’d wandered around the Boardwalk, a few years at least. When the Kids were little we’d dash over there on spring and summer Saturdays for a Carousel ride or two and an always unfortunately stale soft pretzel before afternoon naps and evening beach. But like Stevie Nicks sang, “children get older, and I’m getting older, too.” We do different things now on weekend mornings. The one thing that hasn’t changed, though, is Kid feeding time. After a handful of rides, the familiar question: “Hey mom, what’s for lunch?”

There’s lots to eat at the Boardwalk but nothing you could properly call food.

Luckily there’s a decent tamale place right there on Beach Street – El Paisano. It’s a great hole in the wall that LL turned me on to many, many years ago, a spot I’ve gotten away from thinking about anymore. The tamales are small, heavy on the cornmeal and light on the fillings, but quick and cheap to take a dozen home and enjoy the day with the rest of the family. A perfect balancing act of the familiar with the unexpected – a happy day.