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Juggling for love & money

Casey West

(By Kyle Norris) Gerry Bose has worked as paint contractor for much of his life in new construction. He actually painted the insides of a lot of new mc-mansions. But when the housing bubble burst a few years ago, Bose lost 80% of his work. Since then he's laid off his two employees, and he's had to scramble for work as a painter.

But he's also had more time and energy to book jobs as a juggler.

Gerry Bose is setting up his show at the Grant Public Library, about 30 miles north of Grand Rapids. Bose cracks-open what looks like a pirate chest.

"It's basically just my prop box. It's nice to have something mysterious to take things out of. So I've got my clubs and knives and balls and crystal ball and gimmicks and to pull out during the course of the show."
Bose does all kinds of gigs, for corporate events, parties, and schools. He's also performed with the Grand Rapids Symphony. Today's show is an afterschool event for kids. Within minutes Bose has half-a dozen kids up on stage. He's teaching them to balance peacock feathers on their fingertip.

"Spread out a little, try balancing it on your hand and see how it moves "

The kids are weaving around while balancing the feathers on their foreheads, their feet, their elbows. The kids are so focused on their feathers that they barely miss crashing into one another.

Bose incorporates all kinds of stuff into his act. He cracks jokes, does some old vaudeville tricks and juggles knives, balls, and clubs.

"I taught myself how to juggle when I was working at Woolworths in high school. I would skip out from work and hide in the stacks in the basement in the toy aisle there were balls. That's where I first taught myself how to juggle, dodging work."

But now work is juggling, though it doesn't pay all of the bills.

"Juggling has not replaced new construction but it's become maybe a quarter of my work, and I'm glad for it."
Bose says the juggling helps reduce his stress. It helps him focus, and "become one with the balls," as he likes to say. And juggling gives him a chance to express his creativity-more than his work in new construction.

"I have this theory that there are threads of interest in one's life that you weave back and forth through your life. I've had interests in music and theatre and juggling and public speaking. So I'm able to put that all that together in a tapestry."

Bose says he'll always keep up with juggling. In fact, he plans on making juggling a side business once he retires.

But for now Bose hopes the jobs in new construction come back. He says he needs the money and he'd love to be able to hire back his crew.