If there was one comic bright spot in the last two weeks it was our trip to see Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Now, for certain go read some other blog if you want a straight up review of the circus. Here you're going to get the weirdest moments of the whole experience: Protestors! Elephant poop! Clown shortages! Acts that defy gravity...and logic! First, let me tell you that I was blissfully unaware of the controversy surrounding the circus. So I was caught off-guard when I saw all the protestors in front of Phillips Arena. They had hand-lettered posters decrying the torture of circus animals and some poor soul drew the short stick and was dressed in a ratty-looking elephant costume and writhing around on the ground. Of course it was all quite alarming, but I wanted to check out the show to see if you could tell whether the animals looked happy like the animals in "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" or if they looked like they were trying to make a break for it.
Let's just address the issue of animal torture up front. I have no idea if Ringling Bros. whips the animals, but I'm going to assume that it takes sticks and carrots to get tigers to rear up in formation. It was the tigers that got to me more than the elephants. I'm just not sure we need to live in a world with trained tigers. I think we can get along perfectly/purrfectly well without them. It didn't help matter that the tiger trainer talked and acted like a stock Nazi from a World War II movie. Sure, sure, the K insisted he was speaking Spanish to the tigers, but to me it he sounded like Toht from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" ("Shoot them. Shoot them both.") So, while I felt sorry for the tigers, I thought the elephants behaved brilliantly.
I'll get to the elephants in a minute, but just for some background on my circus history. Despite what you may think, I have never actually been in a literal circus, just the circus that is my daily life with the children. However, I went to the circus one time when I was little and we sat so far away from the floor that we might as well have been at an ant circus. The most memorable part of the visit for me was when we were leaving Madison Square Garden we found a little boy (I was six and thought he was little, so he was probably four) crying on the escalator because he'd gotten separated from his parents. Mom held on to him at the top of the escalator in hopes that his parents would come back to retrieve him. We talked to him for a good ten minutes and learned that his name was Danny and he lived in New York. I remember thinking that we could just take him home and I'd have a little brother which, at the time, seemed better than having a little sister who was going through the terrible twos. But before I could start drawing up the adoption papers, Danny's mom showed up and my hopes of having a little brother were dashed.
So, when I bought tickets to the circus, I made sure to get us closer to the action...and of course to keep a keen eye on the children lest they get lost and end up living in a split-level in Dacula, Georgia with a new family who enters them in pageants. The best part about being so close was that we got to see what happens when you have a show that involves trained elephants. We learned that some guy has the job of hovering behind the elephant with a gigantic shovel designed to catch the elephant's poop.
The shovel, though enormous, is woefully inadequate for this job and the poop ends up all over the floor. After the shovel man has failed to catch the poop in mid-air, his next job is to throw something...I'm thinking sawdust... all over the poop to...well, I don't really know. Neutralize it? Hide it? Absorb odor? Right when you're thinking that the shovel man's next job is to actually clean up the poop, the circus dancers come out and do a routine in the middle of the poop field. They somehow manage to avoid most of the poop, which requires more skill than training a tiger, if you ask me. I don't know what the elephants actually did in their routine because I was totally engrossed in how the people were handling the poop situation. I have to ask whether protestors and foot high piles of poop are really worth it to Ringling Bros. Seems like getting rid of the elephants would solve a myriad of problems, but perhaps they need to keep the elephants because of the great clown shortage.
A word on the human performers and that word is two word and those words are "Eastern European." I have a completely prejudiced view of Eastern Europe that it is populated by athletes who excel in obscure sports. I assume that my own Eastern European ancestors left because they failed to pass some acrobatics test and were so shamed that they were forced to emigrate to America to reinvent themselves as failed bootleggers and fruit vendors. Seriously, though, how many brothers decide that they are going to ride bicycles across a rope while holding a pole across their shoulders upon which their sister is sitting in a chair? A friend of mine posted a query about the Olympics and specifically, who thought of the two-man luge? Someone commented that it must have been two brothers who lived on a hill in a snowy climate, their school was at the bottom of the hill, and they were always late. Yes! That makes sense to me. Running in a dual hamster wheel contraption does not make sense to me.
When we were leaving, the protestors were still out front and the poor guy was still dressed like an elephant. I am sorry for the circus animals, I really am, but is the circus a really plum employer for anyone? I mean, the humans in the circus are performing dangerous routines and navigating (or collecting) animal excrement, while dressed in brightly colored costumes. The fact is that if these people didn't have the circus, where would they perform their impressive but utterly random acts? As we walked to the parking garage I got my answer. A man was standing on the sidewalk, music case open and collecting money for his riveting performance of "Thrift Shop" on the slide trombone. That's what the circus people would be doing if there were no circus.
Bonus: As I was looking at funny picture of the circus on Google Images I found that someone has changed the captions for Family Circus cartoons to make them off-color. They're totally inappropriate, but decided to share anyway.
It's been that kind of month and these just made me laugh. Hope you all enjoy and for those of you in DEC, don't cheer too loudly when you get the kids off to school in the morning or we might cause an earthquake. Happy Sunday!