Send In the Clowns

All I could see at the circus were liability traps. I wanted to protect the young people dangling from ropes above my head from certain death. Good thing my daughter only saw the magic.

I went to the circus with my children and the majority of Girl Scout Troop 4550, and I have to say, those Ringling Brothers people really do know how to put on a show. They are masters at the art of distraction and scene change. It is impossible to notice the elephant poop sweepers and the guys rolling out the metal thingies for the tigers to do tricks on while you are looking up at the ceiling at young women with no apparent spine to inhibit flexibility dangling inches away from a likely fall to certain death.

Of course, me being me, I have to over think things. And there were plenty of things to over think at the circus. I’d like to share with you a few of the highlights.

First of all, major kudos to the Ringmaster, who sang the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning in an impressive baritone using only the actual notes in the tune. No vocal pyrotechnics, no trills or turns all over the melody, just a simple, reverent version of our national anthem. Which was really striking, considering the fact that I was under the impression that perhaps Congress had passed a law banning the simple tune since I haven’t heard it sung that way since I was in elementary school, and the man was wearing a fake dragon skin coat with what must have been 7,000 pounds of sequins on it. 

There were lots of impressive athletes, and I got to wondering where they all came from. Then I got to thinking, there are probably hundreds of guys in the NBA at any given moment. (I just looked it up, and the answer is 420, but I didn’t know it at the time I was thinking it.) Which means there are hundreds of guys who are at the top of their game in basketball, good enough to be drafted. It seems likely that there are that many male gymnasts who are that talented, only how are these guys going to translate their love of and talent for the sport into an income? The circus, I guess. So that got me thinking of the guy in front of me going to a bar after the show, nursing a Seven and Seven and watching ESPN and its parade of highly paid athletes thinking, “I wear glitter pants every day. Glitter pants!”

Of course, the cool guy in the circus has got to be the lion tamer. He’s wearing glitter pants, too, but I picture him at the other end of the bar with a group of young women surrounding him and he’s arching one eyebrow and taking a dramatic sip of his Crown Royal saying, “That’s right. I’m the lion tamer. I face death every night. But I know how to handle the pussycats.” He winks. At least two of the women actually swoon.

There were two ladies who had these metal rings somehow stuck at the end of their severe ponytails, and they hooked these rings to various devices, and sometimes each other, and dangled from the rafters by their hair, posing and spinning in a blur. I kind of wanted to smack my daughter, who was sitting next to me, and say something like, “don’t you EVER complain that I’m pulling your hair when I am combing out the tangles,” but I refrained. That act mostly just made me cringe in empathetic pain. But I also had to marvel at the feat of engineering. Someone had to figure out how to get those rings in their hair in a way that it wouldn’t come out. Is it glue? Is it sewn in? Do they sleep with it? And someone had to conceive of the act, and then convince two people to do it – imagine that sales pitch. “So, we have two women, and they attach their hair to these ropes hanging from the ceiling and they spin. You, Julie – do you want to do that? Oh no, it won’t hurt.” And someone had to be the guinea pig to see if they were going to get scalped the first time they tried. Which highly trained athlete lost that lottery?

Speaking of engineering, I also got to thinking about the amount of planning and science that goes in to it all. Take the metal ball full of motorcycle riders.  Someone with an engineering degree and a great understanding of physics had to figure out how big the ball needed to be to fit eight guys riding motorcycles while still keeping it small enough to look impossible, how steep the walls had to be, and what design would provide strength and visibility and stability. Someone had to be the test guys to see if two (and increasingly more) people really could move in interlocking circles in this thing, and figure out what the best way was to get moving, how much torque the engines had, what angles they should all start at, etc.

I also had to wonder how much their insurance premiums were, and why the tickets weren’t $300 apiece to cover it.

Bottom line is, I know, I know, I over think everything and that takes the magic out of it. Just trust me that this is a high form of entertainment for my warped little brain. I wish I could be like the boy near me, who regularly shouted words of encouragement to the performers (“Come on! You can do it!”) and was bouncing up and down with the excitement and wonder of it all. But no, I’m not. Not me. I’m the one stuck wondering how anyone gets away with charging $14 for a snow cone.

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Dave Ballard March 05, 2013 at 02:23 AM
"Don't bother: they're here." ^_^
Lori Duff March 05, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Thank you very much for getting my obscure reference. And yes, they are here. In droves. They arrived in two old school Volkswagen Beetles and a Smart Car.
Julie Epstein Blankenship March 05, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Get out of my head! BTW, thanks for mentioning my pony tail trick!
Dave Ballard March 06, 2013 at 02:57 AM
What, no bright yellow Ford Pintos? Ah well. ^_~ Loved your story, btw.
steve dewig March 07, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Aren't we supposed to be boycotting circuses because of the inhumane treatment the performing animals endure? Or has that been all solved at this point?


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