Saturday, August 25, 2007

What a Circus!

Today, Daddy and I took Smunch and Mam to see their very first circus. And, as good parents, we took them not to just any circus, but to "The Greatest Show on Earth". For years now, I've been sort of tacitly opposed to the circus. I'm not a member of PETA or anything, but I prefer to see animals in something approaching their native habitat...and the big top seems a far cry from that. San Jose Mercury columnist Mike Cassidy summed up my own feelings about the circus excellently in his recent column on the circus. I feel grateful that someone out there feels much the way I do. Although honestly, I can see many animals as having human qualities and needing to be treated as such. After all, I'd argue that my kids are animals. In fact, for most of today, they've been quite beastly. In that state, I'm not sure if they are really treated better than circus elephants.

But I digress.

Although they were obnoxious, the kids couldn't wait to go to the circus. I'm not sure what they expected, but it was going to be exciting. The circus has changed a lot since I was a kid. Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey performed today at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. No big top, no straw, no dirt. I didn't even see any popcorn. We had cushy seats in the 10th row with tickets that looked like they'd been printed by TicketMaster. But it was quite a spectacle with lights, loud music and a terrific singing ringmaster.

They had some pre-show entertainment where you could go down on the floor and watch some of the performers from a safe distance. Mam, up on my shoulders, seemed fairly non-plussed by the whole thing.

They had free clown noses for everyone. And thank goodness because nothing else was even close to free. We didn't bother with a program at $15 a pop. It looked like most of the souvenirs were in the $10-$20 range. Didn't bother with those either. A clown nose seems like a perfect souvenir! After all, the tickets weren't free either.

Smunch loved the circus. He gasped and cheered at all the right places. He was enthusiastic and riveted. It was fun to see. He said his favorite act was the one with the little dogs who jumped over people.

Mam, well, I'm not really sure she was thrilled with the spectacle. Mam quotes of the day were:

"When is it time to go home?"
"We've been watching this for hours!"
"But we only saw a show!" (while resisting being led from the building after the show)

I think the only thing that really impressed her was when they shot confetti at the crowd, which she dutifully picked up and stuffed in the pockets of her dress (because she must have pockets at all times, just in case an opportunity like this comes up) during intermission.

The elephants and tigers did some impressive work. But I couldn't help feeling that they really didn't belong there. The tigers, in particular, seemed unhappy. I don't know what a happy tiger would look like exactly, but they certainly didn't delight in performing. They peed on the floor a lot. At best, I think that's got to be a sign of distain.

But there were acrobats and contortionists, lots of clowns, the "wheel of steel", the cute dog act and even a couple of human cannon balls. It was fun, it was colorful and if it hadn't been necessary to buy food, I would have said it was worth the money.

I couldn't help being a little relieved when neither kid said the elephants or the tigers were their favorite act. And when we were faced with the demonstrators from PETA on the way out the door shouting, "Make this the last time you go to the circus!", I didn't take one of their flyers. But a tiny little voice in my head said, "Yeah, O.K., maybe I will." After all, I can always shell out even more money for Cirque du Soleil, right?

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