Thursday, June 29, 2006

under the Big Top

I took the kids to the afternoon performance of the Cole Bros Circus today. The neighbors take their kids every year, and so I thought, why not? My kids had never been to a circus -- I can't remember the last time I went, but I'm betting it's something on the order of 30 years ago. I remember being annoyed because there was always so much going, you could never watch everything. What was the point of all that activity if I was always missing two-thirds of it?

But this was a one-ring circus, and the kids tickets were free, so we went. It was not exactly a cheap outing, since I spent $5 for DD to have her face painted, and then another $35 for 3 cotton candies, 3 movie-theater-size-small boxes of popcorn, and 2 small bottles of water. DS2 was hectoring me to buy him a light up toy sword but I refused; he has at least two at home and does not need another one... especially not at those prices.

The circus itself: pretty much OK. The kids did love it. There were frisbee-catching dogs and poodles who could dance the Can-Can and ride scooters; there was some nice acrobatic work; there was one good clown routine, I thought the rest were lame. There two Spider-Man acts that were quite good, one where he battled Green Goblin, and another where he drove a motorbike across a highwire. Yikes.

The first act was about an hour long, and at intermission we went out and bought a funnel cake (another $5). DS2 was grumpy and didn't want to go back in for the second act, which we knew would be short because they had a second show in just an hour and a half. He sat on my lap and complained until the elephants came out. Those elephants were completely charming, seriously. They marched around in time to the music and did a few simple balancing tricks, nothing dangerous or outrageous -- they just seemed like huge friendly puppies. I realize they're not, and would never treat an elephant as anything other than extremely dangerous, but it was very cool to see the people who work with them so closely doing their routines.

Then, after the elephants, the Grand Finale: they shot Spider Girl (I suppose Spider-Man wasn't up to it?) out of "The World's Biggest Cannon." I've never seen that act before (that I remember), and it really was very cool.

DS2 was glad he stayed, after all. I didn't bring my camera but it's just as well, you can see pretty much everything over at the website linked above.

Probably the worst aspect of the evening was trying to get out of the parking lot. It was a free-for-all, and it took us a half-hour or longer to get to the road. If I had thought a moment, I would've hustled the kids to the car a little more quickly, but it has been probably 10 years since I've had to deal with post-performance parking mayhem like that. I'll remember it for next time.

On the way out of the parking lot, we saw about a half-dozen of these guys. I acknowledge that some animal cruelty may be present at times in the circus environment, but I didn't see any evidence of it today, although I suppose it would have to be quite blatant for me to notice it. But honestly, having read through that list, I get the impression that those folks don't think animals should ever be manipulated in any way. Personally, I don't have a problem with animals used for labor or entertainment as long as they are well-cared for. Certainly the atmosphere today around the animals was relaxed and confident, and that was what made it so much fun to see.

I asked the kids what they liked, and surprisingly DS1 actually named some specific things, once I backed off the "what did you like best" question. He never likes to choose, and is often lazy about providing details, preferring to go with, "I liked everything." But we were able to have a good conversation about it this evening. We were all somewhat inspired by the strength and agility of the acrobats and trapeze artists, but I'm not sure we know exactly how to channel that inspiration.

I did specifically advise DD not to run away and join the circus. ""Why not?" she asked me. I told her that she wouldn't be able to bring all her stuffed animals with her, and she would never be home, and I would miss her terribly. She didn't seem to think any of those were compelling arguments, but when I pointed out that she's still working on her handstand, she conceded that maybe she wasn't cut out for circus life. *whew*

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