So. I survived.
I know you weren't all that worried. After all, it's a circus not a firing squad. (Well, they did shoot a 70 lb. cannon ball out of a cannon 75mph at some supposed strong guy, who caught it in gloved hands ... but that's not the same as a firing squad, right?)
Thanks to my father, who happily agreed to go with us to the civic center and even waited in line to swap our complementary passes for actual tickets, I was able to resist the urge to throw myself under the wheels of the miniature cars the clowns were zooming around in to end my suffering. You know ... to get away from all the people. I realize it really wouldn't be a circus if you didn't have to wade through crowds of people -- starting with the animal rights activists who are happy to shove pamphlets of ailing elephants into your kids' hands, and ending with the pushing and shoving of herding ticket holders, trying to run you down with their SUV-sized baby strollers as they make for the doors -- but I wouldn't mind trying.
Like I said: A clown show.
It also doesn't help that the very first thing you see upon making your way past the box office is The Greatest Show on Earth's most abundant and glamourous trinket trap in the Tri-City area. Whirring, buzzing lights spinning flashers; stuffed horses, elephants and tigers, mug heads sporting multi-colored ice brains and $10 bags of cotton candy stuffed into ludacris hats. All for the bargain price of 8,000 times the cost of production.
"I want a toy, mama. Can I have a toy, please."
And so it begins.
She doesn't REALLY want a toy. She just wants something she can put her hands on. Something she isn't in possession of this very minute. Something she can leave alone, abandoned, minutes after she possesses it.
"Well, I'll tell you what. We are going to find our seats because the show is starting, and if you are well behaved through the show I will buy you a toy on our way out. How's that sound?"
"Ok," she says and eyes me skeptically as we pass sales booth after sales booth after sales booth trying to find section 111, Seats 7 through 9 of Row G.
As soon as we climbed up the cement steps and brushed through the velvet curtains she was silent. Agast at the lights darting from one side of the arena to the other. The noise and smell of popcorn overwhelmed her. She was silent as we climbed all the way down the right side of section 111 only to climb half-way back up the left side to our seats.
"Wow. This is a circus?"
Those and a few more choice questions (Is that a tiger? What's the woman doing up that high? How is he going to get down from there? HORSES!) were the only things to pass through her lips until the lights went up for an intermission ... and she remembered her passion for popcorn.
So as Papa entertained her by pointing out all the crazy antics of the incidental sideshow - trying to keep her eyes averted from the souvenir hawkers making their way up and down the aisles with their sticks festooned with all manner of high-priced kitsch - watching the sweepers and the cleaners and positioners get ready for the second act, I went to spend a hour's worth of pay at the conssessions stand on popcorn and bottled water.
By the time I got back the lights were down and the tumblers were tumbling; the tooters were tooting and the fumblers were fumbling. The elephants came out and sat on their chairs and the aerialists were swinging high up in the air. It wasn't the Bindlestiffs, it had too much glam, but it sure was exciting from anywhere I could stand.
I watched in silence for 45 minutes, alongside the girl who was similarly committed. Even the grandpa was rapt with amazement. It was quite a spectacle, much more than entertainment.
When the lights came up for the very last time, I had to admit I was glad that we came. And on our way out, we stopped by the stands and picked up a wizzing, light twisting scam.
Then back to the car, six far away blocks, carrying a sleepy tot who'd just seen a lot. Too exciting for a weekday maybe, but man what a sight a circus can be.