My son Gideon (who turns six on March 6) has now been to his first circus: the Ringling Bros. Illuscination show at Shelbyville's Calsonic Arena.
I applaud the artistry of the acrobat who jumped through a flaming hoop, although it was anticlimactic after all the hoops I had to jump through to get the tickets. Dealing with Ticketmaster's red tape and snafus is as much fun as a three-ring...binder. Think of the humanity who could have been spared if only Ticketmaster had been in charge of tickets for the Titanic. ("Ship hits iceberg and sinks. All three passengers -- the people who could stay on line long enough to order tickets -- perish.")
Melissa, Gideon, and I set out for some wholesome family fun, but ran into an awkward situation when we met protesters from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) outside the arena. They were mannerly, but earnest in asserting that Ringling Bros. beats its animals. We were polite, but I'll bet the demonstrators also encountered youths reared on violent video games. ("They beat the animals? Kewl! Is there, like, audience participation?")
I accepted a PETA brochure but won't tell Gideon what it's about until I've done some more research on the controversy. For one thing, I want to verify some of the goals a friend has attributed to PETA: 1. Intellectual property rights for those infinite monkeys sitting at an infinite number of typewriters. 2. Parrots must be read their Miranda rights before being asked to talk. 3. Government-sponsored opposable thumbs for all single-celled organisms.
We enjoyed the Caveagna family of clowns (Artidoro, Jones, and Steve), even though Gideon was taken aback by the naming conventions of circus folk. Most of the clowns he has seen on TV have either R or D and a state after their name.
Gideon seemed fascinated with the existence of the circus employees who followed the careless elephants around with a broom. I guess he thought that was a job for Momma and Daddy. At least he didn't run down to the show ring and tell the employees "Noooo -- don't throw that out! I might need it someday!"
Gideon remarked that his favorite act was the trained lions. The act was "scary," but in a good way. He was particularly enamored with the ones who walked on their hind legs. (I hated to disillusion him by telling him that the lions had the instructions scribbled on their paws.) This posture, of course, was one of those "unnatural acts" that the PETA people deplored. Well, anthropologists have never found a single primitive tribe where people pay $10 for souvenir cotton candy -- but I didn't see PETA trying to protect the audience members from such unnatural behavior.
Gideon plans to patronize Ringling Bros. again. He's going to create his own circus. He's going to shoot a home movie (for The Gideon Channel) called "Gideon's Circus Mystery." But he's not a fanatic. At the end of his first day back at school after the weekend circus, I asked if he had told the other kids about Illuscination. "Er...I forgot," was his sheepish answer. This from the boy who has the potential of spontaneously asking a crowd, "Hey, do you know what Daddy said after he stubbed his toe Labor Day the year before last?" *Sigh* Is it too late to run away and join the circus?
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