Monday, December 21, 2009


Everytime a circus comes to town (about three or four times a year) I start having Bob Dylan's Desolation Row go through my head.

"They're selling postcards of the hanging
'They're painting the passports brown
'The beauty shop is filled with sailors
'The circus is in town."

For whatever reason, I had never been to a circus until now. I remember once having an opportunity to see Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden, but I opted to search the shelves of the Strand for interesting used books instead. Fran used to go to the travelling circus in Tupper Lake when the kids were young. She would laugh and say that if they advertised 80 animals, you could be that there were 79 birds and one horse.

Anyway, I convinced my friend Maria to go to the circus with me, along with her two children, Claudia and Alberto. I had hoped that her husband Mimmo would also come, but he claimed that he was tired so did not come over to the field near the stadium to see the second, or maybe third greatest show on earth.

This circus was certainly not Ringling Brothers, or even one of the Ringlings, nor was it Barnum nor Bailey. But it was fun. The circus did not have any birds, but they did have three camels, four horses, four snakes, four donkeys, and a zebra. The performers each had a variety of roles, and it seemed that some of them were working their way down from circus life, while others were trying to learn the trade, and move up to better circuses.

Not including the roustabouts, there were about ten people who worked for the circus, with one young man, who had probably trained as a gymnast, also working as a juggler and at one point putting the horses through their paces as they pranced around the single ring.

The clown came out on several occasions to do cute little, silent jokes, and then led kids selected from the audience in a game of musical chairs. Claudia did participate in that, and came in second. For me, it was most amusing when one of the women brought around a large snake for people to pet, and I watched Claudia and Alberto climb over each other to get out of the way.

It was certainly a beat circus, but it was also a fun circus, and the next time a circus comes to town, I will be there. Besides, with only about thirty people in the audience, I was able to get front row seats.


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