Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Trip to the Circus

Friday Ibis and I took our four-year old nephew to the circus. I haven't had a particularly strong desire to be in an enclosed area with jungle creatures, especially in a country where rules and regulations are more like suggested guidelines, but there's only so much to do with a boy who doesn't love the beach as much as Ibis.

My last trip to the circus was when I was four -- thirty years ago!! -- and I have zero recollection of the actual event. I vaguely remember entering the big top, and I do remember going back to my gramma's afterwards, but the time in between is a blank. My memory is like that of, well, an elephant, so this surprises me. All I can come up with is that something traumatized me and I've blocked it out. That or I had so much cotton candy that the sugar zapped the synapses that formed those memories. Either way, I was a little nervous Friday night.

We headed over twenty minutes before the show started, bought our tickets, and grabbed seats on the side of the ring. Bleachers lined the tent but we paid an extra ten pesos each (30 total) for folding chairs in front of the bleachers. There were "box seats" -- more folding chairs but blocked into four-chair sections -- for forty pesos each, but very few people bought those so we still had front row seats.

Vendors came around with popcorn, cotton candy, and some kind of french fry/sliced hot dog dish, and two clowns kept the kids entertained before the first act -- a rope-climbing guy -- came out. There were humans acts -- balancing pointy objects, juggling fire with feet, twirling on a long cloth, handstand/climbing things -- but the best were the animals.

First were five dogs (3 sheepdogs & 2 collies) that jumped through hoops, played leapfrog, and danced around the ring. As they left, one pretended not to want to leave and just sat with a mopey look on his face until the audience gave him more applause... it was really very cute.

During the intermission they brought out a pony that the kids could take for a spin for only ten pesos. Ibis waited in line with our nephew and he was very good -- even if he was so excited he forgot to wave at us. The man walking with them deserves a medal because there were several kids that were so terrified they screamed the entire time. He just held their arm with one hand and lead the pony with the other, a bemused expression on his face.

There were also horses! Now, if you've read Water for Elephants the act was very similar to how I pictured it in the book, except there were only five horses, one of which seemed to be in training. They did intricate routines, running around and around, making sharp turns and weaving around each other. For the finale they all stood on their hind legs and danced around -- what a sight!

For the final act, the crew carried out huge metal bars that slid together to form a black cage. As we leaned forward to see what animals were in the approaching cages, one of the clowns came out with a two-year old dressed in a tiger costume. He clung to the bars and roared at everyone, then the clown made him leap from pedestal to pedestal. The kids ate it up, but I had barely taken my eyes off the real tigers.

I watched them put the cage together, and I knew they'd done it a thousand times (I hoped), but I still made sure to check for the fastest way out of there in case something went wrong (through the gap in the bleachers and under the tent flap -- I figured it'd be too much work for a tiger and there were bound to be people running all over the place). Ibis commented that they looked pretty well fed, but that's not enough for me.

The trainer came out as the tigers took their places, walking around with nothing but a switch to control them. I tried not to notice how they cowered away (much the same way a couple of the dogs did) but he was clearly in control. They jumped through a flaming hoop, did various tricks in the center of the cage, and a couple even "swatted" at him. I felt pretty jaded after reading the book, and while I know not all animals are abused, the tiger closest to us was clearly sick, either with mange or some other feline disease. And they kept, uh, "spraying" towards the crowd.

At the very end, once the tigers were back in their cages, the trainer brought out a four-month old tiger cub. Man, was he cute! You could take a picture with him for fifty pesos but since we forgot the camera (I know...) we decided to skip it. He just lolled about while people fondled him -- I hope he enjoys the easy life while it lasts.

All in all, we were much more impressed than we anticipated. The acts were well done and the performers clearly had talent. Ibis wondered why they would be with such a small circus since it's doubtful they make very much money, but they've got to start somewhere, right?

Now, we were there on Friday and on Sunday afternoon authorities shut down the circus -- in the middle of the show -- because of the threat of the swine flu. It was only a precaution, but of course I've replayed all the times our nephew stuck something in his mouth, the people we shook hands with, the PONY he was on... I know it'll be fine, but it sure puts a different perspective on our night of family fun!

When was the last time you went to the circus?

29 comments:

Melanie's Mom said...

Gee -- I think the last time I was at the circus was about 30 years ago. My daughter was about 4 years old and she had a great time! Ha Ha! I don't have many memories of it either, although I can picture you in a cute little dress...

Melanie Avila said...

Mom, LOL! I do remember the dress (and did I have a hat?) but I think that's just because you took a picture. :)

EMC07 said...

Sounds like you had a nice time! Sadly, I have not been to the circus. It's not really my thing, since I am deathly afraid of clowns and always picture them attacking me... so, I will probably never go. Glad you had a nice time :)

WendyCinNYC said...

We go every summer. Out in Southampton, years ago the locals made a stink about using exotic animals in the circus, so alas, no tigers. Animal cruelty and all that. They do have dogs and horses and whatnot.

Anyway, the silly part is that they circus that comes actually DOES have exotic animals. They are just not allowed to bring them into Southampton. The animals wait in their cages a couple of towns over and then go on to the next show.

Janna Qualman said...

We went last summer, to the little circus at our state fair. It rocked! I'd swear the talent and acts were better than the bigger shows I've seen. Hoping to go back this year!

spyscribbler said...

A few years ago, with my niece and nephew! It was really cool.

Yesterday I was at Borders sitting on the edge of the fireplace, and this girl was sprawled in the chair in front of me. Get this: a guy she apparently regularly flirts with asked her if she's sleeping and and she says she doesn't feel good and is going home. He proceeds to bring up swine flu, and she says her best friend and hubby just came back from Mexico and got swine flu.

I was like, oh my God. DUH! What the heck are you doing in public if your best friend has swine flu and you're not feeling well? People!

Melanie Avila said...

EMC, the clowns weren't very "clownish" imo. And they seemed very friendly. :P

Melanie Avila said...

Wendy, that's hilarious/ridiculous. I read your comment to Ibis and we both laughed.

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, I really was impressed -- Ibis even more so!

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, what is WRONG with people? I feel like I ask this all the time, but come on!!

Robin said...

We went to a small circus that came to town a couple of years ago. It was really fun. I love the dogs! I always feel sorry for the elephants. Not so much the tigers. The elephants just seem so sad and bored.

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, I felt really bad for the dogs -- one of the collies in particular. It was clearly afraid of the trainer and spent more time cowering than actually doing the tricks. Poor guys.

Lisa J said...

It's funny. I went to the circus right after reading "Water for Elephants" too! It was last year and it was so bizarre to have everything I read about come to life before me. We went to the United Center to see the Ringling Bros. Circus (a friend got us free tix) and the thing about it was that the elephants and tigers seemed like they couldn't care less about being there. The show had all this music and focused around this one clown. I lost it with laughter when the clown danced to "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt. Too weird. The highlight had to be when Andrew bought me cotton candy for $12. It came in a clown hat that was unfortunately too small for my head. I told him he was crazy but I appreciated the sweet gesture.

Nadine said...

Your circus experience sounded fun! I haven't been to one since I was about 6 or 7 and all I really remember was it being hot and musty in the tent and Ed McMahon sitting in the front row across from us - I was a big Star Search fan.

I would like to go to the circus again, but we don't get them here so for now I'll live vicariously.

Turkey Lurkey said...

I've been to the circus a couple of times for a job that I had, but I've never been a fan of it. I might think differently about Cirque Du Soleil, but I haven't had a chance to see a performance yet.

colbymarshall said...

Last time had to be when I was like, six or something! Man, I wish I had some cotton candy right about now...you saying it made me crave it!

Melanie Avila said...

Lisa, it really was weird watching the performances and feeling like I knew how things were run behind the scenes. I'm sure I annoyed Ibis because I kept trying to talk about that with him.

I'm sorry your hat didn't fit, but I bet the $12 cotton candy was worth it! :P

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, Ed McMahon was there? How funny!

I keep waiting for a childhood memory to pop up, but it hasn't.

Melanie Avila said...

Turkey, we saw one of the Cirque du Soleil shows in Vegas (Ka?) and I really really liked it. I like the animals but I'm worried about how they're treated and I don't like being terrified of the performers.

Melanie Avila said...

Colby, they sell it here sometimes on the weekends at the plaza. Speaking of which, I wonder if they're going to shut that down for now. Hmm...

Amy Mullis said...

Lord, I love the circus. I never went until I got married the second time and Bill couldn't believe the kids had never been to a circus, so he took us as soon as Ringling Bros. came around. Now the kids are 18 and 20 and it's one of the few things they look forward to doing with the parents! Your post made my day.

Melanie Avila said...

Amy, I'm glad you liked it! I didn't mean for it to get so long, but hey, it's the circus!

Jes said...

French fries and sliced hot dogs! Salchipulpas, yummmm.

Melanie Avila said...

Jes, is that what it's called? It seemed like something they were used to ordering, but I'd never seen it before.

Jes said...

MMM, yeah, and they also make one called salchitacos, hot dog wrapped in a corn tortilla, fried and sliced. With Capsu, lol.

Melanie Avila said...

Ok, that sounds good. Pigs in a blanket, non?

Jes said...

Cerdos encobijados....wait...I dunno about there, but they simply do NOT sell a hot dog that is not made of turkey butt here, so it'd be more like pavo encobijado

Melanie Avila said...

And you've just explained why I rarely, if ever, eat hot dogs. :P

Lauren said...

Sounds like a fun day for the little kiddo :). Funny that you were the same age as him when you went :)

The part where the dog waited before getting extra applause is super cute sounding!