Thursday, December 9, 2010

At the circus

Last week at this time, I just wistfully recalled as I looked at the clock, we were at Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indy at Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus, sitting in our amazing seats and settling down to watch the show with cold drinks, candy and a bucket of popcorn big enough to bathe a baby in. If the popcorn had been eaten first, of course.

The young man in the photo is my cousin Patrick, the guy who got us the FREE tickets and the VIP backstage passes. Isn't he handsome? He looks just like his dad, who is Susie's oldest brother, Skip. Patrick is twenty-five and is employed by the circus as a stagehand -- my husband and I were so impressed by this adventurous choice of jobs that we kept apologizing over and over again to Patrick for being so boring and middle-aged.

"I feel very, very forty-something," my husband said, sadly chomping on a Starburst. We watched Patrick and the rest of the stage crew rapidly dismantling and rolling up the enormous net the aerialists had been using in their act. "If I had to bend over and roll that net and walk forward in that crouching position, I'd never be able to stand upright again."

"I know," I agreed gloomily, digging into the popcorn vat. "The only thing I can see myself doing here with any competence at all is, well, what I'm doing right now. Popcorn?" I offered him the buttery tub and he shook his head disconsolately.

My husband took a drink of his soda pop and said, "I think we might as well face the fact that some people have interesting jobs that take them all over the country to see many different places and do all kinds of unusual things and other people are us."

"Look at Patrick now!" squealed the girls, who had taken to giggling slightly and blinking their eyes whenever his name was mentioned. Truly, it was almost as much fun watching him with his fellow stagehands as it was watching the show. Your eyes naturally tend to be distracted by the elephants and the white ponies wearing plumey hats and the trapeze artists flinging themselves around in the air, but watching the crew make the show happen so that everything goes smoothly and no tiger ran amok or llama went careening into the crowd and no high wire acrobat went crashing splat on the floor.

One of the best parts of the whole show was when Patrick took us backstage on the floor level, said with a smile, "Wait 'til you see this!" and then led us around a corner and down a ramp where we suddenly saw a fenced herd of elephants -- ELEPHANTS!!! -- standing placidly in some scattered straw. Among them was the sweetest little baby elephant you have ever seen, right there not ten feet in front of me, snuggling up next to his (her?) mother's side and looking around with innocent amazement.

He also showed us the clowns' dressing area -- the girls and I went past with a quick step, whistling, and looking everywhere we could but at the place where we might see that most dreaded of childhood terrors, a full-on clown.

We were able to meet lots of clowns later, out on the floor of Conseco during the pre-show and we found out that not all clowns are like the one from Stephen King's It or Xander's nightmare clown from his sixth birthday party, the one with the jolly laugh and the butcher knife on Buffy. That was a nice thing to know and one of Patrick's clown friends said to us -- well, okay, said to the girls -- with a flirty wink, "The white-face clowns are scary, but we don't have any white-face clowns in this circus. Besides, not many clowns are as handsome and personable as I am."

He really was cute, so I had to agree.

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