Monday, September 7, 2009

Plans Deferred

So, last Thursday we decided to go see the circus. Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey was in town, and they'd brought both elephants and tigers with them. Apparently they'd been scheduled to parade through Kent at midday, but by the time I found out about that it was too late to see it -- though Janice heard from their mailman at work that he (she?) had seen a bunch of elephants outside the ShoWare Center.

That evening we arrived in what we thought was plenty of time to see the show, and were somewhat taken aback by the full lots, crowds of people, and numerous protesters. The protesters, about ten or twelve in all, were handing out leaflets, holding up signs, and occasionally shouting out a phrase or two in a rote sort of way. It seems they were from PETA, with whose aims I'm generally in sympathy but who I tend to disagree with here: their goal is to do away with animals in circuses because (a) it's an unnatural lifestyle for a wild animal and (b) they claim that Ringling Brothers abuses its elephants. So far as (a) is concerned, there are precious few wild places left and the surviving animals in them have by and large had to learn how to make accommodations, like the suburban foxes people in Germany feed like stray cats. (B) is a much more serious matter, and I certainly wouldn't give Ringling Brothers my money if I believed it.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to give the circus my money anyway, because when we reached the ticket window we were told that they were sold out of seats together and the only way we could see the show was in separate seating. That idea didn't appeal -- what's the fun of going to something together if you can't enjoy it together? -- so we decided to give it a pass and come back another night, walking through Kent Commons (where Janice treated me to a cup of tea) and then by the new Kent waterpark with its giant rotating Stone of Erech on our way back to the car.

End of First Event. Success Rate: zero

Then, on Saturday night, we drove to Soos Creek Park for the Bat Walk, similar to the Owl Walk we went on in the spring (March, I think). That time we'd enjoyed ourselves and had a nice walk, even though we didn't see any owls. This time we couldn't find the event. The online directions to the spot failed us utterly, sending us up a private road in the wrong area. With the aid of a local map, we drove to several different spots where we thought the walk might be starting, but failed utterly to locate it. Given that Soos Creek Park is eight and a half miles long and that the online announcement of the event (as well as the one I'd cut out from the 'Local Events' pamphlet that'd come in the mail a few weeks earlier) neglected to make any mention of where we were to gather, we eventually gave up half an hour after the scheduled start time, figuring that even if we could find the spot they'd be out on the walk itself by now, since it was only to last an hour and a half altogether.

End of Second Event. Success Rate: zero

Then, on Sunday we decided to try to circus again. Janice had already gone online and bought us tickets, sitting together, for the one o'clock show. We parked well away, allowing plenty of time, and were nonplused when the tickets we'd printed out didn't scan. Turns out they were for the five o'clock showing later that day.

End of Third Event. Success Rate: zero

By now, we were starting to get just a bit put out by our plans for the holiday weekend not going as well as we'd like. So we were careful to arrive in plenty of time, made sure we had the tickets printed out, parked well away and walked an alternative route to avoid the crowds -- and it worked. We got in, we got seated, I even got a cup of tea.

I'd been to see Ringling Brothers once before, but that was a long time ago -- in fact, when my father took me back in 1967 when I was in second grade -- so long ago that it was still owned by the last of the Ringlings at the time (John Ringling North, nephew of the famous Brothers). That was when we were living in Little Rock, and I remember that it was somewhere near the intersection of Asher and University -- next to the K-Mart, I think. My sister must have been with us, though I don't remember, though I don't think my mother was (and, speaking to her that night, she confirms that she wouldn't have gone).

How was the circus itself? Well, having missed Barnum (Thursday's show), and then Bailey (the earlier showing on Sunday), I enjoyed what I thought of as the Ringling Brothers show. I was rather surprised by just how much of the repertoire was 'classic' -- that is, little changed from the acts appearing in Chaplin's THE CIRCUS [1928] over eighty years ago. Instead of a lion tamer they had a tiger act with ten tigers together performing acrobatics. The eleven elephants came out several times and performed their stunts, very impressively. The horses were obviously both talented and very well cared for, and the performing dogs even more so (a good sign, since it makes me think the much more valuable tigers and elephants were similarly well-treated). There were high wire acts, various impressive tumblers, clowns (which were the low point for me, though one skinny fellow in green was an impressive juggler and tumbler). There were magic tricks, like sawing a person in half or piercing a cabinet with spikes. About the only thing missing was a strong man, and I don't think anyone minded dispensing with that. I would have been happy with more of the animals (including the zebras, who don't seem to be as good at tricks as the horses but then are so eye-catching they really don't have to be) and less of the clowns, but if the kids (of whom there were many in attendance) liked the clowns then they served their purpose.

Interesting that when they have zoo animals do any tricks (say at the Point Defiance aquarium or the Woodlands Park raptors show), they always give then a treat immediately after each trick. Not so with the circus animals, who reminded Janice much more of working animals (like a service dog or carriage horse). I've actually seen the argument, in the book TRIBE OF TIGER, that circus animals have more human contact than zoo animals, whose major problems are too-small cages and sheer boredom; I hope that that's true.

End of Fourth Event. Success!

Finally, on Monday we went over for the Grubbs' Game Day, where we got to see a lot of friends and enjoyed visiting with folks. We even played a game of Settlers of Catan, which I'd only played once long ago and which was altogether new for Janice. I tied for next-to-last place but, to adapt the words of Xander Harris, some of us worked for that tied-for-next-to-last place. After that I watched folks plays several games I don't know so as to have an idea how they work for another time; Steve Jackson Games' new REVOLUTION seemed to be popular.

And then back home and prepare for the week to come

End of Fifth Event: Very enjoyable indeed.


No comments: