Archive for September 5th, 2010

Circus Trauma

Years ago, people used to run away to join the circus.  I wonder how that worked. “Hey, where’s Ralph? I haven’t seen him in a while?”…..”Oh, haven’t you heard? He ran off and joined the circus.”  Seriously?  You could do that?   I would think that if you want to work with a bunch of clowns, many people wouldn’t have to go very far.

Since my dad was in the Clown Patrol with the Shriners, or whatever Osiris Temple is, we went to the circus a lot. I guess my dad felt a connection with the “real” clowns. They scared the hell out of me. They thought it was funny to sneak up behind you and honk that stupid giant-sized horn behind your head. What the hell is wrong with you, Bozo?  That is not funny. Probably why I have hearing loss in both my ears. Clown disorder. I also thought that they were a bit creepy, like sexually creepy. A couple of them would just stare at me. I was only around 12 at the time. They probably thought they could get away with creepy looks because they were basically hidden behind a mask. When I was little, we didnt’ know about “Stranger danger” and we didn’t have Amber Alerts,  but I am betting that  some of the clowns in the circus had some issues. So, they ran away and joined the circus so they could be with children. Yikes…

There seemed to be a lot of midget clowns. (We called them midgets back then because that’s what they were.)  Sort of made me mad that they got the really dirty jobs of walking behind the elepants with a pooper scooper, and smiling all the while like it was fun to clean up elephant poop. The elephants could have easily stepped on one. I worried about this.

I remember thinking that the circus was a dirty world. I felt so sorry for the animals and secretly wanted to see the lion bite off someone’s head. And I thought this when I was little.  They were kept in tiny cages and looked so unhappy. There were even little dogs that did tricks in one of the rings. Maybe they ran away and joined the circus too. Stray dogs put to work to earn their keep. Poor pooches. I decided very early on that if I was rich when I grew up that I would buy a huge piece of land and put all of the circus animals on it so they could just hang out and not have to do tricks every day. I was a wise child.

I noticed everything about the circus. Like how the girls wore fishnet hose with tears in them. First of all, why would they wear fishnet hose under their little costume?  They always had tears in them. Maybe swinging on the flying trapeze bars tore them up a lot. Which goes back to why they would wear them in the first place. I don’t know, I just thought everything was dirty. I knew then I had no desire to run away and join the circus.

My biggest concern with the circus was the tightrope walkers. The Flying Wallenda’s were a daredevil circus act famous for performing death-defying stunts without a safety net. They were also famous for being stupid. They had a 7 person pyramid with a chair and those long sticks to keep their balance, so they decided they didn’t need a safety net. Someone should have given them an IQ test. I knew that people came to the circus to see if they would fall. They did in 1962 at the Shrine Circus at the Detroit State Fair and two people died. They still didn’t feel the need for a safety net.  No one must have asked, “Hey, uh, Uncle Rufeo fell to his death last night. We gonna put up a net?”   More relatives fell and died. These people do not learn their lesson. I really had enough of the circus.

I remember my dad telling me about the Hartford Circus Fire. I think it happened in 1944. A fire broke out under the big top and 168 people died, along with many animals. I specifically remember him telling me about the fire while we were at the circus….sitting far away from the entrance…under a tent. Nice, Dad, scare the child even more. Most of the time we went to Wheeling Island Stadium, along the banks of the Ohio River. I bet the Flying Wallenda’s didn’t like the breeze from the river. But, back to the fire…I sat there listening to my dad tell me about the fire and I decided, once again, that we really shouldn’t go to another circus performance.

I don’t know how old I was when I went to my first circus. I do remember when I went to my last.

It was a flea circus. Yeah, a flea circus. A circus so small you have to look at it with a magnfying glass. I thought it was a joke. I was in college when I first heard about it. What is this world coming to? What are we going to have next, a cockroach rodeo?

Who the hell decided it would be a good idea to have a circus with fleas?

I’m thinking it must have been one of the Wallenda’s.

Old Lady Driver

When my kids were little, I ran them all over the place. It seemed like we were always in the car heading somewhere. And most of the time we were in a hurry. I was a stay-at-home-mom until my youngest was a junior in high school, so I chauffeured quite a bit. So, it wasn’t unusual for one of them to ask to stop to grab something to eat right after school, on their way to their sporting practice.

I picked up my son, Adam, after school, one day to drive him straight to football practice. We were running late, but he was hungry and wanted to stop at McDonald’s. I was driving my husband’s work car, a silverish Monte Carlo. It was a piece of junk, and I really don’t know why I had it that day.  Since we were in a hurry, he wanted me to just pull into a spot and he was going to run in and grab some food to go. I pulled into a parking spot and he jumped out.

It was pretty crowded, so I knew that this was going to make my son nervous. They would get in trouble if they were late for football practice. While we were waiting, another car pulled up beside me. My door was beside her driver’s door, so I got a good look at the driver. It was a silver car and I was amused to see a very old woman with purplish hair and she was wearing sun glasses that seemed to wrap around her face. They were black and huge and she barely could see over her steering wheel.

Well, she put her car in park, and was getting ready to get out of the car, when all of a sudden, her passenger door was flung opened, and my son hopped into her car and shut the door. He had his bag of McDonald food and a drink. The lady looked over at him, and didn’t say a word. She just looked at him. This all happened in less than 30 seconds, but I could see my son mouth ,”Let’s go!”  And then he looked over at her.

They just stared at each other.  They were both confused. I am sure he was thinking, “Who the hell are you and why are you in my mom’s car?” And she was probably thinking, “Let’s go? Are you kidnapping me?”  And I cracked up. He saw me through the window so I waved at him. He didn’t say a word to her, and hurriedly got out of the car.

When Adam got in the right car and shut the door, my daughter and I were already laughing so hard, we were crying. He was embarrassed. Then I happened to look at the old lady, thinking she already got out of the car to enter McDonald’s, but..and this is the best part..she was still looking at her passenger seat. She was staring with her purplish hair and her wrap-around sunglasses like he was still there.

I don’t know what it was, but I could not quit laughing. I had to pull over because the tears in my eyes were obscurring my vision while driving. Adam was not amused and was getting aggitated because we were running late. So, I tried to compose myself, and finally made it to the stadium without hitting anyone head on.

I guess I rank my best laughs.

And this was definitely in the Top Ten.

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