(Special Note: Today WordPress isn’t having troubles and I had the time to put the pictures in this post. For publication purposes, this was like Saturn and Jupiter aligning and putting us into the Age of Aquarius. Or, just good news.  Now onto the post…..)
Many of you may think that I haven’t blogged because I have nothing exciting to tell you. On the contrary! I haven’t blogged because there’s too many exciting things swirling around me! Most importantly, was the weekend entertainment we enjoyed. So, as I embark upon another story, I dedicate this endeavor to a certain friend out there with an aching belly button. I hope this story doesn’t make your vexatious venter nitter too much.

What’s the talk of the town this week? The Eurasian circus! In case you are confusing this troupe with their cousins Barnum or Bailey, let me give a bit more description. They’re a circus populated by Eurasians. We think they came from the Ukraine or Romania or some other former Soviet bloc country. The Soviet-era former missile silo-turned-circus truck was our first clue. Fortunately, our friends here got our tickets early for this amazing event. We showed up about a half hour before the performance and were greeted by a line that crossed the street and wound its way around the grocery store next door. It was insane. Once we crammed way too many people into a small one-ring red tent, clearly thumbing our nose at the fire marshall, and found a set of white plastic stools to plant our rumps upon, we pulled out our sunflower seeds and prepared to be amazed.

Central Asians love sunflower seeds. Love them. Partly because it’s a snack and it passes the time. In one fast and fluid motion, they split the hull with their teeth and pull the seed out with their tongue. After two years I have also become proficient at this. We don’t eat them like baseball players in the States. You know the ones — guys who don’t chew ‘baccy, but want to have big bulging cheeks and be able to spit into a cup. I worked with a guy once that I thought had a bad sunflower seed habit. Then, one day as we were working at a children’s camp, he had to pick up a child who had fallen or something. So, I offered to hold his sunflower seed cup. Then, I realized that it was far grosser than spit-out sunflower hulls. He really was chewing tobacco. I still want to barf. Anyway, I am wandering from my topic. I am dangerously close to losing my audience, so I should show a picture now….

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Here’s our buddy Nate with some of our friends. He absolutely loved the circus. I wish I could have taken more pictures, but the lighting was crazy, we were too far away to get clear shots, and we were sitting right behind one of the support columns. So, good pictures were difficult to get. At this point, Nate was being amazed by the first act – two women acrobats doing a cool bungee-cord suspension thing. They were wearing leotards that they had painted with glitter and puffy paint and oddly enough, revealed that neither of them had butts. None at all. I wonder if they lost them during the Soviet occupation. One woman appeared in her fifties, but dude, I can’t throw gibes at a woman who, using only her neck, can suspend herself and the other acrobat-lady from a cord twenty feet in the air. After the Buttless Wonders left the ring, a magician came in. I think he got his tricks out of a cereal box, so I won’t go into that. Next, was a variety of other acrobatic feats by the Wonders. Then, magic man came out – dressed as a clown. He spent the next twenty minutes making a respectable business man from the audience do a variety of foolish stunts. The man was a really great sport and did a great job. At one point, he said he wasn’t going to follow the clown’s orders. So, the clown pulled something out of his pocket. What, you ask? Come on, people. Didn’t you read the title? He pulled out a gun. No one seemed to freak out or think this was improper entertainment for children. It’s like the time that my church hired a magician clown to perform for a summer camp or something while I was a child. All was going well until this magician started doing tricks involving cigarettes. Of course, he said “Now, kids, don’t ever smoke! That’s bad! But, now watch all the super cool tricks I can do with a lit cigarette!” Fifteen years later, I walked into a public speaking class at the community college where I was taking summer courses. That man was there. The minute I saw him, I thought “Whoa! It’s Ciggy the Clown!” So, you know I learned a lot of valuable things at that day camp that impacted my life long-term. Again, I am digressing. And this paragraph is way too long. I must put another picture in to keep you from hitting “next blog” on the button at the top…

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After the clown-man, we had a fifteen minute break. During this time, everyone could walk through another tiny tent and see a zoo. They had to pay an extra buck to do this. Still, all the kids went crazy and began begging their parents. So, all 1,000 people crammed into the slightly-larger-than-tiny tent attempted to leave by the only exit to visit the tiny-tent zoo, take a smoke break, buy some concessions, or get some fresh air. Unfortunately, by the time those of us who were at the back of the tent got to the door to leave, everyone else was trying to get in. So, 1,000 people were going two different directions through an opening about 6 feet wide. I mentally noted other areas where the tent was exposed and planned to run to them and cut a hole in them with my keys and my hair clip in case of a stampede.

Outside at the concession stands, we began to realize how small the circus troupe was. Some of the Buttless Wonders were out selling caramel apples. The announcer was in charge of popcorn. In fact, everyone involved in the circus had at least three jobs, but I’ll get to that more later…

When we entered the tent again, the trapeze act was beginning (see fuzzy, tiny picture above). I’ll have to say, it was very impressive. Not just that they could do all those crazy things hanging from a metal T, but that they’d do it with so obvious a lack of safety concerns. I mean, OSHA isn’t exactly well-known in this part of the world. In a liability lawsuit-free society, things like safety nets and ropes are unheard of. So are separate entrances clearly marked in case of fire or stampede, and safety perimeters around the circus ring. Some of the spectators had their feet resting on the ring. Not a big deal when it’s just trapeze artists performing, but… well, I’ll get to that, too.

I should probably clarify about the trapeze, too. It wasn’t really a swing-back and forth trapeze. It was stationary. It was just a big T hanging from the ceiling. Sure, they did all kinds of acrobatics on that T, but no swinging or jumping. So, what would we call that instead of a trapeze? Oh! I know! The Amazing Hanging T of Death!!!! (In circus-speak, you must always have at least 2 adjectives and “of Death” attached to any act, followed by at least 3 exclamation marks. I think it’s written in the by-laws or something.)

After this act, the magician/clown man came out without his clown nose (but still in his clown costume). This was to let us know that he was now acting as the dog trainer. He led a variety of dogs through tricks that kept the kids entertained. Later, after The Incredible Twisting Human Pretzel of Death!!!, the magician/clown/dog trainer came out accompanied by three trunks. After a great show of dramatics, he pulled a green snake out of the top trunk. Women began screaming, children began fainting, and literally dozens of people began leaving the show. It was dang funny. Instead of being horrified, I giggled and laughed. He let the snake crawl all over him and then walked around the circus ring, letting the people sitting there touch the snake. The point when I thought people were going to jump the man was when he let a baby touch the snake. But, the baby didn’t seem to mind. Then, the man did the most amazing trick of all (well, at least according to the audience’s reaction): he put the snake’s head in his mouth. No, he didn’t do an Ozzy and bite the snake’s head off. He simply put it in his mouth, made a face, and pulled it out. Now, if you ask me, that’s not dangerous. As long as the snake’s mouth is already closed when you put it in your mouth, you’ll be able to keep it from biting you. So, not dangerous. Gross? Yes. Creepy? For sure. But, it’s not as gross and creepy as the skit that Justin P. performed at Kid’s Kamp when I was in 4th grade. All of the 5th grade boys brushed their teeth and dipped their toothbrush in the same glass of water. Then, he drank it. Yeah, that’s gross and creepy. And dangerous. I mean, did you know any of those 5th grade boys? Have you ever known a 5th grade boy? They should come with a Surgeon General’s warning tattooed on their butts. But here I go again, digressing with a story about children’s camp. Again, I am forced to put another picture in to keep the reader engaged with my storyline.

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What is the above picture? Well, it’s the reaction of the 5th grade boy in front of me when the magician/clown/dog trainer/snake handler opened the second trunk. He was so scared of what was going to come out of that box that he pulled his sweater up over his head. Of course, his fear was much augmented by the drama the man was using as he reached in for the next animal. Suddenly he grabbed the animal, appeared to struggle and then wrenched it free. It was a baby alligator. Everyone was thrown into hysterics. I was hysterically laughing. I mean, there are bigger alligators in the bayou behind my in-laws’ house. This thing was only about 3 feet long with the tail. But, since alligators aren’t native to this part of the world, the only experience locals have had with this fierce creature are nature shows on TV. This time, the magician/clown/dog trainer/reptile handler didn’t put the alligator into his mouth. Instead, he held him in what seemed to be a strange slow-dance. Interestingly enough, the music they chose as the backdrop to this feat of animal training was that Gregorian monk chant-turned dance hit that was so hip when I was in middle school. I found that to be a really strange choice of music. After he put the alligator back in it’s box, he opened the third, and largest, box. Inside was a truly gigantic python. At this point, anyone with a heart condition that hadn’t left because of the previous two animals began having palpitations. (Central Asians react pretty strongly to dramatic reptiles.) This snake was about 10 feet long and almost 10 inches thick. I walked down to just outside the ring to get better pictures of it. Still, because of the angle and the lighting, they didn’t turn out well. That’s like the horrible picture Britty took of me at seventh grade camp. She insists on posting it on her blog and putting it all over the place. Then again, I can’t really blame that photo on angle and lighting. I should blame it on the imitation hypercolor t-shirt I was wearing. And the hat. I got a plain white hat and put all of the pins and broaches on it I could find. It would have been cooler if I had remembered to bend the bill. But no, I was a flat-brimmed-pin-covered-hat-wearing, imitation-hypercolor-t-shirt-sporting, giant-neon-sunglasses-donning seventh grade nerd. Sigh. But again, I digress.

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Yes, you can see the magician/clown/dog trainer/reptile handler’s back hair. And yes, I wondered why he thought he needed to be shirtless and wear that giant gold cummerbund. The reptile act was now at an end and after the Buttless Wonders reappeared for another acrobatic feat, the magician/clown/dog trainer/reptile handler entered the ring for the grand finale. This time, he ingested a strange blue fuel and blew flames all over the place. Of course, they dramatically lowered the lights for these huge, arcing, fireballs. The result was some cool photo effects I got from keeping my shutter open. I only wish I had a better angle. Until the magician/clown/dog trainer/reptile handler/fire breather came out, I had decided that next year I’d sit on the front row to get some good pictures. But, when the lights came on after the fire-breathing trick, we saw the large amount of kerosene that had been spat all over the ring. It was everywhere. And, it was gross. Maybe his back hair is caused by the accidental ingestion of all of that kerosene. And, isn’t having back hair a bit of a work hazard for a fire-breather? What if it catches on fire? It’s kind of like that one counselor at the kid’s camp…. Oh, nevermind. I’ll just show the pictures.

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After it was over, we didn’t want to crush through the tiny opening with the other 994 people. We looked behind the bleachers and found another secret opening. We tried to sneak under the bleachers and get to it, but two bouncer-types wouldn’t let us go back there. So, we waited until a woman came up and started talking to them. Because they were some form of Eurasian and not Central Asian, they didn’t understand a word she said. It was entertaining to watch her yell at them more to get them to understand while they tried to communicate only with hand motions. (I know exactly how they feel!) Anyway, thankful for the diversion for our former KGB agents-turned circus roadies, three of our group snuck under the bleachers. The hub and I were about to follow them when the roadies saw us. They began shaking their fingers at our friends and made us go through the regular exit.

Counting these two roadies, the one announcer man who spoke the local language, the two Buttless Wonders, the man on the Astonishing Unstable Ladder of Death!!!! (sorry, no time in the post to cover that), the Incredible Twisting Human Pretzel of Death!!!, the man who was both the trapeze man and the Amazing Life-Sustaining Water Salesman of Death!!!!!, and the magician/clown/dog handler/reptile trainer/fire breather, there were 9 employees of this circus. Nine employees, one tiny van covered in circus posters, and a truck of truly gigantic proportions to carry the tent, the zoo, and all the circus accoutrements. This was low-budget fun at its best.

I can’t wait for the circus to come back next year. It was truly the most entertaining $3 I’ve spent in a long, long time.

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