The Circus

“Ringling Bros. circus to close after 146 years”

I went at the old Madison Square Garden. Twice, maybe three times, the last time when I finally put my foot down and told my mother I didn’t actually like ballet and wasn’t going to go anymore.

Then my father took me to Madison Square Garden.

They used to have a sideshow. Well, not really, as in freaks and geeks, but in the low-ceilinged basement you could walk by the chained elephants and gawk at the giant and I’d never been so scared in my life. Because this was 60 years ago, when safety laws were not as strict, when the only thing separating me from the animals was a couple of feet of air.

And I took a ring off the finger of the giant, I think the fee was fifty cents, I kept that gold plastic circle forever, at least until my mother turned my bedroom into her office and threw out not only that ring, but my World’s Fair hat and my baseball glove and…

I just heard it was the fiftieth anniversary of the first Super Bowl. That it happened today. I remember it vividly, it was a curio not a must-see, I was at my friend Marc’s house, with him and his father and a buddy, that father and the buddy are gone, but it seems like it was yesterday, no one expected the AFL to win, but then only a couple of years later Broadway Joe showed us who’s boss and football eclipsed baseball and the Yankees sucked and it seemed like everything I knew was changing.

Then free agency came and Steinbrenner with his deep pockets and suddenly everybody was a Yankees fan, because America loves a winner. But most of us are losers. Then again, my contemporaries solved that by giving everybody a trophy. And their kids played soccer, football was for the underclass. Unless you lived in the south, but northeasterners could never get over the accent, never mind the beliefs. Friday Night Lights? Who’d pay for them? Money was for academics, back when public schools ruled and you felt you could stay in the middle or move up a notch, before we found out the joke was on us, when an even younger generation got rich and then those people we decried elected Trump and now even the circus has bitten the dust.

Many will say good riddance. That the animals were mistreated.

They probably were. But these same proprietors you’re putting out of business, the circus, the Sea Worlds, they’re just a harbinger for the rest of America, whose future was stolen when the elites decided they were in control of what’s right and wrong and…

I didn’t mean for this to become a political screed. It’s just that Bridgeport, Connecticut, the metropolis next to where I grew up, was the home of P.T. Barnum, there was a museum, I remember going there and seeing the mummy, I don’t think they let you see mummies anymore.

And they don’t let you do so much stuff, because you might get hurt, whether it be physically or emotionally. And I’d be lying if I told you I had any desire to go to the circus today, not having been in eons, but it used to be a rite of passage for young ‘uns, to not only be wowed, but to be ripped-off, to learn the ways of the world. I remember bugging my dad to buy me one of those flashlights everybody was twirling during the show and finally he did and it burned out before we got home.

That’s a lesson in America. Everything’s a con. It’s a giant magic show. And those in control are laughing all the while.

But we’re pushing back a bit, we’re refusing to pay for billionaires’ stadiums.

But, I have to admit I’m no longer in control. I could be like the rest of my brethren, embracing vinyl records and physical books and trying to keep my head in the past, but the truth is the future is inevitable, as is change, and the circus outlived not only its utility, but its audience, because you know for sure, if they were still making money they’d find a way to continue.

But they aren’t. People have stopped going.

They stopped watching football. They’ve stopped doing so much we used to.

But man, when the circus goes, I know it’s just a matter of time before I do too, that I’m in the rearview mirror, that my memories are only that, it won’t be long before people will marvel that we had circuses at all.

Of course, the young disruptors will find a substitute. Kinda like Cirque du Soleil, which is now hurting too, which I never liked, because the truth is some things just can’t go upscale. The circus was blue collar entertainment in a world where working with your hands earned you not only an honest living, but respect.

But now you’re a chump.

Like I said, I have no desire to go to the show, but I wish it was still there. I remember reading about the Flying Wallendas in “Reader’s Digest,” then again, that’s gone too, at least I think it is, the magazine went in and out of bankruptcy and the pastime of sitting at home reading in silence, that’s passe too.

The Big Top, with three rings, as American as apple pie.

Before everybody went gluten-free, sugar became anathema and people were proud to be vegan.

I no longer recognize the country I grew up in. And maybe that’s the way it’s always been. You grow older and…

I didn’t expect it to happen to me.

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