Yesterday, I took my seven-year-old niece to The Greatest Show On Earth. The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus was at Madison Square Garden, and it was mightily entertaining. It offered trained animals of all sizes, from bichons frisés to elephants, including one ring of trained black, white and black-and-white horses next to another of trained zebras.
Later on, there was the net-enclosed spectacle of 12 tigers rolling over, dancing on their hind legs and leaping over their trainer - remarkable compared to most house cats I've met, who seem oblivious to all commands. (After the show, tediously earnest people were passing out flyers about animal abuse, which struck me as odd considering that those animals are surely better fed and cared for than many of the children on this planet.)
There were also many acts that defied gravity, flying and swooping and tumbling in improbable ways, including two brothers on what looked like matching hamster wheels, what appeared to be a family of airborne acrobats flipping in mid-air, and a high-wire act that at one point had four people seemingly balanced on a unicycle. I particularly liked the upside-down couple - wearing, it appeared, magnetic shoes - who conducted an adorable pantomime from the ceiling.
The clowns were terrific, as was the ringmaster, and there was a live band who kept things moving along nicely. I, of course, kept wondering how differently my life would have turned out if I had made the final cut in the Ringling Brothers showgirl auditions I went to at a midtown hotel all those years ago. At least my picture was in the Post, all wide smile and long legs.
While the First Niece enjoyed her shaved ice in its light-up commemorative mug, and her stuffed baby elephant, I may have actually have had more fun than she did - that's amortality for you. It truly was magical, for children of all ages. Inevitably, I found myself thinking about one of my favorite films, Wings of Desire, about mortality and performance and a circus, for which the trailer is unexpectedly terrible: