“A Heart-Breaking Shop”

Bookstore Window

Bookstore Window

But what were even gold and silver, precious stones and clockwork, to the bookshops, whence a pleasant smell of paper freshly pressed came issuing forth, awakening instant recollections of some new grammar had at school, long time ago, with “Master Pinch, Grove House Academy,” inscribed in faultless writing on the fly-leaf! That whiff of russia leather, too, and all those rows on rows of volumes, neatly ranged within—what happiness did they suggest! And in the window were the spick-and-span new works from London, with the title-pages, and sometimes even the first page of the first chapter, laid wide open; tempting unwary men to begin to read the book, and then, in the impossibility of turning over, to rush blindly in, and buy it! Here too were the dainty frontispiece and trim vignette, pointing like hand-posts on the outskirts of great cities, to the rich stock of incident beyond; and store of books, with many a grave portrait and time-honored name, whose matter he knew well, and would have given mines to have, in any form, upon the narrow shelf beside his bed at Mr Pecksniff’s. What a heart-breaking shop it was!—Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit

The Greatest Show on Earth

Ringmaster Andre McClain of the Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus

Ringmaster Andre McClain of the Ringling Brothers Circus

When I returned from Iceland, I noticed that Martine had printed out a couple of sheets about the latest show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Since she had been waiting patiently for my return, suffering from an obscure nerve disorder (apparently still not officially diagnosed as fibromyalgia) that has robbed her of sleep and caused a steady level of back pain, I thought it would be a good idea to take her out on Saturday afternoon to see the show.

It was playing at the Staples Center downtown, which Martine had never seen; so I reserved a couple of VIP seats and hopped on the bus to go downtown. (A Santa Monica #10 freeway flyer bus straight downtown picks up only a block from our apartment, and it is far more convenient than hassling the downtown parking scene.)

I had seen several circuses in Cleveland while I was growing up, both the Ringling Brothers and the Grotto Circuses. In Los Angeles, I had seen Circus Vargas twice. Even in Mexico, I had seen small local circuses in Zacatecas and San Cristobal de las Casas. The latter was a family affair which I saw with my brother Dan in 1979. The 15-year-old aerialist also sold popcorn. Having taken a shine to Dan, she sat several rows behind him and tried to get his attention by tossing popcorn at him.

Ringling Brothers is several thousand times bigger then the Circulo del Sureste in San Cristobal, but it was all the same sort of fun. Instead of an adolescent boy rolling around in broken glass and Mamacita balancing furniture on her chest, we had a tiger tamer from Chile that had me on the edge of my seat. There was also an all-African-American unicycle team that played basketball, a young lady shot out of a cannon, a parade of elephants, various high wire acts, and a husband/wife pair of clowns from Russia who were outstandingly funny.

Outside the Staples Center were scores of protestors claiming that the animals in the show were being tortured to perform. Yes, true to some extent, but so were the humans; and no one was protesting about that.

The only sour note was that my cell phone holster fell apart, and I lost my cheap cell phone. I’ll make a few calls to lost and found today, but I’m not exactly disconsolate about the whole thing. I never answered my cell phone anyhow unless I was expecting a particular call.