Running Away With the Circus
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By Marc Porter Zasada
THIS EVENING THE URBAN MAN has scheduled a visit with his subconscious mind, sometimes called the id, which tonight happens to be located in a large white tent, right next to the Santa Monica Pier. It-s one of those massive shows featuring anonymous gymnasts in abstract leotards, staggering images on gigantic screens, sexual overtones and high-quality speaker systems soaring with new age music.
This one uses white horses running with flowing manes to enter directly into my subconscious.
I hear that, once upon a time, people got scared when a circus rolled into town. Painted wagons would appear in a field just past the feed store, and overnight the tents would go up. Furtive carnies posted playbills, grubby acrobats prowled streetcorners, and parents worried about their kids. They knew that inside the tent, the normal rules of society broke down, and the id ran rampant with tigers and half-naked bodies.
The townsfolk were entranced, but they didn-t want the farm boys and girls running off with the painted wagons.
In the metropolis, of course, we live with spectacle every day. Not just theme parks and movie screens, but Broadway musicals and even shopping malls have become a species of circus. We can access the id anytime we want, right in our living rooms. We can live full time in a world where people fly through dark landscapes. And everyone seems to dream of making the flight or pulling the wires.
Cirque du Soleil, which re-invented the Big Top to "seduce with the marvelous, the unsettling and the terrifying" now has four shows running permanently in Vegas, one of them frankly pornographic. Six more tour the country.
I understand they-ve applied for a patent on the subconscious mind.
In the beautiful tent next to the pier, the lights dim, the music rises, and I sit forward in my seat -- trying to ignore the bustle of the crowd and enter fully into a gentler dream called "Cavalia."
I know there-ll be no big names, no announcers -- no personalities at all. Acts like Siegfried and Roy are obsolete. No, the white horses will be the stars. The hypnotic sets. The flashes of light. The young people with the wonderful bodies will remain interchangeable, and the id itself will be the headliner.
But despite the poetry and the music, something holds me back, and I realize it-s the presence of my children. I steal glances to see just how entranced they may be. Are they even now fantasizing about offering their youth to a man running some kind of a circus?
The small town hicks probably never read Freud, but I can-t help remembering how he said the id wants only what feels good at the time, with no consideration for reality. How it thinks only about food, sex, and high quality speaker systems. I imagine that left unchecked, it would produce people who lived only for the next glittering spectacle, who created cities of painted facades and sparkling palaces, but left the sidewalks cracked, the parks untended.
The Urban Man ignores a truly wonderful show to consider things like Freud-s balancing of id, ego and superego. I fret about my life in the metropolis.
And afterwards, I take precautions. I lead the kids backstage to smell the stables. We peek behind the tent, looking for the detritus of the encampment, the dirty buckets and discarded lights. On the drive home, I hint darkly of bruised muscles and short careers.
I say I don-t want them running off with any painted wagons.
- 2004 Marc Porter Zasada, all rights reserved.
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