I love carnivals and circuses for the same reason most people do; we are born and raised and grow up only occasionally deviating from the prescribed method of living, which is to say, we live day to day in a series of routine arcs until something takes us, and then we let it take us, but often only as far as we can still see the shore. Circuses and carnivals are the promises of adventure and romance. Obviously the truth is hard-scrabble and laborious and not at all the shining fiction they insinuate, but the idea of a carnival is the idea of losing sight of the shore and finding something wonderful to chase instead. Like Helprin’s magnificent ship: “I have been there,” it said. “I have seen it. Now do your best to imagine the wonderful things that lie beyond, for I will not tell you exactly.”
And like all such beautiful fictions, with age the tarnish builds and the rust crawls, and like most astonishing promises of somethings wonderful, they are abandoned.
They don’t lose their beauty, but are weighted by the darker side of these ideas. Adventure always requires running away from, or to, something; adventure can’t be sifted from loss. Romance requires things to be seen as they might be, but romance can’t be recognized without the understanding of how things are. Lost amusement parks are promises, and warnings of promises, together.