So, the time has come to talk about elephants. This is a true story.
This past Sunday I had gone into town, in sufficient lipstick and sufficient heels, to go see some comedians improvise something for free. My friend Banane R., who is a journalist and a slut, was writing what she calls a "piece" and what I call an "article" (sex columnists consider themselves to be the piece, I guess) about them, and had gotten seats taped off for us and everything, and there was a bunch of famous people and also a haunted sandwich, so it was diverting. But by the time we parted ways, our slippers saturated with some diluted bleach that had been municipally sprayed on the sidewalk, most of the elation from the improvised comedy had worn off, and I was thinking about how I didn't know how to tell the IRS about the grant money I received for my various projects, and I was noticing how gloomy and deserted the streets of even this enormous city were on a Sunday night. It seemed more deserted even than usual, maybe because the vast avenues had been emptied of traffic by some kind of nonsense with sirens in the distance. Across the street a deserted department store loomed, its windows brilliant with plastic adolescents dressed in pink-and-orange blossoms, but its entrance overhung with an enormous, slumbrous, foreboding celluloid Peep. I decided to call someone up on the phone to pass the time as I walked to the train, so I did. I called Eunice, and we passed the time, and I was telling her I needed to hang up because I was approaching the illuminated mouth of the subway, and they don't get service there, and she was saying goodnight, and I was putting my foot on the first step, and then out of the corner of my eye I see an elephant's butt. And then another elephant's butt.
This is, roughly, the order in which thoughts appeared in my brain:
So apparently when the circus comes to town they parade the elephants down the street and through various tunnels to get them to the circus venue. This is because there are no freight depots in the city where freight trains full of things like elephants can go, so the circus-people's only option is to march the elephants on foot in the dead of the night, so as not to trouble traffic too much. According to the Internet, this happened a month ago, too, when the circus came to town, and peanut-crunching crowds (of humans, not elephants) appeared to cheer and gape and gush at the noble, inhumanely-shaven, wrinkly-butted creatures. One article I found highlighted the poignant contrast between the frenetic anti-war protests of late March, with the sun-baked, bell-ringing, hoarse-throated anti-Americans getting clubbed by the police, and the gentle wonder of all the elephant-watchers. Oh, wait -- he wasn't talking about war protesters, just drunken Irishmen. No one cares if the police clubs them. Anyway, all I know is I saw some elephants, and I didn't expect to, and there were no peanut-crunching crowds, or peanut-choking-on toddlers, or peanut vendors, or peanut-stealing mice, or anyone who might make me feel that seeing a bunch of elephants (like, 15!!) stampeding two feet away from me was not a strange and magical gift from a capricious and pleasant God.
The problem is, I was so much in shock from the elephants that I barely looked at them. I didn't see their noble faces and ears, or the cases of their well-memoried brains, just their strange waggling elephant butts. I think Sartre would have said that the butts, detached from the rest of the elephants and therefore from their function within the synthetic whole of the elephants, were obscene. They were not the noble hindquarters of a complete animal; they were reduced to a detached wiggling butt with no function at all except to confuse me. This is why PETA doesn't like circuses, because they render elephant butts obscene.