Animal House


We went to two zoo-type places within the past two weeks, which to me is like regressing to my past life, the one where I had little kids and I thought that in order for them to grow up to be employed and marriage material, I had to take them places. Places with a hand stamp, a concession stand and a cardboard cut-out that they could stick their heads through for a photo op.

Back in those days, we were all about the zoo. We went to every zoo that was within a tank of gas from wherever we were standing on a day off school. We became members of several of the zoos, knew many of the animals by name, and celebrated several milestones at zoos. My daughter’s Most Traumatic Moment was when a baby goat tried to eat our diaper bag. We rescued it and the gift shop bag with a teddy bear and half a bagel that it was going for, but the shock turned my daughter into a catatonic broken record. For the entire 45 minute drive home, she repeated in a breathless voice, “Baby goat eat - diaper bag - no, Diaper bag - yeah . . . baby goat eat . . . diaper bag . . . no . . . Diaper bag . . . yeah.” Until we walked into the house and I said, “Tell Daddy what happened to you at the zoo” and she said, “We saw a mouse.” (Don’t let anyone tell you toddlers don’t save their most obnoxious and annoying behavior for their mothers.)

My children have been attacked by ostriches (who are very greedy, as it turns out) and pooped on by large tropical birds at the zoos where we were allowed to interact with the animals.

We saw a Noah’s Ark of animal breeds and species, including the zoo freak shows of albino alligators and the like. We saw baby pandas at the National Zoo in Washington DC - you know, the ones whose mothers kept killing them with their almost nonexistent maternal instincts. The moms love that exhibit, because it makes us feel better about our own sorry parenting.

I’m pretty sure my kids learned about the birds and the bees from the actual birds and a hive of bees at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. Not to mention those monkeys with the red rear ends. I don’t even want to think about what my children learned from those assclowns.

Recently, we all went to the Miami Zoo, otherwise known as The Everglades With a Fence Around It. A couple weeks later, we went to the Miami Seaquarium, otherwise known as The Ocean in a Tank. Florida, it seems, has decided to take advantage of the fact that this entire state is so overrun by nature that it’s not necessary to create an actual zoo. You can just barricade what’s already there, stick some signs in the ground that say LIZARD and PALM TREE, charge $35 and a senior discount, and you’ve got yourself a career as an entrepreneur.

I have to admit, I saw these zoo-type places as they are, or as seen by someone without little kids anymore. What were we thinking? Why are we capturing other species and parading people past to stare at them while they eat, sleep, poop, have sex, pick bugs off each other, and sleep off a tranquilizer-gun bender? Am I the only one who thinks PLANET OF THE APES! PLANET OF THE APES! when walking through a zoo now?

I’m sorry if I’m ruining it for those of you who still have little kids. Please keep taking your kids there. Don’t stop on my account. It’s an important part of growing up, even though I myself as a child never had the pleasure to go to a real zoo, and I turned out OK. (Shut up.)
The closest I came to the all American childhood zoo experience was when I went to a little mini fake zoo slash petting farm when I was very young. My sister Kathy was working as a counselor or teacher or something for a Head Start-like urban day care center.

She took me along on one of their field trips, which was a big dusty, animal farm. I can’t remember a single animal, because I was so enthralled by the little city kids and the fact that they got to go places without their moms, on a bus, with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a brown paper bag that was prepared by someone who was not their mom, and handed them to eat for lunch. To a little suburban girl in pink pedal pushers, these little ghetto kids were living the dream, walking in and out of big buses, little zoos, and public restrooms without their moms.

Maybe that’s why when I go to the zoo, while my kids have always dutifully looked at the animals and sounded out the signs that said things like, “If I smell bad, it’s because I’m a penguin and I eat fish!” and “My mommy flies around while I nurse!”, I tended to watch the humans outside the cages. I may as well have been at the mall.
The Philadelphia Zoo is a popular place for the Amish. My sightings there have led me to conclude that the Amish love zoos. And since they live a short buggy ride from Philadelphia, they were always at that zoo, which made my people-watching kind of historical. In Miami, there are lots of Spanish speaking people, which makes the zoo an international experience.

I may go back, actually. My kids probably won’t go with me, so I’ll have to borrow some kids from someplace or be one of those weird, creepy old people who go to the zoo and look longingly at the children like an old maid or someone who’s had too many miscarriages.

Loan me your kids, please. I’ll make sure the baby goat doesn’t eat the diaper bag. Yeah.

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