the zoo

Some of my fondest memories as a kid are our trips to the zoo, which culminated in an Antone’s poorboy by the duck pond. Antone’s ain’t what it used to be since the family sold the business, and the zoo has changed a lot too. In the case of the latter, the change has been mostly for the better.

I bitched about the demise of the old train last year, but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the new train is.

(James and Crystal on the zoo train. Tried to take the shot on the down-low so as to not blow our cool cover and betray how much fun we were having. If you look closely, though, you’ll see that I have clip-on sunglasses on top of my regular glasses. There was never any chance of us – or at least me – being mistaken for cool…)

The seats are twice as wide (to accommodate larger asses), and the track seems quite a bit longer, too. The only thing that was missing for me was the tunnel at the start of the journey. I was always half scared of that thing, even though it had Looney Tunes-like characters in day-glo paint on the inside, nothing scary. An addition to the train experience that I don’t remember from my childhood is the sprinkling of homeless people/crackheads throughout the park. I kept waiting for them to run alongside the train with their hands out, begging for alms. Please sir, can I have some more. Luckily, they remained firmly in place on their picnic table living rooms.

Once inside the zoo, the smell still greets you. They still have the same shitty snack bar food, but it’s been updated with Starbucks coffee and wrap sandwiches with arugula on them. Much of the zoo is pretty much as you might remember it from a decade or two ago, but a lot has been updated.

For instance, I don’t remember seeing meerkats when I was a kid. They are hilarious to watch, often striking what seems to be a pensive pose, looking off into the distance with faraway eyes. Perhaps they are the poets of the animal world. They remind me a bit of Stella but without the big ears.

I’ve always been a big fan of monkeys. There is now an extensive monkey habitat that offers great views of monkeys examining their genitals and picking bugs off each other. Hey, I’m not complaining. That’s what monkeys do. I miss going into the gorilla house. If it and the super cool metal sculpture that used to be at the door are still in the zoo, I couldn’t find them. Talk about a smell that greeted you upon arrival… You knew you were doing something when you entered the stinky, humid gorilla house.

The gorillas orangutans we did find live outside. We were treated to this little family drama.

Pappa orangutan, suffering from ennui.

Baby orangutan, rolling around in a blanket and delighting onlookers who’d been somewhat disturbed by pappa orangutan.

Baby orangutan, interested in the people. Pappa orangutan, flipping everyone off (mentally).

Baby orangutan, going in for a hug.

Pappa orangutan pushing baby orangutan away and knocking him on his ass. Crowd laughed uncomfortably and hugged their kids as they walked away.

Ahhh, yes. Nothing like a trip to the zoo to teach you a little something about your own life. They’re still doing a lot of construction over there, so parking is a bitch. But wasn’t it always? I suggest you go before it gets too hot. Eat some cotton candy and remember the good old days. And make sure you ride the train. Best $2.50 I’ve spent in a long time.