Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It Was A Zoo.

Since I spent the better part of our first autumnal weekend working on the landscaping (boat), Monday was declared FAMILY DAY by Mrs. Ditchman, and one could tell by the twitchy look in her eye that it was a concept not to be debated nor voted upon. So we went to the zoo!

The midget who lives with us has a special affinity for animals and when we explained the concept of "zoo" to her she just started to glow, which was neat. She has a goodly number of animal books from which she can name all the animals and do all the sounds they make. I find it especially entertaining, as I take Mrs. Ditchman's animal sounds lesson one step further and make up sounds for creatures like The Musk Ox, The Golden Eagle, The American Beaver, and so forth. Imagine my delight when we were in the grocery store recently and the kid pointed up at an inflatable dolphin and squealed at full volume: "EEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Awesome.

So yesterday was Founder's Day at the San Diego Zoo, or something, which meant that it was free admission. Bells go off in our heads when we hear the words "free admission" and there is a certain Pavlovian response that motivates us to take full advantage. Unfortunately, this Pavlovian response was clearly echoed in nearly half of Southern California yesterday. We got within a couple miles of the zoo and it was bumper to bumper traffic, and upon reaching the parking lot, we found it was also LOT FULL day at the zoo. I was ready to quit right there and go to Ikea or something, but when your little angel is chanting "ZOO ZOO ZOO ZOO" from the back seat, well, there's just no turning back.

It was a zoo, all right. Evidently it was also "Spanish-Speaking Day" at the zoo, as it seemed that most of the population of Baja California had made their way across the border for Founder's Day. I had large designs to shoot an over-the-top cutesy video of the kid saying the animal names and sounds while we were at the zoo, pointing out all of God's creatures. Unfortunately, upon sight of all of God's other creatures, I just lost the ambition. Seriously, there were heads and strollers as far as the eye could see. And people were LOUD everywhere we went. At one cage, a very large man in a Superman shirt was YELLING FULL VOLUME at the animals trying to get them to move. "PUT ON A SHOW! COME ON!" And he accompanied that with an ear-piercing, full-fingered whistle that caused everyone within a fifty-foot radius to shake (except the animals.) I suppose he thought he was being funny, but that would be giving him the benefit of the doubt, which he no doubt did not deserve.

Which leads me to another gripe about the zoo: was this, like, "Animal Maintenance Day"? It seemed that over half the cages were empty, if not desolate. Were they out being washed? A sign in front listed some of the animals that couldn't be viewed yesterday and among them was "Giraffes." Seriously, now. Where are they gonna take the giraffes where you can't at least see their heads?

And if they weren't missing from the cages, they were sleeping -which is like watching an Andy Warhol film. I noted that all the animals looked distinctly depressed, which garnered a nice eye-roll from the wife. "How can you tell?" she asked. I just said that I watched Discovery and Animal Planet all the time, "Those animals don't look depressed." (Except when they get eaten, of course.)

The kid liked it all anyway, I think, and when she first saw the orangutan she just lit up and repeated "Nana-tan, Nana-tan" for an hour and that was worth the price of admission. She also liked the hippo -or maybe it was the rhino- she kept saying "eye-no eye-no eye-no", but after a while the eighteen-month-old just wanted to swing on the railing and stare at other kids and stuff. I personally thought the highlight of the day was the Swamp Monkeys, which I'd never heard of before. It was the highlight because, well, just the idea of "swamp monkeys" sounded amusing to me.

Also it was hot, and it cost $3.99 for a coke, but I expected that misery. That's the thing about "misery" altogether: if you can see it coming, you can brace yourself appropriately, which is what made the busiest day of the year at the zoo so difficult to begin with. The day was finished off with a sufficient amount of beer to wipe the slate clean, at Gordon Biersch with the people over at The Dawg Run, and then a bit of time with my wife and the pooftas at Dancing With The Stars, and the day ended wonderfully, without having to blog as the internet was down. (It's been happening quite often lately, and it's really cutting into my routine.)

Upon reflection, the day would have been Near Perfect if I had only read this site ahead of time, which states clearly in the final paragraph:

Avoid visiting during Founder's Day celebrations in October. True, admission fees are waived for kids, but the typical zoo crowd of 20,000 can easily swell past 50,000, making for a most unpleasant visit.
No exaggeration there.