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Goin’ to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo

October 19, 2002

Yesterday, Mr. Karen and I celebrated our sixteenth wedding anniversary. Sixteen years: from one perspective, that seems like a long time. That’s long enough to go from kindergarten to having a four-year college degree. Yet if our lives turn out the way we hope, sixteen years is almost no time at all. I envision us at age 90, celebrating our sixty-sixth wedding anniversary, reminiscing about the old days but still planning to do new things.

We spent the afternoon yesterday doing an old thing, going to a zoo. Long before we were married, we went to the Brookfield Zoo on a date and had a good time, and since then, we‘ve been to lots of other zoos together. It’d been several years since we’d been to Detroit Zoo, so we hadn’t yet seen the fabulous new polar bear exhibit where visitors have underwater views of the bears swimming and the bears have underwater views of the seals swimming in an adjacent tank. We’d also heard on the radio about a rare baby zebra who’d recently gotten big enough to make her public debut and wanted to see her, too. I didn’t get my hopes up for seeing any capybara, my favorite zoo resident, since the weather was a bit chilly, but we knew the snow monkeys would be out, maybe even hanging around in their hot tub.

We got to the gate to find many signs telling us that the underwater viewing area of the polar bear exhibit was closed. Bummer. But since we were already there, and there’s more to the zoo than bears swimming, we went ahead and paid our admission. My disappointment at not being able to get the full arctic experience was somewhat relieved by an unexpected bonus– the displays were up for the Zoo Boo, so we got to see dioramas with all sorts of creatures made out of pumpkins and gourds, as well as several giant inflatable holiday icons, like the four-story tall jack o‘latern. I especially liked the display with characters from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, one of my favorite movies.

When we got to the arctic area, it was clear why there was no underwater viewing– there was no water; the pools had all been drained. That made me feel better about missing it; it wasn’t as if the bears were swimming and we were being kept from it. We still got to see the polar bears, roaming around on the tundra part of their enclosure. It was raining at this point, so many of the animals in the exhibits we walked past were huddled under trees or along the walls to stay out of the wet. This was the case with the baby zebra; we saw her standing close by her mom under a small overhang. There were actually two mom and baby zebra pairs in that enclosure, so we weren’t sure which was the one we’d heard about . The snow monkeys weren’t hiding from the weather; we spent a long time at their exhibit, watching the various sizes of babies running around and the adults clambering over the rocks and tree limbs. The only hot tub action we saw was the two who were using it as water dish; it was probably not cold enough outside for them to seek out a nice hot soak.

There was no capybara in the first exhibit we came to where there should have been one. The tapir was there, evidently hardier than its smaller roommate. In the next capybara area, we got just a brief glimpse of one before it scampered off exhibit. But then we scored capybara paydirt: there was one not just out, but up and around, in the area with the pudu, a small deer-like creature. True, they were both trying to get back inside where we couldn‘t see them, but they spent the interludes between checking the door roaming around their exhibit. We even got to see some interspecies booty action when the pudu mounted the capybara (no pictures of that; this is not a porn site). That would have quite satisfied my capybara jones, but we were lucky enough to also see a mini-herd of really big capybara in one of the larger South American enclosures. It was an excellent capybara day.

We left the zoo at closing time, which put us in the midst of rush hour traffic, but we did manage to get to my favorite pizza restaurant before the wait got too long. In the spirit of trying new things, we ordered a Greek pizza, which I loved from the first moment I smelled it. Mr. Karen was less enamored, since it had no tomato sauce, which is probably his favorite part of pizza. We waited for dessert until we got home, when we opened a bottle of ice wine he’d given me and which I’d been saving for a special occasion. All in all, it was a satisfying anniversary, with excellent capybara and snow monkey sightings, good pizza, and good wine.

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