Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Trip to the L.A. Zoo and Other Events from Sunday

L.A. is not known for its zoo. The San Diego Zoo is famous around the world; it would be sort of pointless for L.A. to try to compete with its own world-class zoo. So instead, we have a smaller, more manageable zoo. One can easily take in the entire zoo in a few hours.

Most of the habitats are pretty dumpy looking. Occasionally one comes across an empty dirty pool where sea lions or seals used to swim out their natural lives going in circles. Some of the habitats are pretty nice. It seems that the animals that we assume to be more intelligent or more like us (chimpanzees, gorillas, and, for some reason, otters) get more complicated and interesting habitats, while lesser animals (gibbons, coatamundis, etc.) are relegated to tiny cages, sometimes with other random animals. The chimps and gorillas in particular had the greenest, lushest, climate-controlled environments, with plenty of stimulating landscape features (caves, rocks and things to climb on, waterfalls, etc.). Animals like the zebras and giraffes got large patches of fenced-in dusty ground.

We saw a lot of action at the chimpanzee habitat. There were about eight or so chimps, and they were pretty active. One took a dump right in front of us, but into the waterfall that ran through the middle of the habitat. The huge poop was promptly washed away down the falls. A few minutes before, another chimp had taken a piss into the waterfall. This deliberate use of the water feature as an outdoor toilet seemed to be a clear line separating the chimps from, say, the giraffes across the way, who continually peed and pooped just wherever they were standing. There was also a minor chimp fight, a lot of chimps climbing around on rocks, and a lot of grooming and leaf-eating, but no chimp masturbation or sex.

A lot of the people visiting the zoo today were fat. And everyone visiting the zoo was constantly eating. Each major set of animal exhibits had its own grill or Mexican restaurant or burger spot: the smell of greasy onion rings wafted through the air as we observed a mountain gorilla's backside.

I overheard some conversations. A young mother gave her four-year old five dollars to give to her boyfriend to buy her a beer. A young man and his date stood at the tiger enclosure (they were both fat and eating):

"You like the predators, huh?" he asked her.

"Yeah, I do," she said. "I guess it's because I'm kind of a predator, too."

The young man seemed to like this answer. Nearby, a girl tried to get the tigers' attention by calling out "Hey, Tiger!"

At the zebra enclosure, I overheard two women debating the merits of zoos. One woman seemed to find zoos depressing and inhumane. Her friend took a different view: "Yeah, sure, the animals are locked up and everything, but think about this: they get free food, they're safe, they're entertained a bit, and if they get sick, they get free health care. They got all these people here to take care of them. So, you know, there are two sides to the coin, right?"

Later, everyone kept calling the lonely, solitary, endangered Snow Leopard a "cheetah".

After the zoo we came home, and I played the saxophone while I watched the Yankees-Red Sox game. We decided to go eat sushi. So we went to Sushi Go 55, and parked on the fourth floor of the parking structure just like the website instructions told us to. Next to us at the sushi bar, a college student and a middle-aged man were talking about the college student's attempts to secure an internship at a financial institution. The middle-aged man was some type of consultant and was about to move with his family to another country for three years. He explained how he and his family had to get chest x-rays to be admitted into this other country: "They're looking for all sorts of stuff: TB, AIDS, you know." Near the end of their dinner, he told the college student, "You know, I read this book, and I think you should really check it out. It's a little old, it came out in the 70's I think, but it's still just really good. It's by this guy named Dale Carnegie, and it's called How to Win Friends and Influence People. I think it would really help you, especially when you 're going into these internship interviews."

We got home, filed away our tax-related papers, and watched an episode of Deadwood. I read a couple pages of Roughing It before falling asleep.

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