Thursday, October 14, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. the Zoo - finale

Let us now return to the ridiculously riveting conclusion of Awkward Mom vs. the Zoo! (Actually, it is probably just ridiculous.)

The leaf battle rages forever…about 4 minutes. Spiderman and his doctor brother are called away by their mom. But Super Toddler is not about to let a real live superhero (and one his height, no less) out of his sights. So, we begin the long process of stalking this family through the rest of the zoo. And we are by no means slick about it either; no peeking behind trees for us, oh no. We are bold in our stalking. Everywhere this poor family goes, we go. Every animal they look at, we are looking too. We check out the tigers, lions, and bears (oh my) in the shadow of Spiderman, until I decide that Spiderman’s mom is 2 seconds away from calling security and we stop to sit on a bench. I also want a snack.

So, we are sitting by the zebras, eating some grapes, granola bars, and candy corn. Which is why my superhero name isn’t Healthy Mom, but anyway, I digress. A field trip decides to stop near us and look at the zebras too. This field trip seems to be made up entirely of clones of Dennis the Menace. They are throwing rocks. They are kicking each other. They are pretending to throw each other over the fence. They are falling, making faces, and stealing each other stuff. Maybe spurred on by this glut of burgeoning testosterone, the zebras start to chase each other around the enclosure. The Dennises are delighted. They line up along the fence, waving and cheering like they are at a bull fight. Super Toddler stands on the bench in order to join in the festivities. And then, what happens? Of course, the only thing that would make this moment more appealing to 9-year-old boys. Now, how to put this delicately? Let’s see…I think I shall consult my old friend, thesaurus. Thesaurus tells me that the zebras begin to: cohabit, copulate, couple, crossbreed, generate, join, land, match, merge, pair, procreate, serve, tie, tie the knot, wed, yoke. (Land? Really?) The Dennises are screaming with laughter at this point; the poor chaperones just shake their heads and tuck the zoo worksheets back into their bags. No one in this group is going to want to discuss the foraging habits of zebras now.

Super Toddler wants to see giraffes, so we leave the field trip to their hooting and hollering. There is a baby giraffe, so Super Toddler is in heaven. It seems all things baby are very special to him…that is, except for Super Baby. We watch the giraffes for quite awhile, long enough to become confused by their enclosure. It is designed to resemble Egypt, which I suppose isn’t too weird. It is the huge (and I mean bigger than the giraffes by a long shot huge) pharaoh statues flanking the gates that strike me as a little odd. Not to mention the giant mural of a chariot riding into the sun that is hovering over the aardvarks across the way. I am hoping that if we wait long enough Charlton Heston will show up and part something, but Super Toddler losses interest and we must move on.

We are leisurely strolling in the direction of the polar bears, which is to be the pinnacle of our zoo journey, when Awkward Dad declares a hankering for “zoo food.” Just a little back story here; Awkward Dad’s parents, like many sensible people, never had much desire to pay the extremely outrageous prices for food purchased at zoos. And for that matter: movie theaters, theme parks, ballgames, most restaurants, etc. Awkward Dad likes to tell of a road trip to the Rocky Mountains one summer where all they had to eat was a cooler full of cheese ends, Star Crunch, and RC cola, and all they had to listen to was 1 Huey Lewis tape. But that is another story. Anyway, because of this “deprivation” as a child, Awkward Dad has infused zoo food with a magical culinary greatness. A greatness that is somewhat exaggerated…ok….non-existent, but we rarely see Awkward Dad in the middle of the week, so what the hey! Let’s get some zoo food!

I will spare you the details of the zoo food….create something mediocre with your mind; that’s it. However, the company at the Arctic Food Court is first rate! We are joined by no less than 8 peacocks. These beauties parade about their personal runaway, the aisle between the picnic tables, and they are stunning. Each one seems to have a dozen sparrows fluttering around them like an entourage. All is good; my family is here and we are eating zoo food in the peaceful splendor of nature, or at least structures developed to strongly resemble nature. What peace. That is until a sound not unlike a tornado siren emerges from just beyond the picnic tables. This is no ordinary crowd chatter; there is trouble in the air. I am pretty sure the ground is shaking and a cold wind blows. There is a mass exodus of the peacocks and their minions, as well as every family that is within sight of whatever is coming around the corner. Could it be? Yes, it is; that formidable foe of all who venture out to the zoo or the museum or the heritage center. It is the field trip. And this one make the Dennises look like bridge club. Off to the polar bears! And off to Awkward Dad:

One of the most touted features at the Detroit Zoo is the Arctic Ring of Life. (No, not “The CIRCLE of LIFE!” but admit it, you thought it too.) It is basically a circular set of habitats, containing seals, arctic foxes and yes, Polar Bears! You wander in a circle until you get to the grand finale, the polar bears, in all their arctic king predator glory. The first leg is fun, but it is more “waiting in line at the bank snake around” shaped than circular. I guess they had to do this because, during Zoo Season, this must be second only to the penguins in popularity. Still, it is frustrating to see that the seal exhibit is about 5 snaking solid habitat-rock rows away. You think “SEALS!” then start snaking and winding and turning and then finally you arrive. You watch them for awhile, now instead thinking, “oh..seals.” Time to wind your way to the next habitat!

All of this winding serves the additional purpose of moving us further down the ramp to the highlight of the circle of…I mean ring of life, the underwater viewing tunnel! This is where you can see seals and polar bears flipping around while you walk down the see-through glass underwater tunnel. To me, these kinds of tunnels, or underwater viewing stations, allow me to pretend for a few minutes that I am living in the near-future Underwater Terrain Utopia, where humanity goes to perfect society after we have learned from our mistakes and have ruined the surface world – it’s that kind of vibe. Either that or Las Vegas – but either way it’s still future technology that seem out of place in 2010 until you remember – its 2010! Floating cars and teleportors (should) abound! Well, at least we get to watch polar bears and seals swim in separate sections – or today, a lone seal swimming in place right next to the glass. Oh well, at least Mr. Peanut procured the whole tunnel for us!

But now, the grand finale in the ring of Simba, it’s...POLAR BEARS! As you go dashing out of the other end of the tunnel, winding your way up hill, snaking around, you get there, amazingly still thinking POLAR BEARS! When you see – one polar bear, sleeping, laid out on a rock, oblivious to the world. He either got the memo from the show penguins to lay low for a paltry crowd, or he is busy digesting the only other visitor for the day, whose family still thinks he is snaking around Habitat Rock. Or he may be actually not among the living anymore. At least I wa
s able to get about 50 pictures of him in his napping glory for the family album & posterity!

Well, that’s that. The Awkward Family vs. the Zoo; also captured for posterity, in all its glorious awkwardness. I figured you have had enough and therefore did not expose you to the escapades of the gift shop…you’re welcome. Join us next week for another ordinary opus from Awkward Mom!

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