Date: 02 June, 2003
Time: 10:29 (AM)
Subject: ...at least children and monkeys love me!
Yesterday Beverley and I went to the zoo. You might
remember Beverley from my first writing from San
Fran. We had a delightful trainride from Seattle to Santa
Barbara together. Well, now, to sorta bring things full
circle, it is June, nearly six months later and I decided to stop by
San Diego and pay her a visit. In the end, she decided (wisely)
that Seattle would be too cold for her and decided not to move up there.
Similarly I decided Berkeley would be too provincial and decided not
to move there... Both plans then in common now abandoned in common...
Interesting... anywho, I'd never been to San Diego, so I figured that
alone was reason to go. So now, a friend and a virgin city to
visit, my brain started to plan the trip months before it ever filled
me in; hence, it came somewhat as a surprise to me too...
Ever wonder why you so rarely see surfers actually surfing?
As the train's been passing along the californial coast for the
last hour, I have not seen a single stretch of water without a surfer
bobbing over waves, but I have yet to actually see someone surfing.
Another of life's mysteries. I must learn to surf someday if only
to understand this. I know it has something to do with
waiting. OH LOOK there went two people for the same wave, one
grabbed it, and it immediately crashed on top of him. Great.
Looks like fun. Surfing must be a lot like fishing
in this respect. Or maybe it has to do with getting dressed
up in skin-tight rubber suits with a bunch of other boys... Ohhh there's
another one surfing. But on a itty bitty wave. Oh, and another
riding on foam... Yah, these guys on this beach clearly don't know what
they're doing... Someone should tell them to go out to deeper
water and wait for the waves (like Godot?).
Anyway, Is it time for a bloody mary? I think so.
... ... ... ah, spicy! Amtrak makes a decent Bloody Mary, though
they often lack olives... Not the California Zephyr though, from
Chicago to Emeryville. They had Olives AND special sauce (from
Where was I, oh yes, the Zoo. So what do YOU think
of when you think of San Diego? I think Republicans, Naval Ships,
American Imperialism, proximity to Tijuana/cheap Tequilla, Illegal immigration,
Nazi INS folks, Mirrors and dogs, oh, and Pandas. Yes, Pandas
at the World-Famous San Diego Zoo! The Zoo was one of the first
to Incorperate natural terrain in the enclosures for the Animals, to
make them feel more at home in their incarceration. As if a condor,
"which can travel a hundred miles in a day without ever flapping
its wings" can feel "at home" in a 50x100 foot
enclosure. As if a Jaguar with jaws powerful enough to crush the
skull of each gawking tourist... as if the Polar Bear pacing back and
forth and back and forth and back and forth like a looped video, for
days on end, to the extent that when we got back to the house, Beverley's
roomate Janelle asked, "did you see the Polar Bears? Was
that one pacing? And sorta lifting one leg up at the end
like this, by that one rock outcropping? Yah?" But
it doesn't matter right? Cause animals don't have complex thought
patterns, right? They don't REASON, right Hegel? Right Aristotle?
Its wrong to Anthropomorphize and apply HUMAN emotions to ANIMALS...
I mean, if we did THAT we'd have to stop EATING THEM, right?
But the Pandas were cool. Busily eating their 50lbs
of bamboo a day in their drastically less than 3.5 mile enclosure...
(did I mention I hate zoos? They make me paranoid. I have
a series of recurring dreams about being in prison, on my way to prison,
abortive escapes from prison)... Still, the pandas seemed to be at peace,
kickin back on their log and snapping two inch bamboo in their jaws
like candy... Looking all cuddily and cute. The Koalas were super
cute too. They sleep all the time anyway, all that eucalyptus
in their diet. The stars of the show were definitely the Bonobo
monkeys. They had constructed a playpen with several steel faux-bamboo
rods coming out of the ground at angles whence the monkeys could swing
from one to the other. It looked as if they had turned it into
a sport, going from one side to the other with more and more efficiency;
much like snowboarders in a terrain park. Their acrobatics really
inspired me, and when I turned around, I noticed that they had been
so kind as to provide three faux-bamboo bars for us human monkeys to
play on! It took me, oh, five seconds to realize what was
happening, but by that time, I was busily swinging, emulating my Bonobo
kin. If I was 25 lbs, I'd be one hell of a monkey! The children
don't seem to notice the difference. Earlier in the day when I
was swinging from a tree elseware in the zoo, one of the tour busses
stopped for a photo op. I was hanging from the crotch of a limb
by my interlocked feet. The little children kept pointing and
saying, "monkey!!!" Their mothers would just nod...
Occasionally after a particularly gymnastic dismount, I would have kids
(and moms) run up and ask if I was okay... And always, in my wake,
as I left, I would see little kids trying (unsuccessfully!) to emulate
my stunts. Yet another reason I should be kept out of sight of
children, yet why children (and monkeys) love me.
Later in the day, we approached another enclosure of Bonobos.
There was one near the glass, hanging out with a tourist (mom).
I looked at him, dropped to all fours; he immediately retreated to call
in backup. Three monkeys then came down behind him, and then he
walked up to the glass. He picked up a palm frond and started
sweeping the ground in front of him, rocking side to side; then he did
a full periouette ending with his hands on the glass; so I did
the same (now EVERYBODY do 'The Monkey!"). He went scampering
off; I think he was impressed that we understood one another.
You could tell he just wasn't getting through to the other woman.
The funniest comment I heard all day was at the Oruangutang
Enclosure. A middle-aged man was talking to his friends;
"You know, these guys are pretty smart: Shave their
hair, put them in a trailer park in Oklahoma; you don't have the SMARTEST
human, but, give em a T.V. Remote..." ...and a case of beer.
Lets not forget the case of 'Pabst Blue Ribbon' for this experiment.
Somewhat appropriately, at the end of the day I got a
call from Lisa who's recently repatriated from Ghana, due to her fifth
bout of something beyond diagnosis. Five times she's been on Cipro
(the swiss army knife of antibiotics) in the last ten months.
She's had Malaria (not the 'Malaria is forever' type) Dysentary, exposure
to Typhoid, Cholera; they thought she might have HIV at one point...
Every time I talked with her she was in or just out of the hospital.
Anyway, she was calling me from Seattle (since my phone is local in
Seattle; its a Seattlite phone!) So after concurrent with San
Diego's little Africa, I was getting the real story from my correspondent
on the ground. Sorta tied it all together interestingly.
The Zoo is really worth a visit (but so are prisons, except
in prisons maybe half the people deserve to be there).
They have an extrodinary bird collection, with Some of the largest birds
in the world, from African Cranes, Condors, to Harpy Eagles (way-so-super-cool!).
They also have a huge collection of Birds of Paradise, and the biggest
damn pidgeons I've EVER seen (from New Guinea; these fuckers are the
size of turkeys!). Many species in the park were endangered and
most animals are part of a breeding program; they are trying to
breed the animals in captivity, and send to them to other zoos, or in
some cases, to re-introduce them into the wild (as with the Orangutangs).
And of course, every zoos do a large part to raise the awareness of
disappearing habitat, beautiful species on the brink of extinction,
etc, etc... (but then why don't they have Tibetans in there? Or
Pygmys, or Inuits, or Palestineans?)
I think that's enough double-speak about the zoo, Hudson.
So San Diego's a really nice little town. Of 1.5 million.
Making it larger than Seattle or San Francisco... hmmm. But it
feels like a smaller place at any rate... Beverley lives in Hillcrest,
which is the artsy/gay neighborhood. I get the impression that
if you're not a Republican, in the military, or obscenely rich, they
send you to Hillcrest, because obviously you must be gay, or an artist...
We also hung out in scenic Northside where they keep the gangsters.
That's where 'the cool coffee shop is'. Saturday night we were
there, and a band reminiscent of early Live was playing (twelve years
to late). They had come down from Orange County for the gig.
The next night we ate dinner at ...errr... 'Rancho' I think; which was
an excellent mexican restaurant. While I San Diego, we also drove
up to La Jolla and watched the Seals be seals... Which translates into
a group of (what is 'a group of seals') seals lying in a big cuddle
puddle sorta wriggling every now and then, while the younger ones play
in the surf. The young ones are entertaining, the rest of
them sorta strangly captivating for no apparent reason. La Jolla
[lah Hoi-yah] [say also Villa la Jolla, and Hotel la Jolla ten times
fast just for fun] is the Rodeo Drive of San Diego.
So now I'm on my way to Ventura. Yet another scenic
train ride. Thirty minutes I'll be in Oxnard with my 125 lbs of
crap; I'm amazed at what I've brought with me. And of everything,
the one thing I don't have is a swimsuit. I left mine at the Y.
A small sacrifice to the best bathroom I've ever had. I think
back from this vista and Its hard to imagine how recently I was in Brooklyn.
Or Chicago, or Charlotte; that I was in my sister's wedding, a groomsman
for her husband. That I have been to Seattle, what, twice this
year, that I've left four times so far in the last year, in preparation
for this, my fifth and final farewell. But first I have to get
back. Driving by palates of pinewood, a lot full of Winabegos,
a skatepark. Suburban backyards, street crossings, gullys, desert
vegetation along the tracks. THe air is think and dusty;
but the summer morning fog's burned off. Strip malls and more
Winabego Motor-Homes. Junkyards full of cars and Home Depot Stores,
solitary American flags on lightposts atop a bluff. Treeless,scrub
covered hills in the distance fading in the haze of mid day. dry
ravines winding into canyonlands of central southern california.
I think of Kerouak and what he saw, what he did when he lived this way.
Only I doubt he bought as many rail passes as I. A prickly pear
covered slope, an eroded roadcut, Interstate 95. It just
gets brighter and brighter outside as the city's haze is left behind.
Business parks and drainage ditches, playground ballfields and trailer
parks, more cacti and flowers. Interstates rise above the wadi.
Time for another beer as we pull into... War Park? Moorpark.
Oh. Two stops from Oxnard, from Frank and Beastie, his sailboat,
and Gypsy, his kayak. Two stops from yet-another-life-I've lived.
Yet another crazy intersection on this road, this path, this Magga.
Lotus sutra on top of my reading list, and a small library in my bag.
So much wisdom in that fifty pound pack in front of me. Orange
groves outside the train window. Arid fields. Yellow and
white wildflowers; I can never remember the names. State roads
and telephone poles. Sagebrush and chamomile. Sand Canyon