BY LAURA JANE/ PICTURES BY LAURA JANE & HER FRIEND ERIN
On Monday, I went to the zoo! I am moving to London in nine days so I am cramming these last few weeks of Toronto life very full with fun and adventure and beer and butter and cream. And wine! And the entire animal kingdom.
I went to the Zoo with Erin and Matt King. Bear with me. I am still in the process of experimenting with my spin on Zoo vs. zoo. I was really pleased to discover that admission to the zoo wasn't $80, which I for some/no reason thought it was. Under The Sea and Hakuna Matata were playing on loudspeakers when we arrived, which was particularly cool because I'll Be There For You by the Rembrandts had been playing on the 90's XM station in Erin's car and Friends and The Lion King are both major players in the history of Erin and I's friendship. Thanks to the Universe for going that extra mile to help us celebrate. (PS: I feel like Erin would want me to tell you that she only has XM for a 3 month trial and is not the kind of person who would actually pay for XM radio.)
The first animal we saw at the zoo was the Weird Pig. I posted him to Instagram and everyone got really into the #weirdpig hashtag. It's just got a certain je ne sais quoi. I like saying WeirdPig with a heavy emphasis on the "Weird." WEIRDpig. Weirdpig.
Weirdpig was a girl. I know because I googled the name of the animal she is, babirusa, and it turns out that boy Babirusas have four tusks in the middle of their faces. I don't have time for that.
Babirusa means "pig" and "deer" in Indonesian. It means deer-hog. Weirdpig is such a beautiful deerhog. I know it's kind of a bad choice, but Weirdpig was the number one animal I related to most in the entire zoo. I felt deeply emotionally connected to Weirdpig and her beautiful sleek grey body. She had a really cute curli-cue tail. She was fairly entertaining, wandering around elegantly, which was a lot better than SOME animals *cough, cough* SLEEPINGWHITE LIONS *cough, cough* SLEEPING CHEETAHS WHO WERE BASICALLY INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM PILES OF MULCH etc. If I ever had a daughter, I would want it to be WeirdPig.
I really respected the zoo's excessive dependence on the word "pavilion." Everything at the zoo is a "pavilion." Pavilion this, pavilion that. I wish more things in life were pavilions. I'm going to start calling my apartment a pavilion. I'll be like "Do you want to come over to my pavilion?" and people will be like "Oh, wow, cool, yeah!" and then they'll see it and be like "Um, isn't this just an apartment?" and then I'll be like "Nope! Totally a pavilion." Boy am I ever sneaky or what.
Anyway, here's a cool picture from the Indo-Malayan pavilion. It's of a tapir that we nicknamed Diaper Pig, or #diaperpig. See that giant white high-waisted diaper the tapir is wearing? That's the tapir's skin. Sucks, huh? Yeah.
After Diaper Pig, we looked at a rhino and then moved on to another pavilion. Erin and I bought Diet Cokes and Matt bought an iced tea. We saw a chimpanzee eat carrot chunks out of an empty plastic container of cat litter (we thought the zoo could have done a little better than that. A nice green zoo-branded bucket would have been fine) and watched a white-handed gibbon struggle to get the lid off an empty soda bottle (again- the zoo are cheap) filled with fruit. We stood outside of his habitat exaggeratedly unscrewing the lids off our soda bottles trying to lead him in the right direction but he gave up and sent his bottle floating down the river.
Soon we came across this little gang of ring-tailed lemurs havin' a cud. Ring-tailed lemurs were the Animal of the Day that day. Animal of the Day is some stupid promotion the zoo made up to unfairly pit all the zoo inhabitants against each other. There's a Pixar movie being made about it as we speak. "Do you think the zoo made ring-tailed lemurs the animal of the day because today is Ringo Starr's birthday?" I asked the Universe. No reply.
Here's the baby gorilla, Nneka, and her mother, Ngozi I think. Obviously we were really fucking close to them and it was adorable and amazing and we loved Nneka and it was the highlight of all of our lives and now we will never be able to go back to the way we were before we saw a baby gorilla up close. Sorry about the "NSFW" element of Ngozi's droopy nipple but now that I think about it, actually, get over it. If you can't handle a mama gorilla's droopy nipple, maybe this is not the blog for you.
A sad thing we discovered around the time we saw the baby gorilla was that since it was a Monday, everything good about the zoo was closed. Everything good such as the climb like a gorilla rope course, Peelin' Pops stand, and the two dining establishments licensed to sell liquor: Simba's Safari Lodge, and the Polar Patio. Also, I forgot my sunglasses, and I have a phobia of birds that occasionally defeated me. Those were all the things that sucked about the zoo.
Here's the zebras! They were actually called "Grevy's Zebras"- I think Grevy's Zebras are just, like, zebras. We just don't bother calling them Grevy's zebras because it's a mouthful. Nope, not true. I did some Wikipedia research and, as it turns out, there are also plains zebras and mountain zebras. Here's Grevy. "IT SOUNDS LIKE GRAVY," said everybody, including us.
Zebras are perfect. There was a mom zebra and a dad zebra and two cool teenager zebras. They looked like excellent little punk rockers. They love the Germs so much it's insane. I love saying "Zebra" as much as the teenage zebras love skating pools. My seventh grade teacher was a Scottish lady named Mrs. [redacted] and she pronounced the first syllable in "Zebra" to rhyme with "web" rather than "beeb." (like the BBC. Not a lot of words end in eeb) I found it atrocious and often brought it up incense my classmates. I deeply hated her and it was important to me that everyone else hated her too. Once she walked in on me singing We've Got It Going On by the Backstreet Boys in a piss-poor representation of her accent and destroyed my fucking life. So, zebras.
Here are the giraffes! "Loving giraffes together" is another key element of Erin and I's friendship, so it was really important that we got to be around a couple of giraffes (they were named Laura and Erin) in real life. Seeing the giraffes unfortunately intersected with the moment in zoo history when I was most impeded by my lack of sunglasses. But, as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
The taller giraffe, Erin, would do this really hot thing where she'd strut right up close to the wall of rocks corralling her into the cage like a sassy rock star coming right up to the front of the stage at a rock concert. I'm sure Erin would have reached out to grab our hands with her hoof if it was physically possible. Laura, the small giraffe, was a weird idiot and kept trying to eat the metal structure she is seen trying to eat in the photo above. Okay. That was my favourite sentence I've ever written.
This tree kangaroo was a major bummer. There were all these signs up around her pen saying "SSSHHHHH"- she was still getting used to her new environment and loud noises freaked her out. So her habitat had a bit of a funereal vibe to it. Once you look at this photo as "a picture of a tree kangaroo contemplating suicide" it's pretty hard to unsee. Sorry. I don't mean to make fun of the tree kangaroo for being sad. The tree kangaroo was ripped away from its chill home environment (a tree?) with absolutely no say in the matter and then forced to live in a pavilion in Canada. That is one of the most legitimate reasons to be sad I have ever heard of. Plus I am really grateful that the tree kangaroo and her sadness forced me to confront the reality of zoos being a generally fucked up thing. Thanks for freeing me from my own ignorance, tree kangaroo.
As we reached the end of the zoo adventure and realized for once and for all that we weren't going to be drinking any Coors Lights at the Polar Patio, we reached a collective mental state best described as a hybrid of burnt out and slap-happy. We went to go see the "baby" polar bear- he was born in November 2013, so obviously wasn't much of a baby anymore. He was small for a polar bear, I guess. Not that I see too many polar bears. He hung out in a little pool. There were all these plaques around his habitat about the milestones of his development that said MILESTONES as a huge heading and I was like "Is his name really Milestones?"
In the Tundra Trek section of the zoo we also saw a fluffy wolf napping in a ditch. Some man was like "Don't worry- his ear moved," like anyone actually thought the wolf was dead. Earlier, a child asked his father "Where's the blood?" while looking at a rhino. You know what I really could have gone for? A seal.
Lastly, we came across this little number. The arctic fox. There were two arctic foxes: a Paul McCartney arctic fox, the sweet angel seen above, and a John Lennon arctic fox, who was rangy and greyish and disinterested in putting on a delightful performance like his Paul bud. My over-the-top "OH HI WHAT A CUTE BABY I LOVE YOU CUTE BABY"-style reaction to the arctic foxes taught me an important lesson in how pedestrian my own taste in animals is. I came all the way to the zoo to moon over a fox. Too bad the zoo didn't have, like, a golden retriever. That would have really impressed me.
(AAaahhhh!!! Here he is again! I just gave myself Writer's Block trying to decide whether "dainty" or "fancy" more accurately described the tenor of his paw.)
After the Tundra Trek was over, we headed for the Great Panda Experience, or the Giant Panda Experience, which the zoo obsessively sells you on and makes you look psychotically forward to for the entire duration of your visit. Even the signs on the highway telling you that you're approaching the zoo exit feature pandas and absolutely no other animals. They all pale in comparison, in the zoo's opinion. Unfortunately for us, the Great Panda Adventure was closed by the time we got there. At that point my feet hurt and I didn't care very much. We went to the gift shop and I bought my boyfriend a holographic magnet of a rhino, giraffe, aardvark, orangutan, and about seven thousand other animals all posing for a family-style portrait. Matt and Erin each bought an orb-shaped snack, one cup of pretzel thins that snaps into a little cup of hummus. On the drive home we listened to the Elvis XM station and talked about which animals were our faves. Erin's were Laura and Erin the giraffes, and Matt's was the baby gorilla tied with an otter in the Americas pavilion that I didn't see because I was too freaked out of all the free-flying birds. And mine, of course, was...