August 27th, 2005 | Published in old and busted
We spent a few hours at the zoo today. It was a madhouse. Ben, however, got to be out of his stroller for a good chunk of the trip, and he liked wandering around seeing what things that looked like buttons might not result in a light going on or off. He doesn’t quite have the strength needed to get the big, blue wheelchair buttons to open a door. He also found someone to chase around the stage.
As a general note, we’re entering the stage in his young life where carrying him around isn’t really cool to him anymore, the stroller is kind of a drag for him, and holding his hand involves an eventual plop-down protest. He also shouts “ow!” if you take his hand, so he understands crowds and knows how to work ’em.
Sometimes it’s sort of irritating, because we don’t even have a language we speak in common (though Ben’s learning to give a look that’s witheringly petulant and involves a sort of long, owlish blink that seems sort of scary coming from a 19-month-old), and his screech is like some sort of prototype of the Bene Gesserit Voice that doesn’t make you do anything so much as make you do everything … But despite all that, once the fireworks have died down, you sort of realize it’s all about the right things coming together in that little skull, and it’s not so bad (in hindsight).
So, visiting the zoo makes me think of my own childhood trips to Herman Park Zoo in Houston. I was most fascinated with snakes until my family took it upon themselves to contribute some useful stories to give me some perspective on them.
From mom I got “once a giant python coiled itself up and then smashed the glass of its confines and slithered out among the visitors, hiding for hours,” and “they feed piglets to the big constrictors.”
From granddad I got “That snake will bite the fire out of you!” (snakes that can’t kill but will bite ‘bit the fire out of’ people) or “That snake will kill you!” (all snakes that were, indeed, lethally venomous).
Probably useful stuff to know growing up in the Houston, TX area. Granddad reported spotting coral and rattle snakes in his neighborhood. Mom said I once nearly wandered into a leaf pile full of baby copperheads.
All told, enough to put me off snakes and on to sharks.
When I was seven or eight, I spent a few weeks visiting with my grandparents and traveling around Texas in a camper. The shark tank at the Hawaii Kai water amusement park really caught my eye. You could go down below and look at the sharks through the glass in a fake “underground cave,” or you could go up top and look down on them through some fencing.
“Fall in there and you wouldn’t last ten seconds,” said granddad.
I prefer monkeys now. I know they bite and can be a true scourge in some parts of the world, but I’m sticking with them.