Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wild things

More than a century ago, back when a lack of TV left people with brains too sharp for their own good, there was a belief that drugs and crime were just not enough of a challenge for a big city like New York. That's when someone came up with the idea to house vicious creatures within walking distance of neighborhoods and schools. But local authorities didn't think that was even challenging enough, so they encouraged residents to bring their family and friends to see these vicious creatures up close, opening the door to a bona fide massacre should any of these animals break free. Hence, the city zoo was born.

Not too long ago we took Kyle to one of these zoos, a small one in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. It doesn't have the killer animals the big zoos have, unless you count the saber-toothed turtles. I have no problem with that, since the park is less than two miles from my home, and it's nice to know that I can walk down my street without fearing a lion attack.

Kyle did not even notice the lack of man eaters at the Prospect Park Zoo. He had never been to anything like a zoo before, unless you count the rat exhibit on the subway tracks. To him, this was as good as it gets. As we went from one exhibit to another, he seemed interested in everything around him: the kangaroos, the deer, and the exotic birds with their exotic droppings. The sea lions appear to have been his favorite exhibit, though it could have been because he saw their pool as one big bathtub, and they were the toys. Kyle is a huge fan of baths.

I did find it funny that we were taking someone who spends much of his day in a playpen to see creatures who spend all of their days in pens. Granted, zoos have changed a lot from the old days when animals were locked up in cages the size of footlockers. Still, it's not like they could leave at any time and go to a show across town. Kyle certainly could relate, and I used that to my advantage. During our stop at the enclosed porcupine exhibit, I was able to say to Kyle, "See those porcupines? They're enclosed in a pen, just like you are, but they are adults. Do you know why they're still in a pen? They didn't eat their vegetables." I think I could work that one for at least another few years.

In the end, the visit to the zoo was probably more for Jennifer and me than it was for Kyle. I think we were more excited to see the wildlife than he was. Sure, he smiled and made happy sounds at the animals, but he makes the same gestures at the stuffed animals in his bedroom. As for Jennifer and me, we're still adjusting to this whole parenthood thing, and it was fun to do something that parents typically do, even if it meant watching baboons pick at each other's behinds and play with themselves. At least this time around I didn't have to come up with an answer the question, "What are they doing, Daddy?"

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