Sunday, February 17, 2008
Yesterday morning, I felt like I needed to get out of the house. I’d taken the day after Valentine’s off, we’d been very efficient in our errand-running, and I’d turned in a 1000-word piece that was due Friday. So it was confront the MacBook screen or legal pads with no cigarette in hand, or get out!
So my boyfriend Tom Bovo (the Meerkats’ new best friend, judging from his photos) and I went to the Prospect Park Zoo. The sea lions are the centerpiece of the zoo, just like the one in Central Park (though there are fewer of them in Brooklyn). Somewhere I’d read that a theory for the origin of mermaids was some really horny, really tired sailor hearing a sea lion call from a rock. Yesterday, we heard quite a vocal sea lion, but his utterance sounded like the worst beer belch from the nastiest old drunk you can imagine- nothing like Ariel. We saw kangaroos (though we didn’t see the newborn joey sticking his head out of his mother’s pouch), two remarkably well-trained porcupineswho come when called, peacocks, pea hens, active red pandas, a big black swan and stolid looking red hawks, like the kind that fly around Manhattan.
In the Animal Lifestyles building, we had several memorable encounters. The baboons are behind plastic, but are remarkably close to you. (There were also some badly behaved children we thought of feeding to them.) There was a strange creature with a deranged looking photo on the Zoo’s website called a Rock Hyrax. It’s about the size of a cat, has no tail though it looks vaguely rodential. It is not, we learned later. It’s actually most closely related to manatees and elephants. I think the manatees and elephants lucked out in the looks department, because these things are creepy. In looking at the hyraxes, and the case next to them, there was a mouse who kept wandering back and forth between the hyrax case and the other looking for lunch. Tom thought the mouse might be a hyrax lunch, but it turns out they are vegetarians. I would hate to have to see that thing on a regular basis.
Then we came to the Animals in Our Lives building, and the petting zoo. My oldest niece was very fond of these meerkats when she was little. They are quite engaging, that’s for sure. Again, they look like they might be rodents, but they’re not. Meerkats are closely related to mongooses. The derivation of the name, which has always made me crazy because it looks like “cat of the sea” which they are obviously not, dictionary.com says is Middle Dutch, and originally meant “monkey,” because monkeys come from across the sea.” Huh? Anyhow, thy sleep all lumped together like puppies, and one stands watch over the others, just like the ads for “Meerkat Manor.”