And the elephant asked me too…

A few weeks back, several members of John’s family came down from Pontchatoula and we all went to the Audubon Zoo. Believe it or not, I have lived here almost 10 years and have never been to the zoo. I vaguely remember going to the San Francisco Zoo when I was a little girl and all I can recall is chasing my twin brothers around who were endlessly fascinated by the huge flocks of pigeons that they could startle into the sky with their high pitched screams and upraised arms. Oh and the giraffe. How can one forget a giraffe?

At any rate, it had been a long time, but with John’s 4-year-old niece Ava in tow, I began to remember how fun it could be. Like an outdoor museum with a display of nature’s art and a chance to meet face-to-face with wild animals from distant places only seen in movies or books…or nowadays iPads. There’s also opportunities to touch and interact, not only with tamed or safe animals, but with other people…other kids and learn more about the wide-wide world around us.

We looped around through the Asian Domain in time to catch the elephants and touch one, watch the lazy lions and tigers sleeping in the sun, wander through the children’s museum and make a pit stop at the playground. It was interesting to me because out of everything we saw and did, from the white alligator and bright zebras to petting a snake and brushing a sheep, the most fascinating attraction that absorbed a largish chunk of our day was Monkey Hill.

Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m always amused when I hear the alleged story about how this hill was originally constructed back in the 30’s to show the children of Louisiana what a hill really looked like. Where I grew up, there was nothing but hills and they often recall bad memories like trudging up steep inclines when walking home from school in the sun or how treacherous it was to park in the city without a good e-brake. When I saw these kids running up the hill, the look of accomplishment as they reached the top and the sheer delight they took in rolling back down, recalled some of the better hill memories…like racing down Sugarloaf Drive on my 10-speed.

The only bummers of the day were seeing the apes and the jaguar. The apes, specifically the gorillas, seemed so bored, unhappy and people were jeering at them from their places of relative safety on the other side of the moat. It made me angry and I started to hush them. Me! Publicly reprimanding strangers I mistakenly assumed were adults. Don’t they know how intelligent apes and gorillas are? Don’t they care that they might be hurting their feelings? I couldn’t understand the lack of respect and awe…it made me sick to my stomach.

Another fellow that was hard to see caged was the ferocious jaguar. You could tell that he was NOT a happy camper as he paced in front of the fence, expecting a younger cat make way every time he changed his route around the enclosure. It saddened me because with all that angst, you could tell that he really didn’t belong there and he’d likely prefer to die in the wild than live a life being fed like a kitten and trapped by someone else’s boundaries.

On a brighter note, the whole day proved to be a lot more fun than I had hoped. I really enjoyed spending time with John’s mom Glenda and sister Ashley, who we don’t get to see often due to lack of a car. We even finished off the day with a tasty meal at Liuzza’s Restaurant & Bar. Maybe when they come back next time we’ll go to the Aquarium or the Insectarium. I think I might finally be brave enough to eat a bug…

*In case you didn’t know, my title is from the lyrics for The Meter’s song “They All Ask’d for You

Do you see a giraffe?

Whether it be due to divergent cultural influences, the sticky swamp air or too much cayenne pepper, you can expect the unexpected when you live in New Orleans.  I’ve had some of the most intense, most vividly colorful experiences of my entire life in this city, from getting hit on by a transvestite in fishnets and a bustier to being stuck at a traffic light for over an hour while an unscheduled (or at least unexpected) Mardi Gras Indian parade rolled by.  Once, I followed a black and yellow butterfly as big as my face on a walk through the Garden District only to see it alight on a bright, tropical flower nearly three times its size.  I’ve been caught in random rain storms that soak to the skin in seconds, tongue-kissed by an over-enthusiastic girlfriend during Krewe du Vieux and I’ve even been arrested for disturbing the peace during Lundi Gras

At last, I finally realized that the surreal and unusual are exactly what to expect when living in New Orleans, a city where the extraordinary becomes commonplace and, strangely enough, quite normal.

For example, almost every day after dropping my boyfriend off at work, I drive back Uptown on Tchoupitoulas Street and I follow it all the way until it bottoms out at Audubon Zoo.  Almost every time I take this route, I inevitably spot a giraffe hanging out really close to the fence.  Naturally, the first time I remember to bring my camera along, the giraffe isn’t there.

Anyhow, that’s a picture of where he (or she) usually shows up.  Maybe next time…