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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Z Is For Zoo


For years and years, our family had a membership to our zoo, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. It's a wonderful zoo, and one which has terrific natural habitats like an African Savanna, Wolf Wilderness, RainForest, and Australian Outback. I rode the camels twice and always feed the lorikeets, loving how they land right on my shoulder or my hand as I walk carefully through the enclosure. I've been whistled at admiringly by the African grey parrots, and I've sweet-talked the red pandas out of their little wooden treehouse more than once. I love our zoo, and our family has gone there many, many times. The boys and I made good use of our membership in the summertime, taking guests, rejoicing at the birth of baby animals newly on display (especially awkward young giraffes), and learning not only about different species and biomes, but also about respecting the animals in their homes at the zoo.

After so many years, we started to feel like Zoo Insiders. We started skipping parts of the zoo that weren't that interesting to us. We scoffed at people who wondered aloud if our zoo had panda bears. Duh! We hated the people who read each and every exhibit sign aloud, unless they were reading it to very small children. It drove us crazy when parents let their kids bang on the glass of the animal enclosures when there were enormous signs everywhere that clearly said not to. But we reserved our deepest scorn for two types of people in particular.

The first type wears Inappropriate Zoo Footwear. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is a very walkable zoo, but it has lots of hills and winding paths. Despite this terrain, we would still find hundreds of people wearing flipflops, high wedge sandals, kitten heel pumps, and on one memorable visit, stiletto heels. And those Dr. Scholl's sandal thingies with only the strap across the toe and that terrible bump for your toes to cling to. We would see person after person sitting alongside paths or stopped on the hillside terrace, taking off footwear in order to rub his/her feet or remove grit. No sympathy.

The second type is the Pompous Sign Reader/Fake Pontificator. Every single zoo exhibit has an informational sign, sometimes two. And unfailingly, some mom or dad will read information from it as if he or she simply knows this information cold about this exotic animal, like it is so important to impress this kid. The boys and I saw this time and time again, and it was always hilarious and pathetic. But never more than the time in front of the sloth's cage. Because this mom, as she read the sign word for word, kept pronouncing it "slooth." As in "rhymes with tooth." On and on she pontificated, in a very fakey, hyper-engaging, "oh boy, is this ever fun and interesting" breathless voice, just about every line of the plaque's summary about the sloth. "Wow!" she said. "So that's the slooth! Whaddya think, kids? The two-toed slooth!" I thought I would die. (Actually, I probably did die, right there in Cleveland, for a little while, and then Jared and Sam scraped me up off the asphalt and pulled me over to look at koalas, or maybe even flamingos, which always revive me.)

**For the record, that word again is SLOTH. Only one O. I am still Not Over It.**

(Really, now. Does she pronounce the word BOTH as booth? Is an APRICOT an APRICOOT? I mean, how far does this disability extend? When she shops for chicken broth, does she think it's chicken BROOTH?)

I'M DONE NOW. MOVING ON.

And speaking of done, that ends the alphabet for me. Chat me up about your Zoo Thoughts, your own Z Words, or topics you'd like me to take up next.

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35 comments:

  1. Poor woman, shooping for brooth. On the other hand... sloth is pronounced with the long sound of “o,” as in rhyming with “both,” correct? So if she had at least pronounced it as in rhyming with “broth” or “cloth” she might have been forgiven. When I was a kid I pronounced *so many* words wrong because I often learned them from books before I actually heard them spoken. One of biggest pronunciation bloopers was “hyperbole” which, of course, I pronounced “hyper-bowl.”

    So.... “Z” words... Don't really have a favourite. The only thing that comes to mind right now is the fact that z is one of the popular letters at the end of the alphabet, along with v, x and y which seem absolutely necessary in the brand names of so many drugs. Does that make them sound more exotic? Less medicinal? More powerful? (Did you discuss this once in a post?)

    New topic: the Possible Impending Apocalypse Now that the country will be facing in a few weeks, regardless of The Outcome? I can imagine why you have almost completely avoided the subject during this election year (except in the sidebar and once or twice Without Mentioning Any Specific Names.) But, seriously, the atmosphere in the south is getting really explosive. I fear break-outs of violence, especially since You Know Who will continue to incite His Followers if he doesn’t win. Either way, it could get really ugly. The other day I heard an interview on NPR with a guy who was stocking up on guns to be ready to join his local “militia” in case the election didn’t “turn out right.” Is there a way the entire country could just be put on tranquilizers for several months? We could just all walk around like Zombies! Hey... there's my "Z" word, haha.

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    1. O.K., so I just checked this on internet, and listened to 2 completely different pronunciations for "sloth"--- one that rhymes with "both" and another that rhymes with "broth." Doesn't seem to make any difference for one meaning over the other, either. I did find one site that made the distinction between American and British pronunciation, the British one rhyming with "both." (I think I lived with Brits too long, haha.)

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    2. Ortizzle--The American pronunciation is overwhelmingly the one that rhymes with "cloth"; I have not heard any distinction made for the animal, although some dictionaries do. In that case, they specify that the pronunciation when referring to the animal is the one which rhymes with "both." I listened to a docent when talking about the Cleveland resident sloth, and she used the form with the short O. Regardless of all of that, The Sloth Narrator in my post still managed to mispronounce it egregiously, as you so astutely pointed out.

      And I need (still) to Get Over It.

      I like your observation about pharmaceutical names using V's and X's and Z's. I do think that they convey a certain mystique and futuristic aura about them. The V and Z are also buzzy and, in the case of the V, fricative. And Sciency.

      Finally, I am getting email about The Politics--mainly my lack of posts about it--and a few readers are goading me about blasting the republicans and their nominee in a post rather than here and there in Comments. I feel like It's All Been Said, to be honest, and by people just as smart/smarter than me. And the Bad Loser Fallout from a Dem win is something I almost have no frame of reference for.

      The republicans need to rein in their Crazies. They birthed these trolls, and now they need to corral them back under the bridge where they belong. If the results of a presidential election make any of them want to stockpile weapons and think about taking over the legitimate government of the United States of America; to harass ethnic groups or intimidate those of different religions; to taunt and ridicule disabled people and demean women, then those people can follow their nominee to any one of his properties, set up residence there, and by all means, build a bigass wall around it so that we don't have to have any contact with any of them whatsoever.

      Alrighty then.

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    3. Nance --- I sure hope the Crazies take your advice and build the Bigass Wall! I don't even care who pays for it, although, as Peña Nieto (and Vicente Fox) clearly stated: It WON'T be MEXICO! Regardless, if we can just keep the Crazies from killing us all, that will be a victory.

      And just FYI: I'll be working as a bilingual polling clerk on election day to keep an eye on all the Bad Hombres, Nasty Women, Latino Rapists, Zombie Voters, and, I assume, some voters who are Good People.

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  2. OH zoos...I have a love/hate relationship with zoos. There are two near us, and I find the Oakland zoo to be far superior to the SF Zoo, which is depressing, though I have heard they have been working on it and are trying to make it a better place for the animals to be.

    The Oakland zoo has a tram or sky train or whatever you'd call it, where you ride up above the animals and can look down. You are a captive audience, as it is much like a ski lift and there is nowhere to go. Once when Maya was small, perhaps 4, we were above the camels as they were mating. There were 4 camels in the enclosure, and two were mating, while the other 2 were running around the enclosure yelling about it to make sure everyone saw the action. Maya said to me, "Mama, what are the camels doing?" I didn't know what to say. I don't know why, as I've always been pretty honest with her, but for some reason I said, "They're wrestling." She gave out a big, disappointed sigh. "No Mama, they're mating, so they can have a baby." "Oh", I said, "I think you're right."

    Two things I learned. 1. Just tell the truth, it's easier. 2. When camels mate, the female's hump gets squished out of the way, and stays floppy for awhile. Who knew? Probably a lot of people at the zoo that day.

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    1. J@jj.com--We have two zoos near us as well; the Akron Zoo is a very good zoo as well. But I am partial to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and it really does have wonderful habitats and enrichments for its residents. It is a terrific zoo.

      I certainly understand your love/hate relationship. It's difficult to think about some of these animals being Away From Home, but in the case of some of Cleveland's--their grizzlies, for example--they are rescue animals. And CleMetZoo is part of a conservancy program, too, as are most zoos, I'm sure. But I do understand. I'm always grateful when I visit the zoo, that I can see these animals in person, knowing I'd never have any other chance.

      "Out of the mouths of babes" for sure that day, right? It really is always easier to tell the truth in some age-appropriate version. Kids can make fools out of us in short order, that's for sure. And it never fails: the zoo always provides some awkward scenario for parents to have to comment upon, whether it's mating, poop-flinging, poop-eating, or whatever. It really IS "all happening at the zoo", as Paul Simon sang.

      I actually did know about the squished-hump phenomenon. Learned it At The Zoo! (From a docent, not an on-the-spot camel porno.)

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  3. And thus, this anonymous lady lives on, now in all our memories.

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    1. Sillyak--Yes, but not in A Good Way.

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  4. This is hilarious! Once when we were visiting the zoo on a trip to San Francisco, there was a group of really young school kids (maybe kindergarten) with their teacher. As we walked by when they were looking at the exotic birds, the teacher pointed out an ostrich and said, "See kids? That's a baby dragon." WHAT?

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    1. Bridget--Oh my goodness. I'd like to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe she was being silly, or maybe they were Using Their Imaginations, or maybe it was Harry Potter Day at the zoo. Or something. Sigh. But I think ostriches are awfully interesting all on their own.

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  5. The Cincinnati Zoo is pretty good too - and quite hilly. I remember rolling my eyes at the flip-flops & other non-walky shoes that I would see there. And I'm no zoo insider - I'm just not dumb. :)

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    1. Bug--I've never been to the Cincinnati Zoo, nor heard anything about it. I'm glad to hear that it's a good one. Also heartening is the fact that I/we are not the only ones who disdain Bad Zoo Footwear...Wearers. (Sigh. That redundancy is irksome.)

      On another note, today at my Wonderful Marc's grocery store, in the Closeouts Section, there were skeins and skeins of gorgeous Bernat yarn, all for only $1.99 each. There were all different kinds and weights, and I almost got dizzy, but I remembered my Solemn Vow and PASSED IT ALL BY. It was one of the toughest moments of my Recent Life. Even now, I'm so filled with Regret. But Pride, too, I'm sure.

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    2. The Cincinnati Zoo is the home of Thane Maynard - but in looking him up I realized that he's a local "personality" so you might not know him (he's the director of the zoo & has a spot on the local public radio stations - "The 90-Second Naturalist"). It's also the home of the "gorilla incident." Sigh.

      Oh man, so glad I don't even know what Marc's is! I wouldn't have been as strong as you...

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  6. Remembering one of your more memorable posts from a few years ago, I went to the Philadelphia Zoo recently and looked and looked for a Panthera Leo which you assured us was a real animal. I was disappointed that the zoo did not have one..I suppose, as you said, it just isn't cute enough. Do you remember your list?

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    1. Nancy--Thank you for being a longtime reader, especially of my Archives! If your zoo does not have a Panthera Leo, it's time to find another zoo. While their cubs are certainly adorably cute, as are all baby animals (that's to be sure their mothers don't kill them--humans, too!), the adults are absolutely Regal looking. ;-)

      I do remember that list. It was a fun post to do. Maybe my next post will be a revisit of The List. Do you remember That one?

      So nice to see you here again!

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  7. I have a love/hate thing going with zoo's. They help to save many animals but I just can't get over the pacing tiger or bear. It makes me so sad. But they are safe here, not necessarily happy.
    Hugs to you,
    Meredith

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    1. Meredith--I think the love/hate feeling is a common one for so many of us. It is part of the reason we joined our zoo, which works hard to create natural, nonrestrictive habitats for its residents. There is not much of that behaviour there, as a result, and the animals have lots and lots of room.

      Once, as we were walking in the Australian Outback area, a sweet little wallaby suddenly wandered into our pathway. It was not two feet from us. I swear, the entire area suddenly froze--the people, the concessionaires, even the kids in strollers. The little wallaby looked at the boys and me, hopped a couple of feet, and then hopped back into the grassland. It was the Best Zoo Day ever.

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  8. What I love about Z is that it scores high in Scrabble. Up here we say 'zed', not 'zee'. I have pronounced sloth like cloth all my life, but it is mixed in Canada. You hear both. Spellchecker just tried to make that word 'booth'. Yikes.
    I have so enjoyed the alphabet posts and am looking forward to whatever you take on next. Since I find myself totally uninspired on my blog, I am enjoying yours even more.
    It snowed here today. And more snow is forecast for Thursday. Fall is leaving us.

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    1. Mary G--Oh, Canada! Of course you say "zed." Another sort of Euro-thing that increases your charm.

      Thank you for your kind compliment regarding my alphabet posts. I, too, look forward to Whatever I Take On Next, especially since it is equally a mystery to me as it is to you at this point. Sigh. It's not that I am disinterested at all in writing; it's that I feel always that I must have something of some import to say. I put a lot of pressure on a blog post. It is ridiculous.

      No S-word here yet. Thank heavens. I would be totally devastated. We did skip immediately from 88 degrees F right down to the 50s, however, and I missed a whole lovely section of my Autumn wardrobe. And I cannot find any nice cardigans anyplace (read: that I am willing to pay for).

      Please keep your *S* up there. Do, at least, try.

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    2. Well, I will do my best. What would you think of working up a shrt list of topics we both like and write about them simultaneously? I am brooding about a post one pain, painkillers and modern medicine but have to discipline myself about whinging about my own painful experience before I can write sensibly. (Buggered my back. Again.)

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    3. Mary G--Nice try. We had sleet here today. Almost *S*. I could see my breath outdoors. Horrid.

      How strange re: your back and writing about pain. I am in physical therapy AGAIN. Cervical myofasciitis which is creating sleep difficulties which, in turn = increased migraine. Sigh. But I won't write about all of THAT. It's bad enough to live through it without reliving it to write about it.

      Other than that, maybe we can think of a few things. Who knows?

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    4. Thinking.
      It is the love/hate relationship that the medical,profession has with painkillers that interests me.

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  9. Oh Sloths (pronounced like cloth) are one of my favorite animals! Loved your zoo story - too funny. The last time I was at a zoo the giraffes were attempting to mate and parents were scurrying their young children away. And, finally, I too have a love/hate relationship with zoos.

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    1. Vera--Welcome to the Dept., and thank you for chiming in.

      I just saw on television a commercial featuring a Sloth lolling about on the end of a couch. Darned if I can recall what was being advertised! The Sloth was quite adorably captivating, and it made me not care one whit about the ad itself. Be on the lookout, if you haven't seen it already.

      Not to be prurient or icky, but I probably would have stuck around for the Giraffe Romantic Interlude. Only to see how they possibly managed, what with all that long-limbed, long-necked awkwardness. Not like I'd have taken photos. Or notes. Good heavens.

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    2. Ha! I did stick around (others with young children left)...but alas the giraffes were never successful! They may have needed a bit of a lesson or something (and I would have taken pictures for sure -- just to prove that I was there). I will have to be on the lookout for the Sloth commercial.

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  10. I have always liked zoos, but my husband doesn't at all. So, with the kids I have either taken them to two of our small and hyper-local zoos, as the ones in San Diego and Los Angeles are full day trips that I would have been loath to attempt with my daughter and son all by myself. We also have visited Sea World multiple times, but that was before we all knew about the yuckiness about how they kept the killer whales.

    But really, the two small ones are nice enough, and present enough opportunity in which to discuss all things animal. My daughter's attention span doesn't really make it worth more of an effort at this point.

    And who knew about all those randy giraffes? Amazing that more than one person had that experience!

    We will be filling out our vote by mail ballots this weekend and then just crossing our fingers that the apocalypse does not occur on November 9th.

    There was a recent Simpson's vignette that showed Homer Simpson at his polling place, and this Russian operative was attempting to keep him from voting. Homer protested and said, "But I'm a voter in a swing state, my vote is worth a million Californians!" and that hurt because it was so damn true.

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    1. Gina--I Early-Voted last week with Sam, my son. We are both With Her, and hopefully, so was the steady stream of other voters. Don't despair; we are all happy to have California to count on, literally.

      Our Sea World has been gone for about 6 years now. We went a few times when the boys were very little and before, as you said, we became more knowledgeable about some of the practices then.

      You're smart to know and abide by your child's limitations. I've seen way too many parents impose experiences upon their kids that merely serve to frustrate and tire them both. What is the point? Good for you that you don't force things upon the two of you that you know won't be a positive or enriching experience for either of you just to "check the box" for some Rockwell-esque childhood fantasy.

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  11. Oh wow...I've been to the zoo, but I've never been a regular. I've only been to the Nashville Zoo twice...and I've lived here since the 70s! I don't like the smells. Is that weird? It's so peaceful and beautiful, but the smells get to me, especially when it's 90 degrees out there (which it is from April-October!)

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    1. Stephanie F--No, I don't think it's weird. Some people are hypersensitive to smells, and some zoos are probably pretty smelly. Cleveland's really isn't, except for the flamingo area, and that's primarily due to their food, which contains stuff to help keep them pink.

      I'm sensitive to smells, too, thanks to being a migraineur, but maybe not to the level that you are. And zoos aren't for everyone. I have a big interest in animals, so that helps, too.

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  12. We used to be members of the Cincinnati Zoo, but cancelled our membership because of parking issues. They overbuilt the zoo, which is in the city, using all their available parking lots for new animal exhibits, while leaving visitors with nowhere to park. Can you say Bad Planning? Pity, cuz I enjoyed going there.

    [What are you going to do for your next writing challenge?]

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    1. Ally Bean--Are there no plans at all for parking in the future? How goofy. What good are new exhibits if no one is there to look at them and support them with their $$ ? Yes, poor planning indeed.

      I am in a Quandary as to my next post, let alone a Series or whatever. Hoping for a Burst Of Inspiration.

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  13. Like so many others, we have mixed feelings about zoos. We have always purchased memberships where we lived and visited regularly. Our first was the Cincinnati Zoo, then the NC Zoo, the Milwaukee Zoo, and now NC Zoo again since we have no local zoo. Both our adult children also have annual memberships to the zoos where they live. I think zoos have so much better exhibits and are much more important in saving animals than in times past.

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    1. NCmountainwoman--I think you make a good point about the improvement of zoos in general and the refinement of their mission. It used to be that zoos were all about the entertainment of the visitors. Not much attention was paid to the animals' dignity or health or welfare. But, as with most things, education and knowledge improved things, and for all parties, in my opinion.

      With the recent news that wildlife populations have plunged 60% worldwide since 1970, it would seem that zoos have a lot of lost time for which to make up. Failing that, at least we have a chance to see some animals that, in years ahead, we might never see again.

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  14. The topic I'd like you to take up next would be your years as a high school English teacher. What changes you saw in students as the years progressed, best and worst days, etc. One of the people who most inspired me was my tenth-grade English teacher. It must be a bit frightening to think that you have the ability to mold minds and change lives. Speak to us.

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    1. NCmountainwoman--It's wonderful to hear that you were so inspired by your sophomore English teacher. I tried to be a motivator/inspiration to my own students, and in many cases, I have heard that I was. (I just heard--via one of my nephews--that very message from a former student this weekend!) It can be an intimidating and awesome role.

      As far as it being a topic to speak to now, I wonder if I'd merely be treading over Old Territory. I wrote quite a bit about my experiences in the classroom, about being a teacher, about education, and touched on a lot of what you mentioned from about 2005 to my retirement in 2011. I'll think about it and see if I have anything new to say or if I can capsulize it in a more philosophical post.

      Thank you for your interest and your continued readership. And for wanting to hear what I have to say.

      And for recognizing the Importance Of Teachers.

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Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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