Monday, December 12, 2005

The city falls away almost instantly when I walk through the gates of the National Zoo. A secret garden, a furtive playground hiding a few blocks from the Metro stop, I find the National Zoo to be one of DC’s gems. I don’t especially care for animals, but I need to wander this week, and even given all the time I’ve lived in Washington, I’ve never been to the zoo before.
The lyrics from Simon & Garfunkel’s “At The Zoo” seemed to fit, and I hummed along to the tune as I walked about. Some one told me it’s all happening at the Zoo, I do believe it, I do believe it’s true. First, I was struck by a rather large construction project, and initially assumed I was in for more disappointment, for this is what I usually encounter with Washington…disappointment. The monkeys stand for honesty, giraffes are insincere, and the elephants are kindly but they’re dumb. I strolled about lazily, looking at the animals, wondering how they liked living a caged life, do they even know? Perhaps I’m living a caged life and I’m equally naïve.
Orangutans are skeptical of changes in their changes, and the zookeeper is very full of rum. There was one area of the zoo where they actually had free-ranging monkeys. Signs read: “Please hide your food,” and the air took on a kind of creepy stillness as I looked about for small animals jumping through the trees. I couldn’t find a single golden tamarin; at one point I thought I’d found one, but no, sadly, it was a squirrel.
The zoo, I thought while leaving, is an interesting place, who is really looking at whom? After all, I perceive myself to be the free one gazing upon the Giant Panda, but nobody would make a big deal about my having a child, in fact they’d most likely shun me. The Metro elevator felt a bit more like a cage than ever on this day. Society’s cage may be slightly larger, but it certainly doesn’t feel any less cumbersome.


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