Thursday, June 09, 2022

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Animal Ambassador Anika the Caracal at San Diego Zoo Basecamp (Taken 6.8.22)

It feels like the more haywire the world is getting, the more I need to escape. And of course, often my escape is the San Diego Zoo. I've been trying to pinpoint what has turned me into the crazy zoo lady but I actually don't feel bad about it. I mean, during the prime of the pandemic, I was online for hours a day trying to keep up with the news and information, trying to find some control over the uncontrollable. Now that we're all pretty much on our own, falling into 24-hour news or being online all the time is just not at all how I want to spend my days. I'm lucky that in general, the actual job that I have that provides me a paycheck can be done from anywhere with a laptop or mobile device. So while I sit and have lunch waiting to see gorillas or mandrills or bonobos or orangutans, I'm also checking email. I'm doing social posts. I'm being outside. I'm practicing photography. I'm sometimes even engaging with strangers. With San Diego Zoo now open until 9pm daily for most of the summer, I have life responsibilities so I know I can't be there every day, or all night, or whatever, but I appreciate the flexibility it offers, the calm it offers, and the mental freedom it offers. The animals don't talk back, they can't ruin your day. For the most part, I can set my backpack down and not be worried that someone is going to jack it. I can walk alone, even when it's dark, without having to watch my back. The ills of the outside world barely permeate the fortressed gates of the zoo. For me it truly is a safe space. Or, it was until that fractured this week. 

I was visiting with the gorillas on Monday afternoon. They are used to going in around 5, but because of the later hours, they're being kept out later, until 6:30. 6:45, 7pm. It's never the same, but they are used to their routine, so whenever the bells of Balboa Park chime  every 15 minutes, they want to it time to go in now? Because of this, they interact a lot. Denny comes up to me and waits for me to share whatever new photos or videos I have on my phone. Sometimes people ask what I'm showing, so I'll tell them he likes to look at pictures of himself and his family. And it's not only me, there are a handful of people he knows and recognizes and visits with, I just haven't seen any of them this week and that's not really the point anyway. 

On this particular day, this old white dude was near me. He saw and heard me and so I see him searching his phone and set it against the glass in an attempt to get Denny's attention and pull him away from me. The gorilla ignored him, but I saw his phone and what he was showing. His friends asked what he was showing and he said, "just pictures of his family" at which point I told him he was a disgusting fucking racist and he should be ashamed of himself, that he needed to get the fuck out of there. I was shaking. I was livid. I was disgusted. I was yelling. I didn't stop cursing at him until he left. He had been holding up a picture of Buckwheat from The Little Rascals. The crazy thing is he didn't respond at all. Did he think he was being funny or clever? That nobody would see? Did he slither off because he didn't want his friends to know what he had actually done? Or was it something they, too, would find funny and relate to them later on? I have no idea. But I'm glad I didn't go with my first impulse to deck him across the face. 

With elections this week, and fake talks about gun legislation that will go nowhere and do nothing besides spur more gun sales before any restrictions could kick in (even though none will), and the January 6 hearings kicking off Thursday, which will also likely lead to absolutely nothing so long as we have this Senate and SCOTUS, the self-fulfilling prophecy of non-stop talking about inflation, corporations and investors decimating critical sectors like housing and energy and manufacturing and health care and all the many, many problems we confront every day, I think you know where you can find me. But I'll probably go back to taking the bus to save on gas and the headache of parking among the summer crowds. 

Stay safe out there. 

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