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Lake George 2013 | 2013 | The Proposal


Your daily life is your temple and your religion.  

-Kahlil Gibran


A Bronx Tail

The rarest bird.

I raise my camera to get what is indubitably going to be a hazy picture of an exotic bird whose name I won't retain the moment after I look away.

"Aren't you the one who posted about people looking at their phones instead of experiencing what is in front of them?" asks Dan pointedly.

I lower my camera. "That does sound like something I would post..." However, being a tourist and attempting pictures that cannot possibly turn out seems like a fun aspect of the experience of visiting the Bronx Zoo; it's not quite like those people who turn all concerts into a sea of blue screens to create low quality videos they will never watch again, or those who must Instagram their meals and thus translate atmospheric bistros into raves with their flashbulbs. I consider myself involved in the experience of zoo-going, if perhaps an unspoken Pokémon master trying to catch the very best pictures of animals. A zoo is not precisely the real world anyway, and it seems a point of the endeavor for tacky tourists to fail to take pictures of foreign beasts while behind Plexiglas.

Amber, whose camera and eye is far superior, is immune to this admonishment, since there is a very real chance that she will get a better picture than I ever would and undoubtedly a better one than will be produced by the intermittent flashes of iPhones around us.

It was not a fine day for the zoo, but it was the only day where one can get in free (which is a disingenuous concept when one has to spend $15 and half an hour to park in the zoo's lots). As we arrived in the lot, the light drizzle that had mucked up the drive turns to a torrential downpour. We tried to seek an overhang to eat our lunch until the storm clears, but we are driven back to Amber's car to eat out sandwiches and chips by dint of the fact that the only covered space is the public restroom. As we saw that the clouds were not likely to do anything other than rain less heavily and we'd already invested our time and money, we manned the umbrellas and hoped the animals were less put off by the rain than we were.

For me, the point of today was to attempt to mentally extend my vacation. I had a very clear idea of what this trip to the zoo would entail. Rain was not on the menu. Holly ought to have been with us instead of teaching (though I cannot fault her that, since she has scored an enviable community college position); the sun should have been shining behind a couple of fluffy, white clouds; far fewer people should have felt the need to spend their late August Wednesday gawping at lemurs to make room for us to do exactly that; there should have been a constant flow of erudite conversation instead of soggy precipitation making me feel as though I smelled of musty dog.

We crowd into the tiger enclosure, where people shout as the big cat languidly lopes by the protective glass. I wonder if they actually feel fear or just think that it is funny to make noises at apex predators that have been made lazy, ones that are unable to harm them barring some miraculous act. I have no strong emotion toward the cat, though it's a bit depressing that the Plexiglas is so smudged on both sides. Perhaps, were it clean, I could pretend for a moment that I felt something beyond idle curiosity at a beast that ought to have been awe inspiring.

"I can see a really great tiger on the internet," Dan says after trying to get a video of the beast's hindquarters before being shoved out of the way by a pear-shaped mother and her child.

We wander from exhibit to exhibit, catching mammals and birds that have as much interest in entertaining us with their colorful behavior as I would in this weather. When inside to visit the nocturnal animals, the other zoo patrons shine their cell phone flashlights into the cages or rap on the glass, making me annoyed on the behalf of the tarantulas and bats.

Our time dwindles until the staff stations themselves at every crossroad to direct patrons to the nearest exits. I wanted something far more from this experience, plainly, though I concede that I may not have found it via my digital cameras view screen. There were too many factors, my own expectations very much included, that dampened my enthusiasm, though mostly the rain.

Soon in Xenology: Something witching this way comes.

last watched: Evil Dead II
reading: Spells: Ten Tales of Magic
listening: Ingrid Michaelson

Lake George 2013 | 2013 | The Proposal

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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