Monday, January 30, 2017

Anabelle and Daddy Ad-veeeeen-tures! Yeah! *Jazz Hands* Day 4 -July 22

Highly Zoological

With today being the official Sixth Anniversary of this blog, a detailed account of the Bronx Zoo is fitting.

The goal of the Anabelle and Daddy Adveeeeeen-tuuuures! Yeah! *Jazz Hands* was for my daughter and I to share time on our own. Yet the trip to the Bronx Zoo occurred with my sister, her kids and my Mom as well.

There is a perfectly sensible reason for this.

Flashing back to years earlier…

When my cousin Lauren was younger and not independently mobile, she was talking to her friend and fellow Bronx resident about the Zoo.  A trip was suggested and Lauren pointed out that, “Jeff could take us.”

When her friend, who didn’t know me well yet, inquired why, my sister chimed in referencing the park I was practically raised in and became a member as soon as I got a real job:
“Oh, he’ll go there with anyone.”

I followed that with, “Yup, that’s me: ‘Jeff McGinley- Zoo Whore.’”

Before we set up the zoo plans, the washing machine repair guy was supposed to come to my sister’s.  After we set it up, she cancelled the appointment.  He didn’t get the memo and showed up as she was ready to leave.  Turned out the fates (or maybe the Appliance Gods) were smiling on us. In the time it took to get him to go away, the giant traffic snarl we would have hit on the George Washington Bridge upper level faded to slight congestion and we were able to take the easy way in.

It was mid July on a Friday, and in most cases long weekend and early leaving commuting crowds would have packed the place.  Luckily for us, few others were insane enough to brave the ninety five degree heat, and we had most of the joint to ourselves.

With multiple new attractions opening, and our visits spanning all four seasons now, the route I choose through the zoo changes considerably based on multiple variables. This time, appropriately enough since Grandma was there, we followed the Old School path from when I would go on my once a year trips with my folks.  After greeting the bison, and stating we’d hit the World of Birds on the way out if it was still open (which it never is...but, its birds), the excursion began towards Asia to round the park in a generally counterclockwise direction.

The tone of the day was set by Veronica early on.  Reviewing the signage at the Pierre David Deer exhibit she noted, “You can learn a lot of amazing things at the zoo.”
Then pointed to the explanation of how to recognize the different types of deer by the shape of their hindquarters and added:
“Like about butts!”

There were far more than expected unusual animal reactions to the heat.  The polar bear and Auntie Kim’s favorites, the snow leopards, were not among them.
They were motionless and unhappy in the scorching sun that was rapidly sucking the life fluids out of their bodies.

The theoretically nocturnal Red Pandas however, were scampering about in a display of cuteness far more than they usually do when the weather matches their natural habitats. 
The tigers were also imperiously strolling about.

The inhabitants of Wild Asia were similarly active.  It was the first time since the ride opened that I saw the gaur trot their giant cow like selves up next to the monorail. 
Further evidence that no trips to the zoo are the same, justifying my need for frequent visits.

The monorail trip was needed more than ever since the zoo has Patty and Maxine in with the rest of the pachyderm herd for their mental well being, otherwise we would have missed Aurora’s happy elephant dance.  I felt my age on the ride too, when they pointed out Pinky the rhino was a grandmother…I remember shortly after Wild Asia opened when she first became a mom.

Anabelle and Morgan became zoo buddies. She’s the one he would gravitate to for hand holding, ride sharing and being picked up to see over fences.  Awwwwww.

The kids all wanted lunch, aiming our trek up the right side of Africa.  Of course that was after a trip through Jungle World to see one of the more recent additions to Anabelle’s Randomly Selected Favorite Animals list. 
In this case, the “so ugly they're cute” tapirs.

We waved to the lions and did the obligatory poses on nearby Pride Rock. (Zoo people know what I mean.)  Disney poses complete, we found tables to picnic our food on, having switched several years ago to packed sandwiches and a restaurant on the way home than trying to find some kinda healthy zoo food.  Grandma augmented the meal with tater tots for most of the kids, Mac and Cheese for Anabelle, and a refillable souvenir cup to keep everyone’s water bottle filled to prevent us from desiccating.  Lunch time was shared with the gelada baboons, Ibex, and a metric crapload of peacocks.  

I’d fallen out of the habit of going “in season” and kind of figured the brightly colored “feathered rats of the zoo” would stay in the exhibits during the times of the year when the animals were out and fed.  To the contrary, they seemed far more interested in dropped crusts, and processed potatoes than Purina antelope chow.

In older (and happier) days we would have gone straight to the World of Darkness after eating.  Sadly it had been closed for years, and the keeper we spoke to told us they use it as a walk through “Boo at the Zoo” location, meaning no animals are scheduled to return. Even sadly-er, skipping passing in that direction meant we wouldn’t pass the still open brown bear habitat.

We took the trail up around Africa, stopping for some quality giraffe purple tongue watching.  The African wild dogs were far more active than their domestic counterparts normally are in that level of heat.  An outcry of, “But we like zebras!” from pretty much everyone led us to continue down the hill after visiting the cute dwarf mongooses (mongeese? monguys?) and the nearly impossible to see aardvark in the giraffeless but still reek filled giraffe house.

Once our stripy horse quota had been filled, we did a rare retracing of steps back up to the Congo Gorilla Forest.
The extreme heat meant both the okapi and mandrills were out, which never happens on cooler days.
It also meant the great apes themselves reacted to the heat much the way we would if I wasn’t taking everyone on a forced march through their home, by resting in the shade.

The younger kids were stopping here and there for the weird little stamp collecting game that was no doubt inspired by Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorer badge quest.   Anabelle refused to descend to that level, allowing me to discover again that Dramamine brings out her most teenagery moods.

The mouse house, home of the acouchi (coochie coo!) was fun, but dark, requiring large amounts of zone defense and herding to keep the kids in line.

The advantage of the pointless sticker collecting game was a rare opportunity for me to visit the reptile house when travelling with women I’m related to.

No visit would be complete without a stop at the bug carousel, as my daughter and sister's kids, who normally run screaming from insects, enthusiastically demanded to ride on giant ones, then mostly ignored the real ones in the butterfly garden.

In other news, kids are always unpredictable.

Given that many animals come off exhibit well before closing time, we decided to uncharacteristically skip the gift shop until the end of the trip.  Snap decision, or instincts of a WCS Jedi Master? The future will tell.

While we were passing by the rhinos, my sister started to be drawn by the sea lion call. She hadn’t seen them in years.  They’ve always been one of her favorites, and she’s also always been able to “converse” with them by coughing. 
Yes, they do answer.
Yes, my family is weird, but fun.

We stopped in the old elephant house for a quick Komodo Dragon and other monitor lizard visit and came back out for a quick side rhino trip to the barking sounds echoing through Astor Court.

I convinced everyone it made the most sense to go through Madagascar first, instead of back tracking after the sea lions.

The GIANT CROCODILE was a big hit with Morgan, his zoo buddy holding him to see it, contrary to how it normally creeps her out and sends her out of the room as fast as possible.
The Lemurs were all cute, leaping about, and fun for all of us.

Finally, we exited the old Lion House, allowing my sister’s dramatic and hacking conversation filled reunion with the sea lions.

Then everyone had to go to the bathroom, which is located at the entrance to Madagascar, just to prove me wrong about the order of viewing.

Instead of going directly to the sea bird exhibits, we detoured through Ugly Fountain Parking Lot, as it was a rare occasion with both Grandma and I visiting, the last two family members who remember arriving at the zoo there.

Entering the giant bird cage should be an amazing experience of immersion into an animal habitat.  Not with our group though. Everyone ignored the scenic wildlife and ran straight for the Penguin Wheel of Death.  
Of course everyone’s favorite result was,
“What’s a petrel? 
A large sea bird.
What’s it having for dinner? 

We went backwards through the Aquatic Bird house, delighted to make it just before they locked it up. The kids’ favorites were the puffins and “not really baby, but excessively small and cute” penguins.  I like the scarlet Ibises, since the first year I was a member I went frequently enough to see their entire life cycle from eggs up through brown hatchlings and crimson adults. 

Yes, amazingly, I used to have less of a life than I have now.

Near closing time, shopping was still readily available and there was fun for all goofing about the gift shop. Anabelle made sure to pick out something for Mami to document the Ad-veeeeen-ture. (*jazz hands*)

Nowhere near our usual zoo ending locations, we cut straight down past the reptile house to work our way to the Bronxdale Parking lot.  That route took us by the Grizzly Bears habitat we hadn’t detoured over to see earlier.  Since we had shopped until after official zoo closing time, the animals should have all gone into their inside enclosures.

Yet, due to the still oppressive heat no doubt, the bears were allowed to remain out past curfew to play in the pools and have a grand old time.

Thanx to my encouraging the late shopping, and odd route out of the zoo, we were able to witness animals we would have missed completely at the height of fun and activity.

Chalk up another victory for: 

Jeff McGinley- Zoo Whore.

Everyone was completely overheated, exhausted and dehydrated.

That may have had a slight impact on why all three girls were singing bizarre interpretations of the “Witch Doctor” song all the way home, but knowing them as I do, they’d probably have acted the same way rested and full of fluids.

The late zoo closing, Friday rush hour traffic, and an incredible number of jerkwads in Mercedes delayed our dinner arrival until well into happy hour.

Jose Tejas, our old post zoo traditional Mexican spot, was packed to the point we couldn’t get in the door to find out the wait.

We were all far too tired to go to On the Border, our new, but further from home, post zoo traditional Mexican spot.

Therefore we decided on a mass of comfort food and all the water they could spare at the family favorite Hibernia Diner.

By the time we finished it was definitely far too late, but we’d already mentioned Denville Dairy at the zoo.  Once that place is mentioned to any kid who grew up within fifty miles of it, going becomes a requirement.

The place was jam packed, but it is every night in the summer, meaning they cranked through the crowd in no time.  They had fat and sugar free ice cream there, letting me join in the fun.  Besides, Egg Creams stopped being any fun once Steve had a career as a speech pathologist.

Beds were welcome and rapidly collapsed into.

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