A Zooey Christmas

My sister and her husband gifted us with a trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo over the holidays.

I’m not much for zoos because I feel sorry for the cooped up critters and spend my time not enjoying them, but plotting their escape.

This zoo, however changed my opinion.

It’s small, well cared for, and the animals seemed if not content, peacefully resigned to their habitats.

The highlight was feeding the giraffes. The docent gave me a handful of lettuce leaves, and told me to offer them to Michael, the alpha giraffe who was at the railing following my every move. Michael was three stories high, wore an apricot-brown colored coat, with liquid brown eyes, and long dark lashes. I offered him a lettuce leaf, and in a blink, Michael rolled out a very long grey tongue, and with the dexterity of fingers, grabbed the leaf, rolled it into his mouth and chewed.  IMG_1952

It was a real tongue and cheek experience.

He consumed the leaves in a nano-second and never said thank you.

The snow leopards were my next favorite, but they had just woken up and were in no mood to be sociable. Or maybe they’re always that way. True introverts who only want the comfort of their cave.

The penguins were the most gregarious, honking their way through their morning bath, as were the two red amazon parrots squawking from their perch as they preened each other.

I did feel sorry for the two elephants. They could have benefited from a good book or a stimulating conversation.

The flamingos ignored us and bent their necks into their wings and went to sleep. But that’s what flamingos do, especially in Vegas, decorating people’s front yards.

There was an enormous grey-headed vulture, the size of a small car, in his cage with a docent who was cleaning his habitat with a broom and dust pan. She moved, he loped, following her like a shadow all around the cage. We named him Hitchcock.

I’ve never understood why zoos don’t have a pet purchase policy. I would have emptied the place out. Except for Hitchcock. I don’t like stalkers.

Calvin says, “Pity. Hitchcock and I would make a great team. I’d find the rabbit, he’d take it from there.” beagle

Overheard

A couple across from me at a table at a bagel shop. In their 30’s.
Girl: Long dark straight hair. Thin. Glasses.
Guy: Rumpled clothing. Just got off a plane. Backpack. Shadow of a beard.
He pulls out a bag of sun-dried tomatoes from Sicily and a sea shell the size of a quarter.
Guy: I had other things I wanted to bring you, but I had packing issues.
She receives the gifts as if they were diamonds.
Guy: the tomatoes are salty. You’ll need to soak them.  Bagel Tree (2) (2)
She gives him a hug.
Girl: What’s an everything bagel? Is it a bagel that has a little bit of everything on it?
Guy: Everything is hot. Would you want to do it?
Girl: Ya.
Guy: What do you want on it?
Girl: Butter. On the side.
He gets up. He orders. He pays. He brings everything to the table.
Guy: I want to show you everything Jewish.
Calvin says, “Sun-dried tomatoes? Really? How about a juicy kiss where it counts?” beagle

Are Museums For Americans Too?

In his book Priceless, author Robert Wittman says that more Americans visit museums than go to ball games.

Hmm.

I was recently at the MoMA in New York on a Friday night when you can get in for free. There were hordes of people waiting in line, more crowds already inside the building, and there were ten people deep by almost every painting hanging on the walls.

All of them were speaking a foreign language. French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, you name it, I heard it.

And the Americans?

There were two. My friend, Elle and me. We didn’t speak much because we were craning our necks to see the Picassos, Van Goghs, and Monets in the room.  

There was a group of Italians occupying the middle of the room listening with rapt attention to their guide. He was a tall man, with greying hair at the temples, immaculately dressed in a European-cut suit and a yellow ascot. He was pointing out historical details about the artists with a flourish of hand gestures. This all in Italian, of course. And without a textbook.

Behind me were people of all ages, jostling for position, photographing Van Gogh’s Starry Night on their iPads. They spoke Russian.

Even the guards, in their blue uniforms, whose job was to make sure visitors kept a respectable distance from the masterpieces, looked foreign-born.

So where were the Americans?

In the Architecture and Design exhibit? No.

Viewing the current exhibit? No.

In the contemporary galleries? No.

When I rounded the corner by the Painting and Sculpture Galleries, that’s where I spotted them.

In line waiting to get into the restaurant.

Does that count as a museum visit?

Calvin says, “Only if you snap a few pics on the way to the bathroom.” 

Get Me Out of Here

I’m a nervous flier. My worst nightmare is the scanner at the security check point. I refuse the x-ray. At the doctor’s, yes. The airport, no way anyone’s going to see through me.

My strategy is to make myself invisible and morph into a stream of blue particles like Star Trek. “Beam me up, Scottie,” would be my mantra. It’s clean, efficient and quick. Away from latex-gloved hands groping my inward parts.

My other strategy is to scan for sheep in the stalls and attach myself to a rowdy group of plus-sized ewes with thick fleece and jangly jewelry. TSA agents love them. While they’re being detained and interrogated, I slip through.

My other must-haves for checkpoints are:

1) slip-on shoes that slip-off easily

2) a boring handbag, black, preferably fake leather, that attracts zero attention from female agents

3) a jacket I remove in front of watchful eyes, which makes me look like a docile, obedient sheep

4) and a smile

It works. Not always.

A friend, on her last trip, was selected for the scanner. She complied and was still pulled aside for a pat-down. “My fat was hiding my skeleton,” she said.

Another friend, an 89-year old, was also selected for a pat-down on a recent trip. “I chose the bright side. It was an invigorating massage,” she said.

Hm…I think the TSA is profiling older women traveling alone. They’re the new look of terrorism. Laugh lines, salt & pepper hair, and plump figures. They’re concealing weapons in the folds of their extra-large girths. Or maybe in the buns on their heads.

I recently flew out of Bob Hope airport in Burbank, the one remaining vintage movie set airport in California. Surely here Antonio Banderas would invite me to walk through the electronic gate and I’d be escorted to my plane. Instead, to my horror and disbelief, I saw my dread. Somebody had installed the newest scanners in the industry when I wasn’t looking. They looked like the Star Trek version. I was going to get my wish.

My decision came down to: Was I going to submit or dash to Hertz and drive home?

My ticket was paid for.

I was standing sans shoes, jacket and purse.

I was next in line.

It wasn’t Antonio waiting for me. It was Brunhilda in armor.

Help!

What would you have done? (leave me a comment)

Calvin says, “I would have created a real Hollywood drama by howling my head-off.”

Give Mom a Kick-Butting Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.

That horrid one day of the year when families take mom out for brunch and fuss over her with eggs Benedict and Mimosas. Then she’s returned to the daily grind and all is forgotten.

I’m sure the restaurant industry contrived the holiday to beef up their bottom line in May.

What if mom doesn’t like eggs with a last name and orange juice spiked with bubbles? Maybe she prefers her steak grilled with a heaping plateful of shoestring potatoes and a large pitcher of sangria?

And please don’t give her a cheesy card with a sappy greeting that a computer spit out last century that you found in the greeting card aisle at the supermarket next to the artificial smelling air fresheners for the house. Definitely don’t buy one of those either.

Instead, head out to the mall and buy her an all expense paid shopping spree to her favorite shoe store. Or put her on a plane to a beach somewhere. Or give her a lifetime of body massages at the Holistic Health Clinic where Mai, the masseuse will be happy to walk all over her back.

Then install the dog in the pet hotel so she doesn’t have to walk him for a month.

Hire a private chef for the rest of the year and give her a break in the kitchen.

Oh wait. The kitchen. It needs a desperate overhaul before Wolfgang can cook there.

Maybe mom has a dream she’d like to focus on for a change. Provide her with the tools she needs. Lipstick, make-up, haircut and color, liposuction, a new wardrobe.

Singing lessons? Maybe she’s always wanted to develop her voice beyond yelling at the kids.

Calvin says, “My mom never got to develop herself. I know she had a secret nobody else knew. She always wanted to be an owner.”

Not-So Friendly Up There

Today I read a story about an airline crew member gone berserk. This time it was a captain of a no-frills flight from New York. He got kicked out of the cockpit and left rambling to himself about the Middle East, terrorism and a bomb. It took a burly, male passenger to wrestle him to the floor and subdue him. Meanwhile the co-pilot barricaded himself behind the bullet-proof door, diverted the flight, and made an emergency landing in a small town in Texas. (It’s comforting to know small towns in Texas have airports.)

Two years ago there was another story about a male fight attendant, serving on a no-frills flight (Hm…I see a theme emerging), who snapped at the passengers and began babbling obscenities on the public address system. Fortunately for that flight, it hadn’t left the tarmac yet, so the disgruntled employee, with a bunch of beers under his arm, deployed the emergency chute and waved goodbye to the passengers and his job.

What’s happening to airline personnel I wonder? Are they beginning to crack under the strain, much like aging aircraft? According to a flight attendant friend, airlines these days are becoming greedy. Crews are seen as overpaid and under-productive according to management. “If they could fly their planes without us, they would be happier,” she said.

I’ve marveled at the extra work these no-frills airlines have their crews do from one flight to the next. Pilots and flight attendants go down the aisle picking up trash, straightening seat belts, and fixing everything that is out of place to get the plane ready for the next trip. The crew pulls together. They work long hours. They handle emergencies, demanding passengers, and rudeness with a smile. Now they have to add unstable co-workers to the list.

It’s a thankless job, and frankly, they aren’t rewarded enough.

Calvin says, “One way to remedy that is to put a trained beagle on board and let him sniff out the potential problem-maker before lift-off.”