Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A good argument for serving beer at the zoo

When I studied abroad in Spain in college, I was determined to go the zoo in Barcelona because I wanted to see the only Albino gorilla in existence.


I don't know if anyone else really grasped the importance of this situation aside from me. 

It's not just the only one in captivity.




That's like...BEYOND an endangered species, y'all.

His name was Snowflake and in the 1960s poachers killed his whole family and kept him because he was so odd-looking. 

Since he was raised by humans, he developed human-like facial expressions and behavior, like a reverse Dances with Wolves thing…wait, maybe…I've never seen that movie. 

But you get what I'm saying.

Are you my real father????

Snowflake was sold to someone who worked for the zoo and he lived there his whole life, bewildering zoo-goers with his albino skin, human-like expressions and…duh…..being the only one in existence.

How do I know so much about Snowflake? I did a report on him in high school, for Spanish class. 

I gave a five-minute presentation, in Spanish, about el magnifico Snowflake!!!! 

I really like zoos, so it's not surprising that I chose Snowflake for this assignment. But I don't remember how I discovered Snowflake's existence exactly. 

Maybe I was looking up stuff about the New Orleans zoo's WHITE ALLIGATOR ("jewel of the swamp") and found an Albino animal fan group or something. 

No matter!! I fell in love with that pink-faced gorilla!!! 

I never forgot about him, and six years after my report, when I found myself in Spain and traveling to Barcelona on spring break, visiting Snowflake was number one on my list. 

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!!!! 


I mean, there are hardly ever just one of something in existence! 

("exactly." - my identical twin sister, Joy.)

Surprisingly, when we arrived in Barcelona, I was the only one who had el zoológico on my "to-do" list.

"The zoo?" fellow students asked. "You don't need to come all the way to Barcelona to see an ocelot."

"I don't care about the big cats!" I said. "I want to see the ONLY albino gorilla in existence! He's the coolest!!! He regularly beats on his chest like King Kong!!!"  


My best fellow travel friend at the time, Meghan, was the only person in our group to mull over the idea of coming to the zoo with me.

And then, my friend Jesse, a friend from New Orleans who was studying abroad in Edinburgh, was also in Barcelona for spring break and I persuaded him to come to the zoo as well. 

"Get ready for the best time of your LIVES!" I said as I walked confidently to the front gate. Meghan and Jesse balked at the admission price - 12.90 eruos. In early 2004, that equated to almost $15 American dollars. 

"I'm not paying $15 to see a bunch of animals!" Jesse said. 

I pointed at the banners everywhere with Snowflake's face on them  thoughtful and hilarious faces of him munching on a tree branch. 

"You're gonna miss this????" I said to him. (Then, I may or may not have beaten on my chest like King Kong). 

After much insisting, all three of us bought tickets to the Barcelona Zoo. 

Snowflake's face was everywhere, even on our tickets. I put mine in my backpack to save for a scrapbook. I was so excited I almost peed myself. 

When we walked inside the gate, I made a beeline for Snowflake's "habitat," leaving my friends behind. 

It wasn't hard to find; there were arrows and pictures of him and lots of people selling Snowflake stuffed animals from little kiosks. 

I pushed past everyone and came up to his area. It was a small, but well-appointed grassy area behind glass, with a tire swing and ropes and other toys. 

I pressed my nose against the glass, eyes darting in all directions. Where was Snowflake? 

My friends then found me, smushed against the glass.

"Where is he?" Jesse asked. 

"If he's taking a BATH or something, I'm going to be pissed," I said. There were tons of other people peering into the habitat. WHERE THE F WAS SNOWFLAKE???

"Pardon," I said to the man peering into the cage next to me. "Donde esta Snowflake?"

"Snowflake?" he asked confused. "Snowflake...esta muerto," he said softly.

"What?" I responded in English, voice two octaves higher than normal. "Muerto??"


"HE'S DEAD???"

"Sí," the man said. "Seis meses pasados."

Six months ago????



I turned to Meghan and Jesse and my face fell. 

"He's..dead," I said sliding against the glass to the ground, my back facing what should have been my ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY. I was truly sad.

"Sorry," Meghan said, always the comforter. 


This was the zoo's fault. 

"WHY IS HIS FACE ON THIS….TICKET!!?!!!!" I hastily pulled it out of my bag, waving it around. "THEY SHOULD TELL YOU HE'S DEAD BEFORE YOU PAY $15 TO GET IN!!!" 

I was on the verge of throwing a fit. 

"Hey, come on, they've got other cool animals here," Jesse said, pointing at a map, feeling sincerely sorry for me. "AND THEY HAVE BEER!"

Thankfully, he knew how to cheer me up. 

I stood up and wallowed for ten more minutes until I walked around and realized that all the animals at the Barcelona zoo were odd-looking in their own way. 

They had a hippopotamus out of the water asleep on the ground!!! I've never seen a hippopotamus outside the water!!!

Bwwahahahaha how does he walk???

(The beer helped.)

Also, you could feed the animals! (Uh, stop reading PETA)

I mean, nobody told us not to feed the animals, and everyone else was doing it. The monkeys even did turns and curtsies for pieces of dried fruit.

And let's not forget the parrots!!!! As Meghan, Jesse and I walked by the parrot cage single file like they walk on the Beatles album we all stopped abruptly when we heard a little girl and parrot having a back-n-forth. 


"Qué pasa?
"Qué pasa?

A SPANISH PARROT! We walked over to teach it English. 

"Polly want a cracker?" I offered. 

(It didn't respond.)

It was such a fun day, we even considered renting a golf cart and riding around to each exhibit. 

I think about Snowflake every time I go to the zoo. Any zoo. Most recently, two months ago.

I stared at the gorillas, all looking exactly alike except for an extra tuft of hair on a butt here, a pudgier belly there.

None albino.

At least I have the white alligator ("Spot") at the New Orleans zoo to remind me that freak albinos totally rule the animal captivity kingdom. 

The while alligator's face is on the ticket to the New Orleans zoo, too, you know. 

It appears to be the only one in existence. Certainly the only one in captivity.

I wonder if there's a child in Spain writing a paper about Spot at this very moment, imagining one day seeing him. 


But just in case....we serve beer at the zoo here, too.


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