Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Los Angeles, California--Tucson, Arizona--Day 110

Sitting in the LAX airport, I am just about to get on my way to Tucson, Arizona where I live for a short but sweet stopover before heading to New York tomorrow. Spending a few days in Los Angeles has been nice, particularly because this is where my brother lives so I got to spend time with him and his girlfriend Jenny. Yesterday Simon took the day off of work and we headed off to the zoo.

We had driven to the zoo two days before, on Sunday, but when we arrived it was so hot and crowded that we thought it would be best if we came back on a nicer, less crowded day. Yesterday was perfect but as we drove up into the parking lot, which was completely filled with big yellow school buses, it appeared to be more crowded than we had hoped.

We bought our tickets and made our way to the entrance, which was sort complicated by construction going on. We had our map and set off to find the hippos. I was really excited to have
Simon with me and to show him the ropes.

We got up to the hippos after a while and found two of them sleeping happily in clear water in a nice, but somewhat small, pool. I took a few pictures of them sleeping but then decided that I should call to the hippos to see if they would move around or something. So I started calling to them “Hippos! Hippo--hippos!” as I’ve seen several zookeepers do, pretending like this was something that I did all the time, no big deal, just part of the job.

What happened surprised even myself.

Not only did the hippos start stirring, but they started swimming around and got OUT of the water! My brother was impressed, and I was shocked to see that it worked, even though I played it off like it was not a big deal. They got out of the water and I clapped and shouted, and tried to get them to open their mouths with my hands as I’d seen some keepers do. While they didn’t open their mouths for me, at least they got out and I was able to get some great pictures of them. I bet they thought that they were going to be fed!

Several groups of school children came and went, some impressed by the hippos, others not so much. Each group had a zoo volunteer showing them around, and I asked one of them what the names of the hippos were. He told me that they did have names, but that the “public wasn’t encouraged to use them” so he either didn’t know them, or wouldn’t tell me. Fair enough, it seemed like these hippos would get out of the water in a flash if someone was calling their names.

After taking a few more pictures, we headed back towards the main entrance to find the zoo administration building. I’m sure that someone in there wouldn’t mind helping us! So we stopped at a few other exhibits along the way and found the zoo administration building. Walking in, I realized that this was probably not the place we were looking for. There was a fancy waiting room and a proper receptionist sitting at a desk. I walked up and told her that I was interested in the hippos and wanted to know what there names were---was this the place I should be looking? She smiled and re-directed us to another building around the corner that could help us with that as she was in charge of the fundraising.

So Simon and I walked out and before we could get to far the receptionist came running out after us. We turned around and she asked, did you just want to know their names? And I said yes, and she said Otis and Maggie.

What great names! Otis and Maggie. I wrote this down and we hit the gift shop before heading back to our car. We spent the rest of the day hanging out in Los Angeles before meeting up with Simon’s girlfriend Jenny for a swank L.A. dinner celebrating Simon’s 25th birthday (which was in February but its never too late to celebrate!)

This morning I woke up still feeling it from last night (not in a good way!) and Simon drove me to the airport to catch my short flight over to Tucson!