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Thursday, March 01, 2007


One summer when I was really little, probably between first and second grade, my mom enrolled me in a summer art school. Wouldn't you know it -- the very first class was a field trip to a zoo (probably the Philadelphia Zoo). This trip was extremely strange for me, because I literally was dropped off to class and ushered onto a bus. I didn't know a soul, not even a teacher. I was so young, and this was the first time I did anything on my own.

I can't speak for today's generation with their i-Pods and video games and text-messaging and K-Fed, but little boys in the early '60s were fascinated with monkeys. If there was a movie or television show with a chimpanzee, WE WATCHED IT. So if I did make an acquaintence or two on that trip to the zoo, I'm sure we agreed that we were particularly anxious to see the monkeys.

To our great disappointment, a teacher said to us: "We won't be seeing the monkeys today, boys and girls, because they are mating."

I didn't know what "mating" was, but when I got back home and said to my parents, "We couldn't see the monkeys because the monkeys were mating," it was a big hit. For the next week or so, I was asked to repeat it to any grownups who visited our house.

I do remember that at the zoo, as we were being told that the monkeys were mating, we were shown a tiny, fenced-in building, inside which this thing called "mating" was in progress. There was a tiny window, and I distinctly remember that there was one monkey looking out the window at us.

Today, with the benefit of my decades of life experience, I know what mating is. And I grew to realize that the one monkey who was looking out the window at us was -- for the moment, at least -- NOT mating.


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