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September 06, 2003: Lemurs! Lemurs everywhere!

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Today Richard and I went to the zoo. The main reason was to see lemurs, but also itís been a very long time since either of us has been to a zoo, and Iíve never been to the one in San Francisco.

We headed out bright and early in order to get a decent parking place. Since we arrived an hour before the zoo opened, we managed to get a spot right in front (go figure). This also left us plenty of time to wander across the street to the beach and watch the surfers in the ocean.

Iíve never seen people surfing before. Sure, Iíve seen it in movies, but never in real life. As we were driving by, all the dark shapes looked at first like a random gathering of seals in the water. But as we got closer I could see that each dark shape was a person, bobbing about in the water clutching a surfboard, waiting for just the right wave. There werenít all that many waves that were acceptable, judging by the length of time most of the people spent bobbing about in the water waiting, but every once in a while one would come in strong enough and a handful would get up on their boards and do a credible job of remaining upright for short periods of time.

We headed back across the street and waited outside with a handful of others until the gates opened and we went in and spent the next six hours wandering all over the park looking at all the animals, and especially the lemurs.

We watched them feed the elephants and the penguins and the lions and tigers. We saw an entire flock of flamingos, including a few babies Ė white balls of fluff that had the most ridiculously long legs for a baby bird. We got sidetracked by the juvenile lion cubs, who kept a small group of us entertained with their antics. They were playing like kittens, with their stuffed fish toys and sisal rope-wrapped boards, and dangling ropes, but these particular kittens had feet the size of dinner plates, and when they were wrestling with each other they growled far deeper and louder than the kittens Iím used to.

There was a bit of playing in other areas as well, although for the most part most of the animals were napping or yawning. One of the polar bears had a tire he was wrestling with, and when you are a huge bear, you wrestle in slow motion. He would lift it up in one giant paw and slowly bring it to his mouth to chew, and then roll over on his back and bat at the tire.

We wandered off toward the conservation section to try to see the other large cats, but they were all hiding, probably asleep, and the only furry face we saw there belonged to a fisher cat baby, who peered at us sleepily from the very top box of a huge cat tree.

Itís a wonderful zoo. Most of the animals seemed to have lots of space and the ones that normally live in green areas had lots of trees and bushes and places to climb or lurk or swing or burrow. We saw an anteater and a shy zebra and turtles and tortoises and a turkey vulture and the worldís ugliest stork, but no ostrich. We saw a pair of river otters with whiskery faces and bright eyes, and an orangutan asleep, a furry ball Ďunderí a shallow plastic water dish. There was a kangaroo who couldnít be bothered and a very anxious coyote and an albino wallaby that looked as if he had just woken up and didn't quite remember who he was, and a really bored hippo and a very industrious rhino. The prairie dogs were mostly sleeping or wandering around nibbling on grass, but the meerkats were busily active, digging in tunnels or darting here and there, or stopping what they were doing to peer quizzically back at the humans that were peering at them.

And of course we also saw lemurs Ė lots and lots of lemurs. There were ruffed ones that were black and white like skunks, or rust-colored with black bellies, or solid black, all lolling around on trees or the ground or on specially heated platforms where they could sprawl and expose their tummies to heat lamps or the sun. There were also smaller ring-tailed lemurs, including two babies who zipped wildly all over their enclosure, swinging up and down and occasionally taking a flying leap and landing squarely on the back of the one we assumed was their mother. They all have extremely long and extremely fluffy tails, which they seemed to take great pride in, draping their tails over their shoulders.

We took lots of pictures and you can see them all here, because I am not going to try to fit them all into this entry somehow.

After all of that our feet were sore and we were a little bit sun burnt because naturally we forgot to put on any sunscreen in preparation for this trip. But we figured as long as we were in the area we might as well get dinner and since Richard hadnít been there yet we called up The Stinking Rose (where they season their garlic with food!) and after a few cell phone signal issues, finally managed to get directions and somehow navigated all those one-way streets in San Francisco without getting lost. We smeared rolls liberally with roasted garlic cloves and then split a bowl of roasted garlic potato onion soup, and barely had room left for the main course, which was garlic-roasted lamb for Richard and roasted chicken with a huge pile of roasted garlic cloves for me. It was heaven to be able to just sit and let our feet try to recover from all the walking around the zoo and watch the people as they walked past us outside, and then when we were stuffed with food and had eaten enough garlic to make ourselves completely unsuitable for polite company, we finally came back home, tired, sore from walking, comfortably sleepy, just a little bit sun burnt, and in complete agreement that it had been a marvelously wonderful day.

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