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May 30, 2005: Zoo birthday

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Since we both had today off from work - it being Memorial Day and all - I decided I wanted to go to the San Francisco Zoo. The fact that today is my birthday just meant that it was going to be a birthday trip, but I'd have wanted to go even if it wasn't.

We've managed to get to the zoo once a year now for the past few years, and it's always a lot of fun. We've learned that the best way to go to the zoo, especially on a holiday when it's more likely to be crowded, is to get there when they open, so that by the time it gets crowded, we've seen everything we wanted to see, and we're ready to go home.

We went to see the lemurs first, because Richard and I are all about the lemurs. They were in fine form, lots of barking and meandering and - like anything vaguely feline in form and behavior - lots of lounging around , either singly or in groups. Then we got distracted by an extraordinary amount of noise coming from the rest of the primates. Turns out the howler monkeys and the simians had a LOT to say, and they felt the need to say it at the top of their voices.

Then it was on to the Africa exhibit, which was brand new when we went to see it last year. We saw a herd of giraffes, ostriches, and a pair of , who seemed to need to stay right next to each other no matter where they went.

As we were nearing the end of the meandering path through the African Savannah, we spotted a door to something else - a door neither Richard nor I recall being there before (so either we missed it last year, or it's been added on since last time we were there). Inside a large netted area were a handful of additional critters, including some of the world's ugliest scavenger birds, some extremely fat squatty birds that resembled either pheasants or chickens, and which were covered with a Escher-esc pattern of tiny black and white checks. And lurking in the back corner was one of the cutest things at the zoo - a dik-dik! It's the tiniest little thing. I looked it up online and the info says they usually don't get to more than about 8 pounds. It's got a snout that's longer than the usual deer-type critters, and the nose tends to twitch and wiggle as if maybe, somewhere back in its ancestry, some dik-dik had a passing fling with an anteater. Another distant ancestor had a thing for rabbits, if the hind end is anything to go by.

We spent a little bit of time watching the gorillas, since the large silverback was wandering around looking bored, and the younger (I think female) kept zipping here and there. It looked like one of the zookeepers was inside the building, so the little gorilla kept hanging out by the door, but she would hang out by sitting on top of a huge rubber ball and rocking back and forth. Then she decided she'd had enough of that, and it was time to go sit in one of the food bowls. All the while the older female did her best to move through half a dozen sprawl positions on a flat rock which was probably a lovely, sun-warmed spot to nap.

This time we finally got to see the bald eagle; most of the time it's been so hidden behind the trees on its little island that we cannot see it. Apparently something happened to the penguins because there were a lot fewer than in years past - although we did get to see just how fast a penguin can swim, because as we stood there, one of them decided that it needed to do some speed laps Right Now, and took off, zipping madly around the pool, and occasionally leaping out of the water, dolphin style. It was amazing to watch, especially because all the other penguins seemed determined to ignore the speedy one completely.

It was a wonderful day. We saw a very lazy polar bear (don't you just want to go poke those toes? Sleepy polar bears always look so friendly and harmless - until of course you remember that to polar bears, we humans are actually prey). I had to snap a picture of the snoozing zebra because I love the 'zipper line' stripe along the tummy. By the time we made it over to the prairie dogs and the meerkats, it was getting warm out, and most of them were staying inside their burrows. But one little prairie dog came over to the glass wall and rather abruptly starting leaping about and turning from side to side...it almost looked as if he was dancing with his reflection. Richard got a terrific shot of the 'two' of them that looks as if they are trying to hold hands.

We stayed longer than we have in the past, and by the time we headed out to the car, we were exhausted. Since it had been a bit chilly in the morning, we started the day wearing jackets, but then those came off, and it didn't occur to either Richard or I that we might have wanted to put on sun block. So we're both sporting sunburns on our arms and faces.

There'd been some discussion about trying to have all my family come over this evening for a birthday dinner. But my older sister and her family had plans for a cul-de-sac block party barbeque, and by the time we got home, we were so tired that I was glad we didn't have to somehow come up with enough energy to entertain guests. So instead we stopped for dinner on the way home, and then came home and lolled on the couches in the living room and watched my new copy of Noises Off and I think a long soak in a hot tub might be in order later, to try to soothe all our tired aches and pains. But even though we're both worn out, it's been a fun birthday. Any day that includes a trip to the San Francisco Zoo is a marvelous day.

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