In Which Our Hero Goes to the Zoo

When I got off BART and went up the escalator to the MUNI gate I found that the L wasn't running and it was necessary to take a shuttle bus to the zoo at the end of the line.

The MUNI woman said, "You can take any train to the Van Ness stop. Then go upstairs to the mid-street platform and get on the shuttle to Forest Hill where you can switch to the shuttle to West Portal. Then you can take the shuttle to the zoo."

The MUNI woman smiled as she said all this, as if she was thinking, "I can see you're mildly annoyed that you can't just ride the train to where you want to go, and that you're not going to remember the directions I'm firing at you, and that you're not used to using MUNI, but I'm safe in my little glass booth, with my tinny microphone, and you're out there in the chill echoing train station so I don't give a fuck about your honkey ass."

I started out a little chapped in the hide but once I was on the train for Van Ness I was thinking, "Getting there is half the fun."

I emerged from underground at Van Ness and walked out to the platform in the middle of Market St. People began to congregate around me, most of them with the same look on their face -- "I always just take the train. How am I going to get to where I'm supposed to be?" The remainder of the people were crazy or homeless or both. They also shared a similar look on their faces which was, "If the voices leave me alone I might make it to the end of today."

A bus rolled up and people began crying out, plaintively, "West Portal? West Portal?" The Asian driver responded loudly, in an accent, "YES YES WES POTAW! GET ON DA BUS!" The passengers were all pleased. "Oh good, this bus is going straight to West Portal."

As the bus proceeded it quickly became clear that this was not the driver's usual route. The driver began asking for directions from the passengers at every twist in the road. And the road was getting mighty twisty. Up and up we went to the top of a hill, and then into a big bus turnaround in front of a large MUNI station. Across the street was the Laguna Honda Hospital, begging to be photographed. But I was on a mission.

"WAST STOP WAST STOP! FOWEST HIW" shouted the bus driver. Every single passenger gasped out a resounding OH!! It was the same sound of protest as when OJ's new book was announced. And then it was babel. "You said this bus was going to West Portal! This is Forest Hill! Now how are we going to get to West Portal! We're all lost, forever lost!" "FOWEST HIW! WAST STOP! FOWEST HIW!" The bus driver put his foot down and the mob was quashed.

At the MUNI station, a woman with an edge of panic in her voice was swinging her radio about, pointing at arriving buses. She pointed out the bus to West Portal and the mob moved, en-masse, toward it, leaving the Asian driver, still asking for directions, behind. At West Portal it was a man with a bull-horn. The mob had started to break up, it's component parts going off to different parts of the city, but everybody was still pretty steamed.

A Russian woman in a black fuzzy hat got on the Taraval bus, "What is going on around here? How am I supposed to get where I am goink? Why don't they put up signs?"

"This only just happened." said an older woman in smart sunglasses, reasonably

"I know, but that is no excuse."

Suddenly, everyone was smiling. The Russian woman's unfair demands had caricature-ized what the passengers were thinking. Everybody relaxed and realized that they were just on a little adventure.

The sky, at the end of the line, was a typical ocean sky; full of ennui, and portents, and news from distant lands. Rushed and in a hurry. It was late and people were leaving the zoo in droves. I bought my ticket and the ticket seller said, "You know the zoo is closing soon?" I nodded and walked in.

Closing time in public parks. I grew up next to, and worked at three, tourist attractions in Florida, and closing time in a place like that is like no other. No place feels more abandoned and forlorn at dusk. The people, the entire reason such a place exists, gone. The sidewalks, empty.

Most of the animals had gone off exhibit, back into their old fashioned animal houses. A small tribe of howler monkeys were huddled way up on a platform in the chilly ocean air, a tan youngster grooming the black fur of an adult male. From the lion house a deep bellowing cough. Feeding time. I spoke with a Sumatran tiger. I chuffed at her the way tigers do to say hello and also "I'm cool", and she whined back at me and butted her head against the fence the way tigers do to say "Come over here you big lug, I want to sever your spinal cord." In the giraffe house two young giraffes, a teenager and a baby, gamboled around their pen gracefully, kicking out their front legs, away from all prying eyes but my own.

At one stop, on the bus back downtown, a thin black woman in a blue sweatshirt, carrying a suitcase, and a fat pasty white guy in an olive colored short set got on. They hugged, the guy said goodbye and got off the bus. The bus started rolling and the woman started laughing. Or crying. I couldn't tell. Maybe both. The woman got out of her seat and began pulling her suitcase by its handle. The suitcase tipped over on its side, off its wheels. The woman walked to the back of the bus, scraping the suitcase along the floor behind her. "I'm draggin' it, baby! I'm draggin' it!" she cackled. "This thing got wheels? Hahahahahahaha."

Back at Van Ness, I decided to walk along Market for awhile. I cut across Civic Center Plaza in the dark and found myself surrounded by the homeless. A veritable city of homeless except, you know, no homes. At the mall on Powell, one guy held out his change cup and jingled it at me while singing the Underdog theme -- "Here he comes to save the daaaay!"

So, sightseeing at the various zoos of San Francisco.
  • Current Mood: closed
I'm glad you finally made it to the zoo. Interesting journey, of course, but aren't they all?

I continue to be amazed at what people will do or say in public. I'm so Pollyanna, it makes me want to barf.
Closing time at the zoo is sad. In my head, I always believed that after the zoo closed, the keepers found all the day's dead animals and made them into the vendor food for tomorrow. N
I was a zookeeper for three years, at two zoos, and closing time was usually a good time. We would have the opportunity to interact closely with our charges and observe their behaviors. Typically, the end of the day meant feeding time. The animals often ate better than we did, getting top quality stuff.

At the Cypress Gardens Zoo, where we raised Bengal tiger cubs, the end of the day was play time in the tiger pool.

At the Audubon Zoo, at least once a year, closing time meant draining and cleaning the elephant water barrier, in which we would then have a pool party, with the elephants looking on from their night enclosure.

So, closing time at the zoo, for me, was a happy time. Also, we usually kept a close eye on our exhibits during the day so if an animal did die, or get sick, we were aware of it pretty quickly.
That makes me feel better. I always pictured all the animals suddenly being very lonely. Now I can think of them as happy to have time with the zoo people. N
Exotic creatures
Probably the most familiar part of this was the tigers. MUNI? Shuttle? Taraval?

How many zoos are the in San Fransisco? Helsinki is strictly one zoo town. :)

Re: Exotic creatures
There is just the one in San Francisco, and another right across the bay in Oakland. But I was referring to the city itself as a zoo, so I said zoos.