On the news this morning they reported a woman was killed by a lion several days ago while driving through a tourist attraction in South Africa. Signs were posted to keep car windows closed while in the compound. Unfortunately, we humans like to tempt fate and this time it was with disastrous results. We insist on putting ourselves in an animals habitat then are surprised when they behave like wild animals. Wild animals hunt. That is their nature. Because we have captured them does not diminish this urge in the least.
Back in the late 90’s a friend and I purchased tickets to see Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage in Vegas. Our seats were directly adjacent to the stage allowing an unobstructed view of the magnificent white tigers around which their act was centered. Several times during the performance I found my mind hoping the animals were having a good day, not experiencing a hangnail or just out of sorts, and wondering what the consequence of one of them feeling a bit peckish would look like. Happily we enjoyed a fascinating glimpse into their lives with nothing by way of a catastrophe coming our way. This, as you may know, did not hold true further down the road. Always when dealing with animals, even the domestic variety, a hint of caution can circumvent a catastrophe. While working with the cats at the animal shelter you had to keep your eye on their “tells”. They can turn on you in a heartbeat. Many a volunteer has ended up in the E.R. with stitches. Some of you may have seen the video of the house cat gone postal holding it’s humans captive behind a bedroom until they could be rescued. Even old Boo, the Queen of Cats, has her off days taking a swipe at Rick or I when she’s had enough of us.
I haven’t been to an amusement park featuring exotic animals in a long time. Well, depending on your view of long, at least six or so years. The last one was Marine World/Africa USA. Marine World originally was a place to go in the Bay Area to see exotic animals, outside of a typical zoo environment. Often baby animals would be on display in common areas held in check by handlers. Loved that part of the visit. In particular I remember a tiny orangutan, the largest part of which would have been his long furry arms, dressed in a diaper. While seated on a park bench enjoying a corn dog, the little monkey (literally correct in this case), climbed up next to me and with an upheld hand indicated an offer of a bite wouldn’t be rejected. Sooooo sweet was this little guy. Asking his trainer if I could give him a small sample, once popped in his mouth he climbed up on my lap. Draping both monkey arms about my shoulder he proceeded to lay big gooey open lipped kiss directly on my surprised face. A thank you would have sufficed. His trainer said he thought I was his mother. Really? Why, thank you…..um, I think. There was a boat show at the San Francisco location as well culminating in a Bengal tiger riding up onto the shore in a speed boat with his trainer. What beautiful animals tigers are, undeniably commanding your attention as they perform in such close quarters to their audience. The show kept me riveted to my seat while also keeping one eye on the nearest exit.
Built initially on the tidelands of San Francisco Bay, the park moved to its present Vallejo site in 1986. After the move it lost its wonderful animal interaction quality trading instead on roller coasters and other thrill rides to appeal more to the kids. The animals were still there but I found the shows less entertaining, the waits longer, and in general the focus, at least for me, had shifted. On the day we went to Vallejo it was open to the public as well as entertaining a huge group of employees from a large well-known business. Parking required circling the lot until someone pulled out, then fighting to get the spot once emptied. Hot hot, hot, that day as well. Two things definitely not giving me a smiley face are masses of people crammed together in one spot and asphalt melting, shoe sticking, heat. Standing in line to get tickets I was surprised to find it was $60.00/per person to get through the gate. So crowded inside, it was nearly impossible to get anything to eat or drink, and the wait time to get into the shows in the heat of day hardly made it worth the effort. Many of the attractions that made the San Francisco location so special were gone, and on the way home I thought probably we wouldn’t be going back again any time soon.
Sea Life Park on Oahu is an animal theme park well worth the visit. As with most things Hawaiian it’s hard to beat the surroundings. Guests can sign up to swim with the dolphins, dog paddle with the sea lions, and hop in the water to cavort with the rays. I loved the rays. Gentle creatures looking as if they’d just popped out of a scene from The Abyss. What unusual and fascinating creatures the sea houses beneath her skirts. If I wasn’t so claustrophobic definitely scuba diving would have been on my bucket list long ago.
While in Hawaii I had the opportunity to take a catamaran tour to snorkel at Kealakekua Bay. The incredibly clear teal water offered a window to the most colorful sea life I’ve ever seen. Turtles swam along under the water with brightly colored fish appearing to have hitched a ride. A seahorse without rider peered at me through my mask before disappearing as quickly as he’d arrived.
Staying on the living creature theme, I got a bee in my bonnet last week to go to the zoo. Rick, who successfully deflected my pleas for a visit to the circus last time Barnum & Bailey hit town finally caved and said he would take me. If I am a good girl, he added, he will buy me a stuffed animal and cotton candy. Works for me.
I vary my salads and my dressings trying new combinations to keep them interesting. This one was definitely a keeper.
Fruity Avocado Chopped Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
3 small avocados, pitted and sliced
2 nectarines, pitted and sliced
8 large strawberries, sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 1/2 Tbsp. snipped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup walnut halves
Place all ingredients in salad bowl. Toss with dressing.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
Whisk together all dressing ingredients but red pepper flakes. Stir in pepper flakes. Refrigerate for 1 hr. Toss with salad.