Zoo Stories, Part 1

I’ve always been conflicted about zoos. Large or small, they’re interesting to visit, but the idea of confining those unfortunate animals for life so people can go look at them, that stinks.

Yes, it’s an opportunity to see the animals and learn about them, which is a good thing. But when you watch a wolf or a leopard pacing, pacing, pacing in the cage from stress and boredom, that isn’t right.

But I doubt if zoos are going anywhere, and I find myself visiting them anyway. I was in Greenville, South Carolina, recently and decided to check out the city zoo.

The Greenville Zoo being rather modest as zoos go, and the elephant, lion, and jaguar enclosures being closed for maintenance, I breezed through in about an hour.

That hour, however, had its memorable moments.


The Spider Monkeys

According to its website, the Greenville Zoo has three spider monkeys: Selma, Jasmine, and Mojo. When I arrived at the primate area and looked at them through the wire, I didn’t know the names, of course.

No other visitors were nearby. One of the monkeys was sitting in a swing a foot or so inside the cage. We were at eye level. He (for some reason, I thought of the monkey as a he) contemplated me stoically.

His eyes are so human, I thought. So are his features. You can see the link between us and them so clearly.

I began to ponder the obvious questions. What is he thinking? Was he born in captivity? Does he resent being in captivity? Is he capable of resentment? What does he think of people? What does he think of me, standing here?

As I pondered, the monkey reached out, grabbed the wire of the cage with one hand, and, in a smooth motion, jumped across to the wire.

The safety railing kept me about four feet from the cage. He was still at eye level. We were as physically close as conditions permitted.

The monkey looked at me with great intensity, tilting his head repeatedly, his eyes focused on mine.


The spider monkey, family Atelidae, genus Ateles, is the most intelligent of the New World Monkeys. Two of the seven species are critically endangered.

“Hey, little dude,” I said. The monkey reacted with a soft, high-pitched chirp.

“I guess if I had my way, you wouldn’t be in there,” I told him. The monkey continued verbalizing softly and studying me closely.

I glanced in both directions to be sure I was still alone. Wouldn’t want anyone to hear me conversing with a monkey. The nearest human was 50 feet away.

But I couldn’t think of anything else to say. We just looked at each other.

I considered getting out my camera, but I didn’t. Shooting through the wire never makes for a good photo. And somehow, a photo at that moment seemed — God help me — rude and intrusive.

After a time, the monkey finished checking me out. He dropped to the ground and moved a few feet to the left front corner of the cage.

Still chittering quietly, he extended an arm through the wire, straining to reach the branches of a privet-like shrub growing nearby. He couldn’t quite reach it.

I looked closer. The shrub was indented where the monkeys had broken off the tiny branches, one by one, until no more were in reach. The greenery, I assume, was tasty.

On some of the cages were signs stating that the animal required a special diet, so you shouldn’t feed them. No such sign was on the spider monkey cage.

I reached down, snapped off a small twig from my side of the shrub, and tossed it on the ground next to the cage. The monkey reached through the wire, snatched it up, and began munching.

Instantly, the other two monkeys appeared. I snapped off more twigs and tossed them on the ground. The first monkey deftly blocked the newcomers, grabbed the twigs, and rapidly scarfed them down.

I snapped off a few more twigs, but this time, I outsmarted the little scoundrel. I deftly distracted him so the others could get their share.

No monkey is gonna make a monkey out of me.


In my next post, the story of the rat snake in the toucan enclosure.


Colombian black-headed spider monkeys at the Greenville Zoo. Photo copyright Jeff Whitlock, wwwtheonlinezoo.com.


Useless Facts

More Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.


— Beavers have transparent eyelids, which is convenient, since they spend so much time under water. They also have ear and nose valves that close automatically when they dive. A beaver can stay underwater for about four minutes.

— On an average day, the American people consume 18 acres of pizza.

— The Declaration of Independence was finalized on July 4, 1776. Thereupon, the original version was signed by John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, the Secretary. A Philadelphia printer then made 500 copies, which were distributed to all members of the Continental Congress.

Somehow, the original document was lost, so the delegates were called back to Philadelphia. On August 2, 1776, they signed a new copy of the Declaration. This time, for reasons unknown, Secretary Thomson was not invited to sign.

— Orville Wright’s first successful airplane flight on December 17, 1903, covered a distance of 120 feet. The wingspan of a Boeing 747 is 196 feet.


— Almonds are members of the peach family.

— As a teen, British author Roald Dahl attended a fancy boarding school in England. While there, he and his fellow students often were used as taste-testers by the Cadbury chocolate company. Dahl said he dreamed of inventing a new chocolate bar that would “win the praise of Mr. Cadbury himself.” Dahl went on to write “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and he references chocolate in other books.

— This sentence uses every letter in the alphabet: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

— All breeds of dog have pink tongues except the Chow-Chow and the Shar-Pei. Their tongues, for unknown reasons, are blue-black.


— The average person fall asleep in seven minutes.

— Each time the Supreme Court is in session, white quill pens are placed on the tables of the opposing counsels. This tradition dates back to the early days of the Court. The pens are no longer used, of course, but they are treasured by the lawyers as souvenirs of their day in court.

— The only English words that end in -dous are hazardous, horrendous, stupendous, and tremendous.

— The Northern Cardinal is the official state bird of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia (Don’t bother counting. That’s 7 states), making it the state bird champion. Runner-up is the Western Meadowlark, state bird in Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming. (6 states.)



The Retch

Richard Matheson (1926-2013), the award-winning author and screenwriter, produced some of the best-known sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories of our time.

Films based on his works include “I Am Legend,” “Stir of Echoes,” “Somewhere in Time,” “The Legend of Hell House,” “What Dreams May Come,” “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” and “Duel.” He wrote episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery.” He wrote dozens of short stories, including some westerns.

The short story below, written when Matheson was 22, was his first professional sale, and it made him famous.

Be warned, it’s a horror story and shocking to read, and you won’t forget it.


Born Of Man And Woman

By Richard Matheson
Published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Summer 1950

X — This day when it had light mother called me retch. You retch she said. I saw in her eyes the anger. I wonder what it is a retch.

This day it had water falling from upstairs. It fell all around. I saw that. The ground of the back I watched from the little window. The ground it sucked up the water like thirsty lips. It drank too much and it got sick and runny brown. I didnt like it.

Mother is a pretty I know. In my bed place with cold walls around I have a paper things that was behind the furnace. It says on it SCREENSTARS. I see in the pictures faces like of mother and father. Father says they are pretty. Once he said it.

And also mother he said. Mother so pretty and me decent enough. Look at you he said and didnt have the nice face. I touched his arm and said it is alright father. He shook and pulled away where I couldn’t reach.

Today mother let me off the chain a little so I could look out the little window. Thats how l saw the water falling from upstairs.

XX — This day it had goldness in the upstairs. As I know when I looked at it my eyes hurt. After I look at it the cellar is red.

I think this was church. They leave the upstairs. The big machine swallows them and rolls out past and is gone. In the back part is the little mother. She is much small than me. I am I can see out the little window all I like.

In this day when it got dark I had eat my food and some bugs. I hear laughs upstairs. I like to know why there are laughs for. I took the chain from the wall and wrapped it around me. I walked squish to the stairs. They creak when I walk on them. My legs slip on them because I dont walk on stairs. My feet stick to the wood.

I went up and opened a door. It was a white place. White as white jewels that come from upstairs sometime. I went in and stood quiet. I hear the laughing some more. I talk to the sound and look through to the people. More people than I thought was. I thought I should laugh with them.

Mother came out and pushed the door in. It hit me and hurt. I fell back on the smooth floor and the chain made noise. I cried. She made a hissing noise into her and put her hand on her mouth. Her eyes got big.

She looked at me. I heard father call. What fell he called. She said a iron board. Come help pick it up she said. He came and said now is that so heavy you need. He saw me and grew big. The anger came in his eyes. He hit me. I spilled some of the drip on the floor from one arm. It was not nice. It made ugly green on the floor.

Father told me to go to the cellar. I had to go. The light it hurt some now in my eyes. It is not so like that in the cellar.

Father tied my legs and arms up. He put me on my bed. Upstairs I heard laughing while I was quiet there looking on a black spider that was swinging down to me. I thought what father said. Ohgod he said. And only eight.

XXX — This day father hit in the chain again before it had light. I have to try pull it out again. He said I was bad to come upstairs. He said never do that again or he would beat me hard. That hurts.

I hurt. I slept the day and rested my head against the cold wall. I thought of the white place upstairs.

XXXX — I got the chain from the wall out. Mother was upstairs. I heard little laughs very high. I looked out the window. I saw all little people like the little mother and little fathers too. They are pretty.

They were making nice noise and jumping around the ground. Their legs was moving hard. They are like mother and father. Mother says all right people look like they do.

One of the little fathers saw me. He pointed at the window. I let go and slid down the wall in the dark. I curled up as they would not see. I heard their talks by the window and foots running. Upstairs there was a door hitting. I heard the little mother call upstairs. I heard heavy steps and I rushed in my bed place. I hit the chain in the wall and lay down on my front.

I heard mother come down. Have you been at the window she said. I heard the anger. Stay away from the window. You have pulled the chain out again.

She took the stick and hit me with it. I didnt cry. I cant do that. But the drip ran all over the bed. She saw it and twisted away and made a noise. Oh mygodmygod she said why have you done this to me? I heard the stick go bounce on the stone floor. She ran upstairs. I slept the day.

XXXXX — This day it had water again. When mother was upstairs I heard the little one come slow down the steps. I hidded myself in the coal bin for mother would have anger if the little mother saw me.

She had a little live thing with her. It walked on the arms and had pointy ears. She said things to it.

It was all right except the live thing smelled me. It ran up the coal and looked down at me. The hairs stood up. In the throat it made an angry noise. I hissed but it jumped on me.

I didnt want to hurt it. I got fear because it bit me harder than the rat does. I hurt and the little mother screamed. I grabbed the live thing tight. It made sounds I never heard. I pushed it all together. It was all lumpy and red on the black coal.

I hid there when mother called. I was afraid of the stick. She left. I crept over the coal with the thing. I hid it under my pillow and rested on it. I put the chain in the wall again.

X — This is another times. Father chained me tight. I hurt because he beat me. This time I hit the stick out of his hands and made noise. He went away and his face was white. He ran out of my bed place and locked the door.

I am not so glad. All day it is cold in here. The chain comes slow out of the wall. And I have a bad anger with mother and father. I will show them. I will do what I did that once.

I will screech and laugh loud. I will run on the walls. Last I will hang head down by all my legs and laugh and drip green all over until they are sorry they didn’t be nice to me.

If they try to beat me again Ill hurt them. I will.



This Just In

FOLSOM, CALIFORNIA — Staff members at the Folsom City Zoo report that a feral cat in search of food has struck up a friendship with an adult bear.

Every morning, zookeepers scatter dry dog food around the bear cages. The cat was first seen a few months ago eating dog food inside the enclosure of Sequoia, a 550-pound black bear.

Senior zookeeper Jill Faust said Sequoia shows no aggression toward the cat, and the cat, dubbed “Little Bear,” shows no fear of Sequoia.

Faust said the cat enters Sequoia’s cage every day, and the staff now puts out extra food for it.


ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN — A Canadian college student was caught at a border checkpoint with 51 live turtles in his pants. He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to smuggling the turtles into Canada.

When Kai Xu, 27, was stopped by Border Services agents, they found 41 live turtles taped to his legs and 10 hidden between his legs.

Xu, of Windsor, Ontario, admitted to smuggling more than 1,600 turtles of different species out of the United States. Each of the six counts carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Conservation biologists at the University of New South Wales are conducting a study in Botswana to determine if painting eyes on the rumps of cattle can protect them from lions.

In nature, predators often abandon a hunt if they are spotted by the prey. The biologists hope the eyes will trick the lions into thinking they have been seen.

According to authorities, no non-lethal way exists to prevent lions from stalking cattle. African farmers often retaliate by shooting or poisoning the lions. If the eyes-on-rumps plan works, it will protect both the livestock and the lion population.

A long-term study is underway that documents the lion encounters of two herds of cattle, one painted and one non-painted.



“The Beauty of Me”

In my last post, I promised to present some of the many appalling comments made by the vile and contemptible Republican candidate for President. Here’s the list.


A Selection of Outrageous Statements Made by Gasbag Donald Trump

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

“I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me — and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”


“An extremely credible source has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her, wherever.”

“My IQ is one of the highest, and you all know it. Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure. It’s not your fault.”

“My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well-documented, are various other parts of my body.”

“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

“And you can tell them to go f**k themselves!”

“Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And [Sen. Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me, consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”


“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

“Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don. I mean somebody’s doing it. Who’s doing the raping? Who’s doing the raping?”

“The only card she has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else to offer. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card. And the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

“ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He is the founder of ISIS, okay? He is the founder. He founded ISIS. And I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.”

“Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man. He made a good decision.”

“And I’ll have Mexico pay for the wall. Because Mexico is screwing us so badly. I will take it from out of just a small fraction of the money they’ve been screwing us for over the last number of years.”

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”

“I’m telling you, November 8, we better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.”

“We have nobody in Washington that sits back and says, ‘you’re not going to raise that f**king price.’”

Donald Trump

“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.“

“I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

“Black guys counting my money — I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

“He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees.’ He would have dropped to his knees.”

“I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

“I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”


“Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”

“Pocahontas is not happy. She’s not happy. She’s the worst. You know, Pocahontas — I’m doing such a disservice to Pocahontas. It’s so unfair to Pocahontas — but this Elizabeth Warren — I call her ‘goofy Elizabeth Warren’ — she’s one of the worst senators in the entire United States Senate.”

“Laziness is a trait in blacks.”

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you.”


“By the way, if she gets to pick her judges — nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people… maybe there is. I don’t know.”

“Our weak President, that kisses everybody’s ass, is in more wars than I have ever seen. Now he’s in Libya, he’s in Afghanistan, he’s in Iraq. Nobody respects us.”

“The Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”


“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

“The point is, you can never be too greedy.”

“If we are attacked, somebody attacks us, wouldn’t you rather have Trump as president if we’re attacked? We’ll beat the s**t out of them.”


Forgive me if I left out a personal favorite. I had to stop somewhere.

Earlier in the race, there were predictions that Trump might come up with some unique excuse to quit the race. (The election is rigged, he intends to start his own “fair and balanced” news channel, something like that.)

God knows, anything is possible, but he isn’t likely to drop out at this point. Odds are, he simply will lose in November. Badly, by most accounts.

And he will lose, as Elizabeth Warren so aptly pointed out, to a girl.

For someone like Trump, you know that will cut deep.


Cause and Effect

So. How did we end up with windbag conspiracy theorist Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President?

I’ll tell you how. We got here because Fox News and the rest of the right-wing political machine turned out to be too clever by half.

You know the story. Over a couple of decades, the right-wing brainiacs devised a way to brainwash the conservative herd. They lobotomized its sense of reality.

They created an isolated, insulated, fact-free zone — where everything is “fair and balanced” — and welcomed all those frightened, gullible conservatives inside.

Once in the bubble, the masses were fed a diet of hogwash, distortions, and lies designed to prop up all things Republican and vilify everyone else — Democrats, government, unions, immigrants, brown-skinned people, whatever.

Over time, the residents of the bubble were conditioned to believe that any news or information from the outside, no matter how plausible, is a malicious, misleading lie. The result: they believe only what they hear inside the bubble. “Trust us. We’re on your side. Only us.”

In effect, the right wing created a generation of conservatives who are impervious to the truth. They don’t believe facts, they believe propaganda. There’s a reason why two-thirds of Trump supporters believe Barrack Obama is a Muslim. There’s a reason why 72 percent of registered Republicans doubt that Obama was born in America.

But then — oops — look what happened. The inmates took over the asylum. In a surreal frenzy, they nominated a swaggering clown for President. A man who is wildly unqualified, unsuited, and unworthy to be President.


You have to give Trump credit. He played the dog-whistle-trained conservative electorate for chumps. He told them what they wanted to hear. He entertained his way to the nomination.

It’s no surprise that a bleeding-heart liberal like me would label Donald Trump an insufferable, egotistical jerk, a spoiled, self-serving brat, and a bigoted, misogynistic gasbag.

But more Republicans than you might expect, maybe even most of them, understand what he is.

Not long ago, my local newspaper, a staunchly conservative publication in most matters, called Trump “a putrid excuse for a human being.”

Well said. Trump is a walking affront to civilized behavior. He continues to make outrageous, caustic statements that, in normal times, in a normal reality, would earn him the ire and scorn of the entire populace and send him slinking back to Trump Tower.

But this is the era of the Fox News bubble. And Trump is the Frankenstein monster it created.


In my next post, a selection of loathsome quotes from the aforementioned gasbag.


Tune o’ the Day

The “About Mr. Write” page on this blog begins with two lines from the song “End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys. The quote seems appropriate for an old dude with a blog.

Nowadays, you have to be old and gray to remember much about the Traveling Wilburys. They were a “supergroup” formed in 1988 by veteran musicians George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. A bit of backstory…

In 1987, when Harrison was recording an unrelated album with Lynne, faulty equipment caused some minor errors. Harrison told Lynne, “We’ll bury ’em in the mix.” Soon, ‘we’ll bury’ became ‘wilbury,’ their term for any studio glitch or mistake.

In 1988, when the supergroup needed a name, they chose “The Traveling Wilburys.” They portrayed themselves as five half-brothers — Nelson, Otis, Lefty, Charlie, and Lucky Wilbury.

Their first album, “Volume 1,” was a triple-platinum hit and a Grammy winner. “End of the Line” was the last song on the album and its most popular single.

“Volume 1” was released in October 1988. Orbison, sadly, died in December. In 1990, his bandmates released a second album in tribute, but split up after that.


End of the Line

By The Traveling Wilburys, 1988
Written by Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Roy Orbison

Well, it’s all right, ridin’ around in the breeze.
Well, it’s all right, if you live the life you please.
Well, it’s all right, doin’ the best you can.
Well, it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand.

You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring,
(At the end of the line)
Waiting for someone to tell you everything.
(At the end of the line)
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring.
(At the end of the line)
Maybe a diamond ring.

Well, it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong.
Well, it’s all right. Sometimes, you gotta be strong.
Well, it’s all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay.
Well, it’s all right. Every day is Judgment Day.

Maybe somewhere down the road a-ways,
(At the end of the line)
You’ll think of me and wonder where I am these days.
(At the end of the line)
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays
(At the end of the line)
Purple Haze.

Well, it’s all right, even when push comes to shove.
Well, it’s all right, if you got someone to love.
Well, it’s all right. Everything’ll work out fine.
Well, it’s all right. We’re goin’ to the end of the line.

Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive.
(At the end of the line)
I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.
(At the end of the line)
It don’t matter. If you’re by my side
(At the end of the line)
I’m satisfied.

Well, it’s all right, even if you’re old and gray.
Well, it’s all right, you still got somethin’ to say.
Well, it’s all right. Remember to live and let live.
Well, it’s all right. The best you can do is forgive.

Well, it’s all right, ridin’ around in the breeze.
Well, it’s all right, if you live the life you please.
Well, it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine.
Well, it’s all right. We’re goin’ to the end of the line.