Friday, December 19, 2014

It's a Tradition!

Thought for the day: North, south, east, and west... old traditions are the best.

Traditions don't have to necessarily be classy, you know. Sometimes, they're just plain fun... or funny. Candlelight services on Christmas Eve, singing the Hallelujah Chorus with the church choir, and caroling with the neighbors... especially when it's snowing... those things are all both traditional and classy. This post? Not so much. But this is the fourth year I'm running it, so I think it has now officially become a tradition. Because I said so. And because I'm lazy it's just plain fun... and funny.

 So, here it is, my classic tale, although not exactly in the same category as Dickens, about (ahem)  inflated dreams... 



Thought for the day: We don't stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing.

No telling how many years this wreath has graced our front door.
We never made a huge production out of outdoor decorations, but every year, our kids made the same grand proclamation after we cruised our decorated-out-the-wazoo neighborhood on the way home from the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

"The best one of all!" they'd lie as we pulled into our driveway.

Okay, so maybe they weren't really lying through their braces. Maybe anticipation of the hidden presents awaiting inside added a certain luster to their perception of our decorations.

Anyhow, I'd say decorating styles can pretty much be divvied into three categories: traditional, enlightening, and inflated. Us? We're traditionalThat means, except for an occasional new acquisition, I've pretty much used the same decorations every year. For a LOT of years. Like the ornaments that hung on my parents' tree when they were first married, some of which are now paper thin, and considerably faded with age. And a slew of decades-old goodies fashioned by our children with copious quantities of felt, glue and glitter, construction paper, walnut shells, clothespins, eyeglass lenses, and even a Mason jar lid. A black spider in a golden web and a huge decorated crab shell, both made my by sister-in-law. Boxes of tinsel painstakingly applied, strand by strand, and then painstakingly removed to store in a box for yet another year. Like I said, traditional. Well, to be more accurate, I suppose we've become more traditional cum lazy, because each year, I use less and less decorations, and some of them don't even make it down out of our attic anymore. For sure, our formerly traditional tree is considerably NOT traditional these days. (I'll give you a peek at the end of this post.)

These singers once belonged to my grandmother.

Everybody knows the enlightening type of decorator. They're the ones with so many lights blazing in their front yards, they risk causing a blackout across three states every time they turn 'em on. Very flashy. Sometimes, they even incorporate animation and music, too, and carloads of people stop by every night to ooh and aah over their winter wonderland. It isn't at all unusual for a competition of sorts to begin when multiple enlighteners live in close proximity. (Those neighborhoods can be seen from the space station.)

And then, there's the inflatedThis is a fairly recent category. I sure don't remember seeing this sort of display when I was a kid. Nowadays, you can purchase just about any character you can think of ... inflate it ... and stick it on your front lawn. And if you can't find a particular character, for the right price, you can probably have someone make one for you. Then, all those characters can weave and bob all over your yard.

Now then, to the point of today's post. Time for a tale about a Christmas inflatable of an entirely different ilk. This story originated in 1999, and was alleged to be the winning entry to a Louisville Sentinel contest about the wildest Christmas dinner. Turns out, no such newspaper ever existed, and the writer remains unknown, but the story lives on, thanks to the good ol' Internet. (WARNING: Better put your drink down before you read it.) Now here, after a bit of minor editing on my part, is that story:

As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of pantyhose over his fireplace every Christmas Eve. He said the only thing he wanted was for Santa to fill them, but what they say about Santa checking his list twice must be true, because every Christmas morning,  the other stockings would all be bulging with treats, but Jay's poor pitiful pantyhose were still dangling empty.

So one year, I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses, a fake nose, and a ski cap, and went in search of an inflatable love doll.

Know what? They don't sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore. By the way, if you've never been in an X-rated store before, two words: don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there for an hour saying things like, "What does this do?" "You're kidding me!" and  "Who would buy that?" 

So anyway, I finally made it to the inflatable doll section. I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane, but finding what I wanted was difficult. Love dolls come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry, but I settled for the bottom of the price scale: Lovable Louise. To call her a doll took a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve, with the help of an old bicycle pump, Louise came to life. My sister-in-law was in on the plan, and let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled Jay's pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. Then I went home, and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy but had left the dog confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more. We agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. "What the hell is that?" she asked.

My brother quickly explained, "It's a doll."

"Who would play with something like that?" she snapped.

 I had several candidates in mind, but kept my mouth shut.

"Where are her clothes?" she continued.

"Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran," Jay said, trying to steer her into the dining room.

 But Granny was relentless. "Why doesn't she have any teeth?"

Again, I could have answered, but why risk it? It was Christmas, and nobody wanted to spend it in the back of an ambulance saying, "Hang on, Granny, hang on!"

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me, waggled his eyebrows, and said, "Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?"

I told him she was Jay's friend, and a few minutes later, noticed Grandpa standing by the mantel, talking to Louise. And not just talking. He was actually flirting. It was then we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise that sounded a lot like my father in the bathroom in the morning. Then she lurched from the pantyhose, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants, and Granny threw down her napkin, and stomped outside to sit in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember. Later in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise's collapse. We discovered that Louise had suffered from a hot ember to the back of her right thigh. Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health.

After that, Louise went on to star in several bachelor party movies, and I'm pretty sure Grandpa still calls her whenever he can get out of the house.


This is gonna be my last post this year. Time to declare family time. But before I go, let me share a picture of our non-traditional Christmas tree I mentioned above.

Not too bad, right?

It's made of cardboard, cut in the shape of a tree,  painted green, and decorated with bubble lights and twinkle lights. Easy up, easy down, and we don't have to worry about our cats climbing it, or breaking our antique tree decorations, and I don't have to follow them around to pull tinsel out of their butts. PLUS, they can still look out the front window. Win-win all the way around.

         Merry Christmas.  May all your dreams... no matter how inflated...  come true.

                                Until next year, take care of yourselves. And each other.

[Many thanks to Morguefile for the spiffy Christmas images used in this post.]

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Beacon in the Darkness

Thought for the day: You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake. (sigh)

It's that time of year again. (Already!) If you folks in the southeastern part of the United States happen to see a massive glow in the sky tomorrow, fear not. It'll just be the blaze atop my birthday cake, assuming we take the chance on lighting all those candles. Aaah, probably not. The fire department must be getting tired of coming by the house every year to extinguish the bonfire. The truth is, I'm creeping closer to that age where there will once again be a single candle perched atop my cake, and everybody will tell me what a good girl I am if  I can summon enough whoosh to blow it out in one try. Know what? Might be best to skip the cake altogether, and just have a glass of wine.

Hey! I'm OLD. I can do that if I wanta.

Anyhow, I won't be around to respond to your comments tomorrow, and I'm not gonna write a new post for today, either. (What a rebel!) Instead, I'm going to do a wee bit of editing, and share a re-run, which originally appeared in December of 2012 as One Candle. Because sometimes a single candle is all it takes to conquer the darkness...

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

P.S. You at your wit's end trying to figure out what to give some of the senior citizens on your Christmas list? Would you like a suggestion? A hand-picked selection of greeting cards for various occasions (very inexpensive at places like the Dollar Store) is a super thoughtful and useful gift. Throw in some stamps, a couple pens, and maybe some pretty note cards or writing paper, and you're sure to make that special elderly neighbor or friend a happy camper. Or how about a book? Maybe... Old Broads Waxing Poetic? Not only is it a fun collection of poetry, but all proceeds from sales go to CARE International. Or (ahem) Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade? Good for all ages, and hey! if I sell enough books, I might be able to treat Smarticus to a nice dinner out over the Holidays. Heck, maybe even get him fries to go with his burger...

Now then, moving right along. Where was I! Oh yeah, about that single candle...


Thought for the day:  It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.  [Chinese proverb]


Can the light from a single candle make a difference? Can one person radiate enough light to hold the powers of darkness at bay?

Yes, a thousand times yes. Or to be more accurate, 2500 times.

Hanukkah, an eight-day festival celebrating the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, and spirituality over materialism, begins next Tuesday. To all who are Jewish, I wish you a very happy Hanukkah. For the rest of us, I believe we, too, should embrace the ideals of light over darkness. 

Here's a story of a very special woman who did just that.


Her name? Irena Sendler. This is what she looked like in 1942, when the young Polish Catholic woman lived in German-occupied Warsaw. As a social worker and nurse, she was allowed to enter the Jewish ghetto. She saw their suffering first-hand, and knew that people of all ages were being  forcibly removed from their homes, never to return. And she also knew what the penalty was for trying to help them.


She knew what the penalty was, because signs like this were posted all over Warsaw. 

These signs issued a clear warning that helping anyone leave the Jewish settlement without authorization was punishable by death.

And yet...
[credit: German Federal Archive]
And yet, the dark plight of the children tore at her heartstrings, and she had to DO something. As a member of the Zegota resistance movement, she smuggled 2500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto, provided them with false identities, and got them to a safe location... to private homes, to orphanages, to convents. She took the children out in ambulances, under the pretext that they were infected with typhus; she carried them out in tool boxes; she transported them in coffins. Whatever it took, she did it. One after another, desperate parents turned their beloved children over to her, a virtual stranger, in the hopes that their children would be spared from the horrors of living... and dying... in a concentration camp. Each child's name, Sendler recorded on paper, along with their new identities and locations. Then she tucked those papers into jars, which she buried under an apple tree in her yard. Following the war, the information in those jars was used to reunite some of the families. Unfortunately, most of the parents were already gone, but thanks to Sendler and other members of the resistance, their children survived.


In 1965, Israel recognized Sendler as Righteous Among the Nations, a designation honoring non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. And risk her life, she did: Sendler was captured, tortured, and sentenced to death... and spared from execution by virtue of a bribe. The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations is part of the Yad Vashem complex on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem.


At the entrance to the Garden stands the Tree of Irena Sendler. I don't know what kind of tree is it, but an apple tree would be perfect, wouldn't it?

[credit: Mariesz Kubik]

This picture, taken in 2005, shows Sendler with the grown-up versions of some of the children she smuggled out of that Warsaw ghetto during the war.

[credit: Mariesz Kubik]

In 2007, Sendler was presented with the Order of the Smile, an international award given by children to adults distinguished in their love, care, and aid for children. A year later, she passed away.

In 2009, Poland issued a commemorative coin in honor of three women. One was Irena Sendler, a woman who proved that one person... one candle burning brightly in the darkness... can indeed, make a difference.

In a world full of darkness, in a world full of pain,
All it takes is a sparkle, all it takes is a flame,
To make joy out of sadness, to bring hope to a life,
Like the promise of the dawn
On a long winter's night.
[from the song Light One Candle, by Ronnie Spector]

                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Let it shine! [Wikipedia]

P.S. For those of you who will be lighting menorah candles, I'll betcha you won't be doing it in such an unusual way as THIS...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy December!

Thought for the day:  Calvin: Today for show and tell, I've brought a tiny miracle of nature: a single snowflake! I think we might all learn a lesson from how this utterly unique and exquisite crystal turns into an ordinary, boring molecule of water just like every other one when you bring it into the classroom. And now, while the analogy sinks in, I will be leaving you drips and going outside... [Bill Watterman]

[Courtesy of  Morguefile]
Nah, we haven't had any snow here in the Atlanta area. Matter of fact, temperatures have hit seventy the past couple days, and I for one hope they stay there a while longer. Oh, and I'm not calling you guys drips, either. I simply like that quote from good ol' Calvin, (from the old cartoon Calvin and Hobbes) and wanted to share it with you.

So how are y'all doing? Sorry this old flake didn't post last week. It wasn't because I was still sitting back, digesting our Thanksgiving dinner, either; I simply played hooky didn't make time to write a blog or visit the blogosphere. But I did write. (What a concept!) I finally got around to ripping a niggling short story out of my head, and got that pesky thing subdued on paper. Edited it, too. Woo HOO! Sure did feel good.


Now that I'm back and absolutely clueless as to what to write about, let's just take a gander at today's date... December 5... and see what happened on this day in history.

Ready? I actually found a surprising amount of stuff, but am only gonna share a short list of goodies. (You're welcome.)

In 1492, Christopher Columbus "discovered" Hispaniola. Nice of him, huh? Otherwise, all those people who'd been living there might still be lost.

In 1766, the famous London auction house Christie's held their first sale. I wonder what that first sale was, don't you?


In 1776, the first U.S. fraternity... Phi Beta Kappa... formed at William and Mary College. How long do you reckon it was before they had their first keg party? Par-TAY!

In 1840, Napoleon was finally honored with an official state funeral in Paris... nineteen years after his death.

In 1868, the first American bicycle college opened in New York. (I'm still trying to figure out what this means.)

In 1893, the first electric car was built in Toronto. It could travel fifteen miles between charges.

In 1929, the first U.S. nudist organization was established, the American League for Physical Culture. In New York  City, of course. And that's the naked truth. Yep, just the bare facts. (sorry)

In 1933, billions and billions of bootleggers (Okay, a slight exaggeration there.) went out of business when prohibition got the legislative boot with the ratification of the 21st amendment, which revoked the prohibitive 19th amendment. I'll drink to that!


This picture shows a soldier loading a propaganda bomb with pamphlets to drop over Korea during the Korean War. Air drops, for both propaganda and humanitarian purposes, have been fairly common since World War II, and on this date in 1942, chocolate and coffee were dropped to the occupied people in the Netherlands. Sweet!

In 1945, the Lost Squadron disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. Five U.S. Navy Avenger bombers, carrying fourteen airmen, began their training mission from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station, and were never heard from again.

In 1967, the Beatles' clothing store Apple opened on Baker Street, in London. Didn't last long, though. It went out of business the following year. I guess the Fab Four weren't as fab at business as they were at making music.

In 1985, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose past 1500 for the first time. To put that into perspective, it is now above 17,000.

Okay, now that I've told you a little bit about some of the things that already happened, how'd you like to know about something that's about to happen? It's a NEW BOOK! Coming out on December 8, just three little days from now...

But guess what? If you pop over to Amazon within the next couple days, you can pre-order this e-book for the paltry sum of ninety-nine cents! The price will be going up a couple bucks once it's officially released on Monday, so why not snag a copy now, and save yourself a bit of Holiday cash? Plus, pre-orders will give T.B. a much-coveted boost in first day sales. A win for her, and a win for you. I've already ordered mine, and can hardly wait to read it. So, whatcha waiting for?

Huh? Oh, you want to know what it's about. Sure. Okay, here ya go, the official blurb:

Claudia doesn't feel like herself anymore—she feels like prey. Her husband's hired goons have stalked her all the way to Boston and will only stop their pursuit once she is dead.

Divorce is not an option. Instead, she has stolen a bunch of her man's money to disappear into another life. 

In order for Claudia to live, someone else must die. A lookalike college student becomes the target capable of freeing her from an awful marriage.

The plan goes horribly awry. Instead of murdering Claudia's double, the assassins shoot the woman's lover, who is the cousin of a powerful Irish mobster. Claudia becomes hunted by all involved. 

Can she survive? Should she?

Sounds good, doesn't it? I'll be reading it soon. Will you???

Happy weekend, y'all. Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Immortal Humor

Thought for the day:  Running a cemetery is just like being President: you got a lot of people under you, and nobody's listening.  [Bill Clinton]

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA {Wikipedia]
It isn't my fault. Really. It isn't. I neeeeever would have thought about writing such a weird post as this one is gonna be if it hadn't been for that darned article in the newspaper. Then again, maybe I would have. It has been said that I do occasionally suffer from bouts of sick inappropriate humor.

Anyhow, the article. It was a little bitty filler piece about this year's Atlanta Regional Commission's Developments of Excellence Award, which for the last fifteen years has been presented annually to the location deemed tops in the metro area for livability and sustainability, and for serving as a regional model for future growth. Sounds nice, right? Well, would you believe in this, its sixteenth year, the award was presented to... a cemetery? (Oooh, dontcha know, that had to have ticked off some of those big shot fancy pants developers.)

Now, don't get me wrong. Oakland Cemetery is a very nice cemetery, as far as cemeteries go. Lots of historical figures and famous people buried there... like famed golfer Bobby Jones, and author Margaret Mitchell (Marsh). Lots of really neat statues and such, too. And it's OLD... It was founded in 1850, so there are some really interesting old markers.

But does any of that equate to livability??? I mean, it's not like people are exactly dying to move into the place.

Oh shut up. You know what I mean. (hehe)

early 1900 postcard [wikimedia commons]

It isn't like people send postcards from the cemetery and tell everyone, Miss you. Wish you were here... 

or Please stop by, and have a nice stiff drink with me. (Or maybe a tall cold one?)

Then again, maybe some people, some people with a sick inappropriate sense of humor would do something that over the top...

Somebody really really cool like Bob McCully, Pittsburgh's long-time wagster, satirical writer, producer, and top of the crop ad man. The Christmas cards he created every year always featured his unique brand of dark humor, but his family and friends never expected anything like the one they got from the 88-year-old in 2011. Because, you see, he was already dead. He died that August, and most dead men don't send greetings from the grave. But he wasn't like most men; he wanted to get one more laugh.

Thanks to a co-conspirator relative, four hundred people received one last memorable Christmas card from McCully that pictured him on the front, sitting in an office, talking on a telephone, along with the words, Hello, please don't call. I recently moved to a quiet neighborhood. And on the inside, it shows the gates to the Allegheny cemetery, his tombstone, and the words, My new place doesn't have a phone, and our gates close after dark. 

What a guy.

[Night of the Living Dead- wikipedia]
Okay, so maybe that doesn't tickle your funny bone. Personally, I'd love to pull off something like that, but I can understand how the idea of reaching out from the grave might not be everybody's idea of fun. On the other hand, a lot of people who might not appreciate this kinda humor are fascinated by zombies. Whew. Not me. All that brain-eating is too hard for me to swallow. Maybe if they sipped tea and ate cucumber sandwiches or something, I'd feel a little better about them. And I think they should pick up after themselves, too. All those body parts left lying around is totally unacceptable. I'll bet their mamas taught them better than that.

So, if not the walking dead, how about the sitting, standing, motorcycling, or kayaking dead?

Yep, that seems to be the new trend. Instead of being laid out in a coffin, some people are opting to be... posed, so they can make their grand exit doing something they love. A lady in New Orleans was staged sitting at a table with a can of Busch beer in one hand and a menthol cigarette in the other. A Puerto Rican boxer stood in a boxing stance... wearing his boxing gloves, trunks, and hooded robe. There are lots more examples; there are even quite a few images to be found online, if you're curious. I chose not to post any of those pictures. (See? I have some class.)

                                                    But I will post this video...

Kinda made me wonder how I might like to be posed. Reading a book? Sitting at the computer? Singing a song and dancing the fandango? Nah. How about taking a nap? In a coffin...

Actually, I don't want a coffin, either. Like many others have chosen, I'm going with cremation. We've prepaid, and cheap frugal person that I am, since I'm a universal donor, I'm kinda hoping Smarticus might even get a rebate.

But ya know what would reeeeally be cool? There's a company in Alabama called Holy Smoke, and you know what they do? Mix cremains with gunpowder and then use it to pack shotgun shells or rifle cartridges. Then, Smarticus could take me to the shooting range with him one last time. Talk about going out with a bang...


Okay, I'll stop now. I hope I haven't offended anyone. Like everyone else, I've lost many dear friends and family members over the years, and of course, I grieve for them. It's hard to let go of the people we love, and we miss them terribly. Being without them leaves an empty spot in our lives that nothing or no one else can fill.  But I don't think death should be a taboo subject or free from humor. Nor is it something I fear.

Nothing to fear. Rabindranath Tagore put it so very beautifully: Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. 

I plan on burning the lamp as long as possible, but always remember: there's joy in the morning. 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said, I've told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. To me, death is a graduation. 

Sounds good to me. As long as we don't have to wear one of those stupid tasseled mortarboards.

Well, next Thursday is Thanksgiving. To all of you fine folks in the U.S., I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. To all of you fine folks outside of the U.S., I wish you a very happy Thursday. Not sure if I'll be posting next Friday or not. If not, don't worry about me. It'll just mean I'm still digesting.

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

For those of you who've been with me for the past few Thanksgivings, you didn't think you were gonna get away without having to read my stupid poem again, didja? (Sorry... no such luck, although I did make a teensy update. HAPPY THANKSGIVING, y'all!)

                                                   There once was a turkey named Jake,
                                                   Said, "How much must we poor turkeys take?
                                                   When Thanksgiving comes 'round,
                                                   We must go underground;
                                                   Why can't all those people eat STEAK?!"

                                                   Now, turkeys may not be so pretty,
                                                   Can't fly, and aren't very witty,
                                                   But with a leader like Jake, 
                                                   A chance they might take,
                                                   So a bunch of them left for the city.

                                                   Jake led a big march on D.C.
                                                  (The IN place for protests, you see)
                                                  "We don't want any fights.
                                                  But we, too, should have rights,
                                                  For this is the land of the free!"

                                                  Boehner came out on the green
                                                  With the most turkeys I've ever seen, 
                                                           (Outside of Congress)
                                                   Said, "The issue is not at all murky ...
                                                   Rights are for MAN and not TURKEY;
                                                   That's the way that it always has been."

                                                  Thanksgiving is special in the U.S. of A.
                                                  And turkeys are heroes, I'd like to say.
                                                  So thank the next turkey you meet on the street
                                                  For being so terribly tasty to eat
                                                  And have a great Thanksgiving Day!

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Day at the Zoo

Thought for the day:  Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. [Anatole France]

I've always liked going to the zoo, even when they were kinda crappy... you know, back when they were mostly comprised of miserable little cages with concrete floors. When I was a young girl, the Baltimore zoo had two celebrity critters I'll never forget: Robert the gorilla, and Betsy the famous painting chimpanzee. Robert at least had a larger cage than the others, out of respect for his massive size, but he mostly spent his time hanging out on a tire swing and making faces at the people gawking at him through the glass. Betsy the famous painting chimpanzee... painted pictures. (Go figure!) I don't know if she liked painting pictures, but she always looked happy to me. She was even featured on some TV shows... like the Dave Garroway Show... where she sat on a stool and covered a canvas with paint. People allegedly paid good money to buy her paintings, but I doubt if she got a fair share of the proceeds. Maybe an extra banana or two.

Anyhow, now that zoos build more natural habitats for their animals, a trip to the zoo is better than ever. Smarticus and I went earlier this year, and I'm finally getting around to sharing some pics with you.  We actually went on Mother's Day, when (ta-DA!) moms get in for free. (Slick, huh?) Not only did the free entry appeal to my cheap frugal side, but two of the pandas were heading back to China the next day, and I wanted to see them one last time before they left. So, here we go. Some pics... along with a few fun facts.

The more shrimp flamingos eat, the pinker their feathers are. They hold their bills upside-down when they're feeding... which they may do for hours on end...  so they can filter out the food while skimming the water. Cool, huh? Know the proper term for a flock of flamingos? A flamboyance.


Theoretically, the gender of a parakeet can be determined by the color of the bump of flesh above its beak. (Called the cere.) It's typically blue on males, and brown on females, a fact my big brother already knew when we were kids. Based on the blue cere, he told our grandmother her parakeet was a boy, and when her little Petey started laying eggs, she wasn't at all impressed with that dirty sow bird.

Warthogs get their name from the wart-like bumps all over their faces. They're so ugly, they're cute. They have good senses of smell and hearing, but their eyesight is quite poor, which is probably a good thing. If they could see each other more clearly, their love lives would probably take a big hit.

Elephants are the only mammals that can't jump, but they CAN swim, and when they're swimming in deep water, they hold their trunks up like snorkels. They're very social animals, and have greeting ceremonies when reuniting with a friend they haven't seen for a while, in which they twine their trunks around each other in what looks like a  hug. They also play, laugh, and ... cry. They even pay homage to the bones of their dead by gently touching the skulls and bones with their trunks and feet. When passing by a place where a loved one died, they stop at that spot for several minutes of silence.


Giraffes look kinda clumsy, don't they? But don't interpret that to mean they're slow. Even when they're loping along at a leisurely pace, they're moving those long spindly legs at about 10 MPH. And when running? They can zip along at 35 MPH, but not for long. They run out of breath quickly.

Their fur patterns are as unique as fingerprints, and giraffes from the same area tend to have similar fur patterns, kinda like gang signs.

I don't know if he was moving 35 MPH or not, but this fellow galloped over to the feeding platform pretty darn quickly. Check out his tongue! Giraffes have twenty-inch long prehensile tongues, which they use similarly to the way elephants use their trunks. They not only use their tongues to grab things, but also for personal grooming... like cleaning their ears, and picking their noses. Um, yeah. Moving right along.

Oh, and in case you didn't notice, giraffes are TALL.


In the wild, a gorilla will build its own nest or sleeping platform, but he'll only use it for one night. (I guess he prefers fresh linens?) Each gorilla has a unique nose print. (Especially if he has the sniffles.) They communicate with gestures, body postures, sounds, and by slapping their chests. In captivity, they've even been taught how to use... sign language.


And now for the stars of the day. The pandas. I took a lot of pictures of them, but I'll only foist three on you.

For obvious reasons, in China, the adorable black-and-white panda is symbolic of yin and yang. Also of peace. (I reckon pandas spend so much time eating, they don't have any time left to waste by fighting.) Hundreds of years ago, warring tribes in China would raise a flag with a picture of a panda on it to stop a battle and call a truce.

Twins! Cubs Mei Lun and Mei Huan, who turned a year old a couple months after I took this pictureare the only surviving giant panda twins ever born in the U.S. It's hard to imagine by looking at them now, but each one was only about the size of a stick of butter at birth. Pandas are still an endangered species, but zoos have become more successful at breeding them. No easy task. A female is only fertile 2 or 3 days a year, and she isn't always in the mood to mate. If she does get pregnant and successfully gives birth, there's still the very real risk of her rolling over on that little stick of butter and accidentally killing it.

These chubby critters eat a LOT. Matter of fact, they spend from fourteen to sixteen hours a day stuffing their faces with bamboo. On average, they eat twenty-five to thirty pounds of bamboo a day, but in the springtime, they may eat as much as a hundred. Their bodies only absorb twenty to thirty per cent of the bamboo's nutrients, so as you can imagine, they also produce a LOT of panda poo. An adult may excrete a mind-boggling sixty-two pounds of poop in a single day. (See? Don't you learn cool stuff here...?)

So how about you? Do you love going to the zoo? What's your favorite animal?

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature.  [Albert Einstein]

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.