Thursday, August 13, 2009
I get by with a little help from my friends
Trucking it home in one day from the east coast with music and friends. I couldn't have done it without my best pals, Ally and Livvie. I may be the platoon leader but they are the grunts who put their necks on the line and win the war under my leadership. Plugging in and tuning out, working time efficiently at their appointed rest stops and eating whatever I throw in the back of the car. Most importantly, they actively engage with me in radio channel surfing through big metropolitan areas where the tunes are plentiful and the car karaoke possibilities are unlimited. We do a little of their music (Taylor, Miley, Jordan, Kelly, Akon, Mraz etc.) and then we do a little of mine. I'm a hip mama but I still can't get through "Blame it on the A-a-a-a-alcohol" and "Birthday Sex" to which they reply, "AW, MOM!, C'MON." I flick it briskly to whatever Clear Channel has cooking for the oldsters. I watch in the rearview mirror as their faces wrinkle like there's a bad smell in the car while I croon the banal songbook of Peter Cetera..."Like a knight in shining armor, from a long time ago...". Really any song with a saxophone is bad news for them. And I am a fantastic singer within the generous acoustics of a Dodge Caravan.
I reward them with some Miley's The Climb or some Taylor's Romeo and Juliet. We make the generational see-saw work for us. In the end, my long time boyfriends rode up alongside me on their emotional Harleys in all their glorious denim and fringe and voluminous hair blowin' in the wind.... John Mellencamp, Jim Croce, Steven Tyler, Jimmy Buffett, Dan Fogelberg (ok, he was on a Vespa) and Robert Plant were amongst those that helped me bring her home from Chicago to Madison when I was in desperate need of inspiration and pillows for my head and my tush. I am grateful to rock and roll for its restorative juice.
Our visit to The Philadelphia Zoo on Tuesday, while excruciatingly hot, was another wonderful reminder of my multigenerational connection to the city. My dad would tell me stories of how he went there as a child and my mom used to go with her boyfriend the veterinarian and feed cigarette butts to the hippos (how is that a good story to tell your kids?). My own experiences at the zoo were of running around with my friend Karen Porter whose mom took kids to every fun thing in the city every week and I was one of the gang. Most of my cultural experiences were obtained via a grant from the Porter Foundation. And then in the nineties, my own children visited the naked mole rats weekly.
The big cats have a new habitat as do the primates. The elephants are gone as their enclosure was antiquated. I was touched at this 150 year old zoo's attempts to keep current and conservationist in what has become a hostile society for zoos. I figure 150 years ago, zoos were some of the most forethinking organizations related to any sort of conservation as scary as that may seem today. Ally hates zoos but I pointed out that circuses still exist and their treatment of animals is far more suspect than any zoo. She rolled her eyes and I realized I had gone too far. Why can't I just nod and listen?
A statue behind the old cat houses is the site of one of our favorite pictures of Ally and Liv together and so we tried to recreate it this visit only to find the mounted statue is either removed or buried behind all the new facades. I asked at the gate about its whereabouts and the man said, "You are the second person today to ask about a statue." He went on to tell me that there was a man who wanted the location of a statue where he himself had been photographed alongside his grandfather and that day wanted to take a picture of himself and his grandson. If you're going to run a zoo for 150 years, you had better realize that the only continuity for many of us oldtimers might be the statues.
What are you lookin' at?