Taking Bronislaw, Frank and Margaret for A Ride
Mariah, Sarah, and I visited the San Diego Zoo today because in San Diego all visitors are pressured to go to their zoo. On a perfect day, I am the wrong person with whom to go to a zoo. I mentioned this in a mid-June blog post when Mariah and I went to the Atlanta Corporate Recognition Park (or as it is facetiously called by the locals “The Atlanta Aquarium”).
I find animals in captivity to be deeply disturbing. Nonetheless, today was my second time submitting to the San Diego Zoo’s not so subtle pressure. I succumbed more than a decade ago when Harry and I foolishly thought that visiting the zoo with all four of our daughters on a blistering hot Father’s Day was an inspired plan. A wise person learns from other’s mistakes; a fool from his own. You read it here: On Fathers Day stay away from places that target market to non-custodial dads.
Today in drought-stricken California, shortly after we arrived, it rained and rained and rained some more at the San Diego Zoo. Tropical Storm Dolores had arrived. At first, everyone thought it was novel and exciting. People stuck their tongues out and tried to taste the rain. That phase lasted for about five minutes. Tops. Then everyone realized that they were getting soaked. Many purchased clear ponchos and danced about in the rain. That phase lasted another five minutes. Or less. At this point the sodden masses realized that they were continuing to get drenched. The vast majority reacted by clustering together under any available cover, eating, shopping, and then fleeing. A small subset soldiered on while wearing their newly acquired ponchos, wet but in denial, in a vain attempt to see animals who generally have the sense to go inside and out-of-view when it rains.
Unable to continue my ethnographic research (okay – maybe I was just sightseeing) by observing the animals inside the cages, I shifted my focus to the animals outside of them. Remembering my anthropology coursework and reading, I adopted Bronislaw Malinowski, Frank Boas, and Margaret Mead’s practice of acting as a participant-observer. I followed in their well-respected footsteps, while wearing my blue rain jacket and moving discreetly among the poncho-wearing crowds, in the hopes of gaining insight into the rituals of this particular cultural subgroup. My photographs follow. (My favorite image is the last one. The young man was so excited by his discovery of a moving snail he forgot all about the elephants, polar bears, and pandas he was unable to see.)