Tags Posts tagged with "Bronx Zoo"

Bronx Zoo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

My wife wanted to get out of the house and move beyond the daily walk in our neighborhood for her birthday. We decided to take our teenage children to the zoo.

Back when our son and daughter were younger, a trip to the zoo was a cause for celebration, as they got to see animals from all over the world, watch various shows, spend about four seconds reading an interesting fact about their favorite creature, and continue to hop, skip and jump from one exhibit to the next.

These days, their thumbs do most of the hopping, skipping and jumping. Given the importance of birthdays in our house and the willingness to do whatever the birthday celebrant desires, our teenagers gamely climbed into the car.

As with most zoos this year, we had to preregister for tickets. Indeed, the Bronx Zoo requires visitors to use a date-specific ticket.

The experience of entering the zoo was remarkably quick and smooth, saving us the customary wait.

Zoos require guests to remain socially distanced and to wear masks. All but about eight of the other visitors we saw wore masks.

Most of the time, other guests also maintained social distancing, taking their turns to the glass to look at gorillas and apes, who didn’t seem at all curious about the appearance of people whose lips and noses disappeared behind masks.

While we circumnavigated the walking trail, all four of us reveled in the appearance of numerous animals, including an enormous bison and a swaying elephant.

It seemed slightly unfair to the ostrich, who is over nine feet tall and is the largest bird in the world, to share a pen with the 20-foot giraffe, which dwarfs a bird that also has the largest eye of any bird in the world.

Something about seeing all these animals, including a lemur resting in a tree, an arctic fox and a pair of lions, restored a sense of normalcy in an abnormal year. It was also comforting to hear the excitement from other people who all expressed similar sentiments in several languages when the giraffe started to run.

On our first trip out around the zoo, we stopped at three bear exhibits in which the celebrated occupants were either not there or hidden. Once we had circled the zoo and headed back towards the car, my wife played her birthday privilege, urging us to take one more look at the black bear, the grizzly bear, and the polar bear.

The first two bears remained out of view on our way back to the car. Standing alone along the railing at almost exactly 4 p.m., which was closing time, we saw the polar bear slowly emerge, then retreat, then emerge from a darkened den. We suspected he might have a keen sense of time and know when it as safe to come out and avoid  larger crowds.

He or she (we didn’t read anything about the bear’s gender) played with a toy that looked like the top of a garbage can and then reached up to a ledge to pull down a bone with some meat on it. After giving us an eight-minute private show, the polar bear took his bone and, as if on cue, exited stage right.

While the zoo might not be at the top of your list or top of mind, particularly during the winter, it offers a pleasant chance to get away from our own 2020 pens. The Bronx Zoo has a know before you go page, which you can see by searching Know Before You Go — Bronx Zoo, with details about visiting this year.

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My son and I love the odometer. He probably appreciates it because I talk about it so often and focus on repeating numbers, patterns in the numbers or milestones.

We are approaching another landmark as our odometer edges upward from a volleyball practice, to a concert, to a visit with friends in upstate New York, to a trip to Bronx Zoo or a ride to the airport — 100,000 miles.

Where will we be when we hit that magic mark? Chances are we’ll be close to home, perhaps on our way to or from school, to the train station or to a restaurant to celebrate another birthday.

Those repeating numbers, the 99,488 or the 99,699, may bring back horrible memories of childhood, when we had to come up with a formula to describe the nth term in a sequence. The numbers also may be reminders of when we need to change the oil, rotate the tires, check the brakes or give the car the equivalent of a well visit to the doctor.

Our country has spent decades shortening the distance between two points by car. Along the way, we eat in them, change the radio station, pull off the road for a nap or park near a favorite place to commune with nature from our moving couch.

All that time in the car is what made McDonald’s possible, giving people who travel over great distances the reliability and predictability of the same meal regardless of the state.

We throw ourselves and all manner of accoutrements into our cars, including baseball bags, suitcases, or — with my father — holiday presents. Then we pile ourselves into the seats, buckle ourselves in and hope for an open road along the 3,000 miles from New York to California.

We don’t often think about each of the miles, because we’d clog our minds with useless and forgettable information, particularly during those times when a mile becomes a measure of an interminable length of time on a stopped Long Island Expressway.

Then there are those miles when we feel as if the road disappeared below us and we are floating home, singing a song that makes the whole family laugh, especially when we share voices that are off-key, or celebrating a triumphant play or an enthralling concert. It’s why road trip movies, even poor ones, are so common.

These travel experiences offer a physical journey to match an emotional, spiritual or personal quest, giving us a chance to wake up to an ocean and go to sleep under the shadow of a mountain. Even when we no longer want to contemplate literary devices, we may see symbols in our travels that are hard to ignore, such as the dawn of a new day, soaring birds taking flight together, a fork in the road or a lightning bolt crashing down in the distance.

While the odometer doesn’t take pictures, have Instagram or Facebook accounts, and doesn’t store information in the cloud, it does give us a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and who has shared the ride. When the odometer was still in the double digits, we looked at the backs of our small children’s heads at rear-facing car seats. As the numbers on the car, and our children’s ages and heights increased, we heard their voices drop as they described a movie they watched with friends, a visit with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a project they planned to complete as soon as they returned home.

I’m hoping my family is in the car together when the odometer breaks into six figures, because it seems fitting to share that milestone since the four of us journeyed through those miles of life together to get there.