I admit to being seduced by the title: "Where the Wild Things Aren't".
But also because I have a long-standing hate-hate relationship with zoos.
I was never a particularly zoo-ey child. My only real - and fondest - memory of the old Brookfield Zoo in Chicago (the first I was old enough to visit and recall anything of the occasion as well as where I spent my life from fifth grade through high school, i.e. prime zoo-going yers) was watching a baboon take a break from masturbating (hobby, pastime and preoccupation of the savagely bored male primate) to scoop up a fresh handful of used Monkey Chow and nail a capering high school mouthbreather right in the neck as a tribute to the hairless ape's baboon imitation. At seven the pure ThreeStoogian elegance, the primal sophistication of the poop-flinging baboon entranced me, and baboons in general have remained a special favorite of mine as a result.By the time I was old enough to really see the animals as more than live-action kids' story figures I was also savvy enough to interpret the many sad pathologies of zoo animal behavior; the pacing, weaving, obsessive grooming, and self-mutilating as strong indications that the supposedly heartwarmingly child-friendly zoo was just a goddam prison for many of the animals there.
(Curious sidebar: several years ago I read two short books by someone called Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, one on the social behavior of dogs, the other on similar activities among cats. These were more aimed at pet owners than zoo animal fanciers, but Thomas' interest in cats was heavily slanted towards lions and tigers. One thing she had researched, and noted in her book, was the behaviors of zoo cats versus circus cats. She observed that, for all the horror and obloquy directed at circus cat-trainers and cat handlers, the circus cats generally appeared much less stressed, displayed MUCH less disturbed behavior such as pacing and swaying than the zoo cats. Her conclusion? That despite the tiny cages and lack of "natural habitat" the circus cats had a more interesting life. They interacted with each other and with the circus people. They had jobs; they were working stiffs, they had a point to their lives. The zoo cats were convicts; idle, closely confined, unoccupied prisoners and typically bored out of their skulls.)Now I have a little boy who loves the zoo. Not for the animals, really, the train and the sandbox and the treats are the real magilla - but the animals are an inseparable part of the full meal deal. He has no idea that I think the zoo is an animal prison, and I don't want to be the one to tell him.
So I grimace at the tiger, numbly pacing its cage, as we race by on the way to ride Old Smokey the train. Sorry, pal, maybe the governor'll spring yez soon. Maybe youse need to see Da Warden.
Maybe you should try flinging a big ol' tiger poop at the dummy in the plaid shorts making roaring sounds at you from over by the popcorn trolley.
It seemed to work for the baboon.