I spent Father's Day at the Minnesota Zoo with my parents and encountered a bizarre example of antisemitism. It was in the Shark Reef aquarium, as I recall. I saw a big, disturbing fish with a face that looked like a human caricature. It was identified on the accompanying chart as a "Goliath Grouper/Jewfish." That threw me for a loop. As the Wikipedia entry makes clear, "Jewfish" was dropped in 2001 for the "more considerate" sobriquet, "goliath grouper." Ironic that the replacement includes a reference to the Old Testament. Apparently the Minnesota Zoo didn't get the memo. Perhaps a more conscientious citizen would've recommended to a staff member that they get rid of the rather offensive name. That didn't even occur to me. I'd rather just laugh and blog about it.
The entire afternoon was consumed by the Zoo. Can I just say one thing? There are a LOT of fuckin' kids runnin' around these days. I easily exceeded my kid limit for the day. Nuthin' wrong with a little whinin' and cryin' and whatnot, but having to listen to dozens of kids act in this manner for over 4 hours is asking a bit much. This irritation mixed with my complicated relationship with my parents and made a delicious gravy. I mean a cranky gravy. Even though it was a beautiful day, we were out in the sun for a long time, so by late afternoon my patience was wearing thin.
The Zoo was nowhere near the thrill it was when I was a kid. The factors contributing to my non-enjoyment were as follows: being a 30-year-old guy alone with my parents, without any friends and/or a girlfriend, questioning the morality of keeping animals in captivity, seeing these animals often just lying around or looking kinda unhappy and, again, the kids. The best/worst moment of the trip came near the end when a Chilean pudu ("the world's smallest deer") stuck its nose through the chicken wire to eat a leaf. This cat-sized creature got one of its adorable little horns stuck in the wire, but managed to extricate itself and pull the leaf through the wire. Dad said, "That alone was worth the price of admission." I agreed with him, though I also found it rather sad. That animal shouldn't be caged for our amusement, even if it does impress on us a greater sense of our communion with nature. It's not a fair trade-off.
Being surrounded by kids got me thinking about a belief that seems to be common, although I'm not sure I've ever heard it articulated in person. I've heard it on The McLaughlin Group (haughtily ejaculated from the Jabba the Hut-like maw of the Washington Times' "conservative" columnist Tony Blankley) and maybe read it online, but it has never issued forth from the mouth of someone in my midst. It is the belief that not having kids is selfish. (Now, if it turns out this belief is rare, the following rejoinder will seem rather quixotic.)
This notion really pisses me off. Am I to believe that people have kids out of a sense of societal duty? Of course they don't. They have kids because they want to (or because the condom broke). With 6.67 billion people in the world (according to an exhibit at the Zoo) and 300 million in the U.S., does any sane, non-Crazy Christian person believe we need to increase the human population? If anything, we need to drastically reduce the population. Climate Change, Peak Oil and environmental pollution are symptoms of overpopulation. I agree with those who think that the American and European lifestyles are a problem, but even with a lifestyle change in our countries, the world population will have to shrink to cope with Global Warming and the depletion of fossil fuels.
Well, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I can get back to the reason for the weekend: Father's Day. It began yesterday when my folks picked me up in the morning for a tour of the Guthrie, followed by a perambulation through the Mill City Farmer's Market, lunch at spoonriver next door and a matinee performance of The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde. My friend Noah is Assistant Director for the show, so I was eager to see it. He didn't disappoint. The play was quite good and very much in the vein of his company, the Live Action Set, with some dance sprinkled over a nonlinear narrative. Constance was the rather tragic wife of Oscar Wilde. I'd never even heard of her.
After the play we drove to my boyhood home in the 'burbs. I mowed the second half of my parents' alpine lawn to give my dad a much-appreciated break. That evening I felt sad. I've been really lonely, off and on, for the last month or so, but last night it was OK, because I was able to be sad in front of my parents. It's been almost 6 years, maybe longer, since I felt like I could be sad in their presence. Eventually we all wound up downstairs in the den watching Rudy on the USA Network. This movie has a special significance for us, because my dad went to Notre Dame and I grew up watching their football games with him, listening to this generally genial man yell at the screen whenever the Fightin' Irish fucked up. Our eyes welled up as we watched the final reel. How cliche can ya get? We managed to avoid the predictable "I love you"'s and climactic bear hug, but only because we lacked the courage to open up that wide.