Thursday, September 30, 2004

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Zoey and I drove to Colorado Springs today to go the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. It's literature attests it's the only zoo located on the side of a mountain, and that there's a tram that takes you to the top and you walk down. Plus, they had giraffes; Zoey loves giraffes.

It's gotta be one of the most beautiful zoos in the world. They weren't kidding about being on a mountain; the main road just goes up. And it turns out, after Labor Day the trams only run on the weekends. However, it wasn't crowded at all, and I was able to let Zoey run free (part of the time).

Right past the entrance are the giraffes (the African Rift exhibit). They weren't just bragging--it is a great giraffe exhibit. There must have been 30 giraffes wandering around a big pen with an observation deck curving along the side of the cliff. On one side, hungry and friendly giraffes, on the other, an incredible view of Colorado Springs. Then you look up and realize the zoo is quite large, and the rest of it is uphill. Oh well, I much prefer an uncrowded zoo.

We walked up to the giraffes and for awhile were the only ones. I couldn't believe how may there were, and as I walked toward the railing to get a better look, about three of them saw me and came straight at me, their doe-like eyes rather presumptuously expectant. One saw Zoey, who had almost made it to the bamboo rail, and quickly thrust his head toward her. Of course, this frightened her and she took four rapid steps back toward me.

I went back to the zoo worker's desk and asked how much the giraffe crackers were. I bought four for a dollar and gave a piece of one to Zoey, who had wandered over to a round, fish-eye window that was placed toddler height. She had gotten over her initial shock at having a large giraffe head poking at her, and was pointing at the baby giraffe that was looking at her through the window. I gave her a piece of a cracker, which were like three-inch-long pieces of shredded wheat, and tried to talk her into feeding it to one of the giraffes. I got a kick out of feeding them myself, actually, but boy these giraffes are spoiled! They're like pigeons gathered around an old person on a park bench, just wandering around, looking at you, sticking their long, black tongues out at you. Then you placed the cracker gently on their tongue, like giving them communion. Not that I've ever actually given anyone communion. Well, actually, I have, but I wasn't supposed to.

Zoey never let herself get close enough to feed any of the giraffes, which was probably frustrating to the baby giraffe whose tongue kept reaching out to her. She did take a few ginger steps with her hand out, but in the end, she just wasn't that brave. And these giraffes were pretty big, demanding creatures. Oh well. I so wanted a picture.

The rest of the zoo was really nice, too, but the only other truly stand out exhibit were the tigers, who had this mountainous setting with a stream across the bottom. These two tigers actually looked like they were having a good time, acting like a couple of cats playing around, chasing each other.

I let Zoey run free for a little while, but unfortunately, she seems to get very distracted by things like mud puddles and pebbles. And I discovered something about her that is really kind of scary. If she's enjoying what she's doing, I can say "bye bye" and walk away from her, out of sight, and she won't care! She'll just keep doing what she's doing, and she'll even say "bye" back to me.

You can see more pictures at, just click on the zoo photo album.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

picture testing again

Trey with a fish. This picture was taken from the sad like crazy web site to see if I could just link to there. As you can see: Success!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Some good things about Pueblo

I had these thoughts while I took Zoey for a walk around our neighborhood, because there are some pleasant things in this town. Like the well-kept Victorian houses that line Elizabeth St, which is only two blocks for our apartment--a truly picturesque little street. Sometimes, when the wind blows in the right direction (and you're next to a bush) you get a wonderful burst of Juniper. It's a surprising scent to someone from Houston, so green. And when you crest a hill and off in the distance you see the mountains...that's a neat vision. Yesterday, after Zoey and I went for a hike in the Nature Conservancy (like the arboretum, but near a river) we drove up toward 50 and I saw Pikes Peak in the distance. Sarah and I had driven to the top (okay, actually I drove to the top) the first week I was here, but as of last weekend it's now covered in snow.

I'll try and think of more nice things about Pueblo. There are more, I'm sure of it.

Biker Chic

One of the many lessons I'm learning here in Pueblo is the finely honed details of biker chic. It's a fashion reality here, a style much more in vogue than low-cut battered denim and tweed cropped jackets. And it's much more timeless than any passing fad seen on the TV, because it's a lifestyle.

For the men, a black T-shirt is primary, preferably with a mean-looking image screen printed across the front. A Harley Davidson logo is always welcome, if a little tame and overused, but then again, to look biker, one doesn't necessarily want to push the boundaries. Of course, the technical idea of looking biker is to shun the mainstream and embrace "outlaw," but inside that "outlaw" image, one needs to adopt the established rules (otherwise, how would others recognize the biker inside the outfit?) Worn out, straight-legged jeans over scuffed, black-leather biker boots complete the outfit, which all too often is instead seen with Walmart sneakers. In fact, most of the outfit probably comes from Walmart, even the Harley T-shirt.

But it's not just the clothes that make the biker man; even more important is the hair. Mullets are always acceptable, of course, in this timeless, yet mostly reminiscent of the late 70s and early 80s, biker style. Because the men must have long, long hair. The more hair the better, because it fills out the ponytail. Even if you're balding, you got to grow it out. (Here's a style-secret from a non-biker: extensions can look very realistic these days.) Color doesn't matter here; I've seen bright blond, salt-and-pepper and ethnic black hair topping this redneck uniform.

Sometimes the man in question is only recognizable as an adopter of biker chic because of his hairstyle, because he's wearing some kind of work uniform (Walmart smock, mechanic or delivery man outfit). But he's just showing off that he actually has a job. (I have no statistics to back this up, but I get the feeling that there's a relatively high unemployment rate here.)

Trey laughs at me when I talk about all the mullets and funny outfits I see here. He says I just haven't spent enough time in Pasadena and around car shops. He's probably right; he's fixed enough 96 Camaros to know the type far better than I.

On a tangential note, the other day as I drove to Walmart (yes I've been shopping there now, but that's another story), I passed a city park where there were inmates taking a lunch break from their civic duties. Believe it or not (because I didn't have my camera on me), they were wearing black and white striped outfits! I know, I know, next time a picture. I promise. (Once I figure out how to publish them here.)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

one more Pueblo haircut update

At the park, Zoey and I saw a dedicated daddy, chasing his kids around with a big smile. This time, though, no mullet. It was more of a 70s/early 80s feathery cut. His hair was almost down to his shoulder's and cut layered, almost feathery around his face. Think journey keyboard player, or maybe Joe Walsh. Better yet, think of that guy in high school in 1983 who was in a band and wore those tight levi's jeans that rode high in the waist and had a tapered leg. This guy was probably in a band now (yeah..a cover band, playing Eagle and Journey and Joe Walsh songs...).

He was perfectly matched with his impossibly blond mom-looking wife, who wore a white sweatshirt with an American flag on it. Perhaps in the 80s, in high school where they met, she was the ultimate band chick, but now she looked more like an 80s mom. Her hair was short and easy to style, almost Dorothy Hamil-ish, and she also had high-waisted tapered jeans. She bugged me, not because of the way she looked, but because when I drove up she assumed I was dropping off her child. When she realized her mistake she screamed aloud in a high school voice, sounding like she just accidently said something embarrasing in front of the cute boy in history class. It was very irritating. This town is getting irritating.

I could say the same for September

I've spent most of this month in Pueblo, Colorado. It's unfortunately a rundown, backward kind of town. I haven't seen this many mullets since I graduated from high school in the 80s. And they're some beautiful mullets, too: spiky on top and long, long, long in the back, often in a ponytail. The men sporting these coifs look like they're stuck in some kind of small town time warp, driving muscle cars and wearing dark T-shirts with the arm holes cut out to allow more room for their bulging biceps to creep out. My sister and I actually spoke briefly to a mullet-man in a Walmart; he was very helpful. He had a good mullet: his long salt-and-pepper hair was trailing down over his blue smock and the shorter hairs on the top were gently poufed out with just the right touch of hair spray and gel. I think we almost ran into him with our cart. Zoey said hello and he smiled at her. He probably has three grown kids at home.

I think the saddest thing so far about being in Pueblo is how I have found some measure of comfort in all the chain stores that dot the highway. I see a Ross and Barnes & Noble and try and believe this town isn't so hopeless. There's even a Lowe's and a Home Depot, providing yet another battleground between the two home building supply giants. But these stores are everywhere, and really only symbolize the many locally owned businesses whose livelihoods were ruined by their advent into town. I've yet to see a small hardware store; the one book store I saw looked closed down. I know this is bad for America on several levels, and yet I'm comforted by the sight of them because they are familiar and nothing else in this town is.

Fortunately, the weather has been beautiful, and the neighborhood Trey picked out is really cute. Zoey and I have taken many walks, which she loves, and we're about to get dressed to go play in the park. She's happy to see her daddy, even if he is working too hard and is often grumpy when he gets home. And every now and then I turn a corner and see mountains. There's hope yet.