My previous visit to Central Park Zoo -- 04/22/09

This is sort of a post script to my previous entry.

The last time I was at the Central Park Zoo (prior to this past Friday's visit) -- well, actually, the only other time I was at that zoo (in fact, probably the last time I was actually in Central Park) was a few years ago. How many years ago? Well, Adam was about the same age then as Milo is now.

It was early in the summer of 1970. Adam's birthday is late September, so he was probably around 21 months plus maybe a week or two. Milo is a few days short of being 21 months. So, the last time I was at the Central Park my eldest son was about the same age then as his younger son is now.

No, he says he does not remember.

Well, that's hardly surprising. Even if some tiny scrap of memory were to be floating around, it would be pretty difficult to separate it from the frequent visits we made to Ross Park Zoo when we moved to the Binghamton NY area a few weeks after our Central Park visit.

Of course it is a visit that I recall vividly.

Adam was at the age where he had acquired a limited but serviceable vocabulary. Thus, he could excitedly point at a dog. "Doggie! See Doggie!" Of course, being still three months short of being two years old, he pronunciation of "Doggie" was closer to "Goggie" and as the school year had ended (I had been a high school teacher during those first two years of his existence... and the reason we were about to move to Binghamton was because I was entering the doctoral program there) I was able to take him for more and more outdoor walks and he had expanded the definition of "Doggie" to cover any non-human creature. Thus, a dog, a cat, a squirrel, a bird... all would bring an excited pointing finger and a cry of "Goggie! See Googie!"

This meant that at the zoo I would sometimes attempt to explain that "This particular kind of Googie is called a gorilla" but he was excited at seeing any animal, whether it was a species on display at the zoo or merely a squirrel come to filch some of the captive animal's dinner. (By the way, almost the only similarity between the Central Park Zoo of 1970 and the Central Park Zoo of 2009 is in the location. In 1970 it was a somewhat run-down old-fashioned zoo with animals trapped in cages; today it is more modern with a strong educational component and with the animals in what is closer to their natural habitat.)

I remember the time I spent in the zoo with Adam very fondly. The rest of our time in New York I also recall. I had parked on one of the numbered streets running off of 5th Avenue, an upscale neighborhood. I was parked in the last on-street parking spot before a small no-parking area in front of an apartment building (complete with a uniformed doorman). When we got back to my car I found that someone had broken into my car. I had a briefcase in the back seat of the car (inexpensive fake leather) and the thief had stolen that. I was upset at the break-in and the theft (and annoyed at thinking that the doorman must have ignored the whole thing as my more than three year old entry-level Chevy was broken into thirty feet from where he was standing) but was also very grateful that our child safety car seat had not been stolen. And, I must admit, I have chuckled a few times over the years as I picture the thief opening the briefcase (which was obviously a cheap discount store briefcase) in hopes of finding something valuable and finding half a dozen Pampers and a container of baby powder.

Also, my car had overheated just as we had crossed the bridge into Manhattan. I had been hoping it had just been a question of the summer heat in the heavy traffic. Unfortunately, we had not gone very far before the temperature gauge began moving into the hot zone and steam began to come out from under the hood. I needed water! But where do you find water in Manhattan? I spotted a parking garage, pulled up out front and asked the attendant. He gave me a bucket and showed me where there was a faucet. I filled the radiator. I also saw the problem: a clamp holding a radiator hose in place had failed and the hose was lose.

Driving through Manhattan, looking for a gas station or repair garage, temperature gauge rising again, steam coming out again... (Looking back with greater knowledge of Manhattan, I must have been going up Madison Avenue)... and soon I began to realize that I was in Harlem, not having see anyone of the Caucasian persuasion in many blocks... and, well, this was 1970 and Nixon was in the White House (and there had been a race riot right there in Harlem just six years earlier, the Kent State shootings had been in May of 1970, just a few weeks ago, and paranoia sometimes seemed like a reasonable stance to the dangerous uncertainties of the era) and there was a service station and I pulled over in a cloud of steam and they had exactly the part I needed in stock and not only sold it to me, but installed it... and gave me more water... and showed me how to get to the George Washington Bridge.

We made it safely back to Monticello (NY) with no further overheating and a few weeks later moved to Binghamton. I think the next time I was in New York City was not until several years later when Adam had been spending a week or so with his great-grandmother (who lived in Greenwich Village) and I drove down from Binghamton to pick him up and then drive up to the Kingston NY area to visit my parents for a couple of days.

And Adam moved to New York a few months after graduating from college and has lived there ever since

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