Tuesday, May 24, 2005

End of an Era, part B

Saturday felt like Saturday again, so all was right with the timeline. The day dawned misty, the air cool if a bit humid. It was time to visit the monkeys. But first, the morning gripes.

My mother awoke with a pressing need to visit every Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse along the Eastern seaboard in search of a specific kind of grass seed. It didn’t matter that none of the ones in Atlanta or middle Tennessee carried it, she felt sure if we went to yet another one of these identical monoliths it would feature a completely different product line. Along the way we debated what to do for breakfast – breakfast bar at Shoney’s, Grand Slam at Denny’s, coffee and donuts at Dunkin Donuts, or nothing at all. As we grew close to each restaurant, she decided to go somewhere else. Ultimately she announced she didn’t want anything, which secretly pleased me. I had already eaten a bite of apple pecan pound cake before leaving and I didn’t care to spend hours wandering around the zoo with a stomach full of heavy breakfast victuals. I acted mildly disappointed but obsequious since making me happy would cause a resurgence in her appetite.

At least it was Saturday. The zoo would be busy but free of field trippers. We drove to downtown Atlanta and found ourselves stuck on a street named Boulevard, waiting as a fat walk-a-thon group waddled past, the police acting as mobile barricades so we motorists couldn’t impede their slug-like progress. We made it to the parking lot, cutting through a group of ramblers, and walked downhill toward the zoo. On the way we passed the Cyclotron, a place I envisioned to be a futuristic gladiatorial arena but which turned out to be a combined civil war and locomotive museum which we decided to visit on the way out. We also passed a number of school busses offloading groups of children, blissfully unaware that field trips on a non-school day are sacrilege.

We reached the turnstile, and my mother complained loudly that the zoo cost too much. I made the early morning mistake of saying that the aquarium cost just as much, and she reminded me that we (meaning I) spent too much the day before as well. We took our overpriced tickets and headed for Africa.

Africa turned out to be a disappointment. The elephant, hippo and rhino were all no-shows. I support the use of natural habitats, but the animals always seem to find a place to hide no matter how big and fat they are. I am reminded of previous exhibits proclaiming “Ugly or Beautiful” for a warthog hidden in a cave and “The Fastest Land Animal on the Planet” featuring a pair of cheetahs fast asleep. I always thought the zoo should hire midgets with cattle prods to hide in the foliage and keep the cheetahs moving, but they never seem to appreciate my suggestions.

Asia was a little better, even though a few of the critters were very pregnant and taking the day off delivering. Things really picked up when we reached the gorilla exhibit, which is the delight of the Atlanta zoo. Willie B., our simian pride and joy, silverback ambassador to the ape kingdom, had passed away a few years ago, but the area was littered with plaques and statues dedicated to him. They also named a snack bar after him. I decided not to ask how they disposed of the body.

I enjoyed the rest of the journey and found it to be much better than the ghetto zoo in Chattanooga (not to be confused with the awesome Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga). We left just as the school kid infestation was becoming a major nuisance. On the way out we stopped by the Cyclotron, but when it became our turn in line my mother complained loudly that the seven dollar entry fee was too much and she plowed through the folken behind us to escape without paying. We walked back to the car, passing a young Rastafarian man squatting on the ground and playing a homemade set of drums comprised of three upturned buckets. My mother loudly announced “I would suggest that we rest here, but we’d have to listen to that crap.” I should have dropped a few bills into the open box in front of him, but I didn’t think of paying the rude toll until it was too late. I was focused on rushing my mother past before she could say much more. She did complain that soliciting shouldn’t be allowed there and the police should take him away, but the young man (obviously desensitized by public performance) continued to ignore her.

Lunch time. I thought of taking her to the House of Chan, a wonderful Chinese restaurant that gave her no room to complain (outside of the prices), but they were closed Saturday afternoon. It didn’t matter anyway. She demanded Mexican, something that always made my stomach drop. It wasn’t the cuisine. It was the fact that she has never, ever, ever enjoyed Mexican food that she didn’t make. It’s what she wants when her appetite for fussing is bigger than her appetite for food.

Side note – she did once enjoy the Mexican food at a place we found in New Mexico while out West visiting distant relatives. It’s the single exception that proves my rule.

Anyway, I found a Mexican place and immediately regretting bringing her. It was a nice cantina, one that I would like to visit again in the future if my embarrassment didn’t reach fatal levels. She complained about the entrance (not where she anticipated), the seating (too far in the corner), and the prices again when they brought the menus. She complained about her fajitas which she said were too greasy (i.e. they contained meat – it’s her Mexican fall back position), and got back on the prices again when she loudly announced “I bet they charge extra for the extra cheese.” Restaurants charging extra for extra food? Perish forbid.

Just when I thought she’d run the cute waitress away forever, a miraculous thing happened – she shut her mouth. I could see it took some effort, her lips a thin horizontal scar and her jaw muscles jumping like rabbits, but she managed to keep quiet as long as the waitress was near. It bolstered the waitresses’ confidence where she actually stopped by to refresh our drinks and ask me (not my mother) if I enjoyed my lunch. I did, and I told her so. We returned to my apartment, my mother complaining about the food and prices and ordering me to never eat there again, but I didn’t mind. She had actually made an effort not to publicly humiliate me, and I accepted the gift for what it was.

We spent the rest of the day in a STTNG season one marathon haze, she sleeping off the overpriced greasy fajitas through most of it. The next morning we had breakfast at Denny’s, and she had nothing about which to complain except the prices and link sausages and some of the wait staff appeared gay. She felt eager to get back home, and I felt eager to let her leave, so we loaded her truck and hugged goodbye. It was a lovely birthday celebration weekend, and I truly enjoyed a lot of it.

Holy crap, I’m glad that’s over. Time to get back to living.


Valkyrie said...

Hmmm. Your mom sounds nicer than mine. Lucky you.

Weary Hag said...

The last line got me on this one. Somehow, I just knew it was coming, yet I was ill prepared when it showed up. Christ you crack me up so much.
My own mother never complained about prices and in fact would be taken for a ride at every turn if I weren't right there defending her many steps of the way. We'd do the obligatory old lady "catch every yard sale from here to Texas" thing on Fridays and Saturdays. That was her special way of spending quality time with me. So complain about prices? Nah. Instead, she saved all the bitching and griping for EVERY OTHER FLIPPING THING ON EARTH. I swear to you the woman would make shit up just in order to complain about it.
This and the Part I are possibly two of my favorite posts of yours ever.
I AM glad you had a great birthday ... even though it probably really started on Sunday afternoon.

Sask 1 said...

You sound like a great son .
Im sure you really enjoyed being with her.Even if its nice to get back to normal when they leave.

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