I always knew I liked animals. I get excited at zoos. I can’t help pointing out birds to anyone near me when I see one. When I was little I fought hard for a hamster, and then another hamster, and then another hamster, and then a dog. But I’ve never really been an “animal person.” Practically speaking, I’d rather not have anything relying on me to care for it at this point. I am selectively fond of other people’s dogs and cats. I ate dog meat in China with only a few qualms. Okay, a lot of qualms, but I still ate it. That’s why I was surprised by the animal love evident in the pictures from my myriad travels. It seems I chased at least three puppies around, trying to capture the cuteness on film. Then there were the puppies in the box. I almost tried to smuggle a little white one home with me. Even cats, which I typically ignore, showed up with no small infrequency in my pictures. Oh look, a cat…and another cat…oh and there’s me holding a kitten. There were baby chicks, roosters, elephants, dogs, cats, fish even, but according to both photographic evidence and memory, nothing tops my excitement for monkeys.
I love monkeys so much. I think it’s those big eyes and the teeny tiny human hands covered in fur. I love the way they snatch things, and the way they pry open bananas with focused determination. They are mean little things, but also so cute I could hardly stand it. The first time I got to play with monkeys I could barely contain fits of joy. In my twenty minutes spent with monkeys in Cambodia I accumulated triple the number of pictures I have for my whole time in Vietnam. Plus video. Women were shoving monkey food into my hands and demanding pay. Normally I get frustrated with this kind of ruse—here hold this, oh, and pay me two dollars. But not when I played with the monkeys. I happily handed over dollar bills, overwhelmed by the impossible cuteness of a baby monkey clinging to his mother’s chest.
I have a video from a couple of years ago of one of the babies I watch meeting a Disneyland character for the first time. She keeps bursting into these little nervous giggles, as if the world is just to exciting in this moment and it’s all bubbling into laughter. I think it was the raccoon from Pocahontas. That’s not even an especially famous Disney character. But her reaction is hilariously adorable, as she babbles in incomprehensible enthusiasm. Silly Kate. And then I listened to the video of myself taping the monkeys. Oh…it seems I laugh like that too, and chatter on about “eeeeeeee, soooo cute” until I can’t stand holding the camera anymore and I have to run off and feed some more monkeys.
It’s good to be back. There are so many reasons I’m glad I’m here and not there at this point in time. Avocados are reason enough. But I have determined that California needs more monkeys. Too bad you can’t hand feed pelicans. I do love pelicans.