I took the day off to visit two of Los Angeles' hidden gems- the Old Los Angeles Zoo, and the comtemporary Los Angeles Zoo, both in beautiful Griffith Park (right by my house). It was a seriously hot day for people and animals of all types, but I started the afternoon off by exploring the incredible and mysterious ruins of the Old Los Angeles Zoo. Because Hollywood likes to keep all remnants of the 'glory days' intact, many of the original animal cages and habitats are still standing and open to the public (if you can find them). I'd been hearing about this eery secret spot for months, and once I arrived I knew why everyone kept telling me to visit. Deep within the hills of Griffith Park are stucco and chicken wire and cement built up to look like 'authentic' rock formations- where the exotic animals of the original zoo were kept. You can wander right inside the old enclosures, peer into the tiny walkways and stairways where the old zookeepers would bring in food, and climb into some deep dark caverns and unwelcoming cages. Fortunately, zookeeping and animal husbandry has come a long way since the 1930s. Unfortunately, my trip was cut short because- surprise, surprise- a movie was being filmed in the coolest part of the old zoo ruins. Just a quick drive around the bend brought me to the modern and quite vast contemporary Los Angeles Zoo.
There I did what any adult in their right mind would do upon entering such a stunning collection of wild animals- I had a cherry Slurpee. And considered how bad of a sun burn I was going to get. Then, I began my walk-about around the grounds. I saw two paired tigers trying to escape the hot Los Angeles sun by laying directly in the man-made rushing river of their habitat, their huge striped tails floating in the moving water. I saw a massive black bear snoozing on a hill, one great big bear paw sticking out behind him, head on his hands and lips flopping away between snores. I saw a family of three giraffes trotting around almost 20 feet tall, using their incredibly long tongues to feed out of the hands of their handlers. There was a very handsome leopard panting away in leopard-sized hammock, an orangutang with massive hands that put it's empty food bowl on it's head like a hat, another very social monkey that a small child was convinced was named 'Mike'- he kepts saying "Mike! Mike! What are you having for lunch??", and a lazy hippopotamus waddle his way out of the shade to then flop himself down near the gate of his enclosure in anticipation of lunch. There were various lizards and fish and snakes (one snake even gave us a dramatic yawn to show off his huge fangs), and many many many many children. The children didn't have to be behind bars, though some of them were made to wear matching camp tshirts and sing while they walked in a 'line.'
Since I'm currently reading a fascinating book: "Wild Ones- A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America" by Jon Mooallem - I was fascinated by not only watching the animals, but watching the people watching the animals. And what it all meant. And how it related to the work I do photographing people and their dogs. The best part about my job is simply getting to observe people observing their own companion animals. That curiosity and empathy and desire to connect that exists between humans and their dogs is the same curiosity and empathy that vibrates through the zoo. Between children and adults alike. It's a great book that I'd recommend to all curious animal lovers.
Possibly one of my favorite things in the zoo were these signs, which were posted all over the park. To the best of my knowledge they read "DO NOT GIVE PIECES OF POPCORN TO THE BEASTS." Am I wrong??