Tom warned me about the sensual assault we could encounter upon entering the behind-the-scenes gorilla area and he was right on target. A silly item to lead this entry with, but when a wild smell hits you, isn’t it inescapable? Weeks later, it’s still the first thing that comes to mind when I think of our time there. But I got used to it in a hurry and quickly noticed Fisher-Price toys on plastic shelving off to the side. The baby apes play with the same stuff your babies do. I love it.
I used to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo frequently just to hang out with the gorillas. I found it so peaceful watching them. That was through the huge glass windows in the Ape House. This Tropic World is even better. No glass – just a deep chasm to separate primates from primates. When I asked Craig about Brookfield having a genealogical center where visitors could trace their heritage to families of apes he didn’t crack a smile. Perhaps my deadpan posing of the question hid the humorous intent. And in the back of my mind I was thinking, “I wonder if creationists are going to have a hard time with this one.” We shall see how this evolves.
Meanwhile, hats off to Tim Ferrin for donning the gorilla outfit, courtesy of Fantasy Costumes HQ on Milwaukee in Chicago. He did a smashing job chasing me around Oak Park as we bridged the Tropic World segment with the Edgar Rice Burroughs piece and Tarzan. Frankly, as a kid I never clicked with this Tarzan chap. He did nothing for me. I liked WWII comics like Sgt. Rock and Our Fighting Forces with Gunner and Sarge. I asked Diane Hansen at the Historical Society of Oak Park and River forest what she thought the appeal was about Tarzan and she didn’t go where I’d hoped she would. I wanted to hear about what ancient primordial chord the Ape Man might have struck in the American consciousness, in a people mired in industrial “progress” and technological advances. Could Tarzan be speaking to our inner-chimp? Could he be evidence that we are descendents of the apes? Could any of us have assimilated to the jungle the way Tarzan did? Would the great apes have adopted any one of us in a similar situation or was there something special about that boy? Am I forgetting that Tarzan is a work of fiction? No matter. I did see a documentary on Discovery Channel or History Channel about a French child who was actually raised by wolves – fascinating.
The point is, folks, these are the deeper questions lurking in the subtext of “Wild Chicago’s Illinois Road Trip” every week. Be careful as you watch. We have mastered the art of subliminal communication. Our agenda must remain a secret. Trust us. We know what’s best for you.