PARIS: No Camels at the Zoo


Title of one of my autobiographies. I’ve always meant to write one. Will get around to it one day.

I postponed Jessica’s birthday because I was feeling poorly. I’m sure she understands; besides, it was Sunday. In Paris, you relax on Sunday. You can’t do anything else since most of the shops are closed. Actually, that’s not so true anymore. When I was a student in Paris, if you didn’t have your shopping done by Saturday night and you were out of nibbles, there was a good chance that you were going to starve to death the next day. It happened to me once, but then I learned my lesson and I never let it happen again. I mean, I was hardly starving, but when you have nothing to eat, it becomes a strange obsession that gnaws at you.

Paris is becoming more and more Americanized each time I visit. There are shops that are open until 2 o’clock in the morning. Other places are open every day of the week. It’s for the tourists, and I sincerely do understand and appreciate, but as I’ve said before, this doesn’t allow people to get the real Parisian experience. Maybe I’m bitter since I had to learn the old way, back before I had an iPhone — I still had a flip phone in those days, and if I wanted to go somewhere I had to read maps and write things down in one of the notebooks I always carried. I’m getting way off track. I’m just unexpectedly bitter about modern Paris on this trip. It’s not the same Paris that I fell madly in love with. I still adore Paris and think there’s nowhere finer, but I’m a grumpy old man resistant to change.

The restaurant and the bakery that Jessica wanted to visit were both closed, so we decided to relax and celebrate the festivities of her birth the next day. We opted for a refreshing morning and afternoon in the apartment before doing a few little things. It was far too hot in Paris to do much anyway. When Paris is hot, it sizzles! Do see this film:

There is no in between and there is not much cooling down. It’s humid and can be truly unpleasant. Heatwaves go away after a day or two, though, not like back home where it’s just HOT for two months and then COLD for the other ten.

After a few hours, my sore throat was finally starting to be tolerable. I thank the newness of living and Jack Daniels. I found a bottle of whiskey in the cabinet and a pod for Earl Grey tea, so I made myself a mock hot toddy. It was actually delicious, much to my surprise, and did wonders to soothe my throat. It was basically a medicinal cocktail. Speaking of medicinal cocktails, do you want to hear one of my dreams? You have no choice since this is my website. I want a cocktail that tastes exactly like classic NyQuil. That stuff is ambrosia to me, but I don’t take it anymore since the last time I did I slept for about a day, had hallucinations, and lost all sense of time perception. That was frightening, so no more of that for me. But if it would come as a cocktail — preferably gin based — well that would make my life.

We decided we were both willing to go to the Louvre to work on a cheeky art project, so we dressed and went off to the Métro.

I must make another diversion here. As I sped under the streets of Paris, I read a wonderful mystery novel by Elizabeth Peters. She was, and will always be, my favorite author. This is the pen name of Barbara Mertz, who is one of my true icons and inspirations. She was a witty writer who just happened to have a degree in Egyptology from the University of Chicago. She loved cats and was just all around divine. I’ve long decided that I should carry on her legacy (much like Jacqueline Kirby carries on Kathleen Darcy’s literary legacy in Naked Once More — that was a very meta reference, and it’s okay if you don’t get it) and continue to write books in her name. That will never happen, of course, since nobody could come close to the easily flowing prose that Barbara was a master of, but this is one of my little fantasies that I like to live out.

Anyway, we were soon at the world’s largest museum and in a half an hour we had created a masterpiece of digital art. It’s called “Ballß.” Please enjoy:

We were both thoroughly satisfied with this accomplishment of maturity and taste, so we treated ourselves to slushes in the park before heading back to Clichy. It might not have been the birthday Jessica had in mind, but it was a good birthday, I think.



Built for some exposition in the 30s.

The next day we properly celebrated by going to the zoo. I can’t say that I was exactly thrilled, since I’m rarely amused by zoos. I hate that half step thing you have to do between strollers loaded up with weeping infants. Why do parents take babies to zoos? I don’t get that; I don’t remember anything about being an infant. That’s a lie, I have like one memory, but I was not in a zoo or a theme park or one of those other places that are inexplicably loaded with fetuses. Maybe if I were a parent I would think differently, but I have doubt of that. My child would go to places when they could appreciate it, not when they would squawk because they just shit themselves. Anyway, zoos have never been my thing (aside from the Blank Park Zoo with their fabulous ostriches and gorgeous camels) but Jessica is obsessed with them. She would happily go to every zoo in the world, so years ago we attempted to go the Parc Zoologique that is located in the Parc Vincennes. It was a lengthy journey of a day, but when we got there, we discovered that the damn place was closed for refurbishment for like three years. Oh how we laughed.

So, this time we returned to feel vindicated as we passed through the gates like Napoleon passing through one of his numerous celebratory arches. It took some time to get out there again, but along the way, I made a marvelous discovery. Paris no longer has transportation zones! In the olden days, ugh here I go again, you had to select which zones you would be going to each week before recharging you Navigo pass. So, if you had to go out to the airport or Disneyland, you would need a different, quite expensive ticket. Or, if you found yourself out at La Défense, you would find yourself trapped there unless you forked up the coins for a new ticket. Now, you can go anywhere in zones 1-5 for the same price. That’s remarkable, reader. I can’t get over it. I had to go to and from the airport three times during the week that Jessica left Paris. That would have cost me at least thirty euros on top of the regular weekly pass. Now I get it all for just over twenty euros. Parisians are blessed these days.

Ecstatic by this development, we soon arrived at the zoo, happily gave them our life savings (well, twenty-two euros) and then sauntered into the zoo. It was quite different from what I had expected. Instead of individual exhibits, the animals were grouped as they might be found in their natural biomes. So, animals mingled with each other, which was quite nice.


What’s it?

We saw penguins and rhinos and ostriches and zebras and these odd things that I have no idea what they were, and then we were of course starving, so we scuttled over to the cafe. Jessica, expectedly, could not eat anything like a normal person, so she began pecking at her sandwich like some demented bird. She couldn’t eat the tomato, clearly, and then she couldn’t eat the bread because it was once in the vicinity of pesto, and then she just couldn’t eat any of it because the concept of basil was too traumatizing. Why do I buy her anything? I know better. The other day she refused to eat a raspberry tart because it was “weird.” That was her only definition. I was exhausted. I ate my sandwich, which was not great — we were in a zoo — and then carried on.


I had been quite excited to see the big cats, but those animals and I have a lot in common and like to be napping all day, so that’s where we found them. I don’t blame them for a minute. I was sad for the older male lion though, he is severely arthritic, and you could tell that he was having a rough time of it. Later on in this trip, Jessica and I meant to go out into the suburbs and see this gigantic park for big cats, but we never did get around to that. I’m still trying to wrap my head around where all the time went.

I was really quite impressed with the giraffes. There were so many of them, and they were all awfully beautiful. They’re also the most ridiculous animals. They just look like an accident. I love them. I don’t love them as much as camels, and at this time it became clear to me that this new, state of the art zoo did not have ANY CAMELS. I was livid. I was on the edge of despair. I lost years off my life. I’ve rarely been more upset. I WANTED CAMELS. But there were no camels to be had. I don’t know if I’ll see many on my trip in Egypt, either, since I’m going to be in Luxor, and camels seem to be more of a northern Egyptian thing. I still need to adopt some and start a camel refuge on my farm back in Iowa. That’s one of my dreams.

We saw turtles and flamingos and screaming birds and monkeys which made Jessica scream. She doesn’t like monkeys. Something happened to her in her youth that traumatized her, I guess, and she saw a gorilla rip a bird in half? I suppose that explains an awful lot about her actually, now that I think about it. And then we saw wolves and fish and snakes and ants and BATS. I adore bats. And then we were done.

I had a photo shoot first, though, because I’m vain:


It was a very nice zoo, but I think we both expected something different after it had been under renovation for three years. It must have been a cesspool from hell before the updates!

Both of us exhausted, for zoos, I find, are one of the most soul exhausting places on the planet, we crossed town to celebrate Jessica’s birthday at the Café Varenne.


First, we strolled through the Jardin du Luxembourg and listened to Jessica growl about being starving, so we weren’t there for long. She’s not reasonable when she’s hungry. It’s really kind of scary.

We were very early for dinner, so the service was not fabulous, and we were both really rather ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ with the whole experience and day. It was fun, but I think she’s had better birthdays. Oh well, at least we were in Paris! And I found the cover of the album I’ll never record and release because I can’t sing:


OH! And I found more inspiration for my ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ skeleton tattoo. It’s fabulous!


Coming to my thigh soon.

3 responses to “PARIS: No Camels at the Zoo

  1. Hi Ben i read this earlier today while I was on my break and I has to stifle my burst of laughter :).
    I’m a Mom and your discription of how you see children is hilarious to me!
    It seemed by your posts that Jessica wasn’t really enjoying her vacation? Hopefully she did!
    Looking forward to reading the next 2 posts.
    Take care

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