Despite an extended period of rain in the Northeast, the sun shone brightly on the
Bronx on May 2, 1998. Alexander and his parents took advantage of this momentary break in
the weather by taking a trip to the world famous Bronx Zoo.
As anybody who has driven along the Cross Bronx Expressway, or seen Paul Newman's
1981 film Fort Apache - The Bronx, can tell you, the Bronx is not one of the
world's garden spots. However, New York City's northernmost borough proudly boasts
one of the nations finest zoos, the New York Botanical Garden, and an American League
The Bronx Zoo, also known as the New York Zoological Society and the
Wildlife Conservation Society, has been a New York City landmark for over
a century. As far as Alex was concerned, though, the Bronx and its Zoo were
merely a fun place in which to stomp around on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Once you've paid your parking and entrance fees, you will probably
want to keep your wallet handy.
Like many other attractions that charge admission fees, the Bronx Zoo
is a place where you can
get a hot dog and a soda for just under ten dollars! Also, while in the
Zoo there are additional charges for the Skyfari, the
Bengali Express monorail, the Zoo Shuttle, camel rides, and the
At left, Alex poses at the Zoo with his father and an
unidentified zebra. At right, we see Alex and his mother.
On this visit, Alex and his family declined to ride the Skyfari, which consists
of box-like cars suspended from a cable that stretches across the Zoo.
Alex did however, take great pleasure in watching the Skyfari cars
from the safety of the ground. He would repeatedly
point skyward at the dangling metal boxes and yell, "BOAT!"
He had as much fun watching the flying boats as he did looking at any of the zoo animals.
While Alex was indifferent to some of the animals (antelopes and their kin, for example, may be
beautiful in the wild, but, frankly, they make for rather boring zoo animals) he took genuine
delight in others. He was fascinated by the antics of the otters, who he referred to as
"kitty cats." He watched intently as a rhinocerous attempted to lift a fallen tree with its
head. He patiently waved to the gorillas, who never waved back. And he took particular pleasure
in pointing to the elephants and telling everybody what they were.
Alexander got his first close look at a live camel when he and his mother paused for a moment
at the camel ride. A camel has large flat feet, skinny toothpick legs, a large barrel of a torso,
and a lower jaw that continuously moves side to side, rather than up and down. The ride,
which costs $3.00 and lasts about two minutes, is staffed by four camels (and several humans.)
While two of the camels are on duty, the other two are allowed to rest. Fortunately, none of the
camels were offering cigarettes to the children.
While in the Zoo's Reptile House, Alexander discovered this statue of a komodo dragon. Alex
spent a great deal of time climbing on and off this statue, which he referred to as a "turtle."
Finally, Alex's parents literally had to pry him off the statue, and hustle him outside before
he had a chance to get upset. Alex has a broader definition of a turtle than most
other herpatologists. Any lizard, it seems, can be classified as a turtle. Even a snake.