We went to the zoo on New Year's Eve. We typically don't really do anything special for New Year's Eve since we don't really drink much and aren't the partygoing type. Usually we stay home and watch a movie or something like that. But, this year we thought, oh what the heck, let's splurge. Let's wander around a mostly closed zoo in frigid weather.
First we went to Delia's favorite restaurant, Red Womster. We went there last Mother's Day with J's family and Delia became enamored of the big tank of doomed lobsters in the lobby, and since then it has been the watermark for fine dining. "We're going to a restaurant for dinner tonight," we'd tell her. "Is it RED WOMSTER?!" she'd yell with the type of enthusiasm most people reserve for topics such as DISNEYLAND or maybe MILLION DOLLAR LOTTERY PRIZE. "No," we'd say, "it's the Mexican one with the big bell." (This is a local place located in an old church, not Taco Bell, though we do go there from time to time. Okay, a lot. It's cheap and she likes burritos! Gah!) "Oh," she'd say, somewhat crestfallen. She couldn't be completely bummed since she does love the Mexican place too, but RED WOMSTER is clearly the paragon of restauranty perfection in her book. Such is her deep, enduring love for it that my mother made her some flannel pajamas with lobsters all over them for her birthday. (Who makes lobster print flannel, and why? Lordy.)
Anyway, after a fine meal, and some obligatory lobster-gazing, we headed off to the zoo, which features a sort of festival of lights this time of year. We had bundled up fairly well and were prepared for the sticker shock of spending probably twenty five bucks to walk around looking at essentially a bazillion LED lights strung all over. However once we got to the zoo we discovered a couple of surprises: first, that we'd each neglected a crucial area of bundling, (more on that in a moment) and second, that entry to the zoo was completely free! We had only to pay for the train ride, a total of $4.50 for all three of us. Now, if there is anything that I do love, it is an unexpected bargain, or as we call it (loving it as we do, we have a name for it) the secret sale. Having paid our tiny train fare, we bounded joyously into the park, prepared to enjoy every cent of our good fortune. Okay, most it was just me that bounded. Okay, I walked, but with a bounce in my step and a wiggle in my walk. Or something.
Once inside, we strolled around with reckless abandon. My, it was chilly. Oh dear, and a bit breezy. Glad I brought gloves.
Sadly, I do not have photos of what to me was one of the two surprise highlights of the trip (besides the secret sale!). While much of the park was off-limits, entry was permitted to a few of the animal exhibits, among them the penguin house. The viewing area was dimly lit so that we could see our way around, but the actual penguin living space was not, so it was quite dark in there. When we entered, I saw people holding their cellphones up to the glass, which attracted the penguins. Lucky for me, while my cellphone is quite antiquated and hardly has a lighted display of any kind, I do have a tiny keychain LED light, which I then shined up against the glass, and huge numbers of penguins, (okay, maybe four or five), immediately swam up to the light. And followed it when I moved it around, like goldfish in a tank at the pet store when they think you're going to feed them. It was extremely cool and I wanted to stay there all night, but eventually I had to bid them a fond adieu and move on.
We ambled around, shared an elephant ear, that sort of thing, then headed over to the train just in time to meet up with our good friends Karen and John, and their offspring Baby Katie, which was Surprise No. 2. I mean meeting up with them. (Baby Katie was indeed a lovely surprise, but that was over a year ago.) There are two trains that run the loop, one a tiny diesel engine and one a miniature steam engine, and we were fortunate enough to get on the steam engine one. (But not fortunate to get into a car with solid sides. More on that in a moment.) By now it was fully dark, and it was pure fun to chuff-chuff-chuff around the the park looking at the multitudes of lights and waving to the other park-goers.
About the solid-side vs. non-solid-side issue: the doors on our tiny train car were slatted, permitting the icy wind to frolic hither and yon through and among our collected buttcheeks, plastered as they were onto hard uninsulated fiberglass seats, revealing the crucial area of bundling neglect. Note to self: next year wear some long-johns. Delia and Katie were spared as they sat in our laps, but I know I wasn't the only adult that walked away with an ass like a solid block of bifurcated ice.
Once we wrapped up the train ride, we were sufficiently chilled to want to go home, so we said our goodbyes and Happy-New-Years and off we went. Once Delia was in bed, we fired up "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" and I shivered on the couch under two blankets. We turned on the gas fireplace and before too long, J's brother was sitting at the opposite end of the dining room, barely able to see the TV, unable to take the heat. I was still cold but consented to turning off the fireplace and opening the door for a minute or two to bring the temperature back to merely tropical.
At midnight we toasted one another, watched a few fireworks out the windows, and shuffled off to bed.
Here's to 2008. Happiness and prosperity to you all, and especially good health and well being. :)