New Year’s is always fraught with expectation – people feel if you don’t celebrate big, somehow the rest of the year will be lackluster, too. This year I spent New Year’s in Mesa, Arizona visting my partner and his mom. We weren’t sure what exactly we were going to do, and my partner’s friend suggested that Phoenix Zoo was holding an event.
Charmed by this idea we went ahead and bought tickets. We visited Phoenix Zoo a couple days earlier, but only made it an hour before closing, so we saw a handful of animals (it was still impressive). I always find it a really cool thing to be in a place that’s supposed to be open only during the daytime. The Phoenix Zoo in the night time was awesome. The lights were very impressive – all done with an alarming artistic touch – all the trees and bushes were covered in Christmas lights and the paths were lined with cartoony images of laughing animals.
In the evening, most of the zoo was roped off, but we were still able to see some of the animals, most notably the flamingos. The interesting thing is that during the day, the flamingos would mince right up to the fence, so the guests could get a good look at them. In the evening, though once folks with noise makers and liquor were admitted, the flamingos didn’t look too pleased. Instead they all bunched up together into a feathery, pink clump and stood, one-legged in their lagoon. By the way, flamingos are pretty to look at, but lordy to they stink.
We also saw a kimodo dragon. During the day they let this monster drag its bloated body through a small enclosure, but at night someone dumps it like luggage into this glass-enclosed room with a red light – it’s as if this thing is in a dark room, developing pictures. Speaking of pictures! I took one of a kimodo dragon draped across this red-light room. Sorry for the quality – it was just on my ancient Samsung phone that barely does anything:
The kimodo dragon didn’t move in its little area, but just sort of slept there with its eyes open. And even though you can’t tell from this picture, the thing is hideous – it’s very ugly, but the size of an alligator, so I thought I’d take a pic.
Moving on to other pics I took in the zoo, aside from this real-live lizard, I also got to take pictures of electric lizards. The folks at Phoenix Zoo had images of lizards done up in lights, so it looks like they’re running:
I preferred these to the real thing…
Speaking of preferring the light shows, to the real thing, I also came across a huge praying mantis made up of lights:
This actually looked pretty cool and was in a small hill next to the otter enclosure. The otter wasn’t around in the night time, but I did see it swimming around during the day. It looked like a really slithery seal.
So, the Phoenix Zoo also has a mascot – a talking giraff that entertains the kids. Now, when I read about this, I pictured something along the lines of Mickey Mouse at Disney World – a guy in a suit. Instead, the zoo has this life-sized giraffe robot with a movable neck and face (but the body is stationary, so it looks oddly paralized). Parents let the zoo folks know ahead of time of a kid’s birthday and the giraffe wishes said child a happy birthday and then performs a set of corny, kids jokes.
Well, for Zoo Year’s Eve, they brought out the fake giraffe, but instead of the voice being a sunny, twenty-something intern, we had a gravely, hollow-voiced guy, who was doing a bit that brought to mind Andrew Dice Clay. Only from the head of a giraffe. The giraffe hit on some of the women and implied that he was drunk and cracked some dirty jokes. But the delivery was sort-of boozy, defeated, “ah, the hell with it” kind of voice – as if you were watching a comic just going through the motions because he was bitter about his stagnant career. Only from the head of a giraffe. My partner and I scootted out of the area as we both imagined being easy targets for the giraffe’s misanthropic humor (I don’t think I could move past being called a fag by a giraffe).
The party itself was held under a grand white tent with a buffet line and a bar. The DJ was a bored-looking middle-aged man that looked like someone’s impossibly uncool dad. He was playing old 70s disco music and it felt like an office party. Then inexplicably, he started throwing in the odd Lady Gaga which was weird. But what was weirder was the dance show we got when he started to play those songs that force people into synchronized dancing.
First it was the electric slide. Then it was the “Cha Cha Slide” and then, are you ready for this? The “Macarena.”
One lady in particular, stole the show. Decked out in tracksuit that was head-to-toe stars and stripes, she was a patriotic whirling dirvish leading the crowd with her killer dance moves. Earlier when I saw her leaving the bar, I appraised her God Bless America outfit with an arched brow and a cynical comment, but even I had to stand back in admiration as this middle-aged, housewife tribute to Old Glory stopped the dance floor with an abandon I’ve yet to see duplicated. Even the young’uns couldn’t keep up.
After the dancing and the eating, came of course the highlight of the evening the count down and the ball drop. Or did it? I’m not sure. We were all instructed to march over to the lakefront (a fake lake in the middle of the zoo) and watch a large glittery light ball. And we watched and waited. My partner showed me his iPhone and said, “well, it’s 12.01 right now” and we heard in the Arizona distance as fireworks were going off. So we all started to do an improvised and belated countdown that started arbitrarily at two minutes past twelve, on 8 and then we gave half-hearted hoots and honks with our novelty horns, clearly deflated by the fact that we missed the countdown.
I turned around and saw that immediately, the crowd rushed the exits, probably on its way to the next party. We made our way slowly, going through the zoo one more time and looking at the animals. We bid Phoenix Zoo a good night.
And that’s how I spent my New Year’s Eve. All in all, it was great. I got to spend time doing something I don’t normally do on New Year’s. My money (hopefully) went to a good cause – by the way, you should really look into donating to the Phoenix Zoo – it’s an amazing organization, doing great work for its animals. I hope that Zoo Year’s Eve will become an annual thing for the Phoenix Zoo – as it continues the tradition, I’m sure it’ll iron out whatever kinks it had and grow into a kick-ass activity.