Tag Archives: Tourist Tuesday

29 Before 29: Go Whale Watching

11 Jul

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List HereAll Bucket List Adventures Here.

The SeaWolf II

The SeaWolf II

After the festivities of my friend’s wedding in Monterey, I was lucky enough to stay in California an extra couple of days to have a mini-vacation. My mother was able to drive down from Reno to join me for  West coast Mexican food, the world famous aquarium, and the dramatic events that occurred after I left my wallet on the roof of my car at a gas station and drove away. But let’s not dwell on my poor wallet, which I found in the middle of the road an hour later covered in tread marks with my IDs and cards bent inside. No, let’s focus on our whale watching adventure!

We booked a three-hour tour (going to refrain from making the reference) with a whale watching company on the Monterey Fisherman’s wharf. It was an early morning trip, and we did our best to bundle up although we had brought limited warm weather gear since we were visiting California in June.  As we left the harbor, the captain pointed out the birds, sea lions, and otters that populate a jetty. Little did I know, it was to be my favorite part of the trip.

Web-footed friends.

Web-footed friends.

The first hour was nice enough. We grabbed seats on the side of the boat and stared out at the Pacific Ocean as we headed to areas where the whales are. The smell of the sea and the crisp air somehow lulled me into a brief nap. When I awoke, I had the beginnings of seasickness, an insidious nausea creeping its way through me. At this point, though, we had reached an area where a number of dolphins were swimming by. My mother who loves the sea wanted to talk about the majestic animals, about the spray of sea water. I replied as still as a statue that if I moved or spoke, I might vomit.

From the corners of my eye, I saw my fellow tourists fall one by one, leaning over the side of the boat and releasing their breakfasts into the ocean depths. But I had cemented in my mind that I would not be one of them, so I remained frozen. The sea was angry that day, my friends. The wind picked up causing two things. One, the boat rocked back and forth by what felt like 10 feet. I stared out over the side of the boat to see water, horizon, water, horizon. Two, the sea air cut through the three layers I had managed to scrape together causing a numbing chill. We spent an hour chasing down whales as I looked, blank-eyed, straight ahead. I saw a couple of humpbacks as their bumpy backs surfaced one by one. And at long last I saw a tail fin of a whale come up out of the water. I felt satisfied and retreated to the inner cabin of the boat.

There I found a ragged group of tourists, huddling together, shivering and trying not to spew. I wasn’t in a condition to laugh, but thinking of the way that inner circle looked is comical. Tourists who wanted a sightseeing extravaganza who instead got the 18th century immigrant experience. My mother soon followed me into the cabin since she was also feeling cold. Once we got back to the harbor, we found the nearest cafe that had clam chowder and sourdough bread bowls to warm our chilled bones.

Despite this account, I loved it. I could have done without the choppy water and could have used a sunnier day, but being out on the ocean was nice. I’ve been on boats before and never had a problem, although I suppose most of the boats I’ve been on were small motor boats on mountain lakes in the Sierra Nevadas or large ferry boats floating from harbor to harbor. But isn’t there something about sea legs? About acclimating? My mother was absolutely fine and maybe that’s just because she has more boat experience? I’d definitely go again.

Burnt Well Guest Ranch, New Mexico

19 Feb

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

Overlooking the land with Candyman (my horse) and Charlie (right).

Overlooking the land with Candyman (my horse) and Charlie (right).

I found out that I had one vacation day that was going to expire at the end of February. The reasonable thing would have been to have a staycation and catch up on errands. But I felt overdo for an adventure, even a mini one. So I got it set in my mind that I was going to visit a horse ranch in a state I had never been to before (both items on my 29 before 29 list.)

At the tender age of 6, I had changed my life’s ambition from becoming a princess to becoming a cowgirl, and unlike a lot of other childhood dreams, it never went away. After graduating college with a somewhat useless degree, I began researching dude ranches that might hire me. I wanted to spend my life in the saddle, around animals, embedded in the wilderness. Things didn’t work out that way, but I never stopped dreaming about it.

Marilyn! Their only longhorn cattle.

Marilyn! Their only longhorn cattle.

So when I started looking for a place to visit, I knew I didn’t want a hokey dude ranch. I didn’t want to be taken on trail rides and have Western culture put on display for me like a watered-down version of what ranch life is like. I’m from Nevada, after all. I’ve been to the rodeo. I’ve ridden horses since I was six. I didn’t want or need to be coddled. In my searchings, I found Burnt Well Guest Ranch which is a working cattle ranch run by a small family, the Chessers. To supplement their income, they take in guests and allow them to tag along on their day to day. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

Upon my arrival, Kim (the family patriarch) met me up at the airport in his pick-up truck. He jumped out in his cowboy hat and introduced himself with his country twang. I hopped into the truck and noticed a large, shotgun sitting in the driver’s seat. This was the real deal.

New Mexico sunset with a storm rolling in.

New Mexico sunset with a storm rolling in.

The next couple of days I spent the majority of my day on a horse, either with Kim or his son Tye and sometimes both of them. We rode through the pastures checking on the cattle, especially looking out for heifers that had recently given birth. I was in the saddle so much that all the muscles in my legs were cramping, but I ignored it as much as possible. I was elated to be back on a horse, to feel them break from a trot to a canter, winding their way around cacti. The cowboys told me that the leg pain goes away on day four. It made me want to call my job and quit, just so I could stay in New Mexico and ride until my legs had acclimated to a cowgirl life.

Jonah, my favorite of the three horses I rode.

Jonah, my favorite of the three horses I rode.

At lunch and at dinner, I went into the Chesser home with Kim where his wife, Patricia, made us amazing tex-mex meals using beef from their ranch. We would sit around and trade stories. For as interesting and different their lifestyle seemed to me, they were equally awed and astonished as I told them about life in New York City. As I told stories about dog walkers and animals wearing clothing and shoes, they sat incredulous. The more we talked about it, the more ridiculous I realized it really is. All day, I watched their border collies running alongside the horses, herding animals when need be, but mostly just running along. They’d stop to roll in the dust, chase jack rabbits. It was refreshing to see dogs being…dogs.

Snow in the morning. Melted within the hour.

Snow in the morning. Melted within the hour. Riding on Creed.

On my second day, they let me watch/help as they prepared some calves. They vaccinated them with large gun-like syringes, sprayed them down with dewormers and branded a couple of them. One unfortunate bull got castrated. I stood in awe as they caught it in a large metal chute. Tye roped its legs so it couldn’t kick, and Kim bent down with a knife and a severing tool called an emasculotome (it was on my vet tech exam last month) and castrated the bull in under five minutes. His hands were covered in blood as he tossed the testicles into the dirt and let the border collies eat it. Not for the weak of stomach. I watch castrations all the time at work, but it made me a little dizzy. Kim turned to me and asked if that’s how we do it in the city, I shook my head and laughed.

Lucy, the one-eyed border collie, resting by the branding fire.

Lucy, the one-eyed border collie, resting by the branding fire.

It was everything I wanted it to be. Fresh air, lots of horseback riding, a sample of what a cowboy life looks like, delicious food, a chance to see the stars in the sky at nighttime, fascinating stories from warm-hearted people. I know I’ll be back.

29 Before 29: Visit the United Nations

9 Feb

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

General Assembly Hall

General Assembly Hall

This morning, after walking the dog that I’m sitting for and grabbing myself a blueberry smoothie, I left the country. All it took was $20 and an online reservation.  I passed through the security at the United Nations building on the East River in New York City and entered international territory.

I’m currently staying with a pug, Ellie Mae, and her cat brother, Lucas. They are regulars of mine and happen to live about a block away from the United Nations. So when me and their owner set up a couple of days for me to stay with them this February, I made sure to also set up a UN tour for myself.

Glass mural representing a world of peaceful collaboration.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It was only an hour long, and I was the only American in my group of about 20. It was great though. We got to see all of the assembly halls, including one that had a session going on. We got to see a number of different gifts to the UN from member countries. I found it fascinating and wished that I had studied International Affairs in college so that maybe I could somehow work there. They do a lot of interesting work, and it’s amazing that 193 countries come together and try to make the world a better place.

I was particularly moved by a display by a Brazilian artist of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was drafted by a committee in 1948 headed by Eleanor Roosevelt and enumerates the basic rights that every human being is entitled to. It was sad to read some of them, such as the right to education or the right to be free from torture and know that many people in our world are denied these rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

It was a fun diversion on a bitter February day. I also learned about the website Free Rice which I learned about in college. It was created by the UN as a simple education tool. It has trivia and for every correct question, they use the money from the ad sponsors to donate 10 grains of rice to countries in need. Finally, a way to waste time on the Internet and not feel guilty.

29 Before 29

15 Sep
Birthday girls

Birthday girls

I happen to share my birth date with one of my closest friends in New York, Quincey. A while back the two of us were talking about possible ideas for our birthday. We laughed and said we should do a week-long celebration dedicated to the amazingness that is us. But the more we talked about it, the more it made complete sense.

Our birth date happens to be marred by a national tragedy which over time has affected celebrations negatively. In addition to that, we both moved a lot as kids and spent many childhood birthdays in a new town without friends. So this was the year to make up for it. Cabaret, Karaoke, Softball, $1 beers, Ice Cream Cake, Cupcakes, Shake Shack, Happy Hour, Czech Beer Garden, Dancing. This was a week-long celebration for the ages, and my liver, stomach, legs, vocal chords are still recovering.

Now that life is slipping into normalcy, it’s time to embrace the new year’s list. I dropped some things that just weren’t happening. I brought back some recurring standards. And as far as new items go, I went big and small. Some overly ambitious and some devastatingly simple.

THE STANDARDS

1. Visit a new state- 13 down, 37 to go!

2. Visit a new country- Due to my supposed risk averse nature, I was unable to travel last year. But this year my goal is somewhere in Central America. I have to break in that new passport.

3. Visit a new baseball stadium- I’m so close to so many stadiums, it’s a crying shame that my number is so low. 7/30.

4. Read Catch-22– Every year I dedicate myself to reading one classic that I’m embarrassed about not having read.

5. Make Jambalaya- My new recipe challenge for the year.

6. Eat Ox Tail- My new adventurous food choice of the year.

7. Eat Ethiopian- You really can’t have too many adventurous food options. I’d be happy with doing an entire list of food.

LEFTOVERS FROM LISTS OF YESTERYEAR

8. Be an extra in a TV show or movie***

9. Go Scuba Diving***

10. Go Sailing***

11. Go to a Gun Range***

12. Do a Juice Cleanse**

13. Go to a Dog Show**

14. Visit a Whiskey Distillery**

15. Go to a Live Taping*- My new goal for this is to see “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver. I have such a nerd crush on him.

16. Ride a Mechanical Bull*

17. Take a Trapeze Class*

18. Eat at Serendipity*

19. Go to a Monster Truck Show*

THE NEW LIST

20. Sing at Live Band Karaoke- I love singing karaoke. Some might even call it a passion. A week ago, I delivered a drunken, impassioned performance of “All That Jazz.” I’m ready to step up my karaoke game.

Duet with Quincey

Duet with Quincey

21. Paint Nite- I know this is suburban and faux-creative, but I want to do it. I want to somehow paint a pretty picture and pretend I’m an artiste.

22. Go sky diving- I hesitated putting this on the list. I’ve hesitated putting it on for years. I’m concerned I might pee myself or have a similar humiliating experience.

23. Fencing Lesson- I took an archery lesson a couple of months ago. If the place wasn’t so far from me, I would have considered going back. Something so fun about medieval weaponry.

24. Learn to play the ukelele- I learned that my paternal grandfather used to play the ukelele. It’s a family tradition I’d like to carry on.

25. Go whale watching- I didn’t realize how much I wanted to do this until I missed an opportunity last week. I want to experience the majesty of those mammals.

26. Do a knitting donation project- I took down my “Pay for someone’s meal” item, because I’m just too shy. But I wanted to replace it with something charitable.

27. Go white water rafting- I fear this will go the way of my go scuba diving item. It’ll never happen.

28. Visit a horse ranch- I’ve recently started working with horses, and I forgot how deep my love for them runs.

29. Visit the United Nations- I had to add one New York touristy option.

 

 

28 Before 28: Visit the Statue of Liberty

27 May

In my 28th year of life, I’m attempting to do 28 new things. Full list here.

20140527-123909-45549125.jpg I continue my bucket list of touristy things to do in New York with this classic gem.

In making the journey out to Liberty Island, I wanted full access to the statue which has been closed on and off since 9/11. Access to the crown has become limited, and they only allow 200 people up per day. Lucky for me, my boyfriend knew about this, and we went online to buy tickets…in February. The demand for crown access includes about a three month waiting period.

Finally our day arrived. It was a perfect May day to spend out on the water and in the sunlight. The boat was, of course, packed with tourists, as was the island itself. The park is spread out and there is plenty of space to enjoy the nice weather and the views.

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View of Manhattan from the base of the statue.

We made our way through security and handed the park ranger our tickets.

“Wow, crown access!” he said, pulling us aside. We weren’t allowed to bring anything with us except for our phones in our pockets. I was nervous about the stairs to the top, so I insisted on taking the elevator to the pedestal. The 360 views from the pedestal are impressive, but we were anxious to get up to the crown. We went to the park ranger guarding the staircase to the crown and handed him our tickets.

“No more access to the crown today,” he said before his mouth broke into a smile and he started laughing. “Just joking with you! The question IS who wants to stare at whose heiney?” I offered to go first.

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View of the staircase up to the crown.

The staircase is narrow, and being the weak sloth I am, I was nervous about making it all the way up. But it really wasn’t too bad! I had been told it was 300+ stairs to the crown, but that count must include the stairs to the pedestal, since I only counted around 200. It went by quickly, and we found ourselves in the crown. The nice thing about the limited access is that we had the entire crown to ourselves and two park rangers who were happy to give us information, show us where to take the best pictures, and take pictures of us.

In the crown

In the crown

It’s rare to have a touristy experience without being smothered by other people, their cameras, and their crying children. But this felt like an amazing opportunity. It was a fun day and I’m glad I did it. My favorite picture of the day is from one of the windows of the crown, looking out at Manhattan, one of the spikes of her crown pointing the way.

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28 Before 28: Do a Circle Line Cruise

19 May
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In line to board the boat.

In my 28th year of life, I’m attempting to do 28 new things. Full list here.

I love having friends and family come visit me in New York, because it gives me an excuse to do all the touristy things I have never done. The circle line cruise is one of the most touristy things to do in New York, other than those obnoxious double decker buses. My parents were in town and wanted to see the sights. It was a gorgeous May day, not too hot or cold, and no clouds to be seen after what felt like weeks of heavy rains.

View of Lower Manhattan

View of Lower Manhattan

The views were spectacular, and I enjoyed being able to see the city from the water. The guide on the boat provided a steady amount of commentary on what we were seeing and fun facts about the city. To his credit, he tried to warn everyone to stay seated and not rush from one side of the boat to the other, as this would block other people’s views. However, tourists are tourists and once a couple of people started doing it, everyone started doing it. I’d like to say no one in my party was guilty of this, but my father insisted on getting up a couple of times.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

There are a couple of different options for the cruise, and we opted for the 2.5 hour, full island cruise which makes a circle around the entire island of Manhattan. If I had to do it over again, I would have opted for one of the shorter cruises. The northern tip of Manhattan doesn’t have all that much to see or note other than Yankee Stadium (barf) and the tree-filled hillsides of New Jersey. Oh, and this giant “C” painted by students from Columbia.

C for Chrissy

C for Chrissy

I had a blast on the cruise, but I attribute a lot of that to the fact that it was a beautiful day to sit in the sun with my loved ones and cruise along a river, admiring the incredible city I’m so lucky to call home. I also managed to acquire my first sunburn of 2014. Due to the jacket I was wearing and the way I was sitting, I was only burnt on my right hand. The newest in my collection of awkward burns I’ve acquired in my life.

First sunburn of 2014.

First sunburn of 2014.

 

Tourist Tuesday: Lillie’s Victorian Bar and Restaurant

25 Mar
The back area

The back area

Just when I think I’ve found my favorite bar in New York, I find another gem. I just finished reading “The Poisoner’s Handbook” by Deborah Blum which is about Jazz Age New York. It focuses on Prohibition and how it affected the city. I have spent the last couple of days fantasizing about the old speakeasies, the mysterious drinks that were shipped by bootleggers, the secrecy and dangerous nature of drinking. I love living in a city soaked in so much history.

Back-lit wall decorations

Back-lit wall decorations

The theme of this bar predates the Jazz Age but still provoked in me a nostalgia for different times. Modern, trendy bars are a dime a dozen, and I prefer something spacious and cozy. The large, weathered glass behind the bar, the velvet lampshades, the crystal chandeliers.

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I was obsessed with these vintage mirrors that were everywhere.

A friend and I ended up hanging out here for a good 4-5 hours in the afternoon, sipping on beer, sharing a spinach and artichoke dip. In my late twenties, I’ve found that I appreciate a bar that isn’t too crowded, is well lit, and doesn’t have music pumping so loud it causes my earrings to vibrate against my earlobes. This was perfect. I do have to mention that we were there in the late afternoon, and it did seem to get a bit more crowded as the after-work set began to show up. But, nonetheless, it’s a charming bar at which to while away the hours.

28 Before 28: Visit a New State

11 Dec

1471751_10101126037224447_256169690_nIn my 28th year of life, I’m attempting to do 28 new things. Full list here.

I went to Virginia!

My small family has begun a new tradition. Over the past decade, we have scattered all over the country. My sister has lived in Alaska and now resides in Boston. I was in Washington, and now I reside in New York. My parents hold down the fort in Nevada. So gathering for the holidays can be difficult to arrange. So this is our second annual Christmas-in-a-different-place-and-on-a-different-date. We’re still working on the name.

Last year, we met up in the Central Coast of California the second week of January and this year, we met up in Williamsburg, Virginia for the second week of December. And this was the first vacation I’ve experienced where it rained the entire time. I’ve had plenty of vacations where there is a day or two where it is best to find indoor activities, but my trip to Virginia was all rain, all the time.

Gate towards a Revolutionary War Cemetary

Gate towards a Revolutionary War Cemetary

We went to a couple of museums that had artifacts from the colonial period, and we went to a Christmas boat parade where Revolutionary War soldiers marched by with their drums and flutes. But I wanted more! I wanted to see people dressed in every day garb. The last day we were there, we sucked it up and went into the heart of Williamsburg and toured the Governor’s mansion. History makes me weak in the knees, especially when it is all done up like Williamsburg is. Our tour guide was dressed as a colonial servant, and she gave us the tour as if we were invited to attend the ball that evening. I loved the hokeyness of it all. I had grand dreams of becoming a re-enactor in my old age.

I desperately wanted to wear the colonial garb. It was only $25 for a full day’s rental. Before the trip, I had imagined my whole family wearing the costumes with me. Instead they stared at me in disbelief. “Are you serious? Do you really want to do this?” My mom asked of me. I did! I did! But the pouring rain and the frigid temperatures led me to put that dream away for another day. I settled for wearing a bonnet and straw hat in the gift shop.

The wig room of the Governor's mansion.

The wig room of the Governor’s mansion.

I wish I had more time there. I wish I had more good weather time there. I’d love to go back and immerse myself in the history. It’s like an amusement park for nerds.

My dream comes true...kinda.

My dream comes true…kinda.

Taking a Moment

12 Aug

A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I pooled our money together to get our own suite at the Staten Island Yankees. We took the ferry from Manhattan and as we arrived on the island, we were greeted with a torrential downpour. We ran to our box and settled in to wait out the storm. The grounds crew pulled a tarp onto the field, and we set to eating the food provided in the suite (four hot dogs for yours truly) and drinking the beer that our suite attendant dutifully got for us.

About three hours later, the game was cancelled. As we finished up the beer and talked about rescheduling the game, my friend Quincey asked me to come out on the balcony with her, onto the seats that overlook the field. “Take a moment with me,” she said.

I stepped out into the cool, humid air of summer, a breeze coming in off the water just beyond the right field fence. I assumed she was going to tell me about a boy who had been texting her or maybe laugh about the bizarre conversation going on inside the suite about last will and testaments. Instead she just stood there sipping her beer.

“I just needed to take a moment with someone who’d appreciate this,” she paused. “We live here.” She gestured out across the water at the lit up skyline of lower Manhattan.

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That picture is a poor representation of what that view is actually like. I do forget sometimes that I live here, how lucky I am, how despite the hard times and the uncertainty, I ended up here, in one of the most amazing cities in the world, continuously finding new adventures, new people. I’m living a life that I only dreamed about as an awkward 13-year-old in Northern Nevada. Quincey’s story is different than mine, but same general idea, finding happiness despite struggle on the other side of the continent from her home.

It’s easy to forget how amazing this city is, and I’m glad that I was reminded to stop and take a moment, because those small moments of appreciation are such an important key to happiness. I enjoyed it so much that I took another moment that same night as we rode the ferry back to the city, and I saw this lady. (Also not a great representation)

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Tourist Tuesday: Bronx Zoo

26 Feb

2013-02-26 11.49.27 I’ve become close friends with one of my co-workers, Adriana. We both have Tuesdays off, and since it is rare to have other friends who likewise have that weekday off, we often spend it together.

Tragically, there is a Tuesday shift that needs to be covered until June. Adriana and I have decided to take turns covering the shifts so that neither of us get overwhelmed with overtime. So this Tuesday was to be our last Tuesday together for a while. So we felt it was only fitting to spend it together at the Bronx zoo.

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I got so close to this little guy! Arm’s length away. Then I was frozen with fear, because birds are tiny dinosaurs.

The Bronx zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the world! Also, compared to other zoos I have visited, they are active in conservation education. A little bit too active some might say. There were some signs that were a bit harsh for a kid friendly place. Like the photo of a gorilla’s head bloodily on a plate. Whoa! Or the Vietnam War Memorial-esque tribute to extinct species. A little depressing, but the argument can be made that the ecological state of our world is likewise depressing, and perhaps children should be made aware of that as soon as possible. A good dose of reality never hurt anyone. Except when you tell a young child that Santa isn’t real. That’s just not nice. Isn’t it similarly cruel to show them gorilla decapitation?

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But the zoo is so beautiful. The exhibits are spacious, and the animals seem genuinely happy. I’ve never had a zoo experience where so many animals come close to the glass to say hello. Maybe it was because it was a quiet Tuesday, but I’d like to think that they somewhat enjoy their life in captivity. I mean plenty of their favorite foods available, no worries about predators, free healthcare, adoring crowds that squeal with delight whenever they move. Can I live in captivity?

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There was so much to see. I could have spent hours watching the gorillas. I wish I could have attended each and every sea lion feeding. So. Many. BIRDS! We walked into a beautiful building in the center of the zoo. As we entered, the smell of manure quickly hit us in the face. As we looked to our right, a rhino! Man, oh man, zoos are fun.

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But my favorites will always be the primates. They’re so human-like, so entertaining. By watching primates, there’s some sort of knowledge to be gathered about our own nature, our own instincts. At the exhibit with the above monkeys, we saw one of them start nodding her head up and down and run to a window at the side of the exhibit. When we went to the window, there was a man standing there, a zoo employee from Admissions. The monkey was gazing up at him.

“She seems to like you,” I said.
“I come here every day on my lunchbreak, and she always comes up to me…and does that.” The monkey turns around with her butt in the air, waving it back and forth.
“Aw,” Adriana says. “She’s presenting to you. She wants to mate with you!”
The monkey turns back around and gazes up to him, lifting her little monkey hand to the glass, black glassy eyes staring up at the mysterious man who visits her everyday. She turns back around, once again showing him her butt. I felt for her. I mean haven’t we all stuck our metaphorical butts in the air for someone who is simply, biologically not interested?

“Well, we’ll let you two have some privacy,” I said as we walked away. The man blushed, laughed, and returned his attention to his monkey friend.