Before the Zoo

I’ve lived in Chicago for almost four years now.

I’m leaving soon, probably. A bit of a panic is beginning to set in, or maybe not a panic, but an urgency, the urgency to do and see and taste everything I can of this city before I leave it. Last weekend, for example, was the first time I went to the zoo. And before that sad and awful visit, before we saw the ambling rhino and the life-sick ostriches and the sad apes, we ducked into a greasy spoon, and even though I’ve lived here for four years, it was only then that I had my first Chicago hot dog.

And I don’t mean I had my first Chicago-style dog, that iconic wiener with the radioactive-looking green relish and the salad bar on top. I had my first hot dog, ever, in Chicago. A smoked duck sausage in a poppyseed bun, with grilled onions and pears on top. (Um, not pictured, because I inhaled it). So maybe it wasn’t really a hot dog, but whatever, it was in a hot dog joint. It was the most delicious hot dog-esque thing I’ve ever eaten. But I was hungry, as hungry as I ever get, and you know that true thing they say about hunger being the best seasoning.

I didn’t take any pictures of the animals. I think I hate zoos—all those beautiful, powerful, wild things out of context (the tiger from another world pacing in its cage haunts my dreams). And even though the zoo in Lincoln Park didn’t smell like excrement, even though a lot of the animals there seemed reasonably well tended and there was a downright majestic-looking couple of lions, I couldn’t help but feel kind of shitty about the whole thing. Which, you know, isn’t news, or shouldn’t be.

I did take pictures of the food I was so hungry for, and of hands holding the food, but no pictures of the animals the hands belonged to. Putting a camera in someone’s face while she’s eating forces something essential out of context, I think, if she’s hungry.

4 thoughts on “Before the Zoo

  1. sarah marie says:

    I know what you mean about zoo animals haunting your dreams. I still haven’t set foot in the National Zoo — after seeing animals in their natural habitat, I just can’t bear to seeing them behind bars.

    When is graduation? We need to catch up.

  2. Angela Mears says:

    Graduation is June 18, but I’m in Chicago until at least mid-July…and yes. Yes we do. Remember that peacock dress you sewed for me? I just pulled it out of my closet. The weather’s changing.

  3. Crepes of Wrath says:

    I haven’t had a hot dog since moving to New York City yet, either! I’ve had them while visiting, but none since having been an official resident. I’m sure I’ll be wolfing down plenty of them while I hang out in the park this summer! I’m going to have to find some gourmet hot dog places as well, it seems, because the one you described sounds to die for!

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