Starve The Egos. Feed The Love.
September 1st, 2016
I thought it a good compromise, each side giving, the city gaining.
I thought the Overton Park Conservancy, the zoo’s Richard Smith and Councilman Bill Morrison all showed constraint and acted like adults all the way through a difficult process. I thought the Mayor performed well, the Council was given enough cover to hide from a terrible decision and Allan Wade was kept from making it even worse. Only snarky, all-about-me comments from Councilman Berlin Boyd about personal revenge for his inconvenience, some procedural mirrors and smoke about the final resolution, and some notable loose ends marred its passage.
Yet the beast still rumbles, the citizens still grumble, and the forest still senses danger.
The zoo has already, and again, retreated behind walls literal and figurative, made big brother comments about SkyCop cameras, inferred that park visitors are only safe behind their razor-wire topped fences, and continue to act like access to the Greensward is granted only through their good graces.
Trees have been marked without explanation, updates have been asked for from the city with no response, plan specifics and dates remain as elusive as ever, and the powers that be have moved on to other things.
As a result, people who stirred all this up to begin with are getting stirred up all over again for the same reasons. No one is giving them straight answers.
When you don’t tie loose ends down, they get away from you. Again.
As published in The Memphis Daily News, September 2, 2016, and in The Memphis News, September 3-9, 2016
GOODWILL IS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES.
Remember how much we used to love the Memphis Zoo? I do.
“The Memphis Zoo is probably…aw, hell...IS the best zoo of medium size anywhere. From the alabaster white animal statue sentinels out front to the last siamang scream in Primate Canyon. From the impressive entrance greeting of Egyptian columns, reflecting pools and hieroglyphics (Memphis on the Mississippi is named after ancient Memphis on the Nile) to the exotic temple and waterfalls in the tiger den. From the stately grizzlies and polar bears to the precious meerkats standing guard and shaggy orangutans just hanging around. Not just fun, this place is a certifiable blast. If you don’t like watching the animals, just watch the people. Watch the lions watching you. Watch the cheetahs track you across their lair. And watch that little girl over there when she discovers the leopard high up on the cliff, or that little boy and his grandfather when the alligator snaps, or the python uncoils, or the guerrilla charges. Recent venue additions and a complete redesign of the spectacular entrance area add a major attraction feeling to what was already a time-honored Mid-South must for almost a century of kids and their families. I turn back into a kid every time I go there. Newer venues include Cat Country... just about everything in here thinks you’re lunch, Primate Canyon…look for cousins, some more distant than other, Creatures Of The Night...bats, aardvarks, naked mole rats, generally spooky, and Once Upon A Farm...charming, but you might want to watch your step. Don’t-miss favorites include the sea lions at feeding time and the – Oh my God, Harry, what is that? – reptile house with its oh-so-strange collection of snakes, spiders and technicolor frogs. The Memphis Zoo is always funky, always fascinating.”
Since I wrote that review for Memphis visitors in 2000, the zoo has been very busy, adding China and rare pandas, and new digs for grizzlies and wolves in Grand Teton, and new pools for polar bears and sea lions in the Northwest Passage and for crocodiles and hippos on the Zambezi River.
Since I wrote that, the zoo has gone from lovable cub to full-grown beast – teeth and claws turning on us, devouring acre after acre of Old Forest and dragging the Greensward into the lair until citizens and good sense pulled it back. Safe, for now. Scarred, and scared of tomorrow.
Since I wrote that, the zoo has made writing anything like that again impossible for me.
The love devoured by arrogance, the something to see turned into something to watch very carefully, something to fear.
Since I wrote that, more than a century of goodwill has been fed to egos. What little is left has to be saved and replenished, the egos starved, and the public’s confidence restored.
Ironically, Dr. Brady’s specialty is large mammals. He knows when predators turn into man-eaters they have to be put down for the greater good.
I’m a Memphian, and like you, I want to love my zoo again.