I’ve long had a reaction to the claims by your typical racist chap that harps on about how black people look like apes.
The problem is that some black people do look like monkeys and apes, but this is in the same sense as the fact that there are people from all races who look like the FA Cup owing to a prominence of ear in the East and West of their head.
And in another similar sense, you then have those white people that look like chimpanzees; like my Northern Irish American-Film Lecturer: Ken Somethingsomething.
All in all, people look like things; it’s a human tradition.
Some look like dolphins, some look like insects; ultimately the fact that you look like our closest relatives throughout the Animal Kingdom (fellow humans aside) is probably a good thing.
This is just a thought I’ve had throughout the years, since meeting Ken.
And it’s not as though Ken wasn’t a handsome chap.
He had a desk-bound ruggedness, a man filled with poetical passion that let itself loose as he lectured the sweet-protestant-Jesus out of me and gave some rather fabulous ticks as he marked.
He was a ultimately an attractive man, if attractive men are you’re thing, and it was just the sheer shape of his face and the recession of his hair into full-blown male pattern baldness that made him appear more monkey-like than your average American-Film lecturer.
Also, for the record, male pattern baldness (MPB) is not a cause for unattractiveness.
Since we’re talking about it, yes, I do have an example.
Hunter S Thompson.
Thompson is an icon, a man who has transcended the mortal world and become a literal folk-legend; one of those historic men of whom there are countless anecdotes of his presence at scenes and his actions that caused scenes.
His works inspired generations, with 40 crucial years of extraordinary output that forged a new genre of literary journalism, and this is his writing alone. His attitude, the demeanour with which he strode the Earth is legendary.
He is amongst those men, such as his hero Hemingway, who made writing one of those very masculine occupations – not a world in which women were not equally capable – but one in which miners and welders and other such grizzled and anti-intellectual stereotypes wouldn’t be able to call them pussies.
Because Hunter S Thompson was not a pussy.
His into-the-fray technique of gonzo journalism evokes those terms that just feel masculine in this context. Much like my favourite Monty Python sketch in which good ‘woody’ words are discussed (not ‘tinny’ – “sorry old horse”).
Novelist (bit tinny…).
And Hunter changed the world from behind a type-writer and a cattle-prod, dousing the reader in the glory of the righteous crime of ‘not-giving-a-fuck-with-intent’ and wearing long white socks and with male pattern baldness.
And the male pattern baldness is only relevant here by its irrelevance.
Thompson changed the world, and my life, with utter and total freedom and male pattern baldness, and all whilst looking slightly like an aging chimpanzee.
And what I also adore is the fact that he took the helm of his head; echoing the essence of him being Master of his Fate and the Captain of his Soul by shaving his scalp and changing the world.
But still, I catch my Dad eyeing me fondly from the eyebrows-up, missing my hair that was his.
But to his fortune, he doesn’t look like a monkey. Or an ape.
They’re different, you know.
In my travel about the globe I’ve had many marvellous encounters with animals of a wondrous array, from the soft-shell turtles of Laos, with the enormous dangling Flying Fox bats of Adelaide, to the happily splashing elephants in the jungle baths of Thialand, and every encounter has been more than memorable.
Some have been pleasantly engrained, whilst others have been permanently scarring; sadly not in the attractive/romantic sense. No eye-patches.
Two monkey attacks, one gorilla and one squirrel.
These are the animals that have taken to me via fist and tooth (amongst sundry).
That seems like a tad too many monkey attacks for someone who isn’t looking to be attacked by a monkey.
Let’s rundown the bitter, bitter memories.
Because I love apes (this reason is so applicable. Yes – I don’t have an example of how it’s applicable…because I love apes).
And I love monkeys.
And I was ambivalent about squirrels, until what happened in Central Park happened to me and now I really, really want to do all kinds of venting unto the squirrel population of New York. I wish they were vermin; then I’d hire a professional, not to exterminate on my behalf – but to teach me.
Onto the attacks.
Monkey Attack 1
Location: Dharamsala, India (Tibetan Government in Exile).
Here’s the scene.
Dharamsala is a mountain town in the foothills of the Himalayas, the home of the Dali Lama and the exiled Tibetan Government.
It is here you’ll find the views of the world that cause you to stop, say no words, and feel the beauty of where you are. The immeasurable enormity of the mountains, those shards of planet Earth that surround you, acres of snow and ice atop, with goats passing their time on the lower slopes as the brightest of sun rays lands upon them and their strange coats, eagles flying purely because it is appropriate, the bustle of the market filled with the indomitable monks, vibrant locals and in-the-know tourists of all varieties…and a background hush; as though every sound and every moment is echoing through the valleys and the mountains – making all so clear and yet so fleeting.
In Dharamsala the air is exciting, the people are even more-so, the world-shattering explosions in the night that everyone else seems fine with (I still don’t know what they were but I genuinely feared the Chinese were coming) are only another aspect of typical wondrousness and the monkey blowjobs are everywhere.
In the taxi to the town from the airport, up the mountain slopes; monkey blowjobs on route.
Outside the restaurant where the monks pass to turn prayer wheels and the youths race ancient motorbikes high and low through the streets; the monkeys are blowjobbing.
And right on my balcony, the view that broke my heart as it was so beautiful; epic insignificance of little old me whilst the mountains continue as they were, the snowy peaks glistening, the prayer flags fluttering, and the monkeys blowjob on my balcony.
Here’s an important fact regarding Yours Truly.
I’m a Sthilly Goosth.
And I get involved in things that are really none of my business.
(E.g. A hotel manager smashing up his Lovely Jubbly Hotel and putting me off my drink. I got involved. My fiancé is still angry with me over this but we were staying there that night and I didn’t want the owner waking me up and taking his anger out near my pillow.)
One such thing that I shouldn’t get involved with, and I can’t state strongly enough that you also don’t get involved with, is a monkey blowjob.
But it was on my balcony.
And in my world, a balcony is a sacred place (don’t say bad things about balconies near me; just don’t – please).
There is an alpha male, with greater fur around the head and neck, reclining back on the balcony wall, enjoying the view even more than I was I’d dare say, whilst a younger acquaintance of his saw to his genital dryness.
To which…I immediately leapt out onto the balcony, waved my hands in the air excitedly and growled happily: “MONKEEEEEEYS!”
Having made this experience of monkey oral sex an interspecies situation all of a sudden; both the monkeys acted accordingly.
The male, one of those baboon-looking sons of bitches, rolled onto his side, appeared to suddenly grow by about a foot, and then, seeing as he wasn’t needed here (and perhaps he’d heard the monkey blowjobs were preferable higher in the valley) strolled off.
I, meanwhile, was in a terrified stamp-battle with the screeching, screaming, clawing, gnashing female that had only seconds early been, to at least one living being, the loveliest thing in the world.
When I say “stamp-battle”, this is due to two things.
The female monkey was venting largely (albeit with a few swipes involved – thankfully missing) by hammering the ground at my feet – a condition wittily brought on by the removal of my feet from said area only a fraction of a second earlier.
As a result of lifting my foot out of the zone of conflict, I was perched upon one foot, looking rather zen for a fellow seeing his life pass before his eyes (featuring far too many monkey blowjobs).
That is until the female monkey, having seen the object of her masticating affection slip away, realised my remaining balcony-based foot was fair game for some further mastication (this time with a good deal more chewing).
She swiped again, I removed my foot again; resulting in my previous foot having to stamp down so as to regain balance…near the female.
And that really pissed her off.
So much so; she swiped at my offending foot, causing a cyclical circumstance that was only resolved with the introduction of the House Maid who saw the female monkey off with a tea-towel.
This was all my fault entirely.
Monkey attack 1: Complete.
The Gorilla Attack
Location: Denver Zoo.
Cause: I teased it and it charged me. Peakaboo with a Silverback Gorilla, through the ape-proof Plexiglas, whilst it is in its home of straw, females and unfathomable testosterone, is a cruel and bad idea and I wish I hadn’t done it.
But there was absolutely no denying that this gorilla didn’t like me anyway.
HE STARTED IT with the eye contact; I just escalated it with the raspberry blowing whilst peeking out from behind walls and columns.
Ultimately, with a sudden charge and a thud the likes of which I have never felt before (and it wasn’t even on me – he’d clubbed the glass) this gorilla taught me that he was pretty angry with my joviality and the difference between this and the Dharamsala incident was: he couldn’t walk away.
He charged, thumped, walked away without looking at me and then attempted to hide himself under a handful of straw whilst he ate a banana.
I feel bad about the whole thing and would like to buy him a banana someday to make amends.
Sad story, really.
But to this day, the power of the attack, such as it was, shook me. I am a flimsy, dainty, la-de-dah human and that testosterone-filled living erection would have buried me with one thump.
Monkey Attack 2
Location: Laos, near a dried-out river, near a forest…geography isn’t my forte, whilst the English language deffo-proper-is-like, y’know?
Cause: Monkeys are bastards.
I fell asleep that night with images of an ever widening monkey mouth, filled with darkness, blood and banana, consuming all of everything whilst I lay there; feeling rather irritated.
I’d been bullied.
Bullied by a little monkey that I’d given so much to and had proceeded to be embarrassed by it oh so thoroughly.
As part of the tour, we had stopped in a village who’s economy, colour, flavour and identity was bananas.
Bananas further than you’d want the human eye to be able to see, and not a typical bunch either.
Like the fingers of a particularly swollen child; plus jaundice, with each entire banana amounting to one single mouthful, for man and monkey alike.
Having loaded up on these bananas, something like 20 for the price of half a brown and pre-peeled English-shop version, we made our way to the river bank, keeping eyes peeled for the soon-to-onslaught monkeys, as well as the plethora of creepy crawlies emerging from our banana bouquets.
One monkey, two, then in the collective plural of monkeys – the term of which I am unaware of but I’m willing to bet in called ‘an unneccesary of monkeys’.
These were the darty variety, the type of that steal your wallet, girlfriend and pride, yet is still somehow endearing to people still waiting to be attacked by them.
We disembarked the bus, walking down into the forest and keeping to a dirt path well-worn by the feet of multiple species, whilst our guide encouraged us to make hooting and squeaking noises (we excelled) in response to the odd shake of foliage and light-brown blur across the path ahead of us.
And then, having reached a clearing in the forest, we were massed-upon by the pack of monkeys that came meandering out and up to our shins; whereupon they were met by what they expected – a proffered banana – which they took off with by a few yards and quickly peeled open and devoured.
Being me, I met the alpha – the biggest fellow there and the one with that ‘fuck-you’ footfall, taking my bananas without even looking at me and, suddenly, seeing off nearby monkeys that were decidedly smaller than this big guy.
It was becoming apparent that this monkey was an unpleasant one, but I was still enthralled by the experience and proximity to these incredible little beasts and so kept proffering bananas that were continually accepted; for a while.
I crouched, keeping the bananas coming, ignoring the sudden dashes a weaker rivals, ignoring the rudeness of taking the fruit without so much as a look in my direction, and turned to my fiancé who was ready with a camera.
Saying my name was meant to alert me, but was said in a tone that seemed frightened for herself, understandably, and I switched my gaze to look to where the monkey had been cheerfully munching bananas…no longer.
Too much eye contact, too near bite-level, (too much beard?) too close to a monkey for a monkey’s comfort and my health, and a mouth that was widening like an endless black hole, filled with consuming nothingness and blood and banana, eyes staring deep into and through mine, about to teach me a lesson by eating me.
Why was there blood? I still don’t know; maybe it was an opened cut on the lip, but it sure as sweet heck added to the drama of the scene.
The full force of an alpha monkey flying towards me, covering entire body lengths in a single bound, has been the cause of tremendous embarrassment to me in all these months since.
Remember that my fiancé was standing there to take a picture. She did.
And we are left with a blurred photo of a light brown hell springing towards me with canines extended eagerly, whilst I, with my shoulders hunched and knees together, am vaguely turning my body away from the mental mass of monkey unpleasantness (incidentally – completely successful).
With some scratches to my clothing and – thankfully – none to my skin, I scurried away like a monkey should, my bananas snatched like my school dinner money and my shame riding how in red upon my face, whilst any remaining pride I had remained dead in the dirt where the monkey still stood; eating my bananas and looking smug in the canines.
I wouldn’t say I’m a petty chap, but I sure as sweet heck did launch a banana directly into the central back of that monkey from a distance of 12 feet, eager to show him that now, having smuggled my courage past my brain and out into my sleeve-living heart, I was ready to tangle in the Laos forest.
And the banana bounced off, of zero effect to the millennia of genetic insistence by nature that this monkey was made of sturdier stuff that can withstand a blow from an Englishman’s fast-bowled banana (he didn’t even turn his head), and it was promptly scooped up by monkey-minor and I never saw it, the minor-monkey, nor the bullying alpha again.
That night, thoroughly bullied by a monkey and wishing for a round two, I was ultimately thankful that I hadn’t fallen into that gaping mouth with hideous eyes, and not only been eaten but been rabies-eaten (the kind in which your dinner starts to foam).
I can still see that all-encompassing darkness of mouth, tinged with red and yellow.
The Squirrel Attack
Location: Central Park, New York.
With the most recent monkey attack a fair few months and many thousands of miles behind us; what could be finer than a sunny day’s stroll through Central Park?
And, in all eventuality, it was still a lovely day for an afternoon walk through New York’s enormous greenery, although there was the issue with the squirrel.
I’m an adorable kind of guy, I rock (placidly) babies to help them sleep, love giving a dog a good old belly rub, and buy my Mrs flowers every now and again (especially after a few romantic lonely drinks).
I see a squirrel, and I get involved; as you might expect of me at this point.
A very hithery-thithery species are squirrels, and they seeeeeem like they’re approachable.
Almost as adorable as me, we watched them bury their nuts and nestle up and into one another, shake their big bushy tails and scurry in a fashion that isn’t derogatory. Maybe even ‘scampering’…
So, I feel just fine about kneeling down by the pathway’s caged fence, and poke a pinch of the contents of my fruit and nut bag through it, initiating those calls that, only in the moment, one feels are somehow effective in gaining and animals trust beyond any circumstance such as sheer luck or the fact you’re waggling food at it.
I proffered nuts to the big bushy grey squirrel (aren’t I adorable?) and committed to those petit squeaks and kisses and waggles and so-ons-and-so-forths, watching the squirrel catch my nut’s eye and edge closer, and a little closer…and then too close.
This was a large chunk of fruit and nut, the sort that can catch a squirrel’s attention and, apparently, rage, and whilst I must have subconsciously thought of it as some form of buffer between myself and the squirrel, it was – in the moment – all too easily brushed aside (actually, more like ‘fucked’; ‘fucked aside’) by the squirrel.
And then I was witness to the most horrific mauling I’ve ever witnessed; at the end of my finger.
The squirrel, with clawed feet clenched upon the wire of the cage, kept my finger prisoner whilst it gave a retaliatory waggle of its own; this being of it’s head rapidly side to side as it burrowed its teeth deep into my fingerprints.
And then I made that sound I make when something particularly upsetting and even more so uncivilised is happening.
A brief, short and sharp, “GGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRR”.
This might seem like a growl in text, but its not when truly verbalised and you actually here me sound it. Just imagine the sound of a growl, only with the octaves varying all over the shop from high to low and back and forth again.
From what I’ve learned, whatever I’m trying to do by making that sounds; it doesn’t work.
I was realised by the grip of squirrel tooth to survey the horrid sight; with blood all over its bushy tale and my finger pulsing blood like it was entirely entitled to on such an occasion, fruit and nut here and there, with all the surrounding people and squirrels having hushed themselves in response to my own strange noise and the visuals that accompanied it.
Having sounded-off and given the end of my finger a good staring, I decided that revenge was the best option.
Only, I’m not very good at revenge owing to being such an adorable fellow; and I only really tend to end up giving those who have wronged me a break as I always try to see through to their dainty side.
This, plus the fact I was lacking resources of combat, chose to douse the little grey bastard in all that I had; the entire bag of fruit and nuts.
As I began pouring the contents over the psychotic squirrel, I realised that this was essentially giving it everything it had likely ever wanted from its life up till now…and this wasn’t necessarily a happy thing for it.
Looking up and seeing a blood soaked fist pouring forth an eternity of dried fruit and varied nuts was quite a revelation to the critter, raising its little arms high and opening its mouth wide like all its dreams had come true in some nightmarish form, with the hail of the bag’s contents causing it to flee, constantly hounded by the pelting of the delicious healthy snacks, it finally scurried beyond my reach.
Here, I made my way with my fiancé to the nearest McDonald’s, using the free Wi-Fi to quickly research how prominent rabies is in the New York squirrel community.
Thankfully, rabies is not flourishing through the city’s population (of squirrels at least); a fact that caused us great relief so that we wouldn’t have to explain to our insurers how I’d taken a tumble onto a yawning squirrel whilst enjoying a jolly good bit of pointing.
Every website we checked stated: “No. Central Park squirrels do not carry rabies, though we do get over 50 cases each year of patients desperate to know. Please stay away from the squirrels.”
I now shall.
And through monkey attacks, gorilla charges, more monkey attacks and a psychotic squirrel; I’ve one rounding question that might bring some insight into why this keeps happening to me.
Is it the beard?
This old friend on lower half of my face has been a real source of comfort over the years; something to stroke, something to feel total lack of concern as to manliness, and something which is also handy for getting the attention of furry folk from around the globe.
Could it be the beard; this statement of masculinity, dark black and thick to the degree that it could be legally considered to be rude?
If so…I’m keeping it.
I’m no fashion king, but I do know that nothing goes finer with a beard than a fair few jostles with an animals of some variety.
And there is no doubt in my mind that close calls with animals are very much so ‘in’.
And hopefully, soon, squirrel fur hats will suit it too. Maybe with some fruit and nut to accompany it throughout my hat and beard.
No, that’s silly.
There have been other animal encounters, other close scrapes, other incidents in which I’m sure you’d find some enjoyment in reading over, but they’ll stay for next time.
Stay indoors perhaps; but DO NOT SHAVE.