With 24 vendors pouring small samples under a tent, in theory this could have lead to talking with the zoo dwellers. I am happy to report no one was inspired to swim with the dolphins, as nobody took the bait when I offered that as an activity option to the tipsy as the afternoon wound down.
A recent video from Ireland shows this might not be as much fun as Flipper made it out to be (www.irishcentral.com/news/When-dolphins-attack-video-shows-Dusty-attack-swimmer–219238811.html).
The area where you can watch the dolphins swim in their tank actually holds one of the zoo’s most intimidating displays – a men’s bathroom where near the door, in big letters, it asks “How do you measure up?” I dared not enter, although my best fest buddy Tom did, and seemed relieved afterward.
As for anything Irish to be found at Brookfield Zoo, there is a mural – courtesy of the Irish American Heritage Center – reproducing animal illustrations found in the Book of Kells, the 1,200-year-old collection of the gospels lavishly put together by Celtic monks. Using the handy Irish Rovers checklist, the zoo holds alligators, geese, camels, cats, rats, elephants but no unicorns.
There also was this overactive chipmunk who followed us around for a bit. He seemed to be chattering in a Disney sort of way about free food to be found somewhere on the grounds. Looking back, I think he was in cahoots with either the lioness or the tigress that were staring at me, much like they would glare at an overweight deer. Or maybe those were stares of mutual respect for a fellow big meat eater.
There are some animatronic dinosaurs on display, and there is some evidence real dinosaurs once roamed what now is Northern Ireland (www.culturenorthernireland.org/article/209/when-dinosaurs-ruled-in-northern-ireland) – as recently as when Maggie Thatcher ruled England. And the zoo still has those Mold-A-Rama injecting molding machines at which for $2 you get a hot wax sculpture of certain species.
There are polar bears, which scientists claim have their roots in Ireland (www.npr.org/2011/07/23/138640834/todays-polar-bears-trace-ancestry-to-ireland). So I paid my kinsmen a visit.
Since it is not a bright idea to actually have your picture taken with any sort of bear – but maybe for the ones you might find on Halsted Street or Soldier Field – I opted to pose with a sign noting that the polar bears are relying on us to combat climate change. I am the one in the shot in the black shirt.
I also was making a mental list of all the species present which I had eaten, which included bison at Ted Turner’s, turtle soup in New Orleans, bear at a barbecue in Sleepy Hollow, and kangaroo at a Christmas street market in Galway.
But alas, according to the zoo’s public relations office, aside from the above it seems Brookfield doesn’t have any animals in its collection that live or pass through Ireland.
The petting zoo is being remodeled, so I didn’t catch any sheep. My guess is they are in hiding as Irish accordion master Joe Cullen is back stateside and has been spotted in the Chicago area.
There are no red stags or red deer at Brookfield. No puffins – but a toucan, which is Irish only because Guinness chose to use the colorful big-billed birds in ads, just like Froot Loops does. And I dare you to have the two together.
At Zoo Brew (brookfieldzoobrew.eventbrite.com), the guy pouring the less-than-half-pints from Diageo had an ominous statue of a raven holding a Guinness glass on display – because you can never get ready for Halloween too soon. He also was offering samples of malt beverage-based peach bellinis, a soda pop of a pop, which if you were a bad grandparent tired of the annoying grandkids you might be tempted to serve them as “nap juice.”
But hey, there was an apricot brew from Pyramid, ciders from Tenth and Blake and Sam Adams, and pumpkin beers from New Belgium, Wild Onion and Southern Tier, which was my favorite as it tasted like pie with whipped cream – and reminded me of how I probably will be eating dessert if and when I make it to 100.
The Wild Onion also had a Paddy Pale Ale, which may have been pale as I am, but also is hoppy, and I am not an India Pale Ale kind of guy.
They passed out little pencils and sheets listing all that was there, so you could keep score – and maybe even one day make the professional tour.
It all went down while a group of funky white boys called Hot Sauce played rap and dance hits, mostly from the 90s – stuff you find on Rhino’s Millennium Hip-Hop collections (www.amazon.com/Millennium-Hip-Hop-Party/dp/B00000IPXY) and hear at suburban wedding receptions.
Of course, there were souvenirs for sale, including bacon flavored sticks and bacon flavored candy canes, as Christmas is just a little more than four months away!
When buying a t-shirt I bumped into a woman who was paying for an ice chest filled with goodies from Magic Hat that she won in a silent auction. I will call her Elder Betty, because that’s one of the labels from the Magic Hat portfolio.
I helped Betty carry her booty back to her buddies. Then, trying to recoup her expenditure, Betty tried to sell me a Magic Hat ski cap for $20 from her stash. I told her it looked much better on her, as if she were a member of U2 or the Edge’s sister (www.u2.com/news/title/a-day-in-the-life-of-edge).
So she settled on giving me what apparently is the world’s largest beer coaster, a pizza-sized wafer touting the brand.
With the gift accepted, we headed home for Chinese food and the hope that one day, somewhere, someone will be able to make a Mold-A-Rama of a red stag or a puffin, and it will be because a zoo was inspired by this piece to Irish up its collection.