While my wife and I were recently on furlough to her hometown in Oahu, we learned of a remarkable attraction: The Honolulu Zoo is currently the custodian of three tiger cubs. Now, I'm no huge fan of zoos. For me, it's a fine balance between sadness for caged wildlife and animal exposure and fundraising for conservation. When it comes to baby tigers, though there's something else at play. For example, in my wife's and my search for a residency, Washington University is high on our list because, yes, the St. Louis Zoo has FIVE baby tigers. (Actually, their lab medicine program is awesome - I haven't interviewed there yet.) But when we were visiting my in-laws and heard about the baby tigers, we took the day with the worst weather to visit the zoo.
It wasn't just caged tigers we saw... The first clue that something was up was that on a reasonably nice December afternoon, the longest line in Waikiki was not at the surfboard rental shop or the shave ice shack. It was at the zoo!!!
Exhibit A:The astute observer will find my wife in this image and the reason for our visit in the upper right corner. I wasn't about to stand in a line to see ostriches and elephants, so when I went up to the entry to ask if the tigers were on display, I was told bruskly that I needed to return to the line and wait to get the answer. Not the friendly zoo staff you'd imagine helping a lost child find her parents... The reason for the line was clear at the ticket counter. Everyone was being frisked by large crew-cut men with cords hanging from their ears. Why, what a nice purse you have there, sir! Broad shoulders, too. Do you work out?
But you know what an increased prevalence of body fat less than 10% linebacker types in "casual apparel" means...
...Barack Obama was at the zoo!
When we arrived at the tiger exhibit, not a feline was to be seen. Evidently, they were 'back-stage' for a special tour by some special guests. The perimeter was well secured.
See Exhibit B:
Those are some pretty heavy duty tiger-guards! You'd think the jungle predator (the tiger) could fend for itself. Note: the people behind the security were not ordinary zoo-goers. They were part of the Obama party. I think the Obama girls are seated on the park bench just over the Red Sox fan's right shoulder. They had just come out from a special feeding, play or education session with the tigers. At that point it came to pass that the first caged animal I actually saw at the zoo emerged from the brush. The tall man in the picture is Mufi Hannemann, Honolulu's mayor and presumably Obama's host. All joking aside, it was pretty amazing to be so close to the president-elect. I thought it would be more likely to see the family-elect in my wife's hometown: Kailua. It's unlikely that I'll ever see him in his natural habitat (Washington's corridors of power). After I got this photo, I moved on to the real attraction of the day: the tiger cubs. I was on crude digital camera videography duty. (My sister-in-law is the photographer of the family.) But I did snap this shot of one of the cubs.
Now if only there were a residency for Susan or me in Hawaii...