NonMonkey the Numbnuts goes to the zoo. Zoo visitors wonder why he's on their side of the bars:
Tim the Terrible goes after state's favorite zoo
RYAN: Tim the Terrible? Really? This is what passes for political discourse at the Strib? You'd think a newspaper that's wallowing in its own irrelevance would try to cling to some some shred of objectivity. This is the kind of thing you'd expect to be gracing the pages of Minnesota Monitor. . . oh, wait.
THOAG: "Tim The Terrible?" He wants to invoke "Ivan the Terrible" in rerferring to the governor?
If only he'd turn loose mobs of goons with knouts against these morons.
Monday morning at Como Park Zoo: It was 37 degrees with a biting wind and one more notable condition. A full parking lot.
The Head of Alfredo Garcia: Is that what they're calling that "condition" these days?
FOOT: Tim Pawlenty estimated the crowd at 20, while the AP, NonMonkey and MNPact put the number at slightly above eleventy million.
Como may not get the respect it deserves from political cheap shot artists. But it gets the public -- by the millions.
FOOT: Remember that "cheap shot" line. Especially the "cheap" part.
Como often is a scapegoat for cheapskate grandstanders, despite an agreement with the state, made when the Minnesota Zoo was funded, to maintain Como as a free, user-friendly city zoo where children can actually see zoo animals. Despite the frequent attacks, Como has thrived and survived to become one of the most-loved family amenities in Minnesota, and the most-visited one.
RYAN: If you build it, they will come. If you make it free, they'll crawl over their own mothers just to get there. It's hardly a surprise a "free" zoo is a popular family attraction. Also, I notice Nick wrote "to maintain Como as a free, user-friendly city zoo," which it is, AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE. What was axed was a multi-million dollar earmark to provide gorillas with nicer digs from within which they can better fling their flourescent green poo (I speak from experience as a witness to such a gorilla pastime).
FOOT: Actually, the Mall of America is the most visited one. By about 39 million visitors per year. Yet when the folks that own the Mall go begging for money, people like NonMonkey howl like a bunch of, well, howler monkeys. (In fairness, that's one of the few times they're ever right.)
An estimated 1.7 million people a year visit the zoo and conservatory, which are open 365 days a year and free to the public (donations of $2 per adult and $1 per child are suggested).
FOOT: So's the Mall. (Donations not solicited or required)
THOAG: Y'know, I've been to Como. It's nice zoo. It'd better be - I pay for it! What I don't get - and Coleman doesn't bother to explain - is what the imperative is to make a "free" public zoo the very best free public zoo - why, at a time when most of us are tightening our belts, the zoo is sacrosanct.RYAN: Let's see. . . 1.7 million people a year. . . $11 million in earmarked upgrades. . . that's just about $6.50 per visitor. Gosh, it's almost as if there's maybe, JUST MAYBE, some way that money could be raised OTHER than taxing EVERYBODY in the state.
The zoo provides what director Mike Hahm calls "a nose-to-nose experience" with wildlife. Nine of the 10 most popular zoo species are found at Como (only elephants are missing) [kind of like the entire city of St. Paul, come to think of it. --Foot] and if you have kids, or ever were a kid, you know that Como is a family tradition for thousands of Minnesotans.
RYAN: I know I love seeing my tax dollars go towards the family traditions of thousands of Minnesotans. Even though I, myself, have never been to the zoo, it sure gives me warm fuzzies knowing little Timmy can go nose-to-nose with a camel on my tax dime. Happy to pay for an animal snogging Minnesota!
FOOT: Aaaaaaaand cue the insipid "man on the street" interview...
Not just in St. Paul: Eighty-four percent of visitors come from elsewhere, including Kim Frantz of Prior Lake, who was visiting the zebras on Monday with her children, Ravlin, 2, and Nissa, 1.
FOOT: People come all the way from... Prior Lake! Next he'll be telling us of the free zoo pilgrims from exotic places like Roseville! Or Oakdale! And let's not forget Plymouth. Everybody knows a cheapskate that lives in Plymouth.
"We like Como because we read books to the kids about animals at the zoo, and they are all here," she said. "If you go to the Minnesota Zoo, you might see three kinds of buffaloes, and that rings the bell too, sometimes. But here, you're going to see zebras and giraffes."
THOAG: I suppose we should be thankful Coleman didn't demand we buy the books for Ravlin and Nissa, too.
Am I going to regret writing this? (Not as much as Rovlin and Nissa are going to regret their parents' flight of naming fancy...)
FOOT: As if "The Head of Alfredo" is a totally common first name...
THOAG: Take it up with my dad, "The Anus of Schimmel Bronfman"."This is the people's zoo," said Lisa McGinnity, of St. Anthony, who was visiting the primates with her daughter Riley, 9, and Riley's "most fantabulous" friend, Kaylee. "We come to Como at least once a month, and I've been coming since I was a kid.
RYAN: It's not often you see such refreshing honesty from Nick Coleman; he readily admits doing an interview with Nick Coleman is also referred to as "visiting the primates." You notice how during neither "person-on-the-street" fluffery, Coleman asked his most fantabulous interviewees whether they'd donated at the front gate? Hmmm.
THOAG: Y'know, my kids and I have all the same wonderful memories of the zoo that Coleman is blathering about. But when you get right down to it, zoos are not essential (in any sense that a, heh, non-monkey would recognize; not on a par with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
So let's work out a compromise; maybe we can build a million-dollar pen for Nick Coleman?
"We love it here."
Unfortunately, real people's preferences don't always count in the jousting of politicians.
THOAG: Right. Just ask everyone that's going to have to pay out the ass for the "Central Corridor".
Como got a whipping last week from Tim the Terrible Pawlenty, who took out his wrath on Democrats by axing every item of investment in the city of St. Paul, including the Central Corridor train and the zoo -- a total of $127 million from the place Pawlenty used to think of as "the city" whenever he thought of going to one (he grew up in South St. Paul, the steak-supply side of town).
FOOT: If anybody knows what the hell that parenthetical means, please clue me in.
RYAN: That's easy. Nick knows stuff.
The Head of Alfredo Garcia: But not "how to avoid facile cliches". Nick you nutslapping drama queen - it's politics. Saint Paul's delegation fought Pawlenty on the budget; Pawlenty is fighting back.
Or isn't that part of the "stuff" you "know"?
FOOT: Republicans aren't allowed to fight back, remember? When they do, they're "hating."
Why do you hate so much, Head?
THOAG: Because I'm hungry as hell, and I have no f****ng idea where the "steak supply side of town" is.
Perhaps Gov. Pawlenty has decided he will be leaving St. Paul to move into the vice presidential bunker in Washington. All I know is that no one who loves the capital city of Minnesota would sign off on $75 million for new hockey rinks across Minnesota while slashing the state's favorite zoo.
FOOT: Ah shit. Now I have to let Chad in on the multifisk.
Yes, I have a brother in the St. Paul mayor's office who is steamed at T-Paw. But the brother can take care of himself. This is personal with me. It's not about the mayor. I have loved Como Zoo since before I could walk [which he just mastered late last week--RYAN]. And I have a bunch of kids who have done the same. They love Como Zoo, and I hope they take their kids to Como long after I am gone.
THOAG: If I were your kid, Coleman, I'd only go out if you were gone.
RYAN: I love how, through Nick's hamfisted literary sleight of hand, he's somehow insinuating the zoo is going to be closed down and the animals rendered into hot dogs. I also like the gushing respect Nick shows for the office of the Minnesota governor, what with Tim the Terrible and T-Paw. Nick's a class act across the board.
Pawlenty's line-item vetoes of the DFL bonding bill gave it to Como Zoo in the shorts.
THOAG: Always the "gay" joke with Nick...
FOOT: And finally, in the 13th paragraph in the piece does Nick let the reader know that the cruel and draconian "slashes" to the bonding bill do not endanger the zoo, but only affect the updating of 2 exhibits:
Como lost $800,000 to finish a new polar bear exhibit that is just under way and, more critically, lost $10.2 million to overhaul the zoo's gorilla exhibit. That was the project that made Republican House Minority Leader Marty Seifert howl like a hyena.
FOOT: I would call Nick a "drama queen", but he'd probably think I was gay baiting him.
THOAG: Oooh! More "zoo"plays on words! "So the governor got Coleman's goat by vetoing the appropration, making Nick dance around like a red-assed baboon..."
Seifert made the gorilla plan sound as opulent as a Pohlad mansion on Lake Calhoun, ridiculing it as even more lavish than a place with hot tubs, brass beds and a giant garage.
FOOT: NonMonkey's right. For 10.2 million you could buy FIVE Lake Calhoun mansions.
RYAN: You do have to wonder what the hell kind of gorilla digs can be realized for a cool $10 million. I find it rather comical how Nick thinks that's a downright reasonable price tag. Then again, I suppose he thinks gorillas should be housed in such a way that they don't know they're in captivity, so they can confidently grunt, in gorilla-speak, "I'm nobody's monkey."
THOAG: I wonder if Laura Billings ever gets the urge to grunt "I'm nobody's 'Nobody's Monkey' monkey"?
As usual today, I will take pity on Young Marty, who is from Marshall and does not understand much beyond ethanol plants.
FOOT: And let's not leave out that he clings to religion and guns because of the economy.
THOAG: Coleman's right. He's nobody's monkey. He's everyone's ass.
He even said the state has to choose between school kids or gorillas. What?! The gorillas are for the kids, of course.
RYAN: A gorilla for every kid! Come on, kids! Get your gorilla's here. Fresh gorillas!
THOAG: Dissecting things in seventh-grade biology just got more interesting.
Como and the Minnesota Zoo (which didn't get much this year, either) are educations for all. I'd be happy to prove it by showing Seifert around the people's zoo sometime. I'll be the one walking upright [Wow, he sure is proud of his walking accomplishment!--RYAN].
Hahm, the zoo director, is nicer than I am.
FOOT: Michael Moore having a niccotine fit while watching a Krispy Kreme store burn down is nicer than you.
RYAN: Mel Gibson after a bottle of Jack Daniels and asked to opine about the Jews is nicer than you. Rosie O'Donnell after 46 years of having to be Rosie O'Donnell is nicer than you.
THOAG: A fat bald toothless wolverine with hemorrhoids and constipation is nicer than you. And writes better.
FOOT: Leona Helmsley while simultaneously undergoing a Brazillian wax and a tax audit was nicer than you.
Hey - this is fun!
He takes the Como bashing in stride, and is optimistic the gorilla exhibit will be funded in time to begin work after the Polar Bear Odyssey opens in 2010.
RYAN: Jeez, this guy almost seems downright reasonable; the kind of guy who knows that funding for public projects can be obtained through methods OTHER than a statewide tax, that people can be generous without having the money yanked from their pockets by the state. You can almost feel Coleman's disappointment radiating off the page; he was hoping to get some choice quotes of disgust and rage from Hahm, and instead Hahm threw a curveball of zen realism and acceptance, thus robbing Coleman of a real zinger of an ending.
THOAG: What's this? A public employee who knows about "prioritizing" and "saving money when times are tight?" I never heard about him in the Strib before...
...oh. OK. I get it now.
"The people always rally around Como," says Hahm, who grew up near the zoo. "This is a set back for the gorillas, and we've got to re-group. But we will move forward, because Como Zoo is a community tradition loved by the people. They understand it and support it.
"They always have. And I always have a smile on my face when I am on the grounds."
THOAG: Hanging around Coleman enough will fix that.
That's the thing about Como Zoo. The people keep coming. Generation after generation. And they keep loving it.
They won't quit.
FOOT: And neither will Nick...
RYAN: And with that lackluster finish, Coleman basically wrote a howling, flesh-rending column about. . . nothing at all.
THOAG: No shit. I'd hoped for a rousing "our zoos are burning".