AUGUST 13, 2007

by Kelly

Project Absurd recently went on a little vay-cay to The Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania. We visited several odd little places that were somewhat off the proverbial beaten path and plan on bringing them all to you very soon. Our first stop was a funky little zoo somewhat near Hamlin, PA called Claws 'N' Paws Wild Animal Park.

As we pulled in to the parking area at Claws 'N' Paws, an SUV pulled up next to us. We were still getting our stuff together (we had ridden at least an hour to get here) when the woman on the passenger side of the SUV - next to where Ham sat in the driver's seat of our car - decided the time was right to change her little one's diaper. Fine. Whatever. But instead of treating her child with any dignity at all, she decides she's changing the kid on her seat while standing outside the SUV with the door wide-open. And she was well-aware we were still in our car. It was heinous. The kid was in FULL VIEW of either of us, if you know what I'm saying - but believe me, we weren't looking. We were, however, trapped in the car. Ham couldn't get out without having to see things he'd rather not see. I couldn't turn and talk to him without the same. What is THE MATTER with people?! ANYONE could have been parked next to them - innocent people like us, or raging pedophiles out for a fun day kiddie-watching at the zoo. Christ! Have some manners. Show your kids some respect. And before you go yelling at us that we don't know what it's like to find a place to change a kid - she had several other options - they had an SUV! There was plenty of room to get in the back seat with the door closed and do this. THE REST OF OUR PARKING AREA WAS EMPTY. They could have parked anywhere else to spare us and spare their kid the humiliation. Why am I going on about this? As you'll find out later, it was a theme of our day. The diaper changing part, I mean. 

We had to make a break for it. It was at least 85 degrees out and we were tired of waiting in the car (we had turned it off just before they pulled in). Ham closed his eyes and made a break for it, narrowly missing Mom's butt with the car door, as I ran out the other side mumbling passive-aggressive insults under my breath. We finally made it!

To get into the park you must walk through the gift shop and pay for a ticket. This guy was hanging out in the gift shop. He should really try some pants (our second creature with no pants)!

Carrying on the potty theme for a moment - we really had to go. It had been a long drive. Thank god there was a bathroom just inside the park! Well, that's what I thought before I actually got in there. The "bathroom" is a glorified outhouse. A port-a-potty that does not port. Like being at camp. It was so dark in there that with the stall door shut it was pitch-black. Aim for the seat and pray you don't fall in. No flushing required! I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Naturally, the sink and soap were outside the latrine. The sink has a foot-pedal to dispense water from the faucet. I had to be told this after standing there a few seconds like a dope. I would have figured it out - I'm just not a "camping" person at all whatsoever. I'm not used to these things. After all of this I was just impressed that there was soap at all. Here is my favorite bathroom ever:

The soap and water station is that grey thing in the front. The ladies room is that red door open on the right side of the building. I didn't take pictures in the bathroom itself. Would have been too weird. Besides, lord knows what you'd find living in there if you could actually see. I don't want to know.

Moving on from this nightmare, we found this rockin' group of cats, much like the Jimi Hendrix Experience...


...only way more sedate:


This little guy was waiting patiently for dinner and posed for my camera:

This giraffe was awesome. He, too literally poses for your camera, or so it seems. I took several photos while a handler was feeding him. This is my favorite:

Here is a bit more on the giraffe:

Just to our right and in front of the giraffe sits one of those gigantic wooden paintings with a hole cut out for a person's face to fit. A photo opp. We love these. Just as we decided to run over and get some photos (since it was empty) a family blocked our attempt. "To take a picture?" You may be asking. Oh hells no! They decided that this was the perfect spot to change their child's diaper! AAARRGH! NOT AGAIN! Oh yes...AGAIN! The glorifed outhouse was not far away (and, I believe, has a changing table in it - it is only pitch black inside a stall), but no, this, THIS was the right place to change their poor infant. Of course, there is no real place to lay a kid down behind this wall. So what happens next? DAD HOLDS CHILD DANGLING IN THE AIR IN FRONT OF HIM WHILE MOM CHANGES DIAPER. I kid you freaking not! Kid=butt-naked and screaming, Mom=yelling, Dad=yelling, their other child=screaming. Chaos. And again, heinousness for no good reason. Dangling your trouser-less child in public (and they were in full-view of anyone, the picture wall wasn't hiding a-ny-thing) is always a great idea. I hate people.

So, being completely grossed out at the prospect of standing where a public and very wriggly diaper-changing occurred, we decided not to wait and turned our attention to the male tiger that, up until this moment we did not realize was behind us. Thank god he wasn't feeling territorial on this day, because we were just about backed-up to his cage:


Yay, just what we required: more bathroom-oriented grossness!

I've pointed out some of the icky stuff here, mostly to be funny. So now I'll mention one of my favorite parts of this park - the white bengal tigers. Like the fox above, they were waiting for the handler to come with lunch. One was very close to the front of the enclosures watching for the food. Even so,  it was very docile and almost "sweet." Of course, there was a wall of glass and a fence between us. Again, I took several photos, but these are my favorites:


We love our silly signs. Some form of this one is at most animal parks and zoos:

I think that particular sign was referring to this dude (an emu):

We turned around from the emu and this camel was staring at us:

Too funny!

The, we saw It. A vision of greatness:

A dinosaur outpost! Yeeeeaaaaahhhhh!!!!! Giant dinosaurs were everywhere!


Then there was the "Dino-Dig" where, I guess, kids dig for "dinosaur bones" (plastic stuff in the dirt, I have since read). It was locked up at this moment:

Another "Fossil Hunt":

An alligator (crocodile?)! What the - ?!

A dinosaur egg photo opp:

There was even a quiz, for the most dinosaur-oriented people:

After the excitement in the Dinosaur Outpost, back in the park we just couldn't figure out what this thing was:

Here's a little fun tool involving a wall that no one could change a diaper behind:

It's hard to tell in the picture, but this measuring tool is actually wrong. The bottom-most measurement is 6 inches. But it is 6 inches off the ground! Up next to the wall, it said I was 5 feet tall and I am really 5'6". This could mess a kid up!

I waited patiently for a fairly long time to get a picture of this little guy (some kind of baby monkey). He had just been fed and was swinging and swinging while eating his vegetables. He was definitely one of the happiest animals I've ever seen in a zoo:

For those too skeeeered to go in the petting zoo, there was this alternative: in the petting zoo, but with a low fence between you and the animals. In other words, a:

Imagine our surprise when we came across a

He did all the standards, plus Billy Joel's "Piano Man!"

This guy wasn't taking any of our bullshizz:

Well, this isn't very nice:

(I kid, I kid!) And YES, I DO know the Kookaburra Song! My mother used to sing it at camp when she was a kid and taught it to me when I was a child. Thanks for asking. Gay, your life must be!

And finally, I guess this Ball Python must have been out seeing Black Leopard Experience:

Overall, this place was pretty fun. It was mostly the bad-mannered parents that were a nuisance here. And you can find that anywhere. One disturbing thing we did find was some sort of giant lizard thing (the size of a small alligator) in one of the buildings (more like a small room). It had its belly flat up to the front of its glass enclosure and was banging like John Bonham on the glass to get out. Or to be fed. Or something. There was no one in this room when we walked in. Just a few inhabited enclosures with more reptiles. And this guy in the corner playing Zeppelin's "Rock & Roll" on his potential escape route. The creature eventually fell down and I went over and talked to it in a soothing voice through the glass. This actually seemed to help. By the time a family came in behind us, the lizard thing seemed more calm. Maybe it was dinner time, as it was for other animals we saw, and the handler hadn't gotten there yet. I hope that's all it was. I got a picture of it on the glass, but have decided not to use it. This was disturbing to see and a bit scary, too.

All that being said, I'd still give this place a pretty good review because most of the other animals seemed completely at peace. If you're in the Poconos and feel like an animal adventure, be sure to visit Claws 'N' paws!

(Posted 08/29/2007)