EVEN BETTER THAN I IMAGINED!!!

Posted in animals on October 13th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We are back from Illinois; actually we got back a few days ago, but things here have been so non-stop that I’m not even unpacked from the weekend trip yet – working on that this week.  But I had to take a break and write about the super fun Jack Hanna show that we were able to see while in Illinois – after all my anticipating, it was somehow even better than I had imagined!!!

We were the first ones to arrive at Aurora’s Paramount Theater (a lovely old-fashioned theater with beautiful architecture – in fact, it was chosen  to be the setting for a few scenes of the Johnny Depp movie about the mobster John Dillinger called Public Enemies that was recently released), so we opted to stand in line rather than wait at the bar.  This way, we were first upstairs for our “Jamboree Lunch” and got first pick of our seats.  Seeing as how there were only two ways that Jack could get up to the second floor – stairs or elevator – we chose the table nearest both entrances.  We went to go pick up our lunch – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, fruit snacks, and chips situated in a safari hat – and came back to our table which had a bunch of little animal toys on it: lion rulers, a finger puppet zebra, coloring pages, and a parachuting tiger (oh how tempting it was to let him loose over the railing to sail down into the lobby… but Jack was due to arrive, so we were on our best behavior).  Once we saw that all of the kids at the event were going to be seated elsewhere, I scooped up all of the jungle paraphernalia and put it in my purse.  We put on our safari hats and ate our PB & J – did I mention that this event was designed for kids?  Had we known before we got there, we would have brought our kids, but it wasn’t very well organized and so we didn’t really realize it until we got there – oh well.  All was forgotten once Jack Hanna arrived!!  If you don’t know who Jack  Hanna is, here is a brief synopsis:  Jack Hanna is an animal guy, and he was the director of the now world famous Columbus Zoo from 1978-1992.  In that time, he put that zoo on the map; it went from being a place that even locals didn’t know existed to a world renowned animal facility, and attendance at the zoo increased by 400%!  He now travels the world visiting endangered species, zoos, and making live show and tv show appearances (his monthly appearances on David Letterman’s show are always entertaining!!), all in the name of bringing awareness to wildlife conservation.

So anyway, at the Jungle Jamboree lunch, Jack goes from table to table (preceded by a woman carrying a baby wallaby in a pouch and a man with a fox), and he comes to our table first!!  He had limited time at each table of course, but he autographed a little picture of himself, and we did have time to tell him how we saw him at Sea World on our honeymoon in 1999.  He asked if we liked animals, and my response went something like this: “Duh, huh huh huh”.  As much as I had been thinking about what to say to Jack, it happened to me again.  When I finally met him, I was dumbfounded and couldn’t think about the most important things to talk about in such a little time.  No matter; we would be meeting him AGAIN later that same day!!

So after that, we went back downstairs to the merchandise table, and Hubby bought me Jack’s new book (My Wild Life – it’s kind of a re-write / update to my favorite book, Monkeys on the Interstate.  But I didn’t have this new book yet, and needless to say now that I have it, my reading of the Harry Potter series has taken a backseat!), and we waited for Jack to finish at the lunch tables upstairs.  He came downstairs, there was just a few minutes wait, and then we met him AGAIN and he signed my new book, plus ALL of the books of his that I had brought along – and I had a huge purse full.  We explained to him that he is our favorite celebrity (“Oh, I’m not a celebrity!”  he said.), and the nice guy behind us took this picture (note that Hubby still has on his safari hat!):

Not sure what to do with ourselves after our autograph session, we were SO tempted to get back in line.  After all, Jack  Hanna, our favorite celebrity animal conservation personality was sitting within 10 feet of us!  But we wanted to give other people a chance to meet him, and I’m glad we chose to just stand there and gawk at him from the sidelines for 25 minutes rather than getting back in line – turns out that some people didn’t get a chance to get his autograph since he was whisked away to get ready for the stage show.  It just wouldn’t have been fair for us to be in the line twice.  He announced later that people who didn’t get a chance to get his autograph could just email his website and an autographed pic would be sent out.  No offense, Jack, but that’s just not the same as meeting you in person!  I am SO thankful that we got to meet him, and he is even more humble and down-to-earth than he seems on tv!!

Well, this blog post got lengthy, and I haven’t even talked about the stage show yet, so I think I will cut this into multiple posts as my little guy is finished with his ‘quiet time’.  Unfortunately for me (and my ever-growing list of housework), my 2-year-old has outgrown his naps so I don’t have nearly as much free time during the day as I need to get everything done.  So you’ll have to wait until my next post (or two or three) to read about the actual Jack Hanna stage show (best show I’ve EVER seen!!!) and the other stuff we crammed into our jam-packed super-fun Illinois weekend.  Until then…

Jack Hanna!!!

Posted in animals on October 7th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

While my girls are counting down the days until they get to go to their Grandma’s house, I am counting the days until I get to see a LIVE JACK HANNA SHOW!!!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited to see family too, but I’ve been waiting to see a live Jack Hanna show for over a decade!!!

I’ve had the show tickets in the car for about two weeks now, since I was so sure that I’d forget them.  I’ve already packed my glasses too, so I can actually see Jack and the animals from my seat.  And I’ve been “cramming” all week – trying to quickly re-read my favorite book, Jack Hanna’s Monkeys on the Interstate.  If all goes well, I should be finished with it by Saturday when I see Jack.  Because we have tickets for a pre-show event called a Jamboree Lunch, I’m hoping for maybe an autograph or even an opportunity to chat with Mr. Hanna!  I know it’s a shot in the dark, but I’ve made a mental list of things I’d bring up just in case; many of them are from the Monkeys book.  Even if I don’t get an opportunity to talk to Mr. Hanna, I am ecstatic just to be able to see his show!!!  I really enjoy his appearances on Letterman every month, and I’m beyond excited to see Mr. Hanna live!!  Just in case, I’m bringing an array of my Hanna collection in case I get a chance to seek an autograph, but I’m not expecting it or anything – don’t want to be disappointed.  It would be nice, however, to replace our autographed Jack Hanna honeymoon memento.  Now I have to tell that story…

When my husband and I took our honeymoon to Florida in 1999, we were driving from where we lived in Illinois to Florida (which is a very LONG drive…  but for some reason, I cannot remember exactly what it was like to do that WITHOUT KIDS along…), and we were talking about all the things we would do.  One of the things that came up  was celebrities we would like to run into, and Jack Hanna was the only one we both decided we would really care about running into.  Once in Florida, we visited Sea World, and we were going to go into the underwater viewing area for  the dolphins, but it was roped off – “TV show taping in progress”.  Just before we turned away to head to something else, a worker lifted the ropes, so in we went, and the crew was packing up the cameras, and THERE WAS JACK HANNA!!!  And we were all alone since the area had just been closed off – no mob of fans to compete with.  Ok, so maybe Jack  Hanna isn’t the type of celebrity to have fans mobbing him wherever he goes, but to me, he is an animal hero.  His Monkeys on the Interstate book chronicles his creativity, his strength through adversity, and his triumphs (and failures!) he went through as he was building the once unheard of Columbus Zoo into the world famous, state-of-the-art zoo facility it is today – a fascinating read for anyone who loves animals, zoos, Jack Hanna, or who just likes funny stories!!  Jack Hanna is a marketing and animal genius!  But I digress – back to my story…

So we got to meet Jack Hanna, right there at Sea World.  I was not expecting it, so I gummed up and let my husband do the talking, and Jack whipped out an 8×10 glossy picture and autographed it, putting our names on it and everything.  Unfortunately, this picture was one of a few irreplaceable items that were entrusted to so-called “friends” during a move we had, never to be seen again…  but that’s another story and nothing I want to dwell upon now.

So yeah, IF I actually get to talk to Jack again this time, I have my list of things I want to talk about…  though it’s quite lengthy, and my brain will be swimming with basically EVERYTHING from the Monkeys on the Interstate book, as well as things I want to know about starting my own zoo – hey, that shouldn’t come as a big surprise to any of my readers, so lift your dropped jaw.  Those of you who know me realize that I have a pretty good start on one already, don’t you?  🙂

This is Jack at one of his Letterman appearances.  Each of his appearances on Letterman has moments of hilarity as Jack tries so hard to get in his animal facts while Letterman is busy making jokes and heckling him.  After decades of monthly appearances, the two have built a relationship of sorts, and Jack now brings animals that sometimes shock, awe, and even scare Letterman!!  Never a dull moment when Jack’s around…

The Crabby Magician

Posted in animals, Kids on February 10th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday was one of the funnest days I’ve had in a long time.  I’ve been having major zoo-fever lately, and my husband knew this and renewed our Toledo Zoo membership online before I even woke up Saturday morning.  When I finally arose, he said, how about going to the zoo today?  So we packed up all the kids, and took advantage of the almost 50° weather and headed to the zoo.  We first ate lunch at our new favorite eating establishment in the Toledo area; a place called Nick’s Cafe on Reynolds Road in Maumee.  They have excellent gyros and scrumptious Greek salads, just to name a couple of their delicious dishes…  pretty much everything is made from scratch.  Potatoes are sliced up for french fries right there in the kitchen, gyros are off the spit, the burger meat is hand-rolled… you get the idea.  Awesome food and great service too.  Highly recommended from this hard-to-please food critic!

On Saturday, everyone at Nick’s was staring at us because of our four five adorable kids – we let our oldest invite her friend along who had slept over the night before.  It made for a mini-van filled to capacity, but I’m so glad we invited her because she is a great kid, a big help (especially with our little ones because in her family, she is smack dab in the middle of 5 in birth order and knows how to help in cases of sibling rivalry!), and she had never been to a zoo before!  If I had known that, we would have taken her sooner…  Every kid needs to get to a zoo! This little girl is 9-years-old and for me, a highlight of my trip on Saturday was getting to witness her experience the zoo for the first time: the cuteness of a real-life cheetah, the immensity of a white rhinoceros, the playfulness of the baby orangutans…  I’m currently reading Jack Hanna’s new book, My Wild Life right now and it details many of the trials and tribulations the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo has gone through to get where he is today.  In one chapter, he addresses his many critics (people who protest live animals being held captive in zoos, as well as protesting Jack’s taking animals on television show appearance tours), and Jack says something in defense of these practices which I completely agree with: Captive animals are ambassadors of their cousins in the wild.  We NEED to have zoos and reach out to the public with animal tv appearances; it’s the only way to get people to care enough to help with conservation.

So anyway on Saturday, after lunch, we made our way to the zoo.  When we first got in, we discovered there was going to be a magic show in the Museum of Science (one of those old Works Progress Administration buildings from the post-Great Depression era; I love their architecture!).  We settled in with the kids looking forward to a fun show.  My husband is into magic, and we staged a magic show for our local theater company a few years ago, so I know a little bit about how some tricks are performed – enough to know that this guy hired by the Toledo Zoo last Saturday was simply awful.  First, he began the show with a crabby demeanor.  He didn’t have much charisma or charm; he wasn’t very good with the kids, and his tricks stank – everything he performed could be bought in a magic store for under $100 – for the whole lot!  And during the show, he would literally sum up his tricks with one sentence – “and that’s the magic coloring book.”  Also, according to my husband, he continuously broke one of the cardinal rules of magic – telling his audience what to expect ahead of time.  For example, he had a ball trick where he told the audience, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if the red ball were no longer on the top?”  And then magically, it wasn’t…  Amazing trick, maybe; amazing magician, I think not…  On top of all that, he messed up some tricks (which happens, I guess…  a little hard to forgive when it involves tricks this simple, but…), and announced the fact that he did indeed mess them up!  Oh well, this “magic” show was free with zoo admission.  I was a little anxious after the first 7 or 8 minutes; wanting to make sure we had enough time to see actual animals, but the kids seemed to like the show, so we did not leave the magic show before its finale.  I will mention that we literally broke into a run when the guy announced that he was doing a puppet show next…  Our 4-year-old was asking to see it, but I cannot imagine what that guy (his name is Chris Clark and you can click on his name to visit his website if you’re interested in renting a magician entertainer popcorn machine) would do with puppets, so we told her we missed the puppet show…  Besides, we were at the zoo to see animals, and we were running out of time!  Here is a picture of the crabby magician (sorry Derek for the large pics – I don’t really have time to be trying to figure out how to change code):

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But not a terrible experience, because look at the amazement on the face of our 4-year-old when she witnessed the “magic”:

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Luckily, we did get out of the magic show in time to see lots of animals at the zoo.  The elephants were moved from their outdoor exhibit to indoors, and in the process, they crossed the path right in front of us zoo visitors:

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Then, the silverback (dominating male and largest) gorilla was sitting right up against the glass of his exhibit, and at the Toledo Zoo, the visitors are allowed to get right up close and personal with the great apes.  Unfortunately, I had run out of available space on my camera after taking so many pictures of the worst magician in the world – I was worried people wouldn’t believe me about how awful he was,so I made sure to snap lots of pics!  But anyway, the silverback gorilla was right there, and as we did with the chimp just minutes before, we held up everything we had in our arsenal (double-stroller) that we thought might interest him, but all to no avail.  Maybe he likes shiny things, we thought, so we held up our car keys.  Maybe he will recognize babies, we decided, so we held up our 7 month old son…  and no reaction (held up the baby with caution since witnessing a gorilla CHARGE a little boy and pound the glass really hard in his exhibit in Omaha Nebraska years ago)…  This gorilla stayed cool as a cucumber and didn’t react to any of it.

My one complaint about this zoo visit (besides the magic show!) is:  where the heck is the octopus?  He is usually one of our favorite animals to see at the zoo, and this time he was missing – something else was in his tank.  That’s disappointing, the octopus was always fascinating for our family and fun to watch.  I hope nothing bad happened to him…

Dinner at Steak N Shake after the zoo was also a fun treat – yes, even Steak N Shake is a treat when you live in a rural utopia like we do since the closest decent sit-down chain restaurant is an hour away.  A fun treat (had to be something casual after a big day with 5 kids who had had a sleepover the night before), and Disney, our 2-year-old, went poopie on the potty for the first time EVER at Steak N Shake!  That reminds me, we used to live in the same town – Normal, IL (which is actually anything but normal) as the very first Steak N Shake restaurant – it is (or at least was 10 years ago when we lived there) still in its original building – too bad I wasn’t into history as much then as I am now…  Oh well, anyway, extremely fun time at the zoo.  And as I always ask the kids, what was your favorite animal that you saw today?  Mine was the silverback gorilla.  He was magnificent.  For awhile, the gorillas were my favorite animal to see at the zoo.  Then we visited frequently last summer and got to know the family of orangutans, especially dad Boomer (an extraordinary orang because he actually plays with and helps care for his offspring – orangs in the wild and even in captivity are very easily annoyed with youngsters).  Boomer and the fam are doing great and only fell short of being my favorite animal at the zoo this weekend because of the close proximity of the humongous silverback gorilla…  Maybe my preferences will reverse next spring when I visit and the orangs are back outside and pushing their button which sprays water upon unsuspecting zoo guests…  Looking forward to that!

Vacation Diary – Chapter Two

Posted in Uncategorized on October 31st, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 20 (Disney’s 2nd birthday!!) – Started off bright and early in Orlando with a time share presentation – yuck.  We’ve been to a few of these, and we try to schedule at least one every time we’re in the Orlando area because they pay well.  This time, we got $100 cash.  It took over 3 hours, but hey, that’s over $30/hour – well worth it in my opinion.  I could go on and on about time share presentations because there are always certain things they do to get you to buy one – there must be a formula to the presentations.  And let’s face it, they’re one of the biggest rip-offs that exist.  The last few we’ve gone to, we’ve played a little game where I think of a random word my husband has to say to the time share people.  This time it was “gondola”.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get the word in because the presentation took much longer than they said it would (big surprise) and we had our friend jamiahsh waiting for us.  This also saw us getting to Epcot later than we would have liked, but we still got to do most of everything we wanted at Epcot.  If you’ve been to a time share presentation (or 2 or 3 or more), then you should check out the South Park episode about it.  I’m not a huge fan of the show, but the time share episode is hilarious.  It was actually recommended to us by a time share salesman once!

The manatees are my favorite thing at Epcot.  My husband makes fun because we have manatees right here at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, but that’s 3 hours away and I’ve only been there once.  Besides, I’ve been to Epcot a bunch and I’m starting to get to know their manatees.  Last time I was lucky enough to see them hugging!  A peaceful feeling comes over me as I watch them swim.  We did miss the Crush (from Finding Nemo) show, and we meant to go back for it but forget – oh well.  And for those of you who’ve been to Disney World before, you should know that they’ve updated the Spaceship Earth ride – that’s the one in the big huge golfball that is Epcot’s signiture.  I don’t like the new version nearly as much as the old one.  The ride needed updating.  It takes riders through the history of human communication, and ome of the scenes had become outdated as time passed because people don’t communicate in the ways that they visualized we would when the ride was built.  Soarin’ is my favorite ride at Epcot, but it always has HUGE lines.  This time we were able to get a fastpass, but we could only ride once and my husband wasn’t able to ride because our 2 year old was in a Daddy-clingy kind of mood.  We ended the night at Epcot by running all over the park in a desperate search for a soft pretzel.  Our 4-year-old was being so uncharacteristically well-behaved that I was willing to get her anything she wanted, especially since she was asking about it nicely.

I Never Thought About the Crate Being Square and the Turnstile Being Round…

Posted in animals, TV Shows on May 8th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

In case you’ve missed my previous posts about animals and Jack Hanna, let me explain that Jack Hanna is my favorite celebrity and how much I really enjoy following his adventures through zoo life.  In case you don’t know who Jack is, he is the man who gave Columbus, Ohio a zoo.  They did have one before, even though many residents weren’t even aware of it, but with Jack’s brilliance in zoo management and marketing, the Columbus Zoo has become one of the most reknowned zoos in the world today.  These days, Jack spends his time filming tv shows of his own, and also bringing animals around the country for appearances in theaters and on other tv shows, such as David Letterman, Maury Povich, and Good Morning America in order to educate people about respecting animals.  Whenever animals are involved, situations can easily become unpredictable.  Throw Jack into the mix, and these situations now become hilariously entertaining and unpredictable. Things seem to happen to Jack, and if you’d like an example of what I mean, check out the following article detailing an animal mishap Jack encountered at the airport last September:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Animal expert Jack Hanna and an 11-month-old flamingo became trapped while trying to squeeze through an airport security turnstile. It took firefighters to finally get the flamingo out.  Animal expert Jack Hanna had a close encounter with a flamingo Sunday.  Hanna, the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and a frequent guest on nationally televised talk shows, was returning from a zoo fundraiser with a mongoose, a small leopard and the flamingo. Three other people were with them.  The entourage arrived at the Ohio State University Airport just after midnight Sunday to find the terminal closed. The only way to leave the tarmac was through a 10-foot-tall metal turnstile with several horizontal bars — not the easiest exit to squeeze through when you’re traveling with boxed-up animals, Hanna said.  “I never thought about the crate being square and the turnstile being round,” he said.  Hanna, 60, pushed the flamingo’s 2-foot-by-3-foot compartment into the turnstile, then continued pushing while straddling the crate.  “I was stuck like a worm. My eyes were as big as grapefruits,” he said. “I can’t describe the feeling in my stomach. I can’t move up or down. The bars are on your face.”  Hanna said he eventually squirmed free, leaving the flamingo still wedged inside and everyone else trapped on the tarmac. He then walked to a nearby fire station for help. It took three firefighters to hoist the flamingo’s crate up and out of the turnstile, he said.  Columbus fire department logs show the firefighters arrived at the airport at 12:30 a.m. for a “flamingo rescue,” spokeswoman Kelly McGuire said.  Hanna joked that the next time he flies through the airport, the biggest animal he’ll bring is a gerbil.

If you were entertained by the preceding article, I highly recommend Jack’s book Monkeys on the Interstate which details his life before and during his days at the Columbus Zoo – it’s a VERY entertaining and funny read, especially for animal lovers and zoo enthusiasts.  I really hope I can schedule some time to catch Jack at one of his appearances soon, but until then, I will keep checking for him on Letterman and will probably check out the book for a fourth time!