Just look at that sweet little face down there. It's a marmoset, one of the world's smallest primates, and it's indigenous to the Central and South American rainforests. Which is why someone in East Palo Alto was startled to find this one running along their back fence yesterday. I should mention that despite its slightly exotic sound, East Palo Alto isn't exactly part of the rain forest. It's a suburb down Highway 101 in the Bay Area here in California, about a half hour from where I live.
So...holy cow. What would you do if you were, say, doing the dishes, maybe humming a little tune, la la la, and then looked up out the window...and saw that? Would you start to wonder just exactly how much wine you'd had with dinner?
"We thought, 'Sure. What have you been drinking?' Scott Delucchi, spokesman for the animal care agency, said of the call that came in from a resident saying a monkey was running along the back fence. "But when our officer arrived, there he was."
The marmoset is a tiny little thing, only twelve ounces, and no one knows where it came from. They were able to catch him, thank God, with the lure of a banana, and he's going to go live in Primarily Primates, a sanctuary in Texas. Which ought to be a bit of a culture shock for the marmoset, if he's a Bay Area native. Here's the whole story.
It's kind of wondrous to stumble across a wild creature like that, and it suspends you in a moment of absolute sweet surreality—provided, of course, you haven't stumbled across a python, or something. (Still surreal, but less sweet.) A few years ago, my route to the train station from my job near the Embarcadero in San Francisco (close to San Francisco Bay) took me past a bar called Bricks and through a small park studded with with cypress trees. One evening as I passed Bricks I saw a...tiny cockatiel sitting at the curb. This little green thing. Like it had just stopped in for a few drinks and was waiting for a cab. It flew away as I drew nearer, and I thought, "Huh. Someone's pet, perhaps, has escaped." And I wished it good luck, and wondered how it would survive.
But then, as I entered the park, I heard this racket that sounded like...Good God, it sounded like... But it couldn't be... Could it?
I slowly looked up and saw, perched in the cypress trees...dozens of brilliant, noisy parrots. Chattering away. Big, green and red exotic birds, clinging to the branches, hanging upside down, preening, just generally being parrots. It was absolutely glorious, like plummeting headfirst into a Garcia Marquez novel. And it brought on a brief sort of out-of-body experience, because it took me a moment to synchronize my accepted sense of reality with what I was actually seeing.
I'd stumbled across the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill, a famous flock of parrots all of which probably used to be pets but have managed to create a home with each other in San Francisco. That particular park, and those cypress trees, are part of their daily route, too. The wonderful 2003 documentary about them recieved rave reviews. It's a marvelous story.
And one day my sister, who lives in a woodsy town in very northern California, was driving along a curving mountain road when she noticed something odd jogging alongside the road. Something, um, unnervingly taller than the car. She slowed the car...and had her own sort of "Holy crap!" moment. Because it was an emu. A giant, prehistoric-looking, three-toed bird, jogging down a mountain road. And when she pulled up alongside it, it actually slowed down and peered into her car. LOL. Turns out there was an emu farm in the hills where she lived, and this one had gone on the lam.
And so, since I won't be blogging on the weekends, generally, I just wanted to share those stories with you, and here's hoping your Fourth of July is safe, colorful, and delicious, and may you have a few wondrous, exotic encounters of your own. :) And if you've had any odd little exotic encounters of your own, whether startling or wonderful, tell me about them in the comments!