Where You Go
Chapter 5

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Cecelia directed me down to Central and over to New York, where we turned right – north – and pulled into the parking lot for the botanical gardens. She paid for three "all around" tickets as I call them – they'd let us into the gardens, the aquarium, and the zoo. We went into the aquarium first, to let the sun warm up the day while we looked at the fish. They had some marvels in there – jellyfish that were iridescent in the dim light, and enormous sharks with such prominent teeth that they couldn't close their mouths, and all sorts of things that were foreign to Cecelia and Darlia and flat out exotic to an old desert rat like me.

Cecelia and Darlia loved the botanical gardens. Cecelia's a flower person – come spring she'd be digging in the flower beds around the house and the planters that guard the border of the patio – and Darlia follows suit. To me, if it's not a cactus it's not worth noticing. Oh, I like catclaw and ironwood and greasewood and other desert plants, but to me the best "garden" is one where the fishhook cactus grows untended among the Joshua trees and it's not so much that the flowers have thorns, as that the thorns have flowers.

The zoo is hard to find if you don't know where it's at, but we'd been there a couple of times and I didn't have much trouble, even though that's not a part of town that I'm extremely familiar with. It must have seemed like a summer day in the Arctic to the polar bears. The last time I'd been there it had been high summer, and one of the bears had been lying on his stomach on the fake rocks with his rump in the water, keeping cool. I'm of two minds about zoos. On the one hand how else would most people ever see a polar bear, or a zebra, or a wildebeest? On the other hand, I wonder how kind it is to drag a polar bear down to where it routinely gets up to 100 or more in the summer, and it'll never freeze solid enough for him to walk on the ice.

But I don't take my moral qualms with me to the zoo. It exists and there's nothing I can do about it, even if I should, which I'm not certain of, and Darlia can learn a lot more about how a wolf walks or a condor roosts by seeing one live than she ever will watching PBS. Nor should I give the wrong impression – I enjoy the zoo myself.

There's another sort-of-zoo in Albuquerque, and after we'd had a snack at the Rio Grande Zoo, and finished looking at the animals, Cecelia directed me there. We paid for parking near Old Town – which actually isn't that far from the zoo; we might have walked if it hadn't been winter – and she took my arm and guided me straight to the Rattlesnake Museum. I'm blessed in having a family free from reptile and insect phobias. Cecelia isn't a big fan of snakes, but she doesn't panic when she sees one either – which makes our trips to Lanfair Valley easier, as there are snakes there, and not penned up either. Darlia absolutely loves snakes, and spiders, and scorpions, and such stuff. None of us can abide roaches or other vermin, but the rest are not a problem.

Cecelia paid for our admission to the museum, and in we went. We looked at the coiled reptiles, and spent a good while watching the Mojave green rattlesnake. Greens are the rarest of rattlers; they only live in the Mojave Desert, where they're not common. They're smaller than most rattlers, but they make up for it by having more temper than the rest, and the most powerful rattlesnake venom there is. And they're a distinct greenish color. I like snakes – but I love Mojave greens. As we watched the one in the museum I remembered the one I'd showed Cecelia on our first trip to Lanfair Valley...

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