The Houston Zoo


This week, I featured a place that takes me back to a much younger age. The Houston Zoo has been a standard throughout my life, whether I was cognizant of it or not. It was more than just an annual school field trip, it holds memories of paddleboats across a pond in Herman Park, child trolley train rides through manmade “rock” tunnels, riding on a carousel (both as a child and as an adult at a company family day outing), and vendors outside the gates holding balloon formations and the handles of self propelled ice cream carts on hot Summer days.

Inside the Zoo are various animal shaped banks that allow patron’s to donate to care and/or conservation efforts. The most prominent one in my opinion is of a sea lion balancing a ball on it’s nose. The coins fall down the throat of the sculpture as you read about the cause that you have funded. The sea lion is most prominently placed near the entrance of the zoo, near the sea lion exhibit about 40 yards from the entrance.

I remember walking around from exhibit to exhibit on blazing hot summer afternoons, shaded by overhead structures where the massive oak trees cover wouldn’t reach when not passing through indoor exhibits. The canopy’s acted as cover as the drizzle of a passing rainstorm or two intermittently stopped to grace the lush flora landscaped by the zookeepers.

The Zoo is as educational as much as it is interactive. As an adult, hearing the roar of a child passing a leopard enclosure is as amusing as it is mindful that the zoo is one of those commodities that just stays with you, and Houston is lucky to have such an area to visit.

When pairing the music this week, I wanted to find something that took me back at least half as much as this iconic location does. Animal theme seemed appropriate as well, though was not the main focus. So here we find The Tokens singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, originally recorded in 1939 by Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds.

When was the last time as an adult that you can pinpoint to crooning as boldly as you did to this song as a child? You may not have even really known the words or their meaning. But you sang. Loud and Proud, much to the delight of our heart, possibly in spite of the tone our vocal chords produced.

I know I wasn’t the only one.

In Texas we have two kinds of vocalists: “Singers” and “Sangers”. Singers you are likely to find at Operas. “Sangers” you find in evangelical church choirs, in ballad radio, at blues clubs, and after a few too many at the late night karaoke spot. Both have their place in their own time. But as children, we all sang, not for once thinking about singing.

It is with such fortitude which I hope to approach each day, never allowing the cynicism and weighted responsibility of adulthood to crush that confidence and optimism of childhood. I know that while this week, a trip to the zoo was a reminder of some good childhood memories (and learning that paddle boats are really only a good idea in theory, not in practice on a hot Summer day) I have the opportunity to create even more as an adult.

Even if the key may be in a lower register, I challenge you to join me this week to remember good memories, continue making great ones and “sang” along just like you know it.

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