Keep it in the zoo, bro

BY GUEST COLUMN | MAY 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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A specter is haunting Iowa City: a specter with a serpent.

I recall, in those uncannily warm days of March, when I would lounge in the park or walk about town in a state of bliss, the Sun awakening my pores (though too soon, it seemed), only to have my good vibrations dashed by the sight of an anaconda. I would see it on parking meters; I would see it on jungle gyms; I would see it almost anywhere. It gave me such a fright, was so jarring in its sudden appearance that I began to question my sanity. Was this anaconda following me? Was it trying to hunt me? Did it even exist? But, of course, this fear was dispelled when this snake's owner would inevitably emerge, beaming and proud of his latest foray into society, collect his serpent, and ask:

"Pretty cool, huh?"

And if I may speak collectively for my neighborhood and perhaps for the city in general, I would like to reply now as I did then:

"No, it is not cool at all."

There should not be exotic animals left on park benches or carried around town. This seems pretty obvious to me — then again, who hasn't thought that it would be so cool (besides me)? One would think that having obscured a dangerous animal like a snake, feeding it live animals and watching it kill them by swallowing them whole, smothering them with stomach acids which corrode their flesh, slowly, until they become giant clumps of writhing and quivering mush in the mid section of one's snake in one's basement would be good enough. But that requires one to convince someone that a large and potentially dangerous animal in one's basement is a must-see. Better to bring the carnage to the streets.

Except that a good portion of the community, perhaps as high as 95 percent, doesn't particularly care to see strange animals in their parks or in their bars. It's pretty clear that the purpose of carrying around a large reptile, besides being an accurate measure of just how cool one is, is to draw — tastefully of course — immediate comparisons with specific parts of one's anatomy. Now, while anyone who thinks about this for longer than 10 seconds would realize that the chances of matching up to a 3-foot snake are quite slim and verges on false advertising, the more troubling and annoying issue is that the whole endeavor is a animalistic form of loud and obnoxious exhibitionism.

And what of the imitators? What of those who are inspired to somehow top the level of danger? I fear the day when College Green will be filled with huntsman spiders, boas, rattlesnakes, kimodo dragons, Tasmanian devils, and polar bears; when various cool cats will unleash their stingrays, jellyfish, sharks, and killer whales into City Park pool; when muzzled tigers will accompany party-goers to the bars. That's not the Iowa City I want to live in.

Jesse Marks
UI senior

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