turning around from one of the exhibits (the tigers, if you must know) i was confronted by the most unexpected sight at a zoo... a full grown bull ceratopsian!!!
now you'd think we living vivus-dinosaurs (vivus being the fancy scientific term for we non-extinct extinct critters) would be in high demand by zoos and similar places. no such luck for us sadly. for whatever reason these sorts of institutions typically insist on only modern animals as a rule... though this centrosaur would seem to be quite the extreme example of an exception to this otherwise standard rule...
it (a he actually, i could tell based on the bright colours... female ceratopsians are dull and drab in comparison) angrily addressed me by name "traumador the tyrannosaur," the centrosaur paused dramatically before continuing. "you've got a lot of nerve, showing up at my zoo unannounced!!!"
normally i'd have been intimidated. first off this guy was a lot bigger than me, had me corned at, and more to the "point" (pun intended) was adapted at hurting things like me for a living.
so you might ask why i replied like so... "i'd have called ahead to let you know i was coming, only i was worried that your inferior herbivore brain won't have processed more than my hello."
the centrosaur was quite taken aback. "my brain the inferior one?" it stated unimpressed. "you have taken a look in the mirror right?"
"yeah this morning. or at least i hope it was this morning, cause if i'm looking into one right now i'm really ugly," i countered. "what with those horns, frill, beak, and... and, uh." i stalled out on the insult... oh man! i hate it when i do that. i had it up until the "and". if i'd just thought to put in with the beak i'd have been fine...
the centrosaur just shook its head in a very human fashion. "same old traumador," it said disappointed. "you never could get an insult right."
we stood there for a minute coldly staring at each other...
till finally the happiness within me snapped the fake hostile charade, and i sprinted up to the horned ornithischian and sprang a full on hug at his snout. "NORMAN!" i happily screamed.
"how you been pea brain?" norman a. centrosaur greeted me back.
i couldn't believe my good luck... i'd been meaning to track down all my friends in calgary, but the only ones i'd been able to organize things were my human friends.
not that i didn't want to see norman. i just hadn't been able to track him down. which i explained to him.
i'd known he'd been sent to the zoo a few years ago, but when i called them from drumheller the zoo people had no idea who or what i was talking about.
"yeah, there not as vivus aware down here in the big city," norman dismissed the zoo. "none of them understand, that alone speak, any saurian languages, so we're not what you might call close. not a single person who works here even knows my name is norman!"
when i asked what they do call him. "most of them just refer to me as 'dinosaur'. a few of the sharper ones have figured out i'm like a 'triceratops', and the three who pay attention have caught on that i'm a centrosaurus just like the one in the prehistoric park."
"it doesn't really surprise me the people answering the phones wouldn't know it was me you were talking about," norman off handily acknowledged. "thanks for trying though," he paused. "it really is good to see you again traumador!"
i asked norman how he'd been since the last time i saw him... which was a long time ago.
"there's not much to relate," norman reflected. "i was in drumheller, and then i was sent here."
well norman, you could have mentioned why you got axed from the tyrrell and sent here to a zoo... a place that really isn't that cut out for a horned dinosaur as cool as you... but i didn't say that out loud.
instead i explained how i'd come to be fired, and how the pack of the primordial feather had been behind it. in their effort to get to lillian.
"ah i see," norman replied understanding the type of gossip i was looking for. "well the herd was, and still to this day, getting more and more annoyed at me as i make more friends outside our 'oh so sacred' kind."
"the herd" was the unofficial (yet official) title for all the vivus-ceratopsians living in canada. ceratopsians were pretty social animals back in the cretaceous, and so the instinct to form into a herd is still pretty strong in them to this day.
however as there is so few of them alive today every last one of them, regardless of their genus or species, hangout together in one big group. this is not like the good old days millions of years ago! back then they'd have stuck to their own kinds literally, but one has to make due in tough times i guess.
there was rumours that "the herd" was bigger then the alberta region, and that it had branches so to speak anywhere ceratopsian fossils are found (well at least vivus-fossils!). in fact thinking about it all they sound a lot like the pack of the primordial feather! only just a lot less carnivorous, more pointy, and a whole lot tastier!
norman carried on. "anyways, so the museum approached the herd about a member who would like to volunteer to be sent down here. as the whole lot of them would melt if any single one of them were to be left on their own, none jumped at the 'opportunity'. so instead, the bulls decided to volunteer the least popular horner [saurian slang for ceratopsian]. which happened to be me."
"wow," i let out in response to this harsh treatment of my friend. "sorry you had to go through all that on account of me."
"don't go giving yourself all the credit!" norman laughed. "leave it to a tyrannosaur to think he is the king of the problems! no, they didn't like the fact i was friends with anyone or anything that wasn't a fellow horner. though i guess to be fair you and zendin were at the top of their hate list." norman winked... a very human thing he'd picked up ages ago. no normal ceratopsian would be caught dead showing this much emotion. that alone a big tough bull.
"so yeah i ended up here at the zoo. supposedly as a walking billboard for the tyrrell," norman stated. "only no one bothered to work out exactly how that was going to work beyond me living and working here..."
norman didn't speak any english (there are few dinosaurs who can... i'm the only theropod i know of who can... mind you, he like MOST dinos can understand human speak, he just can't answer verbally), and the museum didn't see it fit to expend someone to stay with norman and translate. meaning he and the zoo's staff couldn't really communicate beyond anything nods and gestures would convey.
not that norman minded all that much. it meant there were no big expectations of him in this job. he just got to wander around interacting with people all day.
"i love the job itself," norman concluded. "i just get lonely sometimes is all. not that the staff aren't great to me. i just never have anyone i can actually talk too."
"in fact this is the first time i've talked to anyone who could understand me all year!" he stated excitedly realizing this depressing fact.
norman then turned to me and demanded. "enough with my sob story. what is your deal. from the few tendrils of the grape vine i have left, you left the museum just after i did. where have you been managing to hide that no one has heard or seen you in all that time?!?"
where to begin? i have this whole blog worth of adventures since then... so i told me for the better part of 3 hours my various stories and tales... though he didn't much believe me on the museum quest part.
"so you finally got fired of all things over that whole crush thing of yours on lillian," norman fathomed after my whole blog-era life story. that is weird, after all i told him, norman went back to the beginning of it all. i guess out of it all, it was the only part of the story he had any real context with.
i nodded. he then asked. "well has there been anyone to replace her, as the sole reason for your existence?" he made fun of my younger obsessive feelings towards the albertosaur goddess.
right, i hadn't mentioned my melbourne trip... i'd mostly focused on my new life in new zealand, not the vacation i'd been on, for what seems like years... ;P
"you my friend take teenage crushes to a whole new level!" norman marvelled. "after only one kiss... man, if i won't lose what little face i have with the world, i might consider laying one on you to get a trip around the world too!"
norman interupted our random wandering around the zoo, we must have done the whole thing 3 or 4 times... "want to go to my favourite spot in this whole place?" he asked.
"totally!" i answered.
norman led me into a section of the african rainforest building. "this is it," he declared stopping us in the middle of a neat but devoid of animals or displays area.
"okay," i said kind of disappointed. "and this place is so special why?"
"it reminds me of the good old days," norman said with a hint of genuine sadness. "back when the world was just you, me, and zendin. when the only thing that mattered was having fun... which seemed to follow you guys around."
i looked around unable to see it. "how does this remind you of us?"
norman too looked around, though clearly knowing what he was looking for. "wait for it," he urged. a minute later he finally answered, well sort of. "it reminds me of you, and the only thing you did well at the tyrrell."
"what was that?" i probed keen on the setup for a compliment.
i was of course talking to norman, i should have known better. "standing in a bunch of plants getting soaked!" just then the sprinkler system shot into action...
i suddenly followed norman's line of logic, as the tropical garden was misted. it was just like my old home in the tyrrell, the cretaceous garden. which of course had been an odd time for me. much like norman, i'd loved hanging with him and zendin, but i'd found work very unchallenging and depressing. my job was to stand in the garden and pretend to be a statue, and thus get soaked everyday during the dozen similar mistings of the garden...
norman started to chuckle when my expression betrayed my annoyance at this flashback. "what you don't miss this?"
like i had to answer.
norman then hit me with the most painful question of the day (for both of us) by accident. "so mr. international man of mystery, after tracking down the wayward girl of your dreams, you must have figured out where old zendin disappeared too?"
the look on my face must have betrayed the answer. "no huh," norman sounded like they'd cancelled x-mas. neither of us said anything for a while... what could you add really.
the third crucial member of our old gang, and he was missing. after a bit i added how i was pretty sure it was the primordial feathers who no doubt had made him vanish. yet it was of little comfort. the day in the olden days zendin went missing was the day both me and norman's childhoods ended... even if i'd had found him, it won't have changed that. just not knowing for sure what had happened to him added a sting to that memory.
we once again started walking the zoo, passing the "backgate" section once more. only this time i decided to stop and check out the sign display about the calgary zoo's long ago prehistoric park.
this first set of dinosaur statues dated back to years and years before the current version of prehistoric park, just after the great canadian dinosaur rush had ended...
despite the fact alberta's many great and numerous dinosaurs were enjoying fame elsewhere in the world at that time, you won't have known they existed living here. there were no museums or monuments to mark my kinds presence here millions of years ago, that alone that one of the greatest graveyards of our kind was to be found in the area. so a bunch of locals banded together and raised the funds to build a "fleshed out" park in the zoo.
sadly, none (well none but one) remain today, but man those old skool dinosaurs would have been worth seeing!
looking over the plaque they put up to commemorate this first long gone park, i noticed a very familiar name! the legendary fossil hunter and palaeontologist charlie m. sternberg, son of the great charles, more to the point the discoverer of my mother, was one of the main forces behind this first park!!! (his is the third name from the top... if you can't open it to see the big version). now i really wish more of this first park was here for me to see...at least there was one last remnant of this park still standing. dinny the "brontosaurus", one of calgary's most famous landmarks. mind you he was installed later in this old park's history (well after charlie's involvement), but by the zoo's (and calgary's for that matter) standards dinny was one old trooper.
so to finish off my day with norman, i handed my camera off to a nice lady, and had this photo of the two of us snapped to remember the day... though the lady was very confused by two dinosaurs asking for their picture to be taken by another dinosaur. at least she took it in the end, even if she was very confused the whole time.
norman walked me up to the entrance at closing time, and we said our farewells... for the day.
we made it clear that no matter what, before i left town me and norman would meet up again. so i was hardly unhappy to leave...
minus missing half the zoo for my review, but i hope you'll take my excuse as a good reason to miss out on the rest...
next: one last surprise at the zoo...