Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Monkey Barns

One of my very best friends is my old boss Mary. She's an aquatic ecologist. She's also hilarious, has a photographic memory, is the best public speaker I know, and thinks about Odessa's college fund when I'm thinking about how I'm going to pay for Odessa's daycare. Anyway, working for Mary was really great and I sometimes miss it a lot, even though working for her also meant going to the MONKEY BARNS.

I worked for Mary for about 4 years when Miley Cyrus was in like second grade or something, and mostly what I did was caught little alive fish in creeks all around Georgia during the summer, and looked at and identified little dead fish in a lab while listening to books on tape all winter. Seriously, I listened to Moby Dick for 8 hours every day for two weeks, which felt to me a lot like it must have felt for Herman Melville to write Moby Dick (Herman Melville had different standards and expectations of himself than I do).

Anyway, while I was working for Mary, the University of Georgia--bless them--let us use these buildings down by the smelliest portion of the river near the waste water treatment plant to store all the dead fish in pickling liquids that we didn't happen to be using at the moment up at the regular labs. The complex was technically called The Annex, but we just called them the Monkey Barns. They were a couple of low, tin sided, faded brown buildings where they used to do primate experiments back in the 70's. There weren't any monkeys there anymore, but their cages were there in all the rooms, and whoever was doing experiments on the monkeys sure left a lot of crap lying around. A festive, cozy place it was.

So, yeah--the monkey barns were horrifying. There were all these little, yellowing typed signs taped on all the doors and next to the sinks and stuff reminding you to remember to water the monkeys and whatnot (because remember what happened last time everyone went on vacation?), etc. There were ceiling tiles soaked with the blood of squirrels that had been murdered by whatever was living in the crawl space. Sometimes all the lights would turn off for no reason. The whole place smelled like formaldehyde, and everywhere you went, there were shelves full of dead eyes staring at you from inside glass jars stuffed with tiny little pickled fish floating in a sort of brownish alcohol. And the buildings were technically condemned, so we were not allowed to stay in there for more than 2 hours a day due to the risk of asbestos poisoning.

And yet, for all the monkey barns' faults, it had one thing going for it, which was that one of its rooms housed the entire skeleton of a Right Wale that had washed up on the Georgia coast. Don't get me wrong--that room stunk to high heaven, even though the bones had been brought back to Athens and left in a forest for several years for the flesh to to be eaten off by raccoons and microbes and whatever else eats on a rotting Moby Dick carcass. When I was there, the bones were just stacked up all over this room in the creepier of the two buildings. But at any rate, it was the coolest thing about the monkey barns. (That's right--THE coolest thing.)

So, today I saw Mary and she said that they've been moving everything out of the monkey barns. I reckon they're going to be demolished or something and it's about damn time in my opinion. But they had to move the remains of the whale today, and while they were doing it, the skull of the whale fell on someone's foot, and Mary thinks it broke the foot in question because apparently a whale skull weighs just about a ton.

So, goodbye and good riddance, Monkey Barns! Rest in Peace (as if you possibly could).

1 comment:

  1. Imagine being in the ER and a dr. comes in and asks, what happened to your foot? And then you have to say a whale skull fell on it.