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Pack mentality is revitalizing Richard Peña | Sat, Jun 08 2013 12:00 PM

You awaken in the morning and look out the window. It is wall-to-wall gloom. You look at the calendar and it seems to say, “It’s June, you moron. What do you expect?”And, of course, the calendar is correct. June and gloom are almost synonymous in Southern California. At least it has been since most of us have called the area home.

We have lived in the area for most of our adult life and have yet to see the June of song when the month comes around. So we look for things that are going to alleviate the blues, at least to some degree. And I found it right at my doorstep: a visit from my son David, his wife, Terri and my grandson, Travis.

The three flew in from their Maryland home last week on one of those periodic visits that they often take. While here they said they would do whatever I wished and take me wherever I wanted to go while they were here. So why not? I thought.  Since I quit driving my short travels have fallen to a low level. This would be a good way to beat the gloom.

On our first adventure we opted for the Wild Animal Park. It has been some years since I was there last and as I recalled it was a locale that warranted a reprise. The park covers some 1,800 acres so you might wonder how I was going to get around since I have trouble getting from one room to the next. Very simple: I have my wheelchair and a grandson to supply the propulsion.

We went from the entrance to the park to the very lowest level stopping at exhibits along the way and marveling at the antics of the animals we spied en route. For about 30 minutes of our stay we rode the tram. This is a rail conveyance that covers much of the acreage of the park.  We, therefore, had a good view of the creatures about us with an explanation from the driver/lecturer who seemed to be very well versed in his task.  It was also a reprieve for Travis. I wondered how we were going to get back to topside from where we started.  It seemed like we had gone down to a few fathoms below sea level.  The park thought of everything.  They had an elevator handy that took us back up to where we started.

Of all the animals on exhibit I would have to say that the lions and the elephants were to me the most interesting. Years ago they had an elephant show that involved trainers as well as the beasts. This has been discontinued. But watching the huge creatures as they go about their daily tasks is entertainment enough, at least, it was for me.  One has to also marvel at the proximity to which we get in the lion’s lair.  You can almost feel the power and might that is the characteristic of this animal. The term “King of the Jungle” is not irreverently bandied about.

On another day we went up to Palomar Mountain.  Like the Wild Animal Park it had been years since I was there.  I went there a few times with classroom of children when I was in education.  You might remember it is the home of the Hale Telescope, the 200-inch mirror that was brought there from faraway New York.  Once more I was wheeled around in my wheelchair, most of the time by the director of the planetarium. Kind of felt like I was coming up in the world.

Our last adventure was to see the movie, “The Great Gatsby.”  This you know is based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It will be the subject of another piece sometime soon.  By the way, to see the movie I did not have to use the wheelchair.  I walked all the way.  I said I was coming up in the world.

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