by Kane X. Faucher
Eco-tourism is a big thing these days, and plenty of globe-huggers are flocking to rainforests and savannahs to take one last long look at all the flora and fauna before our oil companies turn nature into one big parking lot dump. However, such Birkenstock adventures are costly and out of the financial reach of most of us who have better things to spend our money on in terms of voyeurism: strip clubs and Hollywood car chases for example. One need not fly out in a small two-propeller Cessna to muggy places filled with voracious mosquitoes or poison-secreting tree frogs in order to gain an experience of wildlife. One can just as easily do it close to home for little to no cost if one has a little bit of imagination.
Hardly a few minutes’ drive outside any city core you will find the vast wilds of the suburbs where one can bear witness to the many coma-corpses, window box mavens, and repressed domestics that populate the postage stamp greenery of the suburban veldt. This is wildlife tourism at its very best.
See the uniform nests lined up in perfect rows guarded by vicious Shih Tzu sentinels and the gas-sucking growl of mini-vans. Hear the susurrating purr of new appliances and the pleasant roar of lawn mowers restoring the habitat to a carefully cropped status quo ante. Travel along the asphalt paths entirely blocked by the suburbanite progeny’s ritual street-hockey matches. Delight in the eerie-bleary banality where perhaps in the mystery of mysteries evil doth lurk. Regard in awe the smoke acrimoniously billowing from so many outdoor BBQs. Take a peek at one of these BBQ events and take note of the natives frolicking in their festive frivolity.
Be sure to snap a few pictures of middle-aged Martha Stewart clones toiling manically on their gardens tending flowers so unappealing that even the birds pass them over. Enjoy the view of such rich and vibrant colour where the nests are every conceivable shade of the pastel rainbow.
Some caution is required. It is best not to engage the wildlife directly lest one be dragged into banal chatter about it being a nice day and home winemaking. One should not leave much of a footprint in these parts, and that also means not feeding the animals or introducing any foreign items that may upset the balance like ideas of individuality or culture. Also try to restrict your jaunt to daytime hours since all the wildlife goes to bed punctually at 10pm. It is also important to take along a guide or a reliable map since one can easily get lost in the vast swathe of streets with names like Woodacres, Woodvale, Woodlot and Woodchipper.
Your average suburban animal can be identified by its glazed, semi-concerned, semi-confused, and resigned appearance. They generally shamble about in a state of half-wakefulness at all times save for the morning when they tend to congregate in large packs accoutered in painful-to-behold neon spandex and hip-holstered water bottles. These slow stampedes are one of the many bizarre rituals these animals engage in. Socially, these animals communicate with each other in a kind of curiously feigned interest as they skitter across safe and non-committal topics. The progeny are easily spotted as the smaller animals with the smouldering look of boredom as they plot their eventual escape from the nest or smoke BTs and drink pilfered cooking sherry in the park.
Seasons also play a big part in planning your suburban safari. During the summer, be prepared to witness family BBQs and garage sales shilling things of bad taste. During the autumn, the animals are busying themselves with tidying up their lawns of leaves and putting out pumpkins and squash on their front stoop as a sign to other animals that such things do not belong in the nest. In the winter, expect a dazzling display of lights and plastic Santas as the fauna try to outdo one another in a vicious regional competition. Winter is a perilous time for the suburban species as noted by the many of them that are felled by heart attacks as they shovel their driveways. When spring arrives, they engage in all manner of indoor and outdoor nest nettoyage, and so expect to see them going to and from home renovation depots with a staggering amount of building materials for projects they will never get around to completing.
Do keep a picture album of your safari. The dominant life form, Homo Suburbanensis, can be the subject of a very riveting study. What is particularly fascinating about this species is how long it has endured without any significant evolutionary changes in an environment that has remained equally unchanged and pristine for several decades. And it is the stability of their environment that has spared them the necessity of innovating or possessing any character whatsoever. Their evolutionary advantage is their homogeneity and dullness, making them the most prosperous – and Darwin-defying – species on record.
Dr. Kane X. Faucher is an FIMS/MIT Instructor. He is also: Freelance Writer, Scene Magazine; co-editor, The Raging Face; co-editor, The Drill Press; co-editor, Sorrowland Press; Interview Editor, Ditch Poetry; and author of Urdoxa (2004) Codex Obscura (2005) Fort & Da (2006), Calqueform, Astrozoica, De Incunabliad (2007), and Jonkil Dies, The Vicious Circulation of Dr Catastrope (2008).