detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Thursday, April 25, 2002

: . Down

In what must be the worst day of the worst week of this semester, the week when everything has gone disastrously wrong and will go disastrously wrong, I get the biggest laugh from, of all things, The Jeff Corwin Experience on Animal Planet. Jeff Corwin is in Guyana, "Land of Giants." For those who have better things to do than watch nature programming, Jeff Corwin is the buff American frat-boy version of the Crocodile Hunter. Jeff Corwin loves wearing tight t-shirts made of some breathable, synthetic, Italian fashion house fabric to accentuate his pecs. In every terrain, in all kinds of weather. He manages to make the quest for knowledge into a goofy act of seduction. This evening, Jeff Corwin is aboard a dugout canoe or something like it. With him is a woman who looks and sounds vaguely European, a cross between Leni Riefenstahl and Jane Goodall. She has dedicated her life to the study of giant otters. And so they are on the lookout for these strange, aquatic creatures. They improvise otter-calls, but the otters refuse to surface from the river. Jeff Corwin meows and his meows echo across the water. Leni/Jane lures the otters with the fish she holds in her hands, shouting: here honey, honey,, fish, fish. But the otters do not come and Jeff Corwin meows and Leni/Jane honey, honey, honey's again. It is sublimely ridiculous. A drugged cat and Mother Courage crying for help in the Heart of Darkness. Finally, when the pair have almost given up the search and have gone ashore, the otters come. They are huge, dark, tailed things like overfed subway rats. "The most endagered mammals in the tropics," says Jeff Corwin. The otters cautiously venture onto dry land then hobble forward on webbed feet to grab a fish from Leni/Jane's hands. Then they are are gone. Through all this I laugh one of those long, desperate, cathartic laughs and for a few minutes I forget everything. I do not have the keenest of memories but my mind has a perverse way of recalling everything that has gone wrong and so I crave these brief moments of forgetfulness. And after, the torment of remembering again that can only be relieved by unexpected words or a chance sighting.

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