A major selling point for my apartment here in the Kennedy Warren building was its proximity to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, otherwise known as “the zoo.” The sweet leasing agent who showed me around the place said, “So the zoo’s your next door neighbor, which is coo. If the wind is right, you can hear the zebras.” She barely got the word “zebras” out before I said those three thrilling/terrifying words:
“I’ll take it.”
And the zoo really is immediately next door. There is no high-rise, no cluster of homes to the east because the zoo is there. I have been through the zoo many times and still haven’t seen all the animals; pandas are apparently agoraphobic, the reptile house is always closed, and sea lions are lazy, I guess. When I do catch an animal out at meal time (zebras eat a lot of hay) it’s thrilling; like any other sensitive person, however, it bothers me to see a wild animal behind glass. I’m still not sure how I feel about it all, especially because of what happened the other day. What happened the other day is that I heard a lion roar. And roar. And roar.
Have you ever heard a lion roar? A real-life lion less than 200 feet away? I’m sure National Geographic specials viewed in HD with movie theater-grade sound does a decent job of it, but it ain’t the same. The duration and the start of a real lion’s roar might follow the MGM lion’s script, but what a digital lion can never create is the deep, vibrate-your-chest, subwoofer bass at the bottom of the roar and it’s not coming from speakers. It’s coming from that animal, right over there. Think breath. Think chest cavity. Think communication across miles.
If someone asked you to tell them what you know about lions, without question you’d say that the lion is “the king of the jungle.” When you hear a big, big lion roar, those words will actually become true for you. The lion is the king of the jungle without question. Nothing can do what that thing does. Nothing sounds like that. There’s nothing as strong, nothing as beautiful, and nothing as terrifying, either — that sound is designed to make you run.
And now I gotta.