August 3, 2000
Thanks to the Republican Convention, the
Philadelphia Zoo has nearly doubled its population of exotic
animals—and those ingrates are complaining!
Yes, if it wasn't for the Republicans and the way they
have of inspiring truly innovative ideas for disruption and
sabotage among their detractors, the Philly Zoo would not be
enjoying a windfall of nearly 2,000 assorted reptiles,
arthropods, small mammals and icky bugs.
The other night, in the midst of some rowdy street
protests, two people were arrested by Philly police. The big
red school bus they were driving turned out to be packing a
hazardous cargo—a host of vermin which, police say, were to be
unleashed on the streets of Philadelphia. Traffic-snarling was
reportedly the main goal, and we presume that any poisonous
scorpion attacks on Dick Armey would just be gravy.
But the plan was foiled by the keen work of the Philly
PD's intelligence division. The story was big news in
Philly—for about a minute and a half. Then, this town's lapdog
media fell completely silent on the subject and moved on to
pursue other, less pest-based bits of information.
"We're totally overwhelmed with other stories," said
Jen Brown, the Associated Press's official "protest reporter,"
before hopping on her bike, no doubt in a hurry to totally
cover the 1:30 "Vegetarians for Tofu Subsidies"
So Pseudonymous jumped into the breach and set out to
find the truth (or, at least, a snack). I headed for the
police department's daily briefing at the African-American
Museum. Yes, the Police Department's briefing—the one in which
they tell how professionally, politely and, let's face it,
studly-ly they've bashed heads—is really held at the city's
There John Timoney, the city's affable police
commissioner, stood at a podium a few steps from a mural
depicting centuries of various forms of white oppression of
blacks and blasted my hopes for any cheap irony based on this
unfortunate juxtaposition by making it clear that the 300
arrested protesters were mostly white, mostly unwashed
"anarchists" who (I'm paraphrasing here) just get really pissy
about free trade.
But I parsed Timoney's words closely. It's only when
you're at a press conference to discuss the mysterious
appearance of 2,000 exotic animals that you start to notice
that the English language is a veritable menagerie of
For instance, Timoney began his statement complaining
of the "cat and mouse" games that the protesters were playing.
He waxed further about how the rallies really "tick off"
Philadelphians. He described how he personally "tailed" a
protester and then "plucked" him from the crowd. And even
described one of the arrest sites as "the corner of 16th and
Despite these oblique references to the case I was
investigating, the question of the big red schoolbus remained
unasked—until your faithful correspondent pounced.
"Commissioner," I asked. "Is there any update on the
big red schoolbus? The protest groups say that the police are
lying and that they didn't have anything to do with
"What do you expect them to say?" Timoney
"I expect them to say, 'You can kiss my hairy ass, you
donut-eating pig!'" I nearly replied, but realized in time
that Timoney was using that old interrogation gambit—the
Timoney then almost seemed to violate the separation of
church and state by reading an extremely Biblical-sounding
list of the beasts that were found on the magic bus, a plague
that included poisonous snakes, poisonous toads, tarantulas,
scorpions, mice, reptiles and at least one dead skunk. It is
undetermined whether there were any plans for slaying of the
firstborn, unless you count the demise of Jeb's presidential
The animals were taken to the Philly Zoo (the nation's
first!), but spokeswoman Leigh Rende told me that no one at
the institution is happy about the new guests (as Ben Franklin
might have said: "Abandoned animals are like fish; after three
days, they stink.")
"This is no joke. Everyone at the zoo is upset about
this blatant cruelty to animals," Rende said. If they're that
upset, they should let their own animals out of their cages
and free them, in the GOP spirit, from a cycle of dependency
that involves regular handouts and no incentive to
Rende was too distraught to hook me up with Karl Kranz,
the zoo's animal affairs expert (would somebody please
elevate that to a cabinet position!), so I called the San
Diego Zoo, which, in addition to being one of the foremost
zoological institutions in the world, is also located in a
time zone three hours before Philadelphia and is therefore
open long after Rende and Kranz went home for the
needed to know just what kind of disruption Timoney's
"anarchists" could have possibly planned to create with a
menagerie of crickets, some lethargic snakes and a poisonous
toad or two.
"I don't know what kind of disruption they were trying
to cause with crickets," said spokeswoman Christina Simmons.
"And all toads are, technically, poisonous, although some emit
toxins that are not hazardous to humans—unless they are,
literally, kissing the toad."
Hey, leave Lynne Cheney out of this.