Saturday, July 16, 2011

HOT WATER MONKEY

Elsewhere people wear light clothing in summer. Their world is indolent; velvet-fingered zephyrs stroke the skin and late blossoms peek from dark hollows among the trees. Elsewhere. Not here.
In San Francisco the high temperatures across the bay and further inland pull in chill winds and fog, and in this city we cluster shivering under our blankies, bitterly mumbling about the cold.
We too want to wear thin loose clothing, like other people! Really we do! But we also want to ward off hypothermia.
So we have another hot beverage (Mmmmm, cocoa!), and scurry from building to building. We are desperate to keep warm.

At times I miss the heat.

In the Netherlands during June and July it was rarely cold, and even precipitation felt warm.
Outside of town, along the Luikerweg, there was a paddock with trees at one end where I once sheltered from the rain – a fence underneath the branches separated me from the horses on the other side. One horse was not bothered by the weather and calmly grazed out in the wet wet grass, his back and haunches glistening, silky, moist.
When you’re not wearing any clothes you don’t worry about getting soaked, especially if once the rain has passed the warmth will rapidly dry you off.


In South-East Asia, where the wind from the sea brought in sudden downpours, one day I saw a small ape sheltering among the banana trees.
I doubt that it had been raiding the fruit when caught in the cloudburst – contrary to what you think, gibbons actually prefer figs – but it had probably scurried underneath the bananas because the immense leaves made perfect umbrellas. Once the monkey noticed me looking at him, he reached up with both hands to pull a leaf down in front and hid himself.

I could see the dark little fingers clutching at either edge, though.
I knew he was there.
He stayed hidden till after the rain stopped. A few minutes later, with everything nearly dry again, the leaf veered upwards, and the little fellow was gone.


HYLOBATES AND FICUS, MACACA AND MUSA

Gibbons (hylobates) prefer the rain forest over the vicinity of humans, being both averse to the company of people and highly territorial, especially after a pair has bonded. But in outlying areas it is not unusual to hear distant hooting between the male and female early in the day. They eat wild fruits, of which the most common in the jungles are various types of figs. Being quick, long-armed and extremely agile, gibbons will spend most of their lives in the trees away from the forest floor - their legs are rather short and squat, and it is rare to see them 'walking'.

The monkey one is most likely to encounter near villages is the macaque (macaca spp), which sometimes raids crops and will stick almost anything in its mouth. Macaques are far more social than gibbons, forming groups of several dozen individuals that interact hierarchically.
Where the gibbon always seems to look worried and anxious, the macaque's face shows a wider range of emotions, including anger, defiance, rebelliousness, avid interest, or even utter boredom. Gibbons have more fur, macaques less.
And macaques yell, coo, and cackle, rather than hoot or howl.

One other distinction between gibbons and macaques is worth noting: while both of these types of monkey don't like being rained upon, gibbons also avoid streams and pools, whereas macaques prefer to live near water and will occasionally take a swim.

In Japan there's even a species of macaque that luxuriates in hot springs.


A BRIGHT RED MAN

Heat and moisture go together. Nobody in their right mind visits the old swimming hole in winter, no glistening naked bodies gambol in creeks when snow is falling. In San Francisco there are no swimming holes, but even if there were, we would not use them. Water may be beautiful to look at, but its only fun when its warm.

This morning, after my roommate left the apartment, I spent over two hours soaking myself before heading to the office.
Nice hot water - playing in the bath is bliss.
Occasionally I extended a leg out of the tub to cool off and twiddled my toes.
Weekends are for laziness, warmth, nudity.
And for twiddling your toes.
Pink and clean.

If this place had a bath, I would spend far more time at work.
Splashing around at night after everybody had left.
I'd even keep bars of soap in my cubicle.
Along with a BIG bowl of fruit.
No figs or bananas, though.
Peaches, plums, pears.
Sweet, fragrant.
Juicy.



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