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September 3, 2006


Jakub, Bara, Honza, Sarah and I went walking in a park, former grounds of noble's chateau in Teplice. We were standing at the monument marking where Beethoven and Goethe met in 1812 when Jakub asked, "Want to see the monkeys?"
welcome to the monkeyhouse - vitame do opicarne There were 6 or 8 in a glass-walled cage; the ceiling was wire mesh. There were branches to climb, hanging ropes, and a tire swing. Nuts, sunflower heads, and ears of corn were scattered about the concrete floor. Jakub said that as a child he used to spend hours watching them but now it was more difficult because he felt bad about their confinement. I could relate to that but somehow it didn't hit me so hard, maybe because I imagine we slightly more advanced primates also spend our lives in cages, mental as well as physical.

The monkeys ranged in size from about 20 - 50 cm tall. The smallest looked oldest, with a shrivelled face like that of an old man. Maybe it was a baby, who could tell? This tiny elderly baby monkey was obsessed with a sunflower head which already had all the seeds eaten out of it. It struggled comically to bring it up on a perch, dropping it often, climbing down, retrieving it, and climbing up again. Finding no seeds, it bit the stalk in vain, then abandoned it to search for something else. But when another, larger monkey picked it up the little one ran back and grabbed it, like a jealous lover still possessive over the ex- he's dumped. They skirmished back and forth but soon the larger one won out. Politics are simpler in the monkeyhouse.

While the two smaller monkeys fought over the used-up commodity, the alpha male sat high above it all, serenely digging in the folds of his foreskin and nibbling what he found. Such are the pleasures and privilege of power.