Getting Up Close and Personal with a Bear

24 Nov 2005
November 24, 2005
Panda at National Zoo

My “one-on-one” in-depth visit with Tai Shan

Tai Shan, the Smithsonian’s newest Panda will debut at the National Zoo December 8. Well, technically he’s China’s newest panda since, by agreement, he will be given to the Chinese when he is two.

Free tickets were offered to the public this past week on a first-come basis via the National Zoo’s Web site. And already those freebies are going for big bucks on eBay. Now that’s the entrepreneurial spirit.

However, as one of the perks of working at this venerable cultural institution, Smithsonian worker bees got the chance for a sneak peek at the little bugger on Tuesday. No mad dash for a free ticket and no eBay sniping to win one at auction.

To be frank, I am having a hard time identifying with the locals who oooh and aaah when news footage of his latest physical exam or cute photos appear in the media. That panda is so abstract I exhibit none of those characteristic anthropomorphic tendencies I see in those around me.

Yes, it’s true. I admit it. What’s wrong with me? Where’s the magic? The only reality I feel is when our Web server slows to a crawl because of the heavy, HEAVY traffic at the Zoo’s Panda Web site every time there’s an update.

So when the opportunity arose to see him in person it was only at my family’s insistence that I agreed to tag along with the rest of the office (my wife was crushed that spouses and immediately family could not come).

As luck would have it I went but all I got was this little view of him sleeping in his pen. I can’t even see his cute little face. And, of course, coworkers who went about an hour later were rewarded with a full frontal and close-up view when one of his handlers finally decided we Smithsonian employees deserved better. So she brought him out into his main living area for all to see. I did get that cuddly close-up, but only on the webcam back at my desk.

When I got home after a hard day at the office there was no “Hi daddy, how was work today? Did you do anything creative?” No, instead there was a mad rush towards me with everyone shouting, “Did you see him? DID YOU SEE HIM?”

Yes, my loved ones. I did see him. At least I think I did. But all I got was this cute and cuddly picture of everyone else trying to take a cute and cuddly picture. You’re right. I deserved what I got. Magic only happens when you truly believe.

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A Gentle Reminder: Speaking of magic, with the holiday season just about ready to get underway, it’s not too late to start employing my Patented Seven Step Gift Giving System. Gift giving doesn’t have to be a chore (“I’ve got to buy something –ANYTHING…”) if you follow these steps.

3 replies
  1. Bob "bear fighter" Dawson says:

    Jeff,
    I remember a time where you really were “up close and personal” with a bear. A very BIG bear. What color was it? What gender? All lost to the sands of time.
    Your audience may be very interested in this tale of the wild West from your distant past. Cowboys shooting guns off in the middle of the night! Grown men in their underwear trying to chase off a rampaging bear! Banging tin cups together! People getting sick! Oh, the glory of it all!
    Your fellow bear fighter,
    Bob Dawson

  2. Jeff says:

    Yes, it’s true Bob. In our younger days we did battle with the biggest black bear this side of the Mississippi (or was it a brown bear?).
    Actually, doing battle with that bear in Yosemite was a pivotal night in my life. Twelve hours later and 5,000 feet lower I found my calling. Some day I will recount for all of you the events leading up to my decision to become a storyteller. I owe it all to that bear (and to two very good friends who needed my storytelling help really bad that day!)

  3. Lindsay says:

    Hey Jeff,
    Great site you have here. Love that shot, that’s cute, ha! Is that his head? Side? Uhhh… we’ll never know. ;)

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