18 February 2013

57. Monkeys

Dear monkeys,

I love you. The idea of you even more than the reality— as much as I dig furry nonhuman primates and the way you're like people, only more so, I haven't gotten around to studying you obsessively like I did with dinosaurs when I was six. But I still think you're awesome, and not just because you're almost always funny.

Monkeys, I think my love for you goes all the way back to the Pippi Longstocking books. I mean, don't get me wrong, there's all kinds of things to love about Pippi but her very own monkey pal Mr. Nilsson is a good place to start. And so my brother and I would play at being Pippi and Mr. Nilsson, and he's pretty much been my monkey friend ever since. We forgot about it for awhile when I was busy trying to be cool as a teenager, but fortunately the Muppets came to the rescue with the Tony Bennett episode of Muppets Tonight. For some reason that I can't remember anymore, lounge singer Johnny Fiama gets upset with his helper chimp Sal, and it takes most of the episode and Tony's intervention (musical, of course) to bring the two of them back together. But in the end, all is well. "Who's my little stinky monkey?" Johnny asks, and Sal replies, "I am." And my brother and I have been saying this to each other ever since.

I can point to countless other pop culture monkeys that have helped your species — or more accurately, suborder/infraorder — maintain great power in my heart and mind, but two fictional examples are probably enough. Besides, I also have two anecdotes from my real life that illustrate your deep importance to me. First there was the time my friends Steve and Dan were arguing about evolution. Steve, a big fan of Inherit the Wind, was writing a major research paper on evolution vs. creationism, with an eye towards analyzing the Scopes Monkey Trial. Dan, a rabid atheist, decided to play Devil's Advocate against him for fun, and the argument lasted for weeks until Steve "won" by shouting:
"Monkey monkey monkey monkey monkey! Monkey monkey monkey monkey monkey! Monkey monkey monkey monkey monkey...."
...and Dan had to stop ranting and laugh. The debate was over, and Steve had taken enough notes to lay the foundation for a really bitchin' paper. The moral of the story is: if an argument outlives its fun, to avoid comparing an opponent to Hitler (as we all know, the ultimate rhetorical foul), call on the monkeys to save the day.

But you're not always fun and games, are you, monkeys? I found that out the hard way the time you almost cost me a job. I'd barely started in the hippie natural foods store kitchen when a coworker handed me a marker and suggested I draw something on the wall to celebrate his last day. I drew a monkey, with the ever-original caption, "Ook! Ack!" The next day, the kitchen manager saw my harmless, reversible prank as an act of mutiny, and left a page-long paranoid rant about vandalism and disrespect in the kitchen journal. My coworkers assured me that he'd been plenty unpopular before, but I still felt terrible. So I called him at home to apologize, and stunned him into silence before I could even offer to resign if that was the right thing to do. To this day no one knows how much the so-called "monkey incident" had to do with it, but he quit a few days later and my drawing (by then mostly erased) was hailed as a symbol of liberation. I never really lived it down, to the point where people would hand me markers and gesture at walls when they were unhappy with later bosses. My point is: monkeys, you are powerful stuff.

For all these stories and more, monkeys, I cannot thank you enough. Now and forever, I raise my (usually metaphorical) banana to you and all the joy you bring: Cheers.