One gorgeous Sunday morning, Sean and I drank black coffee as we sunned on the patio of our rented beach bungalow on Balboa Island, California.
We scanned the newspaper for articles we didn't find offensive. Soon we found ourselves on the "exotic pets" page in the classifieds.
We saw an ad for buyable monkeys from a pet shop in Las Vegas. When you're young, bored, and have access to cash, turns out you seriously consider buying an animal one normally sees in a Vegas showgirl's act. A monkey is the closest thing you can get to owning an actual person; I guess like a baby.
I called the owner who agreed to open the shop on this Sunday -- only if we would promise to buy a monkey and they cost $3500. Cash.
Oh, we promised!! I'm sure our giggling high voices made us sound like prank callers and she went back to her gin-and-eggs breakfast as soon as we hung up.
After a four-hour, non-stop drive we pulled up to the shop. We'd imagined it to be in a magical monkey-land and spelled 'shoppe'; but was in actuality located in a mini-mall. In Henderson, Nevada which is Vegas-adjacent. It would've been a total letdown if we didn't need to pee so urgently.
Upon entering the store we saw the cage near the back. Suddenly the owner looked like the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I imagined her luring kids into her trap with this cute little monkey inside and when children poked their fingers inside, Snap! Caught.
Sean and I stared at this adorable, tiny, scared monkey that sat in the cage staring back at us. He silently looked up as if to say: Take me away from this chain-smoking, probable hooker, trailer-park winebag and save me. Take me home.
We would have paid more than the $3500 to "rescue" him. She put him in a pet carrier and told us to expect a scared attitude from him. He wouldn't come out of the cage for weeks.
We drove away carefully, as if we had a Baby on Board sticker on the car's rear window. We talked excitedly about our new charge and decided to give him a sweet name, Christian. Sweet name=sweet monkey.
She told us that when we got home, ease open the cage door a bit and place a monkey biscuit outside the door. When he was brave and hungry enough, he'll reach out and grab it. Later, place another biscuit a bit father away and when he gets hungry enough he'll venture out a bit farther.... And so on and on, for days and days until one day we'll place a biscuit on our knee and he should feel comfortable enough to take it.
It sounded tedious; but, we were up to the arduous bonding experience. I would've donned a monkey suit, eaten nothing but bananas, while squatted in a corner of our living room (which we'd redecorate to resemble his homeland jungle, except we'd keep the tv) if it made him more comfortable. We wanted to ease him into our lives faster.
We got back to Balboa Island about midnight. We placed the the pet carrier into our living room. We unlocked the carrier door. I now know why the cage door swings: It swings to let a crazy, wild, baby monkey come flying out like lightning and land on my neck!
He never let go for the next six months. Feel free to read this story about my Uncle Jim and Christian. When we told people not to touch our fucking monkey, we weren't kidding.
Everyone told us we were crazy to buy a monkey after we bought him. Probably since we didn't ask or tell anyone we were doing it. To answer your questions, yes, he was just like having a baby. A baby who masturbates constantly. A baby with a non-prehensile tail (which means he can't swing from it) that makes putting a diaper on him as easy as trying to fold a basketball. A baby who isn't stinky because he takes a shower with you every day. A baby who makes it hard to sleep because he sleeps, rolled into a little ball, cuddled into your neck.
As we walked to the beach each morning for breakfast we passed a huge hibiscus bush covered in huge, red flowers. Christian extended his tiny monkey paws to greedily grab as many as he could. He stuffed them hungrily into his mouth, looking like a Georgia O'Keefe painting with these huge, bright red blooms coming out of his little brown face.
There was no Monkeys for Dummies. Like children, they don't come with an instruction manual. We had to learn some things the hard way. Keep the basket of strawberries behind our back or he'd take a tiny bite of one then throw it to the ground and demand another. Out of sight, out of monkey' s mind.
You also don't get instructions when you gain control of the principal of your trust, so Sean bought big ticket items, like a new Mercedes. He wanted to take Christian with him to the store to pick up milk, bread and chicks. Yes, a pet monkey is a great toy to pick up chicks, but Sean's suave manner, good looks and pile of cash did that without the monkey poop.
I told Sean to take the moped, where Christian was just as alluring in his little basket. Don't you take that monkey to the store in your new car. Monkeys can't go inside, so he'll have to wait in the car. He won't like that. I sounded like an old farm wife talking to the cows, blaming the rain for her husband's limp. Sean did take Christian, did leave him in the car, and Christian took a human-sized fist bite out of the dashboard. The repair cost as much as Christian.
For every difficult moment I had with Christian, he replaced it with wonder. You haven't really relaxed until you sit for hours while your monkey grooms you inch by inch, searching through your arm hairs, pausing only when he finds something. What was he finding?! Of course it was reciprocal; I had to log in some time combing and searching through his spotlessly clean arm hairs.
He was a joy. Yes, was. The rental of our cottage ended. I was moving back to NYC. While it may be the city that never sleeps, it is also the city that doesn't allow monkey's. (Yes, my friends that created Friends knew my monkey story.) Sean moved back to his home in Dallas where his parent's long-time maid, Shirley, threatened to quit if he came home with a monkey. Good help is really and truly that hard to find. so we had to take him back to the pet store in Henderson, and place him on consignment with the Child Snatcher.
After holding him, sharing my dreams with him for six months -- I couldn't go with Sean to drive him back. I fell apart. I called the pet store every day until he sold. Six months later. It crushed me to think of him once freely terrorizing Balboa Island with his pick-pocketing, public nudity and lewd conduct, now locked back in that cramped cage in Henderson, Nevada. Not the circle of life they sing about at Disney.
It was a privilege to know Christian; he was a fine individual.
The monkey-on-the-back of reckless spending slowed. Sean's living his version of very happily ever after -- or as we call it, interest only. His relatives can rest easily.