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Monkey See

When I was a kid, I had an obsession with my stuffed animals. Not only did my orange giraffe have a name (Steve), he was also deemed the king of my rather large stuffed animal kingdom. The queen was a Siamese cat named Gwen and the twenty or so minions consisted of everyone from bunnies to lions. I loved them all, but my favorite was a black and yellow monkey named Louie. There was something about Louie that reminded me of myself, so I decided that Louie was going to be the youngest of the group, just like me. My stuffed animals had personalities too, Gwen was very aloof, Steve was suave’ and Louie was best described as eccentric, marching to his own beat and often times opting to sit out on a game of “Hide and Seek”, so he could go off by himself and play with his own stuffed toys.


I know I showed favoritism, but I couldn’t help it, I just loved my little Louie more than everyone else.

One day, my parents decided to take me to the zoo so I could see live versions of my animal kingdom. I was so excited; I was finally going to meet a real “Louie”.

We wandered around the zoo for a couple of hours observing camels, bears, lions and even flamingos and I was starting to get bored. “When do we get to see the Louie’s”? I asked. “Oh, in a few minutes”, my father said, “We still have to go through the reptile house“. I hated snakes and the idea of spending time looking at them in waterless aquariums didn’t do it for me. I’m not sure if they were trying to torture me or if they simply wanted to save the best for last, but I was growing impatient. “Can’t we just skip the snakes and go see the Louie’s?” I snapped. This was met with my father saying, “I’m sorry you’re so bored with reptiles, but snakes are very important creatures”. He then went on and on about how they keep the ground cultivated and how nurturing they are, blah, blah, blah. 

After what seemed like an eternity in the annoying reptile house and we were finally making our way to the Monkey exhibit, I heard my mom say “oh dear”. Then they whispered to each other. “What?” I demanded, afraid of hearing the answer. “Jeff, we’ll have to come another time to see the monkey’s.” “What?” I asked again as I started to feel dizzy. “The Monkey House is under construction”. This time my “What?” wasn’t so passive, it was more of a “you have got to be fucking kidding me”.

“It will be open in a few weeks, Peanut” (my mom always called me Peanut). When you’re eight years old a few weeks means it’ll never be open again. “WHAT!” I screamed again for the fourth time, “THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING”. I had just spent an entire afternoon looking at ridiculous elephants, boring tigers and ugly baboons and now I was going to be deprived of the only reason I agreed to go to this stupid zoo in the first place? It was so traumatizing that the rest of the afternoon is a blank. We didn’t go to the zoo very often and all I can remember is thinking that it would be years before I’d ever have a chance to see a live Louie again.

And it was years, 40 to be exact (unless you count the Holler Monkey’s in Costa Rica, but I don’t). When I turned 50, instead of having a party, we took a trip to Bali.

Along with being known for it’s incredible scenery, beautiful beaches, exotic rainforests, Bali is also home of the Monkey Forest.

The Monkey Forest is located in the middle of a town called Ubid, Bali’s cultural center. It’s at the end of a street lined with chic stores and restaurants; so it seems a bit out of place, but nonetheless, I was very excited because after all those years, I was going to finally meet a live Louie.

Upon entering the park, there were hand written signs alerting us of pending doom, “Warning: Monkey’s Can Be Aggressive”, “Please Hold Tight To Your Valuables” and my favorite-“Don’t Stare At Monkey’s”. First of all, I thought, we were in a monkey park, how can we not stare at them? And secondly, what were they going to do if we did, throw bananas at us?

Along with the signs, there was a place to check our bags, sunglasses and whatever else that could possibly tempt a monkey. There were also people selling bananas. “You like feed monkeys?” one of the sweet Balinese Banana Vendors asked, while another would try to sway us her way by saying “Monkey like banana, you want monkey to be friend?” I was starting to wonder what would happen if we didn’t have bananas. I mean, if they were our friends if we had them, what would they be if we didn’t? So, we decided we better carry some treats.

Anthony gave the woman five dollars in exchange for a bunch of bananas and we were on our way. We were only four steps into our journey when I realized the importance of checking our belongings. An extremely forward monkey jumped out of nowhere onto Anthony’s leg, then climbed up his body until he reached his hands. He then grabbed all of our bananas and made an attempt at our shopping bags before screaming some sort of rebellious monkey chant and running off to the next victim. “Bad Monkey”, I said loudly, hoping that all the other monkeys would hear and comprehend English. “That creep just took all our bananas, so no one else can have any, he’s a bad monkey! He’s just lucky he didn’t take my new shoes or there’d be hell to pay. Bad, bad Monkey!”.

Anthony gave me his “Really?” look and we turned around and checked our bags, before restarting our journey.

The beginning of our hike was beautiful. It was a very hot day, so the canopy of trees was a welcomed relief from the brutal sun. And we saw monkey’s-hundreds of them. They where everywhere and even if they weren’t there, I could feel their eyes staring at me from some obscure treetop. And these weren’t just ordinary monkeys; they were fearless and human like. “These monkey’s are kind of aggressive”, I said as one of them tried to climb up my leg. “It’s like they’re forming an army against us”. And the sounds they made sounded like nothing I ever heard before. Instead of the innocent “oo-ah-ah”, it was more of an “OOOOOOOOOOO, AHAHAHAHAHAHA, EEEEEEEEE! And they were jumping from tree to tree just above our heads, swinging from branch to branch like some sort of wild animals. And to make it worse, they could sense my growing anxiety, because they began to bully me. One of them stopped me in my tracks by hopping down from his perch and onto the pathway right in front of me. All I remember was his big mean monkey eyes as he stared at me. “Don’t look at him”, I heard Anthony say as I began to panic. “But he won’t move, am I supposed to just walk up to him like a game of chicken?” “No, just ignore them, they're sweet, just look at that little girl over there playing with one”. This last comment didn’t make me very happy. Not only was I being terrorized by my childhood best friend, I was now being accused of being a bigger sissy than a five year old girl.  “Move”, I screamed. “Move it or else”. “Or else what?” Anthony asked. This was answered with a sarcastic “whose side are you on?” I had no choice but to continue to walk toward this creature. As I slowly approached him, he didn’t even budge; he just glared at me through his wicked eyes. As I slowly tiptoed around him, he just turned his head and stared as if to say “Gotcha human”. And I swear he told all his friends because it kept happening everywhere along the hellish trail. They’d all wait until Anthony safely passed, then they’d jump out of nowhere and land right in front of me and give me the evil eye. “Let’s get out of here”, I said, “I’ve had enough, they hate me and the feeling is mutual”. “Oh Jeff, they can just sense your fear, quit being a baby”. A baby! Easy for him to say, they weren’t threatening to eat him. “O.K.”, I thought, “I have to do this”. I decided maybe if I pretend I’m not scared they might sense that I’m brave instead and leave me alone.

The little girl had no idea who she was playing with.

So I continued my walk with my inner voice assuring me that they were all just harmless little creatures that want to be my friend. This seemed to work for a while until their constant screeching finally got to me, I broke-“We have to get out of here”, I demanded, “find the exit because they’re ‘freaking me out’”. And I started to walk fast, which probably wasn’t a good idea because they like to chase. Suddenly I heard the bushes rustle, so I started to run until I heard Anthony laughing extremely hard. “What?” I demanded, as he continued snorting. You see, Anthony finds humor in my anxiety and decided it would be funny to throw a rock into the brush, knowing full well that I’d think it was a giant ape. “Was that you?” I asked accusingly as he was filming me. I could tell the “would I do such a thing?” look on his face that he was guilty.

“Get me out of here”, I screamed, “I can’t take anymore”. He knew I was close to my breaking point (which isn’t pretty), so instead of risking me having a complete meltdown in the middle of Bali’s renowned monkey forest, he agreed to leave.

“I think the exit is this way,” he said. “You THINK”, I said, “YOU THINK it’s this way?” By now, sweat was dripping down my face and into my eyes. “I can’t even see where we’re going” I yelled as my eyes started to burn. “Just lead the way with your voice”. As we approached the exit, something wasn’t right. “I don’t remember it looking like this”, I said as my eyes began to clear. “Excuse me”, Anthony said to the Balinese Park Ranger, “is this the only exit from the park?” “Oh no”, said the Ranger, there are two, do you know which one you came in from?” “It doesn’t matter!” I yelled, “It’s an exit!” “But our stuff is checked in the locker at one of the other ones”, Anthony said, “So we have to find the right one” and we no idea which one it was.

This nightmare was not about to end…

The other exit was completely on the opposite side of the park too, so we now had to maneuver our way though monkey hell all over again. Then, as we stood there debating on how to get out of this horror movie, I was almost knocked over by a strong shove on my left hip. “What the hell?” I said. Then I looked down and this freakishly looking half monkey/half devil with white eyes and long fingers nails just stood between Anthony and the ranger doing nothing but staring at me. And for some reason, I couldn’t do anything but stare back. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t; my feet were frozen. All I could do was stand there and look into its evil eyes.


Evidently this was the wrong thing to do, because this creature must have mistook it as an act of aggressiveness, because along with showing me it’s teeth, it let out a very long and very loud hiss in my direction. It was just like in the Omen, when Lee Remick took Damien to the zoo and the monkeys sensed that the devil nearby so they began attacking them.

And the rest is a blur. I vaguely remember running fast toward the right exit, dodging tourists and flying monkeys along the way, but that’s about it. The next thing I knew, I was in the safety of a bar, vowing never to go outside again.


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