Ever had the desire to run off and join the circus? I have.
Two weeks ago, I finally decided: enough is enough. I need some monkeys. Who hasn’t? I’d dreamed of having a monkey on my shoulder ever since I first watched Indiana Jones. So, I called the San Francisco Zoo and asked if I could drop by and play with their monkeys — did they have capuchins? No and no, respectively; however, there was a famous trainer in Napa with baboons. They’d get back to me with his number.
And they did.
Last Saturday, I spent the afternoon with the Jedi master of baboon trainers, Kevin Keith of Napa. He gets called when Hollywood needs monkeys to interact with Sandra Bullock without biting her face off. It was AWESOME. And, God save the queen, he had capuchins. AND spider monkeys, New Guinea singing dogs (the rarest breed in the world, by some accounts), Mandrille baboons, and much more.
For me, this was just the latest experiment in a long string of testing dream jobs — shark diver, tango dancer, MMA competitor, truffle maker, author, etc. — albeit a long-overdue one. Is it possible to just run off and test dreams jobs like this? Sure it is. Is it common? No, but it is very, very possible.
Ever thought of being a chef, chocolatier, dog sledder, astronaut, fashion designer, or sports team manager? There are companies that will pair you with mentors to give you just this experience. For $200-1,000, VocationVacations can help you test the fantasy, just as one example.
If they can’t help you find your champion hotdog eater or Mustang customizing expert, don’t fret. Just call up someone who has your dream job and beg them to spend a slow afternoon with you. Quite literally say something like, “I know this is out of left field, but it’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid to be a _____. I finally built up the courage to look for someone who is a pro in _____, and I found you after hours of research. Is there any possible way I could shadow you for an afternoon, even on a Saturday or Sunday if you prefer? How do I have to beg? I’ll bring a bottle of wine and buy you lunch, stand on my head, or do whatever necessary! Just let me know what I have to do, but please don’t say ‘no’! I’ve come too far.” If that’s a little too dramatic for you, bribe them to lunch to ask them about their job and then spring a version of the above on them.
Trust me, it works. No one does it, so it works.
So, how did my monkey mania turn out? Just check out the below video for a sample, and, yes, Kevin Keith does look like Johnny Knoxsville. Towards the end, the male Olive/Hamadryas mix Mickey unexpectedly jumps on me. This made me a tad nervous, as Hamadryas are the most aggressive of the baboons, and he had been tearing his cage apart seconds earlier, and I do mean TEARING it apart — throwing 100-200-lb. pieces of furniture around like paper airplanes. That’s the smashing sounds in the background of the first video.
“Oh, he’s jealous and excited to play with you!”
I bet. Bring on those 3-inch canines and let’s dance! I was freaking terrified. The lip smacking you’ll see, a gesture of friendship, made me feel slightly better, but not much. Zoe, the wee lil’ capuchin, was a bit more my speed (re: not easily able to kill me).
Last but not least, I was able to eat some Monkey Chow, which tasted pretty damn good. Imagine a large Dog Chow biscuit, yellowish in color and slightly sweet. Deeeeelish. My next business? Repackaging and selling it to health nuts in Santa Cruz for $30 a handful.
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Posted on: April 11, 2007.