Man’s New Neighbors are Wild


My college friend Frank Mickadeit has some pretty wild new neighbors this week. Frank has spent the last few days in a cage – day and night – at the Santa Ana Zoo. It’s all a part of his job as a columnist for the Orange County Register, and it’s streaming live online for the whole world to see until this afternoon.

Frank Mickadeit at Santa Ana Zoo

Frank as an exhibit at the Santa Ana Zoo; Orange County Register photo

I started watching on Tuesday as soon as I saw Frank’s posts on Facebook announcing his captivity. It’s been fun, interesting and surreal to watch as Frank goes about this experiment. Viewers have watched him eat monkey chow (tastes like hash, he said), do media interviews with local TV and radio stations, interact with zoo visitors, smoke cigars, write his column, and even serenade the neighboring animals while playing his guitar. As I write this he’s being examined by zoo veterinarians.

This morning I interviewed Frank via telephone, and no, I did not ask him “why” he’s doing this. Yesterday I heard him comment he was tiring of the “why” question. The idea was born on an earlier visit to the zoo while he was watching a monkey just hanging out and relaxing in his cage. He basically asked himself, “How do I get that job?” And now here he is, getting some good columns out of the experience while giving the zoo, and the Register, a lot of great exposure.

When I first heard about the zoo stay, I wasn’t surprised. Even while working for our college paper, The Daily Aztec at San Diego State, Frank had a knack for inserting himself into interesting situations to chase unique stories. And speaking of unique, Frank has a unique – and fun -sense of humor, which is why he’s as great a columnist as he is. He’s both informative and entertaining to readers.

Since this is a blog about neighbors, I confined my questions to his current neighbors, other primates that include capuchin monkeys, gibbons and lemurs. What has living side-by-side with these animals taught him?

“I guess I feel a little smarter than I did when I came in. I’m definitely the smartest guy on the block; that’s a change for me,” Frank quipped.

And what has he taught his zoo neighbors?

“I think I’ve taught them to appreciate the aroma of a fine cigar,” he said. “And I think they are really going to miss it.”

He said he has contemplated leaving some cigars behind, but “they have to know how to make fire to do that, and that’s the great difference in our species. I’ve learned to make fire and therefore I can smoke a cigar.”

Finally, I asked him how his animal neighbors compare to human neighbors he’s had. He had to admit he likes his zoo neighbors better than his building neighbors who “play god awful techno music until all hours.” They also have illegal dogs that poop and pee in the elevators, not bothering to clean up after their pooches.

“I would rather live here, frankly.”