Tuesday, March 26, 2024

My featured person for Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31st) 2024 - Jan Morris

Welsh historian and writer Catharine Jan Morris was given the name “James Humphry Morris” at her birth on October 2, 1926. She published under this name until 1972. This was the year she received her gender confirmation surgery - transitioning completely from male to female. From then on, she published as “Jan Morris.”

Morris was a decorated soldier of World War Two, serving in the elite 9th Queen's Royal Lancers. She was also a skilled mountaineer and a member of Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1953 Mount Everest Climbing Team, which made the first ever confirmed ascent of the mountain. She was the only journalist to accompany the expedition. 

Morris began her transition to life as a woman in 1964. one of the first public figures to ever do so. She documented her transition story in her book Conundrum, published in 1974. Her 1972 surgery was performed in Morocco because she was unable to get the surgery in Britain, at the time. This was because doctors there refused to perform the surgery unless she divorced her wife Elizabeth. This was something they were both unwilling to do. They did eventually divorce later, but remained together, until they were legally able to recognize their union in 2008. They stayed together until Jan Morris died in 2020 at the age of 94. 

Jan Morris authored dozens of books and countless articles, most of these were essays about her travel experiences and British Isles history. Her books were often very humorous and were frequently best sellers. She was honored repeatedly for her writing. 

Fiercely outspoken on many issues, Jan was an ambassador to the world for her beloved Wales, and was productive right up until the time of her death. She lamented the teetering decline of the western world into totalitarianism and was proud of her work to defeat Nazis. In her published diaries, she often declared herself an agnostic, but said that if she were to proclaim a religion it would reflect the tenets of Christianity, and all great religions, in that kindness should rule over all.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

SpoSpo74 second story. Becky and Barb!

Becky and Barb’s Adventure at  Expo 74


My name is Becky and I was 14 when the World’s Fair was in Spokane. We lived up in the Shadle area and I didn’t get to go to downtown too much, maybe once a month. And every time we would go there, it always seemed the same until about 1972 or so. Then, every time we would go downtown, it seemed like there were always big changes. Buildings were being torn down. The railroad bridges that always looked like they would just fall down were just gone one day. No wreckage. No crushed cars or casualties. It was just like they were never there to begin with. 


I had a friend , Barb. We went to elementary school together,  but she had moved to the South Hill back in 6th grade. Even though she went to LC, and I went to Shadle,  we were still really good friends. We would call each other once a week, even write each other letters! Can you imagine that? We were only about five miles apart but we would write each other. My mom and Barb’s mom were friends, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to do sleepovers at her place.  A couple times a year, usually in the summer, we would do these sleepovers - she at my house or me at hers. Her place was more fun because it was close to downtown where there was a lot to do. 


Barb’s dad was a mailman, and he was really funny and cool. My dad worked at an engine rebuilding shop. He was a crank grinder. Both our families were barely middle class. After Expo 74 had been going for about a month, I got a letter from Barb, and in it was a clipping from a tabloid - the National Enquirer or Weekly World News, there were a bunch of these newspapers back then, right at the grocery store checkout line. The part she had cut out was about the Loch Ness Monster, and it had a blurry picture of the thing too. In her letter, Barb said that she had seen something similar at the World’s Fair. Now, I knew Barb could be a kidder and I thought this was a pretty funny joke. I suppose there were things all over the world that I didn’t know anything about, so a monster that lived in a Scottish Lake could be a possibility, at least to me. 


I had already gone to the fair once. It was expensive, at least for my whole family. There were six kids and my mom and dad. My little brother got sick on a ride and we had to go home, so we didn’t see much.  All the public schools did field trips and I got in on one of those too. That was the last week of school. It was for an English class, which had nothing to do with Expo 74, other than we had to write a paper for it. I saw a lot of interesting things there, but I would think, if there was a sea monster to be seen, I would’ve noticed the line for it, or an advertisement or something. 


Back to Barb’s letter. It was the weekend when I received it, and the phone was tied up the whole day with my dad home and the rest of us too. So, I didn’t call her until Monday night. The conversation was pretty quick because we had a time limit on how long we could talk. 


We chatted about the usual stuff, how dumb everything was: boys, our parents, the TV Show Kung Fu,  and finally I was able to ask her if she was just kidding about the monster. She assured me that she was not. It was in the Iranian Pavilion she said. 


Back then, Iran and the United States were on really good terms. They were allies. It seemed like all the countries at Expo 74 were our allies except the USSR. I always thought maybe the Russians just came here so they could be close to a SAC base. Maybe they just wanted to spy on Fairchild AFB to see what was going on with our B-52s. 


Barb said that the thing she saw in the aquarium tank at the Iranian Pavilion, looked just like how she thought a baby Loch Ness Monster would look. The display said that it was not fully grown, she added. So, it was possible that this is what gave her that idea. Barb gave the description of it looking like a snake, but with a big belly and fins where its feet and legs would be. It looked like a dinosaur and was only about three feet long. She might have said that it was just under a meter long. We were all trying to learn the metric system because we were told the United States was going to join the rest of the world and start talking in meters and liters really soon. So, sometimes we would practice. 


Barb said the glass tank the creature was in was about two-meters long by one-meter high and wide. Pretty big. There were a lot of pumps and stuff attached to the aquarium. She said the creature just swam around and around. She noted that Iran has an ocean on two sides of it. If anybody was going to have a sea serpent,  why not Iran? 


Barb’s dad’s postal route took him right into the fair itself. On some days, she would tag along with him. She would enter the fair with him and a couple hours later, exit with him. They would meet by the garbage goat at a prearranged time. The garbage goat was a popular rendezvous spot for families. Barb said she only saw the sea creature thing once and then never again. It was there the first time. The next time she came, there was no tank and nobody working there would give her a straight answer on where it went. Sometimes they wouldn’t even admit that there was ever a tank or anything in it. She had been back about three times.


At first, I didn’t know what to think. Barb was given to flights of fancy. Her mom and dad doted on her, maybe because she was an only child. My parents said she was spoiled. All I saw was a girl whose parents encouraged her and were nice to her. Her dad built her a little studio in the basement where she would paint and write. She would also do her homework down there. It was like she had a job in being a good student and making art, and her parents encouraged her in that job. I knew that being imaginative was just part of her job description. She wasn’t afraid to be loud, be odd, or stand out. My parents taught me that my job was to be quiet, not stand out and just fit in. Apparently we were being raised for different positions in life. I was the wildest in my family and I was nowhere near as crazy as Barb. Although, I wish I was. I would say, as adults, we became much more alike in temperament, and we’re still friends. 


So, the next time I slept over was in the summer. School was out and I could go with Barb and her dad downtown. Barb’s dad always wore a neatly pressed uniform. It was like his postal service clothes made him an important person, an official. He was our ticket for entry into all sorts of places downtown. When we slipped into Expo, Barb asked her dad if she and I could just walk home, instead of meeting up with him, and that we would just get lunch at the fair. He said that would be fine. He gave her ten bucks and said “You girls have a good time.” I was just hoping that he didn’t tell my parents. They would come unglued. That Zodiac Killer had been busy down in California and my parents were sure he would be visiting the World’s Fair. I mean why not. Just because you’re a serial killer, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to be educated and entertained in an international and environmentally conscious fashion. 


That day was a blur. We ate some applets and cotlets for lunch at the Washington State Pavilion. They are the state candy, I think, or they wanted to be. I never liked them very much and neither did Barb, but she made a good point when she said that we should eat them for our lunch. They were free and you could eat as much as you wanted, if you just kept coming back in different waves of people. Plus, they had the added benefit of causing queasiness. This queasiness would keep us from being hungry the rest of the day. We could spend the $10 her dad gave us on something else. Her logic made a lot of sense when she said it. 


The Iranian Pavilion was a boxy structure. It was painted red, white and green. The paint job reminded me of Christmas, even though the day was warm and I don’t think the Iranians did Christmas. Inside the building there were a lot of mirrors and pictures of ancient ruins. Of course there was some sort of environmental angle, because that was the theme of Expo 74. There were three Iranian people greeting visitors, answering questions, and being goodwill ambassadors for the Iranian government. There was an older man, a guy in his 20s and a very beautiful woman, maybe in her 30s. They were dressed nicely and had pins on their lapels that featured the flag of Iran (white, green and red) crossed with America’s red, white and blue. Underneath the flags were two hands clasped. Best of friends. At least for the next few years. 


When they saw us they seemed nice, but then a wave of recognition moved over their faces and they whispered to each other. I bet they were saying something like “There is that crazy girl and now she brought a crazy friend. Barb ignored them and she walked right over to a large, very heavy and ornate table. On its top where some potted plants and some books. 


“This is where it was,” she whispered to me. 


The older man walked over with a smile on his face - “Hello again Barbara. Still looking for the Gandarewa?” He put his hand on her shoulder. Obviously Barb had been bugging them about this table a lot.


“Yes,” she spoke right up, and shrugged his hand off. “This is my friend Kathleen. She is a writer for our school paper and we want to do a story about the sea monster.” Of course, my name was Becky, we didn’t go to the same school and I didn’t even read our school newspaper. If you are going to lie about one thing, might as well keep going, I suppose. 


He smiled down at me. “Hello, Kathleen. There is no sea monster.”


I surprised myself and jumped into my role, reaching into my purse for nonexistent paper and pen. “You called it “Gandarewa?”


“Yes.” he looked me in the eyes. Big warm brown eyes. He didn’t seem angry, just bemused. “Gandarewa is a story about a sea monster. You might call him a dragon. A very naughty dragon. But, it is just a story. There is no such thing. My name is Babak.” He shook my hand. “I am sure your readers would be more interested in the history of Persia, the beauty, what we are doing to preserve that beauty…”


I cut him off, “My readers are only interested in the truth!” I was enjoying myself. I could feel Barb’s approval radiating out of her.


Babak dropped my hand. “You Americans start being Americans at such an early age.” Then he turned and started talking to others in the crowd. He was done with us. 


The Iranian woman and the younger guy watched us leave.


“Nice work!” Barb laughed. “You are really good at this stuff when you want to be. I want to know what they did with this Gandarewa. I smell a rat. If this thing was in the Russian pavilion and then it disappeared, I would have alerted the authorities right away. Maybe it is a dragon, like he said, and it’s going to start fires around here.”


There were always buildings on fire in Spokane back then. How would we even notice more stuff burning down? I told her that it made no sense for an underwater creature to be able to breathe fire. It seemed counterproductive. 


We were both leaning against the Skyfloat pole discussing our next move. The Skyfloat was like a chairlift that you could ride around on. It was sponsored by a root beer company. I remember the word “Riblet” stenciled on the top of the chairlift pole because I remember thinking how some ribs and a root beer float would taste pretty good right about then. Standing in the sun, realizing that the applet and cotlet antihunger inoculation was waning, a young man approached us. He was the same guy from the Iranian pavilion. The young guy. 


“My name is Abbas.” He stuck out his hand to shake both of ours. The sleeves were too short on his gray sport coat so when he relaxed his shoulders and extended his arm, it looked like his arm grew three inches. I thought to myself this guy would make a good magician.  


“Charmed.” we said after both of us had received our official-like handshake from Abbas. We put on an air of aloofness and disinterest. I was reaching for my fictitious notepad and pen again.


“You have been to our display four times now.” Abbas’ English was perfect. 


“Yes,” Barb replied. “One time when you had the sea monster. Three times after you got rid of it. Oh, I know, you’re going to tell me again that there was no sea monster. Well that’s…”


Abbas cut her off. And his eyes said it all. There was a sea monster. And then his voice confirmed it. He looked at me and made a motion for me to keep the invisible paper and pen in my purse. I complied. 


“Yes, we had a baby water dragon, but we had to get rid of it. Your city has very strict rules about displaying animals. It is not encouraged. And they asked too many questions about the Gandarewa. So when we told them we shipped it back, they, as they say in your films, “Got off our backs.”


“What, you just stuck a bunch of stamps on it and stuck it in the mailbox? Come on!” That came out of my mouth. 


“No. There are shipping companies. Out countries have good relations and it is not a problem.” That’s what he was saying, but the way he looked when he said it… 


He told us to stay away from the Iranian Pavilion from now on. He put a please at the end of the request. He shook our hands, again very officially, and left. 


“I don’t think he was telling the truth,” I said to Barb. 


“I don’t care,” was her reply. “I just wanted to show you that I wasn’t crazy or a liar. If you really were a reporter for your school newspaper, this would be what they call a ‘scoop,’ even at Shadle Park.” Then she laughed, and so did I. 


I don’t remember much more about that day, except that walking back home we passed the outdoor French restaurant and it smelled really good. It took us about a half hour to get back to Barb’s house, just in time for dinner. I think it was macaroni and cheese. Barb must have pocketed the ten dollars her dad gave us. 


There wasn’t any kind of Internet back then so I had no way of looking up whether these sea creatures were common, or if Gandarewas were even real. I tried looking them up in the encyclopedia at school, but couldn’t find anything. 


As years went on, I had almost forgotten about the Gandarewa.


Then, I was at a party, later, in the 1980s. One of the guys there worked for Washington Water Power, now called Avista. He worked on the dam and power plant downtown.  We started talking about the Iranian hostage situation, which was going on back then, and I told him the story of the Iranian sea monster. 


He listened politely and then told me his own story. He said he saw this same creature way before Expo. It was in 1970. It was about twenty feet long, and looked like it had died, floated down the river and wound up blocking one of the inlets to the generators that made electricity for downtown. He and a coworker had to fish it up with poles, ropes and grappling hooks and a winch. They were told to do it at night. 


His partner was a Native American. According to this Spokane Indian Tribal member, the creature was called a lightning snake. Like the salmon they would mostly live in the ocean and then spawn in freshwater. They held a lot of power. Sometimes, they would live in lakes. He described what it looked like and, to me, it sounded like Barb’s Ganderawa, only about  seven times bigger. The man I talked to said he wanted to take a picture of it, bring it home, tell the newspapers. It would really put Spokane on the map. His friend, the Indian, was adamant about throwing it back in the water, only, of course, on the other side of the dam. He told of misfortunes that followed those who had kept, or ate (yuck), a lightning snake. The man reluctantly agreed with his friend and they put it back in the water. He thought that the Iranians might have caught the lightning snake out of the Spokane River and decided to display it in their pavilion. He thought they probably let it go when people started paying too much attention. 


Was that the beginning of their national bad luck? Unlike the hostages, they did release the creature pretty quickly… If that’s what really happened. 


I did look up “Gandarewa” once there was the Internet. It fit the description of the creature too. So who knows. 


Maybe a lightning snake and a Gandarewa are the same thing. If so, I think it’s comforting to know that these animals of water go where they want, unless we get in the way. And if there is a way around us, they will find it. No borders or boundaries. No political agenda. Eating, mating, loving, enjoying the water in which it swims - all over the world. That’s what I think being a Gandarewa must be like. 


When I found out about all this, and thought more about it, I called up Barb and told her. She said we should be more like lightning snakes. Then she told me what she did with the ten dollars her dad gave her. 

Monday, March 18, 2024



Hi, I've been asking for folks to share their Expo 74 experiences to celebrate the 50th anniversary. My plan was to take the recordings and feature them on my radio show Out and About.  There haven't been many submissions. But what I have is on the SpoSpo74.com website. 

Here is one that you may like. The actual recording is on the website. But, I will share the transcript here: 

EXPO True Stories – Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom at the Ridpath Hotel (transcript of an audio recording)



Hi my name is Eldon. My grandpa told me this story about Expo 74. And about 20 years ago, I decided I should probably make a tape of some of his stories. So here it is. And, I hope you can hear him OK.


My name is Peter and I have been asked by my grandson Eldon to record some of the things I have done in my life. I think this is my third recording. Back in the 1970s I was working in television. Kind of doing independent things until someone with money would make me a little less independent. 


The best job I had during this time was working for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Back in the day there were only three, well four if you counted public television, stations. Mutual of Omaha was this insurance company. I think it was actually located in New York, but they were the main sponsors of this TV show and it had to do with a couple of guys who were experts on animals. They both had jobs in big zoos. Jim Fowler and Marlin Perkins. I always thought it was kind of weird that these guys had animal lingo in their names. 


But Marlin was the older of the two. On the air, he kinda came off as a Mr. Peabody type guy but really he was pretty, I guess you’d say, macho. As he got older he had the reputation of avoiding the action but I never saw that side of him. I know when there were some of the stunts with more dangerous animals he would often have a martini or two before hand. Liquid courage? I was kind of an assistant on that show. Got to travel all around the world. I learned a lot about filming and about sound, about mixing drinks and animals. It was no secret that, in order to get a shot, sometimes, we would go through two or three critters to make sure what we got was good. Sometimes, I do feel bad about the animals dying so we could show people why we needed to protect them. But it could be a dangerous job. Maybe that’s why a life insurance company liked to sponsor it. 


We didn’t know anything about Spokane, or the World’s Fair, Expo 74 at the time. Then Nixon did the opening day speech, and right there and then Spokane and Expo became a great lead-in on the news because they would be able to show Nixon in a positive light and then pivot to the stuff that they were saying he was doing that was criminal. Kind of a Jekyll and Hyde thing. So all of a sudden, everyone is aware of Expo and with its environmental theme, “Don’t be a litterbug” stuff. It was something everybody liked, so Mutual of Omaha wanted in on the expo action. The only thing was that all the booths, the pavilions and other places at the fair were already filled with other countries and other corporations showcasing their stuff. But Mutual of Omaha wanted in and wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, I think it was Jim Fowler, it could have been Marlin, had this idea that if we couldn’t be in the fair, maybe we could be next to it. So we started looking at places. The Davenport would have been good, but they were making money hand-over-fist with tourists. Eventually, we got the Ridpath Hotel. It was a little farther away but still downtown. They had a little convention center thing across the street, and rent was cheap. 


Of course Marlin and Jim were hardly there. They had zoos to run, plus they were famous. I set up the displays in the main room of the convention center. We had a five month lease there. I remember that. Most of the display animals were shot and stuffed, well the taxidermists liked to say they were taken and mounted, which, to me, sounds worse, but what do I know. We had some beavers, a tiger, a lion, an emu, I think there was a deer or an elk stuffed too. The kind of animals which may have been killed during the production of the TV Show. I was surprised that Marlin let us have the hyena. He always kept that one at his house. I wasn’t there, but the story he told was that the hyena had gotten into his stash of Oreo cookies when they were on a safari. It was the middle of the night and Marlin came home from an extended cocktail hour to his tent to see the hyena eating his cookies and he shot it right then and there. If you looked close, in the hyena’s mouth there was always a cookie. Marlin would pull it out, eat it for show and then there was always another cookie in it. I don’t know if there was a dispenser in there or if Perkins would just replace it later. Anyway. That taxidermied beast was there. 


We really wanted to have some live animals too, but the Ridpath was worried about the mess, but eventually they let us have  a couple of small cages with animals in them - wombats, little lizards, a black mamba, that kinda thing. That was Jim Fowler who talked them into that. I remember that. The little animals could still get pretty wound up so, they gave me a lesson in how to shoot em up with etorphine, I think that’s what it was called. It’s the stuff they loaded up the tranquilizer darts with every day. They also gave me a box of loose syringes of just about every size made and a jar of needles. 


I could just jab them through the cage, and would do that every morning. The only warning was that I should avoid the neck because if the stuff got into a vein instead of the muscle, it would make the animals sick, maybe even die. Of course, the snakes didn’t have necks, or they were all neck depending on how you looked at it. 


The crowds were pretty good each day. About once a week, I would go down to the train station and pick up a new animal and ship one out, occasionally two. I think we tried to do this Sunday nights when we were shut down. One time I went down there. I had a cage full of voles or moles, I can’t remember which. I was shipping them back and picking up a new animal. And it turned out to be a zebra. What the hell was I supposed to do with a zebra? It was kind of mean-spirited too. Tried biting me a bunch. I still don’t know if there was some kind of mix up or if this was Marlin’s idea of a joke. All I knew was I had a big striped problem on my hands. There weren’t cel phones at the time. Just telegraphs and telephones. So I was stuck. No one else was running the show. So, I went to a rental company got some fencing, some hay, a trailer and I brought my jug of tranquilizer juice – the etorphine. I hired some local kids to help load the zebra. Dot was its name. I gathered that because there was “D.O.T.” on the crate. Although that could’ve stood for department of transportation. Anyhow we got that thing tranquilized, loaded it up and I took it to the Ridpath. We put it on some old carpeting and we drug it right into the room. It was kinda weird. It was just laying there on the floor, while all the other stuffed animals, bears, crocodiles, tigers, didn’t seem to care much. I don’t know ,it just seemed weird.  I knew the Ridpath was going to throw a fit. This was just way too big.


The next morning, before we opened, I went down to make sure everything was alright. Probably about five or so in the morning. I didn’t sleep all night. I should have just stayed in the convention hall instead of going back upstairs and trying to sleep. Because when I got down there, it was a mess. The Zebra had woke up and had knocked down the fencing and it was going crazy. All I could do was slam the door closed and run back upstairs and get the jug of tranquilizer. 


Now, this was the best job I ever had. I was passing myself off as some sort of adventurer, some animal expert. I often wondered how far I could go in this business. I was even seen in some of the tv show clips. Marlin always just referred me to as “an assistant” or something when I had to lasso shut an alligator’s mouth or coax a rattlesnake out of a mailbox, or what not. It was good money and I did not want to lose this job.


So, I loaded up the biggest syringe I could find, it was as big as a turkey baster, with the etorphine. To be honest, I was drinking a little of the stuff at night. Just a little to help me sleep, but there was still a couple more gallon jugs of the stuff. A lifetime supply. 


I opened the door to the convention center. The zebra was laying there upright with its legs underneath it. Kind of like a child’s piggy bank, that’s what it reminded me of. I didn’t give it a chance to stand up. I ran across the room with the syringe over my head. Those big eyes looked at me. They went all white for just a second. It bared its teeth. The back legs were starting to push its ass up and the front legs were having a harder time of it. I fell right on top of it and plunged that needle right into its god-danged neck. I pushed the giant plunger on the syringe with both my thumbs. One on top of the other. Hard! The stuff was thick. At the same time as the syringe emptied. It jumped up and sent me into the air, knocking over a couple of gray squirrel cages. They got loose, but just stood there. A plume of blood sprayed from the zebra’s neck. And then just as fast as it went up, it went down. Down to the red shag carpet. Dot took three slow gulps of air, each exhalation sounding like a resignation, a surrender. And the zebra died right there on the floor of the Ridpath Convention Center. Blood oozed out of the carotid artery. I had mistakenly shot a bucketful of medication straight into the zebra’s bloodstream. And as big as this zebra was when it was alive, laying there, stretched out dead, it looked gigantic. All 900 pounds of it. 


Now, I had a problem. It was a big one. A big striped one. It was strange. All the other chatter from the alive animals stopped for a moment, as if they saw the zebra’s spirit leave its body. Weird. I needed to sober up. There were some tarps we had used that the taxidermied animals were shipped in. The one that had covered the polar bear was pretty big. I had to cover this thing up right where it lay. And I needed to make a phone call to Marlin or Jim. I knew that whatever happened, I would probably be out of a job but worse than that, I had killed a zebra, a zebra with a name - Dot. 


If I called Jim, he would be pretty matter of fact about stuff. I thought he would make me turn myself into the police. Looking back on it, I don’t know why I thought that. Marlin was more of a wild card. Somehow, I felt like he must’ve gone through something like this before. So I picked him. Besides, it was his zoo’s zebra. 


I found a pay phone and started loading it up with quarters. I could have called collect but I figured that may have left more of a paper trail. I had the direct line into his office. It was 7:30 here which made it 9:30 in St Louis. Marlin was understandably angry with me. After he called me every name in the book, he told me that he shouldn’t have sent such a large animal this way to begin with. He also told me that the Zebra (he didn’t name it so maybe the D.O.T. was for department of transportation) had recently been diagnosed with a neuroendocrine cancer (pretty common with zebras). This may be why it had died from the tranquilizer, maybe. Marlin said he would be coming out and gave me some specific instructions. 1. Close the display until he got to Spokane. 2. Stop drinking the etorphine. 3. Contact Victor Yung in the kitchen of the Ridpath restaurant - Ankenny’s. Ankenny’s was a restaurant on the top floor. One of the swankiest places in Spokane. He said he would be calling Victor ASAP. 


After I put the closed sign on the doors of the convention center, I took the elevator up to Ankenny’s 13 floors, if that wasn’t an omen… I asked to see Mr. Victor. They said he wouldn’t be in for a couple hours, so I walked around Spokane, up to the Bon Marche, The Crescent and the Davenport Hotel. It was kind of run down but you could tell that it really used to be something. I looped back after some breakfast at a little café. Jerry’s?


Mister Yung met me at the pass-through door to the restaurant’s kitchen. He looked concerned, but not at all worried. I guess the only Chinese person I felt like I knew was Hop Sing from Bonanza. And this guy kind of reminded me of him. Mister Yung was older than Hop Sing. But he had the braided ponytail, little mustache and beard and wore a chef’s get-up. But when he spoke it wasn’t like Hop Sing’s voice like I expected. He had a deep western drawl, like a cowboy from Texas. Later on, I would learn that Victor Yung had been a major figure in Spokane’s Chinatown, when there was a Chinatown and he even had connections with some of the opium dens there in the 1920s. 


He wanted me to call him Victor and told me not to worry, that he would take care of it. He would need a little help but not much. Three guys at the bar, white guys, looked at Victor and he nodded his head. I followed them out to the restaurant and back down to the convention center. I went to unlock the door, but Victor must have known about some kind of defect to the lock because he hit it a certain way and the door just popped open. 


It was obvious they had done this kind of work before. One of them just carried a roll of paper. The other had something on a dolly and the third guy just looked pissed. Victor carried some knives and a saw. There was a freight elevator I hadn’t noticed before. We dragged the zebra on the tarp through its doors and then took it downstairs to the parking garage. There were some doors down there that opened into a room with a drain in the floor.  Mister Yung made cuts around the animal and peeled off the hide. Then the rest of Victor’s team started sawing and filleting. Victor stood there supervising the operation. I found out the  big thing on the dolly was a grinder and they got busy wrapping up zebra hamburger in sheets torn from the roll of white paper. It was obvious they had done this same kind of work before, together. I hoped it was just animals. 


And just like that, it was done. Mr. Yung rolled up the zebra skin like a mat. He started looking at his wristwatch as the entrails, tarp and bones were dropped into a dumpster just outside the garage. Victor looked up from his watch, as a city garbage truck picked up the dumpster with its giant forks and shook out its contents into the back. From the savannas of Africa to the landfill in Spokane, that zebra had lived one weird life. 


I went back up to the convention hall and everything looked about like it did the day before. Mr. Yung’s people had taken care of the mess in there too. The fencing had been returned. The blood was scrubbed up. All the animals were back in their cages including the squirrels. About the only thing that I had to do was to administer the etorphine to the badger and check on the snakes. 


That night, Marlin was back in town. He didn’t have much to say to me. There was a big private party at the Ridpath for Expo bigwigs and city VIPs.  Marlin hosted. I heard the burgers, ribs and steaks were really good. I guess I had provided the meat, but I wasn’t invited. 

Marlin had left behind one of his jungle outfits for me to wear. Sometimes, kids would ask me for my autograph. I would give it to them and I would pull a cookie out of the hyena for them too. I didn’t get any more live animals, and the ones that died on my watch from then on were carefully cataloged, reported and even sometimes shipped back to the zoo of origin. After the fair, I stuck around in Spokane. My TV career was over. But thanks to my time with the animals, stuffed, alive and in between, I was able to parlay that into being hired for starting a little zoo in Spokane after the World’s Fair. It didn’t amount to much, but it helped pay the bills and helped me start my family. 


Oh yeah. One of my last days there, Mister Yung handed me a pouch. It was zebra skinned and I still keep my smokes and lighter in it. 


And that’s what I remember about Expo74.


How was that? Was that OK?