The Ikea monkey that fed the 24-hour news cycle all week reminds me that I've had my own ill-advised and politically-incorrect-before-there-was-a-term-for-it adventures in simian stewardship.
It wasn't the smartest decision she ever made, but when my financially challenged single mother was nagged by my uncle about her ability to provide fun for her three kids, mom said, "Just watch me." She turned her rusty car in to the Don Mills Plaza and bought us a pet monkey that we took home to our two-bedroom, four-person Flemingdon Park apartment.
It was a black and yellow squirrel monkey, and we were supplied with a small cage, a bag of monkey kibble and no instruction beyond "You'll do just fine."
My roomie was now a disconcerted, 18-inch-or-so-high primate we named Mr. Chips. Needless to say, he was a big hit with my pint-sized pals, who were certain I was steps away from the big time (or at least the big top) if only I could teach our raccoon-eyed creature some tricks. The monkey taught himself a few on his own, the most annoying, though briefly hilarious, being his ability to shit in his hand and then fling it through his bars at my family and me. He also masturbated. A lot.
One of the greatest events in our little-kid minds was the day he rode our cat. As the cat lounged on my bed, Mr. Chips began inspecting its tail, grooming and dining on the feline's fur. As the dutiful monkey worked his way along its body, the cat remained cautiously cool. Our little-kid hearts raced at this inter-species cooperation.
As Mr. Chips inevitably made his way to the cat's head, he threw a leg over the beast, straddling the now stirring cat and holding tightly onto each ear. As the cat rose up, the monkey was riding him cowboy-style slowly across my bed. Our jaws dropped, eyes popped, and we didn't dare speak or even breathe.
Eventually, the cat rid himself of Mr. Chips, contemptuously hopping off the bed, leaving my friends to scream, "You're going to be rich, Mikey! You can get this on Ed Sullivan!"
I quietly and confidently nodded and smiled, my future now assured as a world-famous monkey wrangler, my mind already racing to the excellent cowboy outfit and hat Mr. Chips would be wearing on his inevitable major network debut.
Sadly, the cat-riding incident would be the high point of our monkey hosting. The protesting creature made it clear that our tiny apartment and uninformed care were not what he had in mind. The shit-flinging grew more insistent, the masturbating more furious. The uncle who initiated this zoological mess was actually bitten by the beast. After almost nine months, my mother said we had to give him to the zoo.
His erratic late-night howling and unmistakable distaste for Flemingdon Park apartments silenced any protests we might have summoned. We learned, like Darwin the Ikea monkey's owner should have known decades later, that the city is no place for a monkey.