I once contended that Barney Frank is my spirit animal. Why? “He talks like he has a mouth full of bologna,” “we would watch Golden Girls together with our hair in curlers,” and he is an “American hero.” Nothing quite like quoting yourself, back when you used to be funny. I stand by this, especially since my figure resembles Frank’s zaftig physique more and more in my advanced age.
But I recently had the pleasure of visiting God’s country, the Philippines, through which a former equally rotund legislator (though far less progressive), William Howard Taft, was transported via riding chair through the country of 7,100 islands. A few years ago I thought I was really cool and bohemian, having backpacked in grungy glory to the Leonardo DiCaprio beach and danced in full moonlight in body paint on the shores of Thailand. Amateur, I tell you. If you are a sentient human being and desire to open new horizons via riding chair or just on foot like a mere mortal, the Philippines is where it’s at.
Because other than boasting the friendliest human population on earth’s surface,
the dessert Halo Halo,
and casual everyday glamour like this,
nowhere else can you encounter the tiniest member of the primate family, the tarsier.
Tarsiers are the littlest primates, and are indigenous to the Philippines. Like a slow loris or its side winding cousin the lemur, the tarsier is tiny and freaky and adorable, which has made it a target for exotic pet poachers the world over. And who can blame them? What would you give to wake up every morning staring into these eyes, which clock in at a ratio of 500 times the size of human eyes? Had we the same body:eye ratio, our eyes would be the size of grapefruits! Their eyes are the size of their entire brain. The THINGS the little tarsier must have SEEN!
After visiting the Philippine Tarsier Foundation in Bohol, I realized I have a lot in common with the little rascal, perhaps even more than the veteran representative from Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district. For one, the tarsier is carnivorous. Do you think that if you hosted a dinner party the tarsier would call you up with some bizarre and obnoxious requests to accommodate his vegan and gluten-free diet? Think again. Tarsiers feast on lizards, small insects and birds, which is more than I can say for some people.
And unlike idiotic animals that travel in murders, or gaggles, or even a flamboyance, tarsiers are loners by nature. The miniature primates do not move in bovine herds. Rather, like the grim French existentialist in moi, they are well aware that hell is other people, or at least other primates. But unlike me, the tarsier is a loner by choice, not necessity because no one will return his calls. Each morning they flee to their own individual tree, forcing the employees of the Foundation to seek out where each little furry for that day resides, and then identify them to camera wielding tourists like myself.
Tarsiers are extremely sensitive. The flash from a camera will cause them to go into shock and die. I, too, am extremely sensitive. Just ask my boyfriend. I haven’t spoken to him since he insufficiently complimented my new haircut more than three months ago.
Now that you are really getting into the tarsier, perhaps as your spirit animal also, I don’t mean to unnerve you with this factoid, but you should have all the information: tarsiers are one of the only animals who can willfully and conscientiously commit suicide! They do it in a variety of manners. They do it by smashing their soft skulls against a hard surface, or by holding their breath until their little lungs explode. Tarsiers often become suicidal in captivity, so even though they are really fascinating and adorable, do not try to domesticate one, lest you have the blood of the tiniest primate on your hands. That is really sad, but maybe also somehow compellingly poetic? Please send your wages to the Philippine Tarsier Foundation at once!
I won’t leave you on that bummer note of tiny primate suicide. To wit: rather than stalking their prey with dully cumbersome charges like the gorilla (or me when I see a taco truck), the tarsier jumps at its insect dinner. Jumps! The tarsier can also revolve his head 180 degrees. Your loved ones would not be so inclined to comment on your new wardrobe of waist-less writing clothes if you could give them the stink eye without even having to move your Rubenesque body. That feature would also allow you to conserve calories for important activities like plotting revenge and avoiding the feds. And did I mention:
Wait, I don’t think you heard me: