The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious WritingThe Large-Headed Capuchin - Issue Thirty-Eight
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The Lar Gibbon  from Christiano Artuso The Large-Headed Capuchin is a highly intelligent New World monkey species found in the South American countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, living in the Amazon lowland and submontane habitats. In Colombia they live in deciduous and evergreen forests, but they prefer habitats with an abundance of palm trees where they eat the fruit. They are primarily frugivorous and insectivorous. They also eat invertebrates-and even eat small vertebrates, like frogs or small mammals. Most of their food consists of fruits, leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds. Their fur is coarse and thick. As far as coloration goes, they are mostly dark: their limbs and tail are a dark brown, while the hair about their backs and shoulders is a lighter shade of brown, erring toward tan, and lighter still on their stomachs. Their faces are rimmed with white hair, with black around the eyes and snout, almost resembling a raccoon. They have long, strong thick prehensile tails which can be used like an additional limb. Males are generally larger than females. A typical adult male large-headed capuchin weighs about 3 kg, though they can be as small as 1.35 kg and as large as 4.8 kg. Adult females range from 1.76-3.4 kg, but on average weigh about 2.4 kg. The body length of these monkeys is typically about 55.9 cm, and their tails equal their bodies in length. They are diurnal and arboreal. They leave the trees to forage for their food, and are known as extractive foragers-they look for their food embedded in the ground, and take the necessary measures to obtain it. Capuchins are the only monkeys other than chimpanzees that have been observed using tools to extract their food from the ground in the wild. When it's time to eat, the dominant male gets first dibs, and those who he's closest with-females or younger monkeys-are allowed to eat while the lower-ranked monkeys must wait their turn. The typical size for a group of large-headed capuchins is around 18 monkeys, though populations in Brazil have been noted to be as small as 7 individuals and as many as 21. Groups consist of more females than males. Large-headed capuchins are preyed upon by large birds, and keep a look-out for threats from above. They are so wary of birds, they fear them all indiscriminately. They attract mates by urinating on their hands and then rubbing them together-a common practice among tufted capuchins. They use various vocalizations, including alarm calls and calls to reorganize the group, while foraging. They also utilize facial expressions. High-ranking individuals will bare their teeth at lower ranking individuals as a sign of approval; lower-ranking individuals will bare their teeth at each other as a sign of friendship. Tufted capuchins (of which the large-headed capuchin is a subspecies) have a gestation period of 180 days. Infants are born one at a time, and are extremely small-typically around 0.25 kg. Because of their small size, they are heavily reliant on their mothers, who feed their young for nine months and carry them around on their backs. As of 2015, the species was listed as Least Concern (IUCN, 2020). Their population is declining, however, which is a result of degradation of their habitat. Also, where their habitat coincides with human habitation, they're hunted heavily, sometimes for food. It has been reported that in some areas of Peru the large-headed capuchin has been hunted so heavily that they no longer occur in that portion of their range. There is also an illegal market for these monkeys, and they are sold for anywhere between 20 and 50 dollars apiece.


Crystal Night


Ben Gilbert

Cold crystals beautifully shaped and delicately formed into soft snow or the harsh ice on an inaccessible mountain. This is what the word crystal conjures up for me.

For others, it may be the cure of crystal healing or the devil calling in a piece of crystal meth, an expensive cut-glass thing or just a pretty stone. I even knew a girl called Crystal, whose beauty had the magic of a piece of crystal rock.

Berlin. November 9th 2014.

The bar was dimly lit. In fact, from the outside it barely looked open. There were no customers, not even a barman was visible. The only clue that it may be open was the flickering of candles burning on top of empty wine bottles, thick with teardrop wax. There was a candle on every empty table.

Just like this one, most semi rundown areas of this fashionable city have a special kind of bar. They are shrines to decay, homage to the old, hailing to the new, and utterly hip.

It's uncertain how long they will last, but for some time, I think, for Berlin still has a love affair with the ghost of its old decrepit East.

To make a bar like this you need time, money and a passion for eccentricity. When it's done, finished and ready for a customer, it will look like it has always been there, aged and ramshackle, just like a long forgotten warehouse or an abandoned factory. The only difference being that your bar won't just have been repaired; it will also be spotlessly clean: that quaint look of rural decay inside a city limit.

First, one needs to find a dilapidated shop in a cruddy part of town, preferably on a corner in an airy quiet street with trees and enough outside space for a few fair weather tables. Plane trees seem to be Berlin's favourite, tall and grand, offering a leafy seasonal umbrella to all. Big stare-through windows are a must; after all, this is going to be a pretend not to be gallery.

Next, clean out the crud and dust until there's a canvas; not a blank one but one that's surely more than half-complete.

Half strip the walls, knock off some plaster, expose brick, leave a little of the old wall paper hanging here and there, and do the same with the ceiling. A few essential repairs may be needed, but when it's done, it still has to look really trashed, yet beautifully clean--this is Germany.

Floors are always the same: wide and chunky old wooden boards, lightly sanded, stained and then polished, the wear and blemishes of age still clearly visible, or an old broken tiled floor, repaired with odd colours and textures before being smoothed down and highly polished.

Make sure the bar itself is made of some kind of discarded bric-a-brac like an old wardrobe, broken palettes or, even better, half a fishing boat. Again, make sure it's not too nice or in good condition.

The electrics must look bad. They are only good if it seems as if the wiring was done a hundred years ago: dirty hanging cables loosely wired into broken connectors with ancient lights casting spooky shadows. Silhouettes are good. Electrocution needs to be an option.

Just a few things left to add.

Tables and chairs, although functional, must be wobbly, eccentric and downright bizarre. They are cast outs found on the streets, in a dump or the poorest second hand shops. Nothing matches, no garish colours and if it breaks it doesn't matter (it's probably already broken, anyway). I even went to one that had a big old-fashioned bathtub just sitting on the bar room floor--for what? For everything--coats were lying in it when I looked, but I imagine kids would have a riot there, after all, these places are civilised coffee shops in daylight hours.

One last thing: the toilets.

There are only two rules to follow. Obviously nothing will be new, that's a given. They have to be spotlessly clean and totally covered in graffiti, not the stylish arty type, but the thick felt pen of the urban yob. But don't worry if you're not up to the job, your clients will do it for you, soon enough and free of charge.

And now the staff:

Men must be wafer thin--no gym for them. Underfed and bearded, definitely not that unshaven macho type, casually dressed in bland clothes that are far too big. We're talking nineteenth century Norwegian fisherman or some kind of dirt poor Bolshevik farmer type. Women walk straight out of a Brueghel painting or a tragic Lorca play.

Open the doors and let the hip come in.

To enter such a place with awareness is like entering a church or a place of worship. You may not be religious or even have religion, but you know that others entering do.

Welcome to the church of the urban hipster.

In the bar I had entered, music was playing but you could still hold conversation without raising your voice. I listened briefly: an American man with a deep-throated serious voice talked and half sung about life and the absurd. I stopped listening after I heard the word crucified, wondering who the hell had been crucified for the sinners of this holy place.

The congregation was out and the place was empty. We would pray alone tonight.

The barman appeared-waif-like, bearded and very softly spoken. We ordered wine. I looked around, a piano stood in the corner and I wondered if it was ever played, or if it just sat there looking pretty, another piece of bric-a-brac from somewhere down the road.

There's only one Berlin now, no East or West, but the whole place is like a museum to both. You can see the divide in bits of the old wall with its famous graffiti along the Spree, and in the old check points, custom houses, gates and stations--even the tram lines only operate in the old East, for the West pulled up its tracks long ago. The miles of brain numbing apartments in the East at Marzahn-Hellersdorf and the old airfield at Templehof in the West, now a park and conference centre but still looking as if planes land every day, are all perfectly preserved and stating loudly--East, West or the line between.

These bars are something like that; a dividing line between the two--run-down, tired, malnourished and in decline--the East meeting the West with its ultra cool modernism.

And to be honest, they are fun and civilised places to visit. Not raucous and beer swilling, neither are they elitist. In fact, if you are dirt poor and turn up in shabby bland attire, you can just pretend a deliberate and measured down dressing. You'll fit in just fine.

My friend and I sat down in this post-modern installation. I guess we were the only exhibits to anyone passing by. We talked about the day. We had hiked long and hard through a vast forest, whose floor had been a mottle of muted autumn colours glistening in the fine rain. The skies were overcast and moody, even at midday the tall beech trees, still considerably covered in leaf, created an eerie twilight. We walked in silence through a sea of grey and brown, the crisp air slightly stinging our faces.

In this empty tract near the Polish border, we had come to look for beaver. They frequent the rivers and marshland below the forest. Although we didn't see a beaver, there had been plenty of evidence of them in the boggy swamps and flowing streams. We saw the classic chewed up tree trunks where a trunk is left teetering and tottering on a tiny stem, and the log dams that make a beaver's lodge.

We had underestimated the time needed to return to the car, and had had to hike hard through fading light along confusing dark trails and increasingly dense mist, skirting around ghostly pools and gloomy lakes. We made it back just before pitch black enveloped the world.

There we were, happy and weary after a great hike through the forest, enjoying the surreal tranquility of this Berlin hipster bar. Out of the blue, my friend asked me if I thought she was a hipster girl. What the hell did that mean--being part of some phony transience, a small moment where you belong to some ephemeral elite, or just a modern thing deliberately showing difference? She was from another part of Germany, not a Berliner, but maybe that's the point--all hipsters are somehow foreign invaders. Who knows? Not me for sure.

That was about as deep as the conversation got, any deeper and we would be stripping away the wallpaper (or what was left of it anyway) to reveal probably nothing much at all--and that would have simply spoiled all the fun.

The American continued to deliver his endlessly dull word parade, and, I kid you not, when I went to the loo--there it was--the thick felt pen of yob graffiti covering every square inch.

As we were laughing together in this bizarre environment, another friend entered. Passing by, she had seen us through the windows and was now heading towards our table, beaming a huge smile that was almost lost in her mass of black hair, wild and thick like a Himalayan yak. She had just come from where half of Berlin had been; in fact, not just Berliners but half of the world's press and cameras.

This place was empty because it was November 9th.

Why had we been here and not there? This was no time to pray in an urban hipster bar, this was the time for celebration out in the cold crisp autumn air.

Was it?

Yes it was. The praying could wait 'till later.


With all this talk about East and West reflecting in a hip bar's decor, we had somehow missed the point. Well not the point exactly, but what the majority had firmly on their minds.

It was twenty-five years to the day that the Berlin Wall came down, was breached, jumped and effectively finished--the day of re-unification, the day that difference died.

My friend and I had been deep in a forest unaware that a very long row of white balloons edged the old wall boundary, lit up and ready to be released into the night sky, cameras clicked and profound articles were being written. A night of joy--let's not forget we are one, once again.

Oh, sorry about that, but we were looking for beaver and the lesser spotted three toed earwig in a dark and vast forest that conjures dreams and spooky night time magic, while Berlin and probably half the world were celebrating the wall coming down.

But these bars are still lamenting this total loss of difference.

You may think I have a loose screw, am slightly unhinged with the door now hanging off, for thinking such a thing, but these bars are really crying such a loss whilst having a grand good time.

We spoke about our Jewish roots--mine shaky like thin cracked ice, but my black haired friend has an ice shelf under her, a thoroughbred, with Hebrew in her blood.

But wait, she had no real interest in the wall, that divide that toppled down, or the evening's celebration, that was all just something to do--to meet some friends and have some fun.

This was 9th November, Crystal Night. The night the Nazi's burnt the synagogues, smashed the Jewish shops--all that glass and fractured shards sparkling in the firelight or early morning sun.

No one in their right mind would celebrate a night like this.

Crystal Night 1938.

My Mother went to school next morning. She was six years old and living in Bad Homburg. It wasn't until school was out around midday that she first knew something had happened. Her class and a few teachers ended up about four minutes from the school, down a road everybody called Jew lane (it had been officially called Judengasse before being changed to Wallstasse). The synagogue was ablaze, flames coming from all the windows. The fire fighters were there, but only to douse the adjoining properties, not to quell the Jewish flames. The shop opposite the school was smashed and wrecked--it was a stationary shop for the kids, owned by a Jew who hanged himself a few days later. No one asked questions and nothing was ever said. Soon after, my Mother remembers, two sisters in her class who had learning difficulties being taken away to a special school and being sterilised. It went on and on…

So, there we were--in a bar, hip or not hip, talking about a wall that was not a wall, and of the night the devil came and turned the world upside down. My Grandmother had come from Berlin and now I was not sure that I even liked it anymore.

Give me beaver anytime…

Here's a drawing that my Grandfather--Karl Trinkewitz--did of that very synagogue, sometime before it was burnt down to the ground:


Ben Gilbert is founder of TheBlueSpace Guides Co-operative and a consultant to Child Space Foundation, Nepal. He has had short stories published in many North American literary journals and is the author of The World Peace Journals (Garuda Books 2013), No Like Home Place (Garuda Books 2013) and Mumbo Jumbo (Garuda Books 2015). He is lives in the United Kingdom and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


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