Vintage Phoenix Memory: Monkey House Shines

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An old photo of Robrt Pela's so-called "Monkey House."
It happened again the other day. I met someone at a cocktail party -- a museum docent who used to live downtown -- and we got to talking about the older neighborhoods in Phoenix and which historic districts we preferred. When I mentioned the corner our home is located on, she squealed, "Oh, my God! You live in the Monkey House!"

Apparently. Everyone in our neighborhood, it seems, as well as dozens of people we've met over the past 12 years, knows our home as the Monkey House -- because the guys who lived there in the '80s and '90s kept pet monkeys there. Also snakes.

See also: Vintage Phoenix Memory - My First Mexican

When we first moved onto the block, our very nice neighbors were quick to fill us in. "They kept the chimpanzees upstairs," Susan from across the street told us. "The monkeys were in the back bedroom, and they howled at night."

"In cages?" my husband asked. But Susan just laughed. Apparently the monkey guys were free spirits who didn't believe in caging their pets, no matter how wild.

"The animals had the run of this place," our former gardener, who'd attended parties at the Monkey House, told me one day. "I don't remember a lot of monkey shit or terrible smells, but those chimps were mean. One of the little fuckers bit me once when I tried to grab a water bong it was holding."

"I think the cobras were in the basement," Kathy next door said. "Or maybe they were pythons. Either way, I'm sure they took all the reptiles with them when they moved."

I don't have anything against snakes, but that comment provided fodder for a recurring dream in which I come home to discover a yellow anaconda in the breakfast room, quietly digesting a lump that used to be one of our housecats.

We wonder why our house didn't become known as the Fireman Brother House, in honor of the pair of firefighter siblings who did such a nice job turning it from an indoor petting zoo back into a livable three-bedroom. Or Oddly Patriotic Couple House, after the husband and wife we bought it from, who named their children Liberty and Justice (and who later, I like to imagine, had another child they named For All).

Monkey House is a better name, I guess. And it's hard to trump an indoor wildlife zoo. While it's not a terrible thing to live in a notorious building, I do wish people would stop bringing us monkeys as gifts. Ceramic planter chimpanzees and Pez dispenser Rhesus monkeys and, perhaps most memorably, a toaster cozy shaped like an orangutan -- we've got them all. Lamps with tails and bookends clutching bananas and a tamarin doorstop. If only our house had a reputation as a good place to drop off big bags of cash instead of tchotchkes with baby gibbons glued to them.

I suppose I'm afraid that, after a certain number of people have visited us and seen all the monkey paraphernalia, our house will become known as Grouchy Guys with Bad Taste House.


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