A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
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Last month, I became an aunt! His name, as far as you’re all concerned, is O.

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Well okay, in full disclosure, I’m not really related to the new baby boy by blood. Or by marriage. But his mother has been my best friend since we were six years old, so that has to count for something. I’m taking the title, as are our five other childhood girlfriends.

I’ve been reflecting on what this first birth in our group means to us and the way we see ourselves, our friendships and our lives. Suddenly, with a new generation born into our “family,” everything seemed framed in a very different context. Events that are happening in very real time now will, to him, be a paragraph in his history books which he may or may not skim or skip entirely. Phrases like “Occupy” and “Bailout” will be the subjects of unoriginal quips on VH1’s “I Love the Early Millenium.” It will be hard for him to believe that any of his crazy aunts were ever even remotely cool (which I suppose is debatable even now, if I’m being truly honest with myself).

So in the spirit of educating my new young friend on some of the more notable happenings during the year of his birth—and because I like to make lists—I’m going to spend this week picking some of my top moments and top contributions to the 2011 zeitgeist.

First up, little O, this was the year of misplaced and/or escaped zoological creatures. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with animal security around town and abroad, but it seems as though wild beasts great and small are running amok. Here are my favorite animal escapees of the year:

5. The baby seal found on a woman’s sofa in New Zealand. This adorable little fella scooted (seals scoot, right?) all the way from his harbor home, across a busy road, up a driveway and through a cat flap in a door. He apparently sniffed around the kitchen first, in search of a snack, and finding nothing to his liking (people really need to keep more live mackerels around), climbed a staircase, hopped up on a couch and took a snooze. My favorite part of this story is that when he was being returned to his habitat, he somehow escaped his cage in the car and managed to turn on the radio. This pup is clearly bound for greater things than your average seal. I smell a Pixar movie!

4. The Inwood Seal graced us with her presence earlier this spring, hanging out in Northern Manhattan and just trying to make a place for herself in the big city. She got her own Twitter handle, @UptownSeal, sunbathed for a while for her adoring public, and then took off a few days later, probably to LA to really give this whole stardom thing a solid shot. But for a moment she was ours, and we loved her.

3. The Bronx Zoo peahen led the charge among peafowl escapees this year, after wandering off zoo property and bounding about the borough. She was on the honor system, along with all of the other BZ peas, free to roam the grounds and impress visitors everywhere. But, like so many great men and women before her, the Bronx Zoo peahen dreamed of what lay beyond. Why shouldn’t she step over the threshold and explore the great wide world? Why should she believe the stories that beyond the gates was a wasteland of nothingness? She went for it and spent a few glorious days scaring the crap out of people and chilling on the hoods of cars. Now she’s under 24-hour personal security and has to wear an ankle monitor at all times, but it was worth it.

2. The Central Park Zoo peacock is next. I rank the CPZ peacock higher only because unlike his trailblazing pea-sister, this guy couldn’t escape by simply walking across the street. His holding facility was netted to the teeth, making it awfully difficult to fly the coop. But our guy somehow managed to get out, and for a short period of time, the Upper East Side was his playground. Perching on fancy apartment buildings, snoozing in the lap of luxury, eating lunch on the Met steps. He’ll be living off of those memories for years to come, and he did manage to get on a few invitation lists for the upcoming fundraising season. I doubt we’ve seen the last of him.

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1.  Mia (for Missing In Action) the Bronx Zoo cobra, made all of this possible. She slithered out of her glass cage and into our toilets hearts. She was missing for a week from her enclosure, and in that time she started a Twitter feed and garnered hundreds of thousands of followers. Sixty thousand people voted on her name, which will likely go down as the most important ballot of the decade. Alas, she didn’t make it very far, as she was discovered hiding out in a non-public area of the very reptile house from which she was attempting to escape. As with so many internet sensations, her fatal error was in wasting too much time blogging about her intentions and not enough time skedaddling. She’s back where she belongs now, biding her time until she can come up with a new plan.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina Archives:

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