Dinosaurs! The name itself infers impending awesomeness. It is derived from the Greek words ‘deinos’ (terrible) and ‘saura’ (lizard). Already you know you are in for a show. Where do I find these terribly awesome lizards? Nowhere. You can find bones, fossils, footprints and even coprolites (fossilized poop).
I have been enamored with these ancient creatures as long as I can remember. I was even rewarded for being potty-trained with a trip to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum to see the bones (I remember that trip clearly, I mean I was 17). I had dinosaur sheets, shirts, and books galore. I also forced my mother to take me to the Maryland Science Center every spring when the animatronic T-Rex came to town. I am even currently reading Stephen Jay Gould’s, Bully for Brontosaurus.
Why am I not a Paleontologist? It was a combination of not liking the research and knowing that everything I would be working with was already dead. That was enough to keep me from digging holes for a living (though just barely).
That does not mean my passion for these amazing prehistoric animals faded. It just became a hobby and also gave me boundless (and annoying) information to spew out every time I watch Jurassic Park. Why then, am I writing about dinosaurs right now?
I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of “Walking with Dinosaurs” at First Mariner Arena on Wednesday. When I got the offer I jumped at it with just the mention of dinosaurs. All that day I was touting the fact that I was going to see this show, not knowing what to expect. I was so excited in fact that I was saying the show’s name too fast and people were asking me: “Walken with Dinosaurs? That will be awesome.”
No doubt seeing Christopher Walken with dinosaurs would be a show for the ages, but from what I know this would be a spin-off of the critically acclaimed Discovery Channel series. I just wondered how they would do it.
The verdict is in… they did it spectacularly. I was immediately impressed with the musculature. They looked and moved as my seven-year-old mind would have imagined them. For the smaller ones like the Utahraptor it appeared that the performers took a page out of the Lion King’s Broadway show’s playbook. There were most definitely slower than the real life incarnations would be and they had a heck of a time maneuvering the sauropods around, but I was mystified.
I sat there with my friend in the awe that gripped the slew of small children in the crowd, all the while reciting the names of the featured animals as they appeared on the floor.
“Here comes the Allosaurus.”
“That Pterosaur looks like it has a 30-foot wing span.”
You get it. I am a dino-dork. The show did not lack in the cheese factor. The “paleontologist” that guided us through this trip 150 million years into the past was hamming it up, with good purpose. For the bigger kids in the audience (that is you adults) who do not share my obsession with the terrible lizards, he proffered forth some basic facts on the beasts, their history and their demise.
Still, there was some apprehension on my part because no matter how cool these things looked there was no ‘wow’ moment… until the Tyrannosaurus Rex took the stage to defend its baby (a six-foot tall baby that could eat any one of us) from an angry tag team in the form of a Torosaurus and Ankylosaurus.
The near 50-foot tall Tyrant Lizard roared once and the crowd screamed. I was immediately taken back to one of the happiest moments of my life. The first time I saw Jurassic Park. It was on the last day of school after the fifth grade with my mom. I had a terrible sun burn which prevented me from sitting back in my seat at Towson Commons.
Not that I would have wanted to sit back then. It was the first time I saw what I thought was a real dinosaur. I know it was classic Speilberg cinema magic, but it felt so real. I remember watching that movie in near tears. I loved these creatures and here they were, alive!
I was back there again, from the teeth jutting out of the top jaw to its monstrous roar (kudos to the First Mariner sound system for scaring the pants off everybody there). It was a real T-Rex. I was watching the most perfect (land) predator of the entire history of the Earth. At that moment I was terrified and excited. I was a little kid again.
Beside the overwhelming nostalgia I felt then, I took another message home with me. The show’s host told us “Do not mourn the dinosaurs.” This species, once so perfectly adapted to its world, was no more of course. Whether killed by cataclysmic comet collision or through evolution took to the air, they were gone.
Dinosaurs never reached a point in evolution where they became cognizant of their dominance. No species, save Homo sapiens, has reached that point. Does that mean we can avoid the fate they suffered? I am going to go out on a limb and say no. What it does mean, however, is that we have the ability and the power to realize our insignificance.
That is something I doubt our culture will ever achieve, let alone perfect, in the near or foreseeable future. While we are here though, we should aim to be good stewards of this spinning spaceship we call home.
Either way, this show was fantastic for kids, to dino-dorks to the novices out there, even if these are only “educated guesses” as to how these animals lived. You have until Sunday to catch it in town. You are on notice.