Humanity might be fucking up the planet, but Nature is protesting as loud as it can. We went to bed that first night and I was like, “What the fuck?” Bugs. Bugs are loud as shit. In the pitch black, it sounded like we were surrounded by thousands of pencil sharpeners, electric shavers, and tattoo guns. Everyone was getting ready for the new school year, sharpening their pencils, shaving, and getting inked. TZTZTZTZTZTZ!
And don’t forget about the birds. They don’t make bird noises. They make fucked up noises. They practically talk. The first bird I became friends with in the wee hours of the morning over the din of pencils, shaving, and tattoos, was the “Week Ago” bird. It said, “A week ago.” All night. A week ago. A week ago. A week ago. A week ago. So I started singing along with it. The bird would go, “A week ago,” and then I’d go, “I wasn’t here hearing you sing—“ “A week ago!”
A week ago I wasn’t here hearing you sing a week ago I wasn’t here hearing you sing a week ago I wasn’t here hearing you sing…
Another bird said, “PINK WHEELS!” over and over again. And then Tania named one bird “The Gary Bird” because, like Gary, it would smack its lips then go, “Meh.” Another one sounded kind of like when Pac Man dies. I had a little butt shaker dance for that one.
All this noise occurred around 4am and we were totally wide awake and ready to start our day. “This must be what it’s like to be an old person,” I said. “All wide awake at 4am and pissed off that Home Town Buffet isn’t open yet?”
On top of all the Nature noise, I was making my own natural noises. I was farting like crazy and blowing the sheets off the bed. Every time I farted, I pretended it was a mosquito and I’d swat it dead. “PFFFT!” SMACK! “Got another one!”
“They don’t let farters into the Home Town Buffet,” Tania said, smacking me.
“That’s all they let into the Home Town Buffet,” I said, “old farts.”
We had no idea how loud it was going to get, though. You haven’t heard “loud” until you’ve heard a howler monkey. I didn’t really do any research on them before we left. We just read that at the lodge we were staying at that “Monkeys and birds abound!” I just figured we’d get to see some silly little monkeys that make weird noises. I kind of pictured those colonies of monkeys that live around the temples in India and eat fruits out of your hands. Like these guys. “Watch a group of macaques run amok in a produce market, raid an empty kitchen, and ransack a bootlegger's cache of moonshine.”
Oh man, those mischievous li’l monkeys! They’re crazy. (Also note the happy circus music in the background. That’s pretty much the monkey soundtrack that was going through my head before we encountered the howler monkeys.)
We saw three monkeys total, but they were far away and high in the trees. This is the only photo I managed to get of one.
Howler monkeys, we soon learned after our arrival, are not cute li’l monkeys that dance to circus music. No, howler monkeys are pure evil. They are gnarly monkeys.
That morning, at dawn, while we were lying in our bed farting and waiting for the Home Town Buffet to open, the air was filled with a deep, terrifying roar that sounded like it came from another time, millions of years ago. “What the fuck is that?” I said. It was followed by another, and another. It was very loud, and very scary. It drowned out all the pencil sharpeners, shavers, tattoo guns, even the “Week Ago” bird. “It sounds like a dinosaur,” Tania said. It really did, it sounded like there was a fucking T-Rex in the jungle.
It was the howler monkeys. I have never heard anything like it. It’s just so low and guttural. They kind of sound like what every death metal singer wishes he sounded like. I mentioned that later to a fellow about our age at the bar, and he said, “Thank you! I’ve been saying the same thing, but no one here knows what I’m talking about.” Old people don’t listen to death metal. They just listen to death.
Probably the most interesting thing about the Howlers is that they are the loudest animal on land. (I’m assuming whales own the title of “loudest animal on earth?”) The Guinness Book of World Records has tracked the Howler’s calls at up to three miles. “Male monkeys have large throats and specialized, shell-like vocal chambers that help to turn up the volume on their distinctive call,” it says on the National Geographic site. And apparently they are not evil. They just sound evil. I guess the call is simply to let other troupes know where they’re at. I also read that they’re too lazy to be violent. They rarely touch the ground and they spend about 80% of their time doing absolutely nothing. Except around dusk and dawn when they kick out the jams.
I decided almost immediately that I wanted to start a death metal band with them. So I made a recording in the jungle. I think we’re going to be one of the gnarliest death metal bands ever. Shit, I don’t even need to play guitar with these guys. I could accompany these motherscratchers on a pan flute and we’d still be gnarlier than anything Cannibal Corpse or Deicide ever put out. Check it out.
Still, not sure on the name, though. Metal Monkey is good, but not quite tough enough, you know? I was also thinking HOWL, but then that contains some Allen Ginsberg-y homo poetry stuff that isn’t consistent with the direction our band wants to go. I’ll keep you posted.
Oh, and I also forgot to mention that if they don’t like you, they throw their shit at you. And apparently their shit is totally uncool. The locals were telling us it’s kind of like being hit by a skunk, but worse. The smell is so vile, you can’t wash it off for days. Despite my best efforts to get hit by some howler monkey shit, I left Belize smelling much the way I did when I arrived. And while we heard them every day, we only saw a couple of them in the trees, and only at a great distance. But just imagine how fucked up our band is going to be? Loudest band on earth, with a bunch of poisonous-shit throwing monkeys! Makes GG Allin look like a pussy.
To hear a better recording of a red howler monkey, go here and scroll down.