Talk of the Town - Pandamonium January 01 2003

Grant Park habitat at Zoo Atlanta

For years, intown neighborhoods have organized tours of homes.

Since moving to Atlanta in 1999, no household has had more curious visitors than the Grant Park bungalow of Zoo Atlanta pandas Lun Lun and Yang Yang. Their space is a curious blend of traditional Chinese accents mixed with thoroughly modern elements — like transparent glass walls and a gift shop. With the cold weather slowing the rush of onlookers to a steady trickle, CL had a chance to talk to Lun Lun and Yang Yang about their home and their plans for 2003.

Creative Loafing: Before you moved here, did you know that your home would become a tourist destination?

Lun Lun: Not at all. Like most immigrants, we just came here for a better life. Yang Yang and I work helping the zoo with its scientific research. We didn't expect all this fuss about us or the house.

Yang Yang: (Chews bamboo. Looks away.)

You've adapted to fame pretty quickly though.

Lun Lun: Well, I'll be honest, it wasn't easy at first. Getting woken up at 9 a.m. every morning by screaming kids saying stuff like, "He's eating bamboo!" or "He's moving his arms!" can be pretty annoying. Imagine me standing in your house narrating your life to you. "He's eating the cereal! He's typing!" Now we pretty much just take it in stride.

Whose taste does the architecture better reflect?

Lun Lun: Probably mine. I would say that I'm more of an "Ideas Panda" and that Yang Yang is more of a "Get Things Done Panda." For example, the see-through walls were my idea. It really makes the living room feel more open.

And how about the Chinese themes?

Lun Lun: Don't get me started on that! I enjoy kitsch as much as the next panda, but all that pagoda nonsense is a bit much. The zoo put that in before we got here thinking it might make us feel more at home. I find it a bit condescending. You don't see any friggin' Tarzan posters in the elephant enclosure!

Yang Yang: (Chews bamboo. Looks away).

The long walkway entrance to your place is very elaborate. Does it incorporate elements of feng shui?

Lun Lun: What the hell kind of question is that? Are you saying, "They're Chinese, so they must do feng shui." (Adopts mocking exaggerating Chinese accent) Oh, Panda ruv do feng shui. Next question, jerk.

Sorry. Tell me about how you get along with other animals. Are they jealous of your fame?

Lun Lun: Most of them are really cool. We hang out a lot with the prairie dogs. Those dudes can toss back the brewskis, let me tell you. Some of the animals are jealous though. There are a bunch of horses here trying to steal our monochrome mojo by painting themselves all black and white.

You mean the zebras?

Lun Lun: I don't want to get into name-calling.

What's been your biggest culture-shock thus far?

Lun Lun: Probably dining out. Waiters expect tips here. In China, tipping is considered rude. We didn't know at first. We flew here in a damn UPS crate. It ain't like they gave us a Fodor's guide.

What are your plans for the new year?

Lun Lun: The zoo staff keeps trying to get us to have sex while they're filming us. So maybe we'll be putting out a movie. I'm also trying to get Yang Yang to build a deck.

Yang Yang: (Chews bamboo. Looks away.)??