Citizens of Bernalwood, please join us in welcoming new neighbor Anthony Brown to Bernal Heights. (Note: Anthony is the creature on the left in the photo above.)
By day, Neighbor Anthony has one of the coolest jobs imaginable: He’s the lead penguin keeper at the San Francisco Zoo. Yet after each excruciatingly cute day spent wrangling penguins at the Zoo, Anthony returns home to excruciatingly cute Bernal Heights, where he lives among us here in our native habitat.
Bernalwood is proud to bring you this exclusive celebrity interview with our very own Penguin Whisperer:
Bernalwood: A penguin told me that you actually grew up in Bernal Heights. Penguins have been known to exaggerate, however, so I want to check my facts. Is that true?
Neighbor Anthony: Yes! My family moved to Bernal Heights from the Tenderloin in 1986, when I was 4-years-old. We lived on the south side of the hill, on Ellsworth street.
What was Bernal like when you were growing up?
Just as is the case now, Cortland was the main artery, with the weekend rush for the flea market and farmers markets. Going to Paul Revere Elementary School, I spent a lot of my time romping around the hill, Precita Park, Saint Mary’s Playground, and Holly Park.
What brought you back to Bernal? Are you exhibiting some sort of penguin-like migratory behavior?
Honestly, over the years I’ve followed the Bernalwood blog to stay up to speed with the neighborhood, which really was a big part in deciding my return.
I’ve spent the majority of my adult life on the left side of the city, living in the Presidio a couple of times, Lakeshore, and the Outer Richmond. A sudden “change of plans” struck my life a couple of months ago, which caused the need to move. Thanks to the wonders of craigslist (it’s a pretty cool website, you should check it out) I found a sweet pad on Montcalm, with the most perfect roommates –Hi Lisa & Michele!
What’s it like to return to Bernal? Then vs. now?
I love being back here; the proximity to the rest of the city is great. But at the same time, there’s enough distance for Bernal to really be its own little village.
Other than the businesses on Cortland, not much has changed. It’s nice to have the same feeling and atmosphere that I remember growing up. Bernal Heights has gotten better. It has resiliency and has retained a similar feel, but there’s also been a perfect amount of progress.
So what exactly do you do at the zoo?
I’m the primary Animal Keeper for the San Francisco Zoo’s magellanic penguin colony – it’s the largest, most successful colony of this species in any zoo or aquarium in the world. In addition to feeding, cleaning, exhibit management, enrichment, training, record keeping, public presentations, VIP tours, volunteer management, for the penguins, bald eagles, pelican, cassowary, and frogs in my work area, I also help out with the zoo’s social media efforts — mostly the zoo’s twitter account.
How would you describe the personality of a typical penguin?
There really is no such thing as a typical penguin; each of our 49 magellanic penguins is a total individual, with different wants, needs, and interests. The most interesting part of getting to know the penguins is the relationships between the birds. Some penguin pairs have been together for over a decade, while others spend a few breeding seasons with a bird, then move on to someone else.
That sounds like many residents of Bernal Heights. Have you noticed any other similarities between the penguins at the zoo and the Citizens of Bernalwood? Behaviorally? Sartorially?
I’d say the biggest similarity is breeding – both the neighborhood and our penguin colony are incredibly productive groups, with multi-generational offspring running about their respective areas.
PHOTO: Anthony Brown and penguin friend