A Can-Doo Kind of Guy
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 6 Jun 96 12:23:29 -0700
Subject: A Can-Doo Kind of Guy
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Forwarded-by: Keith Sullivan <KSullivan@worldnet.att.net>
A CAN-DOO KIND OF GUY
By Linda Keene, Seattle Times Staff Reporter
It's spring in Seattle and our thoughts naturally turn to manure.
No, not politics.
A vigorous garden requires manure, and the city's undisputed expert on the
topic is Tom Gannon. He runs the popular ZooDoo program at Woodland Park
Zoo and has taken composting to new heights. Officially he's the zoo's
"compost coordinator," but he proudly calls himself the The Prince of Poo,
The No. 1 of No. 2.
His irreverent phone messages on the ZooDoo hotline  (625-POOP) are
becoming somewhat legendary locally and across the country, where friends
pass the phone around just to hear the Shaka of Caca.
Gannon doo-tifully sprinkles the message with useful composting information,
delivered rapidly in a voice that only hints of his New Jersey upbringing.
Now 30, Gannon is a big guy with short reddish hair and a bursting laugh
that can be heard all around the zoo. There it goes now, over in the
composting yard where 600 tons of manure are collected annually, of which 60
percent is generated from just four elephants.
He has been doing this job for three years, arriving from the East Coast
with only "$500, a car and a dog." He also had a master's degree in
environmental management from Cornell University and "had done a lot of
composting, even on a scale larger than this -- a dairy farm in New Jersey
with 1,400 cows."
When the Seattle zoo advertised the composting job, Gannon applied and wowed
the interviewing staff.
"He was the best candidate," says Sue Nicol, ground and facilities
supervisor. "We had each one give a five-minute talk, pretending they were
standing by ZooDoo piles talking to a group of sixth-graders. Tom did great."
Nicol cited his quick wit, outgoing nature and irreverence.
Little does she know!
During a road trip a few years back, Gannon and a friend, Keith Harrison,
visited San Francisco and, on impulse, decided to get their bodies pierced.
Apparently there was some misunderstanding. Harrison got his ear pierced.
Gannon did his nipple.
"He said, 'Your ear! That's not fair!" Harrison recalls with a laugh.
If Gannon was upset, he recovered quickly. Seattle has become a body
piercing mecca and, well, when in Rome ... He strips off his shirt. He also
tattooed one biceps with an intricate Celtic knot, the other with a lovely
reindeer, copied from a picture of a woman buried 2,500 years in the
permafrost of Russia.
He flexes and laughs -- not many people can claim to have a mummified corpse
tattooed on their body.
Gannon jokes about the adornment, but there's a serious explanation. "When
I was a kid, I was immense," he says. "I weighed 90 pounds in kindergarten
and 120 pounds by second grade. I didn't like my body. To me, piercing and
tattoos are a way to enjoy it -- a type of self-affirmation.
Today, he weighs a comfortable 215 pounds, less than in sixth grade. He has
a fun, wild streak but knows where to draw the line at work.
"It's a serious zoo -- we don't put monkeys in suits," he says. "But if you
can't have fun with ZooDoo, what can you have fun with?'
With that in mind, Gannon launched the popular "Fecal Fest," during which
ZooDoo is sold in the spring and fall. In fact, it has become so popular
ZooDoo sold out this spring, although it's still available in gift pints or
"I've been getting way too many calls and I can only generate so much," he says.
In the meantime, he'll continue to promote the program, presenting himself
as the Grand Poo Bah, the Earl of Odor or whatever that comes to mind as he
perfects the art of ick and gains admirers along the way.
"He's a big guy with an equally large smile," says friend Bruce Robson, a
marine mammal researcher. "And if he came straight from work you might be
able to smell him."
A link to "ZooDoo," the zoo primer on poo, is on the Seattle Times Top
Stories Web site at: http://www.seattletimes.com
© 1996 Peter Langston