Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Touchy Sloth

Beach flower and thistle. Tuesday, September 28th: It was supposed to thunderstorm today but it's sunny and warm instead. I'm sitting on the deck in my orange sundress while the wind whistles through the house, opening and shutting doors at random. Yesterday we went to the aquarium in Manteo. I enjoyed it very much. There were alligators and sea turtles and otters and jellyfish and, my personal favorite besides the otters, limulus polyphemus - the horseshoe crab. There was an unexpectedly entertaining "touching" exhibit (alright, pipe down, people!) with rays and skates and horseshoe crabs together in a shallow pool. The rays and skates would swim around and do their thing and the horseshoe crabs would scuttle along the bottom and do their thing and you could reach in and touch them as they were going by. Virtually unchanged for the last 450 million years, the horseshoe crab is an ain't-broke-don't-fix-it animal - sort of like an alligator but older. It is incredibly primitive and has no real mechanism for exploiting or even noticing an organism that isn't either trying to eat it or avoid being eaten by it, which is why it was seemingly oblivious to all of the people poking at the top of its hard shell. The skates and rays, on the other hand, behaved quite differently which was very surprising to me. They really seemed to desire some affection. I'm tempted to say that this was a convenient illusion because I highly doubt they have the neural pathways required to find pleasure in being "petted." But who knows, perhaps it's a behavior modification related to feeding or some other stimulus that I'm unaware of. At any rate, there is no denying that some of them made a beeline for the human hands waving under the water and that some of their behavior seemed downright playful - waggling one "wing" above the surface until someone "shook" it, for example. Or using someone's hand as a springboard for a little underwater somersault. It was such a sweet, odd experience and I stayed at that exhibit for a long time, sort of hypnotized by these funny, slimy, sandpapery capes flickering around the pool. After the aquarium we went to the Weeping Radish for a beer and my dad told me that grandma's house is already sold. For $2.5 million. At which point I got sort of quiet and sipped my beer while the rest of them talked. It's interesting information for me to try to process - that my dad, who has been po-ass-po for his entire adult life is now a millionaire. Or something close to it anyway. Frankly it just doesn't compute. I was tempted to ask if he felt differently about the death tax now that it applied to him, but I let it go. I think I'll just let it lie for now. Maybe it will sink in while I'm not paying attention. Later... Took a walk on the beach. The ocean is about six different shades of blue - it looks absolutely tropical. There was exactly one other person on the beach - a rotund, white-bearded man gentleman wearing a t-shirt that said "World's Greatest Grandpa." I walked up to him as he was casting a line and he yelled, "Are you in charge of crowd control around here??" "Yes," I said, "and I run a very tight ship. You're lucky I let you fish here." I asked him if he'd caught anything yet and he said no, but it was better than watching television. "Did you see the dead turtle?" he asked. I said that I had. "You know, they eat plastic bags 'cause they think they're jellyfish. Kills 'em," he told me. I couldn't believe it. I showed him a plastic bag that I had picked up only moments before with that very thought in mind and he had one in his pocket too. We talked about how impossible it is to not pick up trash on the beach. He solved the mystery of the pink spraypaint on the turtle too. He says it means that it's been marked for investigation and they're probably waiting for a marine biologist from the aquarium we were at yesterday to come pick it up for an autopsy. I'm thinking that guy might really be the world's greatest grandpa. Tomorrow: a picture of me in goofy sunglasses.

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