Once in Long Beach, we took a while to get our bearings. We spent some time in a fruitless search for a camera shop. We had, of course, forgotten to bring ours, and besides we have been planning to find a newer model than our now technologically ancient little Elph. No luck. We did find a Starbucks, though, and stopped for a cup of coffee and directions to the Aquarium. (Unfortunately, the friends we had been planning to catch up with, after many years, found themselves in a predicament which made it impossible to get together, so we missed them.) As it turned out, however, the Aquarium needed all the time we had, and more.
We were awed not only by the quality of the displays--spectacular!--but also by the incredible diversity of life forms. Fish, of course. And aquatic mammals. A million of them, all different sizes, shapes, and colors, elegant creatures, their bodies marvelously adapted to the element they share, their movement so beautifully economical and graceful, unhurried or darting, as fluid as the currents flowing around them. Some content to be simply fish, others posing as underwater plants or rocks, some delicately long and thin, some short and plump and clownish, some decidedly ugly.
More amazing, even, to me, were the displays of coral reefs, brilliant and unbelievably diverse in color and form, their life detectable in subtle shifts and movements, some soft and furry as a bed of moss, some leathery and bulbous, others tree-like, with long stems and brittle, twiggy branches. Then there were schools of jellyfish, luminous, diaphanous, dragging long trails of tentacles and clouds of mucous stuff; craggy, forbidding crabs and lobsters, spiny urchins, crusty starfish and flabby cucumbers and slugs.
I'd show you some of all this submarine splendor... but of course, we left the camera at home. Sorry about that! Here are a couple of pictures purloined from the web to give an inadequate impression of the wonder of it all.
The trip home proved that the Metro system in Los Angeles is not the lifeless underground desert it had first appeared to be. On the Blue Line train from Long Beach, every seat was taken, and the 7th Street station and the Red Line train back to Hollywood were crammed with human life forms as diverse as those marine ones at the aquarium--though considerably more noisy and inelegant. Still, we found it a pleasure to be rubbing shoulders in relative peace with so many fellow members of our contentious species--another rare event in this curious sprawl that passes for a city.
All in all, a good way to celebrate a birthday. And George was ecstatic in his greeting when we got back home.