Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Diversity of Life

We often celebrate Ellie's birthday with a trip of one kind or another. This year, instead of boarding an airplane of climbing into the car, we decided on an adventure in public transportation--in Los Angeles, a regrettably rare event. Leaving the car a few blocks from the Sunset/Vermont Metro station, we descended into the bowels of the earth to find--a virtually deserted platform. Not a promising start. A loquacious young man with a bicycle held forth about the shortcomings of the Metro system, the predicament of the planet, and the deficiencies of the presidential candidates on both sides as we waited for the train and all the way down to the central 7th Street station, where we changed from the Red to the slightly more populous Blue line with an easy transfer, and rode on down--a fifty-minute trip--through the light industrial area south of Los Angeles and the long stretches of the South Central area, with a spectacular view of the distant San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains, now heavily draped in snow after the recent series of storms.

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.


Doctor Noe said...

Just a comment on your ruminations re Mr. Edwards. It's telling, isn't it, that on his extensive stretch across New Hampshire yesterday, in which he covered more territory than Obama and matched his northernmost marker (he went up as far as Littleton, NH; Obama went north to Gorham and Whitefield) in the frigid state unlike all other cocconing contenders, that Notable guest appearances on Edwards' behalf were by Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Obama had an equally impressive Senator Bill Bradley, the former Knick (is why I'm impressed). Huckabee had Chuck Norris. Aieee!!

Doctor Noe Sez, http://doctornoemedia.blogspot.com/

Noe’s Flickr web addresses

> Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctor_noe/
> Profile: http://www.flickr.com/people/doctor_noe/

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for the good thoughts, Noe. Glad to know I have a fellow Edwards-admirer out there! I haven't heard yet how things are going in New Hampshire...

robin andrea said...

Your trip to the aquarium sounds fantastic. Maybe someday you and Ellie will come up to the Montery Aquarium. Also a beautiful spot with awe-inspiring exhibits.

I am dismayed by the times in which we live. I will of course vote for Obama if he is the nominee, but he does not represent my politics. How we have gotten here, I can not be sure, but the media are picking our presidents. They wield such power it is rather astonishing.

khengsiong said...

LA's Metro appears in the hit movie Speed, but I wonder how many commuters actually use it.

Americans love big house in suburb, but this makes public transport inefficient...