Monday, September 23, 2002

Smells Like Fish

Yesterday was lots of fun... here's a summary: Caroline and Vince and I went to Monterey, had lunch, went window-shopping, went to the Aquarium, had dinner, and drove home along the Coast Highway in the fog. It was ever such a blast!

The drive down was lovely. Vince works at the same place as Caroline, and though Caroline and he are attraced to each other, Vince is in a committed relationship with a girl he loves, so Caroline is exploring the idea of being platonic friends with a cute straight guy... something new for her (she's more usually platonic friends with gay guys or "friends-with-benefits" with straight guys). And Vince is certainly a hell of a guy. He's cute, he's intelligent, he has a lovely, soothing speaking voice, he likes Jazz (he even sings it), and he's simply a pleasure to be around.

Those of you who read this blog and have retentive memories will remember that I was born in Fort Ord, so I always get a little thrill driving past the turnoff for that site. Then there's the C&H refinery, which is rather a sinister-looking pile (it looks like poisons and acids are made there, rather than sweet, sweet sugar). There are the fields of artichokes, which always spark the discussion topic: "Who was the first person so desperately hungry that he decided to try and eat such an evil, alien-looking object?" Then there's the great sweep of Monterey Bay, dotted with sailboats and what-have-you. Unfortunately, it was rather dim and overcast on Sunday, so the views weren't quite as thrilling as they might be. But then, parked on Lighthouse Road, not far from Cannery Row, you step out of the car and get a whiff of that peculiar and exciting aroma of Monterey, the blended scents of salt breezes and dying sea-life overpowered and rendered romantic by the resinous tang of Monterey cypress.

We had lunch at a place called Clawdaddy's, a sort of New-Orleans-style seafood joint where every day is Mardi Gras (or so the decor suggests, and the waitress backed up that suggestion with a handful of carnival beads... all of which Caroline hogged for herself, claiming Birthday-Girl Privelege). Vince had the Gumbo, and Caroline the Fisherman's Platter (fried squid, clams, shrimp, etc), but weren't very impressed with the food (the fried clams were just nasty)... but I had the Pasta Special, which was utterly delicious (fettucine with salmon, shrimp, yellowfin tuna). Plus I started the meal off with a treat that I haven't had in quite some time, a half-dozen oysters on the half-shell. Oh! Yummy! Yummyummyummmy! Oh how I love good fresh dainty little raw oysters, chilled and quivering, sprinkled with lemon juice and dabbed ever-so-slightly with horseradish and cocktail sauce.

So then we wandered through some shops on Cannery Row, but didn't see much that was interesting or impressive. We eventually realized that window-shopping was a waste of time, and that our time would be better spent at the Aquarium... so thither we hied.

As I stated earlier, I'd never been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium before, but I was very interested in seeing it. I have always loved the Steinhart Aquarium, and I'd been told that the Monterey was much nicer, newer and more interesting, focussed more on conservation and habitat than display and variety... plus it didn't have that mildewy smell. Everything was terribly interesting and beautiful, though the Mysteries of the Deep exhibit was a trifle unsettling... there's something especially savage and gruesome about sea life in the far-deep chasms of the ocean. The Jellyfish exhibit was quite interestingly laid out, with some quite lovely and exotic jelly specimens interspersed with interactive and interpretive art exhibits... very well-conceived and arranged, I thought. But again, there was something not quite right about jellies. I don't know what, but every once in a while I'd get this little frisson of horror when watching them. Another memorable moment was discovering just how large yellowfin tuna are! I mean, they're immense! And they're rather vicious-looking. It's difficult to imagine such a large object being shoved into a can of Starkist... and also difficult to imagine that I'd just had (a small part of) one of them for lunch.

We spent about four hours there at the Aquarium, but the hours flew by like mere moments. I will definitely have to go back there some time and take it more slowly. And maybe re-read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea beforehand. And not eat something for lunch before viewing it's large and angry-looking cousin at close quarters.

After that, we poked around in some shops for a little while, but the whole Cannery Row area starts shutting down when the Aquarium closes at 6, so there wasn't much to do. We stopped at the Ghirardelli shop for a refresher and some down-time, and Vince told me an interesting and entertaining story about how his Great-Grandfather was too proud to change his family's Marinara sauce recipe for mass-production and missed out on being on the Franco-American logo and blessing his descendents with the wealth ultimately enjoyed by Chef Boyardee ( "Bogliardi").

Then we went out to Pacific Grove for dinner at a lovely restaurant called Fandango. The food was excellent (expensive, but worth it... the kind of place where the Wine List comes out in a heavy leather-padded three-ring binder, and Château Lafitte-Rothschild is actually available), the service efficient and dignified but a trifle cold, the atmosphere was the tiniest bit stuffy, and the intensely unattractive lampshade was too close to my head. Caroline was dismayed to discover that her vast fried lunch and her tea-time root-beer float had rendered her unappetitive, so she sufficed herself with a Caesar salad and bites of our entrees; Vince had the cassoulet, which was a gorgeous concoction of sausage and chicken and some sort of white beans in a savory stew; I had the duckling à l'orange, which was utterly to die, and started with an uttely amazing tomato soup (so amazing that Caroline ended up ordering a plate for herself)... and since I'd only had a cup of coffee at Ghirardelli's (and no compunction about stuffing myself when the feeding is good), I finished off with an exquisite chocolate mousse and an espresso... during which Vince explained to Caroline and me the famous Monty Python sketch about the "wafer thin mint" (Vince is quite a good storyteller... or raconteur, if you prefer).

On the way home, I decided that it would be more fun to drive up the Coast instead of cutting inland at Watsonville or wherever, but I didn't realize that it was going to be so gothically foggy! I like driving on challenging roads, though, so I guess it was more fun that way... it was definitely a challenge. I'll have to do that drive again some day when I can see what's beyond my cockeyed headlights.

So, anyway, we made it home... fatter and poorer and terribly tired, but all the better for a happy day-trip. Today I had Caroline over again to help me with that hateful envelope-stuffing (she actually enjoys repetitive tasks... her favorite hobby is beading), and so I took her to lunch as a thank-you. It was just sandwiches, so I won't go into great detail here.

And that's about it. When I got home, I helped my niece (who is spending the night for some reason... with my family, I've found it's much easier to just not ask) to build a house in my Sim suburb. I was a little alarmed at the idea of introducing a straight couple into my all-male enclave, but I figured if they make any trouble I'll just delete them. Would that it were that easy in the real world. But unfortunately, if it were that easy, somebody would have deleted me years ago.

Guess what I've done!? The Sims game comes with this cute little feature where it creates family web-pages for all your Sims... and it suddenly occurred to me that it would be fun to upload those pages so I can share my Sims with you! If you're interested in that sort of thing, please take a moment and Visit My Sims! Or come back later and do it... I'm adding this link to the bottom of the Cast column to your left. Please enjoy the fruits of my obsession!

Well, I'm off to beddie-byes. In the meantime, let's return to the sea-side and enjoy my favorite seafood... the Lifeguard:

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