We got on a whale watch boat, went out to the Farallon Islands, and it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The ocean isn’t a Chinese carry-out where you can order what you want, but we were in luck. Our sea captain and our naturalist guide both really knew their stuff and took us to places of wonder and delight. We got the whole nine yards: greys, humpbacks, one enormous blue, plus three flavors of seals, dolphins, and even several albatrosses. The vessel also stopped a couple of times to haul junk out of the water—a sea turtle can mistake a defunct balloon for an edible jellyfish and be choked to death. The day was amazing.
And the ocean hides it all, until it wants to be seen. Unless the dolphin swims directly under your boat, you don’t know it’s there until it starts leaping. You stare at the watery horizon until your eyes itch, and you don’t remotely know whether or where the planet’s largest animal will rise and let you see an acre or two of his back, and then he does. Or you hear a big wet phoo! sound and turn to see a huge tail rise in the air and then smack down on the water. You sail into an island cove and it’s seal soup, playful guys with huge yellow whiskers, and I swear you can hear them giggle. They’re thick as spilled popcorn, then the captain starts the engine up again, and floop—all gone.
I remember the first time I saw electron microscope photographs of the interior of the human body. Coral reefs, cathedrals, bumper cars, beauty and grotesquerie galore, and it had been there all the time. Our skin hid it all until we found out how to see it.
Artists are windows, but it’s a partnership. The window is created, but then you have to want to see. What you see may change you, make you want to keep seeing, make you encourage others to see. You might not want to invite oil rigs into the sanctuary.
I enjoy insulting our cats much more than I enjoy insulting the President.
“You hairy frisking guts,” I may mutter as they walk about the sink while I tend my morning ablutions—not Shakespearean in its heights of castigation, but on a daily level it serves.
Shadow and Garfunkel do have some things in common with our leader. All are mammals with digestive tracts. All are off-the-dial egocentric. All have peculiar hair.
The President, of course, doesn’t know I exist; the cats simply don’t care. In any case none would get the nature of the insult—the cats because they have little grasp of English; the President, same reason.
But the differences are marked.
The cats war with each other, brother on brother, stalking, pouncing, murdering in merciless fanaticism, but they keep their claws retracted. Given that, it’s easier to joke.
The cats play with nerf balls and rubber mice; the President, with bigger toys.
The cats use the cat pan. The President uses Twitter.
One of the cats cadged a scrap of pork fat from the garbage, wolfed it down, and suffered serious diarrhea. I’m not sure what the President ate.
The cats don’t take it personally, since they don’t know what I mean. With the cats, of course, I’m joking. Maybe that’s why I enjoy it more.