Day of the Dolphins

(Warning: No dolphins were harmed in the writing of this post. And, as it is with all human interactions in my life, everything is my fault)

Pop Quiz

1) The primary reason I, the Unknown Idiot, don’t go to children’s birthday parties is:

A. I hate birthday parties
B. All of the mothers stare at me and undress me with their eyes
C. I believe I will catch a cold and end up in the hospital
D. I break out in hives if I eat cake without first drinking a six-pack of Old Milwaukee

2) True or false: Raising an 11-year old daughter can, on certain days, make you want to ram your head into a brick wall.

A. True
B. False


I broke my rule of not going to birthday parties with my daughter. However, I had a good reason to jump aboard the most recent invite: whale watching.

Spending the afternoon on a boat on the Pacific Ocean looking for giant mammals? I was so there.

And there I was with my wife and daughter Sunday afternoon as we boarded a double-decker boat for a four-hour journey to the waters of two Channel Islands: Anacapa and Santa Cruz.


Anacapa in the distance. A perfect February day on the Cali coast. Life is good.

Anacapa in the distance. A perfect February day on the Cali coast. Life is good.

3) Approximately, how many Anacapa islands can you fit on Santa Cruz island?

A. 1
B. 10
C. 100
D. None unless you’re Godzilla and you like to tear up islands and move them other places


According to the tour guide, you can fit about 100 of the tiny Anacapa on Santa Cruz, the largest of the Channel Islands. Good to know.

So, the boat ride was a blast, as the wind created exciting swells. I stayed on the covered upper level by myself, away from the lower deck, the elements, and the party with its toilets filled with vomiting parents, and had my own zen moments staring at the water and watching people flinch every time they thought a whale popped its head out of the water. None did.

I made trips outside to the exposed deck and cold wind – it was ball-freezing cold – and enjoyed the sun and heaving. I wore my hunting cap, not that I hunt, but it covers my ears better than the paper bag I usually wear over my head.

The offending pants. The front isn't looking so hot either. Retire or wear?

The offending pants. The front isn’t looking so hot either. Retire or wear?

The rest of my stylish ensemble included a windproof, lined jacket, turtleneck, two t-shirts and my special “hot pants.” Not the “hot pants” that models wear, though I am a male underwear model in my spare time and could totally get away with wearing the short type of hot pants.

When you're on the water looking for whales, look for birds. That's what they told us. We found the birds, but we didn't find the whales. But we found something better.

When you’re on the water looking for whales, look for birds. That’s what they told us. We found the birds, but we didn’t find the whales. But we found something better.

My hot pants, made by Abercrombie, are literally “hot” because they’re lined with flannel, keeping my rock-hard buns and jewels nice and warm on cold days. Unfortunately, after 15 plus years of wearing them, they’ve seen better days. One might say that I look homeless wearing them.

Oh, and they upset my daughter now that she’s a self-conscious 11-year old (more on this later).

Though no whales made an appearance during our trip, we did see something very special: hundreds of common dolphins racing to a feeding area occupied by hundreds of gulls.

Think: dolphin party.

They swam next to the boat, under the boat, around the boat, in the distance, and up and out of the water. Hundreds of them.

All I can add is that it’s a good thing the fuckers can’t fly because we would have shot them out of the sky and feasted on dolphin stew. Kidding, this isn’t “the cove” where killing dolphins is allowed.

No, this is California and we don’t eat our dolphins here. We love our dolphins. We shoot them with iPhones and digital cameras and post their pictures to our blogs with cute captions, like “Hey, it’s Flipper, my little dolphin buddy.”

Back to the day trip.

It's very hard to photograph dolphins, as they don't listen to direction and surface in a coordinated fashion. The white splashes, well, I just missed them.

It’s very hard to photograph dolphins, as they don’t listen to direction or surface in a coordinated fashion. The white splashes, well, I just missed them.

Whales: zero, dolphins: a ton.

Back to shore we headed. Shortly after 5 we were off to downtown Ventura for some Thai food, where we joined a good friend and her daughter.

Now my daughter, who was tired and hungry from being in the cold and running around the boat with her friends, sat there on the vinyl bench-seat one wrong comment away from Tasmanian Devil mode.

And sure enough the spark arrived when her friend said to me: “Hey, you have holes in your pants.”

I find that lying in these situations is best.

“No, I don’t. You’re imagining things.”

But she stuck to her guns and disagree with my attempt to deflect by telling a blatant lie.

Hey, it's Flipper, my little dolphin buddy.

Hey, it’s Flipper, my little dolphin buddy.

My daughter’s eyes focused on me. Arms crossed. She shook her head in disgust.

“What?” I said to her in a light and fun tone, hoping to make her smile.

“You embarrassed me, daddy.” Repeat that sentence two more times.

Scene: Angry daughter, all conversation at the table halted.

Disappointed my usual charm didn’t work, I let it go and focused on my Tom Kha soup. I decided to discuss it at home and not get into a fight that would have led to the burning down of one of my favorite Thai food restaurants, then going to jail for it, with my daughter telling me, as they took me away in handcuffs, I shouldn’t have worn those pants,.

“But I didn’t even get to taste the pumpkin curry with chicken,” I would have said, adding to my wife, “Honey, get it to go. I’ll be out in five years. Wait for me.”

Well that didn’t happen. Fortunately.

But we did talk about it later, which was like me talking to a dolphin about not worrying about what other dolphins think of her daddy dolphin.

“What?” the daughter dolphin said. “No comprende human language.”

Then my daughter gave my wife some attitude and that was all she wrote. My wife delivered the hurt and guilt. Tears, crying, and an apology for moi. Nice job, Hon. Hey, that worked out. Boy, this parenting stuff is a boatload of fun. A boatload.

All I can think these days, and that night, as I tried to go to sleep and the bed rose and fell, “God, don’t let me mess her up for life.”

It was so easy when my daughter was 4 or 5 or 7. Now she’s a genius whirlwind of love and emotions, and dynamite.

Look at her the wrong way, wear the wrong pants, discount how she’s feeling about a situation (Mommy understands, you don’t), and “bang,” here’s a boat oar to the head.

But still, even with a cracked skull, it’s impossible not to love this little dophin girl more than life itself.


4) True or False: The loser known as Unknown is always one step away from a major disaster of some sort or another. 
A. True
B. True

8 thoughts on “Day of the Dolphins

  1. Dear Madman of LAShire,

    I except cash as my reward for answering the quiz questions right!
    I always tried to avoid birthday parties, to much jelly & ice cream and hypo kids for my liking, but if we had whale watching parties I would of been there like a shot. Oh to live in the land of the beautiful and famous! (and madmen of course)

    Get rid of the tramp like trousers though, living in the land of cold, rain & fog I can recommend some excellent new ones. 🙂

    Sir Sean

    • Dear Sir Sean of Englandshire and the snowy lands,

      Those answers work for me and you win the prize of Fox coming to live with you for an entire month. Lock the liqueur cabinet.

      I do wish you lived out here, my friend. I do. We would go to some concerts together. That’s for sure. I’d teach you to like real football, not that imitation crap they show in the UK where they kick the round ball back and forth. I’m talking man’s football.

      It is the land of the beautiful out here. That’s why I’m required to wear a bag on my head.

      If I could find a pair like them, I would buy them. Matter solved, however, as my wife and daughter are going to patch them.

      UC, King of Los Angeles

  2. UC,

    I’m glad you got to see an adorable pod of dolphins and didn’t get to witness the West Coast’s new breed of shark-eating killer whales.

    It’s nice that your 11 year old still want her parents at birthday parties. Perhaps that’s cosolation for her reaction to your wardrobe choice? Maybe you can kind of jokingly ask her for a wardrobe check when you go places with her where her friends will be. If it makes you feel better, my 19 year old brother still comments on how embarassing my mom dresses (which is obviously in his imagination, because she’s a pretty stylish lady), but on the other hand, if his “hip and cool” older sister is wearing the same thing, it’s excellent and fashion-forward. Kids these days… But just so you know, your wardrobe won’t mess her up. There will be a lot of fashion she doesn’t agree with in her life. You’re just preparing her for the future and helping her gain the skills to accept and respect things she doesn’t agree with.


    P.S. Thanks for making me think about the Cove and start crying a little in my office.

    • Dr. Nanos,

      Thanks for solving the mystery of why my teeth have ground down over the years. It’s all the damn shark meat I’ve been chewing on. I need to go vegan.

      I feel better now that you mentioned my daughter still wants to hang with us. It may be that we can drive and she needs a ride places.

      I will never ask her for a wardrobe check. Never, ever. Not going to happen. In fact, I may wear my underwear on the outside of my hot pants for the next party.

      Oh, the cove. Yikes. That movie . . . I don’t like to think about it. On a happier note, did you read about the 60 year old dolphin in Florida? That’s a happy thought.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. You and Matt should come to Cali and see the dolphins in person. I’ll tell them you’re coming to see them.


  3. Oh boy, you’ve only just begun with the “my parents embarrass me” teen years. Having survived through 3 teens all 15 months apart, I thought I was going stark raving mad during those years. Or should I say, THEY survived. 🙂 I learned that the teen years are the time you are no longer ‘friends and have fun’ but of setting boundries, being tough and sticking to your guns. It was hard but in the end my strategies paid off. I now have 3, 30 something ‘kids’ that are responsible, loving, well behaved adults and parents themselves. Amazing how smart I’ve become in their eyes now that they are dealing with their own kids. 😉 Good luck as you tread the new waters with the dolphins. 😉

    • Jodi, Jodi, Jodi,

      You’re not supposed to tell me what’s coming my way in a few years. Yikes. I might sell her off now that I know this.

      You deserve a friggin gold medal.

      I told my daughter about the coming boundaries tonight. She wasn’t thrilled with the idea. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment. Nice of you to visit and provide me with a glimpse into the future and when I’ll go mad, though I’m already there.


  4. Love your trip, dolphins are a special kind of wonderful – at least those ones left alone to enjoy their lives in the wild. They always look so happy! Its been raining here (and flooding) for over 10 days now and the deluge hasn’t stopped. What does this mean? Me indoors for over 10 days, all caught up on work = visiting my friends blogs and commenting! Just goes to show, you can’t judge a flood by its catastrophic impact.

    I feel for you with your daughter. My son just turned 9 and I am beginning to see a glimpse into how hard teenage-hood will be – and he’s a boy!

    ‘May the force be with you’ is about all the advice I can offer. So glad to hear that it sounds as if you are doing well at least for today – and isn’t today all we can ask for?

    Be well my friend.

    • Queen Karyn of Australia,

      I just saw your most recent comment come in and it reminded me I haven’t replied to your other two wonderful comments.

      My wife and I love dolphins. And we’ve never seen that many in one place. It was CRAZY cool.

      Sorry about all of the rain. You could move to LA where it never rains. It might bore you, and the pollution would piss you off.

      9 years old, huh. I bet you’re feeling what I’m feeling about how fast time goes by. I hope he’s doing well. No ER visits.

      What a little freak you are with the Star Wars reference. It must be the rain affecting your mind. Interesting.


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