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