So, the other day, I took my children to the beach as we often do. When we moved to Northern California, we committed to taking advantage of living near the ocean, so we're doing it. BOY are we doing it. (see: feces and sharks, below). The closest beach town (Santa Cruz) is less than an hour away from where we live. Apparently, to people who know these things, the beaches in Santa Cruz are, like...fine, but not extraordinary. Keep in mind that people out here weekend to Hawaii, because it's a quick-ish, cheap-ish trip, and have all been to all the SOCAL beaches where celebrities surf, as well. Regardless, we are enamored by the local beaches. They have sand AND water, so we're good.
I decided to try a new beach in Santa Cruz this time. One that has, in my mind, taken on a bit of a legendary status. A friend mentioned offhandedly months ago, that whenever she goes to this particular beach in July or August, she "always sees whales, dolphins, seals, and other cool stuff."
To my mind, seeing a whale in the wild is the coolest, most alien-encountery, exotic thing that can happen inside my little life. This spring, we traveled further south down the coast and DID see whales from a very, very long ways away, and it was amazing.
But THIS beach in Santa Cruz that my friend had described, was going to afford me close-up views of all the things. Never mind that THIS beach was only ten minutes down the coast from our usual beaches, which feature nary a whale(y).
So, we get to the beach and park by this covered picnic area, where about fifty white people in long beards and dresses, with head coverings, are enjoying some sort of family/community picnic. I grabbed our lunch from the car and turned toward the ocean, expecting to see this:
(Lisa Frank, circa my trapper keeper, 1991)
I did not.
We trudge to the sand to set up our picnic. We bought ramen at a local shop- hot tubs of noodle soup seemed like the perfect beach food. So, we're sitting there slurping lunch and we notice the water looks...funky. Browner than usual. Foamy. And so far, all the dolphins and whales are the invisible kind.
The kids were done eating and back to bitching, so I send them up to the car to change into their wetsuits while I scanned the horizon for sea creatures, and finished my lunch. They were gone a really, really long time. Like a, "Did they get stolen? Am I going to have to start over with new ones? Dammit!" long time. I went up to our SUV to find all the doors open. Shit!
But, no, they weren't stolen. They were inside, screaming at each other. The big kid had managed to change, but the little one was red-faced, buck-ass neked. Seems she'd forgotten to bring the swimsuit I'd told her to bring, so she was trying to get in the suit sans clothes. If you've ever tried to put a wetsuit on, you'll know that they're near impossible when your'e perfectly dry and cool and have a silky suit to slide over. In these circumstances, it was like watching her try to un-birth herself.
To recap. Naked tiny person, screaming and swearing + Amish/Mennonite/ some other traditional-type religious folks eating tater salad nearby.
Horrified, I spent the next twenty minutes helping her maneuver into the wetsuit. It was like...you know when the pull string on your sweatshirt hood gets sucked back into the collar and you have to try to pull it out? It was like that. Meanwhile, my son had gone to check out the beach and found this:
So, just as I had FINALLY wedged my daughter into her suit and zipped the thing up, when my son came back and tore his wetsuit off, saying there was no way he was going into the shark water, and also, he was sure the water was brown because of POOP or run-off from a local factory, and if we went in, we'd all become mutants. Sigh into infinite. Did I mention I'd paid $10 to get into this park? Most of them are free, but this one, presumably because of THE FUCKING WHALES is more expensive.
So, we walked the boardwalk (rather, the wooden seagull toilet) for a while and watched other children swimming and not getting eaten or mutant-ed. The Mennonite kids even got in the water- the girls in their ankle-length dresses, the boys in...swim shorts. ANYWAY, eventually my kids decided to get in the maybe-toxic water where there were definitely sharks (but no fucking whales, apparently), and had a grand-ol' time.
They mostly collected these disgruntled sand crab thingies.
I kept watching the horizon, wishing the ramen store had also sold binoculars. I am almost positive I saw a seal, but I couldn't make my eyes or phone work well enough to really capture it. I spotted no fins of any sort- scary or cool.
We survived another California day in California costumes, not getting eaten or falling off a mountain. I consider it a success.
(There's a seal back there I SWEAR)