Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Motorcycle Gangs Like Dolphins

Last weekend I took the kids to visit the local dolphins at Clearwater's Marine Aquarium. My parents have a winter place in Clearwater, and my brother Rob was visiting too, so we went for an Aquatic Adventure. Now don't get the idea this is a fancy aquarium of the type that has movies and high priced displays. These are more like lower middle class dolphins who are barbecuing in their backyard. As luck would have it, the Hell's Angels chose this particular day to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. By "Hell's Angels" I'm referring to men riding big motorcyles, and wearing leather jackets and bandannas, and with multiple tattoos. They could very well have been "Purgatory's Angels," or "Hell's Bouncers," or "Businessmen Reliving Their Wild Youth," but I never ask Motorcycle People anything, I just assume the worst. So we made sure not to park near them and went to the aquarium anyway. Our first stop was the Stingray Petting Zoo. Doesn't there seem to be something intrinsically wrong with this concept? Like the Eel Catch 'n' Toss Parlor Game? Or the Shark Joyride? Or the Porcupine Snuggle? Well, regardless, they allow children (and others even older!) to go right up to the waist-high open tank, stand on a step, lean over and "pet" the stingrays. I guess the idea is to avoid petting the "Sting" part, and just touch the "Ray." The 5-year-old claimed he wanted to pet the stingrays, but as soon as he got close enough for a good look he decided the stingrays were shy and he'd be better off not touching them. The 3-year-old was even more emphatic. The whole thing looked "messy" to him, and he is very fastidious about what touches his hands. He didn't even want to climb up and get close. (Don't ask me where he gets his fear of stains from. He has certainly created enough of them.) However there was another boy there with his father. He was maybe eight years old. The dad advised him to roll up his sleeves so he didn't get them wet. Well the kid doffed his entire shirt! I thought he was going to jump right in the tank and maybe tickle the stingrays on their bellies! It wasn't like it was a hot day, or anything. Then we went to the Fish Gazing area. The boys liked that, because fish as big as their faces floated by. There was also this gigantic...mmmm....let's say as big as a double oven....turtle floating in the tank. We were looking at it from below. "Look," I said to the boys. "It must have its head above water and we're looking at his bottom, and there's his tail..." Well then the tail area lifted up and scowled at me, a little perturbed, I suppose, that I had mistaken the turtle head for the turtle butt. Sorry about that! An easy mistake to make! Then we went upstairs and watched the adolescent dolphins cavorting. Dolphins are always fun, although they make me a little nervous because with all this talk of their intelligence, I keep imagining they understand what we're saying about them. There was another tank that we were looking down at that had an extremely gross dead turtle. Also pretty large. As large as a double oven. Why the heck didn't they yank that thing out of there, all gross and....WHOOPS! It was the same turtle. We were now looking at his above-water butt. And he appeared to have an accute hemorrhoid problem. Well all I can say is this turtle is not going to get a prom date anytime soon. With a head that looks like a butt, and a butt that looks like a decaying omelette. Fortunately just at this moment we ran into the Hell's Well-Behaved Motorcycling Crowd. They were there with a talking, brightly colored bird! He was taking all the attention away from the cavorting dolphins, bored stingrays and diseased turtles! They were letting other people come up to him and say hello and pet him. God Bless the Hell's Friendly Aquatic Diversion! So other than the gift store and the gumball machine, that's pretty much the extent of the Clearwater Aquarium. Well of course there are the giant painted turtles you can get your picture taken next to. The 3-year-old liked those. Not slimy at all! But if you want a real "entertainment experience," I think you need to go to the Aquarium in Tampa. That's probably fun with or without motorcycle gangs being there.

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