When I was 15 or so, I had never been to an aquarium.* It’s one of the odder aspects of being Irish, for some reason we don’t have much affinity for the sea. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we have a serious fishing fleet and everyone loves fish fingers, but oddly we’ve never been a strictly seafaring people. At least not under our own flag. And then, it wasn’t really by choice. Other than the Irish pirates, of which there were many.
But I digress.
This meant that when I was 15 and I went to the Berlin Aquarium, I was unaware of what I was getting myself in for. I had never experienced the awe and wonder of a huge old building entirely dedicated to the quiet study and enjoyment of marine life. It was filled with a kind of liquid majesty and not the kind that makes one-eyed bastards who later in life try to usurp the throne. I loved that day, I spent hours staring at the seemingly endless procession of fish and marine mammals. It’s truly one of the great memories I have jammed into my brainhole and I treasure it like underwater Pirate treasure, except with less gold or chalices and more turtles and screaming kids.
So, today Sam, my new flatmate and I, went to Coney Island to see the New Yawk fishies and to me, it was a bit of a gamble. It was a bit of a risk. I mean, if the last couple of years have taught me anything it’s that you can’t go home again. That things that were good in the past are by no means assured to still be that way if you go for a revisit.
For example, when I watched the Neverending Story a few months back, all I could think was “Did Falcor ALWAYS look that fake?”.
Or when I played System Shock again last month I couldn’t help but OBSESS over the way the Genemutants were flat and 2D and I’d never noticed.
And the less said about George Lucas’s last 4 films the better.
So, we went and we paid our thirteen bucks and the first thing I saw was a sign saying that three different parts of the aquarium were “Closed for Renovations”. This immediately flicked my “cynicism” switch on. I KNEW that this meant all the good parts of the experience were going to be hidden behind blacked out windows and the entire day would be marred by the fact that we only saw one large grouper fish that we could have seen by just going to the fish counter at Tescos.
Luckily however, I was wrong. And mostly because Sam and I were a pair of stupidly silly kids the whole day. Although the place was surprisingly small and actually pretty dilapidated, it was still great, really reminding me of why I love places like that. The highpoints were:
1) The sea air. It was weird experiencing a genuinely fresh scent after the urinehappy funtimes of the subway.
2) The Walrus. HE HAD WHISKERS AND LOOKED LIKE A GENTLEMAN
3) The Spotted Seal. He just wanted to play. SO HE DID.
4) Getting forced to buy a stuffed Shark toy and then totally bonding with him. He’s called Albert Finney and swims entirely in Scotch.
5) The crazy dude on the subway on the way back. Eddie his name was. I knew it cause he kept shouting “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! MY NAME IS EDDIE WHAT’S YOURS? HAAAAAAPPPPYY NEWW YEAR!!”
I think that was a small hint.
I might write in more detail about this, but it’s late and I have work tomorrow for the first time in over a year, so here’s the day:
*Other than those two times that I went to Sea World, but that’s not an aquarium. It’s a rollercoaster with fish.