A Jellyfish Minute: Video at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Jellyfish, Monterey Bay Aquarium ©2005 Russell Johnson

For a moment recently, I wished I were a jellyfish. Now, a jellyfish that has washed up on a beach looks disgusting…like a discarded Ziploc bag. But the Jellies at the Outer Bay exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California have reason to be envied.

Imagine spending your life tumbling languidly in liquid suspension while thousands of admirers ooh and awwh. Not bad for a gelatinous blob without heart or brain. Jellies can, however, see, smell (so scientists say) and taste even though they would make terribly inarticulate restaurant critics. And even though the sight of one is enough to make a diver convulse in terror, most species of jellyfish, unlike many objects of beauty, are not the least bit dangerous.

 

 

 A Jellyfish Minute
Monterey Bay Aquarium

“So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”
So sad that it should come to this
We tried to warn you all but oh dear
You may not share our intellect
Which might explain your disrespect
For all the natural wonders that grow around you
So long and thanks for all the fish”

Dolphin chorus from movie adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

As organisms, we humans are pretty stupid, easily outclassed by bumblebees (bombus terrestris), which rarely sting and would never think of bombing Iraq. Their life purpose is to bumble about pollinating and and helping to create life. Mice are also extremely gifted, according to the late Douglas AdamsHitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, as are dolphins, which escaped an earth about to be destroyed singing “So long and thanks for all the fish.” My dad said that fish was brain food, which scientists have proven to be true. And while we can’t, like Dolphins, joyfully snort krill, we can avail ourselves of the convenience of a supermarket fish counter or a restaurant.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a fish restaurant, of sorts, actually an educational project in restaurant motif designed to educate visitors on which fish are healthy to eat and raised in a manner so as not to damage the environment, not to mention taste good. The program is called Seafood Watch and you can download a good fish/bad fish guide from the Seafood Watch section of their web web site (www.montereybayaquarium.org).

Dr. Steve Webster, one of the founders of the Aquarium, gave me a quick lesson on how to shop for fish.

AUDIO

The Monterey-Carmel area of Northern California, with landmarks such as Pebble Beach and the 17 Mile Drive, is among the most expensive places I have ever visited. Some of the seafood restaurants near the aquarium list prices equal to those of midtown Manhattan. These, mind you, are refurbishments of the canneries that John Steinbeck wrote about. Nearby Pacific Grove, which was a slum when I last visited years ago is now almost as precious as Carmel.

The restaurants we visited were expensive and unremarkable.

My wife tells me, however that the Highlands Inn is first class.  It certainly is the place to watch the sunset in style: Elegant, with buffed hardwood floors, comfortable sofas, huge picture windows, an excellent choice of wines by the glass plus an unobtrusive piano player who Foleys in an appropriate soundtrack just the sun plunges into the sea and the steam rises. In my jeans, I felt underdressed compared to the Highland’s stylish patrons but I was not made to feel uncomfortable.

Then there is one place in the Carmel Valley that lives up to its name. It may not be your cuppa Joe, but The Chatterbox Café in the Carmel Valley is a gathering place for talkative locals. The menus are dog-eared and look to be about twenty years old.  No sun-dried coastal kelp sausages here. Just eggs…good fresh eggs that taste like they come from Mother Goose hens.

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