Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seal Rock

The humorist Dave Barry once wrote, "Yuppies have a very low birth rate, because apparently they have to go to Aspen to mate."

Clearly, Mr. Barry has never attempted to drive through the North Side of Chicago on a Wednesday night with a destination and an arrival time in mind. Yuppies, hipsters, and various bicyclists and jaywalkers, thick as a pod of seals on Seal Rock, crowd the sidewalks, their closely-spaced numbers both the result and proximal cause of privilege and procreation. The opportunity to reduce the surplus population is there for the motorist's taking, whether the heel at the wheel is a sociopathic Illini or a mild-mannered Wisconsinite in town for, say, a Dresden Dolls reunion tour concert at the Vic Theatre.

At least my Beloved Lady Seal and I knew better than to assume a trouble-free route to our destination. Ten years prior, our bucket list baseball pilgrimage to Wrigley Field had resulted in an apparently predictable two hours of futile wrangling with Addison Road gridlock, not to mention a supplementary idiot tax of $20 exacted by alley youngsters perpetrating a well-practiced, time-tested faux-parking ruse. We arrived to take our place on the Rock in the fourth inning.

Once inside Wrigley, our fellow fans crammed themselves into the tiny grandstand seats, more interested in animal partying and mating rituals than the batting averages of the alpha seals on the field, blocking our view of the ballgame annoyingly and repeatedly as they shuffled past us multiple times to make their way to the sea for more fish. The confines of Wrigley Field may be friendly, but when the perpetuation of the species is at stake, marine life on the Rock doesn't have time to spectate.

Ah, nostalgia. We were but pups then.

Seal Rocks are fascinating and diverse. A Rock can be seasonal, as with Aspen during ski season or Milwaukee Summerfest in, er, the summer. It can be a singular, temporal event, as with Woodstock or the Jon Stewart rally, or recurring, as with the quadrennial co-mingling of the athletes at the Olympic Village. A colony can evidence prosperity and generative energy -- the quickly constructed suburban schools, townhouses, and mega-malls ringing Washington, D.C. come to mind -- or high-density deprivation and a lack of alternatives, as with urban ghettos or tent villages. Recognizable-by-type residential and commercial districts, each with their own characteristics, surround military bases, factories, colleges and universities, and anyplace else that colonization and the raising of baby seals occurs.

Seals sometimes also go clubbing, a nifty role-reversal. On the aforementioned Wednesday evening in Chicago, we managed to wend our way through traffic and avoid running over the locals with the Silver Zloty at seal crossings, arriving at the Vic Theatre in the fourth inning -- i.e., near the end of the opening act. We found our way inside. The uniformly skinny, black-clad and/or costumed members of species H. Dresdendollus teemed on the lower level, performing intricate mating rituals, exchanging, if not genetic material, at least cellphone numbers, email addresses, and pirated MP3 files. Sharing fish with each other, as it were. Meanwhile, the older, heftier, balding and bespectacled members of the colony -- hey, that's me! -- headed for the higher altitudes of the balcony.

Having experienced a Seal Rock first-hand, I'm inclined to agree with the line from Jurassic Park: "Life will find a way." The entire colony danced its happy-mammal dance in the panorama before us, rocking and writhing to the percussive tones. It's hard to tell if the collective joy in the theater that evening was born of enthralled appreciation for the musical performance or warm affection for the musicians. Both, I'd say. But it was also a purely instinctual response: now and then, if you're a seal, it feels great to find yourself on Seal Rock.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Go Green!

What if the cost of packaging were subtracted from GDP instead of added to it?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...