Friday, June 01, 2007

It's my birthday, and how can I resist the sea lions, yes the sea lions!

Today's my birthday, so I went to visit the sea lions on Pier 39 with a few friends -- there were so many baby sea lions, I've never seen so many tiny ones -- I don't mind the tourists so much when I can watch the sea lions! Here's something I wrote about them, a little while back:


Maybe you remember this. Adults would peer down and say: enjoy it while you can! They meant childhood. I studied their eyes for evidence: were they lying to themselves, or just to me? I never figured it out.

I refused childhood, but still I asked: do animals have souls? I didn’t want to eat them -- I flipped over mousetraps to rescue someone. I tried to bury my grandmother's fur. I rushed outside to set a lobster free in the yard.

My father could unlock my door with scissors, but I locked it anyway. I stared through the vertical blinds at two huge pine trees, wondering if I could live in them. Later, but still before I could drive, my father would scream and pound on the door while I turned up Tracy Chapman’s "Fast Car," tears pouring down my face, repeating "fly, fly, fly, fly away-ay..."

Eventually, I arrived in San Francisco. I heard about the sea lions at Pier 39, but I thought it must be some kind of scam, thrown in with the sourdough bread, clam chowder and postcards of the Golden Gate Bridge through a foggy sunset. I didn’t want to be near any of that, so it took me a while to learn that the sea lions initially arrived uninvited, taking over boat docks in the late eighties, when I was also desperate for a safe place to rest. Since then, the sea lions have become a fixture—apparently they don't mind the tourists.

The sea lions look so comfortable, even when they’re jumping on top of one another and jostling for space. Several dozen of them will squeeze onto one tiny dock, and leave the rest of the docks empty. They argue loudly and cuddle and kiss and I like to watch their facial expressions, my eyes studying their emotion.

I still have trouble sleeping. My brain won't shut off -- the more exhausted I get, the harder it is to relax. It's gotten so bad that it's difficult for me to function. Sea lions have no such trouble. A bunch of them will get into a screaming fight, and push each other off a dock, while right next to them a friend snoozes. The friend will lift up its head for a moment to watch the commotion, maybe sneeze once or twice and do a few yoga postures, then go right back to dreamland.

I have a postcard of two sea lions sleeping together on Pier 39, one sea lion is resting its head on the other's neck, its flipper wrapped around the other sea lion’s back. When I look at them, my mouth starts to pout, and I can feel my face adjusting to the eyes behind my eyes.


steven said...

The sea lions are adorable. Almost makes me sick. So cute. If you haven't already stuffed your face with it, eat cake! Or. If not, then wear it! I love chocolate. Of course, I look good in black. Happy birthday, Mattilda!

Anonymous said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! you are a beautiful person inside and out. Your ideas and the way you express them is inspiring. your charm and kindness jump off the page (and screen)Your pervy ways are are love!!

and the sea lions are too damn amazing.

yours truly

Flora Magon

mattilda a.k.a. matt bernstein sycamore said...

Flora, thanks so much for the birthday wishes -- and your incredibly sweet compliments! Please do keep in touch...

Love --

D. said...

hey sweetie, happy happy birthday! i found a fabulous floral shirt at goodwill the other day & thought of you. thanks for being one of the finest human beings i've ever met. i hope i'll be able to visit you in SF sometime, and we'll finally have good food.

deena (the dog-silencer & canada-bound driver hirself)

Jezebel said...

wow that was an eclectic post! picking what to respond to is definitly difficult. I think i'll choose to say happy birthday since your existence, writing, and concerns have been so warming/helpful/needed to me and everyone i expose to your work. I hope your birthday was as lovely as you are!

Much love,

jen meekel

mattilda a.k.a. matt bernstein sycamore said...

Steven, I can't eat cake because I'm too hypoglycemic, but wearing cake -- now, that's an idea!

And Deena, so great to hear from you -- a floral shirt, you're tantalizing me! I have something I've been meaning to send you, but yes yes we should absolutely get some delicious food in San Francisco, it would be great to see you here...

And Meekel -- warming, needed, and helpful? That's so wonderful to hear! Your thoughtful, critical, direct and directed, engaged and engaging perspectives have been so helpful to me as well! And thanks for exposing people to my work, etc... I look forward to chatting soon!

Love --