Sea lions, seagulls and watermelon – Oh, why?

I am full of random nonsense today, and none of it is going to congeal itself into a coherent blog post.  I’m also making blueberry sour cream muffins while writing this.  So, consider yourself forewarned.

I’ve been a lackadaisical blogger because on Wednesday, I went to Monterey for a conference.

This beach was behind my hotel. We ate lunch at the place in the picture. It was eh. But, the view is spectacular.

The weather wasn’t all that marvelous; it was rainy off and on but not too cold.  Monterey is still beautiful, though.  Frankly, even had it been a dump, it would’ve been perfect for that night.  Any hotel room that has a television that isn’t tuned to Nick, Jr. (or even on at all), a fireplace I can actually use and a balcony on which I can sit and drink an entire cup of coffee while it’s still hot to lukewarm is a vacation all in itself.

Plus, Monterey has salt water taffy.  How can you not like a place that has a lot of salt water taffy?

I think there should be a salt water taffy diet. It comes in about 40 flavors, so who’d get bored with that?

At the end of the conference day, after a lovely dinner, I excitedly went back to my room, opened the balcony doors and lit a fire in the fireplace.  I changed into my pajamas, made a cup of tea and parked myself on the wrap-around balcony.  Bliss.  Heaven.  Euphoria.  I watched the people carousing up and down Cannery Row – the obvious tourists, the young locals, the restaurant workers.  It was fantastic people watching, because the balcony rose just enough above the street that I had an unobstructed view of pedestrians, but I wasn’t in their line of sight unless they walked the street staring skyward – not as random as you might think in a touristy city, but unusual enough.  I would openly gawk at that person anyway.  But, I digress …

I felt the drowsiness of evening set in (assisted by a stomach full of rich food and fantastic wine), and I retreated to the fluffy-but-firm cloud in the middle of my room (otherwise known as a bed), put my favorite bedtime iPod playlist on shuffle and snuggled in.  The mix of warm emanating from the fireplace and cool wafting through the open balcony door, as well as the soft patter of the gentle but steady sprinkle of rain falling outside was the best sleep medication ever.

But, I am me, so this little Utopian moment is coming to end the way brick walls bring ends to Sunday drives.  Through the haze of light sleep, I start with the worry.  You know, that balcony isn’t really that far off the ground.  It would be really easy for some creepy dude to climb up here and get me.  I’m going to become some episode of “When Vacations Attack.”  This is enough to get me to leave my blanket cocoon to close and lock the balcony doors.  Kind of a bummer, but I still had the lovely fireplace, and the cloud-like bed, and the iPod going and the WHOLE bed to myself — not a four-year-old, bed-thrashing, arm-and-limb flailing, sleep-talking, smelly-blanket wielding bed mate to be found.  And the only snoring would be mine.

At 3:18 (and I know this because the clock next to the bed had numbers on it the size of a Vegas billboard), I woke to what I was fairly sure was an earthquake.  There was shaking and loud noise.  But, when the noise and shaking didn’t stop in a few seconds, I deduced we were either having the longest earthquake in the history of earthquakes or something else was going on outside.  When I peered out the now-closed balcony doors, I saw that the rain had intensified and there was now some kind of emergency vehicle in the street frantically pumping water out of the sewer.  There were flashing lights.  There was a ridiculously loud vacuuming sound.  There was a rumbling engine.  My hotel was built sometime around 1940.  None of this is conducive to rest.

I returned to bed and rubbed my temples, which were now mercilessly cursing at the once-so-pleasant wine.  Somehow I fell back to sleep.

At 4:30 a.m., I woke again to a horrible, horrible screeching.  It sounded vaguely  …  familiar?  Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.

I murmured to Helene to turn down her iPad.  The noise got louder.  I sit up, ready to put the iPad on timeout.  I am confused.  It is dark. Where am I?  It takes me a few minutes to orient myself before I remember where I am and that there was a moment I was happy to be here.  I then realize what I’m hearing:  seagulls.

Like this, but imagine it’s dark outside and there is noise EVERYWHERE.

Hungry, pissy seagulls who do not give a flying fuck that it is 4:30 a.m. because breakfast doesn’t make itself, you know.

I debate just getting up and starting my day.  But, dammit, I am in a hotel.  I don’t have to be up for at least two more hours.  So, I bury myself under the myriad pillows, plug the headphones for my iPod into it and my ears.  Somehow, I fall back to sleep.

(Where was this kid when I needed him?)

Well, I have news for you, Alfred Hitchcock.  Your little birds are no match for hungry sea lions.  No match at all.

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Here’s some stuff about sea lions you probably didn’t know.  First of all, they’re called sea lions because they kind of roar.  Really, really loud.  Without stopping.  For hours.  And hours.  They are also quite social, so they move around in herds of between 10 and 1,000 other sea lions.  Who are equally loud and barky.  And loud.  Did I mention loud?

Also:

  • There are 238,000 California sea lions here.  (I’m pretty sure they were ALL having a party on the beach behind my hotel.)
  • Gestation for a baby seal is 11 months and average birth weight is 13 pounds.  (This makes me happier to be human.)
  • During mating season, males defend their territory by barking, biting and shoving.  (You know, like at a bar on a Saturday night.)
  • Male sea lions never herd or inhibit movement of females.  (Proving, once again, humans may not be the smartest species after all.)

How do I know all this, you ask?  Well, what else are you going to do at 6:15 a.m., after you’ve been wakened for the third time in as many hours, but research the thing that is annoying the shit out of you? (Plus, I was pretty sure this was going to end up being a blog post, so I like to be prepared.  I’m all Hermione Granger like that.)

I consoled myself by looking forward to the breakfast I carefully ordered the night before:  a pot of coffee, a plate of fruit and cheese, toast and an egg.  Now, when I envision a fruit-and-cheese plate, I’m imagining a certain degree of harmony between the fruit and cheese.  I’m not imagining the simple coincidence of fruit appearing on the same plate as some cheese.  So, when a plate of cantaloupe, watermelon and blackberries oozing over a couple of triangles of American cheese arrived in my room, I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Why can’t a girl get a strawberry?  An apple?  A pear?  Is Jack cheese just too much to ask?  We will not discuss the toast.  At least the coffee was warmish.  But, this hotel was not to be outdone for $250 a night, because — get this — they serve invisible eggs!  I know.  Crazy, right?

Which brings me back to the blueberry sour cream muffins that started this whole mess.  I thought about them the whole way home in the car — as though making them would rectify the whole trip.   I just don’t think there is much of anything that cannot be fixed by the magical, self-medicating combination of sweet carbohydrates, tart fruit and creamy butter.  Read that sentence again.  Just reading it makes you feel happier inside, doesn’t it?  And, because you survived reading through the randomness of my whiny little rant here, I will reward you by sharing the super-secret recipe.  Please note, Ina Garten does not play, okay?  If mama says room temperature on those eggs, you best listen or your muffins will suck.  No one wants muffins that suck, especially not the person who spent all that time making them.  It’s like asking for a fruit-and-cheese plate and getting watermelon and American cheese.  Not good.  Ungood.  So the opposite of good.