Saturday the skies above Echo Park (and Silver Lake and Hollywood) were full of a different kind of smoke: I (heart) baby, which was already drifting away by the time I drove under it on my way to the freeway onramp (and then the freeway beyond). This past week I have revised my stay-close-to-home lifestyle, making repeated trips to the west side and the beach, largely thanks to an out-of-town visitor who loves the ocean.
So, Sunday we packed up and drove to Long Beach where a whale tour cruise was scheduled to leave at noon. It was a beautiful day for the trip, and we wanted to see the huge mammals -- the only kind of whales we see in Echo Park are the blimps that bob the skies on their way to Dodger Stadium. On the boat, our captain/personal standup comic plied us with paranoid jokes about spies and the like as he urged us to frequent the bar below deck. It took about forty minutes to reach open sea. It was sunny and brisk, the water getting cleaner and cleaner as we got farther from shore. Our ten-year-old cousin, Lydia, seemed to enjoy the sight of the ocean and the seagulls flying in the wake of the boat. The captain promised us that a whale had been seen lounging not too far off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and we were going to see him/her. He said the whale may be resting after overfeeding. But when we got to where the whale was supposed to be, more or less, parked we saw nothing for several minutes. The boat rocked as we stayed in place then turned slightly as everyone looked for a whale in our midst. Then we spotted it. A nose bobbing up, breaking through the kelp, a gray whale. Then it went down. Then it came up again, feebly. We watched it do this for several minutes. The captain said, "I'm not going to lie to you, he's not having a good day." He said the whale, which appeared to be a juvenile and also appeared to be alone, may have lost its sonar and was in danger of being beached. He said, "Say a prayer for the poor little guy or whatever you do." We left the sick whale and headed back. The captain promised a close view of sea lions on a buoy, which he delivered. When we were about to enter Angels Gate entry to the harbor, a healthy whale breached and then disappeared from view, rising again with a spew of water about fifty yards from the boat. I was glad my cousin, who lives in Maryland, got to see a healthy whale, too.
We went back to harbor, and then we drove back to Echo Park. Breaching Sunset at the corner of Echo Park Ave. felt like entering our own landlocked harbor: Echo Park Gate.