Show and tell at the shore*

With its sclerotic traffic, construction addiction and density so extreme you know your neighbor's bed time, why would anyone choose to live in Santa Monica? Isn't the weather just as nice in Moorpark?

Then, early in the morning, you walk the two blocks to the beach to stroll along the sand from Ocean Park to the Venice pier, and you are reminded why you stay.
bottlenose dolphin-.jpg

The day dawned gray, and the color of the ocean is the same as the sky, the two merging almost imperceptibly on the western horizon. The tide is low-ish, offering the sanderlings and sandpipers a bean-clam feast from the exposed flats. Pelicans skim the tops of the modest waves, and a few dolphin dorsal fins poke through the surface a hundred yards out.

They are the warm-up act.

Maybe half a mile down the beach, opposite the Venice Skate Park, several members of a bottlenose dolphin pod--or two, or three--leap out of the water with the kind of exuberance you expect to see only at Sea World.

You stare at a spy hop, a maneuver in which the dolphin emerges vertically from the surf, as if to survey the land and reassure itself of the superiority of the liquid domain. You savor the symmetry of the human surfer sitting atop his board, awaiting a rideable wave, while two cetaceans 20 feet away easily slice through his rejects. You freeze, slack-jawed, as two young podsters leap simultaneously, side-by-side, then one flips 360 degrees, fluke over belly, clearing the surface of the water by a couple of feet.

You applaud, hoping the dolphin display was for you and so knowing it wasn't. It's wrong to anthropomorphize, but also instinctively human.

In fact, said Dudley Wigdahl, curator of marine mammals and birds at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, dolphins do this stuff all the time in the wild. It's just that at Sea World, "they do it on command."

They do it all the time, because what's "causing the excitability," said Wigdahl, is a yummy, fish breakfast and/or, to paraphrase, they're horny. Breeding, said Wigdahl, is a popular dolphin pursuit this time of year.

Not that they need spring to flirt; they do that all the time, too. Dolphins, like humans, are randy creatures. They're just randier in spring. If you lack the opposable thumbs required to sext, you find another way to expend your lusty energy.

That you would do so in my neighborhood, that you would let me watch, is a gift that's even better than nice weather.

Photo: Bottlenose dolphin, courtesy Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching (Hat tip to Pete Thomas Outdoors).

*This post was edited.


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