Monday, January 7, 2013


Twelve is missing out on a ton of booby jokes. 

In this small Mexican coastal fishing village, Barro de Potosi, there are lots of different kinds of seabirds: Magnificent Frigatebirds (which I remembered from the Dry Tortugas! Love it when something sticks), a couple of different sandpipers, Brown Pelicans, American Terns, Little Blue and Snowy Egrets (my favorites - they're so graceful), Sanderlings, and Brown Boobies. Boobies! Pelicans, Terns, and Boobies - boobies! - all dive-bomb the surf in search of food. It's really fun to watch, actually; they'll be just flying along when suddenly down they go, splashing straight into the water at full speed from twenty feet up.

Perhaps as a result of eating a bad batch of fish - being the only bird that dives down to a particular depth, they are the only species that would have been exposed to something that is found only there - many Brown Boobies have been washing up on shore and just sitting there, sick, waiting to die.

R hates this kind of thing. He has had to humanely dispatch a few creatures in the course of his career, and he just absolutely hates it. So he's tried to help the boobies by feeding them bits of fish, moving them to safer locations, and watching out for human and canine harassment.

For a bunch of well-educated people, we sure do find lots of ways to make booby jokes. R gets up in the mornings and announces that he's heading to the beach to watch the boobies. Where's R? Someone might ask. Oh, he's checking on the boobies. Several times, he's even grabbed brown boobies on the beach.

Beyond booby jokes, the birds' plight and R's ineffectual attempts to help are reminding me about the total futility of life. Like the video that shows all the tiny fish that get eaten by the school of medium size fish, only to be all swallowed up by a whale, what's really the point of any of it? Especially those parents trying to raise kids in an environment where simply reaching adulthood is an accomplishment and the primary parenting goal. (Immediately read There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz if you do not think this is a real thing. I'll wait.)

Like other middle-class parents, I have the luxury of assuming that Twelve will become a grownup in due time, and that she'll have the luxury of choosing an occupation, and that she'll have the luxury of assuming and expecting that her occupation will be fulfilling and rewarding. But why, though? What's the point? Without religious imperatives, there's a certain hedonism required to avoid going crazy when you realize that life is, fundamentally, totally meaningless. We may not be eaten by a whale in one gulp with a thousand others of our kind, but really all I'm doing with Twelve is grooming her to become a small fish-cog in the school-machine of capitalism, where she and the products of her labor will disappear into the gullet of whichever gargantuan corporation is allowed to collect it. 

Sobering thought. Depressing, really. Maybe I should move with Twelve to Mexico and spend lots of time on the beach, just enjoying the sunshine and warm breeze. She'd hate the bugs, though, and there's no getting the sand completely off of anything. And it wouldn't be much fun without money.

It strikes me, sitting here on the beach, enjoying the sunshine and warm breeze, that it would be so much easier to be a part of a species or a culture with less emphasis on achievement. Here we are, encouraging Twelve to get better grades to build the good habits that will allow her to get good grades in high school so that she can go to the best possible university in order to get the job she wants, when - unless she's exceptionally fortunate - she'll just end up minting money for some corporation.

Then again, I strongly suspect that T will be perfectly happy doing that as long as she can buy a lot of consumer goods.

The tiny fish probably don't know any differently either.

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