Lost Journal: Romance Tanks at the National Aquarium

Journal entry: February 8, 1997 (age 27) — Romance

My girlfriend, Amanda, and I are having a romantic weekend getaway, but it’s been a challenge.  First, we had planned to travel from our homes in Northern Virginia to New York City, but for complicated reasons, that plan didn’t work out.  In the league of American cities, New York relegates all the others to the junior varsity squad.  As a kind of consolation prize, we set our sights on Baltimore, a city that’s closer and still has a lot to offer.

About halfway into last night’s drive from the Washington Beltway to the Baltimore Beltway, it started to snow.  By the time we checked into our hotel, the snow had balled into a full-blown blizzard.  The hotel is in the heart of the city’s Inner Harbor area, which is renowned for its exciting nightlife.  But the storm had snuffed the life out of the night, despite the fact that it was a Friday.  We were lucky to find a single venue that was open – an intimate, Italian restaurant that we pretty much had to ourselves.  This turned out to be what Amanda calls “a happy thing,” as we enjoyed a cozy dinner looking out on the quiet harbor aswirl with wind and snow.

Today, we woke up to a crisp, bright morning and piles of the white stuff.  Most of the city’s tourist attractions and shopping outlets were closed.  Happily, the National Aquarium was an exception.  We spent most of the day peering into the mammoth tanks to watch sharks, turtles, and shimmering schools of gloriously colored fish.

The best exhibit was the shallow pool where they keep some of the rays, with their flat, hydrodynamic shapes and their impressive finspans.  (For those keeping score, “hydrodynamic” is a real word.  “Finspans” is not.  Neither is “MacGyver-logisms.”)  The rays’ stingers had been removed, and we were surprised to learn that these notorious creatures can be quite docile, and even friendly towards humans.  In their shallow “petting pool,” the rays were swimming near the edge so that we could stroke them on the back as they glided by.  Their skin had the feel of wet velvet.  (I know what wet velvet feels like because I use a portrait of Elvis as a shower mat.)

The last exhibit we visited was a huge, indoor rainforest.  It seemed remarkably faithful to the look and feel of a real rainforest, despite the lack of waiters and shopping mall patrons.  Small placards were scattered throughout to point out the various wildlife.  Amanda was determined to locate what the exhibit described as its most elusive and mysterious resident:  the two-toed sloth.  To the exclusion of all the other exotic sights and sounds, she was hunting this creature like a crouching, tiptoeing zoologist.  I decided to do some tiptoeing of my own, and quietly crept up behind Amanda as she was staring into a dark knot of trees.  With a sudden movement, I perched two toe-like fingers on her shoulder.  The resulting shriek attracted some onlookers, anxious to witness a real-life rainforest mauling.

On the way to dinner afterward, Amanda wouldn’t even hold hands with me.  I fear lust has been killed by sloth.

Tim Mollen
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