I took Monday off to celebrate Valentine's Day, which some people might find odd, as today is Valentine's Day. I prefer less fuss and the roses are cheaper. Wife agrees, so be it.
But V-Day also happens to be our anniversary. You see, we were married by Blue Cross of Pennsylvania, after I learned that my work plan would cover her. We sent email to the families, mentioning that we were married. It took almost five years before some of the relatives began to suspect we weren't making this up.
So this year makes nineteen. The woman deserves a medal for putting up with me that long.
Saturday my band practiced for the last time before this weekend's show. They pleasantly surprised me by learning to play certain songs correctly. It's the little things with me.
Sunday we went to visit a friend. Since it was positively frigid here in the frozen tundra of PA, we got some hot drinks for the ride. There's a Starbucks in a supermarket: beggars can't be choosers. I ordered a carmel macchiato and a white chocolate mocha. My wife and I each tasted both and we were unable to tell which was carmel and which was white chocolate. Kinda speaks for itself, doesn't it?
Monday found us at Barnes&Noble, dodging Kindle displays. I didn't want anything to drink but that particular Starbucks advertised smoothies made with a banana. I opted for chocolate. My wife came back with a chocolate frappucino. Why? Because they were out of bananas. Seems silly to advertise the drink on every flat surface (that doesn't already have a Kindle display) when you cannot produce it. Maybe it's just me. I've kinda had it with Starbucks.
Our main fun activity was a trip to the Camden Aquarium. Camden is a study in extremes. One one hand you have the waterfront area, with its stadium and aquarium. On the other hand, you have the city with the most murders in the country, as well as the smallest amount of police.
New Jersey came up with some interesting ideas lately. For instance, all bridges between PA and NJ are free going to NJ but you have to pay coming back. I firmly believe that this is because after you've seen New Jersey, you'd pay anything to get back to PA and not bitch about the cost. Very shrewd.
Along those lines, the signage coming off the bridges is pretty good. It's when you're trying to get back that things get interesting. Tiny little signs say TO THE BRIDGE and usually point in the wrong direction. You're not going to get out of your car to ask directions either. To their credit, the radically understaffed Camden Police Department maintains high visibility on what passes for roads in New Jersey. They're probably there to ticket you after you attempt to follow their street signs.
My wife was most complimentary about Camden. She stated that, for an armpit, the place was really clean. It showed pride in the neighborhood(s). Oddly enough, this is not the first time my wife made this observation. We were on vacation in Los Angeles and took an unfortunate turn. The map indicated we were in Compton. She commented on how nice Compton looked. The people there really took care of their homes and surrounding areas. [Take note, Philthydelphia]
After locating the aquarium, we were less than enthused at having to pay ten dollars to park our car. Institutionalized robbery, in its finest form. The admission had gone up from seventeen to twenty five dollars - also less than impressive. A review today at work prompted coworkers to tell their favorite aquarium stories. Tales of being accosted for change in the parking lot, while trying to get children out of the car.
Speaking of robbery, the sodas were two-fifty.
But nothing prepared me for the three buses full of ill-behaved, screaming children that unloaded just as we were walking to the gate. This used to be a running joke with us. When we went to a restaurant, I always requested the no screaming children section. On planes too. A friend recently told me of her trip to a bookstore with a section of screaming children, officially referred to as the leftystrat section of the store.
The first attraction was a small pool with a rather ragged-looking shark of some sort that you could touch. My heart went out to the poor lady talking over the p.a. about the shark and telling people to only touch with two fingers, as the shark was sensitive. The conglomeration of little bastards and bastardettes, all seemingly without parental supervision of any kind, were doing everything but leaping in with the poor shark (whose length barely exceeded a foot). This might be the first time anyone has ever felt sorry for a shark, but that's the kind of people we are. I made an off-mic suggestion to the employee (valium lollypops), who seemed to approve vigorously.
No trip to New Jersey would be complete without genuine stereotypes; in this case, Housewives of New Jersey. They probably weren't the actual housewives but perhaps their good friends. You could tell as their casual outfits cost more than my car. Ever see a BMW stroller? I think I did.
We saw Mike the alligator. He was the largest alligator we have ever seen. The employees at the aquarium are extremely helpful and friendly. When I asked if Mike tasted like chicken, she indicated that he probably did, as that was all he ate. She proceeded to tell us about when she ate alligator. Ten points for sense of humor.
We like penguins. I like them because of Tux, the Linux Penguin. My wife just thinks they're cute. These penguins, however, seemed rather lethargic. They were way more interested in the door backstage than in their exhibit, which I found oddly amusing.
We saw a pair of hippos. I can't see a hippo without thinking of my cousin Betty, the rude, obnoxious slug of a woman with the social grace of Genghis Kahn. After she discovers your name, she asks you what you do and how much you make. My wife thought we were kidding when we prepped her for the inquisition but had to admit we prepped her well. When my wife asked why the water was brown, I told her because this was Philly/New Jersey, where all water is brown. Most people won't drink it. Smart people won't even put their boats into it. The locals refer to is a Schuylkyll Punch (SKOO-kill).
There's a really cool tube-shaped section that makes it appear as though you're walking through water. The wildlife is swimming all around you. We saw some sharks plus what can only be described as a Hedge-Trimmer Shark. Just don't plug him in while he's in the water, ok?
A cynic like yours truly can't help noticing that the all exits lead through the gift shop. More clever Jersey marketing, no doubt.
All that aside, we really like the aquarium. It could be bigger but there's still a decent amount to see. It is very easy to navigate, even for people with some physical handicaps. If they can let us know when there will be no busloads of children, we might go back. More than likely we'll take the drive to Baltimore, where I hear incredible things about their aquarium. And it's twenty bucks to park.