At 4:35 yesterday morning, Christmas morning to be precise, I was quietly scratching at the door of room 919, right next to ours, hoping that Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie were getting ready for the day's affairs.
Uncle Slappy was awake, of course, sipping magma-hot coffee he had somehow procured, and Aunt Sylvie was putting the requisite finishing touches on her face. My wife had decided that it would be fun to go whale-watching off the Na Pali coast an hour and a half from our hotel, and accordingly, we had to hit the road by 5 or 5:15.
I was happy to see that Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Slappy were quickly accoutered accordingly with shorts, hats, sunglasses and acres of sun screen.
"It's SPF 2000," Uncle Slappy informed me in a trice. "Safe for the surface of Mercury."
We flip-flopped our way to the valet, and drove through the darkness lit by a full Christmas moon as well as the headlights of our rental Chevy Impala. Which Uncle Slappy kept calling a Chevy Imposter.
Before too too long we had arrived at the gift shop that often fronts events like whale-watching excursions. Such businesses probably make more money selling last minute necessities like wind-breakers (it was cold yesterday) and motion sickness pills than they do from the actual tickets to their activities. Nonetheless, in a short while we piled onto a 66-foot catamaran with four dozen other tourists and set out in search of cetaceans.
Soon we were out in the open Pacific and we ran across the first wildlife of our journey--a horde, or is it a pod, or was it a couple of pods of spinner dolphins. These are sleek, three-foot mammals who leap from the water to breathe and often pirouette while doing so--ergo their adjective. Disney-like many of the adult spinners had calved and were accompanied by mini-me's who were already adroitly 360-ing in the cool morning air.
"Spinner dolphins," said Uncle Slappy. "I remember when you danced like that," he poked at Aunt Sylvie. "I think you won a silver loving cup from the Nevele for that."
"That was a Lindy-hop contest. And it wasn't the Nevele, it was Grossinger's."
Chastised, Uncle Slappy returned to his seat and scoured the horizon looking for whale spume.
Someone spotted said spume not far from the horizon--too far away to investigate and we kept plugging north.
In short order the sea looked like an artillery range. There was whale and pacific bottle nose dolphins breaching and fluking everywhere. Uncle Slappy was silent as he took in the dozens of whales frolicking within 'spitting distance' of our boat.
"That was something," he said. "Nothing at all like the times I went out to the Pacific Northwest to go lox watching. We would hold out bagels and the lox would jump right onto them."
"Lox watching," I said, taking his bait.
"Ooniwanahooni, in Tlingit," he continued. "The leaping of lox onto cream cheese."
We turned around to head back in to port but first the captain stopped the boat so we could snorkel. Aunt Sylvie demurred, but Uncle Slappy--forget that he's 87 was in the water in a flash. I stayed vigilantly between he and my wife and in moments we spied an old leatherback turtle making its stolid way among the tourists.
Uncle Slappy swam close to get a good look.
"I have a pair of glasses like that."
And then he left the sea.
And went to sleep.