[San Francisco, Pier 39]
Almost everyone San Franciscan hates Pier 39. Something about the glut of shops selling seashells (that look like they’re) from the Philipines and far too many chocolate shops. Of the same kind (no new marketing strategies?).
But there are hidden pockets of good clam chowder, and a general happy throng of people. Plus the place is simply beautiful- the chilly winds constantly sweeping in from the blue Bay.
The soul attraction: about a thousand sea lions hauling out on the docks throughout the year. Apparently there used to be more– in fact, my memories from June 2005 definitely seemed to have twice the rumbling mass of black and browns! This year, same month, less than a quarter of the docks were occupied. The pall of sea-lion stink seemed correspondingly easier to handle.
But I was only there for a brief moment, then and now. Researchers and volunteers from the nearby Marine Mammal Centre map their movements and numbers daily- imagine that: getting to know a group of another species perhaps almost as intimately as you know your partner’s comings and goings.
Gazing (squinting rather, sunglasses would have been good) at them would have easily taken up a few hours if my ears weren’t going to freeze-burn right off. Some playing, most snoozing, one slyly inching for a good spot, another bullied off, angry and squealing. Each large male forming his own dark nucleus.
Past the boats, the city of San Francisco rising in peeping rows. Same air rushing onward there.
This one got chest-bumped off the dock to the left. It paddled chastised around the edges before working its way up here.