Scrambling to find four seats together for my family on the boat to Catalina, I saw a young woman typing intensely on a laptop. "Would you mind sliding over one so we can all sit together?" I asked her.
"Ai yi yi," she replied, irritated, but she complied. I thanked her, marveling that people actually say that outside of cartoons.
I somehow missed my junior high class trip to the island, so I was excited. It is not every day you get to see tourists in their natural habitat, or a place where so much sunscreen is evaporating at such a rate it becomes weather.
First we took the glass-bottom boat tour because, really, who does not want to see fish at foot level? Then we strolled the main street and, due to the saggy style with which teenage boys wear swim trunks, saw more crack than in 20 plumber house calls.
We popped in and out of the many cute shops along the strip, my favorite being one touting its "original American fish art." I wondered idly how many dupes fall for those cheap European fish art knock-offs.
We wanted to get a sense of the nature the island had to offer, so we snagged the back row in a packed tour bus up into the mountains. I had disregarded the brochure's warning that the road would be "bumpy" and "winding" until I was swerving around views of deadly thousand-foot drop-offs while bouncing six inches off my seat.
We did see two bison on a hilltop, though, and a cactus.
Approaching a turn coming back down the mountain, the driver, for comedy's sake, held her hands straight up in the air and asked "Anybody want to take the short cut?" A little girl screamed, genuinely frightened, and I felt sorry for her until I realized her voice was coming from my throat.
Heading back to our boat in the evening, I saw a restaurant advertising bison burgers, and my wife joked that maybe patrons get to choose which bison they want up on the hilltop. Like you do in restaurants with live lobsters. I was briefly annoyed that she was coming up with better material than I was.
But pulling out of Avalon, I stood on the breezy aft deck watching the rows of anchored sailboats recede, and like something out of a movie, three dolphins suddenly dived out of the water, playing in our boat's wake. I went for my camera, but they were gone.
Ai yi yi, they were lovely, though.
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If your email is automatically set to not show images, turn images on now. Otherwise you will miss out on the following photographic embellishments to the above column:
In the boat terminal in Long Beach, a graphic depiction of our vessel was emblazoned on a sculpture of a bald eagle. I think this is the artistic pinnacle one achieves once one has mastered painting cats on rocks.
Yes, what you want in your gut before an hour-long boat ride is a 1/3 pound hot dog in a pretzel bun. But I am not you.
Those of us who grew up in the 20th Century never got the flying cars we were promised would arrive in the 21st, but at least feline aerodynamics are on pace.
They make you shoot this picture as soon as you arrive in Avalon. Check the Internet. There are already 5,000,000,000 of these in existence. If you refuse, they paint your likeness on the breast of an eagle sculpture. Just take the picture.
I do not know who Babs was, but I thank her for providing our family with the alliterative phrase of the day, "dinghy dock." On the pier, there was even a sign, "This is not a dinghy dock," which brought me more enjoyment than should be possible from a sign. I wondered if it was some sort of nautical nod to Magritte's famous painting.
You do not see this gentleman in the tourist brochures for the island.
The entrance to the cylindrical, red-roofed casino building shown earlier is decorated with several beautiful murals created before PG-13.
The bison is an iconic animal on Catalina, because back in the 1920's a silent film crew brought over a dozen or so for a movie and they got loose. Now they number in the hundreds and roam free in the island's rural countryside. Thus this sculptural homage to the hardy bison. At least I think it's an homage. The bison might disagree.
The history books will tell you that the million-strong herds of American bison were destroyed by 19th Century hunters. Lies! The bison were actually decimated by a little-known malady known as "pepperoni butt."
Sorry, Charlie, you're not getting in here either.
I think this is where Hemingway wrote his little-known novella, "Jello Shots With Leticia."
Seen from our tour bus on the mountain, the drama continues (this time outside the bus) as a shirtless hiker approaches a pair of bison for a photo opp. Moments later, a sheriff drove up and advised him to not get killed.
Coming back down the mountain, we were met by this sarcasm-proof vista.
Like the bison, the bald eagle is an iconic symbol on the island because many actually live in the inland. They are thus artistically depicted all over the place. Just not here.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave without dropping at least three bills on souvenir refrigerator magnets.
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Please leave a comment below by clicking on "Comments." Have you been to Catalina? Did you buy authentic America fish art?