It’s been a very long time since I’ve flipped through the pages of that annoyingly-special-small-sized, yellow-bordered magazine or even now, watched its more ecologically-friendly distribution of the same information on a dedicated satellite channel, so forgive me in advance for any grossly inaccurate claims I might make about animal behavior in my attempt to get a little nationally geographic. Everything I remember is from my literal childhood (as opposed to my metaphorical childhood, out of which I still have yet to grow).
When we we were little, my Dad used to tell us that it was very important for us to watch the animal shows on tv. Those were the days when there was no Animal Planet, no Discovery channel, so when he’d turn our eighteen thousand pound television set encased in wood veneer that had dials for controls, it would be broadcasting Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom or Jacques Cousteau or National Geographic. I swear he must have somehow tinkered with our tv so that PBS was the only channel we could receive.
“Kids,” he would say in that deep, weirdly unaccented-for-a-first-generasian. “Kids, you need to watch nature shows,” he would dictate, “because people are animals.” He would search our tiny faces for our awed expressions, which we always had, even though we had heard this particular chapter of Dad’s Lecture book at least sixteen hundred times before.
“Do you think we are not like the animals and the insects?” He was testing us. “We are. People are part of the animal kingdom. We must observe animals in the wild and how they behave so we can learn about human behavior.” Somewhere in there, there would be words and phrases like “socialization,” “tribal stratification,” “pack leader,” “herd mentality” and “survival of the fittest.” I think Dad’s favorite part was pointing out how naughty cubs – and yes, he would often refer to me and my sisters as “cubs” – would get left behind and eventually get eaten by pteradactyls.
It was a lot for us. I was four-years-old. My sister-cubs were two. I’m probably mixing something up there with the pteradactyls, too.
Though most often the shows and corresponding Dad-lessons focused on four-legged social animals that roam the wilds of the African continent, I do remember the occasional episode dedicated to inhabitants of North American woods, forests, and streams.
Deer. Bears. Salmon.
Salmon live their lives happily swimming and frolicking in the river with school friends, then at some point known to them only the moment before it actually occurs, they drop everything, turn their little fishy faces toward that direction that they don’t choose themselves, and start swimming their little aquarian asses off.
Those salmon are headed up the river, and they work hard. I mean they work really. fucking. hard. Not only are they swimming upstream, fighting against the raging current, but they’re doing death-defying backflips over stones against the natural forces of gravity, risking predation by scary bears and other wilderness beasts, sallying forth against all odds.
The miraculous thing to me is, those salmon head out and start swimming without knowing what their final desination is. At least, that is the impression I’m under from what I saw on tv. All they know is that there is a final destination. They didn’t sit down with a spreadsheet representation of their entire life with macros and formulas built into columns and rows that spit out the final answer on the bottom line that becomes their goal. They just go with blind faith. It’s their instinct. At some point all of the risks and effort will pay off when they reach a goal, but they’ll only know what that goal is once they reach it.
Of course, if you’ve seen the shows like I’ve seen the shows, you know what the salmon’s final destination is – a fish mating frenzy resulting in mass release of ikura and other salmonesque spewings.
We’re all a little bit like salmon, aren’t we?
We don’t always know what our destination is, but once we get there, we know we’re there. My sister had her first baby today, three weeks early, and seeing her, my brother-in-law, and the new little froggy (she looks like a tiny little keroppi), I could sense that she knew she had reached her final destination. I think it’s the same for a lot of people.
I work hard. I mean, I work really. fucking. hard. I have caffeine and vitamins coursing through my veins so I can stay up all night. I wake up before my alarm goes off. There isn’t a minute I’m not thinking about work, what I’m working on, what I’m supposed to be working on, and what I should have worked on that would have put me further up the stream than where I am right now. Even when I’m “relaxing,” purportedly not working because I’m physically somewhere other than perched in front of my laptop, my brain is on overdrive. I feel like I’m fighting with every ounce of strength in my body, and while I do have that detailed agenda with bullet points, sub-bullets, flowcharts and diagrams mapped out on multiple tabs in an Excel workbook that all point to a diamond clear objective, sometimes I stop, bewildered, because I have no idea what I’m fighting for in the end.
Most of the other salmon in the river are naturally headed toward that same final destination paradise while I’m headed for…
…a salmon club sandwich – perfectly grilled, perfectly put together with pesto, cut precisely into four perfect quarters, placed perfectly equidistant around a perfect plate with French fries in a perfectly purposely piled presentation.
That’s my salmon destiny.
Perfect presentation of myself as someone whom I am not sure is actually…me.
McCormick & Schmick’s in Beverly Hills is not my first choice for a lazy weekend brunch – neither is it my second choice, nor third – but we ended up there simply out of convenience. My family has gone there many times for dinner, for that’s the type of place that McCormick & Schmick’s is. You go there with your family for Mother’s Day or Great Aunt Rita’s birthday or graduation so Dad can order cioppino as an excuse to lecture
about the difference between cioppino and bouillabaisse, Mom can allow herself to ignore her cholesterol and eat crab Louis salad and the one daughter who makes herself special by claiming a seafood allergy can eat a starter plate of roasted garlic and other assorted antipasto as a meal.
It was long past the first half of what makes up brunch, so a couple of plates to match the second “unch” half seemed appropriate to share. The roasted garlic and antipasto platter is a reliable standard for me. It certainly wasn’t outstanding, but as long as the garlic isn’t burnt to an ashy crisp, I can appreciate squeezing each clove to release a buttery fragrant paste from the papery skin. I admit it. I don’t even bother to put it onto bread. I just eat it right off my fork.
Beyond knowing a little about salmon in their natural environment and their springtime spawning activities, I am not a fan of salmon as a food in any format. I recognize salmon as a superfood, but for some reason, I can’t shake this idea in my head that salmon, not tuna, is the chicken of the sea. In a club sandwich, however, it wasn’t as pedestrian as I expected, though it is just a sandwich after all. McCormick & Schmick’s serves the sandwich, as stated, with a small pile of French fries that I ate, but not with the usual *sighs* and soft squeals that are emitted when I’m eating thin fries, crisp on the ends, yet soggy and glistening with sodium-infused grease.
It wasn’t perfect, but I guess that’s okay.
Now I’ve got to figure out how to use the only lessons from National Geographic that I actually remember: male seahorses get pregnant, daddy Emperor penguins hatch the chicks, and most importantly, the female praying mantis eats the male after she mates with him.
McCormick & Schmick’s
206 N Rodeo Drive @Wilshire
Beverly Hills, CA 90210