Sunday, May 31 2020

riots, picnics, baby ducks, and half-dead shrimp

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone, and happy Sunday to everyone reading. This morning, Rodney, Ziggy, and I are hanging out on the couch. While Rodney is taking in some Sunday morning Paw Patrol, I'm catching up on all the events that took place yesterday in Madison. There was a peaceful protest for the slaying of George Floyd yesterday, and shortly after dinner, things took a violent turn. I read that almost every shop on state street was looted. I saw a video of a burning cop car and police spraying tear gas in the streets. Last night on the police scanner, I heard that a truck full of men carrying rifles was spotted passing by our house and headed downtown. From what I can tell, the carnage continued late into the night, spilling over into both of our shopping malls. Things are serious - so much so, that our mayor declared an emergency curfew tonight.

The protest was a strange backdrop to an otherwise wonderful day. In the afternoon, Marissa, Rodney, Miles, and I packed up the car and drove to Pet World to buy our first saltwater fish. Marissa made a point to drive by the capitol so we could see things warming up.

"Oh, it's so eerie," said Marissa as we rambled down the road. "Everyone in masks - evenly spaced - walking up the hill towards the capitol."

"These are weird times," I added.

Traffic was blocked off around the square, and we were quickly diverted far from the action. We didn't see much, but as we turned away from the capitol, we could hear the faint cadent murmur of protesters. We didn't get any noteworthy pictures, but as with all protests around the capital, local photographer Ken Fager was there to get some excellent shots of what we drove by yesterday.

Marissa took Rodney into Pet World, and an hour later they returned with a bag of live rock and a new cleaner shrimp - officially our first saltwater tank creature.

"The fish guy said these are good to have in a tank. They're more sensitive to water quality than fish are, so they give you a chance to fix things before all your fish die," explained Marissa.

Rodney cradled the plastic bag in his lap with the same delicate care he uses to hold baby Miles. He scolded Marissa at the wheel each time the car hit a speed bump.

"Careful Momma," he said. "Don't shake my new friend."

new shrimp

Rodney holds up our new friend for an indifferent Miles

Back at home, Marissa began the elaborate acclimation process for which she had been briefed at Pet World. As Rodney and I napped, Marissa slowly added our water to the crimped plastic bag left to float just underneath the lid, allowing our new friend to slowly adjust to the salt and temperature of our carefully curated tank.

"I waited for you guys to wake up before officially dumping our shrimp into the tank," said Marissa waking us up. Rodney eagerly grabbed his little blue chair and stood beside the tank for the ceremonious pour.

"Welcome to your new home, Stephane," said Marissa tipping the plastic bag. The delicate shrimp rolled out of the bag, bobbing to the bottom of the tank and assuming a very disciplined pose.

Leaving our new shrimp to get acclimated in our new home, we jumped in the car and drove to the Biergarten, which was open to the public in a limited capacity.

"You are not allowed to sit and drink beer," Marissa explained. "But you can buy dinner from them and eat it by the lake."

We parked at the biergarten just as the sun was starting to set over the lake. The cool breeze washing over the water felt refreshing, even while I was lugging Miles' car seat through the dusty, arid parking lot. Standing at a distance, Marissa collected three cardboard boxes filled with hot dogs, brats, cookies, and beer that we were not allowed to drink.

"So they hand us two ice cold beers, then send us off to go not drink them by the lake," I said raising an eye brow.

"Correct. And all these people are definitely not drinking the beer either," said Marissa motioning to the disparate clusters of people lounging on picnic blankets. The orange light from the setting sun glinting sharply off beer cans made it pretty easy to see what was actually going on. We found an open spot under a tree to set up our blanket, and we joined our fellow Madisonians in eating and not drinking beer.

lake picnic

Reminder: Marissa is not drinking that beer.

"I forgot how cool it gets by the lake," I said with a shiver. "We clearly haven't done the biergarten in a while - we look like newbies or something."

We feasted on to-go biergarten food and snacked on some gold fish crackers we brought in our personal stash. The only thing decorating the vast blue cloudless sky was a pale half moon and a few airplanes landing at the nearby air port.

lake thumbs up

A 'thumbs up' is a great move if you don't know what to do with your hands in a picture, isn't it?

After we finished eating, we let Rodney wander off to look at the water, instructing him to stay away from people. "Make sure you socially distance yourself, dude," I advised him, trying to make light of it.

"It's kind of nice that we can let him do this on his own now," I said turning to Marissa. "Remember when he was two, and he would throw a fit when we didn't let him look at the ducks?"

"He used to just take off from the sandbox and try to run right in the water," laughed Marissa.

Rodney ran back to our blanket. Out of breath, he reported that there were baby ducks in the water. I joined Rodney at the spot he found. Sure enough, there was a mother duck nestling several baby ducklings on a rock, shielding them from the choppy lake water.

lake ducks

Rodney bravely risks his dry pair of pants to make new friends.

Unbeknownst to us, as we were snapping pictures of Rodney with the baby ducks in front of the lake, the sunset, and the majestic Madison capitol, the protests we had driven by earlier that afternoon were starting to get violent. It's possible that across the lake from us at that very moment, windows were shattering and tear gas was starting to be released.

lake smiles with mom

An equally eerie and beautiful moment, isn't it?

I put Rodney to bed, and Marissa and I met on the back porch for a beer. Marissa joined me a few minutes later than usual.

"I think our shrimp is dead," she said with a long face. I sighed.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"Here, come look" said Marissa beckoning me inside. She lowered the brush into the tank and gave the stoic shrimp a nudge. His rigid body turned on its side.

"It's so dead," she said. "What are we going to tell Rodney?

We returned to the porch, pacifying our anxiety with beer and google searches. Surprisingly, we found lots of stories of shrimp acting dead, then springing to life several hours later.

"So to be fair, we don't actually know if he's dead. I think there are enough stories of shrimp acting dead during acclimation that we can't actually declare him dead yet."

"So we're not actually lying to Rodney either," said Marissa.

"Exactly," I said raising a finger. "The shrimp is neither alive, nor dead. The shrimp is half dead."

This morning, our story is that the shrimp is sick. Later today, we'll take the shrimp back to Pet World so they can sample our water, and hopefully replace our half-dead shrimp.

Thanks for stopping by this morning. Have a wonderful day today, and stay safe out there.