Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The
My granddaughter, Chloe, who just turned 2, doesn't know yet that her Poppie is fishy. And it didn't seem to bother her that I'm all wet, too, when we took a trip recently to see some fine finny, flippered, feathered, furry and flighty friends at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead.
Accompanying us on this exciting excursion were my younger daughter, Lauren, known to Chloe as Mommy, and my son-in-law Guillaume, aka Daddy.
When we arrived on a weekday morning, a couple of seals were already up (they start work early) and looking for breakfast in their outdoor exhibit.
"They're gray seals," an aquarium staffer said.
"They should use Miss Clairol," I replied. "It would make them look younger."
"Do you know the difference between seals and sea lions?" she asked.
"The spelling?" I guessed.
"Well, yes," the staffer answered. "But seals don't have ear flaps."
"I suppose that means they don't wear earrings," I said.
"No," the staffer said.
"That's OK," I said. "They still have my seal of approval."
Lauren rolled her eyes and said, "Come on, Dad. Let's go inside."
At the front desk, Lauren and Guillaume got in for free because they have an aquarium pass. Chloe also was admitted at no charge. My admission was $22.
"You could have gotten a senior citizen discount," Lauren said after I had paid with a card.
"I already gave you one," the young woman at the desk told me.
"Is it that obvious?" I asked.
"I do my job very well," she said as she handed me a receipt for $20.
Chloe took me by the hand and we capered off. The exhibit she seemed to like best was the butterfly garden, where the colorful winged creatures flitted toward, past and all around us. From overhead pipes came an occasional spray of water to keep the humidity level just right.
"I should have brought soap," I told another staffer. "Then I could take a shower."
Next door was the aviary, where playful parrots perched.
"This is for the birds!" I said to Chloe.
She giggled and took me by the hand again so we could catch up to Mommy and Daddy, who had made their way to the shark tank, watery home to all kinds of fish, including -- what were the chances? -- sharks.
"These are nurse sharks," I said. "There are no doctor sharks, but if you get bitten, you can sue and hire one of the sharks as your lawyer."
I also pointed out a clownfish.
"Who's a clownfish?" I asked Chloe.
"Poppie!" she answered correctly.
Then she led me through a couple of tunnels only big enough, supposedly, for kids. Outside, there was another tunnel, this one in the otter exhibit.
"There are two otters," I told Chloe. "The first one and the otter one."
Lauren and Guillaume groaned. Chloe giggled. Then she climbed into a child-size hot rod to pose for a picture.
Back inside, we saw stingrays, which were swimming in a pool.
"Do you know what all of them are named?" I asked.
"What?" said Guillaume.
"I'm going to throw you in there with them," Lauren said.
"I would be shocked," I retorted.
Chloe may not have understood the depth -- we were, after all, in an aquarium -- of Poppie's puns, but she was endlessly amused.
Then it was time for lunch. Chloe had her favorite: chicken nuggets and French fries.
"No fish?" I asked. "There are plenty to choose from."
When lunch was over, Chloe was tired, but she wasn't ready to go home. She wanted to have more fun.
"Go to Poppie," Guillaume told her.
"Poppie!" Chloe exclaimed as she jumped into my arms.
But it was, indeed, time to go, despite Chloe's protests.
"We'll come back," I promised her as we walked out. "And Poppie will bring some Miss Clairol for the seals."