Petting Penguins

Things I’m big on: free stuff, going to new places. Things I’m not to big on: animals. However, in, like, sixth grade, I made a penguin out of clay. It got smashed along with several other clay animals, and we were allowed to make them over. The smasher, to my knowledge, was never found. Since then, I’ve had a penguin affinity. Although I’m not big on animals, penguins are okay.

That brings us to the weekend of a lot of stuff.

Stuff 1: Travel Marketplace. Hosted by AAA at Hofstra, it’s two floors of free pens, bags, candy, chocolate, note pads, key chains, and stickers. This year, I also got a chip bag clip, and I spun a wheel to win a luggage tag. The best part, aside from learning that Hershey Park has a zoo–yeah, that’s right, a zoo–and aside from learning that you should get the hopper pass in case it rains if you go to Universal Studios, is that we got Moonpies from the good folks over at the Tennessee table.

Also, Eddie and I learned that we still don’t look all that old. We got to a table where two people who looked like they could be our children asked if we’d heard of their tours. I said I’d heard of the name. They were like, we specialize in trips for people in their twenties, and they went to go on but our laughing brought that to a short halt. We called over our two friends who are still in their twenties (And who could also pass for our children) to hear the rest of their pitch.

If you want to go to Scotland, there’s a tour company that offers two versions of a Game of Thrones tour. While I would very much like to see Scotland as a country unattached to a television show, I would also very much like to wear a cloak and shoot an arrow at something.

We booked no trips but did manage to work up an appetite despite the Moonpies and Hershey kisses, so we went to Sonic.

Stuff #2: Sonic. There’s a new Sonic near the mall by us and you have to wait on a very long line no matter if you’re taking out or sitting in a stall in your car and I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo which seemed like it would be the healthiest choice–still gross but healthier than anything else–and I took one bite and then threw the rest out. I think I have an aversion to fast food these days. Clearly, I’m not against junk (see “Moonpies” above), but Sonic food really isn’t great. It’s the drinks that makes them Sonic. Everyone else enjoyed their shakes and chili cheese fries. My unsweetened iced tea tasted delightful.

Stuff #3: The Long Island Aquarium. It’s been in existence for 17 years and this was my first time visiting. The one in Coney Island is closer, I think, and really, I’m not an aquarium kind of gal. Fish. Great.

My mind changed a bit when I saw the thingies–stingrays? is that what they are?–coming up out of the water to eat what people were feeding them. For $3, you, too, can feed them. It was fascinating but also a bit disturbing. The faces of these things are really weird.

We went outside to see the sea lion show. Outside was about 2 degrees. We lasted about eleven minutes when I leaned into Eddie and said, I need to go inside like right now. When we got inside, our friends had followed. Pretty much no one wanted to freeze to see a sea lion jump.

We saw sharks, an octopus, a lot of fish of all different kinds, and turtles. We also saw monkeys. I don’t know why they are at the aquarium.

Then we went to pet some penguins. A small group of us were brought to a room near the penguin exhibit, which was closed because it was too cold for even the penguins to be outside, and we sat in a circle while two penguins toddled around us. They nipped at boots and scarves. They crapped and then walked through it a bunch of times. The pecked at doors and windows. They followed around the keeper whenever she walked from one side of the room to the other.

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The keeper picked one up and let us pet the penguin. Then later on, we pet the other penguin. Then we got to take pictures with the penguins.

One of these two people who had arrived late sat looking as if he were going to be sick, and then kept clearing the steam from the windows so people outside could see in. Then he asked someone to take a video instead of a picture. I thought to myself, why in the heck do you need a video of sitting on a bench? Then he didn’t sit. He knelt down and proposed. The people outside knew it was going to happen, so they weren’t trying to see the penguins, really. They’d been trying to watch for the proposal.

The girl said Yes. I’d been holding my breath because it seemed she was going to say No, and I was fighting off tears of potential embarrassment for this guy. Phew.

Stuff#4: Witnessing proposals and penguins can work up an appetite so we went to and Irish-type pub called Diggers Ales & Eats. It was good. Okay, I got a salad, but still, it was a delicious salad.

Sign for Diggers Soup of the day Whiskey

Stuff #5: Eddie’s mentioned a few times this pretzel place that supposedly has the best pretzels on Long Island, Knot Of This World (get it?). From the pub, we went to Huntington to find them. Funny thing: every weekend in March is up for a St. Patrick’s Day parade even if it’s not St. Patrick’s Day. So we found ourselves at the winding-down of Huntington’s Irish celebration. Having just come from an Irish pub, we fit in, of course, except that we were not drunk or wearing green. We parked up a hill and walk in the freezing cold all the way down the main street. We found the pretzel place that had its door open so that the guy outside could yell in to bring out more pretzels to the table he had set up on the sidewalk. Why, sir, must the door stay open?

Aside from remaining frozen indoors, we delighted in very large pretzels. I want to go back with someone who has a palate for exotic tastes so I can split a flavored pretzel, like one with spinach and cheese or one with cinnamon or one with Nutella. These may not seem exotic, but to Eddie, they are because they do not fall into the main food group he likes, Bland. We split a regular pretzel. It was warm and delicious.

Five Stuffs is a lot for one weekend. We did stuff. We stuffed our faces. And I did this final stuff that probably made my weekend. Because it’s the little things.

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