Stunning, Sunning Sea Lions

I hate being touristy. I prefer to blend into the local colors, to savor the flavors around me as if I belonged to that particular tribe. It’s how I’ve sneaked past HRH’s defenses defences three times now without being sussed out as an” other” on first blush (God save me and Queenie when I open my Yankee yap, though).

However, when I learned that I was going to get the chance to return to San Francisco, a city I adored upon first visit in 2007, I knew that there was a destination I’d missed that first trip that I needed to catch this time around. Pier 39 is grossly touristy, with its cacophonous cavalcade of gift shops, kitschy themed restaurants, and way too many people for someone with well-defined personal space boundaries. But there’s something at Pier 39 so special…so wonderful…so adorable-beyond-belief that even I was willing to put aside my inherent disdain for humanity to witness.

You can hear their bellicose barks all the way from the main turn-off for the pier. Sharp, stereophonic yarps…benedictions, banishments, or simple berating for sticking a cold, wet nose or flipper where one is least appreciated. As you walk closer, your initial impression is one of somnolent (and slightly malodorous) mayhem: soggy, stinky sea lions, piled in surly, sleepy stacks under sanguine sunshine.

What is there not to love about that?

Okay, the smell is indeed abrasive when you get your first few (hundred) whiffs. Then again, they’re not Chanel No. 9 perfume models. They’re sea lions! Adorable, cranky sea lions, napping anyplace they can find the room…even if that means sprawling in confused tangles with the rest of the denizens of this unique little diversion from the main frenzy of Pier 39.

I couldn’t get enough of them and spent a good portion of my stop simply observing. You’d think that watching sleeping sea lions would be boring. However, they were a constantly shifting mass of fur and flippers as they moved across, over, under, about, aboard…prepositional beasts of perpetual motion all of them, vying for the best position to catch some rays before that infamous San Francisco fog rolled back down through the Golden Gate (which, indeed, it did only a few hours later).

I did finally snap out of my observational mode to snap several photos of this whimsical behavior. Here, then, are three of my favorite shots. As the sea lions would undoubtedly say: “Arrr! Arr arr arrrr! ARRR!”