Pet Shop Boys

January 23, 2018

On my honeymoon, I made a miscalculation. I decided that it would be a good idea to snorkel 7 of Kauai’s beaches in one day. It wasn’t the number that I miscalculated, or the mileage that we traveled, or even the time that it would take. My error was in thinking that my new bride would enjoy doing this with me. She wasn’t so excited about the first beach. It might have had something to do with the fact that the early-morning water was cold and there was virtually nothing to see there. Later, she warmed up with the water as we snorkeled around cool rock formations and above sea turtles. But by the end of the day, I was snorkeling the last beach by myself. During this solo snorkel, I watched the sun sink below the horizon, much like my chances of romance for the evening.

While I’ve learned that adventures in repetition are not the way to my wife’s heart, I hold out hope that my kids might one day be as weird as their dad. So when Elliot and I had the chance for a father-son date this weekend, I offered a suggestion.

It actually didn’t start in such a calculated way. I wanted to go somewhere new, but there was nothing that seemed new, exciting, and relatively close by. Animals were also a must, since Elliot is a creature enthusiast. There was a park with a train and a petting zoo, but Elliot isn’t the greatest with long trips and the park was over 90 minutes away. So I threw out an idea.

“Would you like to go to a park with me, Elliot? We can even stop at a Petco along the way.”

One mention of the word Petco and my son was in like cheese in a quesadilla. Upon noticing this reaction, my Spidey senses started to tingle. I pulled up Google Maps. There wasn’t only one Petco between our home and the park. Not two. Not three. But FOUR.

When I announced this idea to my son, he turned into a completely different kid and willingly sat on the potty. Maybe he was scared into urination by the wild look in my eyes.

I packed up snacks, wipes, and coats, and we headed out. Our first stop would be a familiar stop: Petco Napa. But before we got there, I was determined to have a conversation with my son.

When Alice was growing up, I remember her asking relentless questions. She would ask about the weather, body parts, signs that she saw. For some strange reason, she also really liked hearing me ramble about more serious topics like psychology, religion, and philosophy, which she dubbed “grown-up stuff.”

Elliot is more of a quiet traveler. He sits back and observes. Usually when I ask him about his thoughts, he gives brief answers or states “nothing” so his dad will stop talking to him.

So this time, I put out an open invitation. “Elliot, you can ask me about anything that you’ve been wondering, and I’ll try to do my best to answer you.”

He didn’t say anything right away, but then he started opening up. He asked me why cars had keys. He wanted to know if they could start without them. He also inquired about rain and fog. Then he asked something about the Schuyler Sisters from Hamilton. What can I say, the kid has got a mind at work.

Petco 1: Napa

This is a very familiar location for our family. It’s where we got our second cat, Dasher, and we frequently go here when we make a Target run. I hate to give away spoilers, but though the layout of this Petco seems fairly illogical to me, it actually has the most comprehensive collection of animals. It has cats, birds, reptiles, rodents, and fish in abundance. The caretakers of the cats seem to be a group of sisters who really take joy in their job. They know personalities, choose names thoughtfully, and get their kids involved in the whole operation as well. They were very friendly and encouraged us to take a look. We met a cat named Mulligan who seemed to take a shine to Elliot. E also liked the ball pythons, which he named Slidy and Slicky. His only disappointment was that the chameleon habitat was empty.

Petco 2: Vallejo

The nice thing about doing this Petco pub crawl is that it really broke up the trip. This Petco was in a fairly nice location, with lots of restaurants and stores around. It had the strongest fish game, with a full wall of fish tanks. However, Elliot did note that a quarter of the aquariums were just aquatic plants. Unfortunately, there were just a couple of cats here, and a cat overseer who was not into making eye contact. It had a decent number of reptiles, and Elliot had fun watching some bearded dragons chowing down on lettuce. The chameleon cage indicated that a critter would be coming soon.

Petco 3: Martinez

A fortunate bit of serendipity occurred with the timing of our trip. We happened to go on a day where Petco brought in more kittens for adoption. We didn’t necessarily see evidence of this in the first two Petcos, as Napa usually has quite a few cats and Vallejo was relatively barren. Although the Martinez Petco has no reptiles, very few birds, and a less impressive assortment of fish, it does have a fat chinchilla. It also has the most impressive collection of cats, with cage on cage on cage of felines, probably near 20 in total. Elliot chatted with Midnight, fell in love with Kink, and felt sorry for Rocket, who slept away while his sister Tinsel was getting adopted. “I’m kind of sad for him,” he said. “Because he’s going to be all by himself.” I think a tear may have formed in his eye. I tried to assure him that Rocket would probably get a home as well, though I was silently relieved that Elliot didn’t see our home as an option. If he did, we may have ended up with cat #3.

Petco 4: Concord

Upon entry, this seemed very impressive. It looked newer, and the wall of fish even had a speaker overhead that emitted watery sound effects. Elliot was not impressed and tried to tell Siri to turn the speaker off. There were no cats here. And though they advertised a chameleon, one was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, Elliot was sure that it was just using camouflage. There was another fat chinchilla here as well, but overall it was a bit of a downer to end our epic pet crawl.

By this point, we were about three hours into our adventure, so I asked Elliot if he wanted to go home or go to the park. “Go to the park,” he said, “because that means we get to have more fun together!” So to the park we went.

At Kennedy Park in Hayward, we saw oversized rabbits. Elliot was nearly mauled by goats who tried to get his ice cream cone of seeds. Although he did get a goat to eat out of his hand, he was clearly wary of them the whole time. We rode the train and he snuggled in tight. He held his breath through the tunnel. We disembarked and went to the playground. He slid down slides on his coat like his sister showed him. He climbed up structures and was too scared to climb others.

Afterwards, we went to Five Guys and he devoured fries like a champ. They were playing Michael Jackson songs over the speakers and he recognized “Bad” from Despicable Me 3. We got an ICEE from Target and we were on our way.

A while later as we approached the Carquinez Bridge, I started to get a bit nostalgic about our adventure. “Elliot, I’ll remember this day forever,” I said.

“I’ll remember it forever and ever,” he replied.

Maybe it was this conversation that caused me to bust out “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” at the top of my lungs. I put some feeling into it.

“What’s that song that you’re singing?” he inquired.

I thought that maybe he was moved by my 90s music. Maybe this would be yet another connection we shared. Maybe he could feel the smooth ribbons of soul in my voice.

I explained the song to him. “What do you think of it?” I said eagerly.

“Not very interesting…” he said with a sigh.

Shortly afterward, he fell asleep. He slept all the way home and turned cranky when reinvigorated.

But despite the cranky wake-up, the lack of musical appreciation, and the goat-induced trauma, I know this was worth all the pain. I’ll take with me these memories. This trip was definitely not a miscalculation.






One Response to “Pet Shop Boys”

  1. George Says:

    Wonderful day, wonderful story!

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