Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Red Tides At Night

Please tell me you're humming The Fixx right now. I'm not the only old person who couldn't help it after reading my title line - I'm an 80's child, so sue me.

I went home to SD a couple of weekends ago and brought a friend who had never been. I'm from north county, which is the beachy part of town. Well, San Diego in general is pretty beachy, but the north coast has all the good beaches. (No, I'm not snobby about it at all.)

We took the train down, so we could get full view action. It was his idea, but we were both so sleepy from a long night that had only ended a few hours before we got on that train, that we almost slept through it. The Pacific Surfliner route goes through icky LA and eventually wanders to San Juan Capistrano, turns a bend around San Clemente, and then you' re just cruising past the beach for the next hour. It was lovely. As we made that turn, I taped my friend on the shoulder and kinda grunted. "Oh!" he said, remembering why we had gotten up so goddamn early in the first place to take the train.

Lucky us, it was overcast and dreary. There were no waves, and from what we could tell, the water looked pretty dirty. It was still really warm, though, so we figured we'd try to get some beach time once we got into town. My sister picked us up, took us to Roberto's for a proper breakfast, and told us it was red tide.

"Red tide?" my friend asked. He's from Boston, and although he's spent 12 years or so in LA, wasn't totally familiar with red tide. All the beach kids, know, though. (Besides, I have the advantage of having a dad who teaches earth space science, so we have extra clues.) Red tide is what happens when there is an algae bloom, usually brought on by rapid changes of temperature in the water, which then kills the algae once the temperature changes again. Got it? Quiz later.

Red tide is kind of tough on fish, but doesn't really affect people unless you guzzle it like upsidedown margaritas at a frat party. The algae produces a neurotoxin that can paralyze fish, making it hard for them to breathe. So my friend didn't want to go into the water. I played around in it and lived, so it was his loss. Felt great, actually, just a little mossy.

That night we had dinner at a seafood place right on the water. Red tides at night are pretty cool, as the algae gives off a bit of a rusty glow... There was a sliver of moon too, so it was a wonderful view. The next day, the whole ocean looked red - very biblical. We were back off to LA, though, where the tides are simply rusty looking because they are full of garbage. Sigh...