Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Comparisons are odious"

Today, Violet was face-to-face with a penguin and, later in the afternoon, thousands of butterflies. We took her to the Aquarium and the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls. I had been to the Conservatory recently, but neither Linda nor I had been to the Aquarium in years. It’s over forty years old, but it appears much older. Most of the tanks are small, with little to no adornment, the dolphins are gone, and many of the displays are wordy and tired. You can tell the staff is trying to do the best with what it has, but walking past the dusty exhibits and the gift shop full of tchotchkes, you can feel the place struggling to stay attractive and relevant. The closer we came to the exit, the gloomier I felt, because I remember loving the Aquarium as a kid, and Linda did, too. When she was in grade school, her family was heavily involved with the Western New York Aquarium Society, and she told me about their many visits. When we walked through the entrance, she remembered walking through the same doors decades ago for the Society’s Christmas Party and another time, coming to see her uncle swimming with the resident dolphins. The times she spent there stayed with her, and it surprised me to hear her say an hour later, as we walked out the door, “We don’t need to go there again.” I pointed out that one of the reasons we find the state of the Aquarium so disheartening is because of the other aquariums we’ve been to – Monterey, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago; we’ve seen what an aquarium can be, so in our minds we’re comparing this one to those. It reminded me of a saying I heard somewhere: “Comparisons are odious” because comparing things inevitably diminishes one, if not both of the things being compared. As children, Linda and I both loved the Niagara Falls Aquarium because it was what we knew. We enjoyed what it had to offer. It’s a hard thing to do as you get older – enjoying something for its merits instead of focusing on what it lacks – so I made a decision. I’ll bring Violet back to the Aquarium in the Falls when she’s a little older, and whether it’s updated or not, I’ll keep my mouth shut and let her decide how she feels about it.

283 days old


  1. Bill, I notice the beard is gone... was Violet surprised the first time she saw you without it?

  2. Maxine - I held off on shaving for a while because I was worried that Violet wouldn't recognize me or get upset. She didn't even notice.