The Weekly Memo
Lost Humpback Whales Revealed to be Struggling Actors
By Suzanne Shepard
May 31, 2007

A humpback whale mother and calf dyad strangely left their salt water habitat and headed up the Sacramento River through the San Francisco Bay on May 9th, 2007.  Whale enthusiasts flocked to river’s edge and named these baleen interlopers Delta and Dawn. Their shouts and tugboat-amplified whale song eventually encouraged them back towards the bay on May 30th. Alarmed by the likely deaths of a threatened species, a UC Davis Veterinary student employed beta translation technology to find out what these majestic creatures had to say.  Transcript and notation below.

May 9th

Calf: Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech!

Mother: Hublub?

Calf: Cargo pants.

Calf repeated this strange call and response for four hours.  Possible translation software malfunction.  Whale joke?

May 10th

Mother: Beau Bonneau. Beau Bonneau. Beau Bonneau.

Calf: Beau Bonneau Casting.

Mother: San Francisco.  

Calf: This time, I’m going to nail the audition!

Mother: You’re going to whale it!

Calf and Mother make the heartbreaking aching sounds like the ones I heard last summer camping in the Yukon… like loons laughing at their narrowing horizons.

Beau Bonneau Casting? Is this the name of the shipping vessel whose rotor sliced mother’s dorsal fin?  Googling. Strange. Commercial Casting Agency. Principles and extras.  Sending inquiry and headshot immediately.

May 11th

Mother: Blubber.  Where’s your blubber?

Calf: I’m fat enough.

Mother: Not for Old Navy. You should have eaten more at bubble net feeding fest in Glacier Bay Alaska.

Calf: I hate you.

Mother: Don’t hate me. Hate the casting notices promoting unrealistic beauty expectations in the marketplace.

Whales swimming in circles.  They are 300 miles from Beau Bonneau.  Note to self: How does one find out one’s hat and glove size?

May 12th – 13th

Despondent whales swim in circles.  Sporadically:

Mother breaches
Mother: Zip

Calf breaches and fin-slaps surface
Calf: Zap

Mother sprays
Mother: Zop.

Called in my roommate, a theater major, to help me with whale translation.  Apparently this is a Viola Spolin game? Is there any part of this globe without an Improv team?

May 14th

Mother: You should have seen me at 40 tons.  National Geographic featured my tubercles in two–page spread. June 1997. Krill! Krill! Krill!

Calf: Who is dad?

Mother and Daughter mirror each other with surface  fin slaps and downward spirals.

May 15th

Whales uninterested/annoyed by oikami efforts (Japanese fishing technique of making unpleasant noises by banging on steel pipes). Me too. They’ve gone silent.

How’d they get the Old Navy casting notice?

May 16th

Melville called the Humpback Whale “the most gamesome and light-hearted of all the whales, making more gay foam and white water than any other of them.” I disagree.  These two are wasting their talent upstream.  They’ll be late for the casting and even later for breeding in Baja.  


Mother: I told you once, I told you twice

Calf: I told you chicken soup with rice!

Either the fresh water is affecting their sanity or they’re  preparing for the slated Spike Jones’ Sendak sequel? How on earth are they getting these auditions? I guess you have to be endangered to get these breaks.

May 17th

Mother: Who knows where the time goes? Who knows how my love grows?

Calf: Not Judy Collins. Not again.  I know you weren’t in the whale chorus intro because only male humpbacks sing.  Is dad a musician?

Mother: Sad deserted shore. Your fickle friends are leaving.

Six days and not one instance of lob-tailing.  Who are these two kidding?  You’ve got to be willing to perform in this business.  You think Al Gore is just going to take interest in this story of animal discombobulation and put it on film?

May 18th

Drove to B.B. Casting today.  An intern took a Polaroid of me and asked me to slate into a camera. Funny, I said, is that the term for an Eisenstein-esque blank stare? “State your name and show me both profiles and the front and back of your hands.” Tough business.

Forgot to turn on the transla-tron.

May 19-29th

Ten days of slow motion vocal warm-ups. Ten days of mother-daughter boundary tension. Ten days of futile self-promotion in deadening fresh water.

May 30th

Mother and calf suddenly got their act together and turned south towards the bay.  Mother took calf under her fin and with three powerful tail thrusts was gone.  Just as they were leaving the machine picked up:

Mother: There was snake wearing vest rolling giant jelly donut.

Where does inspiration come from?

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