He said: Seaweed.
She said: See! Weed!
- “What’d she say, dude? Was that something about weed?“
- “Yeah, dude. The wet stuff. The kind that goes with the water on your brain. Shut up and listen for once. You want to scare this Quilldancer away? OC might consider that a delete key offense.“
- “Urk! OK, dude, OK …”
She said: My roommate is a scientist. He is in love with seaweed. This is what I knew about seaweed before spending this summer in Friday Harbor with O.C. — “It grows in the sea, right?” But now I know a lot more.
She said: This is Bullwhip Kelp. The leaves are at the top. The long cord, or bullwhip, attaches it to the sea floor. Near the top a large Bullwhip is a couple of inches in diameter and with a little judicious knife work, OC can turn one of them into a playable trumpet.
He said: B+. Bull Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana), not Bullwhip Kelp, Indiana. Only found on the Pacific side of North America. The leafy bits are called laminae (you can’t call them “leaves”, that’s a botany card violation), the cord is the stipe that connects the laminae to the holdfast. The whole thing can be 30 feet long. And they’re annuals, all gone by December. My Yamaha plays better.
She said: I’m so glad I don’t have a botany card.
He said: What do you call that thing you got from Sears, then?
- “Man, dude, he got her that time!“
- “Chill, dude, willya?“
She said: This is Sugar Kelp. It is full of sucrose and has a Japanese cousin named kombu that is made into candy.
He said: Nice work. Though the sweetness doesn’t come from sucrose. This alga grows on both coasts of North America, in western Europe, and Japan. It’s made into other stuff, like soup stock, as well as candy. Though it’s got the scientists in a bit of a lather. It used to be called Laminaria saccharina, but the DNA boys now insist that it be called Saccharina latissima instead. I’m sure the farmers have been yelling at the scientists. They don’t like name changes.
- “I don’t care what they call it, dude! I ain’t eatin’ none!”
- “Me neither, dude.”
- “You agree with me?!?”
- “First time for everything. Don’t get used to it, Scarecrow.”
She said: This is Turkish Towel. It is very rough and bumpy. I would not recommend drying with it. It would scratch a bit, and perhaps leave you even wetter then you were to begin with.
He said: No, I wouldn’t either. Besides which, it’s awfully small for a towel. Exasperatingly small, even. Which is not why they call it Chondracanthus exasperatus, but that’s good enough for right now. You eat this one too, although not much of it because it’s not something that can be easily farmed or harvested. There are similar algae elsewhere that are easier to get at. It’s a source of carrageenan, which is in all sorts of stuff like …
She said: Hey! That’s in my ice cream!
- “That’s in my ice cream?!?”
She said: Wait – is there an echo?
He said: No, I didn’t hear anything.
- “Didn’t I tell you to chill, dude?!?”
- “Back off, dude! I didn’t know ice cream had slime in it!”
He said: It’s in all sorts of stuff besides ice cream, usually as an emulsifier. And it isn’t slimy.
She said: I didn’t say it was. Somebody say it was slimy?
He said: Not unless you’re talking to yourself and don’t know it.
She said: Well, you answered it. You must be talking to yourself.
He said: I would never do that.
- Yo. Dudes. Pipe down!!
- “Dude! You got a pipe?! Why didn’t you …?”
She said [trying valiantly to educate her audience]: This one made OC frown.
He said: Well, it’s a weed.
She said: Huh? But I thought …
- “Huh? But I thought …”
He said: What’re you wrinkling your nose at?
She said: I heard that echo again.
He said: What echo?
She said: Never mind. You going to tell me how come this one’s a weed? I thought they all are?
He said: When I stop wondering about your imaginary friends.
She said: My imaginar …?
He said: It’s a weed ’cause it doesn’t belong here. It came over from Japan and is now all over the place on the Pacific coast of North America and the Atlantic coast of Europe. It’s a sargasso weed, Sargassum muticum.
She said [turning back toward her audience]: He took out his pocket lens (magnifying glass, and yes, he carries it everywhere) and examined the offender closely, then he tossed it onto the dock. That surprised me. He had been carefully returning everything to the water. I asked OC if he was saving that seaweed for some reason. He said he was killing it. He’d kill all the ones of this kind if he could.
She said: This is not a seaweed. It’s a sea grass.
- “Dude! There’s hope!!”
She said: OC says it is related to the stuff we mow.
- “Damn. Never mind …”
She said: Never mind what?
He said: Getting out your lawn mower. We call this stuff “sea grass” (Zostera marina) because it is a real flowering plant, with pollen and seeds and everything. Though the flowers look more like crab claws than daisies. There aren’t many flowering plants in the sea; the algae have been around lots longer, and didn’t exactly leave a lot of room for posies.
She said: This is Garry. Don’t ask me about its name. I didn’t name it. If I had named it, it would be called Elephant Ear or something like that. When OC was holding this up he was telling me about its sex life. I don’t remember much about it except that it really didn’t sound all that exciting.
He said: Sigh. That’s what all the students say. Everybody tells me “sex sells”, but you’d never know it around here.
- “You got that right, dude! I ain’t …”
She said: Gesundheit!
He said: Thank you. This thing’s not called Garry, it’s called Costaria costata and it’s a close relative of that bull kelp. And the sugar kelp too, for that matter. But, like the bull kelp, it’s only found on the Pacific coast of North America.
She said: Didn’t you tell me it was called “Garry something or other”?
He said: I don’t know the Somethingorothers.
She said: What did you tell me this was called?
He said: You mean Agarum? That’s not what this is. You’ve got to understand that what you think you heard was not what I meant. So there.
She said: Are you admitting that the scientist made a mistake?
He said: We’re having steak?
She said: That’s what I thought.
She said: This is Garry’s brother, Larry.
He said: No, it’s Alaria …
She said: That’s what I said. You never listen to me! Larry is very slick and a sort of a slimy fellow. Thankfully OC didn’t tell me anything about Larry’s sex life. [shudder]
He said: Well, you didn’t want to know about Garry’s, either. Same old same old. Slimeballs get the same treatment as the bulls. Or the sugars. And I suppose you won’t want to know that people eat Alaria, right?
- “They do?!? Ewww …”
He said: They do. When you live on rocky islands, you get your vegetables, and your vitamins where …
She said: I didn’t say anything.
He said: Did too. You ewwwed at me. I didn’t think you did that.
She said: You’re hearing things.
He said: Now you’re blaming your imaginary friends on me. Sheesh.
She said [trying to ignore his nonsense]: This is Mike. He is a cousin of Larry’s and Garry’s.
He said: No. He’s Turkish.
- “Turkish? Where?!?”
- “Dude, just shut up. You’ve already made a hash of this conversation, don’t make it any worse. Remember: Command-X.“
- “That’s Control-X, dude. How many times …???”
- “… does your Vista crash in an hour? It’s a sight to behold, dude.”
She said: Oh, he’s related to the towel? I thought he looked far too different to be a brother. But Mike, Larry and Garry have got to be related because they have all these very un-seaweedy names. (Unseaweedy is a word, right?)
He said: No, that’s unseaworthy. And so’s your logic. Garry and Larry are brown. Mike’s red. In this world, color matters.
She said: So, seaweeds are prejudiced?
He said: Well, I wouldn’t go looking for any orange offspring. You’d be disappointed.
She said: This is Mara. Definitely a relative of Larry’s.
He said: Actually, you’re right. About the relationship, that is, though the name is Desmarestia, and yes I see how you got Mara out of that. Though we didn’t think that Desmarestia was related to the kelps (bull, sugar, etc.), back when I was the age of the Du … er, the students in the class.
- “Did he say bullsugar, dude?”
- “No, dude, but he might drop you in it any time now.”
She said: Didn’t you tell me that this seaweed manufactures acid?
- “Acid? Acid?!? How long you gonna keep holding out on me, OC?? You gonna tell me how to grow this stuff?”
He said: It sure does. Sulfuric acid. I wouldn’t try getting high on it. It’s there to …
She said: Getting high? Who are you talking to??
He said: You. And those imaginary friends of yours. I’m beginning to worry about you. Anyway, the sulfuric acid is there to keep animals from eating this stuff. Sea urchin teeth will literally dissolve if they try to chew on Desmarestia.
She said: Speaking of “dissolved”, if they’re my imaginary friends, why are you talking to them?
He said: I should have known. You always try to blame everything on me. Class dismissed. I’m going to the library.
She said (under her breath as he left the dock): Famous scientist has imaginary friends. I can see the headlines now …
He said: Who said they were my friends?
She said: What?
He said: Nothing …
- “Well, dude, that was a fine piece of work. What the hell got into you, anyway?”
- “Dude, they were pickin’ on me. Imaginary? Imaginary?? I ain’t flippin’ imaginary!”
- “No, dude, you’re virtual. In fact, you’re such a good emulation, you’re virtually an idiot. You damned near fried OC’s hard drive, that’s for sure.”
- “Not to mention messing up his connectivity.”
- “Yeah, dude. I wouldn’t mention that if I were you.”