Noe Valley Voice December-January 2005

Feeding Frenzy

By Bobbie Stein

In a panic, I realized that there was no food left! I'd been so busy lately with work and my two high-maintenance kids, I suppose it was not surprising that I'd neglect something...but FOOD?! I don't know how long they can survive without sustenance. Trying to focus, I decided that as long as I could just stop somewhere on the way home and pick something up, everything would be all right.

So, that's what I did. I stopped at Just for Fun on my way home, and asked the clerk where they kept the Sea Monkey food. I assumed that they would have it because that's where I bought the original "grow-your-own" pets. Turns out, they were completely sold out of all Sea Monkey­related items. Incredulous, I left the store with the weight of the Sea Monkeys on my shoulders.

After all, they did not ask to be born. In fact, I did not ask for them to be born either. It was my six-year-old daughter who demanded that they be born. Seemed like an interesting experiment at the time. "Instant Life" is what the package advertised: Just add water and the briny little sea creatures will emerge from their stasis. They were educational, and somehow, at least for a while, their purchase satisfied my daughter's desire for a pet.

It was very exciting at first. All the measuring and feeding and watching and waiting, and then the little dots began to swim. Then they got bigger and seemed to have sprouted...well...legs, fins, gills, I'm not really sure, but they were unmistakably alive! And they needed their food. It's not that I didn't realize that there was only a limited supply of food. It's just that I never expected the bantam brine to outlive their food supply. My family's never been very successful at keeping pet-like things alive.

For days, I scraped at the little paper envelope that once contained the powdered nutrients. Meanwhile, I continued to go from store to store in search of food for the Sea Monkeys. I met with disappointment over and over again as I was told by clerk after clerk that they were sold out. This was becoming serious. If the shrimpy things had never even hatched in the first place or if they had died of their own natural causes, I would not have been heartbroken. They were rather disgusting, after all, and my daughter had long ago lost interest. But I could not be responsible for actually killing them! I had to find food, and fast!

But what do Sea Monkeys eat? I'm still not even sure what they are, much less what they eat. They eat whatever comes in the package that is sold with the little plastic tank.

By the third day, I was willing to buy a whole new tank just to get the food, but even that was unobtainable at the local stores. It occurred to me that I might be able to order the food online. But each day that passed was one more day that it would take for the order to go out and days or weeks for it to be delivered.

Alas, my maternal instincts took hold, and I realized that these creatures of the sea shared at least one thing with goldfish: they swam. And so, I reasoned, they would probably be able to survive on goldfish food. I have a huge supply of that, since none of the fish we've had in my house has ever lasted for more than a week. So I dutifully dusted off the canister of goldfish food and took out a few flakes. I crushed them as finely as I could and sprinkled the meal on top of the now greenish water that the Sea Monkeys called home. I hoped for the best.

What happened then was truly a miracle of science. The Sea Monkeys trudged to the top of the tank and ate heartily. Then in a few moments they became more animated than they had ever been. They were swimming upside down and in circles, racing to and fro, deliriously happy. It was like they were on steroids!

Curious, I checked to see what was in the goldfish food. I was somewhat surprised and horrified to see that the main ingredient was shrimp brine...oops, I have now created cannibal Sea Monkeys.

Despite this sobering fact, I have continued on this regimen of crushed goldfish food for several weeks now. The Sea Monkeys are huge--for Sea Monkeys, that is--and seem to be thriving. I am not sure what has happened to them. I may have unwittingly altered their genetic makeup. I am thinking of applying for a grant to study the effects of goldfish food on Sea Monkeys. Either that, or I might just get a cat. They can find their own food.

When she's not running around Noe Valley trying to find Sea Monkey grub, Bobbie Stein works as a civil rights and criminal defense attorney at her office on Dolores Street. The mother of two also likes to stop by Common Scents for lotion whenever she gets a little pampering time. A lecturer at Boalt Hall School of Law, Stein has written for The Progressive magazine, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Examiner ("the old one," she clarifies), and Bay Area Reporter.

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