Monday, April 24, 2006

Yippee the Whale

A specter haunts New London. It is the specter of its whaling past. Once the largest whaling port in the Nutmeg State, New London's history is soaked through with whales' blood and sperm.

The ghost that haunts this city is not malign. On foggy nights, people report seeing an apparition jumping out of the Thames River. Shaped like the happiest whale you have ever seen, this ghost tosses his flukes and shouts, "Yippee!"

I am not making this up. Schoolchildren playing hookey lie in the meadow atop the old garbage dump in Bates Woods and stare at the sky. The clouds are shaped like laughing whales, laughing all the way to New London. It has been a long time since a living right whale has been in New London harbor, but a cartoon whale dogs New London's collective unconcious.

When Ocean Beach needed an appropriate mascot, a happy whale was the natural choice. A professional artist was hired. New London being what it is, an inexpensive artist was hired. He drew an accurate enough rendering of Yippee the Whale, but the Ocean Beach whale lacks the spunk and pep Yippee displays in people's dreams. It was the 1940's, the Depression was winding down and wartime was looming.

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