As mankind continues to do everything in his power to eradicate himself through unyielding campaigns of hatred, violence, war, greed and hypocrisy, the water creatures just swim on. And nowhere is the microcosm of aquatic enlightenment and tranquil co-existence more evident than the ethereal Aquarium of the Pacific. Home to more than 12,000 ocean animals representing 500-plus species, the tanks are societies unto themselves. Technicolor beautiful, shapes and configurations that defy even a Cousteau-bred imagination, these critters look so content; following their movements is downright meditative. For a small annual fee, you can become a member and, each month, get invited to member night and dig the “backstage” after-hours hang, where the intimate crowds and hypnotic silence make Shark Lagoon and the Southern California Baja gallery even more enchanting. And whatever you do, spend at least 30 minutes watching the otters, arguably the happiest creatures on Planet Earth. Between their Ron Jeremyesque acrobatic dexterity, their compulsive noshing (while somehow avoiding Jeremyesque bloat) and their Zen-like ability to swim and swim and swim past the same spot, over and over again, without a care or concern for anything but when the dinner bell is gonna ring, you can’t help but ask yourself, “Why can’t that be me?” Travel tip: Come in from the north and take the enjoyably claustrophobic Vincent Thomas Bridge, which soars over Los Angeles Harbor and its movie-set, postindustrial Matrix landscape. The shift from steel to eel is the ultimate yin-yang.
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, (562) 590-3100, www.aquariumofpacific.org. Open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m.