Top of Mind: Myrtle the Turtle

The New England Aquarium was only a year old when it acquired a green sea turtle 40 years ago this month. While the aquarium (and Boston itself) has undergone many changes since then, Myrtle the Turtle’s constant presence has made her a local icon, with 1.3 million visitors a year, more than 1,200 Facebook fans, and a coterie of handlers who manage her affairs. No wonder she’s earned the nickname “Queen of the Giant Ocean Tank.”

| Boston Magazine |

YES, I’VE BEEN SWIMMING in the same tank now for 40 years. Thanks for reminding me.

No, I don’t know where Whitey Bulger is, but I do know who sleeps with the fishes. Sorry, old joke.

So my big anniversary lands in the same year that Menino starts a record fifth term as mayor. I mean, Menino? Really? I remember when the guy was Joe Timilty’s driver.

Let’s just say I’m middle-aged.

At first I was miffed when Legal Sea Foods parked themselves across the street. But now I use it to my advantage; I tell all the new guys they’d better do what I say or they’ll end up in the chowder.

I get annoyed when people assume I’m a vegetarian.

I know that the aquarium folks are trying to get my weight down, but I’m not embarrassed — I’m 555 pounds. Some people say I’m “big-boned.” I prefer “quarter-ton o’ fun.”

Sharks these days — they’ve gone soft, if you ask me.

Ari? You may call her a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. I just know her as the puny one that’s supposedly the new star around here. The divers have started calling her “Little Myrtle.” Not. Cool.

The moray eel is a total asshole.

I remember this turtle back in the ’80s, Blackie. Totally had the hots for me. Typical male, only wanted one thing. I’m just not that kind of girl. I told management he had to go, and he was gone. To Pittsburgh. That’s how monarchy works.

I model myself on Queen Elizabeth. The first one. The tough one. Not the lady with the handbags.

I’m tired of seeing all these women wearing Tom Brady jerseys. He’s a flash in the pan. That Gisele is gonna hold on to her looks longer than him. I don’t get why they sigh over that pretty boy. Bobby Orr, though…

I know I’m in the minority here, but I think Affleck picked the wrong Jennifer.

I didn’t think the Big Dig would be finished in my life span, either — and I’ve got a 120-year life span.

Now here’s a question for you: Why are you people so crazy about the penguins? They can’t sing, they can’t fly, and they crap on rocks. This appeals to you? What kind of role models are these?

Every day there’s someone who comes up to the glass and says, “Myrtle, I saw you when I was a kid, and now look, I’ve brought my own kids!” That feels good.

Hey, my daily back rub is at 1:15, so let’s wrap this up soon.

It’s pretty hard to remember a lot of what’s happened over the past 40 years. I mean, please, my brain’s smaller than a golf ball.

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“INTERVIEW” BY MATTHEW REED BAKER