Sunday, May 20, 2007

water world

i've always liked the idea of breathing underwater.

i recall being a kid, diving to the deep end of the pool and looking around, thinking how cool it would be to just hang out down there and not have to go up for air.

eventually i granted myself that wish, and got scuba certified. the goal at the time was to head to belize to dive the world's second largest barrier reef. that trip never materialized, but many others have (belize, one day, for sure).

the highlight of the indra, a WWII-era ship turned artificial reef off the north carolina coast, is a huge barracuda that quietly patrols the wreck. i've heard no reports that this big fish has ever been aggressive...but he keeps your attention from the moment you see him until you leave the water. prolly he's bored by the multitude of divers that swarm his ship.

sand tiger sharks are common on carolina wrecks. once, swimming the caribsea, a spearfisher on our boat had his game bag snatched off his bcd by a 12-foot sand tiger. the shark came out of nowhere, grabbed the bag and yanked it away with a quick little twist of his head. then it turned and was gone. the whole encounter lasted less than 10 seconds...but at the time it seemed to go on forever.

the hebe, a dutch freighter, was sunk in 1942 off myrtle beach, SC. conflicting stories say it was torpedoed by a german sub, or it collided with one of its own escort ships. either way, it now sits in 110 feet of warm, crystal clear gulf stream water. the hebe is a fascinating, beautiful dive, surrounded by sealife. i don't want to call them schools of fish...they're more like swarms of clouds of schools.

the smaller fish pivot and dive and climb willy nilly, scattering bright silver light in every direction at once.

the bigger predators cruise more deliberately, showing off impossibly intense colors. further away the barracuda hover, always present, never out of mind. off the ship's starboard hull lies a field of bottles from a venezuelan brewery. 65 years ago they were litter. now they're artifacts, a couple of which sit in my office.

in aruba, offshore from oranjestad, is the wreck of a smallish pilot vessel inhabited by a huge moray eel. you swim around the perimeter of the boat, then up to a portal on its starboard side. the hold is open to the light above, so the eel is spotlighted in all its green, gape-jawed glory.

p.s., the thing had big damn teeth.

this july i'm getting into the water again, somewhere around maui. a night dive sounds like fun, as i've never done one and i'm kinda nervous about the idea. i'm not wild about the prospect of some creature from the depths rising out of the darkness to drag me down.

with one notable exception...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

that's how we role model

i see all these heroes
with feet of clay
whose mighty ships
have sprung a leak
and i want you to tell me
just what do you believe in now?

-- don henley

soon, probably in the next month or so, henry aaron will be second on the all-time major league home run list.

he'll be passed by a player who, by many accounts, used steroids to amass big home run totals.

hank aaron never was an imposing physical presence. at six feet tall and 180 pounds, he derived his power from a fluid swing and a big heart. the other guy, in contrast, went from a normal-looking athlete to a massively muscled freak of nature. he did this late in his career, when most players are on the statistical and physical downslope.

i remember when aaron was pursuing babe ruth for the home run record. as he closed the gap, aaron was dogged by racist taunts, hate mail and death threats. but he maintained his poise and his focus, setting a standard that the haters didn't have the IQ to understand, let alone emulate. to this day, aaron is an embassador for the game of baseball, an example too infrequently followed by current professional athletes. or anyone else.

the other guy is the poster child for everything wrong with professional sports (and often college sports as well). spoiled, arrogant, hostile, and a cheater. quite a combination. borderline criminal. maybe even over-the-line, pending an investigation of steroid use, trafficking, and alleged perjury.

not to mention the spectacle of his huge, misshapen, gelatinous head. something about that should be criminal, too.

the player and his apologists attribute animus toward him to racism. quite a claim since both he and aaron are black. also interesting is how few current players speak out against him.

the loaded question usually goes something like, "soandso is about to break hank aaron's all-time home run record. how do you feel about that?"

the answer, typically, is a variation of "great! very exciting! he's still a great hitter, and has hit a lot of home runs, which i think is great!"

it's nauseating. someone needs to explain to me why breaking a record this way is anything but a desecration. and why these players are so okay with that.

i shouldn't care, i know. in the big scheme of things, a sporting record is inconsequential. but there's still enough boy in me, enough idealism, to get worked up about it.

all these years later, i have nothing but admiration (and a little bit of nostalgic awe) for henry aaron. he respected the game, and accomplished something remarkable within the boundaries of fairness.

this other guy? none of the above. no respect for the game, its history, its fans, or the ideals they represent.

his 756 will be a record without honor. instead of cheers he should hear silence.

soon, probably in a month or so, someone on espn will exclaim that there's a new home run king. at my house, that's when the tv goes off.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

body oddity

herve villechaize was an annoying little man -- never moreso than in his big (make that little) breakthrough role as 'tattoo' on fantasy island.

"boss! de plane! de plane!"

somebody should've tattooed him upside the head.

how jarring would it be if someone got a tattoo of villechaize in his little fantasy island white suit? think about it. a tattoo of tattoo. kind of like looking in a mirror reflecting in a mirror, if you follow the metaphor to its infinite, incomprehensible conclusion.

all of which is prelude to saying, i'm not a big tattoo guy.

despite this fact, i'm about to get my second. tattoo, that is. crazy, huh?

yup. i'm not sure why, except to say it's parenthood-related (it was something my father would never do). i got my first piece of body art after my son was born; i have an orca on my left shoulder, with the boy's name underneath it. i was an emotional wreck at the time, and a tattoo seemed like a logical response. quibble with my logic, if you will, but i've never regretted it.

in the intervening years betwixt then and now, my wife and i had another child. and in the interest of symmetry, i've always intended to get another tattoo. but things happened, time passed, and somehow the second tattoo never materialized. mostly, i just couldn't think of anything interesting to have permanently added to my body.

recently however, after 6 and a half years of two-childedness, i had a body art breakthrough. a pigment epiphany, if you will. i'm ready to get tattooed again.

the inspiration, if you can call it that, was a window decal on somebody's car. i know, that doesn't immediately suggest "inspiration," but this is not your tattoo, so i'd ask for some latitude. thank you.

it was something so simple and so obvious, i can't believe it didn't occur to me long ago. it's sealife-related, but not redundant (i had considered a native american iteration of an orca...but it seemed too been there, done that...besides, i don't need to be 'the orca guy').

a mermaid was considered, owing to my daughter's one-time infatuation with ariel...thankfully the idea never took hold.

this, that, bla bla bla...and then i saw the decal. it was a sea turtle family -- a hawaiian honu interpretation. two parents followed by two babies. just like that, the years of indecision were over.

this time, i'm not an emotional mess. or maybe i am, but in a different way. more manageable, maybe. doesn't matter. i've sent a jpg to the renowned ballard body art parlor, "slave to the needle." actually, i don't know how renowned they are, but they are in the neighborhood. and they have a web site.

i'm one step away from new body art. at least i think i am.

if it takes another 6 and a half years, we'll assume i wasn't ready.