Mother’s Footstool, Sad News And My Toes

chesapeake bay defunding and toes

The Red Sea is the best place to scuba dive, the Adaman Sea is pretty good, too. When the weather works with you, Bali has some beautiful waters to swim in. Then there’s my initialisation to crystal, turquoise waters. I will never forget the first time I swam in the Indian Ocean off the shores of Mauritius. But you know what, dear worst-reader? Nomatter where I swim, nomatter where the seafood comes from, the best water in the world is the Chesapeake Bay. Grey and green obviously can’t compare to the crystal waters of exotic places. But that doesn’t matter. The best seafood in the world comes from Chesapeake. The best place to sail and fish is the Chesapeake. Heck, even the duck taste special after you shoot them out of the sky above the Chesapeake. Indeed. She and her water’s are always on my expat mind–especially when I’m cheating on her swimming in other waters. Having grown up with/in the fight to save the Chesapeake from the greed-mongers who exploit her, the recent news that #Americants new comb-over-n-chief is gonna rip funding–that was never enough anyway–is yet another tear in my bleeding heart. When will the psychotic, drug induced populace wake from its insane high and finally start doing the difficult right instead the easy wrong? This visit to my beloved #americant is proving more than ever that hope is gone.

Good luck suckers.

Rant on.


Deep In Me

Deep Freediving Cover Nester

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science And What The Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves, by James Nestor

At first it was difficult for me to share the astonishment and shock James Nestor expresses upon his initialisation to the world of freediving. I’ve been a fan and admirer of it for years. Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of swimming deeper and further, the ocean being the ultimate gateway. When there was no ocean around pools, lakes and rivers served me just fine. Up until a a few years ago I could hold my breath easily for more than two minutes. I used to go to the bottom of five meter pools and just lay there until I was forced to go back up and suck on that ugly teat of life. But up I went because I new that all I had to do was take a deeper breath and I could go back down to my tranquility. Of course, the deepest part of pools was usually under some diving board area. Before I could get enough tranquility someone would always come over to me and ask that I stop what I was doing because I was in the way of those wanting to use the diving board. Safety, rules, regulations come first, eh? I would nod to the local-yocal policing-person–you know the type: the person in a public place that can’t mind her/his own bidness. In the back of my mind I would tell that person to fuck-off, hoping, wishing, that fireworks would burn out of his ass. Then, for shits & giggles–and for my exit from tranquility–I’d take a deep breath, find my way to the bottom of the pool, close my eyes and slowly crawl along the edge, away from the diving board area, up the slope to the one meter swimming area, the whole time following the ocean that is the lie of my mind.

When I was a kid we used to camp along the Indian River Inlet in Rehoboth, DE. The inlet was a great place for fishing because of how it was artificially maintained. Huge boulders and rocks lined the inlet making it both a home and a hunting ground–besides providing access to the ocean. The constant turbulence of seawater being exchanged from the Atlantic and the brackish water from the Indian River Bay made it a lazy fisherman’s dream. There were times you could cast a line with a worm rig and within minutes you’d be reeling in Tautog or Black Drum. But there was a catch to fishing there. Those fancy lures and hooks would get caught on the rocks of the inlet. You were guaranteed to lose rigs. You could hear the fisherman at times cursing the rocks. Which brings me to my first scuba experience.

My stepfather started scuba in the mid to early sixties. He owned all his own gear, including regulator and tank–stuff that looked like it was right out of an early Bond movie. I’d strap on that tank, throw the mouth piece of the two stage regulator hose over my head and started sucking. “Breath normal,” he’d say. “And don’t leave the rocks.” I filled my mask with spit, wipe the glass, and then covered my face. I wore thick plastic gloves so that the hooks wouldn’t pierce my skin and strap-on sandals to protect my feet. Other than that I wore a bathing suit. I would submerge myself without fins–because I wasn’t supposed to swim anywhere, just pull and/or walk along the boulders a few feet under the surface. I’d go under and in a few minutes return with a handful of perfectly useable and sellable fishing rigs. I paid for a lot of rides and cotton candy at Ocean City, MD, boardwalk that summer by selling those rigs. Cool.

It took twenty-five years before I would strap on scuba gear again. My better-half, who was already a master diver when I met her, was skeptical (as all Germans are) when I told her that I would gladly get certified to go diving with her. Part of her skepticism was that it took her, even after getting certified, about fifty dives before she felt comfortable at depth. Within a few days, in the middle of late winter in Germany, I got my scuba certification–diving in a lake in Hessen that was almost frozen. Needless to say, I quickly proved my diving worthiness. It’s like riding a bike, I said. But there’s one problem. Now with more than a hundred dives behind me, having experienced places like The Red Sea, Bali, Thailand, etc., I have to admit that something is missing. Every time I get in the water with that tank strapped to me I know that there is something else out there. Something more. Something more tranquil.

The thing is, when I dream about diving–and I dream about it all the time–I never dream that I’m wearing an aqualung. I dream of freediving. Heck, even when I walk our dog I hold my breath for as long as I can–thinking about how soft ocean water feels on my skin. When I walk through forests I don’t see trees and leaves and green. I see an ocean vastness where I’m condemned (for all my crimes) to walk on its floor with my feet. So I shut my eyes and start mis-echolocating and bumping into trees. Indeed. Bumping into trees while dreaming about oceans. It’s my dog’s laughter that makes me open my eyes again.

James Nestor has written a stunning, beautiful book that I didn’t know I was lusting to read for a long, long time. When I read about Natalia Molchanova dying recently during a practice freedive I became a bit obsessed with trying to understand not only the mechanics of freediving but the emotional attachment that so many have to it. Even though I’m only a muggle (scuba diver) and not a magician (freediver) I think I can understand what these people feel–not only at depth but the longing to be in the salty-sweet bosom of  The Big Her. Mr. Nestor answered most of the questions I had regarding this sport. Also, Nestor, without condemning the sport, makes it quite clear why freediving as competition is probably not worth the danger. In recent years there have been too many deaths. Yet something drives people to compete and dive further, deeper, deeper. I get that.

Nestor saves the day, though. The way he articulates the beauty of freediving, the importance of the ocean on this (our) blue planet or some of the science behind how sperm whales communicate, is worth every word. This is one of those books that I got through in a matter of hours and the whole time regretting that the reading would eventually come to an end.

Rant on. -Tommi (a freediving dreamer)

Tommi's Dive Log

I’m a reef diver. They say reef divers are wussies. I’m also worst-writer. We know what matters more, eh worst-reader? Yet the waters are murky either way. Or are the waters full of spawn? Spawning is clouding my visibility. Can that be? I saw so many little fishies the other day that I thought the ocean was displaced with them. But then I realized that visibility was displaced with reproduction. Now that’s how you make a worst-blog-post sexy, right worst-reader? Just add a little sex to the worst-writing and we’re good. I paused at about fourteen meters. You’re not supposed to hold your breath when your diving but every once-a-once I do it. “Can I hear them flirt with each other,” I ask myself of the millions of fish who are colluding for my entertainment and clouding my visibility with their sex. Sorry. Spawn. There is so much noise from breathing through a regulator. Add to that pressure in my ears. Usually my left is good, but my right is blocked. Equalizing is the only burden when diving. Drop like a rock after emptying all the air from your BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and the left ear goes first followed by the right. Pinch your nose and blow gently. “Don’t blow to hard or you’ll blow a gasket,” a diving uncle once said. Reach your depth, put a little air back in BCD. I’m now perfectly buoyant. I could just as well be floating in space. Rocket man with bubbles. Another slow breath. Adjust weights, straps, fins. Good to go. Pause. Hold. Just for a second or three. Perfect silence except for the snap-crackle-pop of a planet under water in full motion, in full life, not quite in the middle of the universe. Those damn little fishies are having the time of their life. Swimming around a fringe reef. Yes. It’s their reef. I’m a tolerated guest, like David Livingston tolerates me. If only that guy would open Sol Food in Westpunt, Curacao more days of the week. Lazy bastardo. ;-) He’s a reef diver, too. And he hunts and feeds his guests lion fish that he kills with vengeance. Because lion fish don’t belong in the Atlantic ocean. But they sure do taste good! Oh no, how did they get in these waters? Some schmuck let one loose from his fish tank in Florida, the saying goes. Someone thank David for his contribution to a better Caribbean Sea. Indeed, dear worst-reader, that’s a whole ‘nother worst-post.

What I want to worst-blog about is the fact that there are more potent forms of diving. Diving where I could show more manliness. You know, it’s always a thought or three when planning such a trip. Manliness or beautiful coral? But we never say we’re going to Maldives to do extreme drift diving. Now that’s diving! In the blank-blue extreme current at twenty meters, tethered by a hook on a rock that prevents you from being pulled to India, you can watch sharks effortlessly wait in the same drift current for something to get in the way of their mouths. And what about wreck diving? I could be a wreck diver along side being a reef diver, couldn’t I? I hear there are world war two wrecks off the coast of Norway in less than thirty meters of water. Yeah. Always wanted to dive alongside Messerschmidts as much as sea horses. Oh no. I haven’t gotten my drysuit certification yet. Cold water, man. Very cold water in Norway. And. My diving partner won’t dive in water less than twenty-five degrees celsius. Hey! What about that aircraft carrier the was sunk off the coast of Florida’s panhandle? Water ain’t so cold there. Oh wait. The ship was sunk in just under thirty meters of water but hurricane Katrina caused it to shift and more than half the wreck is now under forty meters of water. Forty meters is deep, man. Can’t spend more a few mintues on air at forty meters. And I’m not certified for tech-diving. You know, where you go down with more than one bottle and you have to adjust the nitrogen and 02 so that when you come back up your lungs don’t turn into graham cracker marmalade punch. Seriously. That’s what lungs look like after they explode. And then there’s night diving. Which I don’t like. Carrying around those lights attracts the most ornery critters. No. Night diving gives me a bit of claustrophobia, too. Which cancels out any cave diving. What about ice diving, lake diving, etc. No. I’m just a warm, lazy, pseudo-bourgeois, always dependent on the kindness of strangers, reef diver. Anywho.

Yesterday, after swimming for about forty minutes over a huge bed of coral, I conversed with a moray eel the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. As it began to lunge toward me, probably due to my irresponsible diving techniques, I did a batman summersault and threw a Robin kaapow! to thwart its aggression. And the animal just looked at me as though I were stupid or something. Continuing with bad diving technique and some unfruitful but fun disrespect for nature’s creatures, I placed the bulk of my swim fin near the moray’s mouth. Just a little naive experiment, don’t you know. And does the creature help me out a bit? Of course not. I failed to acquire the proof of my tale which I wanted to worst-post instead of my dive log. That damn moray didn’t bite. His fang marks would like dracular marks in my fin. Cool, eh. So you see, there are marks that even we wuss reef divers can take with us to prove… To prove what? How much fun this stuff is? No go. So I guess it’s off to Thailand in a few months to see if I can get that damn trigger fish, unlike the moray, to cooperate. I love reef diving.

Rant on. -Tommi

Deco Beer, The Love Of Abyss And The Baby Octopus

Yesterday a few people were fiddling around on the ladder at the edge of pier as we were returning from our second dive. They’re not gonna let us out, I thought. I might have to fight my way through. And I will. Will do it for king and country, for divers the world over, for the pretty girls on the beach who are just waiting to watch an old, out-of-shape fifty-plus year-old get out of the water with full scuba gear. Indeed. I will not be defeated by the forces of pier occupation. At least until I know what the heck they are doing. Or I’ll just ask nicely and presuppose my neighborly questioning with the unfact that a barracuda the size of a go-kart just tried to attack me at forty feet below the surface–but I was saved in the last second before her charge by a grouper the size of a VW Bug that had two sharp buck teeth protruding from huge, fishy lips. 

It was a good dive except for the cramps I started to get in my legs at about thirty-five minutes in. Yesterday’s dive #2 was full of same old same old–except for the cramps. Stuff you have to love if you love diving. Whenever I’m in the water there’s really only three things I think about. And please do not heed this as advice. In fact, steer clear from anything I say regarding pseudo-techniques in scuba diving. 

The first thing I think of is what’s on the opposite side of the coral reef I am swimming. Yesterday I was swimming north against a slight current, the reef on my right. It was just a casual reef dive. We were not gonna exceed twenty meters or fifty minutes. Good enough. The only problem is, to the left is the one thing I adore most about life on this planet And the reason I love scuba. The abyss of the ocean. Look right and you’re in your own personal life-size aquarium where you never have to worry if you gave the goldfish too much food. But on my left was the everything I’m still living for. I adore floating in my special space suit with aqua-lung in the ocean knowing that if I were to let out all the air from my BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and float down I would eventually find the meaning of life. Because down there, way down there, dear worst-reader, is the EVERYTHING this planet has to offer. I just know it. And even if some scientist comes around to prove me wrong. I don’t care. The abyss of this earth’s oceans is the most beautiful stuff I can think of. And I love her. 

The second thing I think about while diving is the play-along–that distracts me from the first thing I think about– which is probably a good thing. Obviously I play-along while diving. As you know, there is no such thing as diving alone. I’m with a group of people or at the minimum my diving partner. The task at hand, though, is going about the business of getting ones money’s worth before all the air runs out–or your cash runs out. And so. Everybody is looking for this special fish or that unique polyp cluster or whatever in the waters feeding the reefs. One of my favorite fish is the scorpion fish. It is a butt-ugly animal with a nero-toxin in its dorsal fin that could kill a man if she gets it in you and it’s not treated. These fish blend-in perfectly with the coral rocks that is their home and unless they’re moving around it’s hard to see them. Hence most humans killed by this fish accidentally step on it while it’s in shallow water. Like a hyper-dermic needle the fish injects poison into whatever threatens it. Yesterday one swam right underneath me between coral polyps. Although I’ve seen them move before, this was the first time I got a good look at it while it was swimming. The only thing not corroded by the animals camouflage were the inner parts of its pectoral fins. The one I saw had the most beautiful black and gold/yellow coloring on its fins and I wonder, like a clown, or a costume, if the outer covering that so brilliantly hides this animal from predators and at the same time makes it so aesthetically unappealing were removed, would I fall over it with love because of its beauty? Of the seventy-five or so dives I’ve done, at least sixty of which were on reefs in Bali, Thailand, The Red Sea and Curacao, I’ve never seen such colored fins on a scorpion fish.

The third thing I think about while diving is my partner. With that in mind, never dive alone. Make sure you’re skills are up-to-date. Check your equipment and double check it with your buddy. Once the dive is over and you’ve done all the equipment washing and other care, get a deco-beer. That’s short for Decompression Beer. I usually enjoy that beer while staring out at the waters that I just swam in wondering how all that wondrous depth is doing with out me. (Btw, that’s also a pretty philosophy for life. Or maybe not. Nomatter.)

Enough good samaritan bullshit. Which brings me to #3. The third thing I think about while scuba-diving is if I’m still able to do it. Am I physically fit to actually do this krapp anymore? It’s not that don’t want to, it’s just that I want less to start working out again or taking better care of my body. Fuck all that bullshit. I worked out enough when I was young. In fact, I’m sure the only thing that’s keeping me from meeting the fate of many fifty-plus-year-olds is the fact that I trained the shit out of my heart before I was thirty. After that, fuck it. It was about good sex, the battle with females and trying not to drink myself into a stupor. So I guess I’m not in the worst shape but I was feeling yesterday that I could improve on some things. Hence the cramps. At about thirty-five minutes into the dive when we were on our return route and heading for a five meter deco-swimm both my legs started to cramp up. What you’re supposed to do when that happens is try to stretch out your legs but I was even having a hard time doing that. The whole ill-motion, physical effort, was horrendously painful. Holy-krapp, I thought. How am I gonna get out of this? And then I turned to my partner, who happens to be my better half, and I realized there really are some benefits to being in a long-term, committed relationship. She immediately understood my anguish and assumed the role of underwater doctor/hot-nurse. She unzipped the top of her wet suit revealing that other abyss I love so much, aka cleavage, and proceeded to give me one of the best massages of my life. After a few hard hand stokes my legs were whole again. In fact, just worst-writing about it makes me want to melt in her arms. Yes! Even melt into her more than that beautiful (other) abyss. 

Last but not least. When we reached the pier and the ladder at the end of it which would be the finale of dive #2, a small group of people, one with a huge underwater camera, were fiddling about. The woman with the camera was occupying the ladder. She knew we were finished and needed to get out of the water. But she hung around, pointing the camera at the ladder. I asked if there was anything I could do. You know, to help. But there was no answers. Then I asked what the woman was taking a picture of. The woman and her partner didn’t answer. They probably don’t understand English, I thought. Then one of the guys working at the dive shop appeared and told the woman to get the fuck off the ladder so other divers could get out. And I still don’t know what language he spoke. (So I threw the fuck in there for worst-posterity’s sake.) The woman and her camera finally moved to the side. Which I thought was odd. I guess the ladder was big enough for her to just stand there and wait that fully loaded divers get out of her way as they ascend the ladder. Then the dive shop guy said there was a baby octopus she was trying to photograph. Hey! That’s pretty cool. That’s one of the animals every reef diver loves to see. And then I thought. Yeah, there’s only one other animal that is as hard as a scorpion fish to see in the wild: octopus. The woman couldn’t see the octopus but she was hell-bent on trying. So I moved up to the ladder, focused as best I could. Bam! There’s the little guy. I could see him clearly. No more than six inches long from its bubble to the tip of its tentacles, it was trying to hide in the crevices of the horizontal steps of the ocean-growth corroded ladder. I could tell the little eight legged girl didn’t want to be photographed. But she was beautiful.

Dive on. Rant on. -Tommi