Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Dive Log 30: Diving the Ana Cecilia and Spearman’s Barge & My Next Contribution to American Literature

26 November 2016
2 tank scuba dive to two sunk boats

Justin swimming up to Spearman’s Barge. © J. Manos

So I can’t share the whole story.

After a couple years, I’ve decided to write a collection of American short stories.

I can’t share the whole story of this dive because enough happened that it demands I mine it.

One of my world-traveled literary advisors in Albuquerque gave me permission. She said Hemingway used real life all the time.

My first collection of short stories should be out in about a year.

We dove two wrecks on a late fall day that was warm not hot with a skin of clouds over the sun that made the Saturday afternoon seem quiet.

© J. Manos

It was the first time I had scuba dived in a 5 mil wetsuit. I’m used to diving in a 1.5 mil Sharkskin top.

I almost had a safety incident at the end of the first dive.

I experienced some serious issues with buoyancy. And – maybe I was breathing too hard –  I used up my air quick.

You know I have to constantly fight against my fear of all the technical equipment of scuba diving.

My air went low, and the combination of my nearly empty tank, the thick wet suit, unknown residual trapped air in my BCD that I could not release though I tried, and the expanding remaining molecules of air as I ascended caused me to suddenly be propelled against my will toward the surface faster than I wanted, or what was ideally safe.

Certainly my own lack of experience in scuba diving played a part – I’m much more at home freediving where you don’t need any equipment just your athletic body.

But before all that:

We saw a giant goliath grouper at the stern of the Ana Cecilia, easily near 400 pounds and 7 feet long. Beautiful bad fish like a hippo chilling on the sand. He or she reminded me of Hemingway’s short story After the Storm, which I’d just read, about a dude rowing out to wrecks after a hurricane hit Cuba and seeing the big groupers already taking up residence around a sunken ocean liner with dead people in it.

Giant goliath grouper at the stern of the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

The Ana Cecilia was deliberately sunk, just this past July as part of the artificial reef program, and it’s cool to see the marine life taking up house on and around it.

© J. Manos

The 170′ long freighter rests at 85 feet depth on the sand bottom, and was caught with 400 kilos of blow trying to go up the Miami River. That was it for this boat, which had once sailed the open seas.

Inside the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

We explored the Ana Cecila. My two dive partners even got me to go down into an in-and-out area they had cut out for divers.

Who knows what they meant with their spray paint. © J. Manos

Swimming out of the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

The ship was just beginning to be colonized by sponges, other growth things, and bright bright fluorescent orange spots which I found out later are baby corals! Pretty cool.

Sand diver fish on the deck of the recently sunk Ana Cecilia, with a baby coral being the first to land and set up house. Sand divers look like lizards to me; they just chill on or by a reef or something. And those baby corals are super bright fluorescent orange. Pretty cool to see new babies in a world where corals are in trouble! © J. Manos

Baby Coral on deck! Ana Cecilia freighter off West Palm, sunk in July 2016. © J. Manos

Baby Coral on deck! Ana Cecilia freighter off West Palm, sunk in July 2016. © J. Manos

They sunk the boat perfectly, so unlike a lot of wrecks it’s a complete boat underwater.

You can be on the deck and the crow’s nest sticks straight up – looking outward into the ocean blue under the surface the same it did for miles above.

Only it will never ever travel again. It will stare there until it dissolves.

Crow’s nest on the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

I’m thankful my lungs did not over-expand on coming up. Dodged a bullet.

I am going to practice as much as I can so I can be better at scuba diving.

I am so not a mathematician, so anything dealing with the functioning of technology or equipment is a struggle.

On my nearly out-of-control ascent, as I fought to stay below the surface at 15 feel for a 3-minute safety stop to offgas any excess nitrogen absorbed at depth, a remora found me and circled, checking me out.

You know remoras; they have a suction cup under their mouths so they can attach themselves for free travel onto a shark. I tried to get a pic of him but the GoPro cut his head out of the frame.

The remora came close, and did I tell you I’m a shark?

Remora. © J. Manos

Wait till I get into my next rounds of freediving next year.

The 2nd dive to Spearman’s Barge went cool. Not much down there. Just a barge on the sand bottom. It was not very tall – I realized how low a barge deck is to the water when a barge does its work on the surface.

Swimming up along the port side of the Ana Cecilia. © J. Manos

In New York I had an excellent dinner conversation with my agent the legendary Marie Brown and we conspired for 2017 and the new political realities.

Legendary literary agent Marie Brown and her author Jarid Manos conspiring for 2017 over dinner in Harlem. © J. Manos


Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Dive Log 29: Freediving After Trump: I Can’t See 5 Feet

Sunday, 13 November 2016
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, FL

Freedives from shore

Mangrove live birth “babies” drifting out at sea waiting for the right time to come back to land and grow. How do they know what to do? Are they “thinking” anything at this moment?

Mangroves bear live young like mammals, even though they are trees! The offspring drop into the high tide and drift for days or years out in the water until they find a home back on land.

Man I love mangroves. They are the tropical ocean coasts from Africa to the Americas.

I told you the ocean is crazy.

Finally got in a shore dive. What was that shit Melville wrote in Moby Dick?

Moby Dick Book

© J. Manos

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul … I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” – Moby Dick; Herman Melville, 1851

We’ve had rough ocean for 6 weeks after the hurricanes. Some days the wind blew harder than when Matthew was here. Sand in your eyes and piled up like desert storms or snow drifts on the boardwalk.

Drifting in the sea. Least the sea was calm enough to get in.

The water was filled with suspended sand that clicked and raked against my underwater GoPro camera and mask.

We’ve had rough ocean for 6 weeks after the hurricanes. Some days the wind blew harder than when Matthew was here. Sand in your eyes and piled up like desert storms or snow drifts on the boardwalk.

Drifting in the sea. Least the sea was calm enough to get in.

The water was filled with suspended sand that clicked and raked against my underwater GoPro camera and mask.

Ropen and fins

© J. Manos

Could hardly see. I felt vulnerable, kind of in danger. I overrode it.

I had to get up close to see anything. Everything at any distance was diffuse or un-seeable.

I dove 20 feet down to our ocean’s bottom, repeatedly, and hung out with the gorgonians and sea fans as long as I could, holding my breath. My son loved Sponge Bob. Now I know why.

Gorgonian fan

Mound coral bleaching at its top. © J. Manos

And up at top this school of mangrove babies drifting upright like 7-inch green brown vanilla beans ready to give new life and having no idea that the United States even exists.

I’ve never felt safe; I’ve always been on guard for danger. But I will never be anybody’s victim, so my main concerns are not about myself. My job is to fight for fairness and justice, and the health and safety of all people and our planet.

Usually when diving you don’t think about anything. You’re just present. That is the great elixir of being in the water. But this time Trump faces kept coming into my eyes. Even that crazy Melania. And no I am not slut-shaming. Halp. I tried to shake it all out of my head repeatedly.

In all seriousness: working at coping against waves of ‘sick to my stomach’. Moments of almost-panic that threaten to retch out of my gut like bad seasick.

It’s very easy for societies to break down into ethno-scapegoating for perceived grievances that are then exacerbated by those in power to reap more power.

Stop it at the last second. Override it.

The corals below me know something has been wrong for a while because many show signs of disease or paling and bleaching.

coral

© J. Manos

But they don’t know what’s really wrong.

And what’s really about to come as a new president seeks to drill and mine and burn all fossil fuels and throw out all ecological protections. The corporations will make tons of money.

On top of increased direct-attack dangers to people everywhere who are perceived as “different”.

I had been looking forward to continuing to build society and the future. Now I’m girding for the resistance.

I wrote in Newsweek.com:

Note to Trump supporters: Just remember that your bodies, lives, children, families, economic stability, and general well-being are also in danger from climate collapse. Socially conscious people will not be the only ones affected. You and the entire world will be affected, and your plans set us on a runaway road to several billion people being killed over the next 100 years or so. There is nothing you can do to escape this fact. Your human bodies and lives depend on the same planet we do.

A fellow commenter said if I don’t like it I should move to Mars.


Sea Urchin

Finally saw my first long-spined sea urchin while diving. Saw them several times in northeastern Puerto Rico when I was writing my upcoming novel Her Blue Watered Streets, but that was before I was a diver. © J. Manos



Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Moonlight is One of the Best Films I’ve Seen

5 November 2016

Miami

Ask yourself: what does it mean to die and die and die yet somehow still stay alive?

Few people in America are as invisible as the quietly shattered.

Recently I saw Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, and adapted from Tarell Alvin McCray’s original play In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue.

It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen.

vid

Moonlight trusts its audience. “Trust your reader”, the publisher of my first book Ghetto Plainsman once told me.

You create, and they experience with you.

That’s one of the most important things any real artist can do.

In Hollywood, it’s so rare for a movie to “trust the audience” and practice restraint – including telling its story without gimmicks, contrivances, manipulations and beating its points over our heads with a baseball bat – that a movie like Moonlight leaves us flayed open … body, senses and emotions raw, unable to stop thinking about it for days. That is the mark of a great film.

Moonlight unfolds in three acts, following the life of young Chiron growing up in the rough Liberty City neighborhood of northeast Miami.

Played by three different actors, first we see Chiron as “Little” (Alex Hibbert), then as teenage “Chiron” (Ashton Sanders) and finally as “Black” (Trevante Rhodes), a grown mid-20s man.

As a boy under attack from all sides, devastated, and questioning his own identity, he can hardly speak.

No safe place. It’s like the dangers from the world produce so much roaring noise around him he is canceled out into utter silence.

It’s in these spaces between words where all three actors playing the three stages of Chiron’s life blow us away.

Brief moments of refuge become the outsized impacts on his life, within this perpetual storm.

Juan (Mahershala Ali) is a 40-something drug dealer who becomes a father figure, taking little Chiron to the beach, while Juan’s girlfriend Theresa (Janelle Monae) occasionally mothers him in ways his screaming, crack-addicted Ma (Naomie Harris) can never.

Equally out of place at school, skinny, sullen, in perpetual grave danger from other dudes who want to beat him up, Little/Chiron finds a few private moments of comfort in a friend, Kevin (Jaden Piner/Jharrel Jerome). (Andre Holland plays adult Kevin later.)

But even that falls into threat and loaded danger.

None of this collapses into stereotypes or cliches. The intensity of the first two acts is so tight and seamless that when Act 3 drops we’ve forgotten we’re even in a movie theater.

When we see Chiron in Act 3 as a grown man, he’s metamorphosed into a super-fit, hard man running his own drug game up in ATL.

Over at CypherAvenue.com, maybe the country’s most popular cultural site for masculine same gender loving men of color, some site visitors offensively commented that it wasn’t possible for a dude who was softer and weaker (devastated) as a kid to change that much into a new man.

They clearly have no idea. I know a person who at age 7 was so shattered he wanted to cut his wrist off with a steak knife or jump from a roof and then hated himself even more because he was too punk to go through with it. When that person finally “died” as a teenager, it was total and irrevocable, and he built an entirely new life that’s tough, confident, effective and extremely fit.

Life hardens you.

Which does not mean rare residual breaths, or lack thereof, might surface beneath that hard exterior.

And that’s what this shimmering movie is.

A gasp… a breath. A window into bottomless pain that touches us so deeply … decades of unrelenting pressure … that any amount of comfort, any proximity to a moment of love or safety, vibrate and hum through our soul.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In many ways Miami is its own tropical country hiding out from the rest of America.

Cinematically speaking, Moonlight’s visuals are so live and interwoven with the story that landscape becomes a living, breathing character itself. That’s what a great film or book should do.

Moonlight gives us a Miami that most people have no idea about, a Miami of inland hoods with accidental banana trees and broken slabbed concrete, rich multicultural blackness, and humid saturated blue and yellow sky with green fields where black boys play soccer instead of American football.

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© J. Manos

 

Shared American experiences have their own twist, like when Juan, speaking in his regular American East Coast blaccent, tells young Little about his grandma who was from Cuba, and suddenly switches his voice to perfectly nail her black Cuban grandma accent.

Or when Little, as a boy, steps into the ocean and lifts his hands under the water’s surface and we realize he’s never seen the ocean before.

(Being an activist, I felt a flare of anger in that powerful scene. All of this will be underwater in the coming decades as sea levels rise from climate change. How fucking dare us ruin the planet when even now, in these last few decades, so many kids have never even been to the beach, or other places in the natural world.)

Don’t pigeonhole this beautiful, transformative film.  Moonlight is a human story where ultimately, like Chiron, we can hardly talk or breathe.

It might just change your life in some small, private, quiet way.

Me, after coming home from the theater, I couldn’t sleep.

So I listened to the nearly 2-hour Cypher Avenue podcast about it.

Still couldn’t sleep.

I tried taking a whole dropper of homeopathic Rescue Remedy under my tongue.

I tried listening to the Liquid Mind station on Pandora.

I played Brandy, whose ethereal voice can usually make anything feel better.

Then finally at 4 a.m. I went out for a 4-mile beach run where the hard winds that haven’t left since Hurricanes Matthew and Nicole blew sideways misting rain off the ocean into my face.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Aaron Davidson/Getty Images.

“Barry (Jenkins, the director of Moonlight), created something that feels even more real than what I’d written down. It’s so beautiful, and yet it’s full of all the questions and the doubt and the guilt and the longing and the loneliness that was the impetus for the original piece.” – Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer of the original play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.

Read an interview with Tarell here.

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins; Photo by George Martinez / Location provided by Real Living Residences at Cynergi Condos from Miami New Times story.

 

For more info on Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep, or Jarid Manos’ first book Ghetto Plainsman, which is currently being made into a Hollywood movie, or his upcoming novel Her Blue Watered Streets, please visit JaridManos.com.

Like Jarid Manos’ professional page on Facebook here.

 


Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Dive Log 28: Way Down Upon the Suwannee River … Lies This Sunk Confederate Ass Boat

Northern Florida, south of the Georgia border

28 October 2016

In 2016, AD Burks sings one of the best renditions we’ve heard of “Old Folks at Home/Swanee River” and keeps it real. (Original uncensored 1851 dialect.)

What is that song?

In the back of your mind … a memory … a tendril of chorded melody from long ago that maybe you heard on an old black-and-white movie on TV or some old folks humming –  a few bars –  but didn’t pay much attention…

Fish’s eye view of just below the surface of the tannic rich water of the Suwannee River. © J. Manos

Fish’s eye view of just below the surface of the tannic rich water of the Suwannee River. © J. Manos

Crystallizing into consciousness.

canooeing

© J. Manos

A very famous song from 1851, in a dialect “historically spoken” by enslaved African people, written by a very famous white American songwriter from the North, Stephen Foster, “the father of American music”.

A song that sounds racist today but describes a slave’s lamentation after he is sold to another plantation and sent away from his family, at a time when Africans in America were rarely allowed to speak for themselves.

Foster wrote “Old Folks at Home”, otherwise known as “Swannee River” (sp), in this dialect when American black folks were not even allowed to read or write but expected to speak English.

Man how people loved their families, so much that the trauma of being sold away from family was used by abolitionists as one of the main arguments against slavery, even beyond the physical brutality and bondage.

Maybe in such a rough world, love was all people had.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

oldfolksathome

DIVERSe Orlando dive crew approaching a “small” unnamed spring bubbling out of the Earth on the Suwannee River. This one you can’t dive. © J. Manos

DIVERSe Orlando dive crew approaching a “small” unnamed spring bubbling out of the Earth on the Suwannee River. This one you can’t dive. © J. Manos

Map of the Suwannee River basin.

Map of the Suwannee River basin.

What’s it like to canoe 10 miles down the infamous Suwannee River in north Florida, south of the Georgia border, step over the underwater wood ribs of a sunk Confederate ass steamboat, and dive 60 feet into springs where fresh water is just shooting out of the belly of the Earth?

chorus
The green plastic canoe paddle dipped into the 2016 river water that had live oak trees lining its banks like 1851. Tannins from decaying palmetto roots, oak leaves and other plant matter give the water its dark tea color. I kept looking for a Gulf sturgeon.

2953fdde00000578-3108890-image-m-30_1433343000247

These big old armored fish have been around since the dinosaurs and swim up from the Gulf of Mexico into the Suwannee to live and give birth during the spring, summer and fall. Sometimes they jump and accidentally kill somebody.

For long stretches there were no human industrial sounds at all, no machines, no distant background engine noise, just the river, the canoe paddles, and occasionally our voices.

DIVERSe Orlando dive crew canoeing down the wilderness water trail of the Suwannee River in north Florida.

The Suwannee is one of the wildest rivers in the United States, definitely showing us what we’ve lost and forgotten everywhere else.

Every once in a while an engine roar would rise and soon a speed boat rammed past, not slowing down.

At its widest the Suwannee River is only 250 feet.

The side waves from the boat’s wake walloped into our canoes and kayaks, gladly offering to swamp us.

“Redneck highway,” I grumbled as the waves rolled themselves out against the shore and the river reclaimed its composure.

Quiet enough again that a few others from the dive club heard me across the water. One laughed, then shut himself up.

I tried to imagine what was beyond the trees on either side of the river.

“Old Folks at Home” has been the official state song of Florida since 1935. In 2008 the state approved censoring measures to expurgate its lyrics.

You know as an artist I think sugarcoating takes away the real. Whatever it is, art defines itself and its time period.

Drowsiness from the quiet. Warm October sun. Water dripping from canoe paddles.

But I had my wires up, tense.

Kind of like sleeping on the NYC subway at night. Back in the day. Where you sleep on the inside of yourself, but keep your “Watchman” alert on the outside.

Occasional signs of human habitation on the banks. A few people might emerge, very white-skinned, faces pink-blushed, in that Old South way that’s been original since Old South days. Sometimes shirtless, cut-off jean shorts. Bare feet. Reddish-brown raggy beards. Stared.

You never know what to think; what could happen.

200 years ago their ancestors were rowing down this same river gripping weapons against Seminoles emerging onto its banks from the live oaks, palmettos, and cypress trees….

….Seminole people originally known as Creeks who themselves rowed down on timber-beamed rafts to fill the gap of the ancient Timucuan people – a nation once 200,000 strong – who had been wiped to extinction from disease and slaughter.

Some old Seminole raft beams are still at the bottom of the river.

Erik and Aubra Denson of DIVERSe Orlando. © J. Manos

Erik and Aubra Denson of DIVERSe Orlando. Photo credit: by DIVERSe Orlando

I’m always struck by how warm and loving they are to everybody.

At the Suwannee River on our Saturday, October 1st trip, Aubra made a point to remember “Jim’s” name – young, white, skinny, in blue t-shirt and shorts – who drove us and the canoes 10 miles upriver to the launch site.

Heavily Southern dialected, in a regional, teeth-closed manner of speaking, he said he’d lived in this area his whole life.

And likely his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, and so on, back to the antebellum pre-Civil War era.

We drove past Trump yard signs as the van headed out of the town of Branford, FL.

Aubra told me later:

Last year, Erik was invited to speak at the 2nd annual “Slave Dwellings” conference in Charleston, SC.

 

It was my first time in Charleston and they try to play up the slave market as this wonderful place to be. Oh, it’s full of shops and vendors, but history is literally in your face. To intensify matters, an arbitrary group of (black) people were on the pier dressed like slaves and singing old Negro hymns.

 

I am literally fighting tears while holding back bile remembering walking along the path I know the slaves walked … being chained and dragged from the nightmarish sea journey to the nightmarish existence as a slave.

 

The plantation house looked over gardens that were breathtakingly beautiful and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that horrific things had happened on those grounds to my ancestors.

I decided to stop worrying, and relaxed one level down on my tension alert.

The sun nearing 11 a.m. glowed in the clumps of pale-green Spanish moss hanging from live oaks. Gnarled branches. Sandy banks. Cypress trees too.

I feel things too much sometimes.

No big beautiful Gulf sturgeon. They can grow to 8 feet long and 200+ pounds. They like to jump.

Only once did I hear a fat splash. Missed seeing him. Ancient fish.

And then we were at Troy Spring. We got our scuba gear ready, suited up, pulled on our dive boots, and slogged through the tannic water toward the spring, carrying our fins.

Aubra entering the water after we moored at the Spring’s dock and geared up. © J. Manos

Aubra entering the water after we moored at the Spring’s dock and geared up. © J. Manos

Rudy gearing up to dive Troy Spring. © J. Manos

Rudy gearing up to dive Troy Spring. © J. Manos

It was hard to believe that just up ahead was a deep hole into the Earth you could dive into.

But it had a wide mouth and you could feel the force of the outward-expanding water even at this distance and see how it was pushing away the tannins. Lots of sand particles and bits of debris, streaming, in the bluing water.

Swimming over the wood ribs of the Confederate steamboat and gunship The Madison, scuttled in 1863 so Union forces couldn’t take it. © J. Manos

Swimming over the wood ribs of the Confederate steamboat and gunship The Madison, scuttled in 1863 so Union forces couldn’t take it. © J. Manos

In chest-high water my foot stepped on something hard and square a wooden beam and I really did not want this to happen, not least because I don’t want to impact anything – conscientious divers try not to touch anything – and also because I am kind of animistic.

I was standing on the Madison, the Confederate steamboat and gunship that in 1863 had been scuttled in these shallows so advancing Union forces couldn’t use it.

The spring water had preserved its wood ribs all this time.

What did those old trees know before their lives were severed and flesh conscripted into war to save that “peculiar institution”?

Swimming over the wood ribs of the Confederate steamboat and gunship The Madison, scuttled in 1863 so Union forces couldn’t take it. © J. Manos

Swimming over the wood ribs of the Confederate steamboat and gunship The Madison, scuttled in 1863 so Union forces couldn’t take it. © J. Manos

I stepped off the Confederate steamboat, struggling to not lose my footing in the current, and stepped on another beam that tried to trip me but I kept upright and hurriedly backed away.

Pulled my fins on. After going over the dive plan with Dave my dive partner, we plunged feet first into the cold spring, thumbing the BCD vest release valves held above our heads.

Freshwater is not buoyant like saltwater.

Releasing air from BCD inflator hose on first descent into Troy Spring. © J. Manos

Releasing air from BCD inflator hose on first descent into Troy Spring. © J. Manos

It was dark and greenish and swirling, the sand slopes cascading like a perpetual landslide.

Diving into a bowl of sugar, Rudy, another dive club member, said later.

“Like diving in a bowl of sugar.” Aubra down in Troy Spring. © J. Manos

“Like diving in a bowl of sugar.” Aubra down in Troy Spring. © J. Manos

Dave scuba diving in the depths of Troy Spring, Suwannee River, October 2016. DIVERSe Orlando trip.

At the bottom, I realized we were nowhere near its real bottom.

A smaller opening led into the upwelling torrent. I watched Dave and Rudy swim to its edge, peering in with their lights; astronauts. Their lights made this uprushing throat of the Earth a breathing tendril of fire.

“Their lights made this uprushing throat of the Earth a breathing tendril of fire.” Troy Spring, Suwannee River, October 2016.

My new ass stayed back, holding on to a rock. Cave diving is some specialized training and highly dangerous.

Holding on in the Spring’s forceful up-current. © J. Manos

Holding on in the Spring’s forceful up-current. © J. Manos

My very first spring dive.

As we began our ascent I noticed Aubra pause. She held her light in one hand. She was looking around.

Aubra nearing the first bottom of Troy Spring, in green and yellow light. © J. Manos

Aubra nearing the first bottom of Troy Spring, in green and yellow light. © J. Manos

The entire cylindrical spring, our submersion, a melted yellow-green candle with the ball of Sun a white flame up there in the distant sky the universe leading the way home. Breathe underwater.

My body began to get the shake-shivers I have no fat but the Sun was not too far away. Within reach.

Water dissipates your body heat 20x faster than air.

Aubra continued:

“I sat on that porch, I walked through the FRONT door and I touched everything in that plantation house because I knew Blacks weren’t allowed to do it before. I was hateful… and I had no control over myself.”

 

“Emotions that were stirred up in me were unrecognizable to me and to Erik. He was so sorry he had talked me into going and I tried to stop acting out, but I couldn’t.”

We canoed a few more miles down the river. A sense of gradually emerging out of wilderness into civilization grew as occasional houses appeared, built on bluffs above the river, and then we were at Little River Spring, a locally popular swimming hole. Afternoon sunlight.

Aubra and Rudy preparing to dive down into the LIttle River Spring cavern. © J. Manos

Aubra and Rudy preparing to dive down into the Little River Spring cavern. Photo source: DIVERSe Orlando

Here unlike Troy Spring the water was crystal clear.

Aubra and Rudy beginning ascent down the slope. ©

Aubra and Rudy beginning ascent down the slope. Photo source: DIVERSe Orlando

Erik and Jarid before the Little River Spring dive. Water magnifies. Do fish see this same magnification? Or do fish say air distorts? Whose reality is right?? © Dave McLeod

Erik and Jarid before the Little River Spring dive. Water magnifies. Do fish see this same magnification? Or do fish say air distorts? Whose reality is right?? Photo source: Dave McCleod

Diving down into it was liquid silver suspended animation and suddenly I was cavern diving.

It was an open trajectory sloping down and I stayed in the center and it was fine.

The fresh water rushed up at us cold.

Water pooled against the amber cavern ceilings. It grew dim. Far up you could see the distant sky opening in aqua blue, crossed by a fallen-in tree that wanted to be Halloween.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Holes in the ceilings mirror optical illusions.

“Underwater mirrors” on the cavern ceilings of Littler River Spring, Suwannee River, October 2016.

Dave shined his light.

Sunfish who lost his color in the spring depths. Photo source: Dave McCleod

Sunfish who lost his color in the spring depths. Photo source: Dave McCleod

A large freshwater sunfish who appeared to have lost all his color in the dimness perpetually swam face forward against the thrust of spring water. His territory and home. Maybe he would do this the rest of his life without even knowing there was anything different.

The author down in Little River Spring. Photo source: Dave McCleod

The author down in Little River Spring. Photo source: Dave McCleod

Back up top. The skin-expanding October Florida sun.

My very first cavern dive.

Aubra laughed as she sat pleasantly on a rock half submerged as I shook off a second set of shake-shivers. That spring water was cold.

I could tell the year was getting thinner for sure. Even in Florida. © J. Manos

Aubra chilling after diving down into Little River Spring. Photo credit: Dave McCleod

I could tell the year was getting thinner for sure. Even in Florida.

A leak had appeared in one of Erik’s valves so Aubra had gone first, and now he was down in the spring, using her tank.

One group of local white boys maybe in their early 20s dragged a purposely-limp girl by her arms and legs and threw her in. She had her hair dyed burnt violet, and a tattoo on the back of her neck.

They jumped in after her. Splashed around.

The hole into this spring was not that wide and both Aubra and I worried that they would hit their heads on the rocks.

But they and the other locals were all right, and having fun. They said nothing and seemingly paid us no mind.

I know people will smile in your face and think something different behind their breaths so I can be bitter.

In a followup email, Aubra wrote:

“The first time I went out there, I wasn’t a certified diver. Now that I’m an advanced diver on my way to master diver, I love it even more. The Suwannee River is synonymous with peacefulness. Dozens of turtles dot the fallen branches and the occasional sturgeon will gracefully breach the tannic waters, guarding their territory. The trees are bent over or slipping into the banks, greeting you as you drift by. They are gnarly, a little ominous but beautiful. This was my first time diving there. It was magical. It is a natural swimming pool in somewhat of a circle with crystal clear spring water forcing back the tannins. Going into the cavern was such a treat. It’s so much fun! I wish I could share it with everyone. It is important for me that everyone feels welcome when they are with us.”

 

“Most people just want to be included and that’s what I’m about: inclusion.”

By early evening we made it back to the return location near Branford, Fl.

Jim met us to get the canoes. Dave and his wife Algeria had brought their own kayak.

Aubra and Erik tipped Jim significantly.

Everybody was nice.

I stayed back. Sometimes I just don’t engage if I don’t have to.

I retreated to the pavilion and changed out of soaking wet clothes into dry boxer briefs and basketball shorts, the new clothes becoming skin-damp themselves. No towel.

Braced myself for the 6-hour return drive back to Miami. Hate to sit.

But Miami-Fort Lauderdale is its own tropical country hiding out from the rest of America.

The Spanish moss hung in curls and weaves from the live oak trees, backlit by the western sun, glistening gold almost white.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

The antebellum era of Gone with the Wind and all that is so romanticized.

I suddenly had a crazy, very un-pc thought:

You know I’m not only a writer but also work in social change and social justice.

Many black American and American Indian people suffer “generational trauma” or “historical trauma”.

My mind’s eye contrasted antebellum images of genteel Southern life with who and what is often experienced in the Deep South today, i.e. Confederate flags, pickup trucks, guns, bad health, anger and danger.

Bing Crosby and unnamed singers sing “Swannee River”, 1935. (Check out 0.30 -0:44.)

Could it be possible that descendant-survivors of those who lost the Civil War have generational trauma too, because they lost?

A local white family not embodying any of those images just a young mother and father and their two kids ran into the shallows and started skipping rocks. The kids squealed, whirled around, splashed.

Local family skipping rocks on a Suwannee River evening, October 2016.

On the web I researched the Suwannee River and the song, and the music of the past. I read about Stephen Foster’s popularization of minstrel acts.

On YouTube I watched a later Al Jolson, a white Jewish musician from Chicago, sing “Swannee River” in greasy painted black face, surrounded by a whole grip of white folks with jet black paint faces, lips grossly exaggerated white, red or pink white, performing highly-talented shows with all kinds of singing and tap dancing going on.

Oh! Susanna and Camptown Races Medley – Al Jolson and the “Ethiopian Serenaders”, 1940.  Music composed by Stephen Foster in 1848 and 1850.

On the web I just stared at performances by the “Ethiopian Serenaders” … and the songs “Oh! Susanna”… Camptown Races”… and “Swanee River”.  All minstrel.

Melodious music and creeping horror… working its way into our senses, peeling back the American story.

Music so admittedly good and catchy it stays in the music reel of your mind for a few days and you find yourself trying to stop yourself from kicking your heels and tapping your feet as you walk or shower.

Or, as in “Swanee River”, moved and softened even if you don’t want to be.

Old Folks at Home /Swanee River – Al Jolson, 1940. (Originally composed in 1851 by Stephen Foster.)

I felt like I was standing on the cliff of insanity… like my stomach was twisting up into my head and my eyes rolling out of my head.

The American story is particularly the story of people on the land, and those stories become part of the landscape like layers of sandstone in the soil and the plants growing around our feet.

For some reason I am repeatedly witness to the American story, as exotic and mixed and unbelonging as I am.

And honestly, looking back at so much of the past 500 years, I continually find myself reduced to asking: what could they have possibly been thinking??

Divers look to the water for a new relationship, new stories. For some, it helps put the “nightmarish” part of the “sea journey” into the past.

Me, I’m just a plainsman, a nomad from the ancestral deserts of Africa, a traveler through life. And now a sea man. A diver.

jarid

~ ~ ~ ~ ~



“Dive Log 28: Way Down Upon the Suwannee River … Lies This Sunk Confederate Ass Boat” is the latest installment in Jarid Manos’s literary blogstory Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep.

For more info on Fear & Loving, or his first book Ghetto Plainsman, which is currently being made into a Hollywood movie, or his upcoming novel Her Blue Watered Streets, please visit JaridManos.com.

Like Jarid Manos’ professional page on Facebook here.

Contact DIVERSe Orlando here www.diverseorlando.org.

Contact AD Burks at www.adburks.com.


Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Hurricane Matthew Pics: (Some of us) Dodged a Bullet

South Florida

10 October 2016

Check out all the records broken by Hurricane Matthew.

As the seas get hotter and stay warmer longer, that means bigger storms.

  • Record Longest-Lived Category 4-5 in Eastern Caribbean
  • Record Longest-Lived Category 4-5 in October in the Atlantic Basin 
  • Southernmost Category 5 in Atlantic Basin 
  • Rare Category 4 Haiti Landfall
  • Longest-Lived Major Hurricane Forming After September 25

Well we dodged a bullet this time in South Florida.

A direct hit from Huracan Matthew to Miami-Fort Lauderdale would have been a massive strike. The whole region prepared and bunkered down (or left), the storm built up and approached, then stayed farther offshore and headed north. We just got hit with some side winds and rain, but nowhere near what other regions got.

Let’s not forget the catastrophe caused to Haiti during this storm. Over 1,000 people have lost their lives.

(Side note: I for one would sure like to see the Clinton Foundation put some of its immense resources toward truly building a sustainable Haiti for all the people down there. They’ve suffered so much.)

The storm made landfall in the Carolinas, causing widespread storm surge and flooding.

Sending prayers and thoughts.

Here’s The Weather Channel’s recap.

I’ll continue to do my part for climate justice and fighting against climate change, including raising awareness as an artist and activist to make protecting the Earth a central matter of our flesh and blood, culture and soul.

Typical Black folks enjoying the outdoors, contrary to what the stereotypes say, riding fat tire bikes on the sand and taking selfies in the exhilarating pre-hurricane winds. Etc. © J. Manos

Typical Black folks enjoying the outdoors, contrary to what the stereotypes say, riding fat tire bikes on the sand and taking selfies in the exhilarating pre-hurricane winds. Etc. © J. Manos

Doesn’t look like good diving conditions today. © J. Manos

Doesn’t look like good diving conditions today. © J. Manos

I am always amazed how some people from other cultures run or walk right up to cops/police officers! I’m taking the widest berth and looking straight ahead and not altering the cadence of my footsteps so I look busy like I’m focused and got somewhere important to go! © J. Manos

I am always amazed how some people from other cultures run or walk right up to cops/police officers! I’m taking the widest berth and looking straight ahead and not altering the cadence of my footsteps so I look busy like I’m focused and got somewhere important to go! © J. Manos

Waiting on the storm on the walkway through the mangroves in Deserted Beach. © J. Manos

Waiting on the storm on the walkway through the mangroves in Deserted Beach. © J. Manos

City pigeons taking shelter in a beach cafe. © J. Manos

City pigeons taking shelter in a beach cafe. © J. Manos

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

TV news crews and sexy anchorwomen love hurricanes. © J. Manos

TV news crews and sexy anchorwomen love hurricanes. © J. Manos

The storm begins to hit land — and then:

Suddenly moves north and leaves most people in South Florida unscathed, though over 100,000 lost power. © J. Manos

Suddenly moves north and leaves most people in South Florida unscathed, though over 100,000 lost power. © J. Manos

Waiting to be open again. © J. Manos

Waiting to be open again. © J. Manos

Squadrons of hundreds of Florida Power & Light utility trucks were stationed around the region, with tanker trucks of gasoline for fuel, as they expected they’d have to rebuild the entire electrical structure and system. © J. Manos

Squadrons of hundreds of Florida Power & Light utility trucks were stationed around the region, with tanker trucks of gasoline for fuel, as they expected they’d have to rebuild the entire electrical structure and system. © J. Manos


Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Dive Logs 26 and 27: Corals Dodged a Bullet This Year?

John U. Lloyd State Park
Broward County, FL

21 and 23 September 2016

Freedives

Very healthy Elliptical Star Coral -- happy to see him, well I mean "them" :) © J. Manos

Very healthy Elliptical Star Coral — happy to see him, well I mean “them” 🙂 © J. Manos

We’re at the end of the high-alert coral bleaching season, and it looks like we’re dodging a bullet this year, at least as far as an expected severe bleaching of corals followed by mass die-off, as happened recently on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The first dive was on Wednesday evening near shark o’clock so I did not go out that far — around 11-14 feet. It was kind of murky, and my wires were up.

Surface water temperature was 88 degrees.

End of Dive Wednesday Sept. 21, 2016 .. it's Shark O'clock out there so good to get out of the water. © J. Manos

End of Dive Wednesday Sept. 21, 2016 .. it’s Shark O’clock out there so good to get out of the water. © J. Manos


~~~


53-3

The second set of freedives was at bright high noon on Friday with a maximum depth to 20 feet and sea surface temp was 84 degrees.

Practicing my dynamic breath-holding while diving under and staying as long as I can. Air is pretty remarkable.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

According to NOAA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Coral Reef Conservation Program:

“Corals start to become stressed when sea surface temperature is 1 degrees Celsius greater than the highest monthly average. Coral bleaching risk increases if the temperature stays elevated for an extended period of time.”

Healthy Smooth Star Coral. © J. Manos

Healthy Smooth Star Coral. © J. Manos

Paling Smooth Star Coral and French Angelfish. © J. Manos

Paling Smooth Star Coral and French Angelfish. © J. Manos

Paling Knobby Brain Coral. © J. Manos

Paling Knobby Brain Coral. © J. Manos

Signs of paling (precursor to bleaching) and bleaching here, and some coral disease, which is a whole additional issue, but this year these corals should make it this year.

Dying Smooth Star Coral: white plague disease is a threat in addition to bleaching from climate change. © J. Manos

Dying Smooth Star Coral: white plague disease is a threat in addition to bleaching from climate change. © J. Manos

They’re faring better than the staghorns.

As of the end of September, the 2016 bleach watch threat has been downgraded to LOW.

But there is almost no way we can avoid rising sea temperatures in the coming years.

It’s like we’re holding our breath for the whole world.

I hate to piss in the ocean.

Waterlogged, dripping, I caught sight of myself in front of the bathroom mirror and stopped, face forward, shoulders square. wet-heavy clothes draining down my legs.

I just stared, listened.

The last of the summer heat baked outside, insects buzzing in all that peak green vegetation.

My dive boots were caked in damp sand. A puddle began forming on the concrete floor. The concrete was rough.

These white-painted wooden buildings up on stilts in natural parks from Florida to Texas always make me think of the Old South for some reason. On the outside anyway. But hey I don’t know shit about architecture.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos


graph

 

Download the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Coral Reef Conservation Program
SEAFAN BleachWatch Program Current Conditions Report
September 29, 2016


Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Baby Sea Turtles, Do Not Go into the Liiiiiiiiight!

Broward County, FL

19 September 2016

Wrong way sea turtle. © J. Manos

Wrong way sea turtle. © J. Manos

Baby sea turtle mayhem, flapping around in circles on the boardwalk at midnight, drawn by the streetlights into certain death. I felt like that crazy lady in Poltergeist who was yelling at her daughter “Don’t go into the light!!!”

screenshot2

Screengrab from Poltergeist

I picked them up and hurried their flipper-flapping little bodies down to the water’s edge and placed them on the wet sand where the slosh of waves would for sure re-orient them but no…. they scrambled mad back up onto shore toward the lights instead of out into the ocean and life.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

I fought them like a determined parent, turning them around each time they came out of the wave wash and tried to climb back up onto the beach. Little light-possessed mf’s.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

20 minutes of in-and-out little bodies, washing out with the last wave, then coming back in and clamoring for sand.

And, finally, one by one, I didn’t see them anymore.

Out to sea.

I know some of them will get ate up real quick out there.

But they’re in their home.

And some will make it.

And return years from now to climb back onto this same beach and lay eggs in a nest they dig with grown flippers into the sand.

I hope they live to be a hundred years.

All gone. Somewhere out there the just-hatched baby sea turtles are now swimming, And just the sargassum and sand and me are left here on shore. © J. Manos

All gone. Somewhere out there the just-hatched baby sea turtles are now swimming, And just the sargassum and sand and me are left here on shore. © J. Manos

All sea turtles are now endangered.

They’ve been around since the dinosaurs.

This is actually my first time coming upon a live sea turtle hatching, even though there is a scene with them in my upcoming novel Her Blue Watered Streets.

OK nesting season is over for another year.

Eggshell remnants of hatched sea turtle nest. Their shells are soft and leathery, not hard like bird eggs. © J. Manos

Eggshell remnants of hatched sea turtle nest. Their shells are soft and leathery, not hard like bird eggs. © J. Manos

Sea turtle nest back in June, right after the massacre at the Orlando nightclub. © GPRC

Sea turtle nest back in June, right after the massacre at the Orlando nightclub. © GPRC

 
Rescued several baby sea turtles who were going around in mayhem on the boardwalk .. poor lil mf’s got all disoriented after hatching and went to the lights on the boardwalk instead of the sea. They were fighting me too but I got them all in. Only kept my flashlight on for a second to film. They finally figured shit out in the dark like it’s supposed to be — after the waves hit them several times. I hope the lil mfs live a hundred years. They would’ve died def. The streets are for me not them.

 


Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Dive Log 25: Ma Tante Got Me Holding My Breath

Blue Heron Bridge, Riviera Beach, FL
10 September 2016

50 freedives

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Her yellow eyes were “like coals set in butter.”

Jet black-skinned with a heavy Creole accent, she kept “a huge glass urn of black raven or crow feathers” in her hut out there in the 1950s East Texas Piney Woods.

ruby-bike

© J. Manos

The appearance of the conjure woman, Ma Tante, in Cynthia Bond’s intense novel Ruby, charges up a book that holds you in its rough hands.

With leeriness we feel Ma Tante as she tries to slap the haints out of little Ruby, while outside in an on-off Texas rain the jealous lesbian girl Maggie beats the shit out of little boy Ephraim, a couple hours after the two girls had come upon him while he’s fishing at Marion Lake.

Hidden in the woods. With his rusty Radio Flyer wagon carrying his lunch. Pole and bent nail and “bit of fatback from (his sister) Celia’s slop jar” that everybody called feeding, not fishing.

Maggie took his pole. She made a hook out of Ruby’s bobby pin, dug up an earthworm, caught the first ever catfish “and popped his head on a smooth stone”, then “flicked out her jackknife and split him down the center and ripped out his insides.”

Cooked him in a fire right there by the lake.

Crows don’t have yellow eyes they are usually ink black at least in the adults. But their cousin grackles do. And I guess I do.

 

img_1562

*   *   *

 

I missed the boat. I get how this saying can have double meanings. Was pretty disappointed. This morning I was supposed to go out on a dive boat with my dive group DIVERSe Orlando to see the big goliath groupers who migrate up through Jupiter, Florida this time of year.

Yep another year winding down… Fall is coming.

Last week at the North Miami gym I ran into my past “situation”. We hadn’t seen each other or spoken since May. I almost left before he could notice me. I joked, “I took the wedding cake back.” He smiled wide before he could help himself. I got out of there quick.

By the time I called to register for the Goliath Grouper dive, the boat was full no exceptions.  Damn.

I accepted the lesson.

But still pouted a little.

Never seen one of those goliath groupers. They’re pretty rare, and I imagine the biggest ones can open their mouths and swallow you whole.

But they’re like big friendly dogs. Kind of. So I hear.

Instead I took myself up to freedive the Blue Heron Bridge again in Riviera Beach.

bridge1

© J. Manos

I’m not homeless but I love hanging out under the bridge. This bridge connects the barrier island to the mainland. Lots of sea life under that Bridge.

I’m not homeless but I like hanging out under the bridge. (School of Atlantic spadefish.) © J. Manos

I’m not homeless but I like hanging out under the bridge. (School of Atlantic spadefish.) © J. Manos

One thing: You sure have to get in the water during the slack time before and after high tide, otherwise –

I found out.

The full-on high tide current is so strong it’s like fighting a hard windstorm on land. I got to the first set of concrete pillars.

“Windstorm” during full high tide current © J. Manos

“Windstorm” underwater during full high tide current. © J. Manos

I had to hold on just to keep the current from pushing me away.

Holding on sideways in a strong current under the Blue Heron Bridge. © J. Manos

Holding on sideways in a strong current under the Blue Heron Bridge. © J. Manos

I have a vivid imagination and as I hung on suspended horizontally I felt like one of those old black-and-white cartoon characters holding onto the edge of a building, feet and legs out sideways in mid-air as a tornado blows, or somebody is yelling their lungs out at you.

Still I squeezed out 12 freedives.

A couple times I did something I was admonished never to do without specialized training.

Don’t go into any structure.

I tucked my head and torso partway into a gap between two pillars – just to look closer at the schools of fish.

It was just a little ways.

Hitting my head under the overhang - won't do that again. © J. Manos

Hitting my head under the overhang – won’t do that again. © J. Manos

But one pulse of the current pushed me up a few feet. I bumped my head and caught a small abrasion on my stomach as a reminder. That’s how you get stuck or entangled and drowned.

Don’t get stuck. © J. Manos

Don’t get stuck. © J. Manos

I turned around, scooped up a clear glass bottle and some plastic straws on the bottom and powered back against the current to where I’d entered.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

A young mullet was quivering on his side on the tawny-green bottom, flashing silver and white and really standing out, a hook through his back attached to a steel leader and line. He had a few open lacerations maybe bites or something from a passing cuda or some other fish who said, um nah.

Mullet expiring on hook as bait, with lacerations from a passing fish, maybe a barracuda? © J. Manos

Mullet expiring on hook as bait, with lacerations from a passing fish, maybe a barracuda? © J. Manos

Got out of the water to wait for the next high tide.

The Sun rotated across the afternoon sky.

I dozed off in my car, sweated, absorbed the heat and the bright yellow sunlight and the green of the tropical trees and grass and varying blues of water luxuriously, got out, walked, thought, waited.

© J. Manos

Fishing pier to the north of the Blue Heron Bridge, Riviera Beach, FL. © J. Manos

The next high tide was due right before 4p.

The second set of dives 38 of them, in and around those concrete structures.

That bridge you drive over? Check out what it looks like underwater, anchored into the Earth by giant concrete pillars, barren above and encrusted with barnacles, algae, sea plants, and sponges below.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Still recovering from recent damage to my lungs

Frustrated at my diminished lung capacity.

Determined to practice and increase my time.

That CO2 burn inside your chest is urgent as you run out of air.

Air is remarkable.

I’ll write about air – just air –  someday.

Yesterday down in Broward County not far from my apartment a 14-foot beaked whale beached himself and stayed alive for 20 minutes on the sand then died.

© J. Manos

Workers and marine mammal rescue volunteers attempting to remove the expired beaked whale. © J. Manos

He looked like a dark-skinned XL dolphin just with warthog teeth sticking out from either side of his lower jaw.

© J. Manos

Beaked whales have warthog teeth. © J. Manos

People don’t know much about beaked whales. They’re rarely seen.

One thing people do know. Beaked whales are the world kings of freediving.  They can hold their breath and freedive deeper and longer than any other oxygen-breathing mammal known.

They’ve now been tracked down to nearly 10,000 feet (!), and can hold their breath for at least 138 minutes ((2 hours 18 minutes) (!!)

Since depth pressure is so intense underwater, some marine mammals have rib cages that can fold down to reduce the collapse of air-filled spaces like in their lungs.

But how they overcome high-pressure nervous syndrome, where you go into convulsions, is a mystery.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Why do whales beach themselves?

Why not just die out in the ocean?  Why come onto land?

And that far out in the ocean, how do they know which way is land, or how do they choose which land to go to when they’ve never been to land,  and at what point do they make that clear determination of suicide and lock in their navigation coordinates with a laser-sharp sense of purpose?

It’s known that whales beach themselves when they get sick, or are injured by the noise of oil drilling seismic testing or navy sonar booms.

But again, why land?

Why swim all those miles, maybe hundreds of miles, to get onto land?

Only to expire in a matter of minutes on land.  They breathe air. Is it because, a long, long time ago, eons ago, they used to live on land, and had hands and feet?

As they arrive into the shallows, what are those last few moments?

Are they scared? Or nervous?

Do they have second thoughts – is that last moment like jumping off a bridge for one of us?

Or are they single-mindedly overcome with adrenaline and determination.

It takes some turbo to power their bodies onto shore.

My first whale sighting is one of the rarest whales, and he was dead.

He had cross-hatch markings and keloid scars on his lower flank as if from an industrial fishing net.

© J. Manos

Did an industrial fishing net cause this scarring? © J. Manos

At the Bridge during late afternoon high tide I dived and dived, working on my lungs, my lungs burning, determined to get back up to breaking a minute in my dynamic apnea – holding my breath while actively diving.

Ultimately I want to be able to hold my breath for at least 3 and a half or even 4 minutes diving diving in the ocean.

When I got my Freediver Level I Certification I could do 3 minutes static in the pool and 1:10 dynamic in the open ocean.

Today I finally hit 1:05…  burning. Getting better.

Finally broke a minute again holding my breath while dynamic diving. © J. Manos

Finally broke a minute again holding my breath while dynamic diving. © J. Manos

It’s hard to describe this panic-inducing burn inside your chest that you work to control.

Imagine being down 100 feet and losing the ability to hold your breath any longer as you kick back up. And you give in, give up, and flood.

A fishing pier parallels the Blue Heron Bridge for a few hundred yards and dead ends in the water before the boat channel.

Between the bridge and the pier I hung out in the no current slack, catching my breath, looking forward to more dives, even as my GoPro camera battery died out.

Late afternoon shadows were growing longer.

A persistent fish crow was cawing. Fish crows don’t “caw caw,” or are as loud and high-pitched as American crows, the kind most people know. Single calls of aaww, or nuuuuh. More low-grade agitated constant. Nasal.

Their voices do not feel bad. They kind of fill your skin and body’s background after a while. Until they get up close and go too long and you pay attention.

I think they love to hear themselves squawk.

“How a Fish Crow sounds up in the palm fronds on a hot South Florida morning.”

This crow up on the bridge kept making noise.

At the end of the pier, years of snarled up fishing line and hooks and lures caught in the concrete forces. Will be there for a long time.

Before Texas, when I was little living in the rural Midwest and didn’t know better I set a leghold trap on top a wooden fence post, I guess thinking I’d catch a raccoon or possum. Even when your ass ethnic trash and don’t fit anywhere or talk to nobody you do some things that are custom and culture “out in the country”.

The next afternoon I came back to find a crow hanging upside down, his foot almost severed from the steel jaws.

He’d probably been hanging upside down all night long and all day. He kept his head upright and looked at me.

I did not know what to do.

I shot him in the head with a pellet gun and his brains oozed out like hamburger meat.

From above a white plastic bag blew into the water.

I swam over and grabbed it.

I looked up.  Fishing rods were sticking over the railing but no faces.

Monofilament lines streamed into the water around me.

A face appeared and looked down. Black dude, late 20s, big black t-shirt with big white letters like we used to wear in 90s NYC. Shit goes out and comes back.

What’s it like to have a human face emerge in the water down there where you are fishing, where you see nothing but water, and look up at you and talk to you?

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Ay. Your plastic bag blew in the water.

It wasn’t me.

It came from your corner.

Shrugged.

Man when sea turtles swallow that shit it clogs their guts. They can’t take a shit or nothing. It takes a long time and they rupture and die from the inside.

He just looked down at me, then looked at his line.

I swam off, kind of feeling like there was still too much work to do.

My mind, which never stays still (except underwater), then thought of all the killings – that people do to each other.

Near shore under the eastern end of the bridge, as I walked out of the water two young boys kneeling on one of the bridge’s concrete feet asked if I could bring up a fish they saw.

We just want to see hm.

The late day sunlight. Their wet caramel skin firing with their youth’s furnace.

Naah Im gonna leave him there but you can take this beer can.

I handed them a beer can that was floating nearby.

Bahama Sea Star in the sand and Bearded Fireworm crawling over beer can. © J. Manos

Bahama Sea Star in the sand and Bearded Fireworm crawling over beer can. © J. Manos

Now take that to the trash and go back to your mama before you fall in.

Because a fish will swallow it and choke?

Yeah, I said, giving in to the generalization. The basic point mattered.

Y’all can learn to dive too you know, I said.

Back at my car in the parking lot, I loaded up my rinsed-off gear.

The fish crow was overhead – on the light pole now.

Fish Crow Up On Top Street Pole. © J. Manos

Fish Crow up on top street pole. © J. Manos

Really running his mouth, low grade, agitated, repetitive, persistent. I looked up.

Looking up at Fish Crow.

Looking up at Fish Crow.

I went to take a piss in the modular bathroom at the north end of the park.

A white guy was taking cell phone pics of many live large lobsters he had caught while diving.

He had them lined up on the sidewalk. Their legs and antennaes waved.

They didn’t want to stay in line.  Spiny lobsters, you know, the kind you see in Florida and the Caribbean. They don’t have claws.

Then grabbing each one, for some reason he snapped off their arms at the first joint I could hear them crack then ripped their bodies in half, twisting them into two pieces alive where our waists would be and threw their top halves into the water.

He kept the tails. What was that moment exactly like, that pressured squeeze and twist then ripped in half alive at the waist, your head and chest and last conscious thoughts spiraling out into the water and sinking down to the bottom and oblivion?

Spiny lobsters, torn in half and tossed. Half our bodies are missing. © J. Manos

Spiny lobsters, torn in half and tossed. Half our bodies are missing. © J. Manos

A thick black woman old school for sure sitting in a nice car was fussing at her husband or boyfriend and his friend. Her car stereo was blasting an old school song and artist who I had to look up later. Betty Wright sang it.

I don’t even like instant coffee

So instant love definitely will not do, honey

I mean, common sense oughtta tell you

That when you’re already down on the ground

You can’t pick up nothin’ but dirt

Lady in car yelling at 2 dudes. © J. Manos

Lady in car yelling at 2 dudes. © J. Manos


Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART TWO

Dive Log 24: Message in a Bottle

Off the coast of Hollywood, Florida
Sunday, 21 August 2016

Shoredive

19 freedives

Crazy how one person can cause a lot of damage.

I live in an apartment on the 5th floor of a No Smoking building, but one person on the 3rd floor was smoking cigarettes and his smoke was coming through my vents, making it hard to breathe.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

I kept the windows open and the fans on but still, for a few weeks, each breath dragged secondhand cigarette smoke into my lungs.

All my life I’ve worked to protect my body from others.

It was a battle to get him to stop but finally we got to his off-site landlord who gave him an ultimatum ‘cut it out or get out’.

My lungs burned for 3 weeks, and I’m just now getting over it.

I really felt it on the last Critical Mass bike ride in downtown Miami.

© GPRC

© GPRC

Smoking is even more dangerous for divers.

When you’re scuba diving, smoking puts you at much higher risks of decompression, lung injury, toxicity, and more. And when freediving, all you have is your lungs’ ability to hold oxygen in order to stay alive!  We need our lungs!

As I kicked out from shore on today’s Sunday freedive I thought again how our world is divided into takers vs givers.

Man, throughout my daily actions I try to consider my impact on others and the Earth, and adjust to lessen that.

But takers go through life like one of those giant forest shredding monsters in a Japanese anime flick, chewing up and destroying anybody and everything in their path and spitting out the remains. And if the zombies are called on it, they become even more dangerous and unhinged. Call it Trumpism.

I get tired of fighting and really just want to be left alone.

Stepping into the water and pulling my fins on I left the sunbathers and Sunday beach folks and kicked out about half a mile.

The sea was calm but viz was only about 18 feet.

In Hollywood, Florida the first reef line is not much of a reef anymore, mostly sponges, sea fans and gorgonians, with only a few stony corals here and there.

I have no idea what it used to be like.

We get used to little.

A brown flask bottle glinted on the surface like a spill of Pepsi.

I swam over to it then ducked under and came up beneath it. It seemed like an old bottle, had floated forever.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

You don’t really see brown glass bottles in that flask shape, right?

Hell what do I know – I stopped dranking back in the mid 90s. I loved my half-pints, but I don’t ever remember a brown flask bottle.

Since I was just starting my dives I had to leave the bottle floating.

Somebody ‘s trash from somewhere and some time.

I may have mentioned to you that when I was a little muthafucka I dreamed craved wanted needed anywhere but where I was (so stuck) and sometimes in the afternoons I’d sit holed up and draw blue ink pictures of a dude on a tiny deserted island way out in the middle of the ocean, his head and back leaning against a lone coconut tree and the sun setting off in the distance.

As water lapped around the small island, a capped (corked?) bottle floated in the waves nearby. You could never tell whether the dude sitting there on that island even saw it.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

His eyes were always heavy-lidded, half closed. Maybe he was chilling, or sleeping, or both. The sunset and the quiet tap of the waves was the thing.

I drew that a lot. I was not a very good drawer but hey.

I did 19 freedives, my new Mares dive watch (they call it a dive computer but it looks like a watch to me) in freediver mode somehow watched me and kept track of my depth, duration below, time of each surface interval, and number of dives, applying some kind of technology inconceivable when I was a kid and something I still don’t understand now.

© J. Manos

Checking my dive watch during a surface interval. © J. Manos

Off the beach you have to swim pretty far out to get to any real depth.

The deepest I got on this shoredive was 23 feet.

My lungs struggled to hold my breath.

Underwater they were just burning with urgency even by 30 seconds and I’d have to kick back up.

I stayed calm above my frustration.

Was I mad? Hell yeah.

The longest I could hold my breath today was 43 seconds.

When I got my Freediving Level I certification I could hold my breath in the pool (static— (not moving)) 3 minutes pretty easily, and 1:10 while diving in the open ocean (dynamic).

I should be going up in my times not down.

Once again my body has sustained some type of injury and I’ll just have to rebuild.

Only saw a few corals. Small foot-high rounded corals.

Mustard Hill Coral with psychotic Christmas Tree Worm in upper right who looks like that cave-thing from the Aliens prequel Prometheus and yanks his head and neck back into the coral when you approach. © J. Manos

Mustard Hill Coral with psychotic Christmas Tree Worm in upper right who looks like that cave-thing from the Aliens prequel Prometheus and yanks his head and neck back into the coral when you approach. © J. Manos

Very healthy Smooth Star Coral with a Cocoa Damselfish living with him. © J. Manos

Very healthy Smooth Star Coral with a Cocoa Damselfish living with him. © J. Manos

Thankfully they were not bleaching, though one, who I’m told is called a Smooth Star Coral, was showing signs of paling, which is a precursor to bleaching, with old mortality death on the outskirts and a ring of algae. Not a good sign.

Smooth Star Coral paling at top, with the bottom corals around it dead. (Compare to above pic of healthy Smooth Star Coral.) The old mortality is everywhere you see that fleshy algae to starting to grow over it. © J. Manos

Smooth Star Coral paling at top, with the bottom corals around it dead. (Compare to above pic of healthy Smooth Star Coral.) The old mortality is everywhere you see that fleshy algae to starting to grow over it. © J. Manos

Didn’t see a lot of fish. I did see a big parrotfish, but like all parrotfishes he kind of acted like a bitch.

I don’t know where they get this attitude but it’s not cute.

Anyhow I was glad to see him. They’re good for the health of the reef because they eat algae that threatens corals.

Nice parrotfish. A lot of them have been killed off by spearfishermen throughout the coral reefs of Florida and the Caribbean. Note to self: Need to start using red filter so we don’t lose all the brilliant colors. © J. Manos

Large parrotfish. A lot of them have been killed off by spearfishermen throughout the coral reefs of Florida and the Caribbean. Note to self: Need to start using red filter so we don’t lose all the brilliant colors. © J. Manos

Past the first reef line the sand plain opened up again and while I love open country it did feel pretty barren after a while.

If I had kept going farther I would have reached the second reef.

But hell if I kept going I might reach the Bahamas or Africa and my ass was getting tired just as a southeast wind came and started whitecapping the surface.

Have you ever thought about that space right before a wind comes?

I mean, a wind does have a beginning, and in the last moment before it starts, before it arrives, the air is what it was, what it has been, for one last moment before becoming something entirely different, something else.

I thought of Texas and how those cold fronts would come down across the Plains from Canada, usually starting sometime in late October or early November.

One moment it’s calm and balmy warm, and then, boom it hits and everything is stirred up and tossed around, even cars driving north on I-45 from Houston to Dallas.

And out in Texas people are aware of those weather changes ahead of time.

Out in the sea, little weather events can spring up without you being aware. Remember last year when those two Florida teenagers were out in their parents’ boat and got hit by a sudden squall and were never seen again? Must always be on guard.

A couple times a speeding boat passed.

It appears they saw my dive flag, though one came a little closer than they should have.

You gotta be careful of drunk idiots in speeding boats large and small.

© J. Manos

Speedboat idiots, likely drunk. © J. Manos

Sound travels far under water but because of water’s characteristics you can’t tell from which direction.

Recreational boat engines kind of sound like chainsaws underwater, except it feels like you can feel the buzzing too, like it’s all-enveloping.

I looked back to shore and smiled at how small the lifeguard stand was.

I had to look for it.

I like to be left alone.

Sometimes I think they think they’re cops.

Can you spot the lifeguard stand? © J. Manos

Can you spot the lifeguard stand? © J. Manos

I angled my return trajectory so I would re-enter land at the farthest point between the 2 lifeguard stands.

I hate to be stared at.

Still about a quarter mile out I noticed a green beer bottle half buried in the sand bottom at about 18 feet depth.

© J. Manos

Heineken beer bottle on the bottom, half buried in sand. © J. Manos

I dove down to get it.

“Heineken Mexico City” it said in white letters.

Wonder where it went to get here.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

If I had not touched it, it’s possible that the glass beer bottle’s physical residues might have become part of the geological record.

But then, isn’t glass made from sand? Hell what do I know.

I dumped out its sand. It bubbled into the water like sparkly beer foam.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

I brought that bottle back to the crowded Sunday shore, slipped out of the sea like a dripping black lizard ignoring all the beach people and dropped it nosedive through the hole of the blue recycle bin.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos