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

Dive Log 22 & 23: This Sea Turtle Reminded Me of Bullwinkle, That Snowflake Moray Eel Did Not Bite Young Dude’s Face, and Erik’s Camera is an Underwater Hubble Telescope

Catacomb Reef and Boynton Comb Reef
off Boynton Beach, FL
23 July 2016

Scuba dive: max depths 70′ and 64′

Don’t know why this sea turtle reminded me of Bullwinkle when I ain’t thought of Bullwinkle since what the 80s? © J. Manos

Don’t know why this sea turtle reminded me of Bullwinkle when I haven’t thought of Bullwinkle since what the 80s? © J. Manos

How Much Color We Don’t See!

I have a question: Why do these sea creatures, these corals, sponges, fish, crustaceans, mollusks etc., create so much explosive color down in the depths where there is little and eventually no sunlight?

Beyond 10 feet underwater, our human eyes start to lose ability to see colors, with red going first, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and at last violet.

Fish inside giant barrel sponge. © Erik Denson/Founder of DiVERSe Orlando

Fish inside giant barrel sponge. © Erik Denson/Founder of DiVERSe Orlando

What is it that they see? What are they expressing, and to whom? Clearly not to us!

And they have been doing this for millions and millions of years, long before we were around.

At depth of about 60 feet, for some reason we could still see the bright yellow of this juvenile Spanish hogfish. They turn red when they get older, though to our eyes they would look silver at that depth. That band of silver-gray across the top of his body is likely red in sunlight. © J. Manos

At depth of about 60 feet, for some reason we could still see the bright yellow of this juvenile Spanish hogfish. They turn red when they get older, though to our eyes they would look silver at that depth. That band of silver-gray across the top of his body is likely red in sunlight. © J. Manos

But when a photographer uses a light or flash that has the characteristics of the sun, the real colors are revealed, and they are extraordinary. Why?

Underwater reefs remind me of far-flung galaxies photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

© NASA Hubble Space Telescope

© NASA Hubble Space Telescope

Spiny lobster and wife chilling at home. © Erik Denson/DIVERSe Orlando

Spiny lobster and wife chilling at home. © Erik Denson/DIVERSe Orlando

Giant anemone. © Erik Denson. Erik is the Electrical Chief Engineer at the Kennedy Space Center. He is also founder of the black dive club DIVERSe Orlando.

Giant anemone. © Erik Denson. Erik is the Electrical Chief Engineer at the Kennedy Space Center. He is also founder of the black dive club DIVERSe Orlando.

*  *  *

With my scuba training review course finished, I finally felt up to speed to go on a 2 tank boat dive with DIVERSe Orlando.

I stepped off the boat holding the dive flag the boat’s dive master had handed me. I was to hand it to Aubra once in the water.

Somebody previous had not properly attached the coiled yellow rope and it came off as I hit. I watched sickened at the sight of it sinking down into the green water below.

Damnit even when you try so hard to not cause any harm, shit happens.

Now that rope could be a hazard to marine life down there for a long time unless some other diver eventually sees it and brings it back up.

I was pissed but had to pay attention because the whole crew was already descending to 70 feet.

Descending to 70’ feet on the Catacomb Reef. © J. Manos

Descending to 70’ feet on the Catacomb Reef. © J. Manos

© GPRC

© GPRC

Catacomb Reef at the bottom sprawled outward, every inch filled with life and color.

I had forgotten the red filter for my GoPro. Everything I filmed would be greenish.

I leveled out, hurriedly adjusting my buoyancy so I did not touch the reef at all.

One of my fins did kick up some sediment. Not good. I moved upward to level out horizontally.

My fins accidentally touched the reef and kicked up sediment. I will do whatever it takes to not let my fins touch the reef again. © J. Manos

My fins accidentally touched the reef and kicked up sediment. I will do whatever it takes to not let my fins touch a reef again. © J. Manos

A main rule of diving is to master your buoyancy and never touch the reef or any marine life.

No bleaching was seen.

Out in Australia, 93% of the Great Barrier Reef has bleached out. A third of it has died completely.

It’s likely only a matter of time before our reefs are hit severely too.

Considering this, the rough talking dive master lady on the boat who sounded like cigarettes said: “We’re on the precipice.” She wasn’t talking about underwater topography.

As I got my buoyancy under control and we began swimming a few feet above this underwater civilization, the last of my surface-world thoughts came:

Diving at the end of the world…

Later, back on board, a diver from another group said a 7 foot hammerhead shark rushed him. Then swerved away at the last minute.

I grinned and didn’t say a word, other than: You know they’re endangered around the world, right?

Erik taking a pic of his wife Aubra. They’re the founders of the black dive club in Orlando. They love each other, they love the ocean, and they love people. © J. Manos

Erik taking a pic of his wife Aubra. They’re the founders of the black dive club in Orlando. They love each other, they love the ocean, and they love people. © J. Manos

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Ron taking pics of a spiny lobster and his wife. This is what a lobster looks like at home chilling, listening to music and whatnot, before Red Lobster (or some consumptive diver) comes and snatches him away.

Ron taking a pic of a spiny lobster couple. © J. Manos

Spiny lobster and wife, at Boynton Cove Reef. © Erik Denson

Spiny lobster and wife, at Boynton Cove Reef. This is what lobsters look like when they’re at home chilling, listening to music and whatnot, before Red Lobster (or some consumptive diver) comes and snatches them away. © Erik Denson

Young Dude Standing on Head by Snowflake Moray Eel. © J. Manos

Young Dude Standing on Head by Snowflake Moray Eel. © J. Manos

Caption: Snowflake moray eel getting his headshots done. © J. Manos

Caption: Snowflake moray eel getting his headshots done. © J. Manos

Snowflake moray eel, photographed by Erik Denson.

Snowflake moray eel, photographed by Erik Denson.

Snowflake moray eel, photographed by Erik Denson.

Snowflake moray eel, photographed by Erik Denson. Look how every inch of the water is filled with abundance and diversity.


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

Dive Log 20 & 21: Diving My First Wreck and More Than Doubling My Previous Depth

95’ sunken “Jay Scutti” tugboat and Oakland Ledges
off Fort Lauderdale, FL
21 July 2016

Boat scuba dive: max depths 75’ and 33’

I was actually kind of nervous as the boat motored to a stop. Day 2 of my Scuba Dive Open Water Review Course, and my first deep dive ever.

Even though I got my PADI Open Water C card last August, I had never scuba dived off a boat.

The peppy blonde dive master dove down to wrap the anchor chain onto the sunken boat resting upright on the ocean sand bottom 75 feet below.

When she came back up, the captain gave the rules and said “alright everybody in the pool”.

I tried to remember everything from Day 1 of my crash review course yesterday.

I did the giant stride off the back of the boat, holding my right hand over the regulator in my mouth. And I was in.

My head bobbed below the magnified surface, and came back up.

My dive instructor signaled for me to follow him down the rope.

We had to hold onto the rope so the current wouldn’t push us away from the boat below.

The visibility today was excellent – 60 feet.

I pre-equalized, and repeatedly equalized every few feet hoping I would not have a depth pressure problem, which would mean I’d either have to abort my dive or face injury to my middle ear.

My dive instructor had told me not to concern myself with feeling rushed by others coming down the rope, to focus on safety, so that is what I did. And I wasn’t having a problem.

The hulk of the boat appeared down there and loomed larger as we got farther down the rope.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Then we let go and swam to it.

I sunk for a moment to the sand bottom and looked at my dive watch.

75 feet.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

I would have smiled if I didn’t have that big ass regulator in my mouth.

I checked my air. I was sucking air – dive lingo for somebody who uses up air quickly.

For a moment I looked around. The boat captain has said we were in the Great Mojave Desert. Aside from the dead but now living boat, nothing but sand bottom as far as you could see.

I lifted up to practice horizontal buoyancy and began swimming alongside the wreck.

The entire ship was encrusted with life. Schools of small fish flitted through.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Looking inside the cabin, which felt exactly like looking in the doorway of an old abandoned house out on the plains or desert, I almost expected to get a whiff of cooler, dank air. Fish were chilling.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Cool blue light shafted through the windows, which were just open squares now, glass panes long since removed.

Watch your air watch your air watch your air.

I did watch my air, but still I sucked it down and the captain had demanded that we be at the surface with a minimum of 500 psi left in our tanks.

As you end any scuba dive and ascend, providing you did not go past your No Decompression Limit, you have to do a normal safety stop of at least 3 minutes at a depth of between 20 feet and 15 feet.

This is so all the nitrogen your body has absorbed at depth pressure below has time to off-gas out of your bloodstream.

(Freedivers don’t have to do this because we are not breathing compressed air, and can simply shoot back up to the surface.) Scuba – you gotta be careful.

I did make a mistake.

My air ran out quicker than even I expected, and in order to save enough to be at the surface with 500 psi, my instructor motioned for me to breathe off his alternate air source until we got back up.

Yes I need to be careful. I’ll get better at lowering my air consumption. Bottom time is limited as it is, and it goes quickly!

I stared down at the sunken boat.

The freediver in me yearned to get good enough so I can reach that depth on one breath!

But scuba is def cool. You can stay under a lot longer. Just gotta be careful.

Remember your body has become hooked up to artificial life support mechanisms, with their own mathematical configurations that must be followed exactly, all of which changes everything should anything go wrong.

Earlier I’d had to work through an itch on my eye, which I could not scratch.

Again I thought of Mars. When they go, they’ll have to be inside that compressed life support system forever and ever, with no exposure of any of their body to the elements ever.
I thought: would it be like diving underwater forever?

Least here, your body, your head, your skin, can touch the water.

 

*   *   *

 

After we got on board, the captain took the boat over to the Oakland Ledges, and we did a reef dive to 33 feet.

This is what you call a 2-tank dive. We had been at the dock by 8 a.m., and were back at the marina shortly after noon.

I actually saw a few baby staghorn corals growing up from the bottom. This is very good because with the massive die-off of staghorns, I was assuming that we were just going to have to try to hold onto whatever adults were still alive.

© J. Manos

Baby staghorn coral growing up out of the ocean bottom: a new life that hopefully will last a long time through the struggles we are forcing upon the ocean? © J. Manos


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

Dive Log 19: Back to Scuba: The Industrial Might of the Continent Comes to a Head at its Shipping Ports

John U. Lloyd State Park
Fort Lauderdale, FL
20 July 2016

Shore scuba dive

OK I’m confronting my scuba diving intimidation.

Time to get over what’s holding me back – mainly understanding all the technical equipment.

Freediving is so much simpler to understand, and to my mind less dangerous because it doesn’t involve all that complicated math, computers, dive tables, chemistry, and diving equipment.

I mean I had to ask my son how to use the toaster oven.

But almost all the divers I know are scuba divers and I keep missing out on dives.

I joined the black dive club DIVERSe Orlando, and they go every couple weeks.

They’re going again on a boat dive off Boynton Beach, in Palm Beach County on Saturday.

At their recommendation I took a review course to fill in the gaps of what I don’t understand.

The main 3 things I feel I need to work on right now are:

1. Understanding the dive computer
2. Improving my equalizing technique
3. Buoyancy control

With a new instructor from Sea Dreams Scuba, I did a shore dive off the John U. Lloyd State Park, east of the Port Everglades shipping channel and the Fort Lauderdale airport.

Even though the sky is sunny, conditions have been rough the last few days, with blowing wind and waves.

Turns out that a storm far out in the Atlantic can squall water conditions here.

I keep learning details.

I admit it was cool to be able to breathe underwater. Kind of strange after freediving.

Haven’t scuba dived since New Year’s Day.

Saw a bunch of queen conchs.

On the outside, their big shells look crusted and dead as they sit on the bottom, but if you turn them over their upset thing-mouth and bright pink inside shell tell you otherwise.

Why do conchs have such bright, luxuriously pink shells inside, smooth, polished and perfected?

Clearly this preference for pink interior decorating is something they have evolved into, and are doing only for themselves.

Scuba instructor holding up a Queen Conch in all her opalescent under-shell luxuriousness. © J. Manos

Scuba instructor holding up a Queen Conch in all her pink opalescent under-shell luxuriousness. I need to use the red filter for my GoPro! © J. Manos

My first boat dive is tomorrow. I’m going to go far deeper than I’ve ever gone (which was 31 feet on my freedive test on April 3rd).

As I came back to shore I stared at the giant shipping cranes west of the park.

Just like when I was in Seattle, walking north along the waterfront where the railroad terminated into giant grain silos, I felt again the industrial might and output of a continent coming to a head behind me, and expelling outward into the world’s seas.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos


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

Dive Log 16: Just Sand Blowing Underwater

Hollywood Beach, FL
Sunday afternoon, 3 July 2016

Freedive

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When they say low viz, it can be like a sandstorm out West on America’s deserts or plains, but underwater.

You can hear the grains of sand hitting your mask and GoPro camera housing.

What’s interesting is that the surface was calm.

You can have two different worlds happening at the same time.

The day was cloudy.

I was feeling a little off this weekend, so I just had to dive.

I went back out to where the shark came.

But “my” 12 foot hammerhead shark is probably 1,000 miles away by now.

Hope he’s ok.

I swam outward in a swirl of low visibility sightlessness and blended primary colors – teal and taupe.

I am sure there were other animals were out there with me, but I didn’t see them.

I have no idea if they saw me. I heard the water in my ears and the sand grains.

Did you know that sharks can hear you from miles away?

It is funny how much more I know about the sea now. About inside the sea.

When I was writing and completing my upcoming novel Her Blue Watered Streets, I learned a lot, but that only led me to this.

A jumping off point to something more. Details inside details.

Which is great because artistically it allows this blogstory Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep to be its own distinct literary project.


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

Dive Log 15: Diving with Orlando After the Orlando Massacre

Blue Heron Bridge
Rivera Beach, FL
25 June 2016

Scuba Dive

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© J. Manos

After a couple weeks of national trauma following the June 12th massacre at the Orlando nightclub, DIVERSe Orlando hosted a dive down here in South Florida at the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach, Palm Beach County.

School of Bermuda chub © J. Manos

School of Bermuda chub. © J. Manos

Atlanta Underwater Explorers also came and I drove up to meet them.

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© J. Manos

Both orgs are chapters of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

People were kind of quiet but the water visibility was good.

A juvenile french angelfish hanging out with sergeant majors n a pillar crevice of the Blue Heron Bridge. © J. Manos

A juvenile French angelfish hanging out with sergeant majors n a pillar crevice of the Blue Heron Bridge. © J. Manos

I was the only freediver, and of course had to regularly bounce back up for air, but it was funny later when Dave, one of the scuba divers, said he happened to look over and for a moment thought I had lost my tank. He didn’t even know I was freediving. Guess I was holding my breath good.

Bahama or Cushion Sea Star. © J. Manos

Bahama or Cushion Sea Star. © J. Manos

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

I like the group and will join. Orlando is the closest black dive club to Miami. They come down here a lot. I need to commit to really learning scuba equipment.

I much prefer the simplicity and natural athletics of freediving. But it’s true that when you can breathe for extended periods underwater you can see more. And hang out underwater the whole time with other scuba divers.

Erik and Aubra, leaders of DIVERSe Orlando. © J. Manos

Erik and Aubra, leaders of DIVERSe Orlando. © J. Manos

Two Korean members told me about the haenyeo, or sea women, of the South Korean island province of Jeju, who freedive for several hours a day gathering shelled creatures from crevices in the ocean floor. The woman said that the number of Korean sea women divers was dwindling and the tradition, which is badass and hundreds of years old, is dying out.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos


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

Dive Log 14: “I Accidentally Took a Pic with a Great Hammerhead Shark”

Off the South Florida Coastline
28 June 2016

So – excuse me – recently I was sitting on the toilet at night scanning through some GoPro dive footage.

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Having swum solo a few hundred yards out, freediving in only about 20 feet of water, I had been trying to take an underwater “selfie” with some cool gray triggerfish coming up to me, their bug eyes swiveling forward. Early evening shore dive.

A large body slid into the frame.

My heart jumped.

Silhouette though the light blue-green South Florida water

10-12 feet long. Sickle-shaped dorsal fin, scythe-shaped tail.

I never knew he was there.

Frame-Shark 3 May 7, 2016

Broadside the Great Hammerhead shark moved precisely, and slowed.

In a moment low-angling sunrays glinted off his flat brown hammer head.

Coming behind he turned toward me. You can see his tail curving.

His face must have come up right behind my legs, almost to the bottoms of my finned feet.

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I actually have some frame grab “selfies” with the shark’s body back there and my stupid face having no idea. Smh.

shark

There is a moment like suspended animation as he pauses.

What was he thinking? What was he doing there right behind me, staring at me??

And then, in the video, he’s gone.

How had I participated in such intimacy, without even knowing it?

So I guess I’ve “seen” my first “real” shark while diving.

My head throbbed. I couldn’t sleep all night.

I’ve dreamed about this (feared it also) since I was little.

So many feelings.

What would have occurred if I had turned and saw him close?

I’m sure I would have instinctively freaked and caused a commotion, swallowing water, trying to get away. We have certain animal instincts or mythological impulses.

Would the commotion have excited him (or her) to tear into me with that big mouth and those big white teeth?

IMG_8685

Or scared him away, like me, in the moment?

I know how to steel myself down into a situation.

I’ve had near-death situations before.

If he had come for me, I would have fought him but not faulted him. After my initial panic.

I am moved to look at language. I would not have considered it an “attack”.

He was just “doing him”, in his 400 million-year old perfection.

People kill 100 million sharks a year.

So many Great Hammerhead sharks have been killed by people they’re on the IUCN Red List.

He is not like a person whose mind has become poisoned and virulent.

Would I have screamed? Highly unlikely. Probably at most there would have been one surprised yelp, then soundless, as we tangled. I am not a loud person.

If he had gone too far, and it became clear that this was my new reality and there was nothing else anymore, I probably would have been ok with that too.

It was our bodies, intimately. You adjust to what is happening in the moment. Right here right now. Especially in the sea.

I’ve lived an interesting life anyway, and created work that can change lives beyond mine.

My eyes would have seared into his as he let go and turned and swam away, and I leaked out. Slipped under.

Interesting thing about being out in the ocean. You don’t think about your problems or life or anything. When you’re in the water, there is no reflecting; you’re just present; you just swim and act and react. And absorb.

Teresa Heinz Kerry

Teresa Heinz Kerry

Several years ago at the International Urban Parks Conference in Pittsburgh, I listened to Teresa Heinz Kerry speak about growing up in Mozambique. She talked about how her Portuguese family had learned to live with African wildlife, and didn’t swim at dawn or dusk when sharks were active.

When I entered the water I knew it was approaching what I’ve named shark o’clock, remembering Ms. Heinz Kerry, but I rationalized it was still early evening, not dusk.

And what freediver can resist calm waters?

So what is the mind?

Sojourner Truth said: “It is the mind that makes the body.”

I’m still new to diving. I just buck up my boldness and skills, push against my limits within reason, and learn and adjust through experience as I go along. I know it’s kind of Darwinian, but there’s no substitute for that. NASA’s not saying it but I’m sure they’re counting on a lot of that for the trips to Mars and deep space beyond.

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Looking at this shark visit, the same incident happened whether I knew about it or not. The shark swam up behind me and paused there.

But my reactions would have been different had I known.

And now, knowing about it after the fact?

It’s odd – I feel like my flesh is bonded into his body now. My body should be inside his. Hammerheads are migratory. I think about him out there, traveling the seas.

I know you’re not supposed to dive alone but… the ocean calls me. Deeply.

And my dive partner is not always available.

Will I go back out?

Of course. It’s way too interesting out there.

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

Did the Savior Just Walk Across the Atlantic, and is This Her Sandal? (R.I.P. #Orlando)

Hollywood, Florida and Downtown Miami
19 June 2016

A girl’s rubber sandal stood out in the beach wrack, that pile of sexily-reeking sargassum and other decaying sea plants, creatures and things heaved up onto the South Florida shoreline by the restless Atlantic Ocean.

The rainbow canvas foot strap with the SAVIOR patch was frayed and twisted.

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Rubber is tough for decades. The sandal bristled all along its warped sides with bright white shells like shark’s teeth. Or an island woman’s shell necklace polished fresh as salon toenails.

Something moved. Aliens! A wet and multi-tentacled mouth slithered out of one of the shells, grabbing, then yanked back in. I tried to focus.

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Gooseneck barnacles. I picked up the sandal. Now from a few  shells the mouth-tentacle-grabbing-things slithered in and out.

Out in the open ocean, how had they, as babies, one after the other, chosen this floating rubber sandal as their spaceship and why had they only attached to its sides to colonize and grow?

How long had the sandal been walking across the ocean before finally coming to America and stepping onto land?

Had it circled for years in currents, not yet ready?

So much of the Atlantic story is African.

Now, after all that time, it was a matter of one more night before the beach tractor came raking in the morning. Would the goose barnacles succumb and die overnight, or later in the trash? Some were already still.

On what shore had the sandal first stepped into the water? Waves grab.

What young girl’s life was behind it? She was cute and kind of thick, right? Maybe 11 or 12 years old?

Had she been a young girl running through the Shell oil fields of the Nigerian Delta?

Had she lost her sandal in the Haiti earthquake of January 2010 that killed more than 220,000 people, injured 300,000 and left 1.5 million homeless?

People say Dominicans and Haitians don’t like each other but after the quake I saw a “Con Amor Haiti” mural go up quickly in the Dominican hood of Barrio Obrero in south San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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Maybe she had come from Gabon, where the beaches are still so wild that hippos swag down to the beach to surf.

I doubt she came from the Bahamas; that’s only a day’s bike ride away – if you could bike on water – and she’d clearly been out there a long time. Years.

I wondered about her house. Was her house made of concrete block? Plywood? Did she have a banana tree outside her house with big splaying green leaves?

Maybe her family had been wealthy and lived in a stately house high on a hill with wrought iron and brightly painted walls and a storm had simply caught her sandal.

Did she and her girlfriends have a favorite place to run to and play while giggling and talking about boys? I imagine the footprints their sandals or bare feet left in the dusty or dirt streets.

I think she had a bright white smile and painted toenails and her Ma braided her hair nice.

And how often had she gone down to the beach and looked out over the ocean toward America and pictured herself here? Thoughts of … What is it like? Would she be safe? Would people love her in America, be nice to her? TV made it seem so much danger, but exciting and full of so much too. 

Out in the ocean, on that long journey, those years – what moments?

Taking a break, the sandal surely paused in a patch of floating sargassum, good company, in the legendary Sargasso Sea where yellow, blue and green-lit dolphinfish aka dorado aka mahi mahi hung out, waiting for the next run of flying fish like in The Life of Pi.

At night, what swam below as it bobbed in black water under the moon, stars and Mars?

What were the attached gooseneck barnacles thinking all those years as they stuck their slithering mouths out to catch and eat passing little sea creatures and grow?

How many open ocean storms had slammed the sandal up and down 2-story high swells, and it wasn’t anything to the barnacles?

My ass surely would have puked.

The rainbow-colored foot strap with the SAVIOR patch.

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The young girl back then probably had no idea that on these shores those colors symbolized lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride and rights. Where, recently, 223 miles north of the sandal’s first contact with America, a man got punctured by evil in the inland city of Orlando and shot 102 people at a gay nightclub with an easily-purchased military assault rifle, slaughtering 49 of them, wounding the rest.

It was just a pretty sandal.

A week after mass murder in Orlando, the 91-year old Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami stayed lit in rainbow colors for a brief while longer.

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

After Shark: When that Moon is Full and Mars is Close, Go Swim

Saturday and Sunday, Full Moon
21 and 22 May 2016
Broward County, FL

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

It’s hard to resist flat water. When the sea goes flat it is the quietest oceanic breath inhaled from way out there pulling you to the waterline and in. Almost impossible. Nighttime. Day. Whenever. And you stay. You always think of reasons to say longer.

The water was clear and calm enough that I could see my darker feet on the rippled white sand bottom with the moonlight, and then just the bottom when it got too deep to stand. I didn’t go too far out this time.

Have you ever slept with somebody all night holding each other and it felt like you were inhaling each other’s clean breaths the freshest breaths inhaling exhaling as you slept deep sleeping breaths and you may have even known in your sleeping semi-consciousness that it was the last time you’d spend the night like this and it was pretty perfect in that one moment?

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It was my first swim since that unknown visit two weeks ago by that 12-foot Great Hammerhead shark who came up behind me for a few seconds and paused, staring at me, and I never even knew. (Until my shock upon viewing the GoPro footage later.)

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

Though.

I tried to spark some phosphorescence by waving my hand in the crystal water – not much tonight a couple yellow sparks neon like stars but no more than that.

I tend to forget the little rip current that is sometimes off my beach. It runs diagonally out to sea south of where I like to enter.

Even on the calm night like Saturday I felt it tug and from the reflection of the lights back on shore you could see it streaming outward. I u-turned off its edge and swam back north.

Saturday night was absolutely clear. Not a cloud. The GoPro video setting doesn’t record nighttime that well. At least as far as my non-technological ass can figure out.

Sunday a rainstorm formed lightly over land but blew up big once out there several miles at sea.

The GoPro photo setting on “Night” worked pretty well. It picked up stars lesser seen by the naked eye.

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And of course it picked up the storm, the rising moon, Mars, and the ocean as it reflects to us.

Overnight, early Sunday morning, Mars reached exact opposition with the sun, “meaning the Red Planet, Earth, and the sun were all in a straight line”. On May 30th Mars will be the closest to Earth in 11 years. It’s bright up there in Earth’s sky.

Back near shore you may even sit solid wet in a couple feet of water under the shadow of the low tide bank that protects you from any city lights and in the natural darkness and all that night light from the moon and Mars imagine the ocean primeval, the crystal black water just full of life – but now emptier by all comparisons.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to swim here a couple hundred years ago? Even a hundred years ago??

Shiiiit you’d be bumping into all kind of fish and creatures and things everywhere.

Water’s warm enough for shirtless swims again… as long as you don’t stay out too long you know.


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

Tropical Almendra Memories and Her Blue Watered Streets

Sunday, 14 May 2016
Amelia Earhart Park
Opa-Locka, FL
7 feet above sea level

Reflecting on Her Blue Watered Streets. © J. Manos

Reflecting on Her Blue Watered Streets. © J. Manos

Don’t laugh at my helmet. After riding more than 27,000 miles in my life, I bought a helmet because it was required by the park, aggressively.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

I needed to aggressively blow off some steam. The advanced mountain bike trails of Amelia Earhart Park in Opa-Locka is a good look to do that.

(Random: Opa-Locka can be pretty hood, so it’s nice they have such a big park.)

Look closely to see that crazy iguana on the side of the trail at the top of the first hill.

After a couple hours of up and down and twisting miles of dirt and dust and sweat, where even the little bugs got stuck and perished in my shoulder sweat, I rode down into a hidden opening that struck me with all these memories and feelings.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

I had to stop. I got off my bike. What was that?

It was a good feeling, but one of relationships past.

Memories of having gone through a lot with people I cared about.

A small patch of tropical Caribbean almond trees lined the bend. Next to a sprawl of sea grapes.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

That was what it was. The tropical almendras. Different from what people normally know as almonds in the temperate world, but what I personally know.

Puerto Rico. The tropical almond trees are scattered throughout the northeast coast of Puerto Rico.

I realized these almendras, with their big green leaves – a few turning red like they do – were reminding me of the people I had known in my novel Her Blue Watered Streets. And all the things they felt and went through.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

The book is set in Puerto Rico, and I spent 3 years on and off there learning and “living with” Prescient, Afrodite, Dallas, Malcolm, Jolene, Miss Ninda, the Stingray, the giant leatherback sea turtles, the wild coast of La Selva “The Jungle” …

In addition to 4 years of thinking, crafting and writing.

In real life, they were “just” characters in my book.

Relationships are really what the center of life is about.

Bike helmet and gloves and tropical almond leaves mouldering back into the Earth. Opa-Locka/Miami, Florida. © J. Manos

Bike helmet and gloves and tropical almond leaves mouldering back into the Earth. Opa-Locka/Miami, Florida. © J. Manos

They were all in the past. People I had known.

Soon, when Her Blue Watered Streets is published, many other people will get to know them as well.

That picked up my spirits and I kept riding.

© J. Manos

© J. Manos

South Florida is flat. All the mountain bike hills and twists and turns that beat us up and challenge us in Opa-Locka’s Amelia Earhart Park are constructed by people.

© J. Manos

Dead tractor. © J. Manos

© J. Manos

Dead tractor, teddy bear, and dollface. © J. Manos

Dead tractor, teddy bear and dollface. Little Razorback sign. © J. Manos

Seen-better-days Little Razorback Trail sign. © J. Manos