Off the coast of Hollywood, Florida
Sunday, 21 August 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I dove down to get it.
“Heineken Mexico City” it said in white letters.
Wonder where it went to get here.
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.
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.