Fun, joy, innocence. There aren’t too many unguarded joyful moments. Kids have them all the time. And maturity and life sucks it out of you. (oh, look, Susan, Dave has a Tyler Place t-shirt)
As I write someone from the mobile phone company has called my cellphone to inform me that I just won 200,000SAR. Fantastic. Here’s how to collect….scam me once shame on me….They scammed Jules. She had an offer of winning $800 but had to respond instantly. Her mom got involved and helped. They both contacted the scam artist who sold them on a trip to Florida to see real estate. $800 was theirs. The cost was $200 deposit – refundable when they took the tour. Yeah, gullible, silly, all – and no one ever went to Florida to see real estate.
My attorney sent me a plaintiff email that he was stuck in London. He’d lost his ID, passport and all money. He asked me to forward some funds. Indeed, it was so sad. I called him at home to let him know I’d send him money. Hacked!
David tried to scam me. He called me at work. “Dad, I got a low cost trip to Madrid. I have to act immediately.” “What did your mother say?” Right, no permission, this was right after they blew up the Madrid train station some years back. So, off to Jamaica. Three amigos, living on an extreme budget. I fund education not fun. I’m having office hours, and David calls me from Jamaica. “We were in a bar and Ben fell off a stool and cut his neck…” Um, yup, I’m a surgeon. But there’s not much I can do 2000 miles away. Bar fight! Everyone in the office laughed at my being so gullible as to think the kid fell off a stool. Actually, true, the poor kid passed out from dehydration. Budget! They were rationing fluids. Afraid to drink water they were on a Coke a day. While Ben was in the hospital, the other two gave up and posed as registered guest in the hotel next door. They ate the buffet dinners until Ben got out and that scam didn’t work anymore.
My kids are all grown up now. And here was one of the last times I was together with them. They have husband and girlfriend now. This was the last of innocence together. It comes and goes with hardly a notice. Then, you realize that it happened and will never be repeated. It’s a bittersweet realization. All grown up…
Magical! There are a few events in this very exclusive category. David had just learned to dive. Jules had just joined us. We were pretty much alone underwater. Weekdays here are empty. Just the three of us and the fishies. Omar from the last time, had shown us a nice cleft in the coral. It was idyllic and picturesque like swimming into a canyon. And with nothing but bubbles to hear, it was so calm and peaceful. Jules went into the gap first. Dave was middle and I followed. It’s like snow skiing. You keep the new guy in the middle and I watch for trouble. Jules, the one in front, blazes that path.
Suddenly Jules pulled up straight as though she’d hit a wall. Dave veered to the side. There! Right in front of us! A turtle just sort of sitting on the coral. Really! It was as though it was sunning itself. Yeah, it was a special moment We all got pictures, And Dave got video. And to this day I do not know if we all realize how special a moment we shared together. It had passed so quickly. Bittersweet. I can savor it in retrospect. It can never be repeated.
The kids never got along too well as they got older. But they stick together when they are nervous. After all, family is family. Holding hands? I thought it was touching. Jules was assuring Dave that he would be safe from me. I had and have a tendency to underestimate danger. Everyone still has their limbs…. But there was this sign at the ski resort that warned – “Are you an expert? You’d better be!” – as the kids skied under it. Good thing Jules was too small to read and comprehend till much later. But no, I’m mostly safe…. This image was daytime. I persuaded them to go on a night dive. Shhhhh..Dave had not even gotten his open water card. Yes, that was also touching to see both kids swimming, holding hands tight, and swinging their flashlights everywhere to see and ward off sea monsters. It was exhilarating but probably too much to ask my kids at that time. But hell! It was pretty magical too!
Look closely and you see the reef exposed. Nothing is ever canceled for weather. There is no weather except hot and sunny. Ok, two things happen, rain and sandstorms. These hardly ever happen. It rained one day last year. It was not a dive day. And sandstorms of the Laurence of Arabia type are a rarity too. But sandstorms do happen. We had one the past few days. It merely obscured vision like a fog. So the buildings on the horizon were sepia toned and a bit fuzzy. But the winds push the seas and that makes waves. That’s good for surfers. But it does not allow divers to enter the water safely. And, it makes it hazardous to get back out of the water. Got it?
Today was a sandstorm day. The waves were noticeable. And then they were hazardous. Several expert divers had problems emerging. And others had to be pulled out of the water with assistance. My dive buddy and guru shook his head. He was convinced it was not safe. It not diving for fun if the risk is greater. Normally the water is covering the reef nicely. And the waves do not pull you back out. Notice too, that the adjacent resort is not closed. Divers are on the stairs. Risk is relative. I saw two of the dive staff dive in to save some swimmers. I’m good. I’d like to have challenged the conditions. But, as my kids would disapprove, I listened to the little voice in my head. I’ll try tomorrow. Today this picture will suffice to remind me that it’s better to be lucky than good.
…. was a guy who wore a paper bag over his head. He could say anything outrageous. Hey, he was unknown…
Got distracted. Missed a few days. HB. It’s the worst political season I can remember. Everyone is shaking their heads. Doom! Well, the candidates for the fall election have been anointed. No one is pleased. It’s one country. But there are lots of opinions. Nasty, mean, lost civility, things promise to be worse. I remember a time when a politician’s career was sunk if he was divorced. Impeachment, improper acts, lewdness, insults, oh my, the future first lady could have naked images on the internet. It’s pretty bizarre. There is a two party system. No choice otherwise. It’s narrow. Hold your nose. Vote. You can’t make anyone happy any time at all. Where have all the moderates gone? There is no compromise and the winner takes all and the loser will be sore for a long long time. Welcome to the future. Sand sculpture has gone commercial. Innocence lost…. HB
Here’s a neat trick. And even more so, it’s a neat trick to illustrate this illusion. A picture is worth a thousand words. Succinctly, look at picture and one and two. Yes, do a double take. The facing wall is wood art. Brilliant! 3D from 2D. I think I got it illustrated well. And you still don’t get it? Look. Look. Again. Ah!
On the road to Taif (remember the field trip?) you have to go around Mecca. No non Muslims may enter Mecca. (That would be me.) And the road splits and the sign says, “All non Muslims, exit here.” The exit is on the right and I was in the inside lane on the left. I missed the exit. I did not miss the sign. David accused me of deliberately breaking the law. Honest…not me. He hunkered down in the passenger seat and pulled his collar up over his ears. What? “I’m trying to look Muslim dad…”
This was the second try on the second day of our attempting to visit Waba. It’s a crater somewhere to the north and east of Jeddah. It’s inland. I ddi not have an iPhone and no GPS map. We had a computer with maps. But unfortunately, the roads are extremely poorly marked. There were missing roads and then there were roads where the map showed none. Yes, we spent two days wandering. But! We got there! It’s a nice crater. It’s a nice picture. And then we had to turn right around. David had a plane to catch home. And we were out of time. Yup, arrive, take a picture, walk five minutes, hop back in the car, and speed home. Now I have an iPhone. I’m not saying I’ll go back. I just have an iPhone now. Oh! Yes, I missed the exit on the way back too… it was dark.
Did I mention Saudi Arabia is Muslim? And they do not allow any other religious symbols to be displayed. No cross or bible. They are confiscated. And the censors….well I was on Saudi Airlines and a scene was edited with blurred bubbles. What? It was a cemetery. And there were crosses. And all the tombstones were blurred out. Geez. Actually it’s amusing to watch censored movies. You see there is considerable latitude for the particular censor and the movie he blurred. Some will blur a woman’s bare neck. I’m not talking cleavage. Anyway, there is hardly a block where you don’t see a local mosque. My hospital has one built in and available on the ground floor. Hey! Catholic hospitals have chapels. And the minarets are striking and picturesque.
And sunsets are spectacular. A water treatment plant is nearby spewing lots of pollution. My partner always said sunset in Bayonne was spectacular because of the pollution… The minarets all have speakers that blare out prayers at prayer time. Five times a day starting at dawn, they pray. Well, not everyone prays each and every time. But there is plenty of call and plenty of opportunity.
Visiting Taif. You drive up mountain roads. And it seems the bus was slow. And there is a zoo which was on the list of activities and places to visit. I had a camel encounter. Friendly, I’ve heard they can be temperamental. But the zoo camel was friendly. The elephants sprayed water at you. Fortunately, I watched as a couple nurses were set up and drenched. Those elephants are smart.
The group but their banner across the front of the bus. Nice touch. About 30 minutes later the bus overheated. The driver stopped, pulled his cellphone, and called the hospital for help. No A/C, it was getting hot on the bus! Light bulb! Yeah, you guessed. That darn banner cut off air flow to the engine. We removed it and were on our way in 10 minutes. Saved! Yes, I did save the day on that one. Did I tell you I know a little bit about lots of things…
I was fortunate to be a favorite with the nurses. I’m nice to them. They are nice back. It makes life so much easier. I learned to be nice and polite as an intern. Nurses, otherwise, could make life hell. When I rotated onto my pediatric neurosurgery rotation the night nurses were nice enough to have a going away party for me. They didn’t wake me for the party. They wanted to let me sleep. Imagine that!
In Jeddah the nurses invited me on a field trip. A few husbands… and me – they insisted I ride in the front of the bus. So far this is my only field trip though they threaten to organize another. For sure they have a sense of humor. And they like to live large.
One nurse was ecstatic to ride a camel. “It was something I promised myself before the age of thirty.” My kids rode a camel in the Bronx Zoo when they were small. So far I’m waiting for my first ride…not.
One thing I wanted to see upon arrival was camels. It’s the desert! But it’s the city where I am. Three million people – more – it’s a freakin’ city! Camels are not wandering the streets. When I first visited there was a road outside of town where Bedouins camped and offered up fresh camel milk for sale. Passing drivers would get the product off the hoof and drink it straight away. Healthy? Some cautioned me against it. And, I’m not a fan of warm milk… After that, the powers that be shooed them away and I never came across the sellers again. Out in the country, faraway from the city, out in the desert, my kids and I came upon camels on the hoof.
Yes that spot beneath is not welcoming us. And the camels were hobbled. Though they could not wander far, they were free to graze. Mostly camels are a novel sight enough that local city people crowd around to photograph them when someone brought them around the old city. Think, cows wandering down Fifth Avenue in New York City. Nope. There would be a lot of curiosity. No cows. The law says milk comes in a plastic container pasteurized and homogenized. And cold with a sell by date!
I dive to see the fish (in the sea). I take pictures. Hey! It’s what I do for fun now. Some people like watching paint dry. I don’t watch golf. I played tennis. They told me there are golf courses in Jeddah. Imagine that?! Too hot!
The flip side – go to a fish market and they have displays with untold numbers of squid and octopus. It’s a very big part of the seven fishes feast at Christmas for Italian Americans. I heard about this for years from Ginny.
I will insert an aside – non sequitur – but sort of related. When I was a kid, my dad came home with a live carp. How? He, like many Chinese, love fresh fish. How? He brought it home from the market in paper and it was still alive. How? He put it into the bathtub and it swam. Ah! No more baths for me…ever! I tell you, that was exactly my thought process in that moment. A bit later he slaughtered that fish. Yes, he cut off its head and I saw blood and the tail flopping. I was changed forever. And that memory sits burning brightly. I also realized that baths would resume shortly after.
When I learned to dive, I quickly found out that seeing octopi is rare. They do not congregate. They are very shy and solitary. Which translates – they are hard to see and harder to photograph – if you see them in the first place.
Ah! I was early to the resort. I was meeting some other divers. There are tourists in the water. And! Whoa! One caught an octopus bare handed. I moved in for a photograph. No problem. Then… he strangled it in his bare hands! It turned all colors and tried to camouflage itself till it died and reverted to plain brown. The killer left it in the Styrofoam cooler with life juices on the bottom while he sought other prey.
Yeah, I was stunned. If I had to slaughter my own cow, for sure I’d be a vegetarian… It was pretty graphic to watch him kill dinner in front of me.
Ah! No secret! And you figured this was coming. An excuse to post dive shots! Free divers – their name – it means no scuba. Scuba – self-contained underwater apparatus – you knew that, right? I started very basic. I have a good camera. Nope! It’s not going underwater. It would break my heart to wreck it with saltwater. Be sure that at some point every camera has some saltwater.
It’s not good. I have personally fried a couple cameras before I learned to dive. I have a healthy respect for watertight. It’s very hard to do. And it’s easy. I see other divers casually treat their stuff. And I watched a poor guy fry his iPhone. Yup, dead. It was pretty funny watching him try to revive it. No, rice did not work.
It was about as funny as watching my kids when they each respectively dropped their cellphone into the toilet. Now ask yourself, how was it so, that I was there when it happened to each of them at different times? Yup. Timing! There’s a story. And so I bought insurance for each phone. And it cost ?$99. And I used it once. Yes, one kids had another water accident. And I denied it fell in water. And after the accounting, it was break even. The cost of insurance was the same as the phone.
That happened with my last Volvo. I got the extended warranty. $1500. And wouldn’t you know it. Nada! Till… the alternator went. Interesting. The car died just outside a McD’s in Maine. And wouldn’t you know it! There was a Sears down the block. Towed – AAA – first time I used that insurance too. But no, it was the alternator. New battery died at the intersection a few days later. The new alternator cost $1500 – break even. No, I do not buy extended warranty any more.
So, the free divers wear camo – and they are elegant looking. The purpose is to dive to reach depth on one breath and surface again. Not too interesting a process, but they call it fun. Long fins, a small weight belt, a snorkel. They hang weights off a rope and go up and down. I’m good in my gear and tank and one hour ticket to see the fishies.
There are things to see! One instructor kindly pointed into the blue. A school of fish approached. If it is the first time to see this, you should be duly impressed. It is a nightmare. With open mouths, it looks like they are on the hunt and you are the meal in their sights. Yeah! They swam around us. And then left. I got a few shots. The behavior? Beats the heck out of me. I was there. I have seen it again. I see these fish all the time when they are not exhibiting this behavior. But once in a while they school and swim with their mouths open. And it is impressive. Really! You don’t see this every day. And yes, I’m still impressed when they do this. Fierce! If you can see, they just have their mouths open. The gills are spread wide. There’s nothing. It’s the classic “Bark worse than your bite!” I’m suitably impressed – I told you, right?
The first new thing I learned upon arrival in Jeddah was to learn to scuba dive. Yes! Mike Neslon – Lloyd Bridges – Sea Hunt! – my childhood – a fantasy in reach of fulfillment. The process is like anything else. They teach you the basics. A dive in the pool. And then the Red Sea.
Then it’s mileage – time in the water. The more time, the more experience, and thusly the more fun follows. It’s easy! Not so! As I have learned, things that I believe are simple are a bit more complex. I have seen so many others take lessons and then fall off. They don’t dive much anymore. I’ve found lots of people who are afraid of night diving – afraid of the dark. I am too, to the degree that I faced my fear and got past it. It was exhilarating. And itis something I look forward to doing.
The knife and BCD are new in these pictures. No longer. I think I passed 350 dives a while ago. The knife is lost at the bottom of the sea. It pulled free. I tend to scrape the coral a bit when I dive chasing the fishies. The knife is not to fight underwater. It is hardly enough to defend yourself. And sharks move way faster than I could ever. No! It’s for cutting yourself free. Right, you knew that? The hat is old. It’s my daughter’s college. I don’t have a college hat. But I paid for this one, so it’s mine – if you understand my drift. Someone else recently has tried to co-opt it. It’s old and been through lots of sweat at college rugby matches. But….well… I guess it’s time to break in a new one….
The hardest thing about leaving anywhere is the friends you leave behind. And there is a certain familiarity to sameness. Folks don’t want to break away from the familiar. Would that be a contributing factor to mid-life crisis… fast car, girlfriend, new wife…? I grew up in a lot of different places. I’ve worked in a lot of places. Some things are constant – my profession and specialty. But otherwise, I have moved among groups and things with relative aplomb. No! I do not like to learn new operations. But learn we must. Or retire. It works that way. Watch. Observe. Shake your head. I watched my senior partner who could no longer operate. He’d failed to learn new tricks. It forces you to depend upon others or… retire. I promised myself never to be so. Fortunately, folks are friendly enough wherever you go. Characters! For sure! They are not family. They are friends. So I made some when I arrived.
Wissam , neurologist, sometimes scuba diver, with a poor sense of direction – in the sea. He once tried to Sudan. I pulled him back, pointed him correctly, and told him it would have been a very long swim…
Rida, ophthalmologist, a man with muscles who could do delicate eye surgery, someone better with 10-0 suture than me – by far!
And Nasser, GS – general surgeon, no – he does not dress like this for the OR. But the man undeniably has style.
Farid, orthopedic surgery – are you seeing a pattern here? Farid is the closest buddy I have here. Curiously, I’m older than all of them. See that? I apologize to him for this picture. Things will tie in eventually… He got me to learn scuba diving. And then we went on a boat trip. He’s very gracious. Shhh.. don’t tell him. He gets sea sick and actually hates boats. To be sure he gave me some pills for sea sickness. Yes, I toss my cookies too. Actually the secret is that when the boat stops, the up and down immediately makes you hurl. Got it? Laughing yet. It’s hard when you are green! What Farid neglected to say, was that he took six pills. We literally had to push him over the side to dive when the time came. He did not remember too much about the diving that day. That would put him high on my friend list – to take me – when he’d rather not. Yes, you make friends. Life is about change. It sometimes feels like jumping from the fire from the frying pan. But on the other side, the experience is exhilarating. One go around, life is one way. I’m thinking I’d like to have been in new situations and recall the stories with fondness.
In the beginning, i moved in with two suitcases and one backpack….
Okay. It’s retrospective time. Since the blog is about photos and stories it’s hard to keep focused sometimes. Is it stories or is it photos? I’m photo first. But certainly there are lots of stories to tell. Which is the source? Does the photo trigger a story? Or is the story the photo? Anyway I’ve fallen into current events to keep posting each day. And my hard drive organization is wanting at the moment. Files are stored on multiple drives and in Lightroom. I bet you don’t care and don’t want to know how hard it all is. Just tell the story, and get on with it. Anyway, I had to find the photos of the recent bombing near the US Embassy. So I’ll use this as a source of perspective. Some observations about my time in Jeddah are in order. Amazingly, in such a short time I have such a different perspective from expectation and reality. I used to go to a meeting in one of the major US cities. I could get a flavor of the local sights and sounds in a few days. How ignorant of me to think that. I realize and have said that every day I look out the window as I go to work and realize there is something different that I never noticed before. Spend enough time and you begin to understand…. Well, for sure, you understand better with some retrospective comparison. There! Got it?
You should look and laugh. Definitely laugh. When I visited in December, someone pointed to this villa and said that is where you will live. They actually already planned for my arrival and the villa was empty for months and months before I arrived. An empty dwelling is nothing. No rent. No revenue. There is no profit. No one cares. It was earmarked for me and that was it. Period. No worry over empty and unoccupied. It’s the long view?
The laugh? It’s clean! They send in a crew to clean the dwelling. I don’t know about paint? But there were crayon marks in the drawers. The cleaning guys are good but only just so. Who cares about the drawers! I was put into a five bedroom villa! Me! Single. But then I guess they thought enough of me and my rare specialty. So it was welcome and pull out all the stops… To be sure there is one bedroom designated as the maid’s room – off the kitchen. And another is more like a den – for TV. That makes two other bedrooms – legitimate – with private bath, and bidet. The maid does not have one. There are 4 ½ baths. And it’s furnished. Yup. TV and all. No microwave! Dammit?! No vacuum. They don’t seem to use them anywhere around here. And iron and ironing board. Chipped non stick pots. I don’t like eating Teflon. So I did not cook for the first six months I was in country. Yup! Really!
Oh! Take note. The curtains are drawn. And since I have been here, they replaced the curtains with blackout drapes. Yes! They keep the curtains drawn day and night. I leave mine open. No one is looking to see me in my underwear. Too funny!
That’s not the laugh. The place has not been properly cleaned since I moved in. Everyone else has arrangements and hired help – a driver for the females and children, and, a maid, cleaning woman, nanny. I am not in need of either. By now, I think I could definitely use a cleaning lady. So there is no after photo – or – a current photo of the state of affairs. As long as I stay out, the other bedrooms have an even layer of dust that, if undisturbed, is hardly a bother. If you are not shaking your head by now… in real life I am fairly particular and meticulous. The A/C is running 24/7/365. The filter is poor enough such that dust settles on every horizontal surface. My cameras accumulate a layer of dust if left on the table for a period of time – weeks. At this point I am beyond help. Any cleaning lady would turn toss her apron and run…
If you look closely, real close, it has the face of a lion. Now I did not notice this before. But then again I don’t get very close to boxer shrimp. I would, but, they don’t let me. Not enough interest to be a meal. And I don’t much like shrimp too much. They have lone antennae. Way long! Really long! Long enough that I don’t try to show you the whole antenna or the shrimp would be too small in the picture. And if you get in close, here’s what I noticed. It looks like four antennae are sprouting. And the eyes are small. So, perhaps, that is why the antennae as a warning sign. And then the face. “It’s a face only a mother could love.” It has nothing redeeming except that if I were designing a horror movie mask, I would start here. Oh, three claws on the one side. Smaller ones. Functional? The details I see as I get closer and closer… I learn something new all the time. It’s really nice to keep finding out new things. But if I had the six lottery numbers….
Fast. The shells were moving like a three card monte shell game. They are active at night. New houses – shells – are a premium. Poor snails. I wonder if they move out or are eaten. The adults move slowly and deliberately and cautiously. The little guys scuttle. I mean they move fast enough that I have to actually catch them and hold them. I could not see this one. He was translucent. Early. Juvenile. And I guess a morsel. So the faster you are the better your chance to survive to adulthood. The shell is so tiny. First home! One bedroom, no room to expand. Starter place. My kids live in small apartments. I have a five-bedroom villa for the cats and me. It doesn’t seem fair. I’d share but they don’t want to live here. Location, location, location.
Green eyes – the water is green, grey. Does that mean the green eye pigment helps? The only reason you see the color I show in my pictures is because the strobe has compensated for the lack of red color underwater. It returns daylight colors to the otherwise green looking see. And then there is the matter of “red eye.” Light reflects off the retina of people and produces “red eye.” You knew that, right? So here you see the red eye. It looks orange to me. And here you don’t. So, see, it works. I love it when science works!
The more the merrier…?
I should listen to advice and leave well enough alone. I’ve been doing quite alright. I have a pretty staid life… if you can call being a fireman waiting for a fire, staid. I’m on call to the ER and anything can happen. It often does. And occasionally, I am reminded not to wish for what I am careful about…. Right! Lulu the cat wandered in one day. I felt a little guilty. She seemed so tame and I suspected that she had escaped someone’s house. So far no one has come looking. Lulu came fixed. I immediately noticed the stitch from the operation. We had our trial and error; the introductory period was rocky. I’m not a cat person except by default. Lulu was the on who had adopted me. Several days ago another cat came around. She arrived with the usual crew to eat. They have names – the ones who are regular. Bidi – dumb as a stone – always waits outside my door. She meows and lets me know she’s hungry. Lily – lurks – and has terrorized Lulu in the past. They are not friends from the last rodeo. Two or three males show up infrequently. They do not have names. They give the picture of old and grizzled. Then a new cat showed. There are three groups as near as I can tell. Black and white; orange and white; and grey and white – the groups are distinctly colored and do not seem to mix. The new one was female young and quite eager to get into my business. I saw her once and then not again for a few days. But she came around again and this time I brought her inside my villa. Mistake! Lulu was immediately hissing and yowling. Her hair stood on end. She was pissed! Scary really.
I did it for her to have company when I was working for long hours. I imagined she’d be bored alone. I have already been advised that this is a bad idea. Cats are territorial. But? They are out in the compound and wild and get along, don’t they? I guess not. So feed six have two. I got two in now. So far it’s a standoff. I’ve lost blood. They have sharp claws. The new cat is timid to a degree. She’s indicated that she’s staying. And?! She’s also been fixed. What is it with females and me? All fixed. Good. Easy. No new cats later to worry over. Was she also a house cat – escaped? Name? Ah! Lulu got her name from my ‘net search for Arabic names. It means pearl. Lil had her name for a day. I wanted another “L” name. The single syllable name did not cut it. Besides, it was the name of someone’s awful cousin. Okay! Creamsicle?! She’s orange and white; uh uh, nope, nada, thumbs down on that suggestion. It’s a name not a product I sought. Voila! Casi – it has the letters of creamsicle and has two syllables. It works. She’s a very sweet docile cat. I wish could recall the same memory for some of my old girl friends.
Meanwhile the fur flies. Lulu has barely made friends. Territorial, oh my, if they don’t make peace soon, someone’s gotta go. I’ve been scratched and bled – all in the name of perceived loneliness and friendship. I hope it’s all worth it. For now, separate places, separate food dishes, separate water and I try not to favor one or the other.
Casi hides out where she has some tactical advantage. She’s younger. But I think in time she will be bigger than Lulu. Hopefully she doesn’t get the same habits. There are good and bad. What have I done? “Poked the bear.” When everything else had settled down to just about alright, I went ahead and poked the bear! Two female cats – I’ll be sure to let you know if they get along.
I wrote this post in my head and then never put it to paper. Someone I know laughs. I have no blank paper in my villa. I have, maybe, a pen and I don’t think there is a pencil. And, I’d dearly like to have a ruler. I needed to measure my bed mattress. Who knew? There are king and super king bed sheets. One does not fit the other. And I was put out that my sheets were too short. Yeah, so I measured. My hand span is roughly 9 inches. It’s a nice number to know. But this ain’t horseshoes. And the difference in sheet size is not so large. Anyway, it’s standard king. I got a measuring tape from the hospital. We use it to measure baby head sizes. I will parenthetically add, that tape is free too. I was shocked to actually buy a roll of adhesive tape (not related to measuring tape) in the drug store. Really?! They charge that much? No wonder medical costs are out of control.
So, meandering along the bottom on a night dive this puffer appeared out of the dark. …Lots of people hate the dark. And night dives seem to bring out the fears in even more detail. After all, monsters of the deep come out of the dark and eat whole ships! Oh my! But mostly I think “JAWS” the movie is a lingering memory. Shark! Attack! And even if you never saw the movie, there’s plenty of limbs and life injuries around the world with unwary unfortunate swimmers. If it’s any consolation, sharks like fatty seals. They get few meals. So when they taste human, there’s not enough fat, they spit you out. It’s nice to know you don’t pass the taste test. So mostly you don’t get eaten. I dunno, I think the very bright LED light is calling sharks to dinner, “Here sharky. Here sharky. Dinner!” And if you are ever on a night dive with me, and, my light goes out, “Well, dinner is served. Him (the diver next to me), not me…” Yes, be afraid… be very afraid.
Anyway, this poor puffer – white spotted puffer – was just down along the bottom. And it’s not common enough to see that I pass an opportunity to take a picture. And as I shot I saw something in its mouth. Was it eating another fish? Nope. A hook. A shiny reflection, the darned thing was embedded and would stay for the rest of his life. Now if he would only let me help…. Yeah, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you…”
Boy oh boy! Some dives you see hermit crab and some dives you see cuttlefish. I saw babie cuttlefish! They were very shy! And I saw this guy at the end of the dive. It made my dive. He was not able to get away and I got plenty of good stuff. He changes color and camouflage.
It’s quite fast. The babies don’t do as well or as quickly. But big ones have to start somewhere. There is a crescent under the eye. Or it that an eyelid? And you can see the pigment sacs which allow the animal to change quickly. Finally, there is ink. Squirt it and it confuses the predator. It works. One did and it confused me and I could not acquire the target again. As long as you see it moving, you can keep photographing. But if it stays still, then it is pretty hard to see. The human eye is way more sensitive to movement. Survival! It’s genetic! Science! Hurray!
I’ve been giving wide berth to the urchins. The needles are sharp! How sharp? They can easily pierce my 3mm wet suit. Have you ever seen or heard a grown man cry underwater. Don’t try this at home! The first time was when I put my hand down to steady my camera. Yup! The needles went through my glove and into my hand. Damage done, I debated whether to take the picture or to pull the needles. I took the picture, of course. It was a puffer fish that our dive instructor trapped and thereby caused it to puff out. It was impressive to me as a novice diver. And then, when I went to get the needles out, I brushed my wet suit to scrape them off. The other end of the needle is just as sharp. Damn! Pain and then again, I was crying except you cannot really cry underwater. Laughing yet? When we emerged everyone had a good laugh. I threw out the glove. The wet suit still stung for a while but I had to keep it. And my hand was tattooed with lots of needles embedded. You don’t remove them. They eventually dissolve. I am not one to wait. So the next day my assistant and I were in the operating room with the Zeiss operating microscope removing the needles under high magnification. It was my left hand. I’m left handed. No easy task, except, that I had trained myself to use both hands to operate. But it was still not easy.
This disco thing? Well, for the first time I noticed the anatomy of the urchin. It has a disco ball that wave/rotates. Don’t know why, but, it is colorful. And colorful is what is interesting in underwater photography. I got a couple – well, more than a couple – shots. It seems that this is standard anatomy. Where have I been? Yes! Neat. Another detail underwater from an unexpected subject and I didn’t even have to get hurt doing it.
It’s summer. Summer is defined by the equinox, or, by the babies that abound in the sea. It’s a baby cuttlefish. (Check the last post) I was practicing my newfound technique of annoying all the urchins. Cuttlefish babies hide beneath. And then I am constantly amazed what shows up in my image. I’m old…vision could be better. Ask my kids, they could regale you with tales… Yes! A little tiny fish was there on the rock next to him. Unexpected finds happen. Here, I got two fish. I grant that the detail is lacking. And you are less than impressed. They eyes on the fish at least give you some reference. The cuttlefish looks like a little gray blob. And, I assure you, that is exactly how he wants you not to notice him.
The problem with things that camouflage well, is that there is not much to capture on your image. There’s no eye to really see. But if you imagine how much fun it is to discover one underwater it would sure help this post. It helps to know where to look and what to look for. So first, I discovered – just now – that urchins are the big protectors of small creatures. Urchins are chicken too, as in the sense of being timid, not as in, “tastes like chicken.” Moving the urchins around annoys them. Sorry! But it also allows me to see what is hiding nearby. You can’t do this with shrimp. They are way too skittish.
But the purpose of the camouflage is that you don’t see them. Standing still is a key to that. I suppose there is also something to be said for, “Don’t let ‘em see you blink.” I don’t see eyes (theirs) too well. If I did know all of this, it would be really easy to miss this tiny creature and mistake it for debris. The juveniles are not that good at all of this. So they stay for a while and move off like a shot. I got two shots of two different baby cuttlefish. And the third got away. That percentage of success gave me very few choices in deciding which pictures to post…. All of them!