Word and Image

Latest

Diving

_DSC8772

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….

New Friends

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.

_DSC2538

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…

_DSC3005

Rida, ophthalmologist, a man with muscles who could do delicate eye surgery, someone better with 10-0 suture than me – by far!

IMG_1807

And Nasser, GS – general surgeon, no – he does not dress like this for the OR. But the man undeniably has style.

IMG_3873

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.

Clean

IMG_3416

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?

IMG_3426

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 IMG_3429

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…

Roar

IMG_8472

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….

Move Fast…Or Die

IMG_8450

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.

Red Eye

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!

More…Merrier

IMG_9034

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.

IMG_9061

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.

Hooked

IMG_8261

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…”

Cuttlefish

IMG_8595-3

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.

IMG_8586

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!

Disco Ball

IMG_8546

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 642 other followers