I wrote a letter to the New Yorker re: their recent piece “Cape Fear” which is largely about OCEARCH. I tried to keep it brief, mostly questioning why they use brutal hook and haul methods, outdated tagging etc. Despite their current status as media darlings, I do believe people will eventually see the truth about OCEARCH’s shoddy science and macho spectacle.
I also learned about the suicide of Dickie Goodman, the zany mastermind behind my well-worn and much loved 45 of “Mr. Jaws” (#4 in 1975), not to mention earlier gems as “Energy Crisis ’74,” “Batman and his Grandmother” & “Frankentstein meets The Beatles.” Dickie shot himself back in 1989, but I didn’t find out until today when I decided to play a Youtube clip of “Mr. Jaws” for my baffled students. They laughed exactly once. “What IS this?” someone finally asked. Thank God they’d heard of Weird Al, so I could briefly outline the novelty record genre, although I just couldn’t summon the energy to explain K-Tel.
The good news is Sharksavers has responded to initial inquiries from concerned activists confirming that they don’t have any plans to collaborate with OCEARCH. I have my letters at the ready just in case.
When I am paranoid about learning something, I tend to over study. I am reading my diving manual like some gripping but arcane novel, whose premise pulls me in but whose language is at times elusive and complex forcing me to backtrack. I tend to remember the morbid facts: that a tight-fitting dive hood can cause a person to faint, or the symptoms that indicate that my lungs have expanded beyond their human capacity.
My lessons start a week from today and my mind is a tumult of childish anxieties: Will I ever look as ecstatic as the toothy, neon-suited dive friends high-fiving each other on the cover of the book? What if my “buddy” hates me?
As I said in a previous post, what I like about diving is the emphasis on breathing–which is what I like about meditation. An activity that keeps me in the moment. Many people have assured me that the initial anxiety of diving in the ocean for the first time is soon eclipsed by the beauty of the water, the kelp forests.
It’s extraordinary that I am even considering doing this. Kayaking in New Zealand several years ago freaked me out so much that my legs shook and banged inside their plastic prison and I could barely navigate the little lagoon. Everyone laughed at my shark paranoia, but the next morning the cover of the newspaper featured a picture of a giant fin following a man in a kayak. The picture had been snapped just up the coast from where our group had leisurely paddled.
I loved the ocean as a kid back in the 70s, even in the shadow of “Jaws,” but my paranoia grew as my shark dreams increased. Yet now I see those dreams in a different light–as assertions of kinship, not foreshadowings of my grisly demise.
(BTW: That last sentence would make a bittersweet and ironic addition to my obituary or any news article following my untimely death by shark attack).