Day 130 11/2/13: How To Tell A True Shark Story

What a fabulous night of art, conversation and all things shark at the Hero Complex Gallery. My favorite pieces in the very Quint-centric (not a criticism) JAWS-tribute art show, were those that riffed on the movie’s less well-worn lines (although all of the dialogue is threadbare if you’re a JAWS geek), and its unforgettable, but only briefly glimpsed faces.  Aaron Glasson’s “The Harbormaster,” is a psychotropic take on that smiling old salt who emerges, pipe-clenched-firmly-in-teeth from a dockside shed, an oasis of eccentric calm amid the rabid, reward-hungry shark hunters and then is gone.

Gorgeous Jaws-themed cookies, a fascinating presentation by Jaws production designer Joe Alves, insanely life-like replicas of Hooper, Quint and Brody and Ben Gardener’s head. “Smile You Son of a Bitch” closes Nov. 3.  If you live in L.A. and love JAWS or sharks, please go and support the show. You can buy some great art for as little as $20 and support Pangeaseed’s shark conservation efforts.

As transcendently JAWS-geeky as the evening was, the true highlight for me came afterwards when my friends and I were lucky enough to have dinner with Ralph and Cindy Collier and talk sharks and drink wine and eat very late into the evening. The waitresses seemed to linger and eavesdrop as Ralph told stories of unlucky abalone divers of mysterious tooth fragments. I’m delighted and surprised by the ease with which Ralph dismantles myths and clichés about shark behavior. He patiently answered my questions about stories that have long haunted me like the 1959  attack on skin diver Robert Pamperin whose body was never found.  Such cases often support the theory that sharks “eat people,” that the hapless souls disappear down the ravenous shark’s gullet.  But according to Ralph, studies of tides and currents offer a more realistic possibility– the remains are often carried or pulled out into the oblivion of the deep sea.

In “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien writes that war stories are never really about war. “They’re about friendship. Sunlight.”  I would argue that shark stories are also mystery stories about what it means to be animal and human and that like O’Brien’s Vietnam stories, even the true shark stories carry the deep dreamy resonance of myth, of nightmare, of the collision of worlds–human & animal, land & sea, tellable & untellable.