As I mentioned below, I’m back. It already seems like it never happened. One, because I had no power when I got home and then woke up to snow on the ground, and two, because I think vast quantities of alcohol affect your short term memory.
The best quote of the trip: “I’m sorry sir, we don’t serve alcohol before seven A.M.”
On the flight over, I sat directly in front of an old couple, or more precisely, in front of the male half of the old couple, who had an instantly assigned nickname of “Garlic Guy” because I am almost certain his breath actually boarded the plane a few steps ahead of him. As an added bonus, he was also a heavy mouth breather. The stink was almost visible, and it immediately set up camp in my sinus cavities like Cindy Sheehan on the Bush ranch. It, like Cindy, had a host of ardent supporters all clamoring for their piece of the attention pie. In descending order of disgust factor, they were Mr. Gingivitis, Reverend Stale Cigarettes and Reverend Old Coffee, or as I like to think of them, Michael Moore, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. At one point, I seriously considered chewing two pieces of spearmint gum and then shoving them deep into my nostrils. It was a long trip.
Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful trip over. We landed, picked up the car and drove to the condo. It was pretty nice. Two bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen, living room and big balcony overlooking Simpson bay. We immediately changed into our bathing suits and hit the surf, even though it was already close to five thirty. The water was about 83 degrees, and clear topaz blue. Pure heaven after leaving 40-degree rainy weather.
I think the only way to do this trip (and this series of blog entries) justice is to break it up by activity and not by day.
Our big plan for day two was to go to Orient Beach, over on the French side of the island. It was beautiful. White sand beaches as far as you can see, and crystal blue water so clear it hurt to look at. This beach is also “clothing optional” which apparently means that people you would like to see naked never get that way, and the people that will haunt your dreams for the rest of your life walk around totally bare-ass naked. Here is a picture of the hottest looking semi-naked chick on the beach, and I am not even kidding:
I guess they call it the “off” season for a reason, These people had to be off their frigging nut to walk around looking like this, and I was off my feed for the rest of the day just from witnessing it. It was a thong, too. Take that.
Now, also on Orient beach, there are quite a few activities which one may partake of if one so chooses. We chose to partake of two of these, on different days. The first activity we chose to participate in was scuba diving, and this is the one I will talk about today. Parasailing comes later, and it’s a good thing, because my ass still hurts from that debacle, which I will not bore you with today. Perhaps tomorrow. Suffice it to say that had these activities been reversed, I would not have been able to dive the next day, since I could barely walk.
So my buddy Pete and I walk up to the little shack on the beach and inquire about a dive trip. There would be another friend of ours going as well, and neither of them are certified scuba divers. I am. I figured there was no way we were diving together, but I was wrong. I guess that along with clothing, certification is also optional. The nice French lady, who was fairly attractive in a bony, middle-aged, leather-skinned kind of way, explains that we will go out to a shallow reef. Once there, her husband (who smelled like B.O. and needed oral surgery) will give us instructions on proper dive techniques. It will be short, she assures us, but very thorough. She then leaves us.
A few seconds later, she pulls out four tanks from the back room. Each one probably weighs 50 lbs, and she probably weighs double that soaking wet. She grabs three weight belts, 3 BC vests and regulators and sets up all the equipment. She then hauls all this shit one by one out through the surf to the boat. Pierre helps her with this task by surfing the web in the back office, a soda balanced snugly between his mammoth man breasts. When she’s done, she wades back in to shore, and he gets up and then walks out to the boat, motioning for us to follow. After we board, it is then that we realize Pierre can barely speak English. But we are not worried. Pierre has hundreds or thousands or even dozens of dives under his belt. We ride for about ten minutes –- this dive was pretty shallow and close to shore – and he stops and anchors the boat.
The instruction begins.
Peirre holds up a regulator and says, “Stop breathing, no. Always breathe. Hold ze breath – is bad. Lungs, zey go poof! (makes exploding motion with hands) You die.”
My buddy, who has only been scuba diving a few times before, has this look on his face like he's thinking, "that can happen?" I briefly contemplate saying something about air expansion and the effects of atmospheric pressure on the air stored in your lungs, but Pierre is already moving on to something else. “Don’t hold your breath,” I say to nobody in particular.
Pierre continues. “Ziss - (holding up bc hose) zee air in, zee air out. Ziss (points to the inflate button, inhales deeply and mimes a BC filling with air.) Ziss (points to vent button and blows air out. Directly at me. I swoon involuntarily from the intense smell of rotting gums. I silently pray that he has never used my particular regulator.)
He then tells us what’s going to happen when we actually enter the water. The sum total of his instruction is:
“We go in, I look behind, I check for you. Answer OK (makes OK sign with hand) -- or no. (shakes head)”
At this point, I give a quick check to my own equipment. The BC is in rags but the main straps look ok, although a bit frayed. I give the inflator a shot, and it seems to work. The regulator is packed with sand. I knock it against my hand a few times to get most of it out. There is so much sand in this thing I am almost positive there has to be a sand crab or three camped out toward the back. There’s a slow leak hissing away on my primary, so I know the gasket is shot. OK, I think to myself. We’re only going down 30 feet. And I’m certified. I supposedly know what to do in the event of an equipment malfunction. By then, I was actively planning for one.
Pierre motions for me to put my regulator in my mouth and get in the water first, since he knows I have been diving before. I do one out of two because I’m washing this sucker out before I jam it in my mouth. I back away to give the others room to drop in, and I kill some time by washing my regulator. When it is relatively clean, or at least free of major chunks of debris, I put it in my mouth and try to breathe. Compared to my personal regulator, this thing feels like I’m trying to suck a lungful of air through a drinking straw while a sumo wrestler is sitting on my chest. I am fairly certain that regular maintenance and inspection routines are two more things that seem to be very optional in the Caribbean.
Finally, we’re all in the water, and he drops in. Kersplunk! Down he goes. I assume we’re supposed to follow him, so we do. He was oddly graceful, in a sea-cow sort of way – like the ocean was his true home, and land was just somewhere he went to mate and surf the web.
I wish I could tell you that things didn’t go smoothly, because it would make for a more interesting story, but for the most part they did. We had some minor buoyancy control issues with one member of our small party, but those were quickly resolved by our sage instructor, and we were on our way. I’m glad nobody died, because I can’t spare any friends. I don’t have that many. It was a good day.
When we got back to the shack on the beach, Pierre tied up the boat, and tossed all the equipment overboard and waded to shore. He sat on the picnic table while his wife grabbed all the stuff and hauled it in. I offered to help her, but she waved me away. She had muscles like knotted cable. I am betting that she’s been doing this a while.
“You like?” Pierre asked us with a big grin.
“We like!” we said. Not bad for $45 bucks.
We still have parasailing, booze cruises, waverunners and boat trips from hell to cover, so stay tuned! Kirk out.