Scuba diving, cats, and 9 lives


A long time ago, in a place not too far away, I used up #3 or #4 of my nine lives while scuba diving, when not yet certified. It was a piece of cake dive off Palm Beach, off the Breakers Hotel, in 30-40’ of water. My two alleged “dive buddies” scattered in two different directions by the time I got to the bottom, having had trouble “popping my ears” as I always have. Those two were not certified either, although it didn’t matter in their case. They were both natural-born human submarines. One of them has some good scenes in my first novel, River Spirits, in a slightly alias sort of way. The other was a renown eye-ear-nose-and throat doctor, who happened to be 6’4” and full of muscles—hat tip to “Men at Work.”

To make a short story shorter, I cruised around until I used up most of my air, and then decided it was time to go up there where there was sunlight—and free oxygen. My second, or third, mistake was not knowing where my/our boat was. I popped up, happily at first, thirty or forty yards downstream of said boat. The thing about the Gulf Stream is that it isn’t terribly rapid, but its volume makes up for mundane speed. Unless you are Michael Phelps, you ain’t gonna swim forty yards upstream to your boat, especially if you are wearing a tank, weight-belt, and carrying a big speargun. I tried. I tried until I hit that infamous and very real panic stage. I did see a few parts of my life flash by, mostly featuring my wife (the first) and my two young children. This happened also before I got serious about weight-lifting, martial arts, and, before I got to dive with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Body and Evidence Recovery Team—fun stuff. And yet, somehow I decided, screw this sh*^t! I got out of the tank and backpack, dropped the speargun—it wasn’t mine anyway—and bobbed, happily (They, or, I didn’t have BC’s back then). A nearby boat, with a wonderful married couple, decided I didn’t look all that happy. They picked me up and idled me over to my original, unoccupied vessel. I waited until they went away before I chummed. I also then realized that I still had on the weight-belt! Please get certified before you ever go scuba diving in anything bigger than a kiddy pool. I can tell stories about dead scuba divers.

My friend went back down and recovered his speargun, easily. Now, to save face—mine—the doctor asks me to come to his house and look at an electrical problem. Having been born into an electrician-electrical contractor family, I earned my Journeyman card in (year deleted), and my masters in (ditto year), I thought, Cool! I can do this! And I did fix the problem.

The first-next problem involved the doctor’s cat: So, when he pulled his Mercedes into his garage, and I parked my old truck in the driveway, I followed him in, through a typical laundry room, into a modest kitchen and into a modest dining room, with a typical two-door glass slider looking out into… And now, for the rest of the story. I saw a critter walk by, outside, a critter with a relatively large cat-like tail. I thought, Hmm, he’s got an ocelot. It wasn’t an ocelot. It was a three year old female leopard. When it quickly spun around and—gulp!—stared at me, I didn’t like the look in her eyes. (I have experienced that before with females, but I never before thought I was in grave danger. Well, there was that one time…never mind.) The doctor said, “Oh, you see my cat.” He went over and… I said, mumbling, “You’re not going to open that door, are you?” He did open the door. I wondered if I could fit into a kitchen cabinet. Doc was a member of the local zoo’s board of directors. He had a uniquely designed backyard, across the big lake from ‘Down Town.’

A year or so later, a careless babysitter allowed the doctor’s very young daughter to get too close to “Kitty’s” outdoor, visitor-friendly containment area. Kitty scratched the little girls face. Good plastic surgeons repaired the damage. However, the city decided that the backyard kitty had to go.

The point is—as my hero, Willie Robertson likes to say—life is full of pitfalls, surprises, stupid mistakes—and cats. On a future blog, I will tell you about the very recent time I used up my #8 life. It involves a lovely looking mushroom which I decided to harvest—and eat. Until then, bonne appetite!

*(recommended for you): John Barry’s “The Deep” Theme from the movie The Deep!

Love Nick Nolte, back then. Jacqueline Bisset? Who wouldn’t have wanted to go scuba diving with her?

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