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Ebay and my Childhood Handheld Time Machine

9 Dec

I carefully began to box them up, one by one.  It almost was like being in a time machine, each game brought back different memories.  I received most of these when I was probably 3rd thru the 5th grade.  Every Christmas or birthday I’d ask for a different one, and many of my classmates had the same ones…

Back then it was such a big deal to have indoor recess on rainy days!  Now that I look back at it, it must have really sucked ass for teachers because it meant they didn’t get any freedom from their wiggling hyperactive (me) students.  But man for us it was always a treat.  Recess and PE would be indoors, sometimes we’d play games like “heads up, 7 up”, concentration, bingo and a billion other games I don’t even remember anymore.  But other times we’d sit across from our best friends and bust out the red bulbed (I don’t think they were considered leds) games and have a ball.  Entex electronic Baseball, Mattel basketball, football, sub chase, space invaders, you name it.  They can’t even hold up to today’s Nintendo or Sony handhelds but back in the day these were the games to have.

On rainy days I remember running to the cafeteria and standing in line and buying lunch, or maybe brown bagging it depending on what my mom packed.  We’d chatter in line and push and laugh, it was all part of the ritual.  If we were extra lucky one of our buddies would be working the cafeteria and we’d laugh, point and ridicule them for having to wear a hairnet.  Nothing brought more shame than having your buddies ridicule you while you were standing next to an adult where you couldn’t talk back like wanted to!   You would just have to punish your peers later.  After getting our lunch we’d march back to the classroom single file and if we were good, then after lunch we’d get to bust out the games.  It was a simpler time back then, there was a real melting pot at my school with no clear cut higher numbers of ethnicities.  We didn’t steal from each other (except for that bitch Sandra Garcia who stole my color changing pen, may you get festering cancer and die a slow painful death) (I’m kidding.  Well mostly I am.), we didn’t fight over who was next.  It was a clear cut thing where if you had the game you had choice of who got to play it first and we’d take turns, many of the games were two person anyways.  Seeing those red dashes light up and dash across the screen meant victory and then you’d hear that lameo dual note of victory and you’d howl out laughing!

Now that I look at it the sub chase game was the lamest of them all, it was kind of like an electronic battleship where you moved a red cursor and it would beep and then you’d press a button on the side to drop depth charges and hope to hit the sub.  I guess back then games were mostly your imagination anyways, you had to imagine what was going on.  You could see the depth charge in your mind drifting towards the sub or the basketball player running a lay up through the hole.  We didn’t have DVD players in our parents cars, you’d just sit there and maybe read or play slug bug or just drive your parents crazy.  It was definitely a different time, with different people.  Much simpler and innocent.  I kind of wish it was that way now.

I don’t even know what made me hang on to those games for so long.  Maybe it was the reluctance of letting go of my youth, but for whatever reason I had boxed them up at my parents house and they had made the moves to three different houses that I lived at before landing at our new house.  Because Hawkes toys take up so much room I discovered the box when we were shuffling things around.  I even popped in a battery on each of the games to see if they still worked and made some time to score a touch down and assinate some space invaders.  I was getting ready to drop them in the donation box and then thought heck, I wonder if anyone collects these things.

A quick visit to Ebay made my jaw drop.  Many of those games were selling from 20-100$!  Wow!  I formulated a plan and decided to try to list them right after thanksgiving, I was thinking that maybe people would start shopping for Christmas gifts about that time and who knows, maybe someone would try to bid on a game they had during their youth.  I started the bids at 99 cents with no reserve and was disappointed when the bids pretty much were stagnant the first couple of days.  Oh wells I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

As time grew closer to the ends of the bidding I noticed that the items were drawing more and more views.  Three days before the bidding ended my football game was already 40$!  I would check on them each day and on the last day I was amazed to see how furious the bidding went.  My baseball game went for $32.  The sub chase for $40.  Space invaders about $42.  And last but not least the old football game?  18 bids brought about $78!  I couldn’t be happier as these funds would go towards my new Moana Waterman Hybrid Carbon fiber freedive fins and some new toy cars for Hawke :).

It was with a little sadness and regret that I carefully printed out the labels and postage and started sealing up those boxes.  I hoped they would go to good homes.  But as sad as it was letting that part of my life go, it is no doubt that other parts of my heart (and house) will soon fill up with a new memories and a new generation of toys for Hawke.  Who knows, maybe forty or so years from now he might be selling off some of his own games, he sure is accumulating a lot of them!


Paying it forward: I found an iPhone, now what?

23 Oct

Honesty and Integrity

The day would start like a lot of great trips.  I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as I quietly gathered my gear so as not to wake my wife and baby.  Outside the mist would creep up on my truck and dampen the windows and paint, just a cold chill to let me know fall really was here at last.  I yawned and started up my truck, the rumbling quietly echoing through the hills.  Somewhere, out there the sun lay waiting.  But right now it was still pitch black and I had a ways to go.

In an hour or so I’d find myself bobbing up and down on a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) and heading to a island that I love so much.  It wasn’t my boat this time, Dylan’s RIB has made the crossing many times and along with us was another friend, Byron.   We’ve all dove together before and knew it would be a day of fun.  As we approached the first spot we noticed how blue the water looked.  Even from the top we could see blacksmith darting back and forth chasing small bits of plankton.  The visibility was almost an inky blue:  60′ of visibility today!  We excitedly suited up and dropped over the sides of the boat one by one.  We kicked to where the bait would be nervously waiting and there we started making drops in hopes of catching site of a late season yellowtail.  We spent over an hour at that one spot, probably made over seventy drops and only saw a few schools of bonita with just a few sightings of yellowtail.

On one drop I saw two very nice sized yellowtail swaggering in the water.  They never stopped to give me a chance, only flicked their tails in dissatisfaction as they hurried along.  It did not matter, because we were on a smaller boat I only had my 55″ Mori reef gun with me, with two bands I was limited to about 12′ of range, nothing like my 67″ gun.  Those yellows were safe from me.  The next thing I knew I was enveloped by bait.  Sardines, spanish mackerel, pacific mackerel, pretty much every type of bait swarmed up by the millions and danced around us.  There were so many fish there wasn’t any room for water it seemed and the school was endless.  We made many drops into this silver river and were amazed at how many fish there actually were.

After a couple of hours it was apparent that no yellows were going to show.  I saw both Byron and Dylan on the RIB and figured time was up at this spot, I began my lazy kick towards them.  Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement and to my right I saw one yellowtail, then two, then ten.  In seconds that opened up to probably what was over 50 fish!  I knew I’d have to get close for the shot so I made my drop and then pretended that I wasn’t interested at all and slowly crept up to them.  In one swift movement I extended the gun and picked a fat fish out of the group and clicked of the shot.

The shot rang true and the shaft entered the fish and the slip tip toggled.  Line began to scream off the reel and I slowly applied some tension as I let the fish run.  Lucky for me the fish was small, about 12 or 15 pounds and the shot looked good so I took my time fighting it and then dispatched it with a quick sting of my knife.  Victory!

I swam the fish over to the boat and hid it under my body.  When they asked me if I got anything I smartly replied “hey do you guys like mackerel?”  They responded, “you shot a mackerel??”  I laughed and flipped the fish onto the boat, “no but I got a nice yellowtail!”.  I heard nothing but “kook”, “bastard”, and a few other choice names I won’t burn your ears with.  The best part was this entitled me to rag on them all day long.  “Hey do you guys want yellowtail lessons?  Hey anytime you want tips on fighting big fish let me know.  Hey uuuuhhh this fish bag is heavy, can you help me lift it?”  I’m sure they were planning my disappearance so they wouldn’t have to listen to the ridicule but thank goodness California has a death penalty and it kept them sane!

We started looking for lobster but unfortunately most of the ones we saw were either “shorts” (under regulation size) or they were holed way up in the back of caves.  Every single lobster I measured was a tiny bit short so they were released with their tails flapping in the water.  On one occasion I found a small opening in a crevice and was able to shove myself into it.  I saw a nice lobster and quickly grabbed at it and was holding it by the horns (the base of the antennae).  Success!  As I shifted my grip the damn thing kicked one more time and I fumbled with it and it took off.  Damn, I guess I shouldn’t have called success so early!  At the least I didn’t rip my nail off and smash my thumb like last week when I was trying to grab a lobster under a rock.

Isn’t that beautiful? See that red line in the middle, that’s where the entire thumb bent backwards right thru the meat above the bone.  It hurt way worse than the last time I tore the whole nail off.

We dove several spots for a while and on one particular one I was just finishing up a drop at about 30 feet when I thought I noticed something shiny.  I breathed up and dropped down again, a few kicks later I was on the bottom and I pulled up what I thought was a nice underwater camera case.  As I turned it over I could make out a newer iPhone in that case.  Wow, score!  I carefully brought it back to the boat and tried pushing the buttons to see if it was working but it either had a dead battery or was flooded.

When I got home I washed off the camera along with my gear.  I carefully dried it and then popped open the case, it opened with a suction sound and the phone appeared to be totally dry!  I again tried to fire it up, but no such luck.  As I examined it I noticed it was an iPhone 5, newer than the iPhone 4 I have myself.  But I knew it wouldn’t be right to keep it and I wanted to find it’s owner.  But first I’d have to charge it up and since I didn’t know anyone who had an iPhone 5 I ordered a charger online and started reading up.

To my dismay most of the posts online said that they recommended taking the phone to the nearest police station.  Most officers are busy solving crimes, they aren’t going to be able to figure out where a dead battery lost phone came from and the phone eventually ends up in a box with a bunch of other dead phones.  Since this phone was found in the ocean I was unsure if the owner even knew they had lost it there.

Some people said you could take it back to the cell phone store and they would give you the information but others said this was untrue:  because of privacy laws they could not give you that information nor would they try to contact the person.  One employee at the store even said that you’d be better off just keeping the phone.  The only saving grace would be if the phone was unlocked I might be able to look up a home address or contact number.

One of my friends said that a coworker had a new iPhone 5, so I called her up and asked to borrow her charger.  She brought it in the next day and I promptly started charging the phone.  An hour or so later I had enough charge to use the phone and now was the moment of truth.  Would the phone fire up?

As I pressed the power button and the phone came to life I noticed that the phone was unlocked!  Whoo hoo I might have a chance.  I opened up the recently called screen and scanned.  There were several names on there and then one said “Home”.  I figured that might be the owners home so I called the number and a man answered.

I told them who I was and that I had found an iPhone and did they lose one?  When they said they did, I asked the important question.  “Where did you lose it?  When they answered correctly I knew I had found the owner!  I saw that he lived in Oregon, but with luck he was in San Diego that weekend!  I made arrangements and he was able to swing by my work and pick up the phone.  When I met him, he extended his hand and had a big smile on his face and told me I had made his day.  He told me the story of the lost phone.

It was the opening night of lobster season about a month earlier and his girlfriend had agreed to take him on a scuba dive boat.  As a gift she bought him a very nice housing for his iPhone.  They were kicking around some of the reef and his phone battery had started to die out so he turned it off and put it on his wrist.  Somewhere along the night it slipped off into the rocks below.  His girlfriend threw on another tank and began to search for it but couldn’t locate it and they gave up.  He was pretty bummed out.  She tried to comfort him by saying that most divers are pretty honest people and there’s a chance it would be returned but she could tell he was really sad about losing the phone and felt bad about losing the housing.

It made my day knowing that I was able to help them out.   I felt really really great about finding the owner.  I wished them a safe trip back home and they left with the cell phone firmly gripped in their hands.   For me it was a great ending to a great dive trip with friends.

As I told this story to some of my younger friends I was pretty disturbed that a couple of them told me,  “you dummy, why didn’t you keep it?  The phone was lost for a month, he probably had bought another one.” Or “if he could afford an iPhone then he probably didn’t miss it and could afford another one”.  I was blown away by their reactions.

“Are you shitting me?  Is that how you really think?” I replied.   I was pretty pissed.  Think about how devastated you’d be if you lost your phone with all your contacts, maybe pictures of you and your friends you’d never get back, maybe a text from someone you loved, or a last picture with someone who might not be here today.  One of my pet peeves about a lot of people in the world today is that they think they have what I call the “get some shit for free” card.  It’s one of those things that make them think that it’s okay to take stuff that doesn’t belong to you or mooch off friends without ever thinking of repaying them back.  It’s also one of my biggest pet peeves and one of the reasons why I wanted to move to a different area of southern California.  I’ll tell you a quick story.  One time I was at Disneyland and had just rode the space mountain ride for the billionth time ;).  As I stepped off the ride I was taking something out of my pocket and my annual pass fell out.  I realized this after about fifteen or so steps and went back to look for it.  GONE.  I know for a fact that it was in my pocket as I exited the ride and I KNOW that the person had to have seen me double back to pick up my pass.  I checked over the next few days at lost and found and it never turned up.  I sincerely hope that person/kid gets run over by a slow moving steam roller or gets eaten by ants or at the very least gets struck by lightning although having their genitals torn off by chimpanzees or having their face eaten also has a nice ending to it.

At any rate, think of how cool it would be if everyone was a little more honest and a little more friendly.  We could live in a society where you’d never have to lock your front door, and if you dropped your wallet (or cell phone!) you could be assured an honest person would return it later on.  You could leave your car unlocked, there wouldn’t be any need for annoying alarms, and I sure wouldn’t have to hide all my stuff during my shoredives and worry that some dopus would take it.

So if you came across this blog and found a iPhone and would like to return it to the owner, here’s what I found out by reading up online:

1.  Try to turn the phone on, if you are lucky and if it is charged and unlocked you can look up recently called numbers and call some of them back.  I looked for “home” but you might try “mom” “work” etc.  You might try “ice” which stands for “in case of emergency”, this has to be set up in your phone as a contact and I’m going to do that to my phone asap.  If the phone is locked you can see if SIRI is running and tell the phone to “call home” or “call work” etc and see if it will dial out.

2.  If the phone is locked, basically you are supposed to return it to the nearest police station where you found the phone, otherwise it could be viewed as stolen property.  I don’t have a lot of faith in law enforcement trying to find the owner (especially if the owner didn’t call that particular station) as it seems officers are probably too busy because they are often trying to hassle me for not having a front license plate or for supposedly speeding in the slow lane of the freeway at 10 pm at night or for lobster diving in some of my favorite spots at night.  What, Bitter? Who me? :).  You can call the station up and try this route but from what I read they hold the phone for 30 days and if no one claims it, it ends up in a box of discarded phones.

3.  You can try to go to the carrier and ask them to remove and scan the sim card which is located on the side of the phone.  I have heard different stories about this, but in general they will not give you the info because of privacy laws.  I have heard different things about whether or not they will contact the person and I’ve also read that there is nothing they can do.  It might be worth it to give them a call anyways.  You might also try the apple store, but I’ve heard they are very unlikely to try to contact the owner there and it is a better shot to try at the carrier store although employees have said there is nothing they can do.

4.  As a last resort you might try to post it up on a found section in something like “craigslist” etc.  Give the general area where you found it but leave some mystery to it, because a lot of people who like to use their “get some shit for free” card and lie to you just to get a new phone.   You can quiz them on where they lost it, what color it was etc.

5.  Karma is a bitch.  If you want to be one of the many outstanding citizens of Los Angeles who like to go shopping during riots and want to maximize your “get some shit for free” card and keep the phone without trying to contact the owner I can only hope a crackhead jumps you and jabs you with a dirty hypodermic needle and takes the phone from you.  When you are dying from some horrible disease surrounded by no friends nor family (because obviously you are a douchebag of epidemic proportions), hopefully you will recall that if you had returned the phone to it’s rightful owner, maybe this wouldn’t have happened ;).

By the way, I gave half that fish away to my buddies and the other half was made into a series of yellowtail sashimi, spicy yellowtail sushi rolls and an epic Misoyaki yellowtail.  Yum!

Spicy yellowtail rolls and sashimi                                                    Yellowtail Misoyaki

The Story of California Waterman Rick Hadley

4 Oct

Richard Hadley 3/8/1958-9/28/2013

We all come from the sea, but we are not all of the sea. Those of us who are, we children of the tides, must return to it again and again, until the day we don’t come back leaving only that which was touched along the way.”  Chasing Mavericks, 2012.

Tonight, like the last couple of nights I find myself staring at the ceiling.  I can’t sleep even though I’m very tired.  I roll around in the bed and can’t stand it and I stumble back to my keyboard.  I look at some of Rick’s fish pictures he posted.  Tuna, yellowtail, white seabass, ulua…Wow, just wow…

I still vividly remember the last email I got from Rick, it was him sassing me about our annual Yellowtail contest.  I see his letter every time I open my email.  I’ll never delete it.

“Hey Chris,

I just sent in my yt smackdown $$$.  Any chance we can go retroactive to last Tuesday?  I’ll split the winnings with you if it holds up :).  JK of course.  Heading off shore tomorrow to get another one!!

Thanks, Rick”

Rick had shot an absolute monster last week, 40.5 pound yellowtail and it was a local fish, the biggest that we’ve seen all year.  We all had to bow down to him on that one and there was a lot of friendly banter among what we affectionately call “The Tribe”,  which is our tight knit group of spearfishermen.  If Rick had entered the tournament earlier he would have walked away with the title, something that we’d all laugh about together.  A running joke between our Tribe, is to always say “stay off my spotz, kook” (yes I know I misspelled spots, it’s part of the joke) and that was what I wrote to him as an answer to that email he had sent me.  Little would I know that this would be the last time I would get to talk to him.

The next time his name would come up was when my buddy John texted me that Rick had passed away while diving.  To me, this was an impossibility.  Rick was a fantastic diver, in a class so far ahead of me I was always in awe of him and his accomplishments.  Rick could hit over 150′ (yes, that’s feet) on a single breath, he had a fantastic breath hold and had a personal best static of 5:35 (5 min 35 sec).  He also had many years of experience under his belt.   I knew he was diving for “bugs” (what we call California Spiny Lobsters) in fairly shallow water at one of the islands.  In my mind it was impossible for him to have died doing that.  I immediately called my buddy and he confirmed it, with a shaking voice he gave me the details and again and again I told him I didn’t believe it.

It was the opening season for lobster and some friends headed out to one of their favorite spots.  They spent the day getting some nice fish and then pulled anchor and headed to another island, one of their favorite spots for lobster.  As usual Rick was the first in the water and he headed towards a likely spot.  When Rick didn’t show up on the boat after a while all the guys on the boat immediately had started to grid search.  Another boat of guys were in the area and they also joined the search as did the coast guard and county lifeguards.  Everyone did absolutely everything they could.  The ocean wrapped her arms around Rick to welcome him one final time.   We’re still not sure what had happened, the details weren’t really important, what pained us all was that our friend was not going to return.   At the very very least I know that on his last day, Rick was among his best friends and he was doing something that he absolutely loved, we all took some comfort in that thought.

For those who knew Rick, they knew he was a great father to two children.  That he was chairman and CEO of Hawaiian Springs Water.  That he was a philanthropist and had a true love for the ocean.  And for those of us who were lucky enough to get close to him, we knew he was a phenomenal freediver and spearfisherman.  He trained with professional freedivers and would spend a lot of time doing drills in the pool.  He would spend many days hunting in the water, this year would be a banner  year for Rick as he shot two of his personal best fish, a 40.5 lb yellowtail and a 60.4 lb white seabass.  Rick was so modest and humble you would never peg him to be a pro, he would never brag about his accomplishments and you kind of had to drag it out of him.  He largely flew under the radar.  Anyone who knew him would tell you, he was always there to help anyone out who needed it and always went out of his way to answer questions or lend a hand.  He was a wonderful human being.

I’ve only known Rick for a few years.  The first time I met Rick was probably at a Long Beach Neptunes meeting, a well known spearfishing club which he was a member.  My buddies introduced me to him and it would be the first of many times that I would experience that warm smile and firm handshake.  I never even really thought Rick would remember me but in an odd coincidence one of my former coworkers was on a flight and unknowingly sat next to Rick.  Rick was reading a Hawaii Skin Diver magazine on the plane.  I was fortunate enough to have an article in that issue and my friend told Rick that she knew a guy who wrote one of the articles in there and pointed to it.  Rick lit up and blurted out my name and told her about the article and how he was my friend and some other nice things.  When my friend told me about it she couldn’t remember his name until she described him and I said that had to be Rick Hadley.  To me, Rick was a spearfishing legend.    He was taking down large tuna before a lot of guys even figured out how to shoot them.  Early in my spearfishing adventures I remember seeing pictures of him next to gigantic yellowfin tuna.  I remember seeing his posts as “Kumu” years before, Rick was a big guy and the tuna made him look small in comparison.   I believe his biggest was about 276 lbs.  He had stopped posting for various reasons and I was honored when he found us and began posting on a small spearsite I owned and when we made the transition to the new larger site Rick made the move with us to that site as well and posted often.  I always looked forward to seeing that boyish grin from the big guy who looked like a surfer from a magazine.  I still remember talking to him at Byron’s 50th bday.  Rick had brought a present for Byron and with a serious face, handed it to him.  Byron said, “aw man Rick you shouldn’t have!”  Rick (with a straight face), “oh it’s no big deal, just wanted to wish you a happy bday, open it”.  So with a lot of encouragement Byron finally opens it and it’s a big pack of Depends adult diapers.  Rick’s face suddenly splits into a big smile and roars with a booming laugh and we all crack up.  What a character Rick was!

When Rick passed, the news spread through the freediving community like wildfire.  I  received texts, calls and emails for the rest of the night and the next day as well, every single one was disbelief on what had happened.  Our forum blew up with posts of sadness and prayers for his family.  In 24 hours pretty much anyone in the Tribe knew what had happened, although Rick was modest, pretty much anyone who was a freediver knew who he was.  When I first got the news I  came home from work and I was numb.  I scooped up my six month old son Hawke and held him tight and the tears just kept flowing.  It took a while before I could tell my wife what was wrong.  It’s been a few days, but when I see all the Tribe banding together and swapping stories and pictures of Rick I still get teary eyed.  We lost a great spearfisherman, a loving family man, a business role model and a real ambassador to our sport.  It is a tremendous loss for anyone who ever was lucky enough to meet him.

I didn’t feel like doing anything the last few nights.  We are all still depressed and can’t believe what happened.  I often deal with grief by writing, and when my fingers were done tapping, I came up with something to try to comfort our loss to the Tribe.

 “The Freediving Tribe is so small that when we lose someone, it’s always a tremendous personal loss. We’re doing this on one breath of air, and on that one drop it’s that one breath that sustains your life. I’m sure everyone who wasn’t fortunate enough to make it back up wishes that they had used that one breath to tell someone they loved them, to whisper a last thought into someone’s ear, or at least to tell us goodbye. But since they couldn’t we just have to take comfort knowing that on their last breath, they were doing something that they truly loved.”

I’ll never be able to truly accept that Rick is gone, in my mind he’s just on vacation and I’ll see him again sometime.  I’m sure he’s going to be watching over us while we dip our fins under the sea.  I like to think he’s exploring new spots now, finding big fish, swimming free and never having to worry about coming back up for air.  When I see him again with that boyish grin and barreling laugh I’ll tell him the same thing I always tell him.  “Stay off my spotz, kook!!!” :).

Memorial service will be held at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach October 10, at 11:00 am.  Hawaiian shirt attire requested.

A really nice article about Rick and his company:

And below are a bunch of photos I got from friends or Rick’s facebook page.

Rick with two big Yellowfin Tuna                                                      Rick hit 150′ with the monofin

Rick, Carla and Byron

2013 Personal best local yellowtail, a monster at 40.5 pounds

Best of friends:  Rick and Lyle with a couple of nice white seabass.  BTW I told you kooks to stay off my spotz! 😉

Rick and Daryl Wong with a nice Ulua.


Its such a tragedy that we have all lost a member of our tribe. Even more so to those that have been lifelong friends with Rick. I’ve only known Rick a few years now and he’s everything that has been described and more. 
We would go out diving when ever he was in town for his Hawaiian springs business. He was always so positive and Hawaii has lost a true friend. Through his business, endangered plant species are being saved through his companies sponsorship. Many companies come over to Hawaii and do well, but Rick’s company not only provided a service, but gave back. He had the true meaning of “Aloha” spirit in him. He was a member of our dive gang here. It was always nice to dive with him and then have him over for our traditional Sunday BBQ’s after diving.

I’ll miss my friend Rick, but will always think of him. His legacy here with his company, its goodwill, his positive attitude and the friendships he made will always be in our thoughts with the dive gang here.

Aloha Rick, dive on!


Yes that fish is that BIG

These two kooks are practically brothers.  Sorry Lyle, Rick’s fish looks bigger 😉

Rick’s water company                                                                                                Another big white seabass

Center Punched Yellowfin Tuna                                               Personal best white seabass:  60.4 lbs.  Nice pink line you got there Rick 😉

When You Wish upon a Star…

25 Mar

 “My name is Hawke I was born in March and I’m glad to meet ya, you can swaddle me but I’ll get out cause I’m a ninja…” 

This is the song I often softly sing to you as I hold you in my arms.  As I watched you, your eyes flittered about, the sandman throwing his magic into your eyes and you would drift to sleep.  I always have the biggest smile on my face when I see you…

When we first had your ultrasound the tech asked us “do you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?”.  And we both answered “YES”!.  We thought for sure you were going to be a girl, everyone told us that.  I would have loved you either way, but I had hoped for a son to keep the family line going.  The tech paused for a second and answered, “It’s a boy”!  I was stunned.  “Are you sure”, I asked.  She laughed and said, “pretty sure”.  I felt like I had won the lottery :).

That blob in the center of the screen is you, just about five months after conception

It would be about 4 am on Tuesday March 19th that you would cause your first ruckus.  Your beautiful mother nudged me awake and let me know the first weak contractions were happening, but they weren’t the right kinds of contractions to take her to the hospital yet. Our dogs Leilani and Kalea stirred as well, Leilani let out a groan and crawled up next to me and promptly fell asleep with her head on my pillow and began snoring, I laughed because I had never heard her snore before.  But I immediately went into worry mode, I couldn’t sleep and went to the computer to work on a spearfishing article,  maybe HSD will pick it up and you can read it someday.  I went back and I rolled around in bed and finally got out to shoot my buddies a text message letting them know I wasn’t going to make that spearfishing trip today.  It’s white seabass season and I didn’t want to take a chance having you show up before I got home.

We waited for you in the am and you were still a no show, so your mom and I took a walk around the neighborhood.  It was a nice quiet morning and the sun finally started to show.  We talked about moving to a new house, a bigger one where you and any siblings you had would have more room to grow.  We had a big breakfast and then went to Disneyland where we walked around some more trying to coax you to hurry up.  We couldn’t ride too many rides but we did go on The Little Mermaid Ride, Toy Story Mania and had giant ice cream in the hot sun.  We finished up the day on “It’s a Small World” because we thought it would be nice for you to hear the music.   Your mom had to stop often as the contractions finally started again, but you still weren’t ready to show up so we went shopping for some more things for you and then had a nice dinner at home.

The contractions grew over the evening becoming stronger and stronger, your mother walked around the house and rested intermittently, somehow I fell asleep and about 2:30 am on Wednesday March 20th we knew it was time to go to the hospital. 

I stumbled around the living room and grabbed our overnight bags and some things for you as well.  I walked your mom to the car , my mind full of worry.  Would she be okay?  Would you be okay?  What would I ever do if anything happened to either of you?

Your mom was as calm as could be although the contractions doubled her over in pain.  We made it to the hospital and they checked us in, luckily for us the labor pains were the right duration and they admitted us and got her ready.  We had a couple of scares because your mom had a slight fever and your heart beat was a bit faster than it should have been so we had to wait a while until things were under control.  Finally about 11:30 am or so your mom started pushing, harder and harder.  Again I was so worried about both of you, it was hard to take but I gently coached her.  “Babe you are doing great, take a deep breath and push until we count till ten”.  With the nurses and doctors around she pushed and I heard a soft cry, you appeared with your umbilical cord wrapped slightly around your neck and they cut the cord and cleaned you up and then placed you on your moms chest.  You cried and winced at the bright lights but they assured me you were okay and I could finally relax.  You were born Wednesday March 20th at 12:15 pm, you share your bday with your grandfather on my side.

This is you, just born, eyes puffy

It turned out later that you had borderline jaundice, they had to take you from us and put you under bright UV lights for 24 hours.  It broke our hearts to see you in there with your goggles on, but you didn’t seem to mind it at all and we came to visit you that night and the next morning.  All of the nurses fell in love with you, you were such a beautiful baby with such a gentle disposition, any one who got to see you would immediately break into a smile.

Your eyes first open, you look a lot like Grandpa Okamoto in this picture

We finally got a chance to take you home, we’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, and I’ve been thinking about you a lot.   You are the last of the Okamoto line of men, and maybe someday you’ll be typing a letter to your own unborn son.  Your first name was a name we chose because it was strong.  Bradley Hawke.  Your middle name Takashi is after a great man, your grandfather who you will see in a few days.  Your grandfather is one of those practical engineers, he could fix anything and build anything out of pretty common parts.  Hawke was a name that we originally thought of for your first name but decided it would be a better middle name and it stuck throughout your mothers pregnancy, it’s the name we normally call you.

The very most important thing of course is what my mother always told me, “Be glad you are healthy”.  So of course our greatest hope is that you have strong health for the rest of your life.  Of course we want you to have the world but your life will be yours to choose.   I’m hoping you will grow to be a gentleman, that you’ll open doors for women, pull out chairs and hold the elevator door and be the last one out.  You’ll be a shoulder to lean on for your friends and a ear to listen.  You’ll defend those who you care about fiercely.  You’ll grow up to learn what really is to be feared and what is not, you’ll grow to learn to never be afraid of anything except losing someone. 

I am hoping you will have the love of the ocean, when you are just a toddler we are going to introduce you to the water.  Maybe you’ll like it as much as I do and will turn out to be a fish.  Maybe you’ll like it so much that someday you’ll follow your father into the sea where we will chase mighty fish and on lucky days bring some home to share with our friends and family. There are rods and reels in the garage gathering dust just waiting to get used again so we can go fishing together.  I’ve got spearguns and other dive gear already set aside for you should you choose to follow me.  If you embrace the sea I plan on teaching you how to read the conditions, how to pilot the boat, how to be as safe as you can.  We are going to spend a lot of time outdoors, and we’ll try to see wildlife where ever we can.  We’ll go camping and sleep under the stars.  As you grow you’ll learn everything that I can teach you, you’ll learn how to wrench on cars and be able to figure out most things mechanically, you’ll be able to build things out of plastic, wood or steel.  You’ll learn how to cook and how to experment with the flavors you enjoy.  You’ll learn martial arts, basketball, and maybe some other sports you are interested in.  You’ll come home dirty, maybe even with fresh scrapes on your knees and arms.  You’ll learn the hard ways of life, you won’t complain and you’ll hopefully learn the patterns that life revolves around.   Hopefully you’ll enjoy Disneyland as much as your mother and I do.

You will challenge yourself and make mistakes, you’ll fail and learn that’s okay too.  But eventually you’ll learn to follow your dreams and make the right decisions, but you’ll never have to question whether you are loved by your mother and father.

A long time ago, I memorized the words to a song that has had a lot of meaning in my life, funny how now it means so much more.  It’s from Will Smith, Just the Two of Us.

“From the first time the doctor placed you in my arms

I knew I’d meet death before I’d let you be harmed

Although questions arose in my mind, would I be man enough?

Against wrong, choose right and be standin up

From the hospital that first night

Took a hour just to get the car-seat in right

People drivin’ all fast, got me kinda upset

Got you home safe, placed you in your basonette

That night I don’t think one wink I slept

As I slipped out my bed, to your crib I crept

Touched your head gently, felt my heart melt

Cause I knew I loved you more than life itself

Then to my knees, and I begged the Lord please

Let me be a good daddy, all he needs

Love, knowledge, discipline too

I pledge my life to you

Just the two of us, we can make it if we try

Just the two of us, (Just the two of us)

Just the two of us, building castles in the sky

Just the two of us, you and I

Five years old, bringin comedy

Everytime I look at you I think man, a little me

Just like me

Wait an see gonna be tall

Makes me laugh cause you got your dad’s ears an all

Sometimes I wonder, what you gonna be

A General, a Doctor, maybe a MC

Haha, I wanna kiss you all the time

But I will test that butt when you cut outta line, trudat

Uh-uh-uh why you do that?

I try to be a tough dad, but you be makin me laugh

Crazy joy, when I see the eyes of my baby boy

I pledge to you, I will always do

Everything I can

Show you how to be a man

Dignity, integrity, honor an

I don’t mind if you lose, long as you came with it

An you can cry, ain’t no shame in it

It didn’t work out with me an your mom

But yo, push come to shove

You was conceived in love

So if the world attacks, and you slide off track

Remember one fact, I got your back

It’s a full-time job to be a good dad

You got so much more stuff than I had

I gotta study just to keep with the changin times

101 Dalmations on your CD-ROM

See me-I’m

Tryin to pretend I know

On my PC where that CD go

But yo, ain’t nuthin’ promised, one day I’ll be gone

Feel the strife, but trust life does go on

But just in case

It’s my place

To impart

One day some girl’s gonna break your heart

And ooh ain’t no pain like from the opposite sex

Gonna hurt bad, but don’t take it out on the next, son

Throughout life people will make you mad

Disrespect you and treat you bad

Let God deal with the things they do

Cause hate in your heart will consume you too

Always tell the truth, say your prayers

Hold doors, pull out chairs, easy on the swears

You’re living proof that dreams come true

I love you and I’m here for you”

There is nothing more for me to say to you Hawke, just remember, we love you and we are here for you 🙂

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s “Tidelines” Newsletters focusing on Chip Matheson

2 Jan

Below are three fairly old articles from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s (you may formally remember it as the Cabrillo Marine Museum) Tidelines newsletters, which have been posted with the permission from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. 

For those of us who were lucky enough to know Chip Matheson, these articles are an amazing insight into the early workings of his life.  Even when he started out at the Aquarium, he was determined to become a marine cinematographer, something that he accomplished at an early age.  As I leafed through the old archives a big smile opened up on my face, it brought back another flash of great memories.




A Newsletter for the FRIENDS of Cabrillo Marine Museum

Summer 1982

Sharks, Films in Matheson’s Future

A few years back, Chip Matheson was in the junior high school training program at the old museum.   Today he is an assistant aquarist.   Tomorrow, he would like to be functioning as an underwater film maker.   And, if determination is a factor, he will be.

“I spend all my money on equipment, film and getting to the place to take pictures”, he says.   He recently bought a boat to help him in this purpose.   Matheson sees great opportunities in the underwater film field as it is still a frontier.   He says there are only ten to 15 really good underwater cameramen and he plans to join that elite group.

More mundanely, Matheson is responsible for the tanks containing sea hares, grazers and browsers, ghost shrimp, shark eggs, bioluminescence display, sandy bottom demonstration tank and the holding system.   He and other assistant aquarists have a daily routine of cleaning and maintaining tanks from about 8 to 10 a.m. before turning to special projects.   Much of his time is spent scrubbing algae, cleaning buckets and painting rust in the pump room.   The most enjoyable duty comes when he can assist Bob Johnson and Lloyd Ellis in their collecting.

Of collecting Matheson says,  “There is the thrill of the hunt, but even better is the special satisfaction of not killing but seeing the animal you collected flourishing in an aquarium you are maintaining.”

Matheson’s career with the Cabrillo Marine Museum started in 1973 when he was a volunteer in the junior high school program.   He joined Whalewatch in 1978 and was hired on the museum staff the same year at the age of 18.   In 1980, he went to work for Bob Johnson, taking responsibility for two tanks in the old museum.

Johnson has encouraged his movie-making ambitions and has taught him how to work with sharks,  including the valuable information of when you do and when you do not get in the water with them.   “You have to look for mood changes in the sharks, ” says Matheson,  “and you must know how you will react yourself.   If you panic you might get killed.   You can’t be a thrill seeker.   You must use common sense, as each situation is different.”

Chip Matheson and Pacific Lobster




A publication for FRIENDS of Cabrillo Marine Museum

Summer 1988 Vol. 8, No. 2

Profile:  Chip Matheson

By Sue Lafferty

If you’ve spent any amount of time at Cabrillo Marine Museum lately, chances are you’ve encountered a busy young man ardently photographing sharks in the museum’s exhibit hall and projects lab. This is Chip Matheson, a local underwater photographer, producing the museum’s newest multi-media show, “Shark!” Chip is another of the museum’s volunteer success stories.

Chip began his marine-oriented career as a volunteer at CMM at the age of 13.   Like the rest of us, he became hopelessly hooked on the study of the sea and its creatures.   Since then, his life has been one underwater adventure after another, ranging from filming sea otters in Monterey Bay for the BBC, to diving with great white sharks in Australia—without benefit of a shark cage.

Chip’s main interest (aside from photography) is sharks.  Beginning

with a report on sharks in the fifth grade, his fascination has  continued to grow.   His first face-to-face encounter with the creatures was in 1980 when he was invited along for a day of shark

diving with then Chief Aquarist Bob Johnson and shark expert Don Nelson, Subsequently Chip found himself assisting Bob with his research for the U.S. Navy /California State University at Long Beach Shark Research Program as photographer and safety diver.   Numerous projects involving sharks followed. He spent five years as assistant cameraman for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom in such locations as Australia, the Bahamas and Mexico’s Guadalupe Island. Nearly all episodes featured sharks.

Chip’s respect and admiration for sharks has grown and he hopes to

convey this attitude in his “Shark!” multimedia slide show.   Chip would like to continue producing educational media presentations for museums and other institutions.   What the immediate future holds for him is (as usual in his profession) unpredictable.   He has several exciting summer opportunities and they all involve travel, photography, and, of course, the ocean.  Whichever adventure he chooses this time, Chip’s sure to be successful.   We look forward to more beautiful photographs and fascinating stories by this talented man.

Chip eye to eye with a BIG Great White Shark as seen in the “Shark! A new Look” slide show



A Publication for FRIENDS of Cabrillo Marine Museum

Fall 1988 Vol. 8, No. 3


By Sue Lafferty

Sharks, to most of us, are mysterious, sinister, and frightening creatures.  To photographer Chip Matheson, however, they are a misunderstood and misrepresented animal, deserving of much better regard.   With this in mind, Chip has developed Cabrillo Marine Museum’s newest multimedia slide show Shark! premiering September 23 (see page 3).  Through the show Chip hopes to project a new and different image of sharks, one he feels portrays them “as they really are.”

Hollywood filmmakers have done much to perpetuate current ideas , about sharks.   They are often depicted as bloodthirsty and vengeful monsters.   This isn’t necessarily true.   In fact, most species of sharks are completely harmless.   All, in Chip’s opinion, as he demonstrates in Shark! are actually fascinating, highly diverse and only sometimes violent denizens of the ocean.

Chip’s association with sharks goes back a number of years (see his profile in the summer issue of Tidelines).  Throughout his experiences with sharks, he has learned some surprising things.   For example, the most feared species of shark, the great white, can actually be an approachable and somewhat passive animal under the right circumstances.   Chip has actually been in the water with a great white, without a shark cage, camera in hand.   (He does not recommend trying this on your own, however!) Stunning, up close photographs of the magnificent animal are included in the show.

In addition to catching and sharing the beauty of sharks, the show is informative and complements the existing shark exhibit.   Common questions about sharks are addressed, such as why some sharks need to swim continually throughout their lifetime while others lie motionless on the ocean floor, and the most common question (and a good one!), “Why do sharks attack people?”  In keeping with the theme of Cabrillo Marine Museum, the show features only sharks found off the southern California coast. Species featured include blue sharks, horn sharks, swell sharks, mako sharks, and of course, the great white shark.   We are given a glimpse into different aspects of the natural history of these species, that we might not otherwise see.   For example, through time-lapsed photography, the development of a baby swell shark in its egg case is dramatically followed up to the shark’s emergence—an event few have seen.  Definitely one of the highlights of the show!

Chip also includes recent findings and current advancements in the field of shark research.   Incidentally, in the process of photographing the development of the swell shark embryo in its egg case.   Chip may have stumbled upon a new finding.   It seems that light may have some effect on the rate of development of the embryo.   Along with biologist Ed Mastro, one of our exhibit curators, he plans to further investigate this hypothesis.

As fierce as they may seem, sharks, as all sea animals, are quite vulnerable to man’s activities in the ocean.   In Shark!, Chip hopes to bring attention to the plight of sharks.   Gill nets, for example, seem to be taking a major toll on the local population of blue sharks.   Chip explains, “No one really cares about sharks being caught in gill nets and thrown overboard as waste, like they do when just one whale or dolphin is caught.   This is because most people see sharks as ugly and threatening.”

Accompanying Chip’s photography and the informative narrative in Shark! is an original musical score written and performed specifically for the show by Academy Award winning musician Christopher Cross and his associate Phil Giffen.

Shark!, the multimedia slide show, is an educational and popular addition to Cabrillo Marine Museum.   After seeing it, don’t be surprised to find yourself suddenly becoming a shark enthusiast too! Funding for Shark!  was generously provided by the Arco Foundation and CMM Volunteers’proceeds from the gift shop.

Carnival Cruises: Excursions on the Mexican Riviera and Cabo San Lucus

27 Nov

The Excursions

Because I’m a lazy drifter, I’m going to lump all of our excursions in one Blog. Our cruise was a 9 day mexican riviera, it consisted of going to Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta (where Lea and I had been married less than six months ago!), two days in Cabo (I loved it there), and one day in Ensenada.


Manzanillo looks a lot like Puerto Rico in this picture

Giant Sailfish Statue, Manzanillo is said to be the sailfish capital of the world!

I’ll save you some time, if you can afford it you want to do a excursion in Manzanillo because the shopping there kind of sucks and there isn’t a whole lot to do there, you’ll be done shopping in a few hours and then will have to return to the ship otherwise.  If I go there again and it’s sailfish season I’ll probably rent a panga and try to get one.

Some famous arches

This was the coolest thing ever, this guy burns in artwork into coconut wood, he’s putting our name on it right now.  The other reason I bought this is because I thought it would make a bitchin tatoo

If you can arrange it, you want to do your excursions outside of the trip to save a lot of cash but you have to use common sense. If you go outside the ship excursions then you chance not making it back to the ship on time (they will leave your ass at the dock) or possibly you can be put in danger. The cruise ship makes it convenient, they arrange all the travel to and from your excursion and make it as safe as possible, but on the downside they charge you about 20-80% more, you’ll see what I’m talking about in a bit. Try to read up and do your research or at least follow some general guidelines.

When you get off the boat and go through the port there is a good chance there will be a bunch of guys offering excursions. Start your bargaining and work your way down the line to try to get the best price, what you want to do is figure out the lowest price you can get your stuff for and how long the excursion is because you don’t want the cruise ship to leave without you!

Puerto Vallarta

This is the place where Lea and I got married less than six months ago.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to the all inclusive resort “Dreams” where we got married but we did get a chance to take a taxi into town.  We walked around looking for these beaded animals, PV is known for a certain indian tribe that makes these by hand, each is made of thousands of beads which are glued onto a block of wood resembling an animal.

Greedy fools getting free opal fragments in one of the stores

There was one part of town that had these neat metal statues of aliens that you could sit on or pose by.  Since the weather was so hot we found out rather quickly if you sat on them you’d burn your ass.

Metal statues of Aliens

Some octopus kind of thingy

Lea trying to climb up with the other aliens

This statue reminds me of Aquaman.  Aquaman is cool because he can talk to the fishes, although he gets no respect from me because he uses the fishes to fight for him and all he can do is throw water balls.

We walked around the shops and old churches and ended up at a familiar spot that we knew we wouldn’t get sick at, BUBBA GUMPS!  We especially chose this location because it was so freaking hot and they had air conditioning.

Having lunch and drinks at Bubba Gumps, Puerto Vallarta

Cabo San Lucas

Los Arcos “the arches” at Cabo

Cabo was probably my favorite destination, if you like water activities then Cabo is your place. There is also a ton of shopping that you can do, desert excursions, etc. When you get off the boat, if you are looking for a fishing trip go to the right of the dock and start walking down and chatting with the vendors. Right before you get to the end of where the guys are standing around with signs you’ll see some sportfishing booths and a bunch of pangas lined up on the docks. By then you should have bargained your way to figure out what you are going to spend. For snorkeling in Cabo the ship was charging 70$ per person. I got the guys at the dock down to 20$ per person for the exact same tour! We used a boat called “La Peque” but all of the pangas are pretty much the same.

Snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas

A nice mix of reef fish coming up to eat the bread the captain threw out

I really wanted to go on a snorkel trip in Cabo, when our cruise ship pulled up the water was a deep blue and calm. We didn’t book it on the ship and ended up booking it ourselves on the docks. In short time we followed the booking guy down the ramp and jumped onto the panga (panga’s are smaller 17-30′ fiberglass boats that are used for fishing and water taxi’s in baja). They are all booked as “glass bottom boats” but basically there are just large cut out windows on the bottom of the panga and on rare occasions can you actually see fish underneath, you are going to see more fish outside the panga as they swim by in the clear water. The captain we had gave us a tour of Los Arcos which had fantastic rock formations and shallow reefs. He showed us rocks shaped like scooby doo, skeleton heads, dinosaurs drinking water, one shaped like the baja penninsula, and caves. There were also two beaches, lovers beach and divorce beach. Lovers beach had a beautiful calm cove with blue water, divorce beach had a beautiful beach but was surrounded by signs cautioning against swimming there due to the raging currents and rough waves. At the end of the tour we were dropped off near pelican rock where we could snorkel as long as we liked. Before we started the captain threw some bread in the water and the colorful reef fish boiled all around us.

Pelican rock was an incredibly busy spot. There were scuba tank divers mixed in with glass bottom boats, “submarine” boats and kayaks and snorkelers mixed in between. I had not brought my own snorkeling equipment and really wished I had, I like stiff fins for diving deep and the rental stuff was the same travel type that you get at costco, it’s decent and will do the job but without a weight belt and those soft short fins flailing about I could only hit about 40 feet down most of the time. I’d still drop down on the scuba guys because they were in pretty shallow water, there is plenty to see all around the reef. In the shallows I saw a ton of sardinas

A huge school of Sardinas

(bait that looked like threadfin shad to me) and there were small jacks, milkfish and roosterfish tearing through the bait along with pelicans divebombing all around. The deeper reefs held all kinds of angelfish, wrasses and in the deep areas I made drops and saw schools of snapper to about fifteen or twenty pounds. I spent a lot of time with these fish and just like the ones in the wild, they would drop deeper and deeper as you got close to them, luring you into deeper depths.

Baby Roosterfish


Clown Hawkfish

This is disney’s boat, but I wanted to show you all the other boats running around by where the snorkelers are, watch out for them!!!

The scariest part was when I was breathing up on the surface and felt a sharp thud on my back, instantly I knew I was getting run over by a panga! I quickly ducked down and tried to figure out which direction the boat was moving, I knew I had to get deeper so I quickly flipped over and kicked the bottom of the boat to shoot deeper and sure as shit I saw the propeller spinning above me. Thank god I had moved quick enough and as I surfaced I saw the driver slow down to check if I was cut (I’ve been hit by a prop once before, it split my 1/4″ wetsuit and cut me almost to the bone), luckily I escaped injury this time but with the increasing boat traffic I decided to play it safe and head back to shore. Keep in mind, I am very conscious of where boats are when I’m diving. On this trip, every single drop I made I always looked up when I was coming back for air and many times I had to change my accent at an angle because I saw the boats coming underwater. This guy hit me when I was on the surface with my back to him, something I had not ever expected and I was only 6 feet from the edge of the rock, I was pretty pissed but again I’m just glad I was okay and that the boat was merely cruising through and not moving at full speed, if it were you might be reading about an accident in Cabo in the papers!

We spent some time in the sun and then took a short walk to lovers beach and then divorce beach.

Divorce Beach

I was amazed at the power of the waves at divorce beach, it would look calm for a second and then suddenly the swell would draw back and a huge wave would come crashing through, making a swirling pool around the reef. I would never even think of going in the water in those conditions. After we were tired of exploring we had the guy with the radio on the beach hail our panga from shore and in ten minutes he pulled up to the beach and we again headed back to the docks. There were lots of places to go shopping in cabo with two flea markets close by and lots of other shops mixed in. If you like to party and drink there were also a ton of bars in the area. There are also a bunch of places to eat and we rolled the dice and tried a fish taco truck behind the flea market, it was 6$ for 3 fat fish tacos and no one got sick :).

We spent the remainder of the day wandering around the town and shopping in the flea markets nearby as well as the small shops in town. I am definitely going to come back to Cabo, there is so much to do there and the front area has been developed very nicely.

Cabo: Mini Jeep Off-Road Desert Expedition

We booked this one on the boat and paid 110$/person, but if you go directly through Carisuva (it’s called the Rhino 4×4 tour on their brochure it was 65$/person plus 15$ insurance, and that included transportation. Martin was our guide, he spoke excellent English and he used to be a panga fishing captain so I spent a lot of time chatting with him about fishing). It’s a 4 hour duration but you are only driving the minijeep for about 1.5 hours. We really had a great time on this one, the mini jeep is basically a ATV with a steering wheel and a cage and two seats side by side, it’s like driving one of the cars at disneyland except they haul ass and can go over bumps like they are nothing.

Lea wanted to drive but I started driving first and after she saw how it was she declined, you have to be able to drive down steep grades and vary your speed around turns. Don’t let that deter you if you are meek though because there were a lot of people who were older and just took their time driving, it was pretty safe and there are two guys taking care of you, one in the lead and one that follows to make sure no one gets left behind. Most of the time you will be half throttle but there were a few areas that you could floor it and rip through the trail at full speed.

We got to spend some time at a deserted beach, it was absolutely fantastic with a lot of blue water surrounding us, if I had one complaint it would only be that we could have searched out a few more beaches, but other than that I’d highly recommend it as a cruise ship expedition or just an expedition when you are traveling to cabo.

Ensenada: La Bufadora and the Flea Market

I’m making a mental note to find the guy who owns this and kick his ass

We had the greatest weather on the cruise, it was warm and sunny around baja while my friends in southern California were freezing their butts off :). But when we arrived in Ensenada I was disappointed to see that it was raining and COLD. The storm had come from up north and it rained pretty hard but we toughed it out and decided to go into town.

The bus from the cruise ship to downtown was about 3$ round trip and while we were on the way the guide on the bus suggested that we do the Blowhole and flea market tour. It was 15$ and they would take us to La Bufadora (it means “the snorter”) which has a natural blowhole that spouts when the waves hit the side of the rocks/cavern. Afterwards we would get an hour or two to shop at the flea market which is in walking distance from the blowhole.

The blowhole itself is pretty amazing, we were lucky because the bad weather had brought some swell. When the waves hit the rocky shore it is forced into a gully and out the blowhole, the seawater shoots up about 40 feet or more! It was raining pretty hard but we took a lot of pictures before running for shelter. When we began shopping there were eager vendors who wanted us to see their shops. Get used to hearing “come here, we have a special sale today!” as they sell their wares. There were a lot of counterfeit bags, leather goods, clothes, jewelry, and food everywhere. We found one really neat shop that had a lot of dried fish, shark jaws, prehistoric stuff etc. It was like a little museum almost, althought it was a tad bit sad seeing all those dried up animals.

House of 1000 corpses

We walked in and out of each shop and bargained for different wares, then we ran for the bus where we could warm up.

When we got back to town we were pretty beat from the cold but Tom mentioned that there was a place called “Mercado Negro” (black market) in Milton Love’s book “Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast” which is an encyclopedia of pictures and stories about fish. The Mercado Negro was quoted as being a fish market with a lot of different fish for sale.

Since Tom and I are both Aquarists (marine biologists that take care of living collections of animals, read my “How to become a marine biologist” blog you dummy) we really wanted to check this place out. Our bus driver was nice enough to drop us off right down the street, we walked by a lot of fish taco shops and small restaurants into a small building with a familiar smell: dead fish!

Assorted reef fish and btw who the heck buys opaleye???

Squid and shortfin corbina

All kinds of clams were available

Black Sea Bass (it is legal to possess them there)

It wasn’t stinky at all, most of the fish and seafood was really fresh. There were Opah, pieces of tuna, marlin, shark, black sea bass, squid, clams, some of it fresh and some of it smoked. It was pretty much everything that you might come across in fine restaurants was present. The fishermen there were eager to show off their catches and asked us many times if we wanted such and such fish. We took some pictures and then found a bus to take us back to the ship where we could take long hot showers to bring up our core temperature.

All in all we had a great time in Baja and of course enjoyed the excursions. If I had one recommendation I’d say try to read up online about the different types, get a feel for the prices and then try to bargain your own. Once again keep in mind two things, 1. make sure the excursion gets back to the boat on time, 2. make sure whatever you do is safe!

And finally, here’s a video I shot while freediving with shitty rental gear in Cabo San Lucus

Life is Short

13 Nov

One of the things I believe is that life is short.  It’s not a statement, it’s not a theory, it’s a fact.  I figured this out when my aunt passed away about the same time as my dog, Midnight and both of them had passed way before their time.  A few weeks ago I’d have to face that fact again.

When I first met my buddy Mark’s parents I was pretty blown away.  They were some of the nicest most honest, down to earth people I’ve met in my life.  They raised three of the greatest kids to have walked this Earth, really just fantastic people.  Anyone who has met them will tell you that.  When I first met Mark it was probably around 22 years ago, now that I think about it, that pretty much makes it more than half my life ago.

I had walked up to the information booth at the Aquarium because I had a job interview there, Mark was in the info booth, if I remember right he was about 17 then.  He was so polite and courteous that at first I mistook it for sarcasm.  You have to remember that I grew up in Gardena with a lot of characters like myself, guys that would tie your shoelaces to chairs so you’d drag the desk when you got up or drag bottlecaps on the ground with your feet so they got red hot and then burned it into your skin :).  When I got to know Mark later on and met his parents I figured out where he got his polite demeanor.

The first time I met his parents, Mark, Chris B (who we always called “spooky”) and I were working on a computer project.  It would have been the first touch screen interactive computer program that any marine aquarium had on exhibit, way before even Monterey had one.  We had worked on that program for a long time and one night I was at Mark’s house and we were doing some programming.  His parents warmly welcomed me into their tiny house, and they sat in the living room while we worked late into the night.  I saw his sisters Lisa and Angie working in a small room doing homework and I wondered why they didn’t return to their rooms and go to sleep.  I actually didn’t realize it until many months later that they all were living together in a one bedroom house and we were in the only room.  Mark’s parents never said anything or tried to get me to leave, they were so supportive in our project.  They always have and always will support their family and friends.

It was only a short time later that they bought a huge wonderful brand new house not too far away.  I remember going to that house many many times for parties or just to visit.  Mr. and Mrs. T would always warmly welcome me and were always interested in what I was doing.  I’d run into them at schools I was teaching at when I was still doing outreach, and every time there would be a cheerful “Hi Chris!” and a warm handshake or hug to greet me.  It was always the same and it would remain that way for years, even though I hardly saw them, when I did bump into them it would be like I had seen them just yesterday.  I would talk to Mrs. T often about being single, because for years I was having the worst time dating.  She was always supportive and would tell me what a catch I was, I’d laugh and try to change the subject.  I knew that deep down she worried about me.

It would be many years later when Spooky gave me the worst news.  “Mark’s mom has cancer, she just got diagnosed, it’s untreatable and spreading and they think she only has a few months or maybe less.”  I was stunned, I was blown away, I don’t even think she had retired yet and she was way to young to leave this earth.  I talked to Mark and he told me, “man Oak I don’t know if she’s even going to make it a couple of weeks, she’s at home now but she’s unconscious”.   I didn’t know what to say, cancer claimed my grandmother the same way, you just don’t know what to say because you don’t want to admit to yourself that they aren’t coming back.

I knew I had to visit her before she left.  It was really hard to return to that big wonderful house and see her unconscious in that bed with all that equipment hooked up to her.  It was hard to miss that hug and that cheerful voice, always welcoming me.  I had so much that I wanted to tell her, but I was choked up and couldn’t say it.  The tears had already welled up in my eyes before I had even knocked on their door.
I talked with Lisa, Angie and Mr. T and they tried to take my mind off it and assured me she wasn’t in any pain.  I wanted to sit next to Mrs. T and tell her about my life.  I wanted to tell her how thankful I was to have met two great parents and tell her what a great job they did raising three of the greatest kids into great adults who are now raising families on their own.  I wanted to show her my wedding ring with all it’s carvings and pictures and let her know that I finally found a fantastic girl who put up with me enough to marry me and that everything in my life was okay and that hopefully someday I’d be even half as great a parent as they were.  But I just couldn’t do it.  I said my goodbyes and a few days later learned that she had passed away.

I was really glad that I had a chance to see her, the day the memorial came I was glad that I had a chance to see the family and chat a bit.  I watched her grandkids running around and hoped that she could see that the full circle had come complete, somewhere, inside those kids are her genes, in a way she’s immortal now and that gave me some comfort :).

Like I said, I always tell my friends that  life is short.  I always say, do what you want to do, when you want to do it, because you never know when you aren’t going to be able to do it anymore.  That’s my philosophy in life and I try to live it that way.  That’s why you’ll see me diving in the middle of the night by myself or taking a day off to go to Disneyland with friends instead of working on my house or taking time to chat with friends who are having a tough time.  My goal is to not be one of those guys who you hear saying, “ah I wish I had made more time to do…”.

After the service I loaded up my car with my dive gear.  As I drove along the coast I thought about all the things I wanted to say to Mrs. T and after I suited up I stood near the water’s edge and whispered a thank you, told her I grew up okay, and said a final goodbye.

That day would turn out to be one of the best spearfishing days of my life.  The seas were flat that day and although it wasn’t exceptionally clear the conditions held well and I saw a variety of reef fish.  I took a breath and held it, dipped my fins and dropped to the sandy bottom and saw the clear shape of a big halibut.  I backed off a bit, steadied my wong hybrid and clicked off the shot and stoned it, something that would be repeated several times over the hour or so I was hunting.  Before darkness fell, four fat halibut slung over my shoulder and I made my way out of the water.  I turned again and watched the sunset and whispered a “thank you Mrs. T” and then made my way back to my car.

Life is short, don’t forget that…