Snorkeling in Roatán last month I swam out through a fairly narrow channel between some sharp corral, explored for about 20 minutes, then had a few moments when even though I could see the shore I couldn’t see a safe way back to it through the dangerous maze a foot below the surface.
Ten days after debarking from our second family cruise vacation, stepping back ashore onto the south bank of Texas, slowly making our way through customs, airports, and a yearly allotment of seasons in a single twenty-four hour span, I realize I haven’t written much about our little adventure.
I usually write something.
In November 2017, we found ourselves lost at sea. Not physically, of course. Physically we were aboard a 155,889 gross tonnage, 14 story, 5000 passenger mega-luxury cruise ship plowing through the Gulf of Mexico at 21 knots. Physically we were wrapped tightly into a billion-dollar industry’s bosom of comfortable pampering, eating too much, water-sliding in places only a twenty-first century human would find reasonable, and jogging on treadmills at ten-thirty at night in the middle of the Caribbean sea while thousands of people drank and gambled and watched country line-dancing seminars all aboard this gleaming white technological marvel of nautical engineering.
In November 2017, we found ourselves lost, but lost moreso in a cultural mismatch of vacation priorities. I claim no moral superiority in my vacation interests, my tendency to seek quiet contemplative moments on some less-travelled gang staring out at the sea counting the swells of the ocean in a meditative trance, is just different from the bustle implied of basking in the sunlit upper decks amid a wash of music and pool noise while nursing a twelve dollar drink from a carved out pineapple. It’s just my preference and while my choice was relatively more difficult to find, it was available in heaping abundance compared to any other day of my life
I found some of those moments under the water as well.
A mask sealed over my eyes and nose. A plastic tube protruding from the waves. A camera.
A hundred meters off the shore of Roatán, Honduras I swam our past the tangle of wilting reefs and floated in water ten meters deep as I lolled along the border of fractal crops of sea life as they dropped into a bare sandy abyss disappearing into the clear water murk of the Caribbean.
A few days later we, all three of us, dropped from the back of an unsteady boat and floated above the protected reefs of a Mexican protected aquatic wilderness a few kilometers from where our behemoth of a cruise vessel sat seemingly so quietly at the Cozumel dock.
There are a hundred interesting moments on cruise ship, temporarily cut off from internet and media and land and slugging through the waves towards some unknown land which will inevitably be pocked with a nugget of tropical culture perfectly aligned to selling cheap souvenirs and overpriced beer to fat tourists. The trick… my trick to find a perfect moment in that clutter, was to ignore the feeling of being lost in that fury and find a moment of clarity, rare and precious for a land-locked doofus like me, under the water snorkeling with a camera in my hand.
This is another post from my “Daddy Daze” series, an anecdotal exploration of my odd little adventures in parenting in bite-sized chunks (for your reading enjoyment) and because the last thing this world needs is yet another doting parent blog.
Temperatures dropped to well below tolerable this past week, the windchill factor creeping into the sub minus-forties for a couple of hours on Tuesday. We hibernated. And the warmer temperatures that appeared as the weekend — and another Friday installment of our Daddy Day — were very welcome.
I picked the girl up from Kindergarten as usual. When I arrived — a few minutes early because I can never remember the exact dismissal time — the kids (and the teacher) were taking advantage of the warm(er) temperatures too and they were doing an outdoor craft project: spraying colour onto the snow outside.
I’ve been into volunteer in the past, so most of the kids know who I am — as does the teacher — so a minute later I was down on my knees in the snow helping squirt little bits of purple and blue onto a bunch of kinder-creations.
She’s taken quite a shining to a Friday hot dog and the bag-o-fries, but I think the two real draws are (a) a lunch date with her dad and (b) the fact the kitchen is out there in the open for her to watch: she’s fascinated by the burger assembly line and the calling out of order numbers. We were 49.
She scarfed the whole dog — impressively — and together we polished off an order of regular fries: I don’t indulge that often anymore, but it’s nice to hang out with a five year old who can glory in the simplicity and wonder of a paper bag overflowing with fried potatoes: There’s just something innocent about it.
Neither did I. And neither did the dog, who on the coldest day of the year and with a full bladder was treated to the mind-fraking repetitive squelch of a CO-detector gone south, beeping at her every minute for dog-only-knows how long over the course of the day. She peed on some things she shouldn’t have peed on. But in fairness, given the weather and the water-torture-like pain indirectly inflicted upon her by the fine folks at Kidde and their beeping “err” message, I can’t really hold it against her: I would have peed all over the place too.
And after finishing up at the burger joint, Claire and I hopped over to Home Depot to browse the aisles and locate another detector.
After this… well, daddy days aren’t all fun and games. The poor kid has more responsibility than me sometimes (or so it seems.) We had to spend some time back at home, running through yet another piano practice. She’s getting pretty good. In fact, she knows a couple of scales now, can sight-read about half the notes on the bass and treble clefs, and was playing a gosh-darn-decent (though simplified) rendition of Bach’s Minuet this past week.
I mean… hey, it’s about as good as I am. Maybe better. And she actually has technique (where I just patter at the keys.)
Every day we’re supposed to be doing at least one book with her. Those books are very simple, of course. I could turn my average blog-post (at least as far as word count) into a month’s worth of reading material. But simple stories and basic-language books are no problem anymore.
We zip though our daily reading in about five minutes.
“Hop in Mark! Hop in Carl!” We’re off to the pool.
This time last year Claire was not a swimmer. But she’s been in lessons, and we’ve been doing a lot of drop-in stuff, her and I, particularly when we have a daddy day. And she’s improving.
I sneaked my camera in. Well, not sneaked. I was discrete and only took video and pics of my daughter. It’s not really against the rules… I think. Well, maybe. I’m a little hazy. At the very least, it’s frowned upon. But I think they really just want to protect the privacy of swimmers… and I’m all game with that. So, probably don’t follow my example.
I grabbed a few seconds of video of Claire swimming and then we put the camera back in the locker. Hey.. proud father here. Then we did the water-slide and the steam room and the hot tub and called it a day-at-the-pool.
We checked the standard items off our to-do list: Claire begging for a snack from the Second Cup, me saying no, that type of thing.
Then we went home to drop our wet gear and gather our supplies.
It’s hard to believe but sometimes a few short hours is shorter even than it seems: time just flies by. We wait a couple weeks — sometimes longer — for one of this little daddy afternoons, seemingly so few and far between now, and then when we get one: woosh! A bit of driving, a bit of swimming and next thing you know we’re packed up in the car making silly faces as we get ready to go to piano lessons.
Of course, they really frown on taking pictures during piano lessons. So… yeah. There ain’t none of that.
I guess it is what it is: a few hours of father-daughter time. Does it really matter if we do something epic or if we just hang out? Does it matter if we swim or shop or eat burgers? Does it matter if we watch a movie and eat popcorn before crashing on the couch later? What’s the difference? It’s just about the time spent right?
Later that night, after Claire was sound asleep and I’d finished my evening run, we were watching a slightly-out-of-audio-synced version of the Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day” on the free-ad-supported digital video service, Crackle. The point being is that they were playing ads. One ad, actually. It was like they only had one sponsor all day and they played the same ad, twice, every ten minutes. It was for the US National Fatherhood Initiative, advocating just that sentiment: it’s about spending time. I think they got it right.
This is another post from my “Daddy Daze” series JJ, an anecdotal exploration of my odd little adventures in parenting in bite-sized chunks (for your reading enjoyment) and because the last thing this world needs is yet another doting parent blog.
School started back up again this morning for the Noodler, but last week when I had a post-holiday Friday-day-off she was still on the lamb from classes and eager for another installment of our Daddy Days. Who was I to disappoint?
At the ripe old age of five, Claire is showing strong signs that she is siding on the paternal side of the creativity equation, siding with the likes of her old man in the artsy-fartsy department. Karin will be the first to admit that whiles she’s a crafty gal — in the knitting and baking sense — she often finds herself stumped when it comes to the imagination side of her chosen arts. Claire, alternatively, slides neatly into the brain brimming with ideas category and seems to love bubbling out and exploring every notion to draw, build, sculpt, cut, paste, or otherwise create something interesting. All that said, it should come as no surprise that we found ourselves in the craft store on Friday morning with a little red basket and some holiday cash burning a hole in our pockets. I’ll save the details, but we both went away with some supplies for our respective projects.
Snorkels and Sinkers
…she could not breath through her nose.
On the front of a project of an entirely different nature, Claire and I took her new mask and snorkel set to the swimming pool later that day. I will reserve the specifics and details — at least as much to discourage stalkers — but note that we’ve booked a tropical vacation for sometime in the coming few months and — Claire being quite old enough and really starting to take to the water — I thought it might be useful for her to (at the very least) own and have used a snorkel set. Do I expect her to spend any measurable quantity of time with her face in the Caribbean looking at fish? Not really. But I’d hate to go all that way and find out she would have. The biggest shock was, of course, that the first time she pulled the mask over her face (in the bathroom of our house the day before) she could not breath through her nose: no kidding. But for a kid I guess this came as something of a shock, and it took some hearty persuasion to get her to try for a second attempt. We did. And later at the pool she actually made some solid progress — mask, snorkel and swimming in unison — and seemed quite ready to at least try in the ocean. We got a little more controlled-environment practice in… well, at least until they temporarily evacuated the pool for a (false-alarm) sinker.
One year ago (as I write this) I was on a two week vacation with my daughter, wife, and my wife’s extended family. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, at the time I was also on a blogging sabbatical, journalling dry-spell, and all-round record-keeping leave-of-absense. It might go without saying, then, that I don’t have much written down from those two weeks of our frantic Hawaiian holiday. I’m hoping to rectify that with a few posts recalling the trip now that a year has passed, the dirty laundry has all been washed, and I’m kinda wishing I could go back…
On Pearl Harbor
I might have given the impression in my last post that the bride and groom ignored us. That isn’t a fair analysis. They were busy, and in all fairness to their planning they did set up a couple of “outings” and “tours” for their guests, most of which we were arriving too late to take advantage of or in the case of golfing… well, I’m such a golfer, aren’t I? I went snorkeling and took my daughter to the Aquarium instead.
We did go on one of the pre-arranged tours, though, and I’m very glad we did: a morning visit to Pearl Harbor, the infamous site of a massive sneak attack in 1941 that crippled the US Navy and unequivocably drew America into the Second World War. “A day which will live in infamy…” I think the famous quote starts. If you want to know more about that, go read a history book. Or just Google it.
Having toured a number of famous World War Two sites on previous European travels — Anne Franks House, Auschwitz, Dachau, and countless other bits of scattered art and memorials — it was interesting to see a slightly different take on things: the art and expansive sea-side spaces, looking out over a most-definitely active shipyard, veterans wandering about while I feel all slouchy and useless and small in the vastness of history and epic battles that took place long before my time.
Unfortunately it was a windy day and the little ferry that took visitors back and forth to the little floating memorial, the one where you could look down at the sunken battleship that was left there, was not running. There was a little sign saying something like ‘please come back’ so… yeah, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.
I took a bunch of pictures. We watched a very tasteful documentary. And we wandered through all sorts of little exhibits, viewing all sorts of artifacts and explanations of the same. And then we got back on the little bus we’d chartered and drove back to the hotel.
Alas, we come to one of those things that even a year later I still wince and occasionally say: “Y’know, I should really have…”
Apart from my arbitrary, mostly-rare (and current, as a I write this) self-induced, self-inflicted breaks from the brew, I’m generally and happily a coffee-drinker. I likes my coffeez. I sip therefore I am.
We were wandering down Kalakalua Avenue one afternoon, poking our noses into windows. I wasn’t particularly looking for anything, which was probably the problem. When I travel with my wife and her mother I find that I venture into locations I wouldn’t normally visit. Or, I sit outside of locations I’ve got no interest in visiting. Or, while they are poking their noses into places I have no interest in visting, I’m poking my nose in little shops that I’m slightly more interested in… like, in this instance, a classy cafe in a beachfront hotel on a weekday afternoon.
I don’t recall the name of the cafe. It’s not important. But I did happen to notice that they were selling coffee. And they were not selling just any old coffee; They were selling whole bean, island-grown, awesome coffee. The kind of coffee you get only a few chances over my kind of humble life to sample. The kind of coffee that is sold by the half-pound because most people would never splurge like that on a full pound. The kind of coffee that, had I bought a cup, would have cost me the same as a very nice meal in the same beachfront hotel’s patio restaurant… with a view.
You probably caught that last comment: “had I bought a cup.” Had I. Because I didn’t. Nor did I buy any beans. I hesitated, goggled in wonder at the possibility, over-thought it, and followed everyone back into the street where I — didn’t quite forget but — didn’t remember to go back.
So, y’know, I should really have, well, tried a cup.
Having already elaborated on my love of the water in part 1, I’ll spare readers a repeat of that particular swimming anecdote and jump right in to the metaphorical water.
We were lucky enough to go on a two separate tropical vacations over the span of about four months. The first was a trip to the Dominican Republic for the holidays with my family. The second was Hawaii. We had got all kitted up for the DR, but to sad results. The snorkeling in the waters around our Domincan resort was not even an option, the waves and the silt more fit for boogie-boarding than for a peaceful float about the ocean. And when we did go on a “snorkeling tour” the results were, well, meh…
Hawaii, on the other hand, was awesome for snorkeling.
In Waikiki we had foot access to the beach. A short walk from our hotel in our beach shoes we could walk right out into the gentle waves and explore some sandy, but interesting, reefs. I had my close encounter with a sea turtle there, and there was rarely a shortage of colourful fish.
In Maui we had two very distinctive and definitive snorkeling adventures. We spent the better part of one of our early days on that island at a place called Black Rock. The beach was not great for kids, the powerful waves sloshing up on the shore, but I got out into the open water and stuck my nose in. At first, nothing. But then as I approached the outcropping of balck volcanic stone protruding from the short into the ocean like a long finger, I realized that this was the place to be to see ocean life. The seabed dropped away and in the fifty-odd feet of water below me witnessed some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced. Hundreds of fish, more and bigger turtles, colourful coral, and — if you floated a few feet below and listened — you could hear the humpbacks calling.
A few days after Black Rock we went on a snorkeling tour to Molokini. A catamaran sped us and about a hundred others out to an off-shore crater of some sort. The land was off-limits, but the drop-off inside the crecent of rock was deep, clear, and full of life. The boat anchored for a couple hours and I spent most of that time in the water enjoying the diversity of the ocean life. Ryan, not much of a swimmer or a sea-farer for that matter, fed the fish the bulk of his half-digested lunch while frantically treading water and in the process got a very special feeding-frenzy show in the not-so-clear waters around him.
But that was that. The beach off our condo in Maui was treacherous, and we didn’t get back to Black Rock, our days filled with other activity. Next time though, I’m going to stay closer to the fish.