Feb 24

An officially unofficial day

We generally observe today as the anniversary of us being a couple.

It was a friend group, you see. There were about six of us who were all in the same grad school cohort and within the group there were the two of us palling around all the time. Nineteen years ago we were at a small dinner party and playing board games. The next day we were hanging out again and somewhere in there realized that people thought of us as an us. People, in our group and in the larger cohort and some of our professors too, thought of us as a couple within the group. Where there was the one there was the other. So we celebrate today.

Tonight we marked the occasion with a late dinner at an empty local little restaurant. I also commemorated the evening by teaching myself to hand-fold envelopes, in which I put two little love notes.

Last month, of course, we were celebrating under water. It’s amazing how much material I can get out of a few days worth of dives, no? You should see how many of my dive buddy I’ve not included

And I’ve only added a few of my lovely dive buddy’s photos to the collection. Here’s one now, and that’s me in the middle distance!

I love that wide composition. Like it’s just you in the water, all by yourself. It’s a nice feeling, especially since you’re not. There’s a handful of people not too far away, but you spread out, juuuuust enough.

Here’s some young yellow tube sponge growing on this coral covered outcropping.

And I got lucky floating directly over this nice bowl sponge.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you something else I was lucky to see: a giant turtle.

Last night I had class where we talked about the Super Bowl, and the Huxleyan dystopia. The readings and the schedule lines up perfectly. Also I had the chance to make fun of myself and one of the students absolutely nailed the punchline. I should have dismissed class right there. It was perfect.

One element of some of the readings in this particular class is to help create a healthy skepticism of the media around them. So we also talked about Edward Bernays. And then, as a palette cleanser, I offered them astornaut and author, Ron Garan.

On the way out I saw this on a bulletin board.

Imagine that! They’re publicizing their scholars’ work to the student body. Novel concept! I’ll be sure to attend some of those.

Tomorrow, a giant turtle, and more from under the sea. I’ll put some flowers here and we’ll see one of the oldest courthouses in the land. Be sure you’re here for it all!

Jan 24

Have another slice

We are spending the day in the Nutmeg state. The cats have been here for several weeks, enjoying extra attention during the holidays while we did extra traveling. We are now also enjoying our time with the in-laws. They took us out for pizza for lunch.

This is the story of apizza.

New Haven is renowned for its pie. We’ve been to a few of the places. Sally’s Apizza, after a long wait and intolerable staff, came out as a disc of charcoal. Pepe’s has become the pie standard. Tomato pies so good you can taste the calories in the air.

Or, as The Yankee’s diving coach said last night, “As you get older, fewer things seem worth standing in line for, including pizza.” It was hard to argue against the point. But, I thought, Pepe’s might be.

Recently, my father-in-law visited Pepe’s and wrote about it on social media. On of our colleagues said, “Yeah, that’s good. But it’s no Zuppardi’s.”

Sometime after that, he went to Zuppardi’s, and found himself agreeing. Found himself raving. Insisting that he take us. Now, the man knows pizza. And so it was that on our next trip, we were to visit Zuppardi’s.

And so here we are.

My father-in-law said it was a pizzeria like the old days. Small booths. Wood paneling on the walls. Unassuming. Just good pie. And he was correct. Because the man knows his pizza.

I don’t know if it is better than Pepe’s, but that made-in-store sausage was exceptional.

Back to being underwater, since I don’t have to worry about post-pizza buoyancy. Here’s my favorite fish, and her rare bubbles.

A coral formation bursting with orange elephant ear sponges.

And this is a beautiful encounter with another of the shy, scrawled filefish.

This one is definitely going on the front page when I update that in the next week or so.

And on this formation, some nice examples of staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) This is a fast growing coral, perhaps the fastest in the western Atlantic region, making it an important Caribbean coral.

You don’t see as much of it as you once did.

But you will see much more underwater life in this same space next week. Have a great weekend!

Jan 24

A happy cat reunion

Three weeks or so ago we took the cats with us to The Yankee’s parents. They celebrated the holidays with us there, and stayed on as we continued our many travels. Today, though, was the day that we set out to go pick them up.

We went over the river.

We went through the woods.

And so on.

This visit also allowed us to attend Special Church services, which is a program my lovely mother-in-law runs. We saw friends, we made crafts, we sang songs. I found myself in a thoughtful conversation about the meanings of the word shalom. I’ve always heard that it means peace. But, it turns out, it also means wholeness. So there was this conversation that led me to ponder the idea that maybe they’re not separate meanings, but perhaps they could be, should be, interrelated. Maybe you can’t be whole until you have peace. So I learned something, and sang Beatles songs. It’s a great hour.

And, of course, we got our happy reunion with the kitties. I was sure they would shun us for a while, but they both came around before the night was over. I don’t know why. I kept telling them, they never had it so good as they do in Connecticut. There are people who play with them and pet them and basically let them rule the place. Plus, there are cozy spots and fuzzy blankets everywhere.

They made it clear, pretty quickly, that they hadn’t forgotten us. We got good pets and good purrs.

And then we left them again. Because they never had it so good.

We had dinner with The Yankee’s college diving coach. When she retired as a gymnast she decided to do the springboard for fun. And they’ve kept a lasting friendship with her coach for all the years hence. We had burgers at a little dive where she waited tables in college. You can drive there, or sail your boat up to the back door. A few years ago they worried the place would fall into the river. It’s a place where the floor slants, even after they reinforced everything.

A local band was playing Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire tunes. A woman was dancing, by herself, for most of the night. Her gentleman friend danced one song, and we saw why she was dancing alone. (He could not dance.) She wasn’t dancing as well as she thought, but the libations were telling her otherwise. She was just far enough away that the three of us couldn’t decide how old she was. Turns out I was wrong, she was a bit older. And it’s funny how that works. I figured she was a certain age, which just made the whole thing a bit sad. But, as we left, I could finally see she was much older than I thought, which allowed me to think Good for you, lady. Now be sure to call an Uber.

Today’s SCUBA contribution is a couple of quick fish clips from somewhere along the Palancar reef off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. Beautiful fish here, and all you have to do is hold your breath for 41 seconds.

More photos from under the sea tomorrow. And we’ll enjoy some legendary Connecticut pizza. It’ll be a great Friday.

Jan 24

We’re back, but I’m still diving in my mind

We are back in the United States. Snow is coming down. Saturday I was sweating in pure humidity. Today I am wearing layers and not going near doors or windows. Going to Mexico in January was a smart move. Coming back to winter wasn’t as smart.

Put another way, when I walked onto the tarmac yesterday afternoon at the aeropuerto in Cozumel it was 84 degrees and brilliantly sunny. When I walked out of the airport at the end of our travels, it was 26 degrees, with a wind chill at 15. A 70 degree swing is inconsiderate.

But the trip back was easy. We’ve been to Cozumel once before, around spring break last year, and the airport there was a disaster. Even the locals were stunned. On this trip, we asked several of the frequent visitors about their experiences and they’d never had a problem. They assured us that two hours at the airport is plenty, when three hours wasn’t close to enough last year. Spring breakers breaking things, then. That had to be it.

Sure enough, two hours was about right. Returning the rental car, easy. Checking in, no big deal. Security, moving briskly. (Though the Yankee lost two plastic-tipped crocheting needles to the security theater gods. Just two. They overlooked, entirely, a whole sleeve of other equally dangerous plastic pointed weapons of the fabric arts.) We made it through and only had to wait about 10 minutes before the plane started loading.

Outside, then, one last time in the Mexican January. On the plane, and into the air. We landed in Atlanta, got through Customs — Atlanta does this better than anyone else on this side of the country, in my experience — found a little spot for a bite to eat, and a TV with the playoffs. It was in Atlanta where we said goodbye to my mother. Her plane was this way, our plane was that way. It was in Atlanta where she booked a hotel. Better to extend your vacation in a Holiday Inn Express for a day or two than spend the last few hours driving through ice. The weather, yesterday, was worse in Alabama than it was in the northeast. We got snow today, but they had snow and a dangerous few layers of ice beside.

We got about four inches.

They had about seven inches. Plus the ice. Also, most of the roads around here will be treated and passable tomorrow. down there? Who knows.

But enough about the cold stuff. Let’s look at a few more shots underwater.

It’s even warmer in video! Please press the play button and float along some of the beautiful formations around the Palancar reef.

Fish and coral and sponges of Palancar reef, Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

She doesn’t breathe. She really doesn’t.

While we devotin’ full time to floatin’ under the sea!

Here’s another perfect brown bowl sponge (Cribrochalina vasculum) specimen.

Under the sea we off the hook
We got no troubles
Life is the bubbles
Under the sea

My mom, getting her dives in …

This is the blue chromis (Chromis cyanea) — a damselfish. It is a shallow water fish, living on reefs, or swimming just above them for plankton. They are often collected for aquariums. You can see why.

Their biggest threat is the expansion of the lionfish, which is an invasive species throughout the Caribbean and Atlantic east coast. Another concern is the loss of live corals, but there’s not a lot of data there yet, apparently.

Here’s another example of some beautiful purple rope sponges.

And so we’re back, but I have enough photos and videos to pad out the site for days and days.

Jan 24

Four more dives under our belt

At dinner this evening a delightful little clown stopped by and introduced me to a new friend.

The ladies at the table got balloon bracelets. It was all rather charming in an unexpected way. But, then, no one ever expects the balloon guy. Not really. He’s a marvel unto himself.

We knew a balloon guy. Said it took years to get the art down. Not just tying the balloons, but doing it with patter. You have to be able to make the jokes without looking at your hands. It seems a silly thing, but these are people devoted to their craft. I could barely blow up one of the balloons.

So when you get a new parrot friend, appreciate him. It’s an art that is an investment, even if the finished product only lasts a while. The gesture can stick around for much longer.

Five days a day is just about all you would want to do, and that fifth dive would be a night dive. There’s an issue of timing and chemistry, surface intervals and endurance. We don’t have any night dives scheduled on this trip. We were supposed to get 20, all told, but lost some dives on Tuesday and Wednesday. Counting our last dives, tomorrow, we’ll finish with 14 for the trip, I think. We’re coming in with a bottom-time of juuuust under an hour on each dive, so far. I think we’re doing OK.

I promised you an eagle ray. Here’s an eagle ray. And some beautiful mackerel, and sponges.

We’ll get an even better look at an eagle ray before we’re done diving.

Here’s The Yankee in a swim-through. She used to not do these, afraid she’ll get tangled up in something, but this trip she’s gone through every one we’ve seen so far.

I always go in behind her, just to make sure her rig doesn’t get caught up on something. Most of them are quite wide, accustomed to a bunch of divers and are harmless.

Here’s our other dive partner, my mother, floating along in the currents of Cozumel.

And here are a few of the amazing views we took in. From the very big …

To the medium-sized …

To the small …

There’s easily more than a dozen species represented in that photo, which I took because I liked the two different sets of purple sponges right next to one another.

Below the surface there are mysteries and discoveries and wonders beyond your imagination. I suppose that’s why we keep going down there. To see. To wonder.