Mar 29, 2018

Fish in the Sea

The Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans, Louisiana
I enjoy aquariums. The vast amount of water in large, transparent tanks transfix the eyes. I can watch stingrays all day. I anthropomorphize their bellies - don't you think they look like smiling faces? In New York - at Coney Island - there is a modest aquarium. I was excited when I found the moray eel hanging out behind a fake coral. Aquatic creatures! It's comforting to fantasize about life in water. One of
Arthur chased by an alligator gar in the Sword in the Stone
my favorite Disney animations is The Sword in the Stone* - the boy Arthur turns into a squiggly little fish - then a squirrel - but it is the fish scene I liked the most. Wouldn't life be so much more agile under the waves? Well, when a gar fish isn't chasing you.



Maybe that is why people like hanging out on beaches. As a kid, most of our family vacations were on a beach somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico - Grand Isle in Louisiana or St. Petersburg in Florida. Sitting next to the thin strip of land-meets-water feels safe. Evolutionary biologists may say it is something in our genes - our species originated from the waters. The new age scientist concurs - we are in the age of Aquarius! However, at the beach, most people are like beached whales. There are always more kids in the sand then under the water. Maybe that is why the ratio of sunbathers to swimmers is lopsided. You'd rather be sunbathing. Next to the sea. Not in it. 

We left our aquatic life behind many millennia ago. But I like to stay in the water, stick my head in the salt. Open my eyes (with goggles).  In Louisiana, water is life. Either it is raining, or flooding or water is in view. I've lived in several places in my life - most of them next to water - for example, my dad's house used to be next to the London Avenue canal (which broke during Katrina), and Mom still has a house adjacent to the Tchefuncte River and not far from the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.

And when I lived in New Orleans, my apartment was on a small natural ridge called Carrolton - I could easily walk along the ridge to the bend in the Mississippi River. As a really young kid, when my mom and dad dropped us off at the community pool, I spent most of my time swimming underwater. I was underwater so often I got swimmer's ear. My uncle's father-in-law was generous enough to help me alleviate the excruciating pain with a home remedy. He poured the concoction into my ear and then placed me at a 180-degree angle over the sink until gobs of gunk drained out. That tempered me to go swimming underwater without earwax. I learned my lesson. But I never got over my love of water - even now when I take a bubble bath I'll just submerge my entire body under the water. I can feel the stress I accumulated from the day just kind of ooze out of my body. 
Water is everywhere in Louisiana, gurl.


Although, oddly, I have become adverse to beaches. There is something about sand that I have grown to detest. Now give me a chlorinated pool any day - or, sometimes I fantasize about having a lakehouse and a lake! That'd be nice. I further my fantasy. I'm the grandson of Henry Fonda in that 1980s flick - On Golden Pond. Something about that movie moves me. Maybe it is the relationship between Fonda's character and the grandson - I remember there is a scene where the boy complains - "What do I do now?" - and Henry Fonda tells the boy to read a book. Before you know it the two are on a boat having adventures. I don't remember exactly - but the boy almost dies but Henry Fonda saves him. And Katherine Hepburn just shrugs her shoulder and asks for some firewood. And then the daughter comes back for her son - Jane Fonda! - and the movie becomes a family romance. My family never had a lakehouse but my mom bought a boat when she was in high school. We lived super close to the water - like I said - so it was par the course to have a boat. It was a big deal - and a considerable investment - even though mom bought the boat used.


We went out on that boat almost every weekend when it was hot. I remember quiet bends in the river where we could anchor our boat and go swimming. I was afraid of being eaten by an alligator. It was not an irrational thought. Gators could be spotted on the river - especially near the shore. But I was never eaten - nor do I recall anyone on the Tchefuncte river ever attacked by an alligator. But it was still dangerous to be on the river on Saturday afternoon because everyone and their momma were out on their boats, speeding along. Have you ever tried to navigate a river with twenty boats all around you, each creating a wake that shifts and sloshes the waves? It takes some finesse - I did hear of reckless drivers wrapping their boat around a cypress knee, or some lackluster swimmer drowning after kneeboarding. We'd pray for them at church.

*Notes*
*Also, read the Once and Future King - the Disney movie is partly based on T.H. White's fantasy novel adaptation of the Arthurian legend.

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