[continued from last week] After walking down from the SCUBA Show, I arrived on board the dive boat Vision before the California Ships-to-Reefs (CSTR) benefit party began. Just as she promised, dive instructor/security guard Ruth Harris carded me to make sure I was over 21 (well over, I might add especially after my **th birthday last week!). I gave her a hug, walked on board and freshened up for the big event. The party benefits the CSTR organization, headed by dive buddy Joel Geldin, which seeks to environmentally clean decommissioned vessels to sink as artificial reefs for divers and anglers. It was at this party that I would receive the California SCUBA Service Award.
Of course the party was a sell out (250+) and LOTS of fun. I was talking to some folks when I heard Joel announce it was time to receive my award. I stepped down off the Truth Aquatics boat and onto the dock where Joel passed the microphone to Dale Sheckler for the ceremony. I somewhat shyly (me?) stood there as Dale read off my accomplishments. I guess I had a very quizzical look on my face as he spoke according to several observers. Dale handed me the beautiful plaque, and I was asked to say a few words (as few? me?).
I had prepared for this ceremony. In my hand was a small sheet of paper (actually toilet paper from the dive boat). As I held it, I said I had prepared some words and then let the paper unroll down towards the deck. Laughter. I began by saying that when I received the e-mail notification back in early April, I thought someone had hijacked Kim Sheckler's e-mail account and was sending me an April Fools joke. Then I said I thought about it some more, and remembered that many police departments now send out notices to criminals that they have won a trip or some other prize, then arrest them when they show up to claim it. I looked around and didn't see any handcuffs. Finally I gathered up all the humility I could muster, turning into someone totally out of character, and very sincerely thanked all for a very unexpected recognition of whatever it was I had done to deserve this honor.
When the cameras started clicking, hordes of beautiful women came up to hug and kiss me... but strangely, after the last strobe flashed, they all disappeared. Sigh. After the party ended, I walked dive buddy Gina back to her car and said good night. I decided to wander over to the Aquarium where Rod Roddenberry and his bride Heidi were having a mixer for the Roddenberry Dive team. Their party had just ended, but Rod and Heidi invited me to join them for food and drink. Once again I was carded at the door of the Yard House (will wonders ever cease?) and we enjoyed a late evening of conversation about... what else... diving! I tiptoed home so as not to wake any of the crew on the dive boat as I crawled into my berth.
Early the next morning I was awakened by the sound of the Vision's engines, followed by evidence the vessel was (gulp) underway. I ran up on deck and the crew yelled "Oh, we forgot you were on board. Do you mind going back to Santa Barbara with us?" Fortunately they were teasing me and were just going into San Pedro to refuel. One of the lovely "galley wenches" made me some breakfast and I ate it up on the top deck as I read the chapter about Zale Parry in Brett Gilliam's book Diving Pioneers and Innovators. I had spent some time at the dive park a month ago with Zale, co-star of TV's 1950s "Sea Hunt" series with Lloyd Bridges (aka Mike Nelson). Zale also set the deep diving record for women off Catalina back in 1954 with our own Cap Perkins as a safety diver and Carl "Mr. Big" Bailey announcing the feat.
We were back in Long Beach in time to head for the Show. Before I left I stopped to thank Glen Fritzler, the owner of the Truth Aquatic boats. He said that the official event photographer had fallen off the dock the night before with all the photos of the awards ceremony (and the rest of the Show). The photographer was a non-swimmer, but was rescued by the crew. However, the camera with the memory cards was still plus or minus "six feet under" (the water). I'm still hoping they can recover the images but am looking for images of the award ceremony that the numerous other photographers took.
My mission at the final day of the Show was to gather all the fliers about those spectacular dive travel bargains, and to look for a new set of LED underwater video lights to replace my older HID lights which were not producing the results I hoped for. Unlike previous years, I only scooped up literature for travel destinations I thought I might actually get to in the next 12 months. After all, dive bums aren't rolling in the dough... just in the waves.
Speaking of exotic dive travel, this year I did have some unexpected encounters with lady divers from some very unusual travel destinations. I've long wanted to dive the seven continents, but these two ladies may give me my first shot at interplanetary diving! My newspaper readers can't see the electric blue hair on tech diver Laura James, but I'm pretty sure based on its color that she comes from the planet Xanadu... and the pink hair on Miss Valentina Lomborg made it hard to identify which planet she hails from, but I knew it was by way of Denmark, Redondo Beach and now Hawaii! Hopefully NASA will have the interplanetary shuttle ready for me to do a few "interesting" dives with these ladies before I hang up my BCD and fins!
I stopped by dive friend Scott Gietler's booth for his new photo store, Bluewater Photo in Santa Monica. I had planned to buy a set of Nocturnal Lights, but the company wasn't at the Show. Instead, Scott made me a deal on a pair of Light & Motion Sola 1200 LEDs that I couldn't refuse. They go nicely with my new Light & Motion camera housing. Thanks, Scott! Now I just have to sell a few thousand DVDs to pay for my trips.
I tried to encompass as much of the Show and talk to as many divers as I could before I had to catch the Catalina Express back to the island. I made another stop at the Catalina booth and local instructor/teacher/author Chris Blehm inscribed a copy of his new novel, Mercy of the Elements, and gave it to me with the proviso that I read it and post a review of the book on ScubaBoard. I finished it in a few hours and found it to be an intriguing tale of a beautiful lady-go-diver from Avalon, a lovely non-diver from Japan who lived a few centuries before my time and sunken Spanish treasure complete with references to its setting on our island including the Marlin Club (a favorite hangout of Jean-Michel Cousteau, Dr. Dick Murphy and me back in the late 90s), the Pleasure Pier, Ship Rock and other locations. I think Chris assured me that all the characters were strictly fictional and not based on anyone living or dead, but I do hope to meet Mercy some day when I belly up to the bar!
© 2011 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 29, 10:00 AM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!
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Dale Sheckler of SCUBA Show presenting my award, me reading "a few words" of thanks;
the lovely Xanadusian tech diver Laura James with her electric blue hair
and Miss Valentina Lomborg with her pink locks.
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Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2011 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia