Thursday, October 23, 2014

Grape's birthday

I don't want to use my blog to communicate with just friends, or with some specific individual at the expense of others, or to tell stories that don't have a general interest. So even though this is Grape's fiftieth birthday, today, four days before my own, this is not the place to say "Happy Birthday, Grape!"

Because who is Grape to you? I mean, unless you know him.

You would probably like him if you knew him. I know, because I have spent some time with him. I have spent a lot of time with him. That time was most heavily between 1979 and 1991. But the story I will tell you comes from a little bit later than that.

It involves sharks.

I have a lot of stories about time I spent with Grape. I like them because they are warm stories. I like spending time with Grape, though I almost never do it anymore, which is sad, but apparently not sad enough for either me or Grape to make it stop. I also like these stories because they are adventure stories. We had adventures.

I have Grape stories about Miniature Golf obsession. I have Grape stories about hiding from bears. I have Grape stories about Peyote taking. I have Grape stories about car crashing. And I have Grape stories about rattlesnake dissecting.

But I only have one story about Grape and sharks. It comes from the happiest time I ever spent with Grape.

A few years after I got married I went out to visit Grape in Southern California. Our main purpose was to visit Channel Islands National Park. We took a boat to a little rock of an island called Anacapa. It's really mostly some rough cliffs in the Pacific Ocean, with some bare land on top you can camp on. There were flowers and lots and lots of seagulls who were not very nice to each other. It was quite a thing to walk around up there, up over the ocean, looking out forever, and watching seagulls murder each other. 

But the main thing was being out on the sea.

We had brought with us Grape's father's inflatable dinghy, from a sailboat he owned, and during the day we rowed the little boat about the island, sweeping on surging tides into mysterious sea caves, leaping over the side to cavort in kelp forests with curious sea lions, and generally wandering from pure besotted dazzlement to peril and fear of death.

It was a big, strong ocean, surging through sharp rocks, and our raft was filled, like our small lungs, with air.

As an aside I will say that this probably wasn't Grape's happiest time ever with me. Oh, I think he had a good time, but when I say I wandered from dazzlement to fear of death, Grape wandered from dazzlement to seasickness, which, though it was never acute, is still more unpleasant than the fear of death. 

Though he had his moments with fear of death, too.

In our partial circumnavigation of Anacapa Island we came into a quiet bay that had some sandy shore. This was unusual among all the rough rock and water carved caves. With a snorkel and mask, and maybe some flippers, I spilled myself over the side of our boat and swam underwater to check it all out. I was greeted by sharks! Hundred and hundreds of sharks. Everywhere I looked there were sharks. Left, right, up, down, forward, back, there were sharks. I would like to trot out that old saw "I had never seen so many sharks in my life!" but the fun thing is, outside of maybe an aquarium or something, I had never actually even seen a shark in my life. So this was infinity more sharks than I had ever seen!

I climbed very quickly back into the boat. I excitedly told Grape about it. He tried to look over the side of the boat, but it was hard to see much. He saw a shark or two. We decided to paddle to shore because, for me, I thought that shark teeth could definitely puncture our boat, and then, if they liked, they could puncture other things. For Grape we went to shore because, well, things didn't bob about so on the shore, but also because he was curious. So after landing he decided to swim out into the bay and take a look.

He swam out cautiously, and then all at once he came running very, very fast out of the water.

"There are a lot of sharks." He said.

"There are a lot of sharks." I agreed.

I wonder if sharks eat fifty year olds.

Oh, what the hell, what's a rule if you can't break it a little. Happy Birthday Grape! I guess there's no seasickness in the desert.


  1. Thank you! Grape here. 50. Feels weird, Feldenstein. And yours is so soon. I mean, so far in these few hours of 50, my life has continued to be the page-turner it was when I was 49, 48, 47, and so on. It's like a choose-your-own mystery.

    Oh well. Off to work! Thank you for the story. They were tiger sharks, and many of them. I believe they were breeding, which means they were on protection mode. They must have known we meant them no harm.

    For all you readers out there, please know that the blogger turns 50 in four days. You might notice slight changes in his vocabulary and subject matter, but maybe not.

  2. I turn 50 in four days? Fascinating! I'm just glad I'm still so sprightly. I just saw a picture of Grape at 50. He looks slightly more impish!

    I think I'm more suited to all this oldness anyway. Though of course I could get too wise, so I'll need to keep a check on that.

    As keen as I am to self aggrandize and all, I'm pretty sure they were leopard sharks, lovely little things averaging about 2 to 4 feet, maybe five at most, when we saw them. They're pretty innocuous. Tiger sharks are more fierce and bigger. Although I could be misremembering myself and so could Grape, they could have all been Great White Sharks, which do ply those waters. If that is the case we probably blocked out the horror of the experience as it was too much for us.


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