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October 8th, 2012:

It’s Turtles Most of the Way Down

Sea Turtle-500 Wide.jpg

I know how the turtle beat the hare: The turtle ate the hare, and the turtle’s nose crossed the finish line before his stomach did. The trick is staying away from the business end of the turtle. More on this in a moment.

As some insiders know, Carol and I just spent a week in Hawaii celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary. We chose the Sheraton Maui because it had almost everything we wanted: Good food, good beds, a good beach, colorful fish, rentable beach cabanas, and a 30-foot-high lava cliff from which addled teenagers were throwing themselves into the surging ocean every five or six seconds all day long. This allowed me the pleasure of congratulating myself on being a lot saner than I remembered being at that age. (Yes, my friend George Murphy and I built a pair of what amounted to wheeled surfboards and took them coasting through the Chicago sewer system in 1967. It was nuts. It was maybe a little dangerous. But it wasn’t frakking batshit.)

So we got ourselves a cabana, and we set up on the beach to do some serious lolling. I stuffed my cranky, 8-year-old Kodak V530 digital camera into what amounted to a fortified ziplock bag, parked my prescription snorkel mask on my broad and heavily sunblocked forehead, and followed Carol into the water. Taking pictures of fish with this rig is tricky because you can’t easily see what the camera’s LCD is showing, and fish don’t sit still. I snapped a lot of pictures of water where fish had been swimming a second or two ago. When I did get the fish in the frame, it was generally the wrong end of the fish.

After an hour or so of snapping empty water and colorful fish butts, there was some excitement among nearby beachgoers. People were staring into the water and pointing at something big and dark. I ducked underwater, and saw the biggest damned turtle south of Gamera steaming right at us. Carol and I dodged to one side, but turtles are better in water than we are, and by the time we got out of its way there was maybe three feet between us. The turtle was big enough to be clearly visible on my LCD display. I snapped some reasonable shots (reasonable for four feet of surf-churned water) the best of which is above. All I can figure is that we were between the turtle and an algae wad with his name on it. The turtle got to the algae wad, and Carol and I didn’t get eaten in the bargain.

Ok, I watched too many Japanese monster movies on Channel 7 when I was 12. Guilty. At least I wasn’t jumping off thirty-foot lava cliffs.

The turtle, as it happened, was a regular visitor to the beach, and we saw others cruising the nearby waters just about every time we looked under the surface. We saw them swimming around from our hotel room window more than once. It was the great unexpected pleasure of the trip.

More on this and other things tomorrow.