Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Shark Attack!

By B.E. Earl

Hey guppies! We are currently in the middle of a ridiculous heat wave here in the Northeast. I’m spending the week house-sitting at my sister’s home while she and her family are on vacation. Unfortunately, much to my sister’s chagrin, my brother-in-law doesn’t believe in air conditioning. I mean, he’s not an atheist. He knows it exists, he just chooses to live without. So here I must make-do with a wonderfully shaded backyard complete with a fish pond, a beautiful in-ground pool and an even more beautiful cooler full o’ beer.

It’s rough, but I’m surviving. One of the things that is certainly helping is that the Discovery Channel is celebrating Shark Week with all sorts of great shark-like programming. I’ve mentioned my fascination with TDC previously, but I really become a zombie during Shark Week. I live for this shit!

I may have mentioned before that I was eight when the film Jaws came out. That is some serious shit to deal with when you are that age. Before Jaws came out, I was a normal, un-afraid kid. I swam in the ocean all the time. My folks would take the clan out to Jones Beach or Robert Moses Park and we would spend the day in the waves. After it came out, I was afraid to swim in a pool. Seriously.

Unfortunately, this is a phobia that has stayed with me all of my life. I’m still hesitant to swim in the ocean. I started to get over it a few years back when I was spending each summer vacation at a beach house on the North Carolina coast. I would swim out past the breakers and float for hours in the afternoon heat. Then while playing in the surf one day, a small hammerhead shark swam right between my sister and my brother-in-law while we all watched. This was right in the breakers! It was a small shark, probably no more than four feet or so long, but holy crap…it was right there where we were all playing in the surf!

The next morning, before the rest of the house arose, my brother-in-law took advantage of some nice early morning wind to go wind-surfing. I put on a pot of coffee and went down to the beach to watch. Soon he was so far out in the ocean that I couldn’t see him with a pair of binoculars. When he finally made it back to the beach an hour or so later, he told me that he couldn’t turn around (he is good but he still falls off a lot when he comes about) because he was being followed by a really large shark that was bigger than his 12-foot board! He had to wait it out until it the shark lost interest before he risked coming about. I would have had a heart attack right then and there!

So that was it for me. A couple of weeks ago out in Montauk, I dove into the surf once in the entire week I was there and I literally could not have run out of the ocean fast enough once I was through. I must have looked like such a pansy. 10-year old girls have more dignity about them.

My phobia, however, has only spiked my fascination with the creatures. As a kid, I read every book about sharks that I could find. I already knew about the U.S.S. Indianapolis by the time I actually saw Jaws, so I was really freaked out when Quint started telling the story. I could identify just about any type of shark just by glancing at a photo. I was obsessed.

I guess you can say that I’m still obsessed with sharks. My obsession nowadays seems to be limited, however, to occasional visits to www.sharkattacks.com and, of course, Shark Week on TDC. They seem to show most of the programming from previous years over and over again, but there is some new stuff here and there. Saw a great show last night about sharks in the Mediterranean Sea. Good stuff! How nice of TDC to fill an entire week’s programming to appease my appetite for real-life monsters!

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