Saturday, October 22, 2011

Snorkel Adventure with Brad Pitt

I'm Brad Pitt. Welcome to the inner monologue, where I work out anecdotes, phrases and sound bytes in masculine voice over, color-commentating on the large-living glamour parade that is my life in lyrical lusciousness and bon mots with an ineffable, world-weary cool.

Angie, me and the kids have just arrived in the Maldives for a fabulous beach vacation. All checked into our villa and Angie and the littles are tired so I've got the wonderful opportunity of an afternoon to myself for the first time in so long I can't recall.... I'm taking a toke and going for a fucking snorkel.

My FedEx package of t-shirts was at the reception just like my assistant said it would be and wadded up inside the bundle of t-shirts in several nested layers of mouthwash-filled ziploc bags is my ounce of escape -- the finest Sao Paulo North Slope trip weed money can buy, a ceramic chillum and a box of matches from the BOA on Sunset. Why reuse when I can resupply? I have the money and don't need the headaches of any kind of security BS even though I pretty much go where I want with minimal hassle. (Except Germany, where they even hassle Mick Jagger.)

But the herb's still the word when I'm defining relaxation and since Angie gets a little peevish with her malnourishment already making her tetchy and not digging on the stoned-dad routine, it's better to keep things separate. The FedEx package tails us at luxury hotels around the globe addressed to my unemployed man-of-means alter-ego Bobbi Gula. Anyone knows Bobbi, and this includes high-end hotel concierges, knows the drill. That's Brad Pitt's stuff traveling incognito.

Which is super rad on the most perfectly breezy, crystalline blue and green water tropical beach in the Maldives. This is what it's about. Palm trees. White sand. A couple of monster rips from the chillum and then I'm wrapping my kit in a beach towel and fussing with my neoprene booties so I can hit the reef with my brand new Mare scuba fins and snorkel mask from Italy.

I'm sporting some scruff, which is how I roll when I'm relaxing = not shaving. This can create problems with mask seal so, I've got some spiffy silicone gel I smear in my 'stache and that makes for a swell, watertight seal and keeps the puddles from obscuring my vision, which after all these years I'm proud to say is still 20/20.

The water is beautiful, 82 degrees and crystal clear, with the mid-afternoon sun sparking it just right so the light dances off the bottom like a macro-kaleidoscope and the colors are really popping like mad. The coral growth is spotty this close to shore, but I can see the rim of the lagoon a few hundred yards out where the big old Indian Ocean rolls in to meet the proper reef. There's water spraying into the air where the rollers smack the more ambitious coral heads and that's where the action is.

I start to kick out there over the shallows with big stretches of sand and patches of turtle grass and pass over a half-buried stingray, kind what killed the Crocodile Hunter by piercing him through the heart with it's stinger (gnarly), and a young barracuda whose reflective skin almost makes him invisible above the sand. He vanishes with a flick of his tail as I draw near.

Soon enough, I notice the bottom dropping away from 10 feet down to 25-30 or so. The bottom's still sandy, and I pull my head up out of the water to have a look around and reorient in the way air-breathers must. Apparently, I've reached the channel where boats entering the resort breach the barrier reef and cross the lagoon to the pier.

This is semi-dangerous territory for a relatively little snorkeler (though I'm still all beefcake), it'd be easy for a cruising boat captain with a little liquor in him to miss me bobbing in the waves moments before his hull, keel and prop grind up the world's most celebrated living actor to chum. Nonetheless, I have to brave it.

I check both directions and start kicking hard to cross the channel. This is the ocean-going equivalent of running up the stairs from the basement after flipping off the lights. You're 99% sure you're going to make it, but you hold your breath all the same, waiting for the strike of fangs on your ankle to signal impending doom.

Soon, I'm back over the shallows on the other side and kicking confidently for the barrier reef. The coral heads are more consistent, lush and thriving this side of the channel and in turn I'm noticing more and larger fish: a school of green parrotfish as big and wild as a herd of American buffalo; a moray eel thick and muscular like my thighs(!); a neon-orange clownfish family living in a vast, electric shag carpet of a sea anemone; a trip-a-delic peacock flounder and holy shit a giant fucking clam. It's the size of my suitcase with thick, olive-spotted lips and I take a breath and kick down to the bottom to get a better look. Captain Nemo's in my head, warning of pearl divers drowning with their legs caught in the bear-trap grip of the giant clam. I can't resist and reach out to test this animal's reflexes. I dart my hand in and out, nudging the slick, firm flesh inside. It jerks slowly and contracts about a foot in a matter of several seconds, expelling a jet of clam-water that strikes my mask and might have smelled were my nose not covered. No way a clam could catch a man with that slow a response, plus which the shell doesn't even fully close. Disappointed? No. Edified. I'll never try to undo a villain by giant clam. And our hero snorkels on.



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