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Salt Stained and Socially Distorted

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While having a beer the other day and probably thinking too damn much, I finally saw myself as a man of the sea. I’ve never thought this before, over the years I’ve just done what I’ve done without reading too much into it, but at that moment I understood that one way or another my whole life has been connected to some body of water or another. From something as innocent as spending New England summers at the beach up in Gloucester, Rockport and Nahant when I was a kid, to three and a half years in the Navy on a heavy cruiser, crossing oceans to fight in another useless war, then a stint in the Peace Corps on a small Caribbean island repairing fishing boats, followed by 37 years as a commercial and scientific diver, more than just trends and T-shirts define my ties to mother ocean.

Editorial by Mark Norder

Every time I’m on a boat heading out to sea, I like to stand alone on the fantail for a few minutes, feeling my blood pressure drop as the harbor fades from view. It’s not that I have anything against dry land, it’s just that all my stress and problems seem to flourish there. You can drop me in a cold black 140 foot deep cement tube on North Dakota’s Missouri River to clear mud, or have me search for a historic shipwreck off a small uninhabited island while a beached whale carcass attracts a hundred or more hungry sharks and it’s just another day at work.

But tell me I got to go to the bank and talk with a teller about some discrepancy in my account, and I just want to hide under the covers. When people learn I have a grandson they naively comment that I must want him to follow in my footsteps. “I’d rather he become a janitor in a whorehouse then a commercial diver,” I answer.

“Why?” they ask.

“Where do I begin?” I wonder. I am proud of what I’ve done but I understand the cost better than most, besides we all want better for our families then we’ve had for ourselves.

Maybe the other life I accepted for 30 years to raise a family cost more than I thought. Did I die a little every day when I picked up my briefcase and left the house to tilt at corporate windmills? Now when I look at my daughter and her family I understand that sacrificing personal dreams for family back then was the right decision. Besides on that fateful day I detoured from my sales calls to stop by the Channel Islands National Park office in Ventura, I took the first step down a side road that allowed my love and need to coexist for another 35 years. Now at 71, I guess I’m just salt stained and socially distorted, but is that so bad? doesn’t hearing the call of the silent world make me one of the privileged?