Category Archives: personality

Vision of Fish (karaoke lyrics)

Paracheilinus carpenteri

(sing to the tune of “Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey)

(hmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . [crashing waves and seagulls cawing] . . .)

First vertebrate
So slippery
Underwater respiration
In the rivers and lakes and the sea

Body so long
Streamlined and free
Somehow you just keep on swimming
Suspension without gravity

I had a vision of fish
And it was all that ichthyology

Prayed for a bite
Felt a few tugs
Casting my line in the water
Hoping for something I love
There was no bait
There was no hook
And then I dove in the ocean
I’m looking for snapper and schnook

I had a vision of fish
And it was all that ichthyology
I had a vision of fish
And it was all ichthyology

I’ve realized I’m blue, (so blue)
We are one and the same
The water is our food
You’ve got your fins,
I’m dependent on my limbs too
The distance between us is just ballyhoo

You’re vertebrate kind, (yeah)
Deep destiny, (and the water you breathe)
And though separated by fathoms
We are together and free, (swam through the night)
Swam through the night, (so slippery)
So slippery, (slippery)
Knowing the world is my oyster
And all fish are my family (need my family)

I had a vision of fish, [whale & dolphin chirps]
And it was all that ichthyology
I had a vision of fish
And it was all … that ich-thyology


Small houses with style

Stylish Fifth Avenue is not just for New York. This street number also connects the homes within a few blocks of my house, and I have come to appreciate them during morning walks with Pepe, my doggie. My house dates to 1948, and most homes here appear to date to the 1950s — well before central A/C and I-95 allowed for sprawl and McMansions. These homes are modest in size and real estate value, but each is unique and intriguing. With a little imagination, each house becomes the setting for a novel of great mystery.

Through the looking glass of the camera lens, here are some glimpses of the neighborhood around Northeast Fifth Avenue in North Miami, from 126th to 130th Streets. (New signs a few blocks away have named the area “Historic Griffing Park Estates,” but I’m not sure if these streets are included. They should be.)

Pepe has seen enough.

Pepe has seen enough.

Diana Nyad’s two nights at sea

“I could see the lights of Key West.”

Diana Nyad

Feeding time in between Cuba and the U.S. (from Diana Nyad’s Facebook).

On Labor Day 2013, September 2, Diana Nyad, age 64, walked ashore onto Florida after spending more than 50 hours and two nights swimming under her own power from Cuba. Watch these videos of her triumphant arrival.

She delivered three messages to the world, which I will simplify here:

  1. Never give up.
  2. You’re never too old.
  3. It takes a team.

I want to recognize her incredible courage and take a moment, as a swimmer myself, to think about the two nights she spent swimming in the open ocean. In complete darkness. Out there, civilization is gone. There are no lights. There are no landmarks to inspire you and keep you focused in the right direction. It is a place that swallows people in silence, and left alone there, you will die.

But she was not alone, as she pointed out in message number three. She had her team on the kayaks and boats, she had her doctor, coach, navigator, and many other crew members urging her onwards. The team had to keep the water dark to avoid attracting sharks, and Diana wore a red light on her cap to be identified. In the water, Diana was guided by a thin, red strip of LED light trailed underneath her from a mount on the main boat, creating a sort of bioluminescent mermaid’s tail, pointing “this way.” But little red lights in the middle of the ocean do not keep you safe or alive. Diana had to trust her team completely.

The sun rose after day and night one, and she had not slept. Another day passed as she kept swimming and willing herself forward, and the sun set again. Night number two. She had been awake for a period that would make most mortals delirious–and she had been swimming the entire time. She was entering the darkest night.

I cannot imagine how she felt on that second night. Her body had to be in survival mode from a technical standpoint, but one organ was even stronger than her body. Her mind.

In an interview today with CNN, Nyad said that for the final 15 hours of the swim, she could see lights in the distance. She knew it was Key West, her destination. After many hours of wishing herself towards those lights, there came a much greater light.

On day three, the sun rose.

Can you imagine how beautiful it must have been? Can you see it slowly peeling away the fear of darkness and ushering in the hope of day?

I could go on and on, gushing about the symbolic victory as well as the technical triumph of Diana Nyad’s swim. This feat was much, much more than a swimmer’s Mount Everest. It was one person’s dream that had died, gone into hibernation for more than 30 years, and then arose again. It was a foolish, fool’s pursuit of a gold medal in history, in life. It was impossible.

Until now. Diana Nyad proved a lesson that seems to be hitting me over the head lately. Everything is possible.

Sen. Nelson loses mind on Keystone

Why has Florida’s senior senator Bill Nelson, who has a strong pro-environment record, changed his stance this year to favor the Keystone XL pipeline extension?

This movement's name comes from carbon pollution.

This movement’s name comes from carbon pollution.

That mysterious switch is the current focus of a new club that has been meeting at my house, called 350 South Florida, and the group is the subject of my Going Green column this month in the Biscayne Times. In the article, several founding members express reasons for joining this grassroots group to address the climate crisis.

Solving the Sen. Nelson mystery is just the first of many efforts that the group is planning, with the intent to raise awareness locally and solve climate change issues globally. The group formed after an intensive weekend training in Coral Gables provided by, an international movement founded by Bill McKibben, a leading writer and activist against global warming. Within only a few years of existence, the movement has led some of the most visible and effective demonstrations to address climate change.

Actress Daryl Hannah gets arrested in front of the White House this year to protest the Keystone pipeline.

Actress Daryl Hannah gets arrested in front of the White House this year to protest the Keystone pipeline.

Getting back to Sen. Nelson, he was against the Keystone XL pipeline before he was for it, so something or someone influenced him within the past year. Money? Fame? A secret crush on Republicans? As a leading Democrat from a non-oil state–actually an anti-oil drilling state–his position makes little sense, and suspicions grow around such contradictions.

Recent comments from President Obama indicate that he is likely to kill the project. Even if that happens, supporters of the project will need to explain why they want to risk pumping dirty fuel through the heartland so that a port in Texas can send it overseas. The new pipeline from Canada offers very few jobs and benefits for Americans and a very, very high risk to the seven billion people of planet Earth.

Making Life a Negative Split

The older you get, the slower you get, right? Not necessarily. In fact, I interviewed a guy who expected to die by age 60, but today at age 83 he is more active than ever. What happened?

Bob Beach, 83, decided in his thirties to start a new life.

Bob Beach, 83, decided in his thirties to start a new life.

He negative split.

In competitive swimming, a negative split means that the second half of your swim is faster than the first half. You give more and more effort to the point where you surpass the speed you had at the beginning.

Bob Beach did that with his life, and his profile appears here in the August issue of Swimmer magazine, the official publication of U.S. Masters Swimming (only members can access the full article). He is an inspiration and a true original.

The funniest bit about him is that he is a respected judge in Florida (it’s still possible in this state of strange decisions), and he likes to sleep in cars. Seriously, he travels the U.S. and the world and does not sleep in hotels or beds. He reclines and counts sheep in a classic Porsche (he owns two: one red, one blue).

“I’m only 5’6”,” said Beach by telephone. “To be honest, it’s very comfortable. It’s got contoured seats and I just put the seat back.”

Bob Beach's 2012 Christmas card shows his baby picture and recent adventures.

Bob Beach’s 2012 Christmas card shows his baby picture and recent adventures.

Around Christmastime, he compiles his annual adventures into a one-page photo collage. Here you can see the card from 2012. The card from 2009 shows him posing with women in costumes in disparate locations around the world, including one picture from Africa with the caption “Bobby with Ethiopian girlfriends.” They are taller than him.

Beach attributes his good health primarily to his twin decisions in his thirties to quit smoking and start swimming. He was not an athlete before, but he realized that he needed to change his lifestyle if he wanted to live a long life.

You can bet that today he woke up at 5:30 a.m. and swam nearly two miles in the pool–unless he is having one of his many adventures. One those days, he wakes up and starts driving.

Beach plans to keep going for decades. One of his Christmas cards made the prediction of living to 100 years old. If he makes it, and it looks like he certainly could, he will have achieved the ultimate negative split.