I was a poor kid.
Not poor like some of the other people in my neighborhood. There were people there who were hungry. Or had a dirty blanket hanging up where their front door should have been.
We did, however, live in their neighborhood.
Even though we were poor, we always went on a vacation. Going to Florida was my father’s priority. He wanted to go. If something was important to him, then it was going to happen. We might have had to eat peanut butter crackers in the car for dinner on the way down, but we were goddamn well going to Florida. Usually, to the beach. A few times to Disney World. That was the pinnacle. To this day, there is no place my father would rather go than to Disney World.
When I was around 10 years old, we went to Clearwater Beach instead of Pompano Beach.
I remember the hotel that we always stayed at in Pomapano Beach. The inside of the pool was painted bright pink and with a big black dolphin painted on the floors shallow end.
On the trip to Clearwater Beach, I saw something so absurd that it’s stuck with me my whole life.
A sign at a public beach and titled: Symptoms Of Shark Bite.
I confess that I don’t remember any of the shark bite symptoms, but I’m fairly certain I could come up with some accurate guesses.
I remember looking at that sign and thinking, does it really matter what the symptoms are?
If you are standing in the water, have both of your legs, and then suddenly, you are down one leg…does it even matter that a shark bit you? At that point, your leg might as well have been removed by Jason and his chainsaw.
Or, what if it was a barracuda and not a shark?
I don’t think that would be as impressive.
Stranger: “Oh, you’re missing a leg! How did that happen? Shark bite? Were you aware of the symptoms”?
One legged person: “This? No, a barracuda bit it off”.
In any case, I’ve never forgotten that sign and have been in love with absurdity ever since.
At least, I suspect that’s when it started. It might have been when it started.
I really have no idea when it started.
When I was in my early teens, I worshiped at the alter of Alfred E. Neuman. I couldn’t get enough of Mad Magazine, even though I always felt slightly seedy reading it. Something about Mad’s off-kilterness made me uneasy, but is also what attracted me. Also, off-kilterness is now a word.
Getting back to Symptoms of Shark bite..
Getting eaten by a shark is one of my irrational fears. The movie Jaws changed my life. I went from happily swimming in the ocean to staying on the beach. Because FUCK being lunch food.
Like shark bites, we all have pain in our lives..the really bad kind. It’s like a chunk is removed from you. Pain leaves marks, most of which no one else can see. Although, because some of us try to eat away our pain, shark bites end up on our hips for all to see. Or they end up as dead relationships because we try to fuck away the pain.
We all have them.
The bites leave dead tissue and scarring that can make us take a whole different direction in life…sometimes, those choices lead us down dark alleyways or abandoned buildings. Sometimes, it’s hard to find our way back.
What do we do?
The way I see it, as long as we are drawing breath, then we are alive. We can move on and keep living or we can give up and wait it out.
Let’s keep moving.
Fuck that shark.