Monday, February 23, 2009

Wife Rule #99: There Aren't Enough Superlatives in the English Language to Describe the Bomb-Diggity Awesomenitude of My Wife

I'm talking about the fish.

But before I explain that, let me just say that being an older brother-in-law to a college student (that's a shout out to you, Chelse!) has really helped me maintain my "hip" vocabulary. You can tell by my use of words like "Bomb-Diggity." Oh yeah, I can throw down some real zingers. I'm still cool.

For instance, I was showing off some of my new words for a few of the other thirty-somethings at work a while back. "So if something is really awesome, you say, 'Dude, that's totally Bomb-dot-com!'" I explained.

"Bomb-dot-com. I've never heard of that," replied my coworker, thinking it over. "But it sounds cool," he added reassuringly.

"Yup, I'm pretty modern," I boasted, sticking out my chest.

Then he inquired, "So if something is only kind of cool, is it like Bomb-dot-org?"

Coolness is just lost on some people.

But back to the fish. And to properly explain the fish, I need to explain about south Maui. You see, when my wife and I took our tenth-anniversary celebratory trip to Hawaii, one of the activities I most anticipated was reliving some of my teenage memories of snorkeling there. There's something truly magical about immersing yourself into the ocean environment, swimming in the fish's territory. And I'm too much of a cheapskate to do SCUBA diving.

So my wife and I have done our research in our little blue Maui guidebook, and are heading down to southern-most tip of the Kihei leg of Maui's roads. South of our condo in Kihei, we pass through the posh resorts of Wailea, towards La Perouse Bay, our destination. We are actually going to skirt around the north side of the bay over the lava flows to a special little hole called "the Aquarium," a little slice of salt-water-tropical-fishy Heaven--a perfect place for a couple of love-struck snorkelers to revel in the beauty of aquatic wonder.

Past the resorts, the road narrows considerably, but we are still in what feels like civilization; lava rock walls line the road as it meanders into a two-hundred-year-old lava flow, the last big hurrah from this island's volcano before abruptly going silent. Multi-million-dollar mansions line the road on either side, a strange juxtaposition with the mobile road-side taco stands that serve their wares out of pickup truck beds or converted Volkswagen Vanagons. Between mansions and taco stands are quaint beaches of surreal pristineness and beauty.

But sand is not our goal; today we're headed for the rocks. As the mansions become sparser the road seems to narrow more, and suddenly I find myself cresting a hill with such a compact curvature that I actually lose sight of the road before me as we pass over the peak. The hood of the Mustang is there, the running horse silhouetted against the blue sky and distant sea, but blacktop has disappeared. At this moment, the strange thought occurs to me that with all the blue here, it's a shame that our car is also blue, but what can you do when the rental agency is all out of red ones?

It's somewhat an act of faith not to slam on the brakes right then and there; after all, this is a fairly winding road. But putting my trust in the engineers not to have combined both a blind hilltop and hairpin curve at once, I continue onward. Like sitting in the back seat of a roller coaster, the car seems to pick up some of the downhill speed a little before I can actually see where we are going. I am relieved at last to see empty road again, snaking out into the desolate lava.

With a few more miles of twists and turns, we at last reach the point where pavement dissolves into a dusty, crushed lava parking lot of sorts at the edge of the bay. We look for a shoulder to park on a few hundred yards back, but there isn't much and I don't consider it wise to do any off-roading on this crushed-Oreo landscape. So we resign ourselves to walking until we can find the break in the barbed wire fence that lines the west side of the road. That's right, the "trail head" to the Aquarium starts at a small break in the barbed wire. That's how most of the activities from the blue book seem to start, but we've never been disappointed yet.

We find our spot, climb through, and start the foot part of our adventure. We hike a hundred yards or so through what looks similar to a Mangrove forest. We have good hiking shoes on here, our fins and snorkels slung across our backs. Out of the woods, the sand disappears and we find ourselves faced with an expanse of rich black lava that is almost completely devoid of life. Two hundred years is a very short time geologically, and this newborn earth hasn't yet reached fertility.

The trail quickly becomes very difficult to track, and we follow several false paths leading to idyllic-looking alcoves where the blue waters touch the black rock and counter-intuitively, seem to merge into an brilliant aquamarine; apparently I need to retake my color-mixing lessons. Schools of brightly colored tropical fish cavort in the shallows, but we resist the temptation to end our journey then and there. I'm not sure we would have regretted it as there looked to be plenty to do in one hole for one morning on Maui, and we would never have known what we missed.

Scrambling over sharp ledges, we find a trail of sorts. The original? Who knows. We're committed to this path now, as progress through the lava is slow and treacherous and we both doubt our ability to backtrack effectively anyway. We pass several brightly-colored inland sinkholes, filled with what appears to be sand and algae. The blue book warns of the legal and practical dangers of investigating these pools of quicksand too closely, so we pass them by.

Up over another slight rise, and we see it; the Aquarium's waters extend about a hundred yards across, most of it enclosed by a lava shelf that serves as a natural wave-break. Despite the alluring blues around the edges and the mysterious black water in the center where the main lava flow drops off suddenly, it takes us several minutes to scout out what seems to be a suitable point of entry. The rocks are very sharp, as our steadying hands have discovered over the course of our hike, and knowing we will have to sit down and wriggle into fins will require some modest accommodations.

We finally locate a four-foot wide alcove that meets a gentle slope in the lava, just wide enough for us to sit down and slip into the blue. When we do, I discover the wonder of seawater on lava rock, for at the precise point where the water hits the rock (it must be low tide), a smooth, shiny, calcite-looking deposit of some sort completely coats the lava, smoothing out its wrinkles and rough edges, giving it the appearance of clusters of yogurt-covered raisins. Besides reflecting the sun's light laterally through the crystal waters, this coating is a mental comfort, as we have risked our shins and knees long enough in getting here and were hoping for a respite once we actually got in the water.

So in we go, and as always in Hawaii, the temperature at the surface is exactly what we hoped for: perfect swimming pool water on a barely-too-hot summer day. The fish seem to like it too, for they surround us in droves. With relatively few visitors to their aquarium, I'm surprised that they seem every bit as unconcerned by our presence as the urban fish do in crowded hangouts like Hanauma Bay on Oahu.

We see fish of every color, shape, and size; there are schools of blue Dori's and many other of Nemo's friends; the ever-lovable Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, or painted trigger fish; and a new favorite, schools of jet-black bat fish. My wife grabs my ankle and I spin around in time to see a sinister eel, glowering at us from its lair.

We venture away from our entry alcove into much wider and deeper waters, and watch colorful acrobats far below us twisting and spinning in space. The mystery, the wildlife, and the other-worldly beauty of this place settle into our brains like a happy hypnosis. It must have been a full two hours later before we finally got out of the water.

So I hope that now you understand part of the appeal of the fish. See, if I had a billion dollars and there was no hunger or poverty or disease or crazy wackos with nukes to worry about, I could see myself building a mansion with a three-story high integrated saltwater aquarium whose tentacles would stretch into the walls of most of the rooms with central nervous system prominence. I would dive and explore and love my little fishies, and keep a full-time marine biologist on hand to keep them happy.

But unfortunately, I don't have a billion dollars, and the world still needs saving, so there's no such fish tank in my future. But my wife graciously agreed to bend a little on her decorating scheme, and we are trying a ten-gallon freshwater tank in the family room. The kids love it and think we have a real pet now. This should hold off the need for a dog for at least another six months.

We had goldfish to start with, while the tank "cycled" in preparation for keeper fish. As of yesterday, I finally have the first batch of permanent fish in my own little slice of domestic aquatic paradise: six cute, little, brightly-colored Neons. I named them all Dave.

So back to superlatives, any woman who will not only traverse treacherous lava flows in pursuit of better snorkeling, but also willingly welcome a fish tank into her living space, totally rules, rocks, and is so gnarlishly wicked-awesome that Bomb-Diggity or Bomb-dot-com don't even really come close. There really aren't enough superlatives in the English language to describe her, but luckily I've still got time to invent some.

Maybe the Daves will help.


How to love my wife said...

Hai, my name is Macmi and I'm doing a blog regarding wife as well. Please visit my blog sometimes to share some information. Maybe we can exchange link?? Btw, I like your post..wife rule..

Alan Macfarlane said...

Great post. It's almost "sweet-dot-net" :P