Romantic love is an illusion. Most of us discover this truth at the end of a love affair, or else when the sweet emotions of love lead us into marriage and then turn down their flames.
(Thomas Moore) 


After I learned to Scuba, I took reef diving trips to Cozumel almost every year for two decades.

Cozumel is an Island off the Yucatan of eastern Mexico, especially noted for the clarity of its water. This is because the 6000-foot-deep trench that runs between the island and the mainland, serves as a funnel for one of several loop currents running south to north; which then eventually combine to form the Gulf Stream. This constant northbound flow can result in as much as 200-foot visibilities, but also runs fast enough that divers cannot swim against it; thus, forcing them to drift along with the current. This drift diving is a unique style of the sport, in a unique underwater environment, a true gem of nature.

My favorite day trip would be to take a plane ride to the spectacular Mayan ruins at Chichén Itza where one of the sites on the tour of the city is the Cenote. This is a circular sinkhole, formed in the limestone that drops straight down hundreds of feet below its sharp drop-off to a deep inky green-black pool.

Apparently one of the Mayan sacrificial god appeasement ceremonies involved periodically taking one or more vestal virgins to the cenote, drugging them up and heaving them off the edge. It was supposedly a good sign if the virgin sank and never resurfaced, but a very bad sign for the priest who oversaw guarding them if the body floated back up to the top. This meant that the gods were not at all pleased; also implying that perhaps they had been rejected because the priest had breached his vows to keep them pure by personally breaching their hymens as well. If a priest happened to get too many floaters, the citizens of the city would throw him in too, or perhaps cut out his heart, cut off his head or do all three.

This left the priests with several tricks designed to ballast the corpse which included weighing them down with heavy jewelry or making them swallow rocks before the ceremony. Their sedating drugs would add a layer of insurance against the possibility of flailing or flopping around on the surface when the body hit the water, and hopefully then send the weighted, semi-comatose corpse straight down to the bottom.

On one of those dive trips, I encountered a floater of sorts too; one that was directly linked to sexual indiscretions as well. I went to Cozumel with a nurse I was dating. On the plane ride from New York we sat across the aisle from a mixed-race couple that was also going diving. The woman was white, and the man was black. Coincidentally, they also stayed at the same hotel as ours. I attempted idle chat, but they seemed standoffish, shy and reclusive, so I did not push it. I thought they might be that way because in the late 1980s society in general still frowned on inter-racial relationships.

On one of our dive excursions there was great commotion on another one of the boats, along with shouting and hysterical gesticulation from two Mexican dive leaders who were standing over what looked like a limp body in the bottom of one of their small ancillary snorkel boats. Our boat raced to the scene where we witnessed the black man lying on his back in the bottom of the small aluminum hulled boat, in full cardiac arrest. My girlfriend and I jumped into the small tipsy craft, where she began mouth-to-mouth breathing while I pumped on his chest; but to no avail. I could tell that the man had died instantly while snorkeling above his wife or girlfriend, who was tank diving below him.

However, not to be undaunted, the Mexicans raced him to shore where an ambulance was waiting, unfortunately very ill equipped to the point of not even having an ET tube on board. This resulted in one of the paramedics trying to torture the corpse by intubating him with a snorkel. The scene then devolved into a horrific bloody mess as the all too large diameter of the equally all too rigid snorkel severely traumatized the poor man’s larynx as the so called EMT kept trying to unsuccessfully shove it down his trachea. It was only a gory scene of bloody, foamy sputum, saliva and snot being forced from the lungs of a dead blue body.

Later that night, I went to his partner’s room to offer my condolences, only to be brusquely rebuffed by her telling me to “just go away” and leave her alone. She would not even open her hotel room door more than a small crack before shutting me out without further conversation, which made me feel stupidly inadequate. By the next day her room had been vacated and she was gone.

I found out several days later that the reason for her terse rebuke was because the couple was married all right, but each one to someone else. Apparently they had been on a cheating vacation tryst when the man suddenly dropped dead on the surface of the sea; only to leave his counterpart with the embarrassing problem of having to explain it all to her own husband, arranging the transportation of her lover’s corpse back to the States, as well as the clumsy situation that was now forcing her to be a direct liaison to the man’s poor widow as well. This woman instead chose to cover her tracks and go silently into that good night. Perhaps on her next Caribbean vacation, she might want to spend it in the Virgin Islands, in a single room, above water, with her nose in a book. Or by the time she hashes it all out with her husband, she might be single again anyway, and could simply start over.

A similar situation with a happier outcome combined ultimate forgiveness with making the most out of a bad situation. The scenario involved a couple my wife and I met on a cruise who had managed to turn a potentially serious negative into a pluperfect positive.

He was a hard-working building contractor who had grown a multimillion-dollar business from scratch. By the time we met them they also had five adult children. But when the kids were young, he had been sidetracked by having an affair with an unhappily married woman who he met in his bowling league. The ostensible reason for his straying was because his wife, who was busy taking care of their five small children at home, had fallen into the syndrome of: ‘Chronically-being fatigued-all-of-the-time-mommy-lost-interest-in-sex.’

But after figuring out what was happening by the cell phone log, the wife called the woman herself, told her she knew what was going on and then asked her husband to bring the woman home with him so she could watch them screw.

He did.

The three of them then had sex together on a regular basis for several years; until three became a crowd.

After that the tired mommy, yet now rejuvenated and enlightened housewife, made sure that when each of her daughters came of age, that they were indoctrinated in the concept of never sexually neglecting their hard-working husbands.

She told them:

  • As long as he’s bringing home the bacon, give him what he wants, whenever he wants it, however he wants it, and however many times he wants it. It’s easy. You have three holes…so  all you need to do is make sure that at least one of them is always open for business.




Bad Luck and Trouble (Cousins: 4)


Cousins 4: Rosemary

I was never close to my cousin Rosemary because we never talked or shared intimate childhood secrets on those numerous family holidays. She eventually grew out of her pouting sullen phase, and became a very quiet, sweet young lady, who certainly did not deserve her fate.

After she married, her first child was born with mild mental retardation.

Eventually, her husband began going to Sunday Mass by himself, something not unusual for families with young children. Perhaps someone had to stay home with the disabled child, allowing each parent to attend a separate Mass while easing the baby-sitting chores or expenses. In fact, hourly Sunday ceremonies are just about the only thing flexible about the Catholic Church. Protestants usually have only one service on Sundays, which obligates the congregation to actually act as a single congregation.

In contrast, I used to feel that the Catholic hourly mass schedule was designed so that no one could ever have a Confessional excuse for missing one. But it could also be as simple as being just too many Catholic bodies able to fit into one place at the same time, ensuring the Church that it will not miss a single penny of Sunday monetary donation.

I am also sure that some devout Christians use the flexible time slots to purposefully avoid certain other people they do not like.

  • She always goes at 9. I hate her. Let’s start going at 11 so we don’t have to deal with her

Anyway, Rosemary’s husband would get dressed in his Sunday best and then take off for a few hours. But he must have been staying out too long or somehow made some other mistake, because one day Rosemary trailed him to a motel where he had apparently been having weekly communion with another woman; but not communion with the body and blood of Jesus. Body, yes. Blood perhaps on occasion. Jesus, no.

Confirmation, of a non-sacramental nature, came later when it was eventually reported by a relative or friend that he had actually never been seen at any purported weekly Mass, making that fact both the end of his extracurricular Sunday school activities as well as the end of his marriage.

Rosemary undauntedly remarried and had two more children. Then, her second husband was killed when he drove off the Long Island Expressway hitting a bridge abutment after he had been out to Montauk on a weekend fishing trip. In an effort to make the hundred mile trip back to White Plains in time for work, he had fallen asleep at the wheel while driving home too early on Monday morning.

Years later, just shortly after I heard that Rosemary’s twenty-six year old son had a severe cardiac myopathic disorder that would require a heart transplant, she herself was killed as the consequence of a motor vehicle accident in which she sustained severe head trauma. It was one of those freak winter skids.

The sad irony was that her terminally ill son had been admitted to the same hospital she was brought to, at approximately the same time, and that they both died together nearly at the same time and in the same place. It would have been even worse or even sublimely ridiculous if she had been considered as a cardiac transplant donor for her own son, but either the timing was just a bit off; or nobody thought about it in the disconnected medical system chaos; and therefore the chance was missed. Personally speaking, I am not really sure I would have wanted to spend the rest of my life knowing it was my mother’s heart that had given me both a first and then a second chance at life. I already owned enough emotional turmoil.

A friend in medical school once explained this phenomenon to me when he said that most people remain healthy because ten percent of humanity gets ninety percent of the disease.

The same thing seems to hold true for bad luck.

Bad Luck


Born under a bad sign.

I’ve been down since I began to crawl.

If it wasn’t for bad luck,

I wouldn’t have no luck at all.

(Albert King)

A Fall From Grace


So what Ever Did Happen to Little Jimmy

 When we were older, perhaps in our twenties, my paradigm of perfection cousin Little Jimmy became engaged to a Jewish woman, Cynthia. A very sweet and likable person, she was also a musical genius who was blessed with the rare gift of perfect pitch. She had one great trick whereby if you told her an endless sequence of random numbers, she could recite them forward and backward based entirely on memory of voice pitch, but not necessarily because she memorized the numbers themselves.

Unfortunately Cynthia also had Chron’s Disease, an illness characterized by chronic inflammation of the large bowel for unknown and idiopathic reasons. This causes numerous food intolerances, cramps, diarrhea, radical weight loss, malaise, multiple drug regimens and a general feeling of misery, often culminating with a partial bowel resection, a colostomy, or usually both. At least in those days it did.

Jimmy asked me when I was home from medical school for a holiday what I thought. I told him that there was no cure, that the disease was relapsing, chronic and that he would have to temper his love with all the realities as well as the potential problems that were going to come along with it.

For good reason, Cynthia was chronically under weight and because she could not ever tolerate much of it, she became obsessed with food. Every once in awhile we would get together for a weekend at which time, being a case of craving the most the things that one can never really have, all that she and Jim would talk about was what they were going to eat at each succeeding meal.She would plan for it, then cook it but was never was able to actually eat it. They talked about food so much it came to a point of actually becoming so nauseating, that nobody else wanted to eat either.

Although Cynthia, as well as Jimmy, was a concert level musician, absences due to her illness kept her from being able to hold a regular job.

At some point Jimmy had to leave his job with the orchestra in Florida for reasons I cannot remember, which put some financial strain on the marriage. Eventually Cynthia did have to have a partial bowel resection with a colostomy, a physical issue that cannot be without its own stressful interpersonal and interactive consequences, especially when it comes to visual imagery, odors and sex.

To help make ends meet Cynthia then started giving music lessons at home; while Jimmy picked up some regular work.

The marital relationship must have slowly disintegrated, and then finally ended for good when Jimmy came home early one day only to find her giving a little more in the way of personal attention and less in the way of music lessons to two young brothers. The teenagers had apparently been learning a lot more than just their scales and had graduated to doing very nice harmonies as a sexual trio instead.

I cannot remember what Jimmy’s subsequent jobs had been, but do believe at one time he may have been a Hospital Attendant or had worked for a Social Service Agency. Whatever the case, however, he always seemed to surface when a family member was health stricken, such that he made a second career out of being an unofficially self-appointed personal home aide.

He always seemed to be around when the angel of death was lurking, and under these circumstances managed to present himself as the self-sacrificing diligent martyr; who afforded his services for only room and board. This may account for how he managed to abscond with Grandma’s best furniture pieces after she died. Who knows what else he got and from whom, for similar activities.

In any event, I gradually stopped hearing about him or from him and I don’t think he ever really lived up to those great expectations that my father and everyone else had for him.

You see the Jews are not the only people who have a tendency to play the long-suffering martyr. Italians are especially good at it too.

                                           The Martyr’s Lament 

Don’t worry about me. You go out. You leave. Take the kids, too. All of you go and have a good time. Don’t even think about it. Stay out as long as you want. Enjoy, enjoy. Have fun. And don’t worry about me. While all of you are out having a good time, I’ll just stay home alone; keeping Grandma company, maybe later cook her dinner and then after I clean up, sit and eat all by myself .