Henry Rollins: Diving Off the Jersey Shore
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
A few days ago I was at the Jersey Shore. It was evening, and I had a few hours for sleep before my 0430 wake-up call, for a dive class that would allow me to go deeper than I was certified for.
I had just finished a long day of location shooting out in the sun and was wondering how I was going to hold up for three deep dives with people I had never met.
We pulled into the parking lot of my hotel and witnessed a fascinating scene. If you have ever watched an episode of Jersey Shore, you are acquainted with the cast. The males: Very strong, capably violent, dull-faced and empty-eyed. The females: Scantily clad, loud, dangerous. They don’t speak so much as yell, threaten and laugh. They seem to be having a great time.
The hotel adjoined a large nightclub, where shitty music came out of an opened side door and the young men and women looked as if they had just stepped away from a Jersey Shore casting call. Girls, their asses hanging out of their butchered jeans shorts, staggered out with men who were built like tanks. They were yelling and weaving toward their very nice cars. I wondered how people who look like this make the kind of money for a Lamborghini. I saw my chances of getting some sleep as fairly slim.
All of a sudden, a girl came out of the side door and fairly fell into the arms of one of the massive security men. She looked like she had received a pretty solid punch to her right eye. I wondered if her boyfriend was a southpaw. Her top was gone and she was down to her bra.
From across the parking lot, a barely dressed female approached her and, in a very loud voice, said she was a “fokin tramp.” The bra girl went crazy and tried to attack her. The security guard was hanging on to her for dear life.
A few knuckleheads came over and attempted to pull the yelling girl away. She broke free and resumed yelling. The two were trying their hardest to get to each other. All the guys thought it was funny and, as more females left the venue, they started taking sides. It was getting pretty crazy, and I was hoping these two would not have a chance to engage.
As I watched all these young men and women “doing their thing,” it occurred to me that this could be reality-show gold. Documenting them in their natural environment would be boring, but dropping them into Kabul and rolling on that would be incredible.
The girl who had been yelling at the one in the bra was picked up and put over the shoulder of one of the gorilla men and carried away, cursing a blue streak nonstop. I found a different hotel to stay at for my few hours of rest.
By 0550 hrs. the next day, I was on board the Tempest, captained by Tom McCarthy. We were to dive to about 80 feet to check out the Lizzie D, a Prohibition-era rum runner that sank in 1922. All crew members were lost. Since being discovered in 1977, she’s been visited many times, and a lot of interesting things have been collected.
I met Tom and got on board to meet the rest of the divers and head out. This group dives wrecks all over, all the time. These are highly skilled divers who have been at it for decades. They use serious gear, including a rebreather system, which allows for deep and long dives and requires careful monitoring. The concept is that the exhaled breath is recirculated, oxygen is added and carbon dioxide is removed. If the mix goes wrong, you can get in trouble, especially at great depths.
We reach the wreck and anchor. I suit up, along with Tom, and jump in. We descend down the rope line. which has been dropped near the Lizzie D. We quickly hit the thermocline and the water takes a dramatic drop in temperature. My face is slapped with cold. We keep going.
Suddenly, there she is. Ribs and collapsed sheets of rusting metal mix with fish and shells. Tom signals me to turn on my light. He points to an area and we start looking for stuff, constantly checking our dive computers for information. It’s easy to let time fly in this setting, as you can get so absorbed in what you’re doing. I find some broken glass and chunks of metal. Time’s up so we surface.
A while later, the elite divers surface with objects in their bags. Alcohol bottles, some with corks still in the bottom. I ask to look at one and am fascinated. It’s just a bottle, but it’s been sitting underneath the ocean floor for almost a century. Boardwalk Empire, for real.
After a break, Tom and I go back for our second dive. We swim around, checking out different areas of the wreck. We find a place where there seems to be a hole and start digging into the soft mud. I can feel the side of a bottle. I carefully start digging it out of the mud. I almost have it and then it’s time to go to the surface again.
A couple of hours later, we are back down for the last dive. We go to a place near where we were before and see what we can find. I can feel the neck of a bottle and gently tug it free. The cork is still in but it’s loose. Hopefully it won’t explode when we ascend. We get it to the top and it survives.
Hours later, I’m in Manhattan, bottle in hand. One of the best days I have ever had.
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