Thursday, December 27, 2012

Taking A Dive

Taking A Dive
by Jeff Kagan

There is an old joke asking why sharks don’t attack lawyers. The answer is: professional courtesy. Attorney Eric Heller knows this first hand, as he's met quite a few sharks. Eric is a member of the Village Dive Club, New York City’s LGBT scuba diving club. He has traveled to the four corners of the Earth finding thrilling underwater adventures or a remarkable inner peace. During a night dive in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indies, Eric slowly descended about a hundred feet down a sea wall and then turned off his dive light. Gradually, the water began to glow with bioluminescent phytoplankton. He hung off the wall, alone at night, looking into the deep and surrounded by what looked like glowing fireflies. He explains, "The experience of diving itself is transcendental: you are weightless, floating, flying, and even diving with a buddy, you are alone with your thoughts, isolated except for the sound of your breathing, the fish chewing on coral and the waves. It is almost meditative."

Eric’s interest in scuba diving derives directly from Tae Kwon Do (a form of martial arts). As a pre-teen he took Tae Kwon Do classes, but he would beg his parents to drop him off early or pick him up late so he could spend time in the scuba diving shop next door. “I talked the scuba shop owner's ears off, looked at all the cool equipment and waited patiently until I turned 13 and could get certified,” he says.

Every October the dive shop would host an underwater pumpkin-carving contest at the lake. Eric quickly learned the trick to winning after watching people struggling to drag a very buoyant pumpkin to the depths below, saying, “Bash a hole in the pumpkin on the surface. And avoid cutting yourself while fumbling with a dive knife and a pumpkin at 30 feet in murky water!”

As the president of the Village Dive Club, Eric is happily joined by his partner-in-brine, Christopher Spivey on most excursions. The two met almost 15 years ago in Oklahoma. Within a few months of meeting, Christopher realized he would have to get his scuba certification if the relationship was going to work. “He braved the cold waters of Lake Tenkiller in Eastern Oklahoma for me!” says Eric. That’s love. Although Christopher has made it clear to his beau that he would not partake in cold water dives anymore, he has no objections in accompanying Eric on an upcoming trip to Bali next month.

Eric gets all bubbly thinking about the many dives he's taken, exploring the glistening landscapes under the sea, encountering so many unusual creatures: from the bioluminescent phytoplankton to the 30-foot long whale sharks who feast upon them. Talk about a light meal…

Eric’s only scare was on a dive in Fiji when a tiger shark joined the group along with some smaller reef sharks. "The dive guides tensed up and started paying attention when this huge shark approached, I knew it was serious.  But I still tried to get as close as I could to see it." he said. Not to worry -- nothing happened. As we said earlier: professional courtesy.

Learn more about the Village Dive Club at