If you have come across the term "fantasy diver" you know it refers to folks who love to talk about diving. They have all the latest and greatest high-tech scuba equipment and engage anyone they meet in elaborate stories of diving and all the cool stuff they have seen and done. Except that fantasy divers hardly ever go diving. James Rosemond, the author of Hiding on the Bottom - Mid Life Misadventures Down East is pretty much the opposite of a fantasy diver. He's real, very real. And so is his book which is a cohesive collection of stories and vignettes of boating and diving during a difficult couple of years -- a midlife crisis if you will -- where he makes an unexpected new friend who ends up changing his outlook on life.
The title Hiding on the Bottom refers to diving and hunting flounder in murky waters as an escape, something that Rosemond both loves and uses to bring focus to his life, a life that he finds unstructured and unfilfilling in some vaguely defined ways. We never quite find out what exactly ails the author, but it really doesn't matter. Those who've been there know the feeling. And if you wonder what "Down East" means, that refers to Carteret County in North Carolina, a place where he and a small group of others own "the Swamphouse," an unassuming yet sturdy structure once built by volunteer firefighters that now serves their descendents as a retreat and place to just hang out, have a good time, and launch boating and diving adventures.
Though this self-published account of a man's struggles to find himself in the middle of his life is really about himself, it has a strong focus on an irreverant, hard-charging go-getter named Scotty who becomes the author's friend and, through his exuberance and love of life, provides a beacon through his crisis, shows him what counts and really matters -- living life, appreciating things, and doing what one loves to do. Scottie "may be too chauvinistic" to ever appear on Oprah, but he has a heart of gold and is just what the doctor ordered. And he can spear flounders like none other.
Rosemond never pretends to be a master diver. But unlike his pal Scotty -- who dives without computer or any of them new-fangled diving gear, prides himself in buying cheap fins at Walmart and using self-made stuff, and stays down until his air runs out -- the author does describe PADI training and procedure, and often provides a bit of scuba explanation and guidance for those readers totally unfamiliar with the sport.
This is not a book about breathtaking adventures in exotic locales or dangerous exploits way down deep or pontificating on the science and technology of scuba. Instead, it's about family and boating and beer and diving along jetties and on man-made structures. It's about places named AR320 ("Artificial Reef 320") rather than "Blue Grotto" or "Eye of the Needle". It weaves in little adventures and misadventures, the kinds of things that happen to all of us. Like losing gear due to mental glitches, making errors in judgement, encounters with odd people, fighting equipment and other recalcitrant things in life. Dive buddy Scotty -- the term "dive buddy" only applying loosely and not in any diving certification agency's sense as Scotty disappears from view the moment he hits water -- provides guidance, not because he is a model citizen or perfect individual, far from it, but because he gives us that which we all need, something to regroup and refocus on, and make it past difficult times.
And the author is real, too. Yes, you can go read his blog at www.lulu.com/krosemond or order autographed copies for just a few bucks more. I read Hiding on the Bottom cover to cover in two long nights. It's captivating writing, fun, entertaining, and I could relate to it. Both as a diver and as a man. -- C. H. Blickenstorfer, scubadiverinfo.com