Good morning and welcome to the final blog of spring 2008. I thought for today’s photo theme we would go with something fun and colorful and I don’t mean shots of caskets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ll be talking burials soon enough. I often think about our forgotten troops (and their families) currently fighting two wars. And FYI, we lost more soldiers last month in Afghanistan than Iraq and this is seven years after we supposedly defeated the Taliban. I’m not a reporter, I just play one in cyberspace.
Let’s turn to a more pleasant subject. For our photofest today we are going to look at six bright, elusive butterflies of love, little creatures who have flown into the westside of my life here in Santa Cruz. It’s always a good day when butterflies are fluttering in the neighborhood or I can find my wallet and keys. And on that note, to the person who invented the paging system helping me locate my mobile phone I’d like to award them the medal of honor.
On to today’s news. None of us really likes to think about where we might want to be buried but here’s something you might want to ponder in your bathing suit. About 45 feet below the ocean’s surface lies a cemetery with gates, pathways, plaques, benches and a snack bar. The Neptune Memorial Reef, which opened last fall, is seen by its creators as a perfect final resting spot for those who loved the sea or just want to stay moist. They hope that one day the reef will cover 16 acres, have room for 125,000 remains or worst come to worst, just try to keep the business afloat.
The Neptune Memorial Reef is located in open waters 3 1/4 miles off the coast of Key Biscayne, Florida, which means any certified diver, shark or underwater lunatic can visit it. The artificial reef’s first phase allows for about 850 remains and a couple of lifeguard towers. As Gary Levine, a diver who conceived of the idea and is now a shareholder in the company that owns it says, “This is simply as good as it gets.” I’m not sure if fans of Jack Nicholson or Diane Keaton would agree with him.
The ashes are mixed with cement designed for underwater use and fitted into a mold, which a diver then places and secures into the reef. A copper and bronze plaque is installed with the person’s name, date of birth and death. There is also a line for a message, haiku, or streaming video. “It’s sad to see someone die, but this is a celebration of life,” says artist Kim Brandell, who created the reef’s design. “We call it ‘life after life.’” Or you could call it, “Gee, who ate Grandpa?”
Brandell goes on to say, “I designed it to be a diver’s location. I am hoping and planning it to be the most dived location on the planet, besides Paris Hilton.” As a diver swims down the pathways of the reef there will be themed areas, like dancing, sports and dinner theatre. The cost of a placement starts at $995 and can go to all the way to $6,495, for those who want to be placed inside the base of a lion statue for all eternity. Yes, for those of you who always wanted to visit Davey Jones locker or who read “10,000 American Leagues Under The Sea,” dreams do come true.
The reef is designed to last forever or as long as Pat Riley remains coach of the Miami Heat. It is engineered to withstand the harshest hurricane to hit Florida in the last 100 years and Florida voting booths. It is being marketed by the Neptune Society, which specializes in cremation services and mermaid exploration in 11 states. This reef does have a certain appeal. I can just hear my wife saying, “Kids, get on your scuba gear, we’re going to visit Daddy.”
So that’s our show for the week. Today (Friday) is the summer solstice which means we will see more light on this day than any other this year. Then, much like myself, the days will be getting shorter. So tune in again Monday when we’ll salute to the beginning of summer. Enjoy the day, enjoy the weekend and remember that defense wins championships. Later, sports fans.