The man with the familiar red hat.
Last night I joined about a bajillion other people in Benaroya Hall
to hear Jean-Michel Cousteau
, Jacques-Yves’ oldest son, speak for the National Geographic Live
series we attend every year. The NGL speakers tend to be world famous explorers who share their exploits with those of us who are too chicken or too sane to do what they do.
I’m not going to do a review of the event last night. This is more about where my mind wandered during the presentation which, after all, wasn’t full of new content as far as I was concerned. No, this is about the fact that, even though I’m forty-something, I’m still finding small childhood dreams and fantasies can still be shattered. That’s right. All this time, I thought that Jacques Cousteau was my personal friend and buddy. When I was growing up, I waited eagerly for his specials to come on the television so he could come into MY living room. Not yours. Mine. He came to share his special world with me.
As Jean-Michel spoke about his father last night, it became abundantly clear that Jacques Cousteau was cheating on me with millions of others. For years, I thought my obsession with the idea of scuba diving, underwater exploration and my original intention of becoming a marine biologist was my pipe-dream. Not everyone else’s, too. (Imagine a big, heaving sigh.)
It shouldn’t be such a surprise that so many people have fond memories and abiding affection for the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Perhaps there was something about the way it was presented that made him see so personable. Maybe it was that I was born in 1966 and the show was part of my early childhood and my memories about it are all warped. I don’t know, but there is this fondness and warmness that goes very deep for me.
It is rather ironic that I don’t enjoy eating seafood or fish. And I don’t particularly like the smell of the ocean. Nor do I like being wet and cold. I would have failed miserably living a life like his, so it’s for the best that I’m not a marine biologist. I do believe my continued sense of awe and appreciation for the beautiful creatures of the ocean are firmly rooted by those early years of watching him on television. And, now I realize, it’s probably the same for a lot of you.