So, it was a road trip of rugged proportions. Dr. Lucy, her pet octopus Onslow, my Little Lindy and I finally made it to see the yeti crabs and the ghost octopi of Antarctica! It took some planning, but natch, any road trip does. As far as those energy miles I’d saved up, this trip was a doozy. Sorry, Dr. Harvey & Hildy, your little girl ain’t headed home to Beantown this Christmas. I’m stuck at The Del for a while now. Energy spent or no, our Jules Verne trip into the deep absurd was well worth being pinned here for a while. No worries, though; been to the Hotel del Coronado lately? Not a bad place to spend eternity, Wheat!
As far as the trip down south, try spending two weeks under the sea at some six miles down. Sure, the sea vents are warm. Yet, I think I’ve said it before; when you’re a ghost, you’re always cold. I was just as cold at the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean as I am at the hotel pool. The difference in the water is one of speed: water slows us down a bit. There’s also the matter of pressure: 16,000 heady lbs. per sq. inch, if you’re counting. Downright nasty, but in the end just a gnarly headache for we ghosties and worth it for all the curious little creatures we saw down there.
Onslow and Lindy made some friends in the deep and Lucy and I had a cheery old time messing with the “brave” crew of the HMNZS Wellington: a New Zealand tugboat on which we hitched a ride to our final dive spot. Nice folks, but skittish. It’s pretty creepy that far south at sea, even for me. Of course, a little ship haunting kills the time and you’d be shocked at how high a seaman can jump when goosed during a quarterdeck midnight patrol. Ha! Pranks aside, record-depth, deep sea exploration isn’t for everyone. Don’t you mooks try this at home: a sure brodie if you do! Now, if you’re two firecrackers named Richard Branson and James Cameron … what a couple of butter and egg men!
Now, I know they’re out there, Phillipe Cousteau, the late-Steve Fossett, Benedict Allen, Jane Goodall; but I don’t read about too many renaissance men and women in your modern day. You folks seem to reward and genuflect at the feet of something called a Snookie and a host of any rag-a-muffin who can get themselves on a desert island competition, star on Youtube for nothing more than being a half-portion or sing mildly well in a teensy tube top. Well, who can’t do that? In my day, we had adventurers and record-breakers coming out of our bazooms.
Picture it, 1911 – Yale prof Hiram Bingham discovers the ruins of Machu Picchu. 1922 – Howard Carter and Lord George Carnarvonone unearth the tomb of King Tutankhamen. (Hence, a keen swing in the world of ’20s fashion! Scads of scarab brooches, mummy-linen dresses, golden headwraps, jewelled sandals and loads of pricey travel excursions for the well-heeled into the sandy abyss of the Middle East.) The Wright Bros. set aloft on the shores of Kitty Hawk in 1903 while Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Elise Deroche all set aviation records in the ’20s and ’30s. (Yes, Little Lindy is named after Charles. She is a San Diego dog, after all.) Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd set the world on fire when he ventured to the South Pole not once, not twice, but thrice from the late-1920s through the early-1940s.
More apropos to our own expedition, Beebe & Barton commanded their “bathysphere” to a record-depth of 3,028 feet off Bermuda in 1934; a generation or so later, in 1960, Jacques Piccard piloted his “bathyscaphe” Trieste to a new record-depth of 35,800 feet … in the Mariana Trench. Enter filmmaker James Cameron, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Sir Richard Branson. Cameron and Branson are in a Victorian-styled race to the bottom of the sea, each trying to be the first to reach the depths of the Mariana Trench since 1960 in a solo submersible. The steampunk aesthetic possibilities are endless! Schmidt, apparently, is in on the hunt for deep-sea exploration as well, but with future plans and not part of this competition. Now, Cameron is a clearly a man of repute and impressive feat, holding the No.1 and No.2 top-grossing films, worldwide, in movie history: Titanic and Avatar. He also has a filmography worthy of note … short of George Lucas, of course.
So, yeah. I’ll give ya some modern Indiana Jones types. Still, even in the frenzied age of King Tut-inspired, archaeological dig-holidays, we didn’t even have a pip as smooth n’ juicy as Richard Branson! Zowie! Like a Victorian adventure-novel hero, Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is a melange of The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Pride and Prejudice and Superman … but better. Ha HA!
His superpower is Capitalism. His kryptonite is specious. It could be kindness, as he agreed to become godfather to a baby born out of a broken Virgin Condom (a product since abandoned); it could be good humour, as he quipped to an Atlantic Exchange audience during a War on Drugs debate, that he’d asked President Obama “for a spliff” at the White House State Dinner for Prime Minister Cameron (David, not James); it could be making G&Ts out of lemons, as he laughed off his failure to traverse the Atlantic via hot-air balloon with a zippy Virgin tag line, “There are better ways to cross the Atlantic”. Whatever Branson’s weakness is, it certainly is not apparent: unless it’s boredom.
The Virgin Atlantic founder, entrepreneur, travel magnate, philanthropist and effervescent billionaire has developed a bevy of Virgin companies and it’s too bonkers to list them all here; so have a look-see here instead. When he’s not marketing at the speed of sound, he’s darting hither and thither about the planet, sans red cape, but in tuxedos, wetsuits, snowsuits and dungarees, all whilst sporting a glorious head of Viking locks. He also keeps company along the way with kick ass flight crews swathed in 1960s chic aviation glamour and with an attention to quality and service not seen outside the old school examples of mid-20thC. Pan Am and TWA. Remember when flying was special and one actually dressed to travel? One did not bring a pillow and wear jim-jams to fly. Ick. Well, I’m pretty certain Sir Branson is sporting neither jim-jams nor a cape at this moment; he is, however, most likely … up there, in the sky!
Bam! He’s saving polar bears with Virgin Unite and legislation by WildAid!
Wham-o! He’s working with Al Gore and the U.K. Parliament to extract methane and carbon from the atmosphere!
Kapow! He’s mentoring Africa’s young with Enterprise Zimbabwe and the Branson School of Entrepreneurship!
Bazinga! He’s trying to legalize cannabis in the U.K.!
Splat! He produced the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, was imprisoned for printing the phrase Nevermind the Bollocks, found a priest to testify for him that Bollocks was indeed not a profanity, but slang for an 18thC. man o’ the cloth and …
Kablam! Twenty-five years thereafter he was knighted by the well-saved Queen herself! Hell-ooo, Sir Richard Branson!
Superman might have nice pecs and a cute head of shoe polish. He might even be able to reverse the rotation of the Earth and turn back time. For this hot patootie, the Earth spinny thing is all he’s got on Sir Branson, a.k.a. Renaissanceman. Yeah, yeah. I know some of you Superman fans, and I can hear the tickety–tackety of corrections and complaints now. You go right ahead, Comic Book Guy. I’ll still wager Branson’s a greater superhero than Superman any day of the week. First of all, he’s real. Of course, Renaissanceman is also a total mensch.
I’ll bet when he sees poor Superman flying around out there without any Wi-Fi, without any Virgin Red media, without any of Virgin’s signature airport Chauffeur Transfer Services, he’ll give Superman a ride anywhere he needs to go … via his aces keen Virgin Galactic starship! Cheer up, Superman. There can be only one.
Hold everything! Superman, you may be out of luck on that hitchhiking thing … Ashton Kutcher just bought the 500th Virgin Galactic ticket, at 250,000.00USD, no less. Murder! Sorry, babe. Hey, maybe you can reverse the Earth’s rotation and buy that last ticket before Ashton gets it. Too slow, Superman. Just too slow.