Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shark Swarm

An amazing coincidence, and one I have taken to interpret as an affirmation of my decision.

I try not to be, but I am always the crazy girl at the party who talks about sharks all night long, whipping out my iPhone to show proof that we simply aren’t on their menu. Though I do have other interests... it always comes up. And even when I am not the one bringing it up into the conversation, these days, I tend to get introduced by friends that way. Instead of “This is Julie, she just moved here from Chicago” or “This is Julie, she is in Advertising and works in Soho” or “This is Julie, she is that naughty Rat Terrier Maggie’s mom” I am now ALWAYS “This is Julie, and she dives with sharks”.

Yes, sharks are now my sound byte and I guess the most interesting thing about me. And not that I try to save them, but that I get into the water with them - especially the tigers and whites - outside of cages. But of course, it always gets to conservation.

The reaction is always the same… wide eyed looks of disbelief and a thousand questions. Which is great. Because at the end, typically the person walks away with a new perspective of sharks - and the realization that they are almost extinct. That happens in five minutes. Give me consistent exposure to someone, and they too, can’t help but be caught up in the passion. I think sharks were mentioned at least ten times a day at my office (with me only bringing them up two, I swear.) I would always smile when a Sr VP at Citibank would tell another Sr VP about sharks during a strategy meeting - without even realizing it had creeped into their consciousness.

Tonight, I found myself out at a Farm Sanctuary after-party with Paul Watson and his girlfriend Claudette. I was perched on a couch when I was introduced to a handsome guy named John who looked slightly familiar. He sat down next to me and got the usual story, but was still incredibly interested. ALL the pictures came out. We talked for hours about sharks, their role in the ecosystem, shark fin soup, their pending extinction… each time I tried to change the subject, he brought it back. His genuine level of interest, combined with my having consumed at least five cocktails, had me on a serious roll! I was abuzz with passion and excitement.

That’s when someone came over and said something about the Dukes of Hazard. Suddenly I realized I had been sitting next to the guy whose poster I had on my wall when I was 8 years old! Bo Duke defined an entire generation… mine! I guess talking his ear off about sharks probably should have been a bit humiliating… Most would dream of kissing the boy of their childhood dreams. Me, the shark nerd I am, I love that I had the opportunity to educate him on the creatures of my dreams... sharks!

Of course, I would get more excited about some obscure shark scientist that I idolize because they are studying white shark behavior, but I am not above geeking out on Bo… (who by the way, was way hotter and cooler than Luke.)

And far, far more pertinent and of more meaning to me, John Schneider just starred in “Shark Swarm” which is premiering on the Hallmark channel of all places next Sunday. Yes, the Shark Angel (though he refers to me as Shark Girl like so many other people do) spent hours with the “enemy” - the Shark Swarm Guy. Talking about SHARKS!

But, that was a good thing. He had no idea as to what was going on with sharks… by the time I was done with him, he could have given a presentation to a room of Harvard scholars. He is now well-prepared – and motivated - to talk to the media and anyone else who will listen - not just about the movie – but the truth about sharks.

He swears that “Shark Swarm” has an environmental message that people will focus on (sharks go mad due to toxins dumped in the water), but sadly, I have a feeling it will leave everyone with a “Jaws” dread. I promised to watch before I pass judgement and he promised to represent sharks accurately from now on. And drop the Swarm from his nickname. So now, he is just plain Shark Guy.

Some people would criticize me (and already have) for spending time with someone who represents the type of media we fight so hard against. I personally think it is amazing that Shark (previously Sw@*m) Guy now constantly says, "We aren't on their menu." That is well worth the risk of me being accused of traitor to a cause I believe so strongly in...

Even more importantly, we have a newly converted, highly visible Shark Saver - someone else to support the cause in a big way. THAT, I couldn’t be more excited about.

And, the fact he charming, intelligent, and just as hot as he was when I was 8, well, that wasn’t lost on this Shark Girl either! Even if he *was*, at one point, the "enemy"...

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