Toni Took A Cruise and I Took A Dive


In 2006, Rhonda and I went scuba diving in Fiji. It was the second time for her and the third time for me. I was freshly divorced, and Rhonda and I had been living together for two years.

Rhonda, John, and I are PADI-certified advanced divers. Rhonda had gotten her certification fairly recently, but I had over 120 dives under my belt and John had more than that. John and I had dived in Fiji, Truk, Palau, Saipan, Rota, and Kona, Hawaii.  Our trips to Fiji, Truk, Palau, and Kona were on liveaboards, which means you live, eat, and sleep on the boat. They keep your dive gear all set up at the back of the boat, with your tanks filled and ready to go for each dive, and usually you do two morning dives and two afternoon dives, and a night dive with rest intervals in-between in which to decompress.

John and I loved the live-aboard life, and we took Rhonda with us on live-aboard trips to Fiji and Kona, our favorite locations. Unfortunately, Rhonda gets seasick just watching a hammock swing in the wind, so she spent most of those trips either puking or lying flat in her bunk. The only times she wasn’t sick was when she was actually diving. There’s no turbulence at sixty feet down; but when she came up to fifteen feet to do her three-minute safety stop, she was puking again. Nothing seemed to help.

I get seasick too, but I can take a pill and I’m fine, and after three days I have my sea legs and don’t need the pill anymore. She is fine with the pill for cars and planes, but she absolutely cannot do boats.

What made this trip different was that we stayed at the resort and went out on the dive boat from there. Also, we used scopolamine patches instead of pills. Rhonda started out from home with a patch, went through the entire trip with patches, and didn’t get sick once. She did take a day off from diving in the middle of the week, which was fortuitous because that day the sea was so rough that we were being thrown around and had to anchor ourselves to something immovable to get into our gear. I think that day would have done Rhonda in if she’d been out there with me.

Another thing that was different is that John wasn’t with us. We met really congenial people on our dive trips, but John was usually unhappy with me because I didn’t use up my air as fast as he did, so I could stay down longer and go deeper than he could, which didn’t exactly make me the ideal dive buddy for him. I was into underwater photography, and I would go chasing after something to get a picture and leave him behind. That tension tended to put people off. One of the people from the dive shop told John that he needed to find a different dive buddy, because, as he put it, “Jane’s a fish. You’re not.”

Being at the resort allowed us to avail ourselves of spa services, such as massages and facials. Also, Fiji is beautiful, and Fijians are delightful. The dive masters on the boat tried to teach us some phrases in Fijian, which was fun, but of course, we forgot them as soon as we got home. Fijians make fans out of palm leaves, and they are absolutely the best fans for those of us who suffer from hot flashes. One of the resort employees took us into town, and we were able to find Fiji fans for all our postmenopausal female friends back home and still have some left over.

Unfortunately, that was the last dive trip. Rhonda and I have become quite the couch potatoes. The arthritis in my hands makes it impossible to pull a wet suit on, even if I hadn’t outgrown it. Our dive stuff is still out there in the garage, but I don’t think we’ll ever use it again.

Anybody out there need some used dive gear?

Caught red handed or off scot-free?

I tried really hard to make my characters different from the people on which they were based,  because I really didn’t want to get sued for slander or libel, but apparently I didn’t do a very good job, because numerous people have recognized them.

This was most true of my first book, Murder under the Microscope, which was based on an incident that happened over 30 years ago, when I was the solo pathologist at the Twin Falls Clinic & Hospital. One of the surgeons who had been there at the time recognized who Sally Shore was based on, who Tyler Cabot was based on, and thought it was so cool that I had killed both of them off.

One of the doctors asked me which surgeon had had a coronary bypass, allowing Sally Shore to be his temporary replacement, and was quite disappointed to learn that I just made him up.

A physician on the staff of the hospital in another town recognized George Marshall, the curmudgeonly gastroenterologist of Gnarly Finger fame.

Most of my techs that worked for me back then recognized who Lucille was based on.

My second book, Too Much Blood, was based on a sleazy lawyer that got all the Clinic doctors (except me) and many others involved in a scheme to avoid paying taxes. It worked quite well for five years until Black Monday happened and it all came crashing down. Everybody involved found themselves liable for hundreds of thousands in back taxes, interest, and penalties. This adversely affected the bottom line of the Clinic, which was doctor-owned, for many years thereafter and I really believe it contributed to our necessity to sell out to the county hospital in 2001. Everybody around here knows who that was.

I spoke at Kiwanis last year about my books, and I had a few there to sell if anybody wanted to buy one. One of the members requested the one about Jay Braithwaite Burke using the name of the person on whom he was based.

My third book, Grievous Bodily Harm, was about an administrator whose ambition was to become CEO of a behemoth hospital system and didn’t care whom he had to step on to get there. He was not above blackmail and sexual harassment to get what he wanted. The administrator on whom Marcus Manning was based was a pathological liar and treated employees like s**t. He’s long gone. And strangely enough, nobody has mentioned that they recognized him. I find that hard to believe, but there it is, don’t you know.

My friends and I go out for breakfast on Saturday mornings, and one of the waitresses told me once that I needed to write a book about sexual harassment, and I said, “You haven’t read Grievous Bodily Harm, have you?”

She hadn’t, but I bet she did right after that.

As I’ve said before, my first three books were my way of killing off three of the most threatening people in my life. They were a catharsis. The characters in the other books are totally made up, with the exception of three physicians. No, four. Oh yes, and Rollie Perkins, the coroner, is based on a local mortician who was one of my favorite people. Sadly, he has passed on. The Commander is based on a retired cop who was also one of my favorite people.

I’m always willing to use real names in my books upon request. My ophthalmologist, Robert Welch, MD, asked me to use his name in The Body on the Lido Deck. He was the ship’s doctor, and quite disappointed that I’d made him look like Richie Cunningham instead of George Clooney.

Everybody laughs when they think they recognize somebody. So far, to my knowledge, nobody has been offended.

Nobody, so far, has told me that they recognized themselves.