Monday, August 23, 2010

Mermaid Tales: Picnicking

Been a while since I told a Mermaid Tale, but yesterday’s post on cookbooks and food made me think of mermaids picnicking. And we did. Every show.

Before the show, we’d pack our picnic bags with fish food, salt shaker, celery, and a drink. The bag had a draw string that we looped over our wrist. And the draw string had a bottle opener tied on.

When we heard our cue, we’d swim out to the show area, sometimes in our tails, sometimes not. (We didn’t always wear the tails. That’s another story for another day.) We’d swim to the lily pads, which were fixed atop a metal pole. The poles were lying on the ground, so we’d use our air hoses to inflate the contraption and raise the poles upright. Then we’d swim up and sit on the lily pad.

As you might imagine, though, sitting on the lily pad and trying to eat our picnic would be hard since we’d keep floating up, what with breathing from the air hose and the buoyancy of the tails. Never fear, each lily pad had a L-shaped bar that we would slide our legs under. Being anchored was important because the first thing we did, after waving to the audience, was remove our face masks.

We then could see nothing. Squat. Everything’s a blur.

But that didn’t matter. What was important was that the audience could see our lovely faces.

First, we pulled out the fish food and crumbled it in our palms. Hundreds of small fish swarmed us. We waved our hands and released the food. The fish darted and gathered, eating the food as it floated down. Once they disappeared along with the food to the bottom of the show area, we began our picnic.

With great showmanship and flair, we pulled out our celery and the salt shaker. We salted our delicious meal. Okay, it wasn’t actually salt. It was sand. Salt kinda disappears when it gets wet. Then we waved our celery around so the audience could see it (and so we could wash off the sand). Then we ate. And in case you’re wondering about those pesky veins in celery that tend to get stuck between your teeth…we stripped those before going in the water. We stored the leaves back in our picnic bag.

Then pulled out our colas. Okay, they weren’t actual colas. We filled the bottles with Hawaiian Punch. Hey, before you condemn, have you every burped underwater? Using our bottle opener, we pried off the cap. When you remove the cap, you have to be fast in putting your thumb over the opening. Drinking a cola under water is actually easier than you might think. It’s just like drinking on land. Take a breath of air, put bottle to lips, exhale air into the bottle which causes the liquid to go into your mouth. Remove bottle from lips, quickly sliding your thumb over the opening. Swallow. Take a breath of air. Repeat until cola is gone.

Then, holding the empty bottle upside down, we twirled it so it went upward, then tipped and, filling with water, began to sink. We caught it in our picnic bags. People, of course, clapped, so we grinned and waved.

Then we cleared our face masks and put them back on and waved some more. Then we released the valve on our lily pads and, as they began to collapse and float back to the bottom, we gathered our picnic bag and swam back to the volcano.

You’d be surprised how filling a celery stick and Hawaiian punch are. Three to four times a day. Three hundred and sixty-four days a year. For three years. Wish I could stick to that diet now.


  1. That's cool. I'm impressed of what you have been doing, Helen. You should give us more of these mermaid tales >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  2. You are writing a book that includes these mermaid tails, right? These are such fun stories it is unlikely that anyone else will be telling them. Fantastic subject matter!

  3. I need to go back through the blog and find the various Mermaid Tales and link to them, I guess.

  4. So that's the diet I have to follow. Except I don't know how to swim. Damn.

    Yes, yes, Helen. A book from you! :)

  5. Helen! I live for your mermaid tales...they rivet me. I am trying to understand what is going on with inside outside water and the comradery and the general goofiness of the whole thing. I LOVE it - you had my favourite job for sure...and darn all I was was a high-lead logger. dang. Jan Morrison

  6. OK, this is the first Mermaid Tale I've seen - not sure how I missed them. Certainly answers the question of where you got your Twitter handle. This has to be one of the most unusual jobs I've ever heard of. I've never know an actual mermaid before.

  7. I don't know that I have enough Tales to fill a book.

    Jan, are you doing Logger Tales? That sounds like a dangerous job.

  8. Love these tales, and this one did not disappoint. So ... erm, could we get a Youtube clip of you on the set in costume? I'd love to see you in the tale with the tail! (wink)

  9. Love the Mermaid Tales. You had a good time :)

  10. Absolutely love these Mermaid Tales. I'm with Marvin. Any pics?

  11. Thanks for brightening up my day with a Mermaid Tale. I'm with everyone else...any pics?

  12. This is so nuts! I wonder who thought up all that stuff. It really cracks me up that you actually DID that.

  13. Cool ... haven't read a mermaid tale in a while. This was fun and a great way to wake up this morning.

    Stephen Tremp

  14. Helen, it sounds like a fun job, most of the time. Never thought about how to drink a bottle of anything underwater.

    When I was that age I had really long hair and I imagine you did too. I bet it was a creative experience to try and eat anything under water without getting hair in it too.

    Looking forward to more tales or is that tails?

    I can see a book now: My Life As a Mermaid.

  15. I doubt there's anywhere in America one could see a show like that now!

  16. Marvin, as far as I know, there are no videos of me as a mermaid. I do have a couple of postcards that include me. They're not pristine since it didn't occur to me to save them. I wrote on the back and sent them to my mother. I should try to scan them.

    Sia, I wish I'd thought at the time to keep a journal. I'm writing from memories now.

    Alex, Aquarena Springs wasn't the only underwater show, but I don't know if any of the others are still around or not. I think we were the only one with a swimming pig.

  17. You wouldn't want to accidentally swallow any of the swimming water!

  18. Great story, Helen! Sounds like you had great fun! Wish I could see you do that today!

    Sylvia Dickey Smith

    A War of Her Own

  19. Wow, I'm impressed with someone who would eat celery sticks so many times a day. Once a week is about enough for me. LOL

    Enjoyed the tale and was surprised about drinking under water. Never knew that could be done.

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  21. Diane, the water was pretty clean. The "tank" was water from hundreds of springs that flowed through the show area.

    Oh, trust me Sylvia, you would not want to see me do that today.

    Hmm, I seriously doubt I would fit on a famous celebrities in the world blog.

  22. Another fun mermaid story and another reason I could never be a mermaid—other than the main one that I’m a lousy swimmer—but I really dislike celery:)

  23. I love the mermaid tale. Drinking cola underwater sounds like a fun experience ;)

  24. Lynda, the trick is to not get the sequence mixed up.

  25. I would hate to have gotten the hiccups. This is a much more interesting job than I ever had. For me it was more like, the waitress who spilled the drinks.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  26. It was a fun job, Nancy. Not all the time, but most of the time.

  27. Oh wow. That is both impressive and hilarious! How long did you have to hold your breath underwater? I have a slight aversion to water due to an accident as a child, so I can't even imagine doing something like this.


  28. Somehow missed this yesterday. These tales are great.
    Does the mermaid thing ever come up in your books?


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