"Okay Raea, let's do this!"
I know he isn’t kidding, but a part of me wishes he was. Because this is crazy. I look over at my dad as he surveys the rocky shoreline for an entry point into the sea. What was supposed to be a relaxing beach stroll to search for Olive Ridley sea turtle nests has now turned into a multi-mile trek into uncharted territory somewhere near the border of Nicaragua. But am I surprised? No, no I am not.
Because this is what happens when I go on beach strolls with dad, we end up scaling lava rock cliffs and jumping into jellyfish stinging waters.
“Alright let’s GO!”
My father launches himself off the cliff and plummets into a white fluffy cloud. I expect to see his mangled body on the exposed reef below but at the last second the tide swells and catches him before he can be mulched into fish food.
“LETS GO RAY-YAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!” he shouts and begins swimming – to a deserted island a half mile out in the ocean - apparently our destination.
So, I step up to the cliff face and eye the swell. Nothing like a leap of faith to get the adrenaline going. If not for the years of cliff jumping training by my dad, I wouldn’t have jumped. But this, this was normal. So I leap from the rocks and launch myself 15 feet out, trying to bypass the reef below. I hit the water and sink.
I rise to the surface and start to swim out into the open ocean following the yellow straw sun hat bobbing in the waves before me, trying to catch up to him as we swim for the island. My leg, I realize, is bleeding. I must have scraped the coral. Alone with my thoughts, I try to remember what species of shark might live in the water below.
“Let's go RAAY-YAAAAAHHHH!” my dad cheerfully calls.
My dad is truly a remarkable man, he is also the craziest person I know. I always knew I wanted to make him into a cartoon character and the chance finally arrived when I began writing the script for my graphic novel Mup.
My dad, Gary Gragg, was the inspiration for Mr. Machado. Both are overenthusiastic about plants. Mr. Machado's botanist dreams of finding a cure for the black dread and trekking into the unknown wild places is something I can see my dad doing. Growing up, he enthusiastically dragged me through rainforests, chaparral and mountains. He owns Golden Gate Palms & Exotics Nursery in northern California and was the host of Superscapes, a garden show on HGTV.
If you would like to meet the man, the myth, the legend check out his YouTube channel: Gary Gragg’s True Plant Stories and you’ll see what I mean.