|Jun 24 2012|
"One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish...Who, Fish?!"
Part II of II
To my very, dearest, and most precious friends, and every patient, and loyal readers,
I must-once again-ask for your most kind tolerance, and patience, as, yesterday, in trying to compose what I hoped would be a humorous, diary entry, it is abundantly typical of me that I would somehow veer completely ‘off topic', and thus, lose the thread of both intended thought and meaning.
It is now my fondest hope that you will excuse my turning an innocent entry into something of a ‘rant', and by making of this entry two parts, add rant, and original thought together. Sigh.
I admit, my dearest, faithful friends, that I have no one but myself to blame, as present illness, unending pain, worry, migraine, and ‘mind fog' in some dreadful combination caused me to fully ‘jump the trolley' of my thoughts off the tracks of my intention. And for that-and, for so very much more, I sincerely apologize, and again ask for your most kind indulgence, and forgiveness.
So...in a concerted effort to regain what I had hoped would be an entry that was funny, interesting to read, and free of my usual bombast, I will-with your permission-simply start over from the beginning.
As always, I remain ever grateful for your having befriended me, and for keeping me close to you; and please know that I love you dearly, ‘Zahc'.
My late father was an avid, outdoor sportsman for much of his life, until age, and illness forced him to stop; during the ‘Great Depression', both he and a brother would go out into the woods, shooting wild turkeys, birds, and squirrels, and rabbits, all of which were dutifully brought home to his mother to find a necessary place in the family cooking pot.
While on assignment to Alaska (before he married my mom), he would fish for salmon in rushing, ice-cold streams, or-with friends-go out into the frigid, uncharted, and dangerous wilds to hunt for bear. There were no restrictions as to either in those, long-ago days.
But fishing, I think, remained his favorite pastime. And would continue until his age, and health prohibited it.
In one of my previous posts, I mentioned our ‘death-by-driving' summer pilgrimage from Texas, where we lived, to Tarpon Springs, Florida where my mother's people lived.
These awful trips were not my first encounter with the town of Tarpon Springs, as when dad was in Korea, mom and I lived with one of my ‘bat-shit-crazy' Aunts, while I attended-there first and second grade.
Its funny how many stories pour-forth from other stories, and I will only say-regarding school--that there were teachers, there, who had been in saddle sufficiently long as to have taught both my mother and sisters. And, in passing, it always makes me laugh, now, that my first grade teacher, Helen Winslow (how come we never forget their names?) from a certain angle looked EXACTLY like George Washington, but with a dress on.
And, sometimes, when my father WAS home, we tried in vain to do ‘dad-and-lad' stuff, hopefully to make of me less a nerd and to spend time doing stuff my dad liked, in hopes of trying to find something, anything that might make of it a ‘bonding moment'.
Regrettably, this proved to be a daunting task, for my father and I could practically not be more unalike; he loved fishing, I hated fishing, and would get bored easily; neither had I any interest in hunting, camping, sports. I guess I was either more like my mother, or else I was the prodigy of aliens, as even my mom loved football !
So, on one eventful occasion, while I was in first grade, dad decided that nothing would do but that we journey to the ‘Sponge Docks' in Tarpon Springs ( the diving for, and the collection of sponges, being the major export of that small town), which was then divided into three social groups:1) Afro-Americans; 2) Caucasians, many of whom could trace their lineage's back to and before the Civil War, and, 3) Greeks who had for some hundred years immigrated to America, and settled in Tarpon Springs.
And so, Tarpon Springs had its own considerable part of town, unsurprisingly called, "Greek Town", which consisted of restaurants, gift shops, fishing boats, numerous curiosities, ‘sponge boats', and the infamous ‘Sponge Exchange, in which, the hauls of sponges brought back were assayed, weighted, dickered-over, and sold to be distributed nationwide.
Centered around the harbor were scores of wooden, fishing boats, of particular Greek design, in which the prow was always much higher than in regular boats. One could see them clustered and tied-off to the dock on a main street of Greek Town, called, "Dodecanese Boulevard", Greek, for ‘Twelve Islands', whose translation means absolutely nothing to me to this day.
However, in 1953, Hollywood thought the life of a ‘Sponger' to be of such epic interest, that they made a movie of it, called, I believe, "Beneath The Twelve Mile Reef", a tepid, little potboiler starring Robert Wagner, Terry Moore, and Gilbert Roland.
I am listing the link to it below for at least three reasons: 1) To show you the town I roamed as a child, and, actually liked; 2) It was the site of one of my father's and my more goofy ‘bonding attempts', and 3) so that if ever you cannot sleep, this, B- cinematographic excursion into dull's-ville, ought to help put even the most stubborn insomniac into a coma.
And to all who dare, I wish you Godspeed, good luck, and a thorough night's sleep!
In either 1960, or 1961, on one of my dad's leave time, he decided that nothing would do, but that we go ‘deep sea' fishing, on one of two, large, commercial, tourist boats; ours was called-for some unfathomable reason, the "Miss Milwaukee".
The general deal was: for a hefty fee, each boat would carry some 40-80 tourists out about ten miles from shore to spend a half-day fishing for dreams. Upon drop of anchor, these would-be sportsmen would line the decks on both sides of the ship to prevent it from keeling over, I guess.
Every man (and woman) forced to stand shoulder to shoulder could not cast their lines into the water, but simply released them to drop in front of them, and..............wait.
If NOBODY got a bite, the boat would up-anchor, and move a couple of miles away to try again. Minutes would pass like hours for me; and while my dad loved it, I hated almost every second of it, but for dad's sake, I did give it my best shot.
So far, despite a growing sense of utter boredom, everything went well; dad expertly baited my hook, and with good reason: I could never handle a fish hook without necessitating a visit to the emergency room to have it removed from whatever part of my body it had gotten driven into. And, besides, at that time, I was just six years old.
So kindly imagine if you will, forty or so tourists, with lines dropped straight down in front of them, with me, at my dad's side, all the way at the end, a place that could neither hide me from chaos, nor avoid some kind of disaster.
For some reason, I could not get the release mechanism on my ‘rent-a-rod' to work, and in flopping the rod up and down, and around, finally gave a titanic snap to the rod, which not only released my fishing line, but, with the wind, and the Fates against me, carried it all the way across all the other men's lines, putting them all into a huge, gigantic, tangle when I started to reel the line up.
Pandemonium reigned supreme, while everything ground to an abrupt halt, as everybody-including the boat's helpers-tried, in vain-to untangle line after line after line. The delicate salt air quickly became empurpled with curse words I had-at six-never had heard before, and I certainly had no clue what the ‘F' word meant, though, in time, I would.
It did not take an Einstein, however, to become aware that all these anglers were pissed, and the gravity of the situation grew as my dear dad gave me one of those, ‘just wait until we get home, buddy' looks, and in quick succession, my rod was wrenched from me, and I was banished inside to the cabin, which had tables and benches, and a very, small lunch counter.
There I met an older woman, wearing a red-plaid, flannel shirt over her shirt, who was sitting there, playing dominoes, you know, the old kind that were made of genuine ivory.
As she and I sat there, playing dominoes (which was lots more fun for me than fishing, anyway), I paused to look around me to see the hand-written menu over the lunch counter. Their prices, while a little steep at the time, and their offerings amazed and delighted me. Plus, as you might know, only once have I ever been seasick, and, I was hungry, and, I thought that eating aboard the boat was a neat experience.
I ran out to my dad, who-with all the others, were still struggling to untangle their lines, and shouted, "Hey dad...they have ham sandwiches for fifty-five cents!!!"
And as if I had not done enough, the very mention of ham sandwiches induced probably about twenty of the fisherman to lean over, and lose their cookies.
My dad, now with absolute murder in his eyes, searched through his pockets, and gave me a dollar, while pushing me back into the cabin before any of the pissed, and now vomiting anglers could get to me. And of course, all that motion caused the boat to sway back and forth, inducing ‘mal de mare' to the fisherman on the other side of the boat as well.
None of that even reasonably occurred to me; I was happy, enjoying my coke and ham sandwich, while playing dominoes with this elderly lady, whose name I will never remember. I had a great time, in spite of the promised ‘talking to' I would get upon returning home.
But friends...it shows-among other things-how little it takes to make a six year old boy happy.
Never mind that-on reaching ‘port', I was shuttled quickly into the car to wait, as my dad, and others got the fish they did catch cleaned and gutted. Around that portion of the ‘docks' were three or four fat, happy cats, in anticipation of a grand ‘fish dinner' consisting of discarded fish pieces and entrails, thrown into the garbage.
I think I would have gladly gone again, but strangely, was never asked to. Yet, for me, it had been great fun, and a chance to be with my dad whom I loved with all my heart. I never did get that ‘talking to', and I think that somehow my dad knew that this was probably the only way we could bond, and do something together.
Later, my dad would leave to be mustered up somewhere in South Florida, to nervously await the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And while the utter gravity of the moment escaped me, except for those useless ‘duck-and-cover' exercises at school, where, upon a signal, we would-in effect-hide under our desks, while our teacher ( George Washington-in-drag ) stood under a reinforced door frame, in case we were attacked by the ‘Commies'.
How very stupid and innocent we were in those days. For a direct exchange of nuclear missiles with Cuba or Russia would have just vaporized us, and probably have ended civilization as we knew it.
And even though at six, I could easily read at twelfth grade level, of geo-politick I knew nothing. In general, I was just a happy-though naïve-little kid. And while times have changed, and certainly events, people, and places have been altered, age, and illnesses have encroached, and happiness? It swings to and fro like the pendulum on a giant grandfather clock, with days of ennui, depression, despair, and all that shit, have rendered happiness-now-into gratitude, at best, or thanks, somehow, the naiveté of that six year old boy remains.
And you know...maybe that's not such a bad thing, after all.
Meanwhile, while I am still ill, though I hope the pneumonia is slowly going away ( Whew!), I want to thank you for being my dear friends, and for your kindness, your caring, your encouragement, and for your patience in reading my diary entries.
I wish for you days of ‘no pain', free of depression, mental anguish, or despair; I wish for you a most wonderful weekend, full of joy, hopes-fulfilled, and delight.
I wish you be free of need, with more than enough to last the month without worry, or having to ‘count pennies'. I pray that you be full-surrounded by family and friends who love you without question or compromise.
I wish for you balmy and contemplative days, and nights of quiet peace. May your gentle sleep be unbroken, nor visited by dire nightmare, but with-instead-rest that is restorative. But, as always, watched-over, and kept ever safe by sweet angels.
Please always know I love you,
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