Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Snug Harbor Part 2

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
Henry David Thoreau

The interloper who had invaded my sanctuary turned and looked at me as I hurried towards where he stood. “Hey man, what’s going on?” he called to me as he continued to reel in my fishing line.

“What are you doing with my gear?” I angrily asked.

“Nothin’ man, relax, I saw the bobber jumping up and down so I thought I’d help you out by reeling in the fish. I saw you were busy over at your camp site. You know, you can’t camp here right? The game wardens will arrest you if they catch you.”

“I wasn’t planning on getting caught.” I said defensively as the interloper pulled a three pound bass out of the water with my rod and reel.

The boy with the fish, my fish, held the flopping, twisting creature out for me to see. “It’s a nice one.” He commented and then added “Names Kevin but everyone calls me Kev.”

I reached out and grabbed the fish, pulled out my needle nose pliers from my back pocket and gave the fish a good thump on the head, right between the eyes. The fish stopped moving and I then used the pliers to pull the hook out of its mouth. “I’m Skip, and everyone calls me Skip. Thanks for reeling in my lunch.” I said. I was still upset with Kevin; I had always been told you never touch another man’s fishing line, even if it meant losing the catch. Apparently Kevin didn’t know this rule or he chose to ignore it.

“Wait man, you gonna eat that thing?” He asked me.

“Yeah,” I replied as I stood up and headed over to my campsite. “I don’t see why not. There’s no marks on it and I don’t see any signs saying I can’t.”

Kevin followed. “Yeah but, I mean, the smell of your fire and the fish cooking…”

I turned and looked at him “What?”

“It might attract animals and stuff. There’s supposed to be bears and shit in these woods. Besides, no one ever camps here and if the Rangers catch you they’ll throw you in juvie.”

We stood there facing each other, I was new to the area and clearly Kevin had been here for a while. Although I had never seen him and I didn’t think he lived in my neighborhood I had to at least try and listen to what he was saying, but I couldn’t appear to be wimp. “Look Kevin, my family and I moved here almost a year ago and I’ve been traipsing through these woods since that day. I’ve yet to see a Ranger, let alone any signs of one. Not on the fire road, not in the fire towers and not at this pond. Hell, if they had been around here they would have left some sign. By since there is no sign of them, nor are there any tire tracks on the fire road, I’d say I’m pretty safe.”

“What about the animals?”

“What about them? If I see a rabbit, I’ll shoot it and eat it. If I see a bear, well I’ll swim into the middle of the pond and wait until he leaves.” I said, my voice full of as much confidence as I could muster. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got to gut and scale my lunch before the flies get here.” I turned and finished my walk to my fire pit. I knelt down and started to clean my fish.

Just as I had finished gutting the fish Kevin sat down on the other side of the fire from me. “You really aint scared?” he asked.

“Nope.” I answered as I cut off the head of the fish. “I’ve seen no reason to be.” I set Mr. Lunch in my frying pan and pulled out a small bottle of vegetable oil from my back pack and poured it on the fish and in the pan, then I added some salt and pepper and set my lunch on the steel cooking grate over the fire. Within minutes the smell had my stomach rumbling.

“That sure smells good.” Kevin said. I looked at him, his eyes were wide and he was smacking his lips.

“You want some?”

“Sure, if you don’t mind. I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

“Ok. Why don’t you go get my tackle box while I finish cooking it and then we will eat.”

Kevin stood up and headed to where we had left the fishing gear. As he walked away I wasn’t sure I liked him or if we’d even be friends but I was lonely and having someone to talk to always helped pass the time. By the time he had returned with my tackle box I had convinced myself that he could hang out with me until he left, and then I was going to pack up my gear and find another place to camp. A more secluded place.

As he set the tackle box down next to the tent he said “Man, that fish smells even better. Is it done yet?”

“Almost ready, you don’t camp much do you?”

“Nah, we live out here in the country but the only camping we do is in the back yard. My parents would freak if I came out here for a night. Don’t your parents care?”

“Don’t really know. Truth is, I really haven’t seen much of them since we moved here. My mom works in Green Bay and her husband works in Crivitz. They leave early in the morning and come home late at night.”

“Don’t you have any brothers or sisters?”

“Three sisters, but they are off doing their own thing.” I said as I scooped the fish out of the frying pan and set it on a plate. “I’ve only got one plate hope you don’t mind sharing it. I didn’t really plan on having company.”

“I don’t mind.”

“And I only have one fork so we have to share that too. You can eat first.” I said as I poured some of the water from the pot into the pan so I could clean once it cooled off a bit.

Kevin took the plate and fork and shoved some of the fish into his mouth “Hottohohohohhotttt.” He yelled with a mouth full of fish.

I couldn’t help but laugh at him. His mouth was open, and bits of fish had fallen onto his chin and shirt as he tried cooling his mouth down by fanning a hand in front of his face. “You have to blow on it. I just finished cooking it. Damn, aint you ever eaten at a campfire before?”

I went into my tent and grabbed my canteen of water and walked back over to Kevin, I opened it up and handed it to him. “Don’t drink it all, just a few sips, it’s all the fresh water I have until I boil some more.” Kevin took the canteen and took some sips and handed the tin can back to me.

“Thanks, you could have warned me it was going to be hot.”

“Man, it just came off the fire, what made you think it was going to be cool?”

I screwed the top back on my canteen and put it away. As I sat down I saw Kevin was blowing on the fish trying to cool it down. “You come out here often?” I asked.

Kevin looked up at me over a forkful of fish “Not really, I was bored and all my buddies are in Green Bay today, so I went for a walk and ended up here. What about you? Do you come here a lot?”

“Nah, only a dozen or so times.” I lied for no reason and then added “But this is my first time camping out here.” As if my admitted truth would cancel out the blatant lie I had just told. “When do you have to be home?” I asked trying to change the subject.

“Around three or three-thirty, my folks like me to be home for dinner and in by dark, unless I’m spending the night in the backyard or at one of my friend’s house.” He answered and handed me the plate with the half eaten fish on it.

I dug into the fish slowly, picking out bones and throwing them into the fire. Kevin picked up a stick and poked the embers and burning logs a bit causing the flames to rise. When I finished eating I took my plate and skillet to the pond and cleaned them out. Kevin followed me and watched everything I did.

“How did you learn to do all this stuff?” He asked me as we walked back to the tent.

“I was in the boy scouts when I was younger. We went camping a lot and when I stopped going to the meetings, me and my buddies would camp out at some of the parks in Green Bay.”

“They let you camp in public parks?”

“No one let us do anything, we just did it.”

“Oh, that’s cool. Say, you wouldn’t mind if I went home and got some fishing gear and came back and hung out some more would you?”

“Nah, I guess it’s cool. It’s not like I have any plans or anything.”

“Cool, I’ll be back in a bit then.” He said and took off towards the other side of the pond.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Snug Harbor

Once again I am going to take you all on a journey of my youth. Some of you, my Dear Readers, will remember the Fish and Finn stories from the past two years. This is another glimpse into my youth only it takes place about three years after my family and I had moved out of Green Bay. This is going to be a series so make sure to come back and discover what misadventures I am up to.


Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow

But if we are wise
We know that there's
Always tomorrow

Lean On Me

By; Bill Withers

It was 1982, my mother was newly married to her second husband and they had moved me and my sisters out of Green Bay and into rural Wisconsin. We had all left behind everything we knew about our lives and where we fit in the world. Our friends, our enemies and even a part of ourselves, quickly became ghosts of memories. These ghosts seemed to become friendlier and kinder as the distance from the reality of our former lives increased.

Our move took place in stages, the first of which was to sell the house in Green Bay and move to a temporary home while our new home was being built. While in the temporary home, in a small northern Wisconsin town mostly populated by second and third generation Polish immigrants, we tried to make friends and fit into the new community. I met a few kids my age and attempted to befriend them, which ended in a disastrous night that involved some purloined alcohol, plants from Mexico, girls, and an abandoned school.

This is not about that night, nor is it about the first stage of moving. This is about the second stage. A stage, where we all moved into a house in a new neighborhood with, as I recall, only three other homes that had kids in the general age vicinity of me and my two older sisters. Don’t misunderstand me, there were several housing developments within five miles of our new home looking to change its image, yet they mired in its geriatric memories of a more innocuous time.

I can’t speak for my sisters in how long it took them to make friends and fit in with others in our new surroundings, but I know it took me only a few weeks of exploring the woods and surrounding areas to meet a gang of scruffy, outdoor, latchkey kids who had similar interests in life as I did.

Interests… I suppose that’s what you could say bonded us together.

I met Kevin while I was swimming, fishing, hunting and camping on the reforestation property. I wasn’t supposed to be there, but then again, I didn’t really care. I was pretty unhappy in my life, where I was, and my inability to fit in with the people around me. I was like a schooner stuck at sea with no wind. I was floundering in teenage awkwardness and the people I had relied upon for years were in Green Bay. Living their lives, and offering the emotional support that only close friends, who’ve been tried by the fires of life can present.

So, alone, angry, misplaced, frustrated and misunderstood, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I withdrew from my family. I would like to say I felt a certain amount of pain and loss when I withdrew, but I did not. It had been years since I felt close to the people I shared square footage and holidays with. I really had nothing in common with them. My mom worked and in her off time she was trying to be the good wife, my sisters were busy with their own friends and boyfriends and my latest father figure never really struck me as sincere when he and I hung out together.

So, with my copies of “On the Road” and “Call of the Wild” along with my fishing rod, camping back-pack, my pup-tent, two packs of Marlboro red’s and a map of all the hiking trails within a twenty mile radius, I headed out on what was supposed to be a three day respite from my uncomfortable life and into a wilderness where I felt comfortable and at home. The only thing I left behind was a note on my bed, so that anyone in my family who was interested in my whereabouts would know I had gone off on another camping excursion.

I entered the reforestation property through a break in the barbed wire fence that separated our neighbor’s yard from the fire access road of the state protected land. Once on the fire road it only took me minutes to locate the deer trail that led to the pond where I knew I would be spending the next few days communing with nature.

I had discovered the pond shortly after my first visit to the site where our house had been built. While my family was walking the land and my mom’s second husband was pacing out the footprint of the house, I snuck away to explore my future surrounding. It was early spring when we did this, so early the trees had yet to start decorating themselves from the previous falls shedding of leaves. The bareness of the woods and slowly melting snow made it easy to spot animal droppings and tracks. In no time at all I found a small path off the fire road and headed down it.

Walking down the winding trail I spotted signs of deer, raccoon, squirrels, chipmunks and opossum. I also discovered some large droppings which gave me a start, since I assumed they belonged to fiercer and more protective animals that I had overheard some of the kids at school talking about… bears. I scanned the woods looking for signs of any creature close to me, but I knew in my mind I had been making too much noise while stomping through these unfamiliar woods for anything, large or small, to stick around and witness the source of the noisy visitor.

But knowing something in your head and feeling something else in the pit of your stomach are two totally different things. I could feel my heart start to race, sweat started to form on my forehead and I knew I was becoming skittish myself. I tried calming myself down and continued to walk down the path. I listened out for any large creatures tearing through the woods and slowed my pace a bit. Within ten to fifteen minutes I had put a good distance between me and the evidence of a larger species. I was just getting comfortable on the trail again when I came upon a copse of trees and I saw the path I was on took a left turn not far after the evergreens ended.

As I approached this turn I slowed my pace even more, it was a blind turn and in my young mind a family of bears had set up an ambush for me and as soon as I turned the corner they would pounce upon me and have a nice Skip-flavored snack to help bolster the loss of energy from the winter hibernation. (Like I said, I was a bit na├»ve in some of my animal knowledge and the fact I had all the horror stories from the kids at school racing through my mind didn’t help my mental state either.)

As I slowly rounded the trees, I could see where some bushes and bramble had encroached on the path. I could also see tufts of fur and hide stuck on some of the sturdier branches. It appeared many of the creatures used this trail and as evidence I promptly stepped in some fresh droppings of one them. I let out a quite curse and wiped my shoe off on some semi-decayed leaves. When I had finished I heard a sound I was not expecting.


As I turned to look down the path, I saw through the skeletal remains of brush a pond with fish jumping out of the water and into the asphyxiating oxygen of the day. I rubbed my eyes and shook my head a bit. Sure, I’d seen fish break the surface of their sanctuary in the past, but this was different, it seemed as if there was some sort of contest being held by the local chapter of Large Mouth Bass Union Local 4156. When one fish broke the water and twisted its body in an acrobatic display of Olympic proportions, another quickly followed suit. But with more style and energy than its predecessor had shown, as if they had to outdo each other, or else they would perish.

Fascinated, I hurried my pace so I could witness more of this odd and captivating behavior. I did not notice I had walked past the copse of pine trees, nor did I notice I had stopped at the edge of the water and my feet were getting soaked. I can’t say how long I stood watching this conduct, but it was the bone numbing coldness of my saturated socks that broke my reverie. I quickly turned and raced my way back to where my family was, hoping they had not noticed I had disappeared.

I needn’t have worried.

This was to be my sixth visit to my own private “Snug Harbor”, as I had come to think of it, since we had moved into the new house. But this was to be my first time spending more than just a day there. I had decided this spot on God’s green and blue marble would be my “Walden”, my safe place to call my own, but like most things in life, it didn’t quite work out that way.

It didn’t take me long to get there, but it took me longer to set up camp. On my previous excursions to my isolated sanctuary I had built a fire pit near several pine trees and I had cleared a patch of earth big enough to pitch my tent but within twenty feet of the pond. Once the tent was up, my bedroll laid out I went right to work getting a decent fire going and making sure my Boy Scout pots and pans were clean and ready for use.

Once the necessary chores were finished, I checked my BB gun to make sure it was loaded, checked my tackle box for proper lures and headed down to the pond to try and catch a proper lunch instead of eating some of the canned goods and sandwiches I’d brought as emergency rations. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I also took my Boy Scout pot to fill with water so I could boil it and then drink it later.

I had just finished getting a pot of water over the fire and had headed back to where I’d left my fishing rod when I someone standing right where I had left my fishing gear. This guy had my fishing rod in his hand and it looked as if he were reeling in my line. My sanctuary had just been invaded and I did not like it one bit.

“HEY! What the hell are you doing?” I called.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

Yes, we all have them and I’m not talking about eating some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream every now and then or going to see a sappy movie once a year. I’m speaking about something you as a person stand completely against yet every now and then you come across the exception to your own personal rules. For instance, if you are a woman and dislike violent movies but whenever “Fight Club” comes on TV, you shelf those beliefs and gawp at a half naked Brad Pitt dressed like a thrift store reject beating the hell out of another human being. Or if you’re a guy who dislikes romance movies or anything fluffy and feel good but you secretly own a copy of “Titanic” (The worst film ever made in my opinion). These are the guilty pleasures in which I speak.

Now, I really don’t have any chick flicks I watch but what I do have is music. Yes, music. Now, I love rock and roll, metal, blues based rock, the blues, jazz, opera, some rap, and classical. I like to think I have a very well rounded musical taste and selection… call me musically eclectic if you will. Now, you may notice I don’t have any “Soft” jazz or “Smooth” jazz, hip-hop, pop, top-40 or even love songs on my list. This is because I don’t like those things, this does not mean I don’t or can’t appreciate them, they just don’t feel right to me when listening to them.

Does this mean I’m soft? Nah, I don’t think so, and the fact that the only time I actually listen to broadcast radio is when I’m at my part time job as a waiter. You see, most of the time I listen to my Zune… its Microsoft’s version of the iPod but without all the snootiness and dancing around. Now, I have over seventy-five thousand plays on my Zune and I have made over twenty-five playlists that seem to cover all my moods all the time. Also, I have complete control over what I get to listen to. None of the stuff I don’t like and all of the stuff I love is on that sixty-four giga-byte beauty of a modern marvel. But… there is one song I want on my Zune, and one song that seems to make me stop doing whatever it is I am doing and listen to the lyrics. Why? Because they are so damn well written and descriptive and I am going to write them here for you, my dear reader, I am going to get rid of the chorus though because that is one part of the song that irritates me.

Welcome to my Guilty Pleasure Song.


Shadow’s grow so long before my eye

And they’re moving across the page

Suddenly the day turns into night

Far away from the city.

Moon appears to shine and light the sky

With the help of some firefly’s

Wonder how they have the power to shine, shine, shine

I can see them under the pine.

I can see the sunset in your eyes

Brown and gray, blue besides

Clouds are stalking islands in the sun

I wish I could buy one

Out of season.

Yes, the song is “Baby, I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton. And yes, Frampton is rock. But that song is not. If you say it is, and I agreed with you, then we’d both be wrong. BILYW is a love song and I don’t like them, but the descriptive lyrics are amazing, especially the opening line, which hits me in the chest like a .12 gauge shotgun slug every time I hear it. Don’t hear what I’m not saying, this song doesn’t choke me up, it doesn’t make me cry, but what it does do is paint a mental picture of a man who is lonely, far away from his home and misses his lover. This, to me is brilliant and no matter how many times I hear it I get the same mental picture.

And when words can do that to a person, to me, then I know there was some strong JuJu going on when the writer put his pen to paper. This fascinates me and gives me hope that someday I will be able to catch that elusive bolt of lightning and whip up my own bitches brew of majic.

What is your guilty pleasure? What sort of majic would you like to create? Let me know.