compilation caveat emptor

This started out as a worksheet of sorts comprised of a collection of essay idea threads in one HTML document. The original thought was to work on this, eventually split the individual essays up, and present them as their own entities. However, as time went on and work progressed, they seemed to flow together in an odd, loose-jointed kind of way, which is how they are now presented.

We'll start last year on Christmas Eve day; visit both April and May of this year; and curiously end up way back in the early 1990s.

Trust me. I think this will work. Enjoy.

Deep freeze

December 24, 2009

Every four or five years the water level of Highland Lake is drawn down to afford property owners muddy, yet relatively dry access to do maintenance work on walls and piers. Why I visited on Christmas Eve day remains a mystery, but the mission was to get an approximate measure of the 2009 drawn down. In addition to the measure, rapidly freezing appendages scribbled this into my notebook:

"Christmas Eve day
low tide
vast majority of first and second bays covered
only small areas of open water
winter is closing down my fishing season"

Ice fisherman would dispute that last line, but they're a different breed. It's almost as if they have to go through all the torture associated with their seasonal sport for no other reason than to reassure themselves that there are, in fact, fishies in the water under the ice.

I don't get it. I'm just glad I have The Faith, which saves me from drilling a bunch of holes in the ice.

Perhaps ice fishing is like some weird, offshoot religion ...

Springtime revisitation

April 20, 2010

Encased mercury valiantly climbed close to 70 degrees this spring day. Wonderfully close. The stark contrast to Christmas Eve day's weather afforded a fresh perspective on what was recorded and transcribed then. It just looks different -- almost like poetry: bad poetry. And I know bad poetry when I see it.

Anyway, the blast of warm air and fresh perspective formed the impetus for the following edit:

it punishes
blustering across barren ice
that was a lake
and what appears to be low tide
winter has closed down fishing
season closes season


April 20, 2010

The 2010 fishing season opened on April 17, but I never as much as wet a line that day: it was cold and a light rain cancelled my plans. Ice forming in the eyelets of a fishing pole and freezing the line somehow doesn't appeal to me. Though a lot of fish would be caught that day by the masses, I was fairly certain there would be plenty left for another day.

That "another day" was today, only three days past opening day, and the weather perfect: sunny and nearly 70 degrees! Today would be MY opening day of the 2010 season.

After having had no luck with a couple of my supposedly lucky lures, I decided to try the Phoebe. Though unorthodox, I attached a trailing wiggler in the hope of attracting more attention to the lure. But before casting, I wanted to make certain the wiggler didn't cripple the swim action of the Phoebe. I plunked the lure into the water, flipped the reel bail, and slowly walked toward the end of the pier while intently watching the swim action of the modified bait.

And then the world stood still.

For an extremely brief instant in time I found myself in a most precarious situation: one foot was on the end of the pier and the other extended out over the water. The flaw in this scenario was that the foot on the pier was pushing out and putting my center of gravity well past the end of the pier.

My destiny was pretty much sealed and altogether too evident. And in that extremely brief instant in time and immediately thereafter, here's what occurred:

Initial sensory alert: There is no pier under right foot

Jeff to self: Something's wrong here...

brain to eyes: Stop looking at Phoebe - something else requires your attention

eyes to brain: It's too late for this clown

brain to Jeff: You're going for a swim

Jeff to brain: NO! DO SOMETHING!

brain to Jeff: Sorry, man. Too late. You're doomed.


body to Jeff: I'm a vehicle; not a magician.

brain to Jeff: haha

Jeff to brain: COME ON!

brain to Jeff: Can't undo Newton's Law.

Jeff to self: Oh no! My wallet, paper money, and ID!

sensory message #2: dew point sensors detect increasing moisture

brain to sensors: No shit.

sensory message #3: thermo sensors detect decreasing temperature

brain to sensors: I reiterate: no shit.

sensors (in unison) to brain: You don't have to be rude.

Jeff to self: This water is COLD!

brain to Jeff: haha

Jeff to brain: STFU!

Jeff to self: Yeesh! Red Wing work boots make lousy flippers.

Jeff to self: MUST. GET. BACK. ON. PIER.

So I did. But first, I tossed the fishing pole, which mysteriously remained in my grip through this idiocy, back up onto the dock. In doing so, I found myself bobbing in the water and staring at the wiggler-embellished Phoebe high and already dry on the dock.

"Stupid, fucking lure." I accusingly muttered, as if it was the lure's fault ...

Then I pulled myself up; first kneeling, then standing, and looked around hoping no one witnessed this accidental aquatic slapstick. Two cottages away, a neighbor stood still, task interrupted with rake in hand, with mouth agape and in goggle-eyed disbelief.

"You okay?" he shouted.

"Other than my ego, I'm fine," I replied. As if to somehow try to save face, I walked over to chat. Or maybe it was because if we were standing face to face, he wouldn't dare laugh. Who knows?

I explained how this dunking occurred and we both had a good laugh about it. Then I panicked realizing my cell took a swim, too, so pulled it out of my pocket.

"You can kiss that phone goodbye" my neighbor said, adding "They don't take well to water."

One question remained, though, and it had to be asked. "Did you actually see the entire thing?", I hesitantly queried.

He smirked and said, "Nope. I only heard 'Oh shit!' followed by a splash."

We both laughed again, wished each other well, and carried on with our appointed rounds, The mutual laughter was a good way to tie the ribbons on what could have been an otherwise uncomfortable situation.

And to think that I avoided fishing on opening day because of a little rain.

So there you have it: a real life story about my long walk down the proverbial short pier. Since having shared the story with family and a few friends, it's already out in the world, so it may as well propagate here, too. It is funny and laughter is good for the soul.

An added bonus: here's the very pier from which my unplanned first swim of 2010 was made.


P.S. - Initially the cell phone malfuntioned and appeared to be trash. Upon returning home, taking out the battery, shaking out as much water as possible, I let it dry under a high-intensity reading lamp for a few hours. It actually came back to life and has been working fine ever since.

As luck would have it

May 12, 2010

After being unceremoniously baptised on my first fishing outing of the new season, I wasn't feeling particularly lucky. That general feeling was further supported when I lost what had been this year's most productive lure. And I didn't have a spare.

Needing new line to restring my reel anyways, this lure loss upped the importance of a trip to WalMart. Once there in the sporting goods department, I found myself staring at too many possibilities. The veritable plethora of lures and bait reminded me of an essay by my friend Dave Newkirk entitled "Blinded by Choice." And that I was.

After way too much time comparing various baits, I decided the closest to what I wanted was something called the salty fat Albert grub green pumpkin by Zoom Bait Company. Though the bait name sounded stupid, the company name suspect, and the price ($3 and change for a bag of 10) too cheap for them to be any good, I didn't feel like driving all over the place looking for the exact type bait which was lost. So I settled for pretty close.

Upon arriving back to the baptismal scene, I busied myself restringing the fishing reel, tying on a weighted jig head, and affixing a silly looking bait from the bag I had just bought. And as with the wiggler baited Phoebe, a swim test of this new lure/bait combo was necessary. However, this time I walked halfway out the pier, dunked the lure into the water, and walked back towards shore.

I may be foolish, but I'm not stupid.

The new bait had a very nice swim action, or so it seemed to this human. Whether it looked like dinner to a fish was another matter. Then I noticed a looped snag/knot between the newly relined reel and the first eyelet of the rod.

"That figures," I spat out to no one in particular, adding, "Don't tell me it's going to be one of those nights."

So I sat down on the bench, leaned the rod up against the bench, left the bait dangle somewhere in the water along side, and got busy untangling the line. Then the rod fell over.

"Why do I even bother trying," I asked myself out loud while trying to prevent the knot from tightening any further. With knotted line in one hand, I picked up the rod with my free hand. Then the tip of the rod bent over at an acute angle and started dancing.

No more than eight feet away from where I sat, the water suddenly erupted, a fish launched into space shaking violently, and crashed back into the lake!

A real fish, as my nephew Reed would sarcastically say.

I wouldn't, and didn't say that, sarcastically or otherwise. Instead, I yelled, "HOLY SHIT!"

I initially tried just pulling the line in by hand to avoid fouling matters up further with the knotted line, but this was clearly too big a fish to try to land in such a half-assed manner. So knot-be-damned, I wielded the fishing rod, reeled in the line taunt, and proceded to play this one, tire him out, and land him.

By hand.

No net.

Onto the dock.

And what a beautiful fish! To scale, note the 12-inch ruler as well as the 14" long, size 16, poor excuse for a flipper Red Wing boot -- one of the very boots which had been swimming a couple/three weeks earlier. This bass was a good sized large mouth!

He was an old warrior and had obviously done battle before. His lower lip was raw on one side. My guess is that he grabbed a lure and broken the line on someone's rig. Then he must have freed the lure by rubbing up against rocks. Bass are known to do that.

After the photo session, I held him back in the water, and moved him around to get some water going through his gills. It wasn't long before the exhaustion and shock wore off and he thrashed off to freedom. Duty called, I suppose. He probably was the guardian of a nest of recently laid eggs or hatched fingerlings under the dock platform.

And the odd thing is that during all this knot, strike, landing mayhem, the loop and knot mysteriously cleared themselves while I maniacally reeled in the slack. Thank you, Mr. Bass!

My luck had clearly changed. I set off to the end of the pier to actually cast the new bait and really fish; all the while thinking that if that big boy is the only fish of the day, then I'm more than happy.

As the sky darked and the air chilled, I carried on -- all the while contemplating what fishermen always lament: the last cast of the night. Which one will be the last cast.

That last cast daydream was dashed when the rod tip bent sharply signalling someone was clearly pissed off at the far end of the line. Another one! Too sweet!

With the rod tip dancing and line pulling hard, this one fought hard and went airborne a couple of times, too. This was another nice one!

As the photo clearly tells, it was getting late, so I released this one, too, and decided to call it a night. To desire or expect any more would be selfish folly. The baptism was past tense and for all I know it was part of some grand scheme of things. Perhaps falling in the lake wasn't bad luck at all.

Maybe it was God or some power or force saying, "You take too much too seriously, Jeff. You may think you're in control here, so contemplate this...


So for what it's worth, Zoom gets my unequivocal product endorsement for it's product number 011-025: the stupid looking, ridiculously named, but highly effective salty, fat Albert, green pumpkin grub.

P.S. - In reply to an email I sent out with photographic evidence (aka bragging) of the initial good luck with new bait, my brother-in-law Gordon succinctly and sardonically quipped, "Nice work Captain 'Quint.'"

Speaking of great shark hunts

circa early 1990s

Years ago, my (author clears throat) first ex had somehow managed to obtain two free tickets for an afternoon symphony concert at Tanglewood. The event was to be held in the Music Shed, which afforded us both the luxury of chairs to sit on and shelter from the blistering sun.

Around this time I was reading The Great Shark Hunt, by Hunter S. Thompson. As good books generally do, this one seemed to tag along wherever I went. And it ended up in my lap at the concert.

For reasons which still escape me (irreconcilable differences, perhaps?), my ex was less than pleased with me reading a book while the concert was being performed. I thought it was perfectly acceptable in that it was a casual affair and not like Carnegie Hall, for goodness sake. The orchestra and conductor were probably 300 feet away, so there wasn't a heck of a lot to actually see in any detail on stage.

My logic was that one didn't have to see the performance to hear it. This seemed like perfectly sound logic to me. Heh. And I didn't feel the need to consult with Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, José Feliciano, or Jeff Healey.

My exasperated better half disagreed ...

At one point my eyes needed a rest, so I marked the page I was on, leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and let the music bathe me. A sharp elbow jabbed my right rib cage to inform me that this was verboten.

"I can't believe you're SLEEPING!" my ex harshly whispered in my ear, and added, "I'm so embarrassed!"

I wanted to snipe back, "I'm not sleeping. I'm trying to listen to the concert, but you keep interrupting me." However, better judgment prevailed and I uncharacteristically kept my mouth shut. Somehow it just didn't seem worth it to return a jab.

Through all this marital drama-rama, the orchestra played on. They were too busy reading their scores and making music to be embarrassed or upset that someone three rows from the very back of the pavillion was reading while listening.

By the way, there was no accompanying pyro-technic show; at least not during the concert. The pyro-technics occurred after the concert. In the car. On the ride home. The entire ride home: all 90-minutes of it.

And oddly enough it just occurred to me I should have passed on the concert and just gone fishing.

The owner of the vehicle on which this is affixed seems to agree. Note your correspondent's reflection in the glass taking that shot with his cell phone cam.