Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Fishing Trip

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fishing trip
That started in Fort Lauderdale
Upon a deep-sea ship

The Dad was a mighty sailing man
(Korea, U.S.N.)
His son was just a landlubber
To sea he'd never been

(Sung to the tune of "The Ballad Of Gilligan's Island", as if you didn't know. There'll be more later, if that will keep you reading.)

See that chubby kid holding up a fish? That's me.

(I wish I had been more svelte when I was ten. This is the only existing photo of me that makes me look fat. I was a skinny kid before I was ten-years-old, and I became a skinny kid again when I hit puberty. But, for a period of about a year-and-a-half, I was El Chunko. Unfortunately, today's story takes place during the time period when I was stress-testing shirts. Everything in that photo is conspiring against me. Horizontal stripes? What was I thinking?)

The person standing next to me is My Dad.

(He was prone to fat for most of the time I knew him. He loved this photo. I think it was because I made him look relatively thinner.)

The two of us are standing poolside at The Escape Hotel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My Mom took the photo.

(She has never been fat, in case you were wondering.)

The fish is a red snapper. I caught it earlier that day.

(Not being a fish, I can't tell you if the fish thought it was fat while it was alive. I can tell you it weighed about four pounds, and it is the biggest fish I've ever caught. That's because it is the only fish I've ever caught. And, having given you some prologue, we will now leave the land of parentheticals and get on with the story.)


My Dad was employed in the airline industry for the greater part of his adult life. At the time of this story, he was employed by the now-defunct Eastern Airlines. As an airline employee, he enjoyed some perks. Employees and immediate family flew free, on a space available basis, and the space available was always in first class. That meant first-class service, of course. To give you an idea of how nice our travel was when I was a child, I had no idea why comedians joked about the hideousness of airline meals. I had never had anything aside from filet mignon, lobster, or chicken cordon bleu. There was always room to stretch out, and the ex-beauty-queen stewardesses made sure we had anything we wanted, whenever we wanted it. Life was good.

Since travel expenses weren't an issue, we vacationed as often as possible. In addition to flying for free, airline employees also received significant discounts on hotel rooms and rental cars. This left meals and sightseeing as the only full-price activities.

Did I mention that life was good?

For a few years, on an annual basis during the winter, we went from the cold and snow of Boston to the sun and fun of Fort Lauderdale. We always stayed at The Escape, a lovely retreat with huge swimming pool, pitch-and-putt golf course, ping-pong tables, a gym, tennis courts, and other amenities that made it seem like paradise to a ten-year-old kid.

[Image from a seller on E-Bay. Buy it!]

There was an in-house nightclub for my parents to enjoy, and a top-shelf restaurant, poolside, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Great place, gone the way of the dodo, at least as a hotel. While researching this piece, I discovered that, after falling into serious disrepair and closing its doors during the 1980's, it became an assisted living community, known by the locals as "Club Med For Seniors". It is now slated to be re-built as condominiums.

[The restaurant is to the right, bordering the pool. Photo from Fort Lauderdale 60's]

I could go on for some time with stories concerning fun times we had at that hotel, but this isn't the place. Our main tale for today occurs at sea.

During one of our Florida vacations, My Dad made reservations for he and I to go out on a deep-sea fishing boat. It was a relatively small craft for such an excursion. I would guess, from memory, perhaps 30 feet. As I recall, 8 or 9 were in the fishing party that day, with five serving as crew.

It was a nice idea for a father-son outing, and I was excited at the prospect. I had never been out to sea, and my fishing experience, to that point, had been limited to a couple of times on the weed-filled shores of Turner Pond, a silly little smidge of water near our house that reputedly had trout in it, though I had never seen anybody catch one. I saw my friend, Jimmy Murphy, catch three or four tiny sunfish one day. They were so unspectacular and useless, he threw them back.

(Come to think of it, maybe he just caught the same stupid sunfish over and over. For all I know, it may have been the only inhabitant of that pond.)

My Mom, finding the prospect of a day out to sea with scaly things (aside from her husband and son) unappetizing, stayed at The Escape.

It turned out to be an overcast morning, with strong wind gusts, and when we arrived at the pier, I was somewhat taken aback by the whitecaps on the water and the way the boat was pitching at the dock. But My Dad, being an old navy man, reassured me that it was nothing to worry about. He had been on seas much rougher than these, he said.

After all were aboard, we cast off. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the first spot that the captain chose as propitious enough to drop anchor and try our luck. All of us were provided rods by the crew. Those of us without much experience were helped with baiting our hooks, and given some rudimentary fishing lessons.

We all stood at various spots along the rail, with our lines in the water. By this time, a storm had blown in and the boat was rocking quite a bit. The crew walked the deck and gave each of us a rain poncho to put on, which helped a bit. There were no nibbles, though, so the captain decided to up anchor and try another spot. We lurched forward, swaying side to side on the by now roiling sea.

The boat motored on, bobbing up and down over the whitecaps and tilting side to side. I was enjoying the roller coaster aspect of it for a while (I also liked it when airplanes hit turbulence) but then I began to feel a bit queasy. Apparently, so did some others. Many faces had turned pale, and some of the tourists were already hanging over the rails.

The captain decided we had had enough storm-tossed fun for now, so he dropped anchor again. The boat still swayed, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...

My Dad and I had both eaten substantial breakfasts at the wonderful restaurant at the hotel; plenty of eggs, bacon, sausages, fried potatoes, tomato juice, toast with huge gobs of butter and jam...

The weather started getting rough
The tiny ship was tossed
So were the cookies of the dad and son
Their lunches were now lost

I was the first to give it up. I staggered to the rail and, while My Dad held onto my belt for fear that I might go overboard while upchucking so violently, I deposited my breakfast into the sea. I slumped to the deck, but I felt a lot better.

Not so My Dad. Despite having been in the United States Navy, and sailed the high seas during the Korean conflict, he let go of me and started his own heaving.

You have to understand, at this point, that My Dad had false teeth. In the nick of time, a split second before he puked voluminously into the waves, he spit his teeth out into his hands. Had he not had the foresight to do so, and just let rip, he not only would have lost his breakfast, he also would have sent his choppers on a trip to Davy Jones' locker. It would have turned into a very costly fishing trip indeed, and whatever had been saved on airfare and hotels would have gone toward re-furnishing My Dad's mouth (not to mention that he would have had to spend the remainder of the vacation toothlessly gumming his dinners.)

Following our eruptions, the storm abated, the seas calmed, the sun came out, and we all resumed fishing.

Now, I don't know if fish are particularly attracted to half-digested breakfasts, but it was almost immediately after I had deposited that disgusting chum into the water that I caught my red snapper. My Dad - who didn't catch anything that day, other than his teeth - helped me reel him in. The crew seemed genuinely excited at my catch. Maybe they were just glad we had something to show for all of our misery.

The rest of the day was uneventful. As we returned to port, I sat on the deck, drinking a grape soda, and dreaming of how My Mom's eyes would bulge out when she saw how great a fisherman I was.

That night, after taking the photo, we gave the fish to the head chef at The Escape, who cleaned it and cooked it for us (for me and My Mom, actually, as My Dad couldn't stand fish.) It was absolutely delicious.

Thus ends the tale of Suldog
And his deep-sea fishing joy
He gave his breakfast to a fish
But that fish fed the boy

Soon, with more better stuff.


notactuallygod said...

An entertaining fish tale; Kucklehead-inspired?

Suldog said...

Indeed. To read the inspiration, go to...

Craig said...

I've wondered that myself; I've been fishing on the Great Lakes a time or two, and it hasn't been at all unusual for the fish to start biting shortly after we donated our lunches to them. . .

You know, some of us were chunky ten-year-olds, and chunky five-year-olds, and chunky 25-year-olds, and chunky 50-year-olds. . .

I once heard a smart-assy folk group sing 'Amazing Grace' to the tune of 'Gilligan', and it fit, metrically, if not, um, aesthetically. And of course, back in my Jesus Freak days, we used to sing 'Amazing Grace' to the tune of 'House of the Rising Sun'. So, in theory, it ought to work to sing 'Rising Sun' to 'Gilligan', and vice-versa. . .

lime said...

allow me to answer with some definitive personal experience. fish are indeed attracted to the suddenly ejected contents of one's partially digested breakfast. how do i know this? oh, a little trip to hawaii with my mom. i spent the day on a catamaran with her. she enjoying the lovely scenes and i horking over the side of the boat. when we dropped anchor for some snorkeling i thought perhaps if i finned and masked up and got in the water it might help me feel better.

baaaaad choice. profoundly bad choice. i hit the water, a swell hit me and i barfed again. have you ever puked into a snorkel? it's a fascinating experience, really.

in any event as i tried to struggle back to the boat without swimming through excessive amounts of my own stomach contents i noticed a great many brightly colored tropical fish surrounding me and feeding quite happily on my partially digested breakfast.

Ami said...

What a great story! And you know, your dad doesn't look fat at all.

I went fishing as a child all the time. Caught and ate a lot of fish. But I was never chubby until after I had children.

I'm sure there's a moral to the story somewhere.
I've also tried to use the Gilligan theme, but never got past the first bit:

Last night I woke at 12 o'clock
and then again at 3.
I had to leave my cozy bed for a 2 gallon pee
(a 2 gallon pee)

Maggie May said...

That was finny! Glad your dad had the foresight to grab his choppers before they went into the briny!
I don't think you were fat, Suldog.... the stripes made you look chubby but not fat.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Daryl said...

he loved that photo because you were in it

Buck said...

My father and I used to fish a lot when we lived in SoCal... either in (on?) his boat or on the Santa Monica pier. That was one of the very few things we did together (when I was a kid) and I enjoyed it. Later in life we used to drink together and that was a helluva lot more fun and with better stories, too.

You've sparked more memories agian, Jim.

Jewels said...

We just got back from Indian Shores FLA where my husband and son when deep sea fishing and caught grey snapper. We go every year, but I stay at the resort while they fish because, like your dad, I would spend most of my time over the side of the rail feeding the fishes.
Great post.

Anonymous said...

I miss Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr, Jim Backus and the rest of the GI gang...

Loved your story, Suldog!


Anonymous said...

Loved your story. And gosh, what a cute (impish) 10 year old you were!! I went deep sea fishing once in my life... coincidentally when I was 10... and got sick as a dog, too. It might have had something to do with the 16 Nestle Crunch bars I ate from the snack bar downstairs, though. Didn't catch a single fish, from what I remember.

stephen Hayes said...

There was a chubby mariner intrepid as you'll see,
The only one to catch a fish in the big almighty sea.

For some reason I can't put my finger on, I prefer you chubby. Nice stripes.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

I went deep sea fishing one time...

messymimi said...

How fun!

As for the parentheticals, most boys go through that "putting on a few pounds around the middle phase" right before they hit puberty. It's the body storing up energy for the growth spurt to come.

Michelle H. said...

Loved that ending rhyme!

I only went fishing twice: once with neighbors sneaking near an off-limits pond, and the other time when I went on a school camping trip. I couldn't name the fish I caught if you paid me. Never seen/been on the high seas, but I hope to see them some day.

joeh said...

Well that brought back some memories.

I will be back for more!

Red Snapper is my favorite dinner.

Cranky Old Man

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Loving the entire parody. I was chuckling at the start of the post however and was going to ask if you had caught the fish in the pool behind you. ;-)

Can't imagine a chef being so open to cooking something a patron brought in these days. Times are so different now. Great story!

Jeni said...

I love a good fish story! Funny isn't it how fishing and small or sort of small children frequently blends together to make a really cool post, isn't it?
Oh -and while I'm here -thanks for the positive vibes with respect to some of the issues I've had here of late. Things appear to have mellowed out, well at least for this crisis anyway! LOL Always something, ya know, isn't there?

Anonymous said...

This brought back a memory for me. You had a much better time! :)
Great luxury you had as a kid to be able to fly like you did. Nice!

silly rabbit said...

That is a gorgeous red snapper! And a wonderful memory. Those days are pretty much gone. We were lucky to have had them. But young people now cannot imagine that with their arcade rooms, today's amusement parks etc. that are far over the top of those more simple times. I'm sure that they will treasure their times the way we do ours. But those days were sweet to me.

Gee, didn't mean to get off on that track. You don't look that chubby. Looks more like to me that you had grown out of that shirt and needed a new size up. And you know, back then, a slightly chubby boy was one that had been well fed and well cared for in society's book. Just "baby fat". Ha.

i beati said...

How blessed you are to have these vivid memories. I often think of those who can no longer remember

Bill Yates said...

I loved this story Jim. And I think it builds character to order from the "Husky" size range in the Sears catalog. And I've never seen a picture of anyone holding a fish by the tailfins; you must have had quite a grip on that slimy rascal.

Shammickite said...

I lived by the sea as a child in UK, went out fishing with the local fishermen, but I don't remember catching anything. But as an adult went out with family on a vacation trip to Cape Cod, and we caught a huge halibut which lasted us 2 or 3 meals, very good eating! That's a lovely red snapper.
I guess you're skinny enough to wear horizontal stripes now?
And now you have me humming the Gilligan theme, I'll probably be doing it all day. Damn you Sully!
But if you read my blog, some ditty from the S of M will be stuck in your head, so we're even now.

Karen said...

As usual, I sit here with a smile on my face. I was right there with you, the words were so perfect.

Suldog said...

Bill - I was such a city boy non-fisherman, I didn't want to grip it in the gills like most folks do. I thought it would be slimy. So I held it up by the tail. The one lasting tactile memory I have of it is that the tail was SHARP. I cut my finger on it.

Shrinky said...

You actually DESERVE cash, for this little beauty - what a brilliant post, my friend, you truly had me chuckling hard and long at some of these one-liners of yours! What an eventful trip, and a darling memory to have laid down. Speaking as someone who has NEVER flown first-class, I'm consumed with jealous envy - ye Gads, I never even set foot on an airplane until I was over 21 (mumble, mumble)..

Hilary said...

Loved this. I have only begun fishing the last 7 years since I've known Frank (who literally wrote the book on the subject). I imagine they're not fussy about where the bait comes from as long as they can feed off of it. And it's different than the usual fare.

You have a great memory for these events and the talent to write as if you're triggering some of my own memories.

Joanna Jenkins said...

HA! I just read your "I'd prefer cash" comment. Hysterical-- I can't believe I never noticed it before....

As for you story- I yiyi, that sounds like a heck of a trip. but the thing that cracks me up is that you had the fish at the pool. I love that! It made for a great picture.

Happy weekend, jj

Anonymous said...

Heh heh. So hurl-chum is great bait. And you realized that you probably ingested the same hurl chum that your red snapper swallowed!

Don't worry, it's all bio-degradable and part of the cycle of life.


Mich said...

You don't look chubby at all! You DO look incredibly thrilled with yourself--that expression on your face is priceless.

I got to fly first class once, when you could still upgrade with your miles. I had no idea that just a few meters ahead of me on 100s of flights back and forth from Ireland that people were sipping champagne and eating filet mignon, and enjoying hot towels.

Aside from the seasickness, that sounds like a fun trip!