The Large Man Chronicles
I’m basically a coward. I fear many, MANY, things. If I could define my youth (let’s say up to age 30) with one word, I think that word would be fear. Fear of authority, fear of bullies, fear of clowns, fear of dogs, crippling fear of the ocean, nuclear holocaust, and Blue jays. (Their call is terrifying) Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of everything. I feared failure because everybody would see; I feared success because nobody would believe. Mostly, I always feared what people would think about me.
The biggest error in that bucket of bullshit is that I thought people cared one way or the other. The greatest lesson in obsession over what people think about you is realizing how seldom they actually do. It isn’t that nobody cares, they just don’t care what kind of car you drive, what kind of house you live in, what you do for a job, and why you shave your head, or who you’re dating. They have their own stuff going on.
I’ve gotten over those fears, now I have a whole new bucket for Dr. Shrinkenstien. I should change the name of my blog site to The Irrational Man Chronicles. I should, but I won’t. I don’t see the ladies diggin The Irrational Man.
So check this out…
Last week I had tickets to see the Cubs play in Wrigley. Three days earlier, here were my thoughts:
How was I going to get there? What was the weather going to be like? Would I have the right clothes? Is this going to be a big drink fest? How will I get back to the hotel? What if the Cubs lose? Will there be a riot? Will I have to drink light beer? Are there troughs or urinals? (Hate the trough!) I might meet a friend from high school. Will she get along with my group? When am I going to get some sleep?
Nonstop stuff like that for 3 days…it’s exhausting. I can’t look forward to anything. I never have. Irrational fear resides in the master bedroom at The Large House.
But I went. I went with my boss, and a couple of dudes I work with, and some customers – all of whom are good friends. It was a blast. All the things that could go wrong did go wrong. It rained, it was cold, I drank too much, I spent too much money, and…it was a blast. IT’S WRIGLEY! HOW COULD IT NOT BE A BLAST!?!
Wrigley Field is a national treasure. The Cubs got me through knee surgery rehab several years ago, so they are sort of an adopted team. I love downtown Chicago. There is nothing about this event that could be bad. The smell of the ballpark, seats 4 rows off the first base line, the hope of an unruly fan being tazed, the company of good friends, the “buzz” of Murphy’s Bleachers – before and after the game…all on a Wednesday afternoon – technically at work. What a great time, once I got there.
I think now about what I might have missed, had I not sent fear to bed early that day. Had I followed my cowardly instincts, I would have sat in a hotel room with a Subway sandwich and a remote control, maybe one of those inflatable dolls…who knows. But I went. I went and I knocked something off the bucket list. Wrigley Field is a big deal, and I was there.
If you read the previous Chronicle you’ll know I’m at the beach this week. Several months ago, I booked a charter boat for me and my kids. Seemed like a great idea at the time. What an experience to be able to provide for my children. Even better, the charter Captain was an acquaintance of mine from high school, and the younger brother of a lifelong friend. This is good for everybody.
But then beach week comes, the weather has been…soupy. It’s cold, it’s misting constantly, and you’re just waiting for a thunderstorm to blow up any minute.
I’ve been deep-sea fishing on several occasions. I have caught and released two citation marlin, put a few tuna in the cooler, Wahoo, Dolphin (Mahi Mahi, not flipper). It’s fair to say I’m an experienced saltwater fisherman. Not an expert, but experienced.
So…as per my normal routine, around Friday last week I start obsessing over this fishing trip. There are so many things that can go wrong. A saltwater fishing rod and reel goes for about $200. The tackle is costly as well. We’re not going after “big game” fish, but still…my kids are little kids. My 9-year-old boy has the body of an NFL tight end, and the disposition of a sensitivity trainer. My 11-year-old daughter is in a whole other world 70% of the time. She’s an artist, we just haven’t figured out her medium yet. If Captain Mike starts barking orders in that Carolina drawl, my son’s gonna freak out and throw the rod and reel into the deep blue and start crying. If my daughter feels that the fish is too big, or that her brother is being wrongly chastised, or that we’re making too much noise for the Ospreys to be comfortable, she’ll just scream and toss her rig into the drink as well.
…and what are we going to eat, and the weather, and it’s a lot of money, and what if they get sea-sick, a hook in their eye. What’s Captain Mike gonna think? What’s he gonna tell his cute sister, and her cool husband. I decide on Sunday that I have to call and cancel our Monday afternoon trip; I’ll do it in the morning.
On Monday morning the weather took care of things for me. The weather became an enabler to my neurosis. The folks from the Fish On (Captain Mike’s boat) called and said the weather was too dicey for a trip, and that we were rescheduled for 11:00 Wednesday.
I wanted to say, “Just bag it, I can’t afford to replace your fishing poles, and I’ll never be able to live with all the things that Captain Mike will think about my parenting skills”.
I wanted to say that, but I said, “OK”.
So I was able to obsess and freak for 48 more hours. It’s so fun being me. Fortunately, I still drink.
At 10:30 on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 under an overcast sky, with a light mist peppering my really expensive royal blue Cubs t-shirt, I dialed the number for Fish On charters. Captain Mike’s lovely wife answered the phone and said, “Oh I’m glad you called. We went out this morning and did real well. Your kids are gonna have a blast. The waters a little rough getting through the inlet, but once you hit the ocean it’s OK. We’re at the dock, so get here as soon as you want.”
I wanted to say, “Go ahead and keep the deposit, we’re gonna bag it.”
But I said, “OK”.
I think now about what I might have missed. Truly, this was an experience of a lifetime.
We went on a boat ride of a lifetime for sure. A 25 ft boat through 6 foot swells, battering the hell out of me and the kids – I was terrified (of course), but my babies screamed with delight. My daughter said, “This is better than a roller coaster!” The sensitive boy screams, “It’s like a tummy tickler in the car, but ALL DAY LONG!” I wish I could describe the thrill of it all through their eyes…their faces were “all eyes”…wide open with excitement. The shoulder shudder happened with them both, two or three times. This was intense. This was big, and they were in the moment – connected.
We fished for about an hour, and they figured it out pretty quickly. They caught about 5 or 6 nice sized fish each, and they handled the boat, the choreography of handling multiple fish on at once, the seas, and the event very well. I was proud. Captain Mike was proud. And we didn’t break any of his stuff.
We started getting a little queasy in the rolling ocean, and feeling the fishing experience was good enough to quit on a good note, we take off to do some sightseeing. We come upon a pod of dolphins, and we just drift and watch them play. The kids are out of their minds with the coolness of it all, these dolphins, or porpoises are just 10 feet away from us, and when it can’t get any cooler, it does…
In between us and the dolphin pod, and unusually Large dolphin breaks the surface and blows – she’s 8 feet away, and she’s not a dolphin. She’s a whale. Probably a Humpback, because Pilot whales only get to be about 20 ft…this one is much longer than our 25 ft boat.
It’s one thing to see a whale when you go on a “Whale Watching “tour; it’s something very different when you’re fishing for Bluefish, and Spanish Mackerel. I went deep-sea fishing 15 years in a row, and have never seen a whale before today. We saw her surface a couple more times before she went on her way.
It’s also quite something to see the look on a child’s face when they know they’ve just done something special. To be 9 and 11 years old and get this gift is …magic. I will never forget this day, and I know they never will either. That is so friggin cool.
To think of what I might have missed.
I MUST send a special thank you to Captain Mike Muse of the Fish On. His patience with my kids was admirable; his patience with me was OUTSTANDING! His reputation as a charter boat Captain is based on what he catches. He chose to entertain two little kids, and one big kid. This is a good dude.
If you are ever in the Outer Banks and think a few hours of fishing sounds like fun, give him a shot. You won’t be disappointed. www.fishonobx.com Tell them The Large Man sent ya.
Special thanks to all of you readers for letting me share this journey.
Until next time…