Sunday, November 15, 2015

7447. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 73)

(pt. 73)
Well, my father finally got his boat : all his
life he'd been pining for a boat, taking me on
endless little fishing trips to the Jersey Shore on
God-awful Saturdays at 6am. He'd have a small
6hp Evinrude in the back of the station wagon,
and he'd drive down to some boat rental place
on Barnegat Bay  -  I cannot recall the name,
but remember the place like it was yesterday's
story. He knew the guy  -  same old salt every
time  -  they'd throw his 6hp. engine onto the
back bulkhead of the little boat, we'd load it up
with gear, food and swimming stuff too, and
he'd motor-putt us out, I mean sometimes way
out, in this little skiff. Once or twice I can well
remember coast guard guys coming to get us -
either chasing us back for being too far out with
that pipsqueak little boat and motor, or chasing
us from boat lanes, used by larger craft. It all
somehow made sense, though I never much
cared, and even if it shouldn't have made any
sense. It certainly wasn't 'boating', and it certainly
wasn't 'fishing.' He'd make it seem like something -
finding a little sandbar where I could swim a little
while he dawdles or fished  - some out-of-the-way
cove. We'd crab the bridge abutments, and always
come home with a bunch. I can't recall ever really
catching any useful fish, though maybe some. One
time, in the course of a day, we'd caught about 30
blowfish  -  pretty useless, but he kept them. As
they expired  -  or whatever is called when the sad,
old fish, finally just gives it up and chokes to death,
they blew themselves up like balloons. Yep, expanded
to like five times, each, their size. We couldn't
walk nor even much get around in that dumb little
rowboat. It was maddening, and was pretty sore and
angry over what we'd done. My father fancied himself
some bigger-time navy and maritime guy than he actually
was. We'd catch fluke, or flounder, or both. Fish I never
liked  -  they were flat, one side gray and the other pale
white, like flesh; and there were two eyes on one side of
this goofy flat fish. My father would tell me that when
they are born these fish have one eye on either side, like
normal, but that over time the one eye migrates to the
other so they get to have two eyes on the same side,
which enables them to swim along the sea bottom,
scanning for food. Never made much sense to me. I
never liked the look. I never could figure any of that
out either. Then there'd be the inevitable blue-fish run.
I don't know how he knew, but he'd pull up somewhere,
say the blues were running, and stand in the surf or
not, for an hour or so, all prepared for some fierce
fish-fight bringing them in. Never happened, but I
played along. It was almost religious  -  feeling like
some little Lake Genasareth/Sea of Galilee Jesus. I
never much could stand the fishing. Wasting time,
with a pole and line, staying about, pretending to
care. I care about a lot of things  -   but hooking a
fish, to flap around on the other end of a line and
hook to die, never made sense to me. Like shooting 
at animals in the woods or from a tree stand  - all
gunked up with the smell and pretending to have
their aptitude, just so you could, basically, kill
them to show you're better. What's with that, and
who cared? I used to want to just tell my father,
'if this shit's important to you, just leave me home
next time, OK?' But I knew I couldn't. he'd get all
bummed and go nutso over something. Plus, we
had to drive home together. Why make trouble.
Like I said, he did finally get a boat  -  some ancient,
sorry-looking clapboard (wooden) 16 footer. It was
the equivalent of like buying a 30-year old car with
probably 300,000 miles on it. He demanded wood, and
couldn't stand fiberglass boats. He never named it or
painted a name or any cute bullshit on it, and  -  to
tell the truth, or tell on him anyway  -  I don't know
that this boat, while I was around anyway, ever did
get in the water. He was always scraping and sanding
the bottom, re-freshening the paint, and all that. I know
he had a trailer with it, but I remember lots of problems
with the lights and brakes and stuff. My mother hated it.
It just sat back there, in the middle of the yard, in the
spot she had expected for barbecues and picnics and
picnic tables. They always had a war going on about it.
Way after I was gone, he got another boat  -  that one
worked, and he used it often enough. By then some
uncles and things had gotten shore homes as additional
places, so he had berthing for it when needed, and he'd
trailer to and from. He always had really quirky bad-sailor
luck with boats. He ran my sister over once, I'm told.
While in the water. Another time, he lost the propeller
or something, and the boat just started going crazy in
the lagoon or channel. he ran my sister over in that fiasco
too. I wasn't there, so I don't know how it happened, but
evidently she was in the water at the dock, and the boat
kept ramming into the bulkhead, unfortunately where she
was. Like three times. It kept smacking her. Don't try to
figure it out. It's just the Albanian sailor in the Introne
blood. I was long, long gone by then, and I don't know
where any of these boats ended up  -  nor, come to think
of it  -  do I even know what one does with a boat whose
time and life is up. Oh sad again.
I never knew what others fathers did with their kids, or with
their sons anyway. The sort of 'habits' that people kept with
their own families were always pretty much hidden, or kept
hidden, or if the kids talked about things, kept confusing.
I'd guess there were a few beach-people, mountain-people, 
campers, travelers, polka-dancers. I'd never know. Bobby Hill's
father was one of our scoutmasters, so whenever we went away
to Camp Cowaw, I guess that was his week or two vacation as 
well. A few, I can recall, were 'bowling' people, the fathers and
mothers, but that hardly counts as vacation stuff. I think there
were a few hunters too. Rifles and guns and deer seasons, and,
only every so often, each year as it got cold out, I'd remember
one or two places to watch for  -  they evidently would 'bag'
a few deer, get their count, or kill a buck  -  however you
may phrase any of that 'deerslayer' stuff  -  and it would be
roped and suspended like on their back or side porch, or 
hanging in their garage. From what I later learned and heard
from others  -  and seen too  -  they would gut and trim the
dead animal(s) right there, at home. Cut up the loins and
the portions of meat that, I guess, they ate. The rest of the
glop, I don't know  -  went to the dogs? In the trash? Where
did the hide and the antlers and all that go? I don't know,
except for the really creepy guys who'd have it mounted in
their living room like it was MarJo's Mountain Rest or
something. Also, I used to  -  about these people  -  walk
around and wonder how far they took the fantasy : James
Fenimore Cooper, Natty Bumpo, Deerslayer Tales, did they
even know about all that rich Americana behind them, and
the rich Americana that they were churning up and destroying
with all their Two Guys From Harrison, and Shop-Rite ('Why
Pay More?'  -  slogan), cavalcades of stores, shopping carts 
and parking lots? I never figured they did. In fact, I figured
they'd gotten as far as about maybe 8th grade and stopped
their forward motion entirely. Tract housing, car, sexual 
intercourse with (or without) the 'old lady', some alcohol, 
the boys at the lodge or the club or the bar. Had they any
idea of what was up, what they were doing? Did they
inhabit a place, some place, any place, in the small scheme
of evolutionary intellectual progress by which the bulk
of 'Mankind' advances itself, as it were? I was always
baffled : I was baffled by house-dresses on Moms, hunting
jackets on Dads, religious statues with magnetic bottoms
that would stick in place on the old metal dashboards
of cars, the families who overdid all that and had like entire
Holy Families of bullshit arrayed on their crazy dashboards,
the cuffs we used to make on the bottoms of the legs of our
dungarees, and the dungarees that sometimes, for colder
weather, would come with the red-plaid, felt lining, and 
that would cuff-up too and you'd look like some bizarre
maniacal hayseed from the old musical shows like
Oklahoma or The Rainmaker. There was just too much
bizarro stuff all around me, Everywhere. As much as I
was put off by it all, I was just as much entranced. I loved
all these people, the mothers and the girls. I was enraptured
by some unique richness which was added into the fabric
of an otherwise sad and bewitching life. Kids have to come 
to terms with things  -  everything dies, even Uncle John
and Aunt Jane, they die, things get old, rust away, fall 
apart. Most things are exaggerated, or outright lies. We all
knew that, we all sensed the blemish on that beautiful face,
yet we loved the face anyway. We were crazy, we were
faraway wild, distant, and all taken up with everything.

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