Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Cast Nets, Fall Fishing, Etc.

One of my favorite things about fishing is the quest for live bait. Before moving to the coast and being exposed to the hundreds of pelagic species living in the bays, sounds and ocean, my fishing was primarily flyfishing for mountain trout or flyfishing for bass in farm ponds and lakes. I grew up in the south, so my early days were filled with memories of fishing with worms, crickets, corn or pieces of hot dog dangling off a line attached to a cane pole. You take a cricket, put it on a gold hook and place it anywhere in a pond and it will only be a matter of seconds before it is inhaled by a bream, shellcracker, crappie or bass. If you stayed long enough, you could wipe out the fish population of an entire pond that way. Sooner or later the cane pole gave way to more sophisticated gear such as Zebco closed-faced spinning reels, then open face spinning reels and baitcasters. Live bait was supplemented by artificial lures like plastic worms, top-water plugs and spinnerbaits as fooling the fish became almost as important as catching one to eat.

About 15 years ago, on a lark, I bought a cheap fly fishing outfit-rod, reel, line and instruction book for about $35.00. It was, as the price would indicate, a complete piece of crap, but I was intrigued about the whole thing so one day I got my nerve up and bought an Orvis Rod (a 6 foot, 6 inch, four-weight) to fish the small pocket water streams of Stone Mountain State Park, about an hour from my home. I read as many books as I could, both instructional and otherwise and discovered that fly fishing was not just a way to fish but was more of a way of life and for some, almost a religion. For me it was an escape-a way to see and experience beautiful places and to clear a cluttered mind. Standing in cold, fast moving, boulder strewn water, slinging an imitation of an insect upstream, squinting and following its drift downstream and catching a fleeting glance at a trout dart from behind a rock or other safe place to swallow it was the greatest thing I had ever experienced. It took me an entire year of reading and fishing before I caught my first trout on a fly. I'll remember the exact time, place and details as long as I live. The fish was only hooked for a few seconds until I could release it, but I was hooked permanently. To say I was obsessed with the sport would be a gross understatement. I found a fly shop about 25 miles away and spent countless hours there-picking up and wiggling expensive rods, ogling the shiny expensive reels and watching the assistant manager tie flies. He convinced me to tie my own and that became a separate and distinct obsession-almost as fun as the fishing itself. I tied thousands of flies-ones that would actually catch fish and those that just looked cool and different. I bought every fly patttern book available and still have each one. I bought several more rods and reels and became a fly fishing tackle junkie. I even bought a fly rod for saltwater fishing and managed to catch fish in the surf with it. Sometime in the mid-90's, I met my friend J.P. who was and still is a local cop. He was a big saltwater fly fisherman and while talking about that, he mentioned that he built his own fishing rods. Hell, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I had never given any thought to how fly rods or any other rods were made-I assumed that they were just put together by some machine while rolling down and assembly line. He told me how cheap and easy it was to build your own rod-just adding components to the bare stick of graphite called a "blank." I read some books and catalogs and one day there appeared on my front porch a long PVC tube containing a blank, some guides and a top, a reel seat, a cork grip, some thread and epoxy finish. By following the instructions contained, I sat at my kitchen table and assembled my very first rod. It wasn't very pretty-I've re-done it about 7 times since then-but I caught hundreds and hundreds of fish on that rod. J.P. took me to the Roanoke River near Weldon , N.C. to fish for striped bass making their annual spawning run and we caught over 400 striped bass in two days-on the rod I built with flies I tied. My hands and arms weren't the same for weeks. I still have that rod and still use it-it's very "pretty" now.

Fly fishing at that time was the only type I wanted to do-it was that or nothing. When we moved to the coast in 2000, I still had the same mindset. I soon found out that it was a helluva lot easier to catch fish that were swimming in a 20-foot wide,two-foot deep stream, than to catch them in the expanse of the ocean or sounds. I didn't know where to look and many days were spent futilely flailing away in the surf. Not catching fish made me realize that I was in it for more than just the "purity" of the sport-sure it was fun to cast and have people stare at you as if you were a space alien, but by-god, I wanted to catch something. I found out that the ticket, if you wanted to fish to eat, was live bait. I realized that if you put a live finger mullet, live shrimp or live menhaden on a hook and threw it in the ocean, something would eat the hell out of it and furthermore, you never knew if the fish you caught would be a four-inch pinfish or a hundred pound shark or anything in between. Throw it out and hang on for dear life. I now love fishing with live bait-I have come full circle- substituting live saltwater prey species for worms and crickets. The only thing that has really changed is that I'm still basically a catch and release guy-fly fishing taught me that a gamefish is too beautiful to be caught only once, although I'll keep and eat a flounder without a second thought or a pang of regret.

Knowing how to use a cast net is essential in catching live bait-that and having a live well (a holding tank with a a pump to aerate the water). Cast nets come in various sizes-from a four foot diameter to diameters approaching twenty feet. The bottom of the net is lined with lead weights distributed every inch or so, and of course the larger diameter the cast net, the more weights you have. The weights on a large diameter cast net are also bigger to give it a faster sink rate. A twenty foot cast net is a bitch to throw because of its weight and size, but one correctly heaved over a school of bait might provide enough bait for weeks of fishing. My limit is a ten-foot net and that is stretching it. I prefer a six-foot net with 3/8 inch monofilamient mesh to catch most of my bait up in the creeks. I carry two nets-one which has no holes or broken mesh from entanglement with oyster rocks and another sacrificial net that I don't mind casting into snaggy areas (where the baits like to hide).

My friend Scott taught me how to throw a cast net before I moved to the coast and needed to know how. I was visiting him at his house on Sullivan's Island, just ove the bridge from Charleston, S.C. and it was the first day of shrimp baiting season in their coastal waters. Hell, it might as well have been a national holiday. Everywhere folks were hauling around long pieces of PVC pipe, (referred to as poles-each one sporting a stamp from DNR), ten per person maximum, and buying up large quantities of fish meal and a clay that was black and silver in color. We hauled our clay and fish meal to the side of the house and sat down with a cooler of beer to make the shrimp balls. The clay was mixed with the noxious fish meal into a softball sized orb that dried as hard as concrete. It was hard, stinky work, but necessary in order to have enough to distribute around the poles. The poles were marched out just off the beach and jammed into the soft sand far enough to hold them upright. The fishballs were distributed around the area of the poles and as the clay and fishmeal slowly dispersed, the shrimp were drawn to them by the thousands. In the dark you could hear them start to flip and skitter across the surface of the calm surf. The white poles stood out in contrast against the black sky and marked the area that the shrimp would inhabit. Since I was from out of state and the penalty for an out-of stater shrimping in S.C. waters without a $500.00 license was the the equivalent of public flogging, I was relegated to helping put the shrimp in the buckets after they were netted. Scott, however, gave me my first, and only cast net throwing lesson in the yard of that home and I have never forgotten the basics-place the wrist-loop over your right wrist and coil the remainder, holding it also in the right hand. Grab the plastic "horn" with your left hand, allowing the net to droop to its full length and straighten out. Make sure all the weights are hanging to the same level. Grab down from the horn about a foot and a half with your right hand (all the while holding the rope) and drape the part above your right hand over your right shoulder. With your left hand, grab the leadline and place the leadline in your mouth holding it lightly with your front teeth. Next grab the leadline forward and feed it toward you, grabbing it further and further out. Then grab the leadline up with your left hand and prepare to throw. The throw is unnatural-a motion like that of a pitcher hurling a screwball or a track person throwing a discuss. If you were to imagine the net as a large steering wheel, the technique would be to throw the net outward toward the target while making a violent counterclockwise motion-right hand moving to the top rotating counterclockwise and the left hand moving underneath in the same direction-Oh, yeah- let the net slip out of your teeth as you throw! Scott showed me the rudiments and I made some half-ass casts on the grass and then didn't throw another net for a couple years-but I never forgot the technique and the lesson. Constant practice makes perfect or something approaching that and now I can throw one at about a five-handicap- Plenty good for my needs.
The best time to catch bait is at low tide. Bait is forced out of the grass and concentrated in less water. Visual signs are everywhere if you know what to look for-finger mullet swim in schools and make a "V" wake. Shrimp skip and skitter across the surface and the movement of a boat in their presence makes them move furiously. Menhaden swim in huge schools and appear as a dark, oily shadow on the surface. They also flip on the surface and can be spotted hundreds of yards away. There are always rogue baits that end up in the net-pinfish and croakers travel with the other bait and are a curse-the pinfish are hard to cull out without them finning you and the croakers tend get so stuck in the net that it's hard to pull them out alive. There's always a surprise-I've caught fishing gear, oysters and once a surprised turtle ended up in the net. We didn't get out last Sunday until after lunch-the tide was high and the bait was scarce or at least hard to find. We motored to the very end of a tidal creek off the Intracoastal, all the way back to the highway and I threw the net in a pocket that looked "dead." To my surprise, the net came back filled with about twenty small menhaden and five or six mullet. My search for shrimp yielded only several small ones and those were tossed back. During my cast net throwing I also pulled up several huge mullet, a 12 inch redfish, some crabs and some silversides. The last hour of the day we spent anchored in the mouth of the creek. Jane read her magazines and I lobbed a couple of menhaden rigged underneath popping corks up into a small cove. We drank a couple of beers and while I was rigging up another line Jane shouted that one of the rods was bent double. I heard the drag sing, grabbed the rod and felt the pressure. I tightened up on it so the fish wouldn't run up into the oysters and break off and the fish boiled on the surface about 100 feet from the boat. I horsed him in, Jane took some pics and he was released back-a healthy redfish, copper colored with the tell-tale spot on the tail. Minutes later I had another on but he got off the hook- a long distance release. A detour on the way home to find some shrimp for the grill went for naught. It was a great day on the water for an ex-fly fishing "purist." Worms, crickets, shrimp, mullet or flies-whatever. It's all good.

Monday, September 26, 2005

World's Finest Letter of Complaint

More Hurrican Common Sense from Wizbang

From Wizbang's Jay Tea:

America's dirtiest little secret

With the two hurricanes having thoroughly battered our Gulf Coast, it's now obvious that we can no longer pretend a certain emperor has no clothes. A lot of us have known it for a long time, but almost no one has had the guts to say it out loud.

Civil defense in this country is a joke. A bad joke. It's been for decades. And it's on us.

Back in World War II, we at least had a pretense of civil defense. We had mandatory blackout laws, enforced by air-raid wardens who'd go out looking for lights that might be used as landmarks by enemy bombers or submarines. But even that didn't do much; the bombers never came, and the submarines still managed to raise hob along the Atlantic until we got aggressive in fighting them.

After the war, we found ourselves fighting the "Cold War" with the Soviets. And once they possessed the Bomb, the American people were scared. They started demanding protection. And the government, knowing that it was impossible, did what any government would do when the taxpayers start shouting loudly enough: they gave them what they demanded.

Or, at least, something plausible.

So we started building "fallout shelters" in buildings. We instituted the Emergency Broadcast System. And school kids learned how to "duck and cover" in the hopes that their desks would protect them from a bomb.

It was a joke. It was a fraud. Everyone knew that the only defense against a commie nuke was to bend over, put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye. But "duck and cover" sounded good, so the public clung to it tighter than Linus and his blanket and pretended that we were prepared.

At the same time, the Eisenhower administration started the Interstate Highway project. The roads were labelled for "civil defense," but that was a convenient cover. It was, simply, a commercial project, an attempt to institute the sort of thing as Adolf Hitler had given Germany in the Autobahn. Any civil defense applications would end up being largely incidental (evacuation, moving of troops and equipment, emergency plane landings).

9/11 gave us a warning: our cities were vulnerable. Evacuation simply wasn't a possibility. There is no way that we can get all (or even nearly all) the people out of a city. All they had to do in New York was get the commuters on Manhattan home, and let the residents sit it out -- and it still was a nightmare.

Four years later, Hurricane Katrina showed us that, if we're incredibly lucky, and have a couple days' notice (something lacking on 9/11), we MIGHT get 80% of the people out. But that remaining 20% would have to tough it out -- and accent on the "tough." The utter incompetence and corruption of the local and state officials didn't help, leading to the complete collapse of local authorities and the horror and chaos that descended on the city.

And now Hurricane Rita comes along, like the classic nun-with-a-ruler from Catholic school, smacking the lessons into us. Houston had plenty of warning, and still evacuation was a nightmare. Again, screwups by state and local officials didn't help (for example, not using both directions of the highways for outbound traffic didn't help), but all it did was pound the simple reality home:

Our cities are simply not built to be evacuated in any sort of reasonable time or effort.

In fact, our cities aren't "buit' for anything. The vast majority of them simply grew and evolved with absolutely no rhyme or reason, responding to developing needs and circumstances as events dictate.

And they are certainly not built to be evacuated.

Here's the simple, unvarnished, truth: if there's a crisis that threatens a city, and if there's enough advanced warning, some people will survive. Those people with the means, the intelligence, and/or the luck will get out in time. And those without will simply have to suffer their fate, hunker down, and hope like hell for eventual help from local, state, and federal officials. And for a percentage of those, they are -- for lack of a better term -- are fucked. There are no realistic plans that will actually get nearly everyone out of the way. Just yesterday, disaster experts announced that Boston's own plans were fatally flawed.

I've said before that no government, no lawyer, can protect you from all the possible consequences of your bad decisions. And sometimes, it isn't a matter of a bad decision, but bad luck or fate or God's will or random circumstance or destiny or karma or whatever you want.

In the meantime, though, it's as it always is: the biggest factor in anyone's survival is themselves. Plan ahead. Prepare yourselves. Find an exit route. Then find two or three more in case those get blocked.

The government, at its various levels, will do what it can -- clumsily and inefficiently, as is their wont. But some things are just impossible. And no matter how much money the government spends, no matter which party holds which offices, no matter how many "community activists" and professional rabble-rousers howl in outrage, no matter how many lawyers you have on retainer, no matter how many laws you get passed, they will remain impossible.

Deal with it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Digging Out

The autumnal equinox is upon us. Just yesterday it was Memorial Day. From the first week in December until April 1st seemed like a lifetime. For some reason, the late summer and fall just meld into one chunk of activity. I teach my police rookie class legal block for 13 nights from 6-10 P.M. beginning late August through mid-September. Throw in Labor Day weekend entertaining friends, a week of court, teaching rookie school, doing a teaching gig 8 hours away in the mountains, then trackback for a wedding and visit with friends in the Piedmont, back home, riding out Ophelia, the hurricane that wouldn't leave, having to make up the missed rookie school classes by teaching four hours Friday night and eight hours Sunday afternoon and night, and getting ready for court the first week in October and here we are. Once I finish court, it will be the middle of October. Damn! Days getting shorter, time for afterwork fishing more scarce, college football games taking chunks out of my Saturdays, siding to replace and yard to cleanup-not enough time for everything. I want to make a trip to fish with Scott in S.C. but he has a big trial starting October 17. October 28 seven of us fly from the Carolinas to New Braunfels, Texas to see Reckless Kelly and November is on us.

In addition to building fishing rods, making wooden pens and winestoppers on the lathe, tying flies and blogging enough to keep the sitemeter running, I have been playing the guitar more and more. Our new abode is beautiful, but less guitar playing friendly than our old home. No basement to steal away to or huge recliner to lean my back against while sitting on the floor trying to memorize the tablature for flatpicked fiddle tunes. You just can't sit in a chair with armrests with a guitar-I've tried it. Another distraction from the music is the fishing. My old hometown was five hours from the coast and an hour and a half from any decent mountain streams-here I can leave work at 5:00 and have the boat in the water by 5:30 with a paralyzing choice of places to go depending on tide and wind. The guitar has gathered a lot of dust since moving here, but once you learn how to play, you never forget. Your fingers go automatically to the right places. Actually putting the thing down sometimes has its benefits-you can get seriously stuck in a rut playing the same stuff over and over and you usually pick the thing back up when you hear something original that you want to play and it pulls you free.

I picked back up playing in earnest around the first of May because we had booked
Dicky Scearce and Jack Ketner to play at my 50th birthday party and Dicky had invited me to play guitar on a couple of songs using Jack's guitar while Jack played fiddle. I'll confess to being a little prejudiced, but for my money, they're one of the finest and most talented acoustic duos I've ever seen or heard. They can generate more music from two instruments than any band I know-and I know my live music! If I'm lying, I'm dying but they play "The Sultan's of Swing" on acoustic guitars and it's better than the Dire Straits version. One of my favorite things is to see the heads turn and the eyes open in amazement when they crank that one up. Since the party they have become really good friends-Dicky's wife Susan is such a sweet person and is completely passionate about their music even though she's probably heard most of the songs hundreds of times. She passes out "shaker cans" (beer cans filled with beans and duct taped over the top) so folks can add a little homemade percussion and she hawks their great CD's like a master salesman. Jack's girlfriend, Jennifer is a sweetie also and has struck up a great friendship with my wife, Jane. We have a group of boardwalk buddies that come to see Dicky and Jack every time they're in town. Jack is a talented artist and can play anything with strings. Again, I know my stuff and I have never seen a more talented acoustic guitar player or fiddler-ever. He could go to Nashville and do studio work and never have a free moment. And he is a great guy and funny fellow to boot. Dicky plays remarkable rythym guitar and sings most of their lead vocals in a clear tenor voice that I would kill for. They have a chemistry and rapport on stage (and off) that makes them better than the sum of their collective parts. You also could not find two nicer, generous or more gracious people. Every time they play, they call me up to do three or four songs and also let my buddy Bobby Webb do some solo stuff. When Dicky does his solo stuff on Wednesday and Thursday nights several times during the summer, he has invited me to bring my guitar and play along for the whole set. It has been the greatest fun I've ever had-on the small stage at the Dockhouse on the Beaufort waterfront, looking out over Taylor's Creek and the yachts and sailboats and the wild ponies of Carrot Island, southwest breeze blowing off the water, playing guitar with my talented friend. I can't think of anything I'd rather do. Thanks to Dicky, Jack, Susan and Jennifer-ya'll are the best. And thanks most of all for rekindling my passion for playing guitar!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Katrina Refugee Dogs Posted by Picasa

Waterspout touching down

Photos courtesy of Stephanie Scearce! Thanks! Posted by Picasa

Waterspout-Rodanthe, NC Posted by Picasa

Waterspout on Outer Banks Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New Headlines

Shamelessly purloined from On the Patio.

"After Kirstie Alley joins Star Jones on 'The View,' the show is officially renamed, 'The Obstructed View.'"

"Sales of Oscar Mayer Wieners will plummet when it is revealed their design is based on Oscar Mayer's actual wiener."

"General Motors will end all the juvenile Hummer jokes by renaming its popular vehicle the Knob Gobbler."

"There will be yet another spin-off of 'The Apprentice.' This time featuring O.J. Simpson and his signature catch phrase, 'You're Murdered.'"

"Sad, because they can no longer write about Bennifer, gossip writers will start to refer to the Hollywood couple of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as Brad-gina!"

"Facing huge legal fees stemming from charges of child molestation, Michael Jackson will sell his Neverland Ranch. Unfortunately, he will sell it to the Catholic Church."

"Parents will no longer let their kids watch SpongeBob SquarePants, when it's revealed that SpongeBob once worked as a female contraceptive."

"Major-league baseball will finally crack down on steroids, Barry Bonds will again lead the Majors in homeruns with 3."

"In the lesbian version of 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' gay women go to a straight woman's apartment and add more electrical outlets."

"The owner of 'Hooters' will open a far less successful restaurant, 'Saggers'."

Darwin Award Nominee

It happened in Lebanon so it probably only shortened his life by a couple of weeks.

Man dies while playing with old grenade

Associated Press
Sept. 19, 2005 08:10 AM

BEIRUT, Lebanon - A hand grenade kept as a souvenir from Lebanon's civil war exploded in a Kuwaiti government office as a worker played with it, killing the man and injuring two other people, the ambassador said.

The dead and injured were all Lebanese employees of the Kuwaiti Information Office.

Speaking outside the 15-story building where the explosion occurred, Ambassador Ali Suleiman Saeed said: "Regrettably, it happened when one of the employees, with the knowledge of his colleagues, was playing with some old explosive materials left over from the (1975-90 civil) war. It exploded, hitting him and two of his colleagues."

Ayas al-Alayli, 36, took the grenade from a shelf and threw it to the floor to show Mirna Mugharbel, a secretary, that it wouldn't explode, an employee in the office said.

Al-Alayli was killed and Mugharbel and another office worker, Hussam al-Jamal, were injured.

Mugharbel suffered shrapnel wounds to her legs, said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to speak to the press. Blood stained the floor as well as the desk and chairs in Mugharbel's office.

The explosion was the second in four days in Beirut, but it had nothing to do with the series of mysterious bombings that have occurred in the Lebanese capital since a massive bomb killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 20 other people on Feb. 14.

On Friday night, a bomb exploded in the Beirut neighborhood of Ashrafiya, killing one person and wounding 23 others.

The Kuwaiti ambassador stressed the explosion should not be seen as an attack on Kuwait and was unrelated to the string of bombings in Beirut.

Lebanese troops and police cordoned off the building after the explosion. The building, which also houses the official Kuwait News Agency, is near the Interior Ministry.

This Should Provide Needed Shelter for at Least 1000 Katrina victims

Star Jones Reynolds Donates Emmys Dress

Mon Sep 19, 9:39 PM ET

Star Jones Reynolds is donating the dress off her back from the Emmy Awards to help Hurricane Katrina victims.

Jones wore an amethyst velvet gown by Marc Bauer valued at $3,000 while hosting red-carpet coverage for E! Entertainment Television at Sunday's show.

She donated the dress to the Clothes Off Our Back Foundation, which will auction off outfits worn by celebrities at the Emmys and give the proceeds to hurricane victims.

"There is no better way to allow your clothes to keep on giving you pleasure than to share them with someone else," Jones said. "The families that were affected by Hurricane Katrina need our help."

Last year, Jones' seafoam green dress by Kevan Hall generated one of the highest-selling amounts in the auction.

Bidding on this year's auction ends Sept. 29.

Monday, September 19, 2005


"Killed him deader than fried chicken."
"Sweatin' like a whore in church"
"Ain't been this happy since the hogs ate my little sister"
"Dumb as a bag of hammers"
"That boy's about as sharp as a sack of wet mice"
"It's so cold I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets"
"She's got a face that would make a freight train take a dirt road."
"He's older'n God's parents"
"It's colder than a welldigger's ass"
"Hard as day old biscuits"
"Sharp as a bag o' wet leather"
"Sharp as a bowling ball"
"Bless her heart, she's ugly as a bar of homemade soap!"

Feel free to add your own!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Every Once in a While

You come across a piece from a blog that must be shared. This from Cuban expatriate and proud American blogger, Val Prieto. His site, Babalu Blog is proudly linked on the sidebar. His piece is a re-post of a tribute to his late Aunt Mary:

Bounty Woman

There are many people that have a special place in my life, among them, my Tia Mary, who was instrumental in my education and upbringing, and who was one of the kindest, most beautiful human beings I have ever been blessed to have been part of my life. Today would have been her birthday and as such, I'm reposting a tribute from last year:


I remember the odor the most. Lysol Disinfectant with a little Jean-Nate mixing in with the smell of decay. The apartment I knew from childhood memory would be the same even though I had only been there once and as an adult. That's just the way my Tia Mary was. Although she had moved to this particular apartment years after that last time I had visited her in Clearwater, the furniture was laid out in the exact same way as always. The sofa against the wall on the right, the coffee table centered with the recliner and the TV. Picture frames in the hundreds placed all around, in the same familiar places as the first time I had set foot in that home twenty some odd years before.

I had just flown in from Miami. Taken a cab from Tampa airport to her apartment only to find the doors locked and cordoned off with police tape. The neighbors had no spare keys and the landlord was out of town. The cop that had responded had not finished his reports and was off duty that day. I had to break into her home. It was rather easy, as if it was meant to be.

"We are sorry about your loss," the neighbor told me. "She was a nice lady. It came as a shock to all of us in the building." He paused for a sec, maybe noticing my hesitation to enter or perhaps trying to find the right words for what he was about to say. "She didn't keep her place to tidy, though," he looked down and away. "There's a dumpster out back if you need it."

I was insulted. Just stood there staring at this guy almost in disbelief. This was my Tia Mary, the cleanest and tidiest woman I had ever seen. She would vacuum my head after a haircut. She would not let me sit on the sofa with my street clothes. She would not let me walk in the house with shoes. She would vacuum the apartment three or four times a day. Clean the bathrooms twice a day. She bought Lysol by the case. I used to think she had a cleaning psychosis, how dare this guy say something like that to me about my aunt?

In a way, he was right though. Even though you could not find a speck of dust anywhere in that apartment, and the furniture and knick knacks and picture frames were exactly where they were supposed to be, it was a mess.

The apartment was a sea of plastic bags. The carpet could barely be seen. Green, black, white and beige testimonies to how she had spent the past several months of her life were scattered about. They were waist deep with a little path cut into them to the kitchen and bathroom and bedroom.

My knees went soft. I couldn't breathe. Tears started to fill my bewildered eyes. I dropped to the floor right there, at the entrance to my Tia Mary's apartment and sobbed. I could not believe what was before me. The condition of her apartment was a notion so foreign to me - so foreign to her - that I simply was not able to accept the fact that I was in her home.

Tia Mary's place was my summer camp. Every year they would drive down on a Friday, stay the weekend at my parent's house, do their visits and see the rest of the family and them come Monday I would toss my bag that had been packed for weeks into the trunk of my uncles car and head for Clearwater. Being in Clearwater meant trips to Disney and Cypress Gardens. Entire afternoons at the movie theater watching every single movie I could watch in one day. Sea World, trips to her cousins farm. Horseback riding. Shopping the five and tens.

Yet there I was, a year or so after I had last been there, having driven my uncle's car up for her after his death. A trip in his Cadillac with Tia Mary next to me, despondent, depressed. Quiet. I had tried for the four hour trip to get her to move down to Miami. To be with the family. So she wouldnt have to live such a solitary life. So she would not get ill without someone around. So she would not die alone.

Yet there I was.

The plastic bags were a mystery. Hundreds of mysteries scattered about a small one bedroom apartment. Each one contained questions and answers. One bag would have another bag in it with a hairbrush and a half eaten Snickers bar inside. Another bag would have a used paper towel and a set of keys. Another would have mail from two months back with a postcard, hairpins and an Amoco receipt. There were hundreds of bags with bags inside and more bags inside the bag inside and each bag would have stuff in it. Little stuff. Little daily routine stuff and life's treasured mementos all together. There was no rhyme or reason to what was in each bag.

The life she'd been living was there before me inside Hefty bags.

I've wondered since if she suffered. Not just while she was passing away but each and every time she walked in the door to her apartment. Knowing her it must have been overwhelming to live the way she was living. We will never know exactly what demons or angels were in her mind or what compelled her to save her days in plastic bags.

Maybe she wanted us to live them with her, maybe she saved them like that just for me. Maybe that's the only way she felt she had of having her family near her all the time. By saving her days one moment at a time in one day at a time each in a plastic bag.

Today is Tia Mary's birthday. I am not exactly sure how old she would have been today, but I wish I could call her like I used to and sing Happy Birthday over the phone. I wish it was the beginning of summer again and I were still a little kid with his bag packed looking down the street for my Tia Mary to come and pick me up for summer camp.

I wish I could still smell her Jean-Nate.

Short weekend

For me, the major effect of the hurricane was the mess it made of my schedule. Since my police rookie school class that I teach was cancelled on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I was forced to teach Friday night for four hours, (missing a killer high tide to fish in the marsh) and to teach eight hours today, Sunday, to make that up. Then it's four hours tomorrow, four on Tuesday night and I finish up with four hours on Monday the 26th. Then I'm done till late January when a new class starts.
The post storm fishing is always surprising. Sometimes it screws up the fishing for over a week while the rivers drain all their gunk out the inlet. This time, for the few hours out on Saturday, things were wide open. Mullet were everywhere and large bluefish were chomping on them. Fall fishing here is fantastic-the downside is that the days are shorter and afterwork fishing presents and ever smaller window of opportunity and the real bummer is that before we know it, winter will be bearing down on us. Now through Thanksgiving is prime time-after that it's hit or miss-more often it's a miss because cold weather fishing sounds great in the abstract but it's hared to drag yourself out of bed to face a cold, gray sea and winds that are chilled by the 50 degree waters. Once you get cold on a boat, it is nigh impossible to get warmed back up-at least not on a skiff. It won't be long until these speedsters start showing up and the entire east coast will drag their boats down the interstates to Cape Lookout and Harker's Island to chase them-hoards of grown men drinking beer, waving graphite sticks and acting like fools. The local economy booms and the restaurants are filled with their weatherbeaten, ruddy-red but smiling faces. From across the room you can make out the fishing recap complete with the standard hands held three feet apart to demonstrate the length of the largest catch of the day.
I have more fun watching this action than joining in-it's nature's food chain at its finest.

Post storm bluefish Posted by Picasa

Sailboats "askew" Posted by Picasa

Sailboat on Carrot Island Posted by Picasa

High and dry after the hurricane Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 16, 2005

Corner of Turner and Front St. looking west-9/15/05 Posted by Picasa

Front St. looking east-9/15/05 Posted by Picasa

Corner of Pollock St. and Front St.-9/16/05 Posted by Picasa

Front St. Beaufort-9/15/05 Posted by Picasa

Hilarious Hooters Employee Manual

Brought to you by the Smoking Gun.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Senate Windbags

God I hate these pontificating gasbags-every single one of every single party. It's always about them-never mind the nominee or witness. They are uniformly insufferable megalomaniacs. If you drag someone up there to testify, for godsake let them speak. Who give a rat's ass what you think about the state of the world?

Jonah Goldberg captures perfectly the typical Joe Biden screed-the way he "holds forth," not only in these hearings but on every Sunday political show. It is priceless:

"The man loves his voice so much, you'd expect him to be following it around in a grey Buick, in defiance of restraining order, as it walks home from school. He seems to think his teeth are some kind of hypnotic punctuation marks which can momentarily disorient the listener and absolve him from any of Western civilization's usual imperatives to stop talking. Listening to him speechify is like playing an intellectual game of whack-a-mole where every now and then the fuzzy head of a good point pops up from the tundra but before you can pin it down, he starts talking about how he went to the store and saw a squirrel on the way and it was brown which brings to mind Brown V. Board of Ed which most people don't understand because [TEETH FLASH] he taught Brown in his law school course and [TEETH FLASH] Mr. Chairman I'm going to get right to it and besides these aren't the droids you're looking for...."

I would give my eye teeth to be able to capture this observation so beautifully.

Field of Dreams

My blog friend Joan had this post on her site yesterday. An ancient site in the Garo Hills area of India caught the attention of her brother, who conducts nature safaris in Meghayala. Here it is with full credit givent to Joan, who now lives in Charlston, SC and whose site features photos of that beautiful city.

Field of Dreams
posted 09/13/05 (edited Thursday, Sep 15, 2005 21:13)

Many of you know that I spent most of my childhood in the north east of India. The Khasi Hills area is a lush and beautiful place in the foothills of the himalayas. When the British lived in India they called this part of the world the Scotland of the East. I returned to Canada and eventually the states but my youngest brother Jim who was born there went back home, married a local girl and now leads adventure tours in Meghalaya. He scouts for documentaries and guides journalists and photographers into isolated areas. He walks travelers through sacred forests, sends them on elephant safaris and down the Brahmaputra river in dugout canoes but this time he found a real surprise.

Jim had written me about an unusual find known only to the local villagers. In this remote part of the Garo Hills he found, well....a field of penises.

Giant, hard, reaching to heaven, stone phallic rocks.

Field trip anyone?

Post Ophelia update

I was in the middle of a hurricane post at 5:15 yesterday P.M. when the power went out. We had about 18 straight hours of 70+ mph winds and the power came back on about 4:15. The generator kept the freezers running saving the precious seafood we've gathered for the past year. I had a large T-Bone steak late last night cooked on the gas grill and read the paper by candlelight. Back tonight with a full post.

Back porch carnage Posted by Picasa

Back porch took a beating Posted by Picasa

Ex-Back porch ceiling fan Posted by Picasa

Front porch redux Posted by Picasa

Bent over tree Posted by Picasa

Lovely southern front porch Posted by Picasa

Blown down insulation or perhaps Big Bird exploded Posted by Picasa