Thursday, April 9, 2020

Old Man at the Pond

I drove down to Salem County, New Jersey the other day to take the family fishing. We drove by farms and desolate roads and empty strip malls, and it felt like there was a pall hanging over the land, like after something really bad happened or maybe it was thirty years ago when there weren't so many people living around there. 

I was looking for a place where nobody else was, a place where I didn’t have to be around other humans that may just be sick or hell, just folks in general. I have had enough of folks in general. It’s mostly like that for me. 

We found a state game land pond where we could fish. I fished for a while, but we ran out of line after I had to cut mine one too many times, so I worked on some boxing stuff with my 8-year-old and enjoyed being out in the country.

An old Chevrolet truck pulled up , and of course I was dreading it, somebody pulling up and me having to tell them to stay away. But I still waved, it’s what you do in the country and then I saw it was an older gentleman getting out. He pulled up, but he was still far away enough that he wasn't gonna get any of us sick if he had the dreaded virus that has paralyzed the world.

How’s it going?

Oh, it’s going ok. 

I asked him if he had fished here before and if there were any fish in the pond and what baits he usually used. My older son was fishing with a spinner bait and the old man offered him some minnows out of his bucket that he had on the bed of his truck. Ah, that’s ok, I said, thinking that my son would get sick if he went over there. And the old man said, look, I will open the bucket and stand over here away from you if you want some minnows. And my son got a minnow and said thank you and started fishing with it.

And I thought what a shame that it has come to this, where you can’t shake another man's hand or get a few minnows out of a bucket without worrying about catching the plague. 

And we kept talking. About dogs and training dogs and just how great dogs where to have in the family. He talked about when he was young and how he'd been in the Marines in the 1970's during  the Vietnam era but didn’t have to go over there, and how lucky he was that he didn’t. But he talked about his friends coming back from Vietnam and getting spit on and how messed up it all was back then, just a bunch of kids doing what they needed to do for their country and not understanding why folks hated them for doing what they were called to do.

He started talking about he and his wife just getting back from Mexico and not being able to find weed anywhere in Mexico but that he could find plenty when he and his wife went to Jamaica and that hell, he wasn't ashamed to admit that he smoked weed. And he told me that dammit, he couldn't find Miller High Life anywhere in any foreign place that he visited. 

He really liked beer, he said.

And he asked if I wanted a beer.

I said no because you may have the virus and then you’d  give it to me and then I'll be really sorry that I got everyone sick just over the fact that I had to have a beer.

But I really wanted one, because there is something about sharing a beer with a stranger , like breaking bread of sorts , and everyone sort of relaxes and starts talking about everything.

I didn’t get a beer from him.

But I searched around the back seat of the truck and found an old semi warm Budweiser and drank that while we talked some more.

He talked about his son being a county police officer in Maryland and how his daughter had all the smarts in the world but she had never really applied herself and now she had a job that she really didn’t like and he seemed disappointed about his daughter but plenty proud of his son , who just made Sergeant down in Maryland.

We agreed about the gun grabbers not understanding just what it was like to shoot and to have a tradition of the hunting and the outdoors and why New Jersey laws are straight out of some communist manifesto , and just why are the laws made by know-nothing politicians up north in Newark and Jersey City. Damn you, North Jersey.

After a while, I felt like it was time to go. I knew we were in his favorite fishing spot and we had been there long enough. It was his turn.

We wished each other luck with this whole thing, and I was not quite sure what the feeling was that I had inside of me as we pulled away and waved to the old man. 

Maybe I was feeling that things that I really loved to do, like talking to someone that I just met and telling stories over a beer or two or casting a line into a pond with a stranger would just always feel a little different to me. Like there would always be this hesitancy about getting too close to someone.

 I  guess that I was feeling closed in, and  I know that I was feeling a little lost and plenty sad. There was something foreboding about this day and there was something that just felt off. The ride home was pretty quiet, maybe my family was feeling it also. It was just different, just very different. 

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.