Fishing For eels…

Featured image

Jamestown Island, Rhode Island, with its quaint namesake village, is forever etched in my memory.  As a young boy, I fished its rocky shores and enjoyed its New England character, with my father and a friend.

From the town beach, we watched crowded car ferries, criss-crossing Narragansett Bay, on their round-trip passages to Newport.  Nearby, in a flat-bottom rowboat, a shirtless, muscular man dug his long handled basket into the sandy bottom, searching for the hard shell clams known to locals as Rhode Island ‘quahogs’, later to be sold at market.

In our small boat, we drifted with the tide, bobbing rhythmically in ocean swells.  Our time and effort in the heat of day were rewarded with catches of shimmering mackerel, flounder, and bottom feeding tautaug, a fighting fish with big lips and near human-like teeth. The ocean is a depository of strange looking specimens.

Wading into the foamy surf, our legs wrestled with ribbons of silky sea kelp.  Underfoot, docile horseshoe crabs, ancient creatures of the seas, scatterred in clouds of sand when nudged. Terns and gulls circled above, constantly searching for food, and sprays from salty ocean waves dried our skin.

The island’s eastern end, Beavertail, tapered into the Atlantic and was guarded by the sentinel Jamestown lighthouse, with its piercing horn and penetrating light.  From here, we saluted naval ships returning to base from their missions, asea.

Jamestown Island, with its sandy roads meandering through tall grasses to hideaway spots at the ocean’s edge, provided a plethera of adventures.  None was more fascinating than the night we discovered a small group of Portuguese men fishing for conger eels from a cliff high above a craggy shoreline. Their twin lanterns cast long shadows that blended into the darkness below, and the roar of the pounding surf accompanied their cheerful silence.

Like Pilgrims, we were welcomed into their circle of friendship and taught the skills to catch these ‘monster’ fish, a delicacy to the men.  It was a peaceful place to be at day’s end.  Fishing can do that, calm the soul and make friends of strangers.

Late into night, with lanterns extinguished, the stars twinkled to life, and we basked in the theatre of the sky.

Who would think eel fishing could be so romantic?

srbottch

Today, I Threw Like a Girl

Baseball

Recently, I read a story about a baseball player, a ‘pitcher’ who’s unique because he can pitch effectively with either his right or left hand.  A major league team plans to give him a tryout and I hope he makes it because I know how hard that is, throwing both left and right handed. 

As an adult, I’m doing some simple things to challenge myself, physically and mentally.  I dance, memorize poems, write short essays, or ‘musings’, as my sister calls them. My latest challenge is to throw a ball with my left hand. It’s not simple, I’m right handed.  The muscles on the left, as well as the whole body action, just don’t flow as smoothly as on my right. They’re not used to it. they haven’t learned it.  They don’t have a ‘memory’ of it, yet.

You could say that I ‘throw like a girl’, a common refrain when I was a kid.  “Hey, you throw like a girl!”, was the charge. “Yeah, well so’s your mother!”, came the retort, as I ran. I’m improving, though, as I study my right side motion and try to duplicate it on the left.   Yesterday, throwing leftie, I zipped a rock against a tree and gave myself a ‘high-five’.  Soon, I’ll be able to pat myself on the back using that hand. 

Isn’t it odd how we often ascribe certain characteristics, or abilities, to genders; ‘throw like a girl’, ‘walk like a man’?  I think I’ve always known this, but my throwing exercise has confirmed it: doing something correctly is a matter of how hard you practice, not necessarily a factor of gender. Today, I watched a girl’s college team practicing for the upcoming softball season. They were learning to throw to the ‘cutoff’ girl from the outfield. Wow, they were good!  And the pitcher, she ‘could throw that speedball by you’.**

Today, I threw like a girl..,and was proud of it!

srbottch

**Bruce Springsteen, ‘Glory Days’

‘Today, I Wore Blue Jeans’

Blue JeansToday’s attire mirrored yesterday’s, as most days do now; blue jeans, or dungarees, as they were called when I was a kid, are my standard fare, now. Tomorrow will be the same, blue jeans.

Life changes when you retire. ‘Dressing for success’ isn’t a priority, just dressing is.  Casual Friday becomes casual week. Dress slacks, shirt and tie are the exception, jeans, the norm.  Sneakers are the new wingtips.

I can’t say that life in general becomes easier, but certainly picking out my daily wardrobe does.  Interestingly, there are just as many pants hanging in my closet now, but they’re mostly denim, not cuffed and pressed, but loose fitting to accommodate the slowly evolving physique of a slowly aging gentleman. 

The upper rack of my closet still holds too many dress shirts, but a keen eye reveals they’re not as pressed as they once were, when personal appearance was paramount.  And when they do need ironing, I’ll do it.  

Someone asked how many ties I have, now that I’m retired, and I realized it’s just as many as when I was working. But, strangely, I always seem to select the same two or three.  I should thin out my inventory, keeping the theme ones, of course. They’re always good for ‘ice-breakers’ at the Senior Center soirées. 

Retirement certainly has taken the edge off the regiment of daily routines.  A little bit of laziness has crept into my life.  It’s nice, I don’t worry about deadlines or quotas, customers or managers, or which suit to wear.  I don’t ‘take on the day’ anymore, I ‘partner’ with it.  ASAP and FYI are now replaced by YMCA and scratch-off tickets. 
I only pay heed to my world now. And it’s a small world. Dressing to impress isn’t a concern, just dressing is, as I keep reminding myself. And, blue jeans suffice.

By the way, when I do broaden my attire, Wednesday is senior discount day at my new favorite store, the Blue store of Goodwill Industries. Don’t you love helping others and getting a bargain at the same time?

Note to self: never be seen in mid-calf black socks, dress shoes and Burmuda shorts, even in Burmuda!

srbottch

Dedicated to all retirees who are kicking back, enjoying life and dressing down

A friend wrote: “…this is a true depiction…do not let this out the closet, it is history hanging on wires…”

Barney, A Eulogy (2005)

Barney_BlogOn April 7 (2005), our dog Barney was put to rest.  My wife and I said our last goodbyes to Barney, and while we’re saddened by our loss, we’re comforted by wonderful memories of good family times we had with him and iknowing that he enriched our lives by being our special pet.

We devoted more time to Barney the last few months doing activities we all enjoyed: long treks on favorite trails through the woods; walks around the Erie Canal; playing in the back yard.  We did as much as his stamina allowed, and he loved it.  He enjoyed being with us and we cherished his companionship and affection.

Barney was a friend to all.  He anticipated the mail carrier’s daily stop and biscuit treat.  Like a magnet, he drew the Helping Hands boy to the back of our van when groceries were being loaded.  He eagerly welcomed visitors to our house with an extended paw and a good sniffing.  The neighborhood kids enjoyed his willingness to be petted, the warmth and tenderness of his thick fur and strong body and the love behind an occasional kiss.  People learned not to be afraid of Barney and that his enthusiastic approaches were his way of saying,”C’mon, let’s touch!”

Barney would watch us through the window when we left and welcome us at the door upon our return.  He would wait in the car to meet our son and daughter at the airport on their trips home, and bound up the stairs into their bedrooms to see what was new in their bags.  He taught them to put away their clothes or risk having their undies dragged through the house.

Barney was a constant companion to my wife, keeping her in sight as she worked her garden, or following her from room to room.  At night, he lay at her bedside.  He loved being with her in the kitchen where the good treats and special smells were.  She would talk and Barney would listen.  The carrots, creamed spinach, broccoli and sliced bananas were but a few of his gourmet rewards.  My wife was Barney’s exerciser through the walks they took and the backyard games they played.

This summer, we’ll dedicate a concrete square to Barney’s memory.  It’ll be added to others in our backyard walkway as a remembrance.  It may take its place near our first dog’s marker.  And in a few words, the stone will attest to what a wonderful dog Barney was.  Or, it may say how he will always be remembered.  For me, he was the ‘King of All Dogs.’  I often reminded him of that.  And he was the King to the final moment of his precious life.

Barney scrambled in and out of our arms as a furry, energetic 6 week old puppy when we adopted him 11 years ago.  And he’ll be in our hearts for a lifetime.  We love you, Barney.  You were a great family dog.

SrBottch

Written 5/1/2005 and published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, “My Life, My Words”

I dedicate this story to all pet lovers and especially those who have experienced the sadness of losing one of their own special ‘friends’.

Jake the Dog, His Story

August 14 was a momentous day for me.  I received a reprieve on life, moved to a new home and was embraced with open arms and scratching behind my ears by my new adoptive owners.

Jake's Story

My name is Jake.  I’m a young adult dog with Great Dane and black Labrador bloodlines, which makes me both tall and handsome.  I’m big on kissing and loved to be hugged.  I’m well-trained.  I’m the real deal, the complete package.  All that my new owner has to do is feed, exercise and love me.  And they do, with gusto.  I’m a lucky dog, and I love my new digs.

It wasn’t always this pleasant.  I had a nice home until I was given up by my owners and moved to a new place in the city, where I was kept in a cage surrounded by a mishmash of barking, howling and whining dogs.  Soon, I found myself falling into the same behavior.  And talk about turnover.  It was difficult to make friends because the few dogs I could see didn’t stay long enough to get acquainted.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the barking, howling and whining was a call for help.  When my owners never returned, I knew that my days were probably numbered, too.  I needed to clear my head and come up with a plan.  I resolved to look smart and act friendly when visitors came by to pass judgment and make their selection as to which of us would go home with them and which would stay to keep barking, howling and whining.  I got lucky.

Now, I couldn’t be happier with my new owners.  They’re experienced dog lovers and even had teenagers at one time, so I know they’re capable.  We’re very happy with each other.  Yet, I’m sad when I think about what may have been the fate of the animals I left behind.

They say that a dog is a man’s best friend.  All of us surely can be if given the chance in a caring home.  I have that chance now and am making the best of it.  It would be nice to know that other like-minded pet owners-to-be will adopt a dog from a pound, too.  You’ll find the world’s greatest dog there.  My owners did.  And you’ll feel so good about saving the life of an animal, a new companion who will always be there to love you.

srbottch

Oct 16, 2005

Dedicated to all pet owners who love and care for their animals

Today, I Waved At an Airplane…Stuff My Sister ‘Taught’ Me

Today, I waved at an airplane, a ‘skill’ I learned as a kid from my benevolent sister.  She even described how they wave back, by tipping their wings. Really?

I followed my sister through school by four years and learned that it’s awkward following a sibling’s footsteps.  “You’re not like your sister”, teachers would say, and I wasn’t.  I was a bit more like my older brothers, not mischevious, but testing and challenging, wearing on teachers’ nerves and patience. My sister was, well, ‘precocious…’

I didn’t mind the comparison and was darn proud to have a smart sister who took me under her ‘wing’ and taught me to ‘wave at airplanes’.

Amazingly, I still enjoy doing it, discreetly, of course.  I think of myself as a ‘good will ambassador’ for my community, welcoming visitors on their arrivals, like a greeter at Disney World. 

The big unknown is whether or not passengers even see me. If they do, then they must be thankful for the salutation. If not, well, at least I tried.  

Waving at people is not without precedent. I recall a roadside waver on the Pennsylvania Turnpike who waved at motorists from his lawn chair for years.  Passersby responded by beeping. I like to believe if airplanes had horns, they would beep at me, too, because they sure as hell aren’t tipping wings. 

As I think back, I reluctantly realize that I may have been duped by my sister.  But all is forgiven. The joy of waving to people over many years, seen or unseen, has been uplifting. I like to think for them, as well, if they ever saw me. 

As crazy as it looks, I’ll continue being that ambassador, waving at and welcoming airplanes. Keep an eye out for me if you’re flying into Rochester some day. And, please, wave back or at least smile. The world needs more of both. 

srbottch

Dedicated to my sister and big sisters, everywhere. 


“Love In a Parking Lot”

It was a moment in time, in the open for all to see.  I saw it, love in a parking lot.  Others may have missed it, not me. And there was no mistaking what it was, love, pure and simple.

In an act of old-fashioned chivalry, a tall, sophisticated looking man tenderly draped his arm around the shoulders of his attractive companion, gently moving her closer to him. His comforting smile exuded confidence.  Her upward glance signaled approval, as though she, herself, had encouraged him.

They walked deliberately, amid a swarm of busy shoppers rushing to buy supplies before the storm, too consumed with Mother Nature, perhaps, to see it. But I saw it, the wonderful and rare public display of affection, love in a parking lot.

People are hurrying and scurrying, so focused on where they’re going or where they’ve been, that they often miss where they are.  Not me.  I’m always looking!  Life is full of wonderful moments, if we avail ourselves of the opportunity to see them.  Too often, in our haste, we miss the ‘theatre’ around us.

Not me. I enjoy watching people. My wife calls it ‘staring’, I call it ‘observing’.  I see the remarkable and unremarkable, the pleasant and unpleasant, the ordinary and not so ordinary.  I multitask with my eyes and ears, not passing the time so singularly focused that I miss life’s sometimes ‘bigger moments’, like love in a parking lot.

As for the ‘lovers’, I was not surprised to learn they were married 45 years. And this one moment of him protecting her from the icy wind by drawing her closer to his warmth, affirmed to me their mutual and enduring love.

I hope more people saw it, too, their love for each other, on display in a parking lot, because in a brief but poignant moment between two people, two lovers, I was uplifted.  It made me smile.

From time to time, if you’re looking, ‘observing’, you may be fortunate to witness true love, too, or some other special moment.  I’m always looking!

srbottch

Dedicated to those of us who are ‘always looking’ and for people in love, everywhere