Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gone Fishing

I know I've been gone for a while and I feel slightly guilty. But it was getting to the point of having to chose between spending the few spare moments in a day here in front of another computer after having spent the whole day in front of one at work or spending a few moments with my five year old doing things like going fishing for the first time for both of us or spending time with my friends playing Fantasy Football (more on that some other time) or just kicking back and watching lots of football and baseball on TV. Anyway .... baseball is finished and my beloved Philadelphia Eagles are screwing up another season that seemed promising at the start.

Lots of interesting things have been going on the past few weeks in the political arena. We've had one scandal after another revealed, exposed, exploited and probably after mid-term elections, all will be forgotten. It is of course election season again and both the Republicans and Democrats are are doing their level best to not have a serious discussion on the issues of the day... war, health insurance, education, etc. What does one do in an environment where our leaders fail us at every opportunity to show leadership? My suggestion... Go fishing.

Right up front I want to admit that I am no angler. A few weeks ago my son and I went fishing for the first time ever for the both of us. I don't know exactly where he got the idea from. Maybe it was from something he saw on Animal Planet, or Sponge bob. We have a little goldfish and koi pond in our backyard which I built a few years ago to kind of encourage him to appreciate nature and because I like to complicate my life to the point where I have more projects to tend to than I have time to handle them. Sometimes my neighbors younger son comes over with his friends and asks if they can catch fish in my pond with little nets and put them back. Maybe Neil got the idea from them. Well he had mentioned fishing before, but on this particularly beautiful autumn day, knowing that dad had the day off, he goes "Dad can we please, please, please, go fishing today? HOW COULD I SAY NO? He jumped triumphantly when I said yes and ran off to morning Kindergarten.

So the Republicans are worried about the coming storms on Nov. 7th. Will the fading fortunes of an ill conceived foreign policy, a scandal ridden Congress, and an out of touch and seemingly uninterested president finally, finally do in the Grand Old Party. Or will the Democrats once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by overplaying the gifts that the Republicans have been giving them lately, turning off the electorate by overtly drooling like a hungry pit-bull coming face to face with an unlucky thief.

I often find myself getting obsessed with all this stuff; I'll watch the Sunday morning shows like Meet the Press; on weekdays it's Hardball with Chris Matthews or The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer; often I will even force myself into Bill O'Reilly's No Spin Zone and watch Sean Hannity on Fox even though I despise him because his dishonesty is so blatant - all in the name of being informed and wanting to believe that I am open to all honest discourse. Although I do not let on, I find myself getting annoyed at friends at work who come to me for the Readers Digest version of the news and current events because I wish they would care more to be concerned about the challenges of the day.

.... Grandpa picked up the little one from KG like he does everyday while I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I pick up the little one after his Grandma has lovingly fed him his lunch and he and I set off to the "Pond Store". The pond store is actually a shop where I get supplies for our little fish pond. We buy plants, fish food, "good bacteria", snails, etc. from this place. The family that runs the place is very helpful and knowledgeable. In addition to all the spectacular aqua garden and waterfall displays to entice utopia seeking suburbanites like yours truly, they have a huge pond that they stock with fish just for novice fishermen like us. Neil could hardly hold back his excitement as we rented our fishing poles and collected our styrofoam cup filled with moist dirt within which were a couple of plump juicy purple worms. When he saw them, Neil let out a shriek, "Eeeeellll, that's gross, dad - (I had the same reaction when I heard about Congressman Foley hitting on Congressional Pages) - I'm not gonna touch them, you have to get them out". "Oh, no", I said, "this was your idea."

What slimy fat worms they were in that cup and I - who am more squeamish than I let on - had to break the worm in half and thread it onto a short metal hook. I did not want to seem a wimp to the folks helping us out and so I did the needful. Once the poor worm was pierced and gouged we cast the line into the water and waited. Unlike other sports, fishing is not about racing to the finish line or making points of any kind. It's a way to enjoy a great day and a breath of fresh air and most of all revel in the sounds of silence....

Silence is a virtue that John Kerry obviously does not posses. He is the gift that just keeps giving to Karl Rove and the conservative "nut-jobs" (Kerry's word) just waiting for him to open his pompous mouth. He tries to crack dumb jokes about Bush's intellect and ends up fumbling his words just as badly as Bush often does; except when Bush fumbles we shake our heads and laugh... when Kerry does it we cringe. He has yet to figure out that people don't respect high intellect in their politicians but clarity of thought and expression. How a decorated veteran like he is can put himself and his fellow party members in a defensive posture on patriotism repeatedly during wartime is beyond understanding.... And he is not even running for office.

And we wait....

We enjoy the sun...

"Dad, isn't this great dad? Just you and me going fishing?"

At moments like this I suddenly feel guilty for the fifty times a day I am yelling at the little guy for just being a five year old.

There is a wonderful breeze...

He losses patience a couple of times and we reel in the line thinking we have something and it just ends up being some drifting weeds.

Again, we cast away..... and wait...

....and lo and behold there is a tug and suddenly the fishing line is quickly unraveling. My little fisherman screams with excitement. He catches his first little sunny. He has a grin as wide as I have ever seen; the poor little fish writhes on the end of the line. We call over one of our helpers and he pulls out a pair of pliers to delicately pry the hook out of the fishes mouth.

The little one wants to hold the fish and Mr. Larry instructs him to wet his hands first. As the little creature slips into his hands he giggles and laughs and within a split second the little yellow sunny falls into the water near his feet and Mr. Larry pushes it out a little farther so it can swim away.

I remember reading an article once on the ethics of fishing. It was all about whether fish feel pain or have nerve endings in their mouths. I don't think there was any conclusive proof one way or the other.

My son is hooked. He agrees to pick up one of the worms in the styrofoam cup. With great guilt I shove the hook into it and again we cast away. Father and son caught three fish that day believe it or not. We let them all go. Unfortunately, the last one did not fare too well. The hook had gotten stuck in it's gills and Mr. Larry had to do some minor surgery to get it out. As we laid it back in the water it just lay there on its side, barely moving as the minor surface ripples carried it out of view. My little guy was a little sad but I convinced him it might still be okay. I told him it was just in shock.

As I write this, it is now 4:22 am in the morning - I got home from work at 3:00 am - and Neil got up soon after and gave me a hug and went back to sleep. Despite my wife's best efforts he will wake me up at 7:00 am before he brushes his teeth and eats his cereal and watches the same episode of The Last Airbender that he has seen a zillion times on Comcast On Demand. He will reluctantly rush off to the bus stop with my wife, but not before asking me for the umpteenth time whether he can have this toy or that toy for his birthday which is in 11 days.

I would not have my day begin any other way. Sleep is over-rated.

After they are gone my obsession will kick in again. First it will be the New York Times then The Washington Post. On the television will probably be CNBC or if I feel like entertainment than it will be on Fox News. Frankly, it is all entertainment. There is very little substance to the news today. Gone are the days when my dad and I would sit after dinner and watch John Chancellor on NBC News and he would give it to us straight. Today the networks do the thinking for us and most of us let them. One must now listen between the lines and after removing the various filters applied depending on the network, come to some conclusion about what is actually fact. Who wants to work that hard just to be informed. It is easier to remember the buzz words - liberal, conservative, cut your taxes, raise your taxes, stem cell research, killing embryos, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq... freedom, democracy, terrorists, ... they are weak on defense, ... no theeeey are just "STAY THE COURSE", etc......

Frankly, it does just make one want to go fishing...... doesn't it?

PS: If you actually got this far - then many thanks are in order for still hanging with me.