By Dave Anderson
Darkness falls so fast in October. I almost had to skip dinner to catch my tide. When I arrived at the beach, the wind had come up hard, forcing a change of plans. My phone buzzed impatiently, it was my buddy Keith—he was mowing pasta and giving me a report. He said that the whole area had been hot for bass—schoolies to the mid 30-inch class and a single 28-pounder. In addition there had been large albies and some bluefish mixed in. I drive by that beach every day after I drop my daughter off at school, but on this day I kept the blinders on so I could tend to things at home. While the fish blitzed, I was at home picking up around the house, doing the dishes and working on writing and editing deadlines. Being responsible sucks.
I told him I was sitting on the corner of the beach in my wetsuit at that very moment—I heard the rhythm of his chewing increase as he spoke—I pictured a wig of spaghetti hanging from his mouth as he choked out his words, “I can be there in 30 minutes,” he gulped punctuated with a hard swallow.
I agreed to wait for him.
The beach was deserted. Just one month prior there would be cars lining this little strip of prime public real estate—couples enjoying wine on a blanket, fogged windows of college kids ditching their roomates for a quickie. The ocean breathes life into anyone that stops to receive it—many stop without realizing why. This night felt cold and blue. I stepped out of the car and listened to the wind playing an eerie tune through my braid and leader—the rod racked on my roof. I looked into the last vestiges of sunset, the trees, the beach houses, the telephone poles all in silhouette—black, brown, blue—the occasional steady eyes of a passing car. I snuck a quick leak before zipping up my wetsuit. As much as I grit my teeth over navigating the grocery store when the ‘summer people’ are in town, the loneliness of the nights after Columbus Day do bring on feelings of melancholy—not because I miss seeing 40- and 50-something women who think a mesh shirt over a bikini that begs for youth is suitable attire for the deli counter, it’s because I know what comes after this.
My fall striper season has been dismal. Before hurricane Jose barreled past it had been good and the Canal had been hot enough to keep everyone else glued to the easy fishing. Since then, there had been repeated skunkings, slow nights and (probably too much) worrying about the season passing me by.
Keith arrived and we walked to our spot—he was rattling through the blow-by-blow of the daytime fishing, a mix of sea herring and peanut bunker fueling the fire, supposedly bigger splashes out of reach. As we toed the edge of waves, Keith laughed and said, “Welp, ready for another skunking!?”
To make a long story short, we did pull a skunk in one of the highest-probability spots that I know. Mid-October on the night of the new moon… ouch. On the way out I said, “Man, I used think I was pretty good at this!” Where did all those fish from the daytime go?
It was early enough that I felt like I could hit another spot and still be present as a father and all around person the next day. My mind began working through the reports from Keith’s daytime exploits. The fish had moved steadily west throughout the day—staying with the bait. There were several logical stopping points to the west; I picked the one that seemed like the approximate middle.
And after a short walk, there were fish, from the first cast through the fourth hour of the tide. Needlefish crawled through the shallow break drawing strikes. None of the fish were impressive, but a few in the mid-teens came out of what seemed like a sea of shorts. Other times I might have moved after a half-dozen schoolies, but I was hoping that the building sea would draw in a few bigger fish, it didn’t. My meager success still served to ballast my listing confidence and instinct; I had been right about their movements. Hopefully the next push will bring something bigger.
By Dave Anderson
My daughter is 18 months old and, as any dad with a surfcasting addiction should do, I take her to the beach every chance I get—which translates to pretty much every day. A couple weeks ago we were out running errands and I thought we should swing by a beach that overlooks one of my favorite sets of rocks—she could play in the sand and I could hang from the eyepieces of my binoculars looking for signs of life.
I was hungry and I could tell that she was too. The stash of Goldfish in the diaper bag had been exhausted, so I stopped at a local bakery to look for something we could share. I settled on a cinnamon bun that seemed to be calling me from the street. We hit the beach, spread out a blanket and shared that twisted miracle of dough, butter and cinnamon—it was the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had. Hands down; and I’ve had many. I didn’t see any signs of life but Lila kept me entertained by repeatedly trying to pet seagulls—attempting to call them over like you might call a cat. It was a good day.
A few days later it was Friday and I called my fishing partner, Dave Daluz, to weigh the options for the night ahead; should we fish early in the night and hit spots A and B or should we head out around 4 a.m. and hit spot C? We elected to do the morning thing. To make the details of a very slow trip less boring; I dropped a good fish in the dark and Dave caught a 30-incher about 80 minutes after sunrise. The minutes before and after were sprinkled with rapid plug changes, glances across the point at one another, silent cursing of various boats coming too close and endless minutes of ‘in head’ wondering and self-flagellation about what our fate might have been had we elected to fish the night tide instead.
Mercilessly, one of us declared that he was going home and the other made the requisite “last cast” and followed closely behind. As we were walking out my mind wandered to that cinnamon roll. I know Dave likes quality baked goods as much as I do; he should know about these! Food is one of our top five subjects of conversation when driving long distances—the others being fishing, adolescent stupidity, present day stupid people and Kate Upton—not mentioning these cinnamon buns seemed like a violation of the bro code.
I should add that in the intervening days I had been back to the bakery no less than three times and each time they hadn’t made the cinnamon rolls! This had built up quite a jonze. This had also given me the chance to get a feel for the place; it was run by a group of college age girls, there were rarely any people in there and, I don’t know, maybe I’m overthinking things, but… well you’ll see.
I headed straight for the bakery on my way home, I half-expected Dave to follow, but he was nowhere to be seen. I was still in my wetsuit and I had a moment of mind-stutter when I thought about walking in there as their only customer, wearing a wetsuit. I didn’t want to make these girls uneasy. Might they think that I thought I looked good (Hey ladies, yeah I fish in a wetsuit…) or tough (Check out the pipes…) or maybe that I was trying to show off my 35-year old ‘dad’ physique to a bunch of college girls on a Saturday morning (Who needs help with their homework…)? For the record, none of those things are my strong points; and I am well aware of, and at peace with, these facts. In the middle of the night I’ll walk into almost any place with my wetsuit on, but for some reason, this place at 8 a.m. on a sunny day, made me stop.
So, I reached over and grabbed a pair of gym shorts, my worst pair too. You know the ones… the pair with the worn out elastic, paint smears on both legs, the pair you have to tie so tightly that the waistband looks like a diaper leg when you’re done tying a knot that you wish you had a third hand to properly cinch, the pair with at least one ‘mystery stain’ that you really don’t want to remember… yeah. I don’t know what made me think this was better, but I put these horrible shorts on OVER my wetsuit and wore them into the bakery.
The absurdity hit me when I was about two steps away from the car, but now I was out there (Jerry) and now I had to own this. I prayed that Dave would not show up, I caught of glimpse of myself in a window reflection and I had to grit my teeth to keep myself from bursting out laughing. Then I heard it--beep beep--it was Dave, F! I HAD TO OWN THIS. I turned with a straight face and gave a short nod and a nonchalant wave, like nothing was odd, like I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, like I always wear terrible ‘swishy’ shorts over my wetsuit into public places. I would normally wait for him, but I quickstepped through the doors; owning it like a boss!
The girls were all down in the kitchen and I didn’t see any cinnamon rolls on the counter. There’s a partition that’s close to five feet high separating the work area from the retail space. I walked over and asked one of them if they had the cinnamon buns, they didn’t. As I surveyed the area it became apparent that, because of said partition, they couldn’t see much below my neck anyway… I could have walked in there wearing a t-shirt and a gym sock and they wouldn’t have been any the wiser. I walked toward the door laughing at myself and then I remembered that Dave was waiting outside. Shit!
Owning it while walking toward the truck was not going to be as easy—there would be no opportunities to pull myself together between looks. He was on the phone, probably telling his wife about my self-induced wardrobe malfunction—(in hindsight, I’m just glad he wasn’t taking video!) But despite his broadcasted play-by-play of my humiliation, the fact that he was socially engaged might offer me the opportunity to get out of there without too much interaction! I looked down to gain my composure and then looked straight at him, I made a matter-of-fact face while shaking my head and giving the ‘thumbs down’. His window was cracked open so I just said robotically, “No cinnamon buns” and tried to dash into my car. I felt like I had dodged the humiliation… I really HAD owned it! But then I looked back to see his automatic window creaking slowly open, in this instance it was like a principal’s curled index finger beckoning after you THOUGHT you got away with something.
I did NOT want to roll my window down, but I did. In my last attempt to slide out from under the embarrassment, I spoke up first and authoritatively, hoping to drown out any blossoming sarcastic remarks, “Ahhh, sorry man, no cinnamon buns today…” I turned toward the wheel and fished my phone out of my terrible shorts—just to have SOMETHING to make me look occupied.
I wasn’t getting off that easy.
He rode over my little charade like an M-4 Sherman tank, like he didn’t even hear it—I might as well have said nothing. “That is one badass outfit you’re wearing…” he said with a smile and a heavy chuckle.
For a split second I rushed to come up with something to defend myself but I just sputtered and then closed my eyes and shook my head… I no longer owned it, I never owned it, I had been outted and there was NO dignified slant play I could run to save face. I felt a Stimpy smile unfurl as my stupid mouth hung open in surrendered embarrassment. I tried to explain about the girls and the superhero spandex suit… he wasn’t having it. Without speaking any words, my face said, “Listen, I know l look like an idiot, I know this was a terrible idea and I know that these shorts should have been burned in 2006…” then my face morphed into a look that begged for mercy. Which, as any good friend would, he gave me after one last smirking head shake, a wide laughing smile and then a few short seconds of additional laughter.
I deserved it.
I laughed the whole way home. What else could I do?
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