Old Lobster Season post

This is a post from my old blog. I hope you enjoy.

(Abuelo’s Boat, the Maryluti)

Back in the late eighties and early nineties (up to August 24, 1992 and Hurricane Andrew), my family travelled down to Florida Keys regularly. With RVs and boats hitched to our vans and trucks, we descended upon a little RV park just south of Marathon called Sunshine Key. Our largest contingent included five or six RVs, at least four boats, and a small army of cousins. We slotted our trailers in amongst the others and dropped the boats in the marina. Three to ten days at a time, my family coasted the waterways fishing, snorkeling, tanning, laughing and lobstering.

(Us kids playing beside an open flame,
that’s good parenting.)

Sunshine Key was a second home. Should the sound of tires slowly cruising over gravel reach my ears, I am immediately taken back to that place. The playground, ice cream window, and marina all have permanent etchings in my memory. The smell of fish and mosquito spray blanketed the camp grounds, and the echoing sound of laughter careened off every nearby trailer. For a ten year old boy, it was paradise. Days consisted of boat rides, beachcombing, and bumming about. The evenings were filled with barbeque, Manhunt, and card games. Too much fun to tell the full tales of. However, one of our regular escapades, come the last week of July and late in the first week of August, was lobstering.

While most people enjoy eating good lobster, and I count myself among those people now, back then the best part of lobster was the catch. I truly enjoyed snorkeling, but trolling for lobster by towing behind on a rope with your mask in the water was incredible. Occasionally, we’d drop lobster traps and buoy-markers, but mostly we trolled, scanning the ocean floor for Coral and other larger rock formations the crustaceans used as hideouts.

(trolling for lobster)

Should I spot lobster, I’d release from the line and swim back to the spot. My father would angle the boat around and he or my uncle would join me in the water. I usually carried the Tickle Stick, which doubled as a lightsaber or dueling sword on dry ground, and Dad or my uncle would carry the lobster net. We’d swim down to the crusty critter and once the net was positioned behind, I’d give the little guy a tap on the forehead. Instinct had the animal flash back into the net. Then we’d haul it up to the surface for a measurement.

(Dad, Anna, & Uncle Danny
with a lobster.)

I can’t remember any single moment lobstering, just a general fondness. However, there are plenty of moments I do remember, not the least of which was my mother becoming the second person in the History of the Universe to Walk on Water.

My family and I were on our boat, not far off the Seven Mile Bridge, doing some snorkeling. My father was at the helm with my youngest brother Nicky, who couldn’t have been much more than four years old at this point, in his lap. Chris (my other brother), Mom and I were all in the crystal clear water just having a good time. After a while, Chris and I returned to the boat. It was at this point when the four year old Nicky leaned over the edge of the boat, pointed into the clear water, and screamed: “Big fishy!”

Treading water not twenty feet from the boat’s aft ladder, my mother’s head bobbed up, face swallowed in an oversized mask. Chris reiterated Nicky’s claim with one clarification: “Shark!”

(Mom in a mask and me behind)

To this day some twenty years later, I have never seen a human being move so quickly. My mother closed the twenty foot gap to the aft ladder in the blink of an eye, leaving a cartoonish trail in her wake. My father peered over the edge and identified the fish as a Nurse Shark, a bottom feeder my mother had nothing to fear from, but she was already wrapped tightly in a towel, sitting on the in-board engine cover and checking to see if all of her toes were still attached.

I doubt it was on that ride home, but on many of the cruisings we took in and around Marathon and Big Pine Key, dolphins raced our little in-board Renken craft, and a massive Ray coursed beneath us, its wingspan visible off both the stern and starboard sides of the boat. We had great times down in the Keys, like when my cousin Anna decided to throw her fishing pole in the ocean rather than deal with the eel that was slithering up the line out of the water.

Hurricane Andrew stopped our vacations down in the Keys, but it’s these salt-soaked memories I cherish and hope to provide to my own children one day. My wife and I recently took a trip to Marathon for our fifth wedding anniversary and on a day-trip down to Key West, I pointed out old Sunshine Key. It’s not named that anymore, but it is for me. For now, Lobster season goes on without us, but who knows, maybe in the future, my family will once again descend upon the Keys and make new memories and snag a few more tasty lobster tails.

They’re Calling Again

These days, I don’t answer the phone all that much. It’s one of the benefits to moving back into your parents’ house. About six months ago, my wife and I decided to move into my parents’ house and rent out our apartment in an effort to save enough to get into a house of our own. The original plan, when we bought our condo, was to put the equity earned in the sale of that place into a down payment for a larger house down the road. Seemed like a good idea, until the bottom dropped out of the housing market.

The issue of buying and renting and the market in general can get complicated with terms like foreclosure, short-sale, and upside down morgage. Luckily for me, my father-in-law is a very good real estate agent and he kept us up to speed on any and all issues concerning our efforts to land our “starter” house. He presented us with both sides of the issues, the proverbial pros and cons, and gave us all the data we would need to make as educated a decision as possible. After months of consideration, we elected to move out of our family’s first home, and try to procure as much as we could by renting the property.

I’ve always been blessed, and thank God every day for my family. They’ve always supported me in all my efforts, from playing sports growing up, struggling through college, and aspiring to be a writer, to raising my own family. After settling back into my parents’ home, and finally getting our place rented (despite the tryannical efforts of the ironfisted Association From Hell), we’ve drafted a new plan. Our hope is to land our starter house at some point early in 2012, and be all settled in just in time for the Mayan Doomsday.

As I said when I started the post, I don’t answer the phone much anymore. Before we moved from our place, the flood of phone calls from Bill Collectors, Telemarketers, and Campaign Advertisers was such that the mere sound of the phone ringing was a shrill, damnable sound that roused nothing but ire and resentment. See, those collectors weren’t after us. They were after any number of other people, and the callers (when it was actually a human being on the otherside of the line) had a hard time believing their prey did not live at our number.

For months we explained to the Collectors that the people they were looking for did not live with us, and if they could please be so kind as to remove our number from their list. That would work for about a day. Then, sure enough, the phone would ring in search of the same small group of people who all seemed to have shared our phone number at one point in time. After our repeatedly futile attempts bore no fruit, we elected to cancel our home phone service. Best decision we could’ve made.

Below, you’ll find a poem I drafted while in the midst of the Biblical rain of Collectors’ calls. The poem was written in an effort to mimic the style of Billy Collins, though it obviously doesn’t get anywhere near his mastery of imagery and language. I hope you enjoy.

They’re Calling Again
The phone rings.
They’re calling again.
            Telemarketers and Automated Bill Collectors.
Looking for Ernesto Vargas or Maria Hernandez, or some other defaulted borrower who isn’t
I’d love to tell them they had the wrong number,
But that’s not a push-button option.
They’re calling again.
For Ernesto.
I rip the base from the wall because,
            As I answered the phone hoping to berate some lonely operator,
            My coffee cooled too much.
Not an undrinkable cool,
            But now I can’t just sip and enjoy
            While I consider 20 Across and 13 Down.
They’re calling again.
They’ve misplaced Mr. Vargas
And he’s charged a 30-foot inflatable Iceberg for his pool.
My calm wrecks against iceberg.
Reason and Rationality race for the lifeboats.
The band plays on.
            A song by Rage Against the Machine.
I need to tell them they have the wrong number,
But apparently,
If I stay on the line,
I’m acknowledging that I’m now Mr. Vargas, or Mrs. Hernandez,
And the interest on my soul is past due.
They’re calling again.
This is torture, Hades, 2.0.
No longer is Sisyphus pushing his bolder up the hill.
            Now, he pushes Timeshares in Orlando, but no one’s buying.
Even Tantalus can get a sip,
            But with his headset on, he takes his water with whiskey
            Because the sales quota will never be met.
The Furies screech from cubicles,
            Twirling phone cords and gnashing bubblegum
            Through nicotine-stained teeth.
They’re calling again.
Maybe I am Ernesto, or Maria,
I’ll cancel my service.