Fishing in Public

by "Tackle Box" Billy Kelley

Don’t feed the seals

Hey folks! How ya doing?

I’m writing this in the midst of a heat wave. I can get relief from this torture by going to the ocean and being cooled by the seagoing breezes that are always present, but at some point I have to leave. Hope you guys got some solution also.

Makes me wonder too: Is this another facet of the global warming thing? I hope you folks out there do take it serious. You know, I do things around the house to conserve. Some of my habits may even seem laughable, but nothing’s funny about trying to save a bit of water. And I write these columns on recycled paper — ask my editor. [He does.] See, little things, but they do add up.

You know, I always seem to write about my fishing pals and me, ’cause I think it’s a team sport — not to catch a fish, but the sense of friendship and camaraderie. If you don’t get no fish, you can always frolic with your pals, joshing and joking and having a good ol’ time. But sometimes it’s really good to go by yourself. You get good, as they say, “quality time.” No distractions. No silly pals to interrupt your deep inner thoughts.

For me, the best time to fish alone is in the morning. Early in the morning the waterfront is a very nice place to be. It’s conducive to thinking. Between casts, you can’t help but reminisce, or think of the future, or, best, think of the present. I guess you’d call it escapism.

Believe it or not, I ponder things while I fish. The other day I decided to write my thinking down.

It was a very slow day. Fishing can be funny — one day tons, next day nones. But there was a reason it was so slow this time. I’m sitting there in my secret spot, jigging away in what’s usually one of the most productive sites, and I notice seals hovering around, looking at me, like, expecting something. And I hear a steady splashing up the wharf a bit. I investigate, and I’ll be damned: the bait workers are feeding the seals!

I’m amazed, in a way. First off, the seagulls are getting most of the fish they’re throwing. Second, bait is so darn expensive nowadays. How can they afford to be feeding seals? I won’t say where this happened, but I bet the boss would be ripping. I could lecture these folks about the wisdom of feeding wild animals, and how stupid it is, but I figure it’d be a waste of time. Just ask a second-grader.

So, plenty of time to think, and then I think of the shelter. Sometimes I have to pick up my pal Randy in that area, and after years of strolling by that place, I still can’t get over how they make me feel like an E.T. or something. And I always study their eyes. Sad eyes. It’s like you can somehow eerily detect the senselessness of their lives, how the only life they know is a life of hanging and waiting — waiting out their next meal, waiting for their ship to finally come in. I can’t come close to telling ’em their ship ain’t comin’ in. Jesus, please take me out and shoot me! There’s no way I could take the futility surrounding their lives.

Our fishing expeditions next take us through the heart of the business district. Boy, what a change! People are moving. Fast. And they mean biz, boy. No grass growing under their shoes, goddamn it. I guess that’s how you operate in their world. “Hey, that was a leveraged buyout.” “Well, I don’t know,” the other guy replies. “That last stock split was a real downer.” I guess those folks are waiting for a ship to come in too.

And then the Old Port. They ain’t waiting for no ship down there, unless it’s one of them nice cruise boats. Boy, the broads can make you jump down Exchange. It’s like, I’m comin’ through, outta my fuckin’ way! And they will steamroll you, fishin’ pole or not. And the equation is like, the more attractive, the more they expect to walk all over you.

Sometimes in these moments of slack I get an idea: step right on their fucking toes. Yeah right. I hear ya. Forty dollars to the bail commissioner.