“Tackle Box” Billy Kelley.

In praise of Tackle Box

I’m writing to acknowledge and, yes, honor Billy Kelley and his delightful column, Fishing in Public, in your very appreciated Bollard. Perhaps not unlike yourself, I consider Billy a very likable, endearing soul with just enough sarcasm, piss ’n’ vinegar, and life experience to keep me wanting to read more of his tales with each new publication.

I was fortunate enough to first meet Billy a few years back, on the No. 7 bus going to Falmouth. His column, I happily explained, was one I looked forward to each month, as it just about always made me laugh and seemed to help pick me up at just the right time. He laughingly said, “Please tell that to my boss!” To which I replied, “Well, maybe I will!” “Well, I wish you would!” he said.

And so … life happened and things got in the way and I didn’t write the letter. Years passed. Earlier this summer, I ran into Billy at Reny’s. I reminded him of the letter and told him how sorry I was that it was taking me so long to compose it. He seemed just as tickled as he was before that I’d be interested in writing about him. Then I saw Billy a third time, this time at the library, just the other day, and considered that a sign to get the letter sent.

Unfortunately, I was in a hurry that day. Billy was not. I don’t think that’s his nature anyway. He needed some help doing research on the Internet about sharks (the aquatic kind). Being in a hurry, and thus not quite as mindful as I could have been, I attempted to teach Billy how to use the computer, search for the etymology of the word shark, and get the damn printer to work — all in the frenzied span of 15 minutes. Billy, bewildered, with rain poncho adorably askance and askew, was thankful, I think. He walked away mumbling, “See ya around, kid,” as I wondered what the hell had just happened. Billy, to you I say I am so sorry for confounding you with my speedy computer tutelage! And if I may make it up to you, here, finally, is my letter:

Billy, thank you for your stories. They remind me of the ocean and waterfront you love so very much, with their ebb and flow of life, their salty seediness, their grit, fragility, personality and authenticity. Though somewhat diminutive (and I mean that with the utmost respect, as I am of the same stature!), you have a big heart for your readers, your waterfront, and life itself. You chat with us of everyday happenings, asking, “Hey folks, how’s tricks?” followed by, “I’m not too bad, I guess,” which makes me giggle and think, That’s so awesome that he begins his columns like that! You’re inclusive. You’re real. You care, Billy. You’re down-to-earth and you love the Earth — hydropower is an excellent, Earth-loving, righteous idea! You have a good soul and it comes out in your writing in a natural, unassuming way.

You’re also very, very funny, often laughing at yourself, which is totally cool and, I believe, a good perspective to have. Your wit and humor help this gal (and hopefully others) get through at least that one day that I grab my new Bollard and eagerly read your words, often laughing so hard I nearly piss myself. That laughter has helped turn scowls to smiles, melted melancholy, and helped me let out a sigh of great relief, knowing there’s always laughter in life and good to outweigh the not-so-good in the world.

You remind us that life is vulnerable, too, with your beloved waterfront, pier, ocean, its animals and people all experiencing the inevitableness of change. You write about Portland, and life, like it is.

So, thank you, editor/publisher Chris Busby, for your very appreciated and, I believe, necessary publication. And thank you, Billy, for reminding me, and all of us, just how important simplicity, honesty, humility, laughter, consciousness, and good, healthy communication are with respect to people, the creatures of the sea, land and air, and, most especially, our home planet. See ya around, kid.

Monique Michelle Raymond

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