Good ol’ days

Nude Banzai

Posted on October 20, 2008. Filed under: Everything you wanted to know about doctors, Good ol' days, Personal philosophy |

Today’s post is a chapter from my not-yet-published book, Chasing a Light Beam. If you actually read it, please let me have your criticism.



Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. 

                                                                                                        -Henry David Thoreau                                              


The man shifted a little in his chair. He thumped the edge of the crystal martini glass; it made a musical tone. With his foot propped, he could stay comfortable like this for quite a while.

I was single again, and I called my cousin Punky in Jacksonville to see if he wanted to go on a guy-trip. He was nine years younger and had no wife to convince. I knew his dad way before he did. Big Punky wasn’t a blood relative, but after Mom moved us to Jacksonville, he was the closest thing I had to a father. Just like Daddy, he liked to fish, and he liked to take me along.

Big Punky was the one who taught me to catch sheepshead with fiddlers. The first thing you had to do was find a bank on a tidal river when the tide was out. The fiddler crabs would be cruisin’ around on the mud and oyster shells in droves, each waving his larger claw. If they saw you coming, they’d crab-walk faster than a light beam – that’s not really possible, like I said in the beginning, but whatever – back to their burrows and disappear. You had to sneak up on them, and you had to get between them and their holes. Then you ran out with a bucket and used your free hand to scoop up as many as you could. You grabbed them, and they grabbed you, but it wasn’t true pain. Most of them would get away, but if you were good at it, several dozen would go in the bucket. As to the actual fishing, I never understood how sheepshead could use those human-looking teeth to get the meat out of a fiddler shell without sending any vibrations at all up the line. At least, that’s the way it seemed to me; Big Punky could feel the slightest twitch, and we usually came home with plenty to eat.

Punky was only six when his father died. When he was older, he’d get me to tell him about the times I spent with his dad. His favorite was the day Daddy took Big Punky and me to a little lake in the Ocala National Forest. We were after largemouth bass, and the bait was wild shiners, hooked through the lips. Daddy had a flat-bottomed plywood boat with a three-horse Champion outboard. We trolled the shiners behind the boat, slow enough to let them swim. One line was out each side, and Daddy’s line was out the back. When the bass would hit, the click on the reel would scream. You’d count to ten, and then jerk, to set the hook. The limit was eight bass in those days, and there was no such thing as catch-and-release; it was catch-and-eat. We caught twenty-four bass that afternoon. Big Punky had one that went nine pounds, two ounces, and another that weighed eight pounds, fifteen ounces. I know that, because Daddy always stopped at a little roadside store on the way home to weigh any “lunkers” on their certified meat scales. ‘Til the day he died, Big Punky said that was the greatest fishing trip of his life.

I figured Punky might like to try to find that pond with me; he’d never been there. When Daddy was alive, he tried to keep that fishin’ hole a secret; you could drive right by it on the two-rut forest road, and never know it was there. His effort succeeded until the day he took the preacher of the First Baptist Church out for a chance at a big bass. He made him swear to secrecy, and the preacher caught an eight-pounder. The next time Daddy went there, the preacher and two other boatloads were on the lake. It wasn’t a secret after that.


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Out of my league

Posted on October 14, 2008. Filed under: Book excerpt, Good ol' days, Self-deception |


The students at Park Shore Junior High came from “feeder” elementary schools, back in the days when no one went to private schools, and you lived where you learned. I didn’t have much experience with kids from the “haves” neighborhoods; I was a “have-not”. I don’t mean I was homeless or raised by beggars, but I didn’t know anyone with an air-conditioned car or wall-to-wall carpets. It didn’t take long to learn that the “haves” ran the school, but there were more of us than there were of them. The have-nots were just waiting to be inspired, a la Victor Hugo. I played on the chronic disgust and unmitigated jealousy they had for those to whom things came easily, and I got myself elected freshman class president. And editor of the newspaper, a position that kept my name before the masses. And “Best Citizen”. But I was short. Really short. Shorter than any of the girls. And I only had about three pubic hairs; actually, it was exactly three, as I knew from careful and frequent inspection.

The freshman prom was the biggest social event of the year, and I didn’t have a date. About two weeks before the dance, after an intense internal battle between lust and sensibility, bad judgment stepped in. I cornered Leslie Batson by the book lockers and blurted in a pubescent voice that squeaked on the word “prom”, “Will you go to the prom with me?” 

Leslie was the head cheerleader, a big-time “have”, and a fifteen-year-old goddess. She was in several of my classes, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know her. I had even talked to her from time to time. As I waited for her response, I wish I could tell you that she went all gaa-gaa and gushed, “I’d love to!” Hell, I wish I could even tell you she said, “No.” But the truth is, she didn’t dignify me with any verbal reply at all. Her head just sort of fell back in an act of incredulity, her blond ponytail waggled in the space between her shoulder blades, her blue eyes squinted tightly, her mouth opened and her iridescent lips turned upward at the corners as she began laughing. Her orthodontic appliances sparkled as she shook. Her maroon and white cheerleader outfit emphasized the vastness of what I’ve come to know as the “time-space dimension” that separated us, and the “Warriors” logo emblazoned across her chest bounced on her never-to-be-seen-by-me teenage breasts with each guffaw. True, she never did actually say she wouldn’t go with me, but as she walked away with her “have” friends, the pleats in her short skirt bouncing back and forth across her society derriere, I got the feeling she wouldn’t. In point of fact, she clichéd the event by going with the football quarterback, who later played for the Atlanta Falcons. 

It is some comfort that the quarterback eventually became a unemployed druggie. But it would be more comfort if she had married him.


NOTE: this is a modified excerpt from Chasing a Light Beam, a late-draft short novel about one man’s reaction to the discovery of quantum reality.

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Ray, where are you, now that we need you?

Posted on August 22, 2008. Filed under: Good ol' days |

Today, I learned of the death of my public high school’s “Dean of Boys”, Ray Stasco.  It marks the passing of an era in America, in several ways. Members of “Generation Y” might not be able to conceive of the role Stasco played when I was in school. Our innovative principal was a former football coach, Billy Parker. Mr. Parker had such a successful record with motivational techniques that the county school board allowed him great leeway in his management of our school, which had been in existence only two years at the time of my matriculation. There was no public-school racial integration in those days, so racial conflict was not an issue on campus. Guns also were not a problem. What there was, however, was an entity called “juvenile delinquent”, JD for short. Our school had more of these ne’er-do-wells than any other, at a time when students were assigned to the school in their own neighborhood. They had no desire to be in school in the first place; since the state allowed students to drop out voluntarily after completing the eighth grade, or reaching the age of sixteen, none of them expected to be there. So, why were they there? Almost without exception, it was a condition of their probation arrangement. (more…)

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