“I don’t want to bother you much with what happened to me personally,” he began, showing in his remark the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what the audience would best like to hear…”

Where did that come from? I didn’t write it. I think it came from Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, and it came to me while I was listening to some trippy Jim Morison song about “walking down the hall.” I was still in the process of waking up, trying to shake off the vestiges of the previous night with cup after cup of espresso. I was crotchety as ever, feeling like my head was still in a fog.  I had a vague recollection of my youngest daughter being overjoyed that we were going to go sightseeing on the water, and that I had said “yes.” I later realized that it implied boarding a boat. 

Normally, I try to avoid boats. It is not that I don’t like seeing the water, feeling the wind and sun, but I have too many memories of getting seasick. The first time it happened I must have been around ten years old. My mother took my older brother and me deep sea fishing in Florida during one of our family vacations.  When we heard the news, we imagined that we would be on a high-speed, state of the art, sport-fishing boat, complete with a big-game fighting chair.  We had a big breakfast of cereal and toast and headed to the pier. When we arrived at the dock, we found that we found ourselves in the midst of herd of tourists who were dreaming of the big catch. Instead of a yacht, however, the vessel was an ancient rust-bucket with a three-tiered railing all the way around so that even the little ones could fish.

Like most of my other fishing trips with my grandfather, it was excruciatingly boring. Sitting in the hot sun, waiting for something to happen is not my idea of a good time. I don’t have the innate gambler mentality that allows me to enjoy spending hour on end waiting for the big one. When we reached a so-called hot spot, each fisherman was outfitted with a rods and reels and was told to line up along the railing and let the line hit the bottom.  The first several hours were fine, but things took a turn for the worst when the wind picked up and the waves grew choppy. Bouncing up and down and from side to side is fun for a while, but soon after passengers began to get nauseous.  The captain announced that if anyone felt sick, he should lean over the bottom rail, the one closest to the floor.  However, these instructions don’t make much sense until you have lived through the experience and have seen the horror. When my brother finally tossed his cookies, he simply ran to the top rail, stood on his tiptoes, leaned over, and let it fly.  The problem was that the wind caught the vomit in mid flight, and flung my brother’s atomized Rice Crispies and stomach bile right on to the man standing next to him.

From that day on, I have refused to go deep sea fishing, and I’ve kept my word. So why was I doing on a boat again? Our plan was to track the annual migration of whales that ran along the coast of Mexico. Thousands of blue, gray and humpback whales migrated from the cooler waters in South America, up the Mexican coast toward Alaska, in search of food, better climates and breading grounds. We didn’t know if we would have any luck because it was late in the season. The high point is February and we were already in March. My youngest daughter was pessimistic, but the deal was too good to miss.  My wife, the only person I know who can claim to have saved money after purchasing something, struck up a conversation with the hotel staff the previous night and found out that one family had to cut short their vacation after reserving the hotel’s yacht. As it turns out, the guest found out he was being indicted and he had to return home to face charges. His firm was helping companies set up businesses on paper. Then the parent company would take out loans and transferring the debt to the paper companies.  It is a cute practice, but it is illegal because it misrepresents what the parent company is really worth. He was also accused of forgery, stock fraud, money laundering in Panama and in the Cayman Islands. Nonetheless, he already paid the cost of the rental, and if we wanted the deal, all we had to do was pony up money for food and drink.

To be continued…

Cross-posted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=562

Gabacho– according to the Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy– is derived from an old Provençal word “gavach,” meaning a person from the foothills of the Pyrenees who spoke incorrectly. These days, it means “outsider,” somebody who just doesn’t fit in.

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