Wednesday, February 26, 2014

la Pesca en la oscuridad

      I was recently invited, as consular delegate and chaperon-ambassador for the ideals and mission of Fishing in the Dark, along on a three day sortie into the sea dwelling hamlet of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Travel to this region required a three plane arrangement departing from Philadelphia, PA; stopover in Atlanta, GA; siesta in Mexico City, Mexico; ending in Puerto Vallarta where we hired a car to deliver our party of two to the Hotel Beverly Hills, an expansive pastel colored hacienda, spa, resort, drug rehab, timeshare, and conference center manned by 133 uniformed Mexicans and one dispossessed frenchie all with black over gold name tags pinned on their polyester vested bosoms.

      The Hotel Beverly Hills was hardscaped inside and out there were concrete planters filled with palms, serpentine sidewalks and concrete bridges and catwalks that went over little stagnant rectangular concrete pools painted turquoise. There were little terrapins in the pools that looked entirely useless in the strange new habitat. People threw coins at them to make them move.

       For the most part so much planning has already been made for any trip to Mexico, for any trip anywhere ever, in order to preclude unpleasant or unpredictable outcomes, so that so long as we are at this particular place, at the prescribed time, with the right documents, we find ourselves scripted into a variety show of fulfilled expectations. The story, if there is any, has to be dug out of the sediment of the mundane.

      I was at the bar two days in, and I told this guy that I was a mover, "Like two men and a truck?!" he asked (conversations in bars always have to be shouted), I said "Yeah like that! But we usually use three guys!". Anyway next he said something which is a thing that people say that, like a lot of things people say, doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, he said "That's an honest living!" I said "If you say so!" but what I was thinking was: "what the f--k does that even mean!?". I wonder if being a writer or a storyteller is honest? fishermen are notorious for telling stories and are notorious liars too but then who wouldn't say that a fisherman makes an honest living?

      To tell a good story it's not enough to just tell what happened. One has to know how to pick the important parts out of life, which is very subjective of course but necessary just the same, then you've got to string the whole thing together with seemingly incongruent details which ultimately add up to something hopefully worth more than the sum of its parts. The result should be something resembling the truth and truth, in fact, has to be made up to be true so no one gets overly distracted by reality.

      To sample the region's sea life, migratory birds, mammals, and fishes We hired the seaworthy platform of a 40 foot, fly bridge, Big Game fishing yacht skippered by veteran Captain Willis Skeete Eisenhower, ex-Texan, Former Covert Ops Naval specialist Korea, Vietnam, Portugal, Nova Scotia, and Cuba, Master diver, Amateur golfer, player of  harmonica in a Spanish language Credence Clearwater Revival cover band for hire in the Airport bars, and Hotel Gazebos and for such events as the grand openings of used car lots in Vallarta city. The vessel was mated by the Tambourinist, exacting, mule footed, and able bodied seaman: Arturo Vilangeles De La Vaca Jesus De Los Anteojos Del Sol. We were to meet our esteemed crew at Marina Las Iguanas in the unruffled dark of the proximate morning.

      The Marina Las Iguanas, was a place which might have looked any which way and I'd have recognized it easily because it was organically so familiar. I felt so suddenly at home because a marina has boats and there are men who go out with the boats to work, and the men come in with the boats when the work is done, and because before and after the work a marina is a canteen and a harbor for smoke blowing, lewd bullshitting, beer guzzling, war stories, and grab assing, it is a recurrent archetype in the world of men, like a baseball dugout, a garage, or a barber shop where men aggregate between bouts of action. There was a squat rectangular cinder block structure with a kitchen inside and with some tables and an awning outside, there was a matronly tia who made us huevos y jamon con queso, I drank coffee. It was a still life. A perfect moment in a perfect place.

      Big game fishing is trolling. Big boat fishing is trolling. The boat is always moving to keep the lines unfouled off the stern. 4 lines,6, or 8 lines with the bridge, with the outriggers set, and more if teasers are out. We Trolled for bait inside the bay first, trolled live bait and dead bait rigged on rubber skirts in the ocean.  Google Eyes were one bait fish, cookies were another. When we weren't fast trolling we were slow trolling or drifting in and out of gear, with live baits, by beaches or rock Islands. The boat tipped and tossed slowly and heavily. The rock Islands my dad liked to call "bird shit islands" this was not ironic, it was because they were covered in bird shit. The engine never shut off, and the rods, for the most part, heavy gauge offshore rods with winch like reels, never left the rod holders except to check baits or lures, or switch spots. In this type of fishing the boat fishes, the fishermen wait.

"See There!" Captain Willis directed "That's a par 3!" (Because the boat is always trolling every conversation must be shouted.) There were the cropped, neat, and manicured greens of a golf course on the mainland and just off shore an isolated mass of craggy rock to which the captain was directing my attention. "When the players get to that hole a Mexican in a rowboat takes them out to that island there to play it! It's a par 3!"
"Oh!" I replied.

      Two very long needlefish and two or three good sized jack crevalle were the take for the first day. Jacks are always battlers and these were respectable, somewhere about twenty pounds I'd say, they made some strong runs even against the mega heavy boat tackle we were using. Every fish met the gaff and went in the box, Captain Willis gives all he catches mercifully to the poor and miserable children, and the old and infirm of vallarta.
      On the way home we ate ceviche.
      Later on as evening buzzed through the bar at the Hotel Beverly Hills I was drinking many glasses of dark modelo beer, the fuzzy aura of drunk radiating from the things around me, A Mexican girl sang beautifully the themes from theater and movie scores; Gladiator, James Bond, Evita, and Tommy. Great pains are taken so guests have familiar little friendly signs from home. Members of the Sobriety Under the Sun convention filed grimly by, the bittersweet bar sounds raking the embers of their lusty souls. Depth was a quality nothing here had. Turistas swooned on concoctions of iced cream, whipped cream, sour mix, cherries, syrup and booze. everywhere I looked there were plushy people in cruise wear talking about football games. These were domesticated people, people that swim in the swimming pools, they don't swim in the ocean.

      Morning, I stood on the bridge, the angle of sun showed shapes of whales breaking the level plane of sea, everywhere, slapping swashing fin slaps and big breaths. They had backs like jetty slabs covered in slick algae and barnacle encrusted, water soaking and spilling off them when they moved, like tides.

      A good school of bonita and everyone on the boat was up. The rods went down two and three at a time and sometimes two bonita on one line. Meat! Meat! Meat! for the first time the crew finally setting to the hammer of good work, some bonita coming up chucking sardines and spitting blood, good real life too!

      We ate ceviche.

      Later we ate and drank the good mana of life, and I danced salsa and rock and roll late into the night in Vallarta city escorted by a gang calling themselves "the leather bitches".

     I slept on my backpack, I don't know how I got home.