slomo(In my daily pursuit to ignite the second-half of life, I came across this. It’s a 16-minute short film (link below) that’s turned heads at film festivals, and now I know why. If you ponder mid-life questions, you might want to watch. You’ll thank me later.)

For John Kitchin, practicing medicine no longer satisfied him. His Ferrari and his 30-acre ranch, populated with exotic zoo animals, no longer fulfilled him.

He left work each day asking himself: “How much of what I did today promoted me financially? And how much of it promoted me spiritually?”

Over the years, the answer became more and more about promoting himself financially.

It made no sense. He was working to support a lifestyle that didn’t make him happy. So he reset his priorities.

“All I really wanted to do,” he realized, “was skate.”

With that, he left neurology in his mid-50s, took a studio apartment near the beach. And rollerbladed.

The Pacific Beach boardwalk in San Diego has been his “office” for the last 15 years.

Kitchen is not your typical blader. For one thing, he’s 71 years old. Then there’s his form. It’s rather unconventional, let’s say. He skates on one leg, the other raised high in the air behind him, and he just glides, seemingly without propelling himself. It’s like slow motion.

And thus his nickname: Slomo.

With a backwards baseball cap and ear buds (classical music), Slomo is a daily fixture on the boardwalk, drawing plenty of curious stares as he meanders. It’s an odd visual.

Initially, no one knew much about him. Some thought he might be homeless. The look on his face said to some that he might be a bit deranged. His expression is of pure elation. As though he were in a very happy trance.

Kitchin knew the signs of mental illness from his work as a neurologist. He started to wonder about himself. “I thought I was going crazy because I was TOO happy with my new life.”

His story has just been released as a short film, Slomo, by Joshua Izenberg (another Crowdfunding success story on Kickstarter). I think it has the potential to go viral among us old farts and change the way we think about mid-life and beyond.

I’m sure Kitchin had, and still has, plenty of money as a retired neurologist. I’m not sure that matters. Because no matter your socio-economic status, we all face mid-life questions. I loved seeing someone grapple with, and inevitably concur, the big question of what’s next.

“Who am I?” Slomo says in the short film. “I’m the one who got away, who escaped, and found real freedom. And I make no apologies for it.”

Watching this film was like watching somebody accomplish my dream: profound happiness in the second-half of life. Slomo found it. I’m still working on it, and getting closer every day.

(Click link below to watch the 16-minute documentary, plus a fascinating 30-second commercial to kick it off.)

http://p.nytimes.com/email/re?location=InCMR7g4BCKC2wiZPkcVUkNfcty+01kT&user_id=fc7bbd6a6dde02032059e1655b2139ec&email_type=eta&task_id=1397068874804241&regi_id=0

(To be continued…)

JMcT

 

 

 

IMG0001I came out of the closet on Mother’s Day, 1996. The reason I came out when I did, on the day that I did, was because of Mike Regan.

I’m attending Mike’s funeral this weekend. He died at 73 after a long illness. The story of his role in my coming out will live as long as I do. He loved to tell it this story. I’m assuming because he was proud of his role. And he should have been.

Mike liked to joke that he “out-ed” me, which was funny only because it wasn’t true. Outing someone involves malicious intent. There was nothing devious in Mike’s role. He was an advisor and a counselor. Not to me, mind you, but to my mother.

Confused yet?

This story begins in a hospital recovery room following my mother’s hysterectomy. It was there that I met Mike and his partner Steve Hermann for the first time. They were on one side of the hospital bed, I was on the other. We shook hands over my convalescing mother. (That’s Mike, pictured above on the right, and Steve, with my mom, at a cocktail lounge, not the hospital room!)

The circumstances that brought these two men into my mother’s life are almost as peculiar as the image of that post-hysterectomy handshake.

In 1993, my mother and my stepfather purchased a cabin in the mountains of Arizona as a summer retreat. Shortly after moving in, my stepfather made a startling discovery: he knew the next-door neighbor! He and Mike had worked together decades earlier in a very different time and a very different place.

And now the four of them were set to live out their retirement years next door to each other (Steve, it should be noted, is the baby of the bunch and was working then and still works fulltime today).

Mike and Steve, life partners for 26 years, were the first gay people my mother had ever befriended.

At the time, my mother was a very conservative, traditional, and somewhat sheltered individual. She was stuck in the ‘50s yet living in the ‘90s. Perhaps Mike Regan was brought into her life to push her fast forward button.

The two of them connected on many different levels. First and foremost they were parents and grandparents and loved to brag about the kids in their lives. They loved to play bridge. They enjoyed their libations.

And they loved to talk.

As it turns out they often talked about me: The 30-something single guy who lived alone in a gay part of town, never talked about women, never went on dates, but goes to the gym five times a week.

Mike’s gaydar went off like a foghorn!

Neither did it take Mike long to surmise that my mother needed a mentor, someone who could convince her that everything would be OK if, in fact, her son was gay.

So he went to work over consecutive summers walking her down the path of acceptance. Of course Steve was there to offer his advice as well. Through it all, my mother got to watch the two of them acting just like any straight couple she knew.

Jump ahead a couple years, to May 1996.

A relatively new non-profit group was hosting a formal black-tie fundraiser in our city. This organization has gone on to become one of the country’s leaders in clinical trials, education and behavioral health for those with HIV and AIDS.

Today their galas draw over a 1,000 people, many of whom are connected to corporate sponsors, and many of them straight. Back in 1996, at the third-annual gala, there were maybe 200 people in attendance. Almost all of them gay men. My partner and I were among them.

So were Mike and Steve.

At this point, keep in mind, I’m still in the closet. I had met Mike and Steve just once, in Mom’s hospital room, and now I was in a 5-month relationship with a man (which my family didn’t know about), who happened to be my date this night.

It’s hard to hide from somebody at a sit-down dinner for 200 people, or especially the cocktail party beforehand. Not that I was necessarily trying to hide from Mike and Steve. I just knew that my being at that event was apropos of something much more significant.

But I had to say something. So I approached Mike and said: “Are you surprised to see me here?” To which he said, “No, and your mother wouldn’t be either.”

“What does that mean?” I asked. He and my mother had had numerous conversations about my possible gayness, he said. Only recently, Mike told me, was she in a place where she could handle the news.

With that conversation, everything changed. For the rest of the evening, going through my head in no particular order and yet in a constant loop, were the following thoughts: I’m at a gay event. One of my mother’s buddies is here. He now knows I’m gay. My mother suspects I’m gay. I’d hate for her to get confirmation from someone other than me. This is THE opportunity to come out. I need to talk to my mother. Like now!

I want my Mommy!!

And walla! I didn’t have to wait long. The next day was Mother’s Day, which may not seem like the best day to break this kind of news, but I can tell you–and my mother will confirm– that it was the absolute perfect occasion for us.

Through the entire chat, my mother was stoic. She asked good questions. She didn’t judge. She didn’t cry. It was all very adult and non-hysterical.

And it cleared the air. We were able to move forward in a more open and honest way. It strengthened our bond. Not a bad Mother’s Day gift after all, eh?

And for that we can thank Mike Regan.

He held my mother’s hand as she matured from ignorance to acceptance on the gay issue.

If you believe people are set in their ways and can’t change their fundamental way of thinking, consider this final anecdote.

When Mike Regan met my mother, she was, at the very least, uncomfortable with the whole gay thing. She may even have been one of those people who thought you could catch AIDS from a toilet seat.

She went from that, to this:

My first partner was HIV positive when we met in 1995 and shortly thereafter moved into the category of full-blown AIDS.

Not only did my mother accept that I was gay. But she also came to terms with the fact that I was in a relationship with someone who was HIV positive, and I wasn’t.

Kenn was an amazing human being. He was stunningly gorgeous. He was a world-class ballroom dancer and won competitions all over the world. His charm was mesmerizing. His smile could stop a freight train.

And he immediately won my mother over. He always made her feel like the most important person in the room. And she adored him. Everyone did.

Less than two years after we met, Kenn became very ill. It was about 10 days before Christmas, and his condition was deteriorating. He was alert and coherent, although had recently been transferred to an assistive living facility for AIDS patients.

Around December 21, my mother wondered if Kenn was going to be able to spend Christmas day with us. “He requires access to oxygen and his vital signs need monitoring around the clock,” I told her.

“Well can’t that all be done from here?” my mom said, referring to her living room. She asked that I look into having Kenn transported to the house (about a four-mile distance) so he could spend Christmas day with the family.

Sadly, it never happened. He died two days before Christmas.

Whenever I hear that older people are “set in their ways,” I think about this story. Here was a woman, who just a few years prior could have been described as homophobic, now requesting that a dying AIDS patient be brought to her home for Christmas.

None of that, none of it, would have been possible without Mike Regan.

In case it’s unclear, Mike wasn’t just a friend to my mother but a friend of mine as well. He wasn’t someone I saw frequently, or called regularly, like I should have.

But when we were together, it was always special. We made each other laugh. He always knew how to push my buttons, like any good friend does. But we shared something most friends don’t share: a life-altering experience.

In that regard, he is, and will always remain, a friend like no other.

Thank you, sir. May you rest in eternal peace.

(To be continued…)
JMcT

smoking on busPart 2

I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a prima donna.

But, was there a time when Greyhound bus travel was beneath me?

Absofuckinglootly.

Why?

Because (the logic went) bus travel is something poor people do. I’m not poor. Therefore the notion is preposterous.

Well, here I am. It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life.

And I’m on a Greyhound Bus.

I love experiencing new things, but Greyhound bus travel never made my bucket list. However, due to new world realities, here I am. This is a financial decision, plain and simple.

Whenever I hear “Greyhound Bus” I think about the guy who stabbed, killed and then decapitated a total stranger sitting next to him a few years ago.

Something like that happening on public transportation scares me more than Al Qaeda.

So, when I walked into the Los Angeles bus terminal and saw nothing resembling security, I took notice. I’ve seen more security at malls during Christmastime.

There are no metal detectors, there was no screening of luggage, no pat downs, no announcements about abandoned luggage.

If you wanted to bring a pipe bomb on board, I’m not sure whom or what would stop you.

I was also concerned about the potential for stench and noise. I guess I expected a city bus. If you want to see humans living with poverty, homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction, take a city bus. Those folks have to get around town, too, and they’re not driving themselves. And some of them happen to be boisterous and aromatic.

Thankfully, Greyhound was far from a city bus experience. What I found was a very well behaved bunch of folks. I didn’t chat with anyone, but I learned about them by listening. Some were traveling to visit friends and family. One was a truck driver. He was chatting with another passenger who was truck driver’s wife. They were repositioning themselves around the truck-driver grid. One guy got on the bus with a handful of golf clubs.

All of my fellow travelers (about 20) were sufficiently, and thankfully, quiet.

As for aroma?

There was a scent wafting from the guy in front of me that was an odd mixture of Aqua Velvet, Pal Malls and Colt 45.

Other than that, the only other odor was of cigarettes. Of course you can’t smoke on the bus, but it stops six times between L.A. and Phoenix. Otherwise known as six cigarette breaks to this crowd.

There should be a term for the smell of a large group of people who’ve just finished smoking. Second-hand smoke has its term. So should this.

Overall, there’s no question I’ve been in plenty of airports and on plenty of airplanes that were way more obnoxious and annoying than this experience.

If the smell of cigarettes is the worst thing about bus travel, I’m OK with it. Here’s the bottom line: It saved me money, it took just three hours longer than usual, and it gave me plenty of time to do other things.

Halfway there it occurred to me: I’m in a fairly comfortable seat, no one is sitting next to me, no one is talking loudly, I’m reading, I’m writing, I’m texting, I’m playing Worlds with Friends, I’m sleeping, I’m looking out the window.

I’m NOT driving!

What’s so wrong with this?

With a few caveats, this is like having my own limousine.

Well, a limoseine I’m sharing with 20 complete strangers, many of who could benefit from an introduction to Nicorette gum.

(To be continued)…
JMcT

Broken_CarPart 1
“God save the queen,” my friend shouts as he drives off, leaving me at the Greyhound Bus station in a rather seedy part of downtown Los Angeles.

Very funny. I get the joke. I won a costume contest 20 years ago dressed as Queen Elizabeth, a fact my friend still finds extraordinarily funny, and references frequently.

But the queen quip had a double meaning. He’s known me a long time, since back in days when I had some money and spent like I had a lot of money. Those were the days when I wouldn’t have dreamed of going the cheapest route, unless it was also the fastest and sexiest route.

And now, in a very different time and place, he was dropping me off at a Greyhound Bus Terminal. Why? Because it was the cheaper of my two options. It was by no means the sexiest option. In fact, “Greyhound Bus Terminal” and “sexy” may be the most opposite concepts known to man.

The anecdote I’m about to recount here is a testament to my riches-to-rags story of the past several years. (Thank you in advance for allowing me to stretch the definition of both riches and rags to illustrate this point.)

If this were pre-2008, I simply would have bought my way out of my problem.

But today, with no savings, no credit and a fairly fixed/moderate income, I find myself at the bus terminal.

Here’s why:

My car’s engine died just before Christmas. I won’t get into the reasons why this happened because, other than knowing where the key and gas go, I haven’t the slightest understanding of how cars work.

It’s an older vehicle (120,000 miles), but considered one of those hearty makes that runs strong well past 200,000 miles—assuming it has a working engine.

Again, if this were pre-Great Recession, I would have simply sold the car for parts, taken my $2,000 and gone and bought another car.

But it’s no longer the good old days. So here’s how the story plays out, without the luxury of simply buying a new car.

1) The dealership quoted me $5,000 to install a rebuilt engine.

2) With a working engine, my car is worth about $5,500. Spending $5,000 to put an engine in a car that would then be worth only $500 more seemed pretty stupid.

3) AS-IS, with no working engine, the car is worth $2,000.

4) A gearhead friend of mine, who also happens to have the same make of car as me, swears by a mechanic he has used for some time.

5) This mechanic is Armenian. Armenians also happen to control the junkyard industry in LA. Having a good mechanic with close ties in the junkyard world is an awesome combination, especially if you want to save buku bucks on car repairs.

6) There are plenty of “totaled” cars at junkyards that still have usable engines.

7) So, flush with my newfound Armenian connections, the total cost to restore my car is $1,500. And this is not just some hypothetical engine, I was told. This mechanic had already identified it and would make arrangements to acquire it.

Based on my friend’s recommendation and mathematics (spend $1,500 and the car will be worth $5,500; do nothing and it’s worth $2,000), I turned my car over to the Armenian gods of Los Angeles.

I was warned that this job might take some time when I had my car towed to his shop on Jan. 3. It’s the price you pay for a huge discount, I’m told.

My Armenian mechanic (who has a bricks-and-mortar shop, not just a shade tree) is nearly impossible to understand on the phone. But his shop is close to my house, so I go by every few days to get a progress report.

He calls himself Papa. Well, actually he calls everyone Papa. He’s Papa, I’m Papa. His star mechanic is Papa.

If that weren’t confusing enough, he refers to himself in the third person. So when he’s talking about “Papa,” I’m not sure if he’s talking about himself, his right-hand man, or me. Or MY father.

I’m fairly certain his English vocabulary consists of just these words: Papa, tomorrow, I put in, engine, two more days, please.

Oh, and “Happy new year,” which he says every time he sees me. Including the last time, which was February 18.

One more thing about Papa. He loves to fist bump. When I stop by to see my car, he always walks towards me with his fist out. To fist bump. If fist bumping weren’t annoying enough, try doing it with a guy who’s holding your car hostage.

I’ve heard Papa’s projections about the near future for well over 50 days now. I’m not sure how many times he said “two more days” before I realized he probably didn’t even know what those words meant, in English.

Around about Day 30 of the hostage crisis I had to make some decisions. I needed to be in Phoenix on or about February 4. The LA-PHX road trip is one I make frequently and prefer to do by car.

But I have no car, (although one is available to me in Phoenix). I first looked into flying. Do you know what a round-trip ticket costs between LA and Phoenix with fewer than seven days’ advance purchase? Nearly $400! For a city 370 miles away! A one-hour flight!

Do you know what a round-trip bus ticket costs between LA and Phoenix? $82.

Flashback to most recent bank account statement.

Enter Greyhound Bus Lines.

Next week: The sites, sounds and smells of bus travel.

(To be continued…)
JMcT

bandaid images
It’s Valentine’s Day.

Bah humbug!!

This is a perfectly fine holiday if you’re in a relationship. But when you’re single, it’s like being Jewish on Christmas. It’s a holiday for other people.

With no disrespect to my Valentine’s Day date tonight (we met very recently), I’m left thinking mainly about my exes today. And of my late partner who died of AIDS in 1998. (I don’t use the term ex when referring to him because that implies a breakup. We were partnered when he died and very much Valentines!)

I propose a supplemental holiday to Valentine’s Day. Call it Ex-Valentine’s Day. Or X-Day, if you happen to be spelling it on a cake.

When you’re single and barely dating (like me), Valentine’s Day is like the world screaming through a megaphone: “So what’s wrong with you?”

So I’m left thinking about what was, since I guess I’m supposed to think about matters of the heart today. That’s why I see heart-shaped balloons everywhere, right?

Pat and I were together nearly 10 years in the longest and most authentic relationship I’ve ever had. It looked every bit like a marriage without the marriage license. And the best I can say about our relationship today, two-and-a-half years after it ended, is that we’re friendly. We’re not friends.

I wish we were. We’re gay men. Gays are notorious for having best friends who are exes. But ours was not a mutually agreed upon break up. It was my unilateral decision. I have no way of knowing what kind of pain that caused him. It may very well preclude any hope of being real friends.

I’ve since been dumped myself, so I got a taste of that nasty medicine. When Twin #2 dumped me six months ago, he still wanted to be friends. (I assume it was a genuine desire to be friends and not just a sugar cube he dropped in that bitter drink.) I haven’t been able to do it. I still have him blocked on Facebook. I still miss what we had. And I can’t just downgrade it to a friendship.

I guess it’s logical that the dumper would be more open to a friendship than the dumpee. It’s a nice gesture, I guess, to say, “Um, I don’t want to be with you anymore but are you available for coffee every other Tuesday?”

That’s the kind of shit you could address on Exes Day. Maybe on your shrink’s couch. Or face-to-face with the ex. Or, better yet, in front of a mirror, repeating the phrase “Just get over it and move on.”

Out of pure coincidence, my first ex (referred to in previous posts as Twin #1) happened to be in town a year ago on Valentine’s Day and neither of us had plans or significant others. We hadn’t seen much of each other for 20 years.

So we had dinner. We talked about things we couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about when we were dating. We talked about why the relationship failed. We shared the insecurities we felt at the time. It was really quite nice. And we’ve stayed in touch much more since then.

Exes Day could also be a holiday for all of those who have stopped looking, or even hoping, to be in a relationship again. I know a lot of those people. They’re resigned to being single for the long haul. None of them, I might add, seems terribly distressed by this.

I’m not one of those folks yet. I would love to be with an amazing person and have meaningful chemistry, again.

But Valentine’s Day gives me a chance to look at all the people I know who are in relationships and ask myself, are they having more fun than I am? Does their relationship make them healthier and happier than I am? Am I jealous of what they have?

The answer is very often, no.

(To be continued…)
JMcT

A Honey Pot Runneth Over

Posted: February 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

pooh_pot
Part 2
When I agreed to a long weekend of ice fishing in Northern Minnesota, at a remote cabin with no running water or electricity, I anticipated peculiar things might happen. A urine shower while I slept was not one of them.

Thankfully, that only almost happened. My suitcase was the nearest potential victim, about five feet away from the drip site. Still, that’s a little too close for comfort, for both my head and my suitcase.

And now, I suppose you want to know why this near-miss happened in the first place. Demanding reader, you!

Three of the seven of us on this ice fishing trip slept in the cabin’s loft. Because there was no electricity and therefore no lighting, navigating a ladder in the middle of the night to go outside and urinate is rather tricky.

So, seasoned woodsmen (which apparently I am now one) resort to using large urns as urinals. My sophisticated and debonair host refers to them as honey pots, I suppose as an attempt to juxtapose something sweet sounding with something really disgusting.

On the second night of the trip one of the gals had, shall we say, a navigational error when attempting to squat over a honey pot, upending the thing with two days’ of accumulation within. The loft floor is constructed of wood slats, allowing for a liquid spill to rain down to the floor below. Which is exactly what happened.

These are not the First World issues I’m accustomed to.

And that was just the beginning of the oddities (well, after the outhouse, an issue belabored in a previous post).

We ran out of water in the last 12 hours of our trip and resorted to boiling snow for drinking. It didn’t make sense to travel to “town” for bottled water, since it was 45 minutes each way, in good weather.

In this kind of environment, personal hygiene is almost irrelevant, save for a daily teeth brushing. With no shower, it made little sense to even change clothes. Which I didn’t, for four days (my personal shower-free record, by the way).

So this was my reality for four days. As time went on, it got a little easier. The first day was hell. Let’s just say I now know how close I can put my frozen foot, encased in three layers of socks, to a wood-burning fire. Yes, I burned a hole in the outer layer in a desperate attempt to restore feeling in my lower extremities.

But my powers of adaptation slowly evolved.

I’m not sure how long I could live this way — taking sponge baths, missing my favorite television shows, never going to restaurants, unable to jog, or go to the gym, or even see human beings other than my chosen fellow campers.

I wasn’t necessarily craving anything in particular from the “real world.” It wasn’t like I was scratching my skin off to get to a Taco Bell.

But when we went to town on Day 3, and I had a Klondike Bar, I thought I was going to have an orgasm. I’m an ice cream-aholic so it was like a hit of heroin for an addict after a three-day dry spell.

Apparently, I now know what I would do for a Klondike Bar: ice fish.

(For those of you paying way too close attention to this story, please do not ask why we didn’t get drinking water at the same time I got my Klondike Bar. I will not answer that question unless under oath. Hint: it was more of a beer run.)

Forget the ice cream, that hot shower on Day 5 when I got back to civilization was like liquid euphoria.

And a temperature-controlled bathroom with a flushing toilet was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life.

Internet porn felt like I was seeing it through 18-year-old eyes.

You get the idea.

So I’m left conflicted. I loved being without television, the Internet and cell phones. I loved not having much of anything battling for my attention. I loved being around people I wanted to be around AND ABSOLUTLY NO ONE ELSE. I loved the simplicity and yet the utter challenge of every hour, on the hour.

But I’m not sure for long I could do it. I’m not sure I want to permanently go that far off the grid.

I’m not sure how long I can go without a Klondike Bar.

(To be continued…)
JMcT

(Part 1 of 2)
photo-2I used an outhouse for the first time. In fact, I used it three times on a recent four-day ice fishing trip with college friends in northern Minnesota. The temperature was right around zero the entire time. On my final trip to the outhouse (and if there’s a god in heaven my final trip to ANY outhouse) the temperature was 11-below zero.

Having survived sitting on a toilet seat at 11-blow zero felt like surviving Chernobyl. Or Auschwitz. Okay, that’s overstated. But trust me, it was simply horrible.

Said outhouse and adjoining property is owned by the father of a college friend of mine. He finally succeeded in coercing me to leave the 80-degree weather of my hometown and spend a weekend watching a bobber bob in a 6-inch hole cut in a frozen lake.

Remote only begins to describe this place. If you’ve ever seen “The Shining,” it’s a little like that, without the opulent hotel or Jack Nicholson with an ax.

In case you want to visit, here are the directions: Work your way to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, exit the highway, and head back into the tall pine trees. Stay on an icy two-lane road for about 12 miles. Then, make a right-hand turn onto a very narrow, snow-packed road for another five miles and pray another vehicle doesn’t come the opposite direction (which it won’t because no one in their right mind is back there). Finally, park your four-wheel-drive vehicle at a clearing, mount a snowmobile with all your belongings and supplies, and skirt through the woods another quarter mile to the cabin.

Let’s just say it’s not a place to have a heart attack.

The cabin itself is quaint if not lavishly appointed. There’s an oil-burning furnace, supplemented by a log-burning fire at all times. There’s no electricity, no running water, no shower and, it bears repeating, no civilized toilet.

While the cabin itself lacks modern-day luxuries, the icehouse is oddly swanky. My somewhat eccentric host (pictured below, drilling for water) spares no expense in outfitting his fishing shelter, which is really nothing more than a tent big enough to seat five people.

photo-4There were two other veteran ice fishermen on this trip, allowing me the privilege to plead ignorance while the others painstakingly transformed a tent into a dude den.

Once the snow is cleared by shovels down to the frozen surface of the pond, a padded floor is laid and then covered with Turkish rugs (which later had to be hauled back to Minneapolis for dry cleaning due to remnants of fish guts and pilsner). The tent is then outfitted with space heaters, pots and pans for cooking lunch, fancy collapsible chairs with built-in coolers, a battery- powered satellite radio tuned to the hits of the ‘80s (appropriately), and of course, a selection of cigars and alcohol sufficient to host a fraternity party.

From the moment I agreed to this trip my one and only fear was that somehow the ice would give way and I would end up chin deep in water one degree away from freezing, my body going from shock to rigor mortis all in the span of 10 seconds.

I was assured this would not happen–under any circumstances–by the two seasoned ice fishermen, both attorneys. I’ve never heard of an attorney guarantee anything, so I was somewhat relieved.

All of this, all of this nonsense, to catch fish, I thought.

Then, eventually, I got the joke. It’s not about the fishing at all.

It’s about fighting Mother Nature and ultimately ending up the victor. I mean, the amount of time and physical exertion required to put this together is staggering! For God’s sake I’m listening to “Rock Lobster” in a 50-degree tent, with a fishing line down a hole drilled with by a 6” auger, in the middle of who knows where, ON A FUCKING FROZEN LAKE!

I’m witnessing a miracle!! Who gives a crap if I catch fish (which I did, by the way, one).

For me, though, it was more than just conquering the elements. It was about reuniting with college friends, something that always takes me back to those wonderful times when life was so simple and carefree. I feel instantly younger when I’m around them.

And if it means I must literally freeze my ass off to be transported back to those bygone days, I’ll never hesitate to do it again.

(To be continued…)
JMcT