This post has a bit of a back story.
I’ve been in a poker game for over 20 years. When it started, we were mostly young fathers whose wives had met at Gymboree. We began playing poker as a way to escape from our babies and regain our adult identities for a few blissful hours. I still remember the first time we introduced ourselves: “Hi, I’m Ben’s dad.” “I’m Casey’s dad.” And so on.
Now we’re old fathers (in one case, a grandfather), and our children are mostly grown and gone, and we play poker as a way to cram as many different vices as possible into one evening every other week.
But this post has nothing to do with poker. It’s about fishing.
Every year or two, the guys take a fishing trip. They used to go for a long weekend at some remote spot in Canada that took three planes to get to, including one aircraft that required meticulous weight distribution in the cabin in order to fly. Then they discovered this place in Mexico where they fished for permits, which confused me, because in America, you usually need the permits before you fish. Recently, they even went all the way to the beautiful and bankrupt nation of Belize, where I believe they used the local currency as bait.
Notice I said “they.” I’ve always passed on these trips, in spite of much cajoling from the boys and the use of words such as “sissy.” Look, I’m just not an outdoorsy type, and I don’t appreciate single malt scotch, and fine contraband cigars make me nauseous. As near as I can tell, those are the three main qualifications necessary for enjoying these trips. So I don’t go.
Plus, I think we have perfectly good fish here in the good old U.S. of A., so if I did want to go fishing, which I don’t, I wouldn’t be inclined to spend so much money and time getting to these “fishing resorts” they go to. In fact, if I wanted to, I could buy a rod, wade into the trout-filled Mianus River, and make a fool of myself right here in Stamford, Connecticut!
The reason I would make a fool of myself is that, some time during my formative years, someone must have given me a fish instead of teaching me how to fish. I wouldn’t know what kind of line to use, or what kind of hook, or what kind of lure (or even if a lure should be involved), or what kind of bait. And all of that probably wouldn’t even matter, because I’d likely end up casting in the wrong direction and hooking someone’s Yorkshire terrier as it walked by on the path along the river.
Still with me here in the back story? Okay. So recently, my brother-in-law Gary, who is the youngest among us and the ringleader of the poker group, was trying to get everyone to go fishing in the Amazon. And I don’t think he meant one of Jeff Bezos’ distribution facilities.
Gary’s one of those “work hard/play hard” types, and the other players, who are less secure in their manhood than I am, usually try to emulate him, although, as everyone gets older, the “work hard/play hard” thing sometimes leads to surgery. I, on the other hand, know what I’m all about and do not feel the need to partake in all sorts of adventures just to prove my masculinity.
Also, I suspect the Amazon has icky bugs.
I don’t know how serious Gary really was about this Amazon thing, but obviously I had no intention of joining such an expedition. However, because Gary had billed this as his 50th birthday trip, he hounded me more than usual about my lack of participation. So I was forced to come up with more than my usual reason not to go.
“There are fish in the Amazon,” I said, “that bite your testicles.”
I was referring, of course, to the pacu, a fish that resembles a senior citizen with a new set of dentures. The teeth are used for cracking nuts, and there are legends about pacus mistaking one kind of nut for another.
If you get my painful drift.
So that’s the back story, and now you’ll know why I was a bit taken aback by the following Huffington Post headline last week:
10-Inch Pacu, Testicle-Eating Fish, Caught In Passaic, New Jersey
It seems a retired bus driver caught the pacu in a pond in a public Passaic park. Authorities suspect that it had been dumped in the pond by someone who had been keeping it as a pet.
What was disconcerting about this story wasn’t that such a dentally-endowed specimen was discovered only two states over. There are, after all, much more terrifying things to be found in New Jersey, including people who would keep pacus as pets.
No, my problem now is that I’ve lost my excuse not to go to the Amazon. I mean, if I can get my testicles bitten by a hellfish just over in the Garden State, I might as well go somewhere exotic, right?
I’ll tell you this, though. If these masticating monsters are swimming in the waters of the Northeastern United States, I’m not going to go wading into the Mianus River any time in the near future.
See you soon.
P.S. Happy 30th, Barbara. I love you so much!