The first day of salmon season on Monterey Bay has become an historic free-for-all for all comers. Plenty of newly lowered levels of consciousness are attained hourly. Personal styles change but the faddish constantly remain. Cheap trinkets are festooned commonly as adornments for heads, noses, necks, afts, and sterns. There are large and small boats trolling with tangled pick-up lines, bobbing dinghies, kayaks, rafts, tubes, and tubs. There is so-called recreational sport fishing from turbo-charged scows that resemble the S.S. Minnow and the Titanic, stylishly equipped with sonar, caviar, shade, Dramanine dispensers, mimosas, galley slaves, gaffers, laser sights, harpoons, cup holders, and two ply paper.
Not surprisingly, few fish fall for the obvious glitter from all of the brand new gear. The best balls of bait reside too deep for superficial gleanings to penetrate. Any random mass of recreating humans invariably includes a vocal majority of addled nitwits and nut cases freed from dens, asylums, and shells. Paths cross willy-nilly. Contradictions abound. I never miss it.
My proprietary plan to start out the season by catching a fat fish to filet was simple: Start the engines. Open wide. Don’t look back. Look up. Move hips. Rotate. Stretch out. Follow the birds. Out more. More hips. Search the ripples on the surface. Search the depth below. Recognize patterns. Breathe deeply. Out farther. Don’t waver. Visualize figure-eights, the basic building blocks of the multiverse. Tell no one your secrets. Repeat.
“Where you headed?”
So, to be clear, I did not start out looking per se on the first day of salmon season to renew my missed connection with the humpback whale who appears to be light taupe, unless he more accurately represents a discreet shade of dark ecru on the eternal color wheel. I did not intend to end up anywhere near his neighborhood. That is a matter of fact, no conjecture. By the terms of my plea bargaining agreement, I’d have to score way higher than an above average idiot to risk that.
An hour after launching, I was maintaining a somewhat steady speed and distance from the same old peninsula at the end of Western Civilization as it disappeared intermittently into the fog. The tip of the peninsula was curved like a ceremonial sword sprouting mildly peachy bumps of fuzz that appeared to be smoking a pipe. It was the same plan I used the year before. Past performance represents a mere single plotted point, not a pattern. This time, it might work.
I began to tag along, uninvited, behind a squadron of loons to the edge of a deep canyon due west of Moss Landing. Unless those loons were coots obscured by the haze. I was trolling slowly with a delectable frozen anchovy on the end of a barbed hook when a newly born grey whale calf popped up beside me. He was not much bigger than my boat, a darling little rascal diving in and out of the water in that charming way of insouciant youth showing off. He was one of the lucky newborns venturing beyond the protected Sea of Cortez lagoon of his birth on his first family trip north. Alaska gets pretty sweet and tingly in the Summer. Bait swims like cream at the top. The young ladies better watch out for that one rising up.
The little whale showed good sense, though, when he dove fast and disappeared to a safe depth as a pair of overly hormonal speed boats zipped by at a rollicking unsafe speed. They appeared to be evenly matched, Yo, Bro, and Yo, Ho. One was painted pink, the other blue. How cute, and droll. The frothy animals on deck were whooping it up like caged chimpanzees.
The vaunted he-man sized human brain, which is three times the size of a chimpanzee’s, not coincidentally another of the other most highly proficient back-patting mammals, is eighty percent unused. You do the math because I can’t. Oh, that’s right, you’re still heavily invested in the economics of denial. What happens when you try to move your hips? Oh, that’s right, you can’t.
What I tried to do was clutch and grab and hold on. It worked as it usually does. Sort of.
My boat was left alone to thrash in the gaseous, artificial wake. I returned to vestigial roots and rocked like a hopeless white boy searching for any rhythm to throttle as I bobbed. I may or may not have become more or less disoriented at that critical juncture. The harsh light seemed to be propelled like a bomb through a sieve. It was probably close to about then when I began to notice I was springing a leak from the inside out. Holes that leak are rarely a good sign. When I finished puking my guts out over the side, I took a closer look. Sort of.
How many homilies can you count that begin from a starting point of ignorance and presumably improve? There is much winning that is said to be extracted from a great loss. That’s a classic not to be overlooked for potential gain that goes back to the grand yesteryear of Horatio Alger and Bing Crosby. It’s a big fucking deal, it is furthermore said, in addition, ad hominem, by many, all over the globe. Unless that was Bob Crosby and the ineffable Bobcats. So, I looked for the source of my leak. I looked where I had looked before. I looked where I had yet to venture. I looked even where in advance, I thought, nah. My test results tend to vary all over the so-called lot, which tends to lead, often, to prevarication.
But, who cares when the chips are in play on the table? Who can afford to make the same mistake in so many multiples of twice? Look where that got me. When no apparent reason to be sinking jumped out and grabbed me I would have if possible settled for another big slice of denial. Keep on keeping on. As if.
But, then I was caught unaware again while my head and guard was down. No conclusions, yet, though still working on it.
What I heard, distinctly I am certain, was “Ahoy there.” It was a loud man speaking through a bullhorn. He looked a lot like a halibut, but fatter. Sort of.
I did not ask, but said, “What the fuck.”
“Permission to come aboard.”
“Who are you?”
“We’re on an expedition searching for whales.”
What if he came aboard and the additional weight sunk me? What if I ended up looking flat yet bloated like him? What if the shock waves emanating from the bullhorn were the source of the leak?
I said, “I may be leaking.”
I said, “You won’t find any whales that way.”
“Whales are very choosy. If they want you, they find you. It’s a matter of aesthetics.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Who are you?”
“We’re your friends who have come to help.”
“What about dolphins? Have you seen many dolphins?”
“We’ve been observing you?”
“Have you been speaking to an imaginary friend? You may need assistance from experts.”
“Did you see me puking?”
“I’m asking the questions here.”
“Disgusting huh? Who are you?”
“We’re only here to help.”
I said, “As if.”
“Do you know that dolphins are being trained as spies?”
“Do you know that I don’t know who you are?”
“Doesn’t that cover all spies?”
“Very dangerous to your well being.”
“Not as long as I stay afloat.”
“I think you’d better come with us.”
I repeated, “As if.”
“You’ll tell us everything you know.”
I said, innocently, “What are you using for bait?”