Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Journey from Before to After in the Gulf

Spending time with family is always refreshing.  When life consists of a work-home-work-home eternity, and the hours eventually stretch into months, there is nothing like being surrounded by loving and supportive people at least for a few days at a stretch.  Amidst one such precious getaway, I had the opportunity to hit the wide open bays of Padre Island, TX for an afternoon and found some beautiful trout out looking for a bite.

Captain 'Ron' was nice enough to show us the sweet spots and we brought in several nice keepers despite massive winds that had the Gulf heaving offshore enough to keep us in the bay.  I can't describe the freedom to anyone who hasn't been there, out in the salt on a lovely 86 degree mid-morning, rockin' to the beat of the waves against the motor, cold beer getting warm fast and still tasting like the sweat off a mermaid's breast...divine!  And even reeling in a little perch can be exciting for those of us who don't have the luxury of doing this every day, not to mention a 26" speckled trout!

South Texas is magical when juxtaposed with the alleys and subway tunnels of New York City.  Of course, New York has its own magic and we can all attest to that who have donned the shrouds of her shadowy sunrise and been lulled to sleep by her siren's song (pun intended)...but Texas, oh sweet Texas!  There is something to be known about these humble people filled with love and adoration and coated with a sticky layer of gruff thistles and brush.  Our captain was a solid Texas fisherman, born in Houston and now permanently vacationing in the bosom of the Great State: 'The Valley'.  Arriving on the boat, he was straight to business - in fact, the previous night he asked more than twice if we were sure we would make a 9am dock call, and upon his third inquiry, informed us that we would be receiving his wake up call at 8:30...and that we did!

After cleaning our catch, we met with Ron at a local restaurant where we had our fresh catch cooked right then and there to our delight and sampled one of the Gulf's greatest bounties:  the mystical Gulf Oyster.  Being a part of the whole process of one's meal is an experience that I think more Americans should enjoy on a regular basis.  There is something deeply nourishing about the food that you just caught, respectfully dispatched and then cooked not 20 minutes later (not to say we weren't sampling the provisions as soon as they were cut...we are certainly not squeamish about raw foods from the wild).  I would love to see more Americans becoming more in touch with their food in general and this is certainly a fun way to go about it.

I'm glad we decided to go ahead as we thought it may have been a bit steep to pay what we were asked to pay for a half-day trip into the bay.  Thanks to Mark Musatto at Airline Seafood in Houston for the perspective and advice, I miss you up here in NY, bro!  As an aside, and regarding the character of Texans in general, I would just like to mention that we had not paid Ron for the trip, proceeded to get in separate vehicles and agreed to meet at the restaurant to settle up.  I can't see this happening in many places on this vast planet's surface...take from that what you will.

Fish is becoming more and more of a love of mine, probably inherited from my grandfather Lee Grandison Wiley, who was a sea-faring man for his whole life.  I have myriad fond memories of trips to Galveston, boloney sandwiches (soggy), cans of Big-K grape soda (dented, and slightly rusty), triscuits and cheese whiz (still delicious) and me and my grandpa not catching a damned thing all day.  Those were the formative days of my youth, looking back.  Days that I didn't realize the value of even remotely until now, when we would get back to his Galveston apartment complex, sun-drained and red as Valentine's candies and Christmas ribbons.  Just enough daylight left for a dip in the pool, an old fashioned for him and an ice-cold country time lemonade for was intense.

This last foray into those salty Gulf waters was intense as well.  After passing 20 or more years since those early times, I have a fair amount of perspective, fair enough to see the value of half a day on a fishing boat with a couple of good ol' boys, mixing the spray of the mid-morning wake with the mist off a cold can of Bud Light, bouncing to the rhythm of the big blue heart of the world, squinting into the sun and looking for the sweet spot.  I think we found it, y'all.  I'm sure we did.

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