“Another What If “

However, as fortunate as I allegedly was, instead of utilizing private vessels, I often sought refuge on party boats, and to be perfectly honest, I never quite figured out why. It might have been something from my subconscious reliving my humble beginnings on the water, or something for more deeper seated. I believe it was the latter. Despite this question, the one thing I knew for certain was: the moment I boarded one of those boats there was no fakery, no excessive testosterone, and no dress code. It was just a place for those who wanted to spend some quality time on the water catching fish. Or in my case, hiding from whatever might have been ailing me.

However, these vessels were not just a place to catch fish, or relax while unwinding from a difficult day or life. The boats mixed crowd was a melting pot of humanitarians who were more than happy to share an extra once of kindness to a complete stranger. Now these boats became a classroom for adults. The patrons on those vessels ingrained many valuable lessons to my core. I learned patience while waiting for a blitz, and understanding as I worked out a tangled line the moment the fish hit. I learned never to take a short fish, even if no one was looking. The most valuable lesson was to be generous to those who were less fortunate. Along with learning how to catch almost anything, I learned to instantly recognize those who fished for sport, and those who fished for food. In addition, there were a few seniors who could always bank on a fillet or two – even if I bought them. I often wondered if they knew the chance of my catching Chilean sea bass or mahi-mahi steaks while on a November mackerel trip was about as likely as me ever receiving parole. To be honest, it didn’t matter to me if they knew or not, only that I discreetly extended what I had to those who were in need. I also learned that I didn’t have an exclusive on telling little white lies, or creating my own “fish stories” to feed seniors. This practice was widespread, and I can pretty much say with certainty, each of us that had fished has done this in one fashion or another. Now this sport forced me to recognize that generosity didn’t end the moment one stepped foot on shore.

In my case, it even extended into the prison system and of all places, while I was in the hole. For those of you that are fortunate enough not to know what that entail’s, remove all of your possessions from a walk in closet, add a toilet, sink and metal bunk… then call it home for a few years. I was on my second of a two year stint, when I decided to comment on an article written in a well known fishing magazine. I never imagined there would be a kind response a few weeks later, and they even included several hard covered books to occupy my idle mind. One afternoon, those books simply appeared through the slot in the steel door. There was a crab on one cover, and the next one had someone chasing a rather large marlin. Thumbling through the pages, I could almost smell the diesel fumes mixed in with the ocean’s spray. In the time it took for a book to hit that frigid cement floor, I learned when it comes to those who fish, It’s not about right or wrong. In my case it wasn’t about guilt or innocence but simply that someone who fished thought I was in need. They were absolutely correct in this assumption. It’s at this point of the story I would love to have written something I learned on one of those outings caused me to grow into a fine human being. However, considering where I am writing this from, that might be a bit of a stretch. Yet as dark and ugly as I allowed my life to become, I realized I am far more generous than most in my situation, and generosity of this kind could only have been learned in one place.

A perfect example of this generosity is the patience I’ve shown in adopting a few children during my incarceration. I assure you this is far different from deciding to mentor the troubled kid next door. Adopting kids in prison is the equivalent to going to the ASPCA and informing the receptionist, “I want to adopt an animal who has already bitten six of its last owners – and enjoys chewing on furniture as a pastime.” In short, you know what you’re getting and hope you don’t get bit in the ass as well. I have risked this only a handful of times because the majority of these kids are already set in their ways. Then, even though I hate to admit it, in most instances there are no fairy tale endings either. Most of these kids continue down a path of destruction, and simply get shipped off to another prison far worse than when they arrived here.

At present, I have been fortunate enough to be in the company of one kid who has been around for the past half of a decade, and adopting him has been one of the only a handful of life changing decisions I don’t regret. This young convict who we named Peanut because of his size, appeared just like the rest of them do. He simply showed up one night during a trip to the yard. Aside from his face being a new one, he was easy to spot as he had a bewildered deer in the headlights look. However, at his particular age of only 17, with a prison sentence that matched it, I guess this was to be expected. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think much of him that first night. He was just another seriously scrawny kid with a type A, high strung personality that was in the process of getting swallowed up by a system designed to be selfish, cold and absolutely brutal. I knew if I got involved, he was going to be a handful. Especially, after being informed, prior to prison, he went out of his way to make certain he broke all of the Ten Commandments… and then some. It was as though he checked each of them off as he went on a childhood outing sponsored by Lucifer himself.