Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Boat named “Deliverance” and Fred’s $300 Fish Dinner

My husband, Fred, loves to fish. If you caught a glimpse of us sleeping like some Lockhorns or Hi & Lois cartoon-couple, a dream bubble over Fred’s head would be him with a fly rod and Moby Dick on the end of it. So, when Fred wanted to go on a mini-fishing trip while we were in Florida recently, I did my best to support him and not be the “elephant-that-sits-on-his-wish-whoopie-cushion.”

I was concerned we would get seasick tossing on ocean waves we weren’t used to riding. Fred agreed and found a local ‘bait-shop recommended’ fisherman who would guide us on the inner-coastal waters in Titusville (near Cape Canaveral):

“What if we catch a fish that’s too big for the cooler?” I questioned, thinking of the story we’d be giving the car rental people.
“We’ll have it packed in ice and shipped home.”
“You’re going to mail a fish?” asked I, as the elephant, crouching above his ‘cushion of wishes’, ready to plop.

As we drove to meet the mystery man, all I could picture was some strange “loner” with a Larry the Cable Guy accent driving a pick-up truck, towing a boat named “Deliverance.” He would drop the craft in some obscure bayou and make Fred squeal like a pig before he’d let us go.

It is during this ‘drive to the unknown’ that Fred informs me the boat will be flat-bottomed and flat-topped (hear: no sides).

“There might not be seats, so you might have to stand the whole time,” he reported.

Stop the car.”

-Fishing with a stranger

-No place for fish

-Boat with no sides

-Pale tourist woman balances on boat in unknown waters for 3 hours while Capt. “Cable Guy” purposely rocks it, hooting, “That there’s some funny stuff”.

As it happened, it was an amazingly fun adventure. The water was a foot deep; Capt. Scott was not sadistic; my daughter, Krista, caught a 25 pound Red Fish...which was too big to keep, according to waterway regulations. And there was a seat with my name on it. We saw manatees, pelicans, dolphins and sting rays. It was so perfect, in fact, that I suspected the fish were being cued.

“Ready dolphin? Go!” Capt. Scott’s counterpart in a nearby canal would command and blow the dog whistle. I was ready for it to “E-E-E-E” and do the ‘dolphin moonwalk’ right alongside the boat.

But...Moby Dick is still out there somewhere, so Fred’s dreams are alive and well. No thanks to me.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Civilian Bear Drill

Now is the time when skinny animals show up in wooded backyards to forage fearlessly. White-tailed deer, though they gnaw my bushes, are a pleasurable sight. Even red foxes, with their reputation for eating wise-cracking, cocky gingerbread men are viewed with marvel.

It’s not that unusual to have black bear visit here in semi-rural Wisconsin. Last year, a bear was seen within 100 yards of our school bus stop:

“What did you do?” I asked, fearfully, hearing the story retold.

“We kinda said to ourselves, “Hey—is that a bear?”” my friend said.

“We thought it was a dog,” another friend added.

“Do we have some kind of ‘bear’ drill, in case that happens again?”

Right away, I got the ‘Heidi, you-have-a-Ferret-on-your-face look’ from both women.

A bear that hibernated through the winter we just had, wouldn’t wait for a honey pot from Piglet, either. If I were “Reawakened-Bear-Hungry,” I’d might eat a mail box, take bites out of a sharking boat, or a gobble down a whole box of Girl Scout cookies before my husband, Fred, got home. A real hungry bear might view my child or my golden retriever as a giant blackberry.

So, I, as the Little Red Hen, researched Bear Drill protocol myself.

On the web, I found the following video depicting a potential polar bear escape from a well-prepared Japanese zoo:

Lots of natural resource websites provide detailed advice to would-be bear encounter-ers, all aimed at protecting and preserving the precious life, the feelings and the rights…of the bear. They’re so pro-bear, in fact, that they read something like this:

“Hey, if you’re dumb enough to get yourself near a bear…God you’re stupid…here is some obvious advice. Dumb-ass”

It’s almost as if the BEAR wrote it.

Presumably, bears do not want human meat, and most sources claim the most logical defense is to keep your distance. Contrastingly, if you tickle a cub under its chin, pull a ‘Crocodile Dundee’ stare-down or step on its paw…well--it was nice knowing you.

To deal with a bear meeting, you must interpret her body language:

1. Is the bear looking at you? Let her hear your voice. Show her you are a talking steak dinner (most distasteful, apparently).

2. Standing on hind legs—a sign she is scoping out the scene. Remain calm. Stand tall and make yourself large. Bears hate this.

3. Pouncing on front paws. She's trying to bluff an attack, not trying to get you to play fetch. Never play fetch with a bear.

4. Running at you straight backed. Keep your ground. She will most likely flank to the right or left as a warning. If she knocks you down, lay in the prone position, protecting vital organs (although the bear could get to your vital organs from…your back…too, right??). If possible, climb a tree.

I may as well slather up with Heinz 57 sauce and prepare for the mauling.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Cautionary Tale: Water Coasters are not for Wimps

I don’t like roller coasters anymore. I know more about closed head-injuries than I did when I was 19 (during my roller coaster riding peak year.) Since having children, I’m afraid they’ll be made mother-less due to some freak car-jumps-track incident. Call me irrational…but I’d rather get my kicks playing “The Claw” machine.

Knowing my aversion to being scared, my husband, Fred researched the rides at “Sea World-Orlando” prior to our arrival at the park, hoping to find something we could all go on. Some survey, somewhere, made "Journey to Atlantis" a water-coaster, sound 'mild'. What we didn’t realize is…Internet ride reviewers actually LOVE roller coasters. Their advice is based on thrill factor. In terms of horrifying, “Affect you…for Life” experiences, “Journey to Atlantis,” to them, seemed to be a harnessed, pony ride.

When we arrived at the ride sight, there was a sign:

Those with high-blood pressure or who are pregnant should not ride.

I don’t have high blood pressure, nor am I pregnant. This warning was clearly not for me. We later discovered those words really meant:

This ride is going to scare the HAIR off you. If you’re already impaired, at all, you’re gonna DIE.

Fred and our daughter, Krista were extremely excited about the ride. I was very worried, but Fred assured me that his iPhone had told him that the tremendous 10-story plunge we could see from the entrance corral was the worst of it; followed by a carefree romp around a somewhat lazy river. Krista was unafraid, so I sucked-it-up to show her it’s O.K. to be adventurous.

Once on the ride itself, there are little scenes with lights and voices. I swear I saw a video screen with Heidi Klum screaming, but I really wasn’t paying attention. All I could think of was the scary part to come. Finally we ascended, and then plunged like a rocket straight down.

Comforted that the worst was over, I wept as we promenaded past onlookers, who paid 25 cents each to squirt us. I didn’t care…we were ALIVE!! The boat made an incline up again, but just to get back to the beginning…surely. Inside was darkness, screaming and more screaming, as the water coaster made rapid unexpected twists, turns and drops into pure, black agony.

By the time we exited the coaster vehicle, I was sobbing. Fred did not know what to do. So he laughed…a lot. At the end, we discovered that a photography booth would provide a picture of us as we rode into Hell. We bought it, and when I got home, discovered you can see my knuckles were SNOW white.

From now on, forget what the Internet says. My criteria for a "Heidi Friendly Ride" is as follows:

Wheel-chair Accessible

No guard bars or padding

And…as Senior Citizens wearing oxygen tanks get off the ride, they say to one another, “I’ve had scarier rides on my Sleep Number Bed.”