I remember a flooded place, a sunken gazebo, a secret, forbidden spot, more like a dream than any place on a real map. I long to go back, but I cannot, so I am left to fish the intracoastal waterway of chance.
I see it so clearly in my mind, as if it were yesterday. I was just a boy, dark and shaggy and dreamy-eyed. The man with whom I fished was a young man … but also just a boy, too, in his own way.
The forbidden place was illegal because of a sign, half-sunken, that read, “Fishing Prohibited.” A precocious boy, my favorite thing was to say, “It’s okay, see? After all, it is pro-hibited.” The location, eventually coined “the Buddy Spot,” could only be sought out at night, as if we were on a reconnaissance mission sizing up a scaly, buggy-eyed enemy. During the day would be too cocky, too bold, too flamboyant.
The music of choice was the Doors, for my also dark and shaggy, though much taller brother-in-law, would have had it no other way. And the choice of drink was Budweiser beer … and he would also have had that no other way. As the secret nights grew later, I could also count on some thrilling sips, always seeming as illicit as the spot itself, as if I were sipping from its murky, swishing intracoastal. I quickly came to love the Doors, not just for their bluesy, almost trans melodies, or their incomprehensible stream-of-consciousnes lyrics, but eventually, inevitably, for the memories that would ink like tattoos.
There was a seawall on which we would sit that separated the intracoastal waterway from the half-sunken residential community, a place festooned with pretty little bridges and cookie-cutter homes, but built too close to God. And across the swirling waterway, were mangroves, black, sinister, as far as the eye could see. And from the mangroves came mangrove snapper, as monstrous in size as they were in taste, if we could get them home for my sister to cook them the following day.
There was just something deeply eerie about the place, though. At first, I thought it was because the wee hours of Hallandale Beach mornings shrouded it with foggy mystery, or because of how the sunken gazebo stared at us like a nosy, ghostly, forgotten era poking its head out of the blackish sea. But, eventually, it occurred to me that it was the fish themselves that made everything so spooky.
Though we came for the snapper, that writhing intracoastal could have produced any kind of fish at any given moment … in the night. Perhaps a sail catfish, brutish fighters and impossible to unhook, or a snook, big enough to pull you down into its deep wake, or even a small shark. And they all fought hard, no matter their size, as if they, too, were as hard set on protecting their identity as we were. Sometimes, the fishing pole would almost jump out of my hands and I would hoot and holler and my brother-in-law would whisper-yell, “Keep it down! You’re going to get us thrown out!”
I haven’t thought of the Buddy Spot for many years, until I entered this songwriting contest, the WWMC (World Wide Music Contest). With about 9 weeks left, when I look at the artist list, I cannot help but feel as though I am back on that same seawall peering out at the crouching mangrove silhouetes, almost illuminating them like a lighthouse with my boyish enthusiasm, not knowing what I am going to drag up from its depths.
The variety of artists and their skills and talent levels are mind boggling. If you go there, be careful, for you could pull up a mangrove snapper, or a poisonous blowfish. And the gazebo remains sunken until the judges come and pump the seawater away during low tied. And thank God for the judges, because just as with American Idol, if it were just the world voting, a singer might rip his voice lessons and songwriting books into shreds and call it a day.
But the judges do not come into play unless I climb high enough (I believe top ten is not outlandish, as we are #30 right now). So, if you feel the world’s going a little wrong, and you like my song, please vote for me by clicking here.
One of the last nights at the Buddy Spot, before we were banned permanently, I caught the largest, most beautiful blue fish I have ever seen. It wiggled next to me for hours. It wiggled next to me all the way home. Eight hours later, I began yelling at the fish,”Why won’t you die? I want you to go to fish heaven.” I froze the fish to eat it later, and when I eventually thawed it out, I swear, that fish twitched one last time.
Make me the blue fish of the WWMC, please, but only after you have listened … and you think maybe I am worth catching.