#amwriting

Yep, #amwriting; still at it. So, yep, it’s going to be another re-run post this week, albeit with just a few tiny edits. But before we get to that, I have a few random happy things to share, apropos of nothing, really. Good things are just good things.

Three Things Worth Sharing This Week

  1. Kid President’s new book. So I have a friend who used to be one of my partners in a PR firm and who now works on a celebrity circuit and who met Kid President in real life and posted a picture of it on Facebook, making me green with envy. And when I wrote to tell him how jealous I was, he said, “hey, I’ll send you the book!” And he did. It arrived Thursday, to my daughter’s and my delight. If you don’t know about the KP, well get thee to YouTube with haste because, well, #awesome; you’ll see. And then buy the book, ideally from your local independent book seller. Then you can read as a group at the dinner table and feel (you know it) awesome.Kid President book
  2. Skimm Reads book recommendations. So, surely you know by now that I cherish theSkimm, the bright spot in my oh-so-early morning wake-up time. What? You don’t get theSkimm? Sign up here (you’re welcome), and then you’ll get not only the best and funniest weekday news but also the book reviews and recommendations (again, #awesome) which recently included The Girl on the Train, Dead Wake, and All the Light We Cannot See, all three of which will keep you from watching TV, cooking dinner or doing anything else until you’ve finished reading them. Yes, they’re all on other lists, too. But all the other books on the other lists aren’t anywhere near as good as these three, which is why theSkimm picked them. theSkimm is a filter, get it? Again, you’re welcome. And if you’re all like “I SO already get theSkimm” or perhaps “I’m SO the one who invited you to theSkimm in the first place” (you know who you are), then share the goodness with another friend today because sharing good things is good.breakfast of champions
  3. Salted brown butter Rice Krispie treats. So if you live in Memphis you can buy these squares of heaven at Muddy’s. If you don’t live in Memphis or just want to indulge in more than one square in the privacy of your own home, then here’s the recipe, adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s version (I think more salt and less cereal makes a better end product): 1 stick butter, 1 10 oz. bag of marshmallows, a generous 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, and 4-5 cups crispy rice cereal. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter and let it brown (stirring and watching, stirring and watching; do not let it burn). Turn off the heat and stir in the marshmallows and salt; stir until the marshmallows are melted then add the cereal and stir to combine (yes, I know you already know how to do this part). Turn the mess out on a sheet of parchment paper and press into whatever shape suits your fancy. Chill in the refrigerator for a bit and then cut into pieces. Try not to eat all of the pieces in one sitting.

Happy week.

Tight Lines and Sister Tales, originally published July 10, 2013

Caught on the 4th of July

My son caught his first fish on a fly rod last week. He had begged for years to go fishing; he had seen all my gear in the hall closet and wanted me to show him how to use it. Finally last week, thanks to an invitation from a dear friend, he got his chance. His first experience, catching 8″ bass and bluegill on a 3 weight rod in a little skiff on a Mississippi lake, was entirely different from mine but with the same result: he can’t wait to go again.

The first time I went fishing, and by fishing I mean fly fishing, I was in my mid-twenties going to visit my sister in Wyoming. A week earlier I had been with my friend Jack, a photographer, helping with a photo shoot that he called something like “Main Street Maoris.” He asked three business people to suit up in their finest Brooks Brothers and then have their faces painted like Maori warriors. For the photo they were seated at a board room table, Montblancs in hand, tongues fully extended. I have no idea what became of the shot or if it made the fortune in the stock photo market that Jack hoped for. When he asked if I wanted to come look at the proofs the following week, I told him I couldn’t because I was going to visit my sister who had just moved into the shelter of the Grand Tetons.

“You’re going to Jackson? No way! You gotta go fly fishing!”

(blank stare in response)

“No really, you’ll love it! I can teach you how to cast and you can borrow my wife’s fly rod.”

24 hours later we met for a brief casting lesson at the yacht club, and by yacht club I mean a rickety pier in the backwash of the Mississippi River where approximately seven people kept boats. After about 45 minutes, Jack patted me on the shoulder, handed me his wife’s gear, and said, “you’ll be fine; it’ll be a blast,” by which he meant “you pretty much suck at this, but you should give it a try anyway.” Off I went.

I traveled frequently for work then, and I always dreaded airports because I was a magnet for the airport crazy people. It was long before 9/11 and security was very different. There were always random wanderers, and the strangest of the strange ones made a beeline for me. As I walked through MEM with that long silver case in my hand on the first leg of my trip to Wyoming, however, the only people who spoke were ruggedly handsome men who seemed completely normal.

“Where ya headed?”

“Um, Jackson… Wyoming.”

“Oh, you’re gonna fish the Snake!”

“Uh, yeah, the Snake….”

“That’s a great river. Probably late for mayflies though, right?”

“Uh, yeah. You bet.”

The same conversation was repeated at least six more times during my layover in Denver. I was definitely buying one of these things when I got home, even though fishing was going to be a stretch for me.

In our youth, my sister had been more outdoorsy than I was. She and Daddy used to hike and fish on occasion. I think she even went camping, in a tent. Outside. I, on the other hand, liked to cook and sew and read fashion magazines. I did not fish, hike, or do anything that involved going to the bathroom in the woods.

As we entered our 20s, however, my outdoorsy medal-winning swimmer of a little sister was teaching ballet while her girly-girl non-athletic older sister was playing tennis and running trails. I had even, on a long run, ducked behind a tree for a health break.

To me, the Jackson of the 1990s was paradise. Although Harrison Ford’s daughter was a student in one of Margaret’s classes, the town wasn’t yet overrun with swimming pools and movie stars the way it is now. It was big enough to have an airport, small enough to feel cozy and authentic enough still to have real cowboys in the Cowboy Bar.

My sister hated Jackson. She thought the Western quaintness of The Rancher and the antler arches were cute, but she found nothing in common with the people she met and swore there was nothing fun to do. After six weeks she was lonely and depressed, which is why I went to visit. I thought if she had a buddy to experience some of the beauty, beauty, beauty out there, she might actually start to enjoy it.

On the ride from the airport to her apartment I told Margaret I had booked a guide to take us on a day trip down the Snake River. She was agreeable but surprised. When I told her that the fly rod was the magic talisman that warded off crazy freakshows, Margaret suggested maybe I should just buy one, carry it around, and skip the whole get-in-a-boat-and-catch-fish part. We debated that idea but agreed we might as well give actual fishing a fair shot.

We headed to the Orvis store to confirm the details of our trip and procure the necessary supplies. I remember very little other than handing over an enormous sum of money and hoping Jack was right about how much fun we would have. At the suggestion of a crusty old guy sitting next to the counter, I also bought disposable hand warmers, despite the fact that I heard him mumble under his breath something unflattering about sissy Southern girls.

Early the next morning we rose hours before any human being should ever get out of bed and drove to the town dump, the rendezvous point for meeting Carter, our guide. The dump had plenty of parking and was well-marked, so Carter thought it would be easy for us to find. As if I could make that up?

Jackson WY 1993

We drove upriver, got a quick lesson and set off downstream. It was a crisp, beautiful fall day. We floated a bit, stopped for snacks and lunch, then floated some more. In our six or seven hours in the boat I caught 954 fish, give or take. Margaret caught one. I think Power Bait may secretly have been involved, but I could never prove it.

We climbed out of the boat around 4:30, just as the sapphire sky was just beginning to darken. We walked to our car, a happy big sister and a grumpy little one, sunburned, tired and cold, having depleted every damn one of those hand warming pouches. We went to a diner and inhaled warm food. We went home and slept like rocks. Right before we nodded off, Margaret said, “You caught more fish, but I saw your butt when you went pee.” Things only your sister, your only sister, can say.

For the rest of the weekend we hiked and shopped and did every touristy thing there was to do in Jackson. We did not discuss the epic adventure now known as Margaret’s one fly fishing expedition, although I couldn’t stop thinking about when I could go again.

We learned a bit about ourselves and a bit about each other on that trip. We learned that on any given day one person may catch more fish than another, that new adventures are more fun with your favorite sister, and that at the end of a long cold day, food helps. A lot.

Jackson WY 1995

To this day Margaret will tell you that she hates stupid dumb good-for-nothing fly fishing but still loves being outdoors. She changed her tune about Jackson after she met a ruggedly handsome transplanted Yankee. He taught her how to ski, something I never could master. Now a mother of four, she’s even discovered she likes to cook and sew and read fashion magazines sometimes. And despite having dragged her down a cold, fishless Snake River 20 years ago, I’m still her favorite sister.

I have multiple rods, reels, waders and flies, all of which traveled with me to countless trade show for years after that first trip. I went back to Jackson several times and even caught a ruggedly handsome man of my own, albeit one who hates to fish. I still like to cook and sew and read fashion magazines, and I still prefer a hotel to a tent. I did go camping in the Black Hills once, though, just because Margaret asked me. She is still my favorite sister, always.

7 Comments

  1. Suzanne Henley

    the reality of Dan’s death still hasn’t sunk in. too many memories, one of which was borrowing your waders in the infancy of my fly fishing passion, a passion of my bones.

    the end of an era. thank you for being part of that. s.

    Like

  2. So sweet. (And I’m not just talking about the salted brown butter Rice Krispie treats.) Keep writing. I’ll keep editing. One day, our houses will be clean. Yeah, and I’ll live in New York and have long, manicured fingernails. 😉

    Like

  3. I love this post.
    After realizing that my college roomies thought this hairspray New Jersey girl couldn’t handle a three day hike in the woods, I ventured out on two month-long hiking trips in the Cascades and Absorkas through NOLS in the years after college. I learned how to rock climb, navigate the wilderness off-trail and exist peacefully with myself on a three day solitary in the woods. I also learned how to fly fish. I don’t know why it surprised me so much to find that the contradiction-Bruce Springsteen NJ girl and NOLS junkie- could exist side by side. After you crank out your writing, hope you can find time for frivolous, relaxing things, like nail manicures and fly fishing.

    Like

  4. did you know i loooooooove kid president i watch him on youtube

    Like

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