In August, a miraculous thing happened for me. It took a family, a huge fish, some other huge fishes, and then even more family, and then some extra stuff and then contemplation to figure it out a little more – but it gave me a good look at irony as a nice little motif here, but it had a happy ending and I get to share more fish pictures.

And it all started with my family’s art show.

I know what you are thinking immediately: how does your family’s show depicting 3 generations of art and music compare with all those others out there? And to you, I say pish tosh, mostly because effete people get to say things like that, and I should qualify there. Been practicing forever.

{EDITOR’S NOTE: there used to be 3 links to press releases here, but over time, those press releases were not archived, so the links and the mention of them were removed. Carry on. }

And finally, here’s the clan, accurately portraying the way I think of them (I am dork central, spastically holding 2 drinks…my huge brothers are on your left -I am  right next to my dad):

So many months before those poor journalists hurled such positively-spun epithets at my brood, my dad asked me what I was going to do here.

I was a bit perplexed – I wanted to do something appropriate. Art, to me, is often an oddly-shaped prehistoric bird living in my skeleton (but fighting its way out), or maybe more accurately, an inverted funnel that accidentally explodes everywhere…so I have a hard time translating that into terms people can agree with or see the same way. A lot of my art is/was confrontational too, because I think sitting on a fence is not anything even a crow truly wants. It made my stuff primitive at best – hacked, more accurately.

But more to the point, I have not done anything physical with art of a tangible variety in years (decades, probably) so it felt kinda wrong too, to put up shit I did way back in my routinely misspent youth, but don’t do any longer. None of that stuff was very good anyway – not meant for public consumption. My family has practicing artists – I am not of that ilk; I am more of a weekend duffer, and a great appreciator of all things art.  I have found little ways to let art bleed into everyday stuff like cooking or copywriting or web design, so I need to have it concentrated less…which means I am not as driven to it every day, like I used to feel. I don’t draw anymore, and simply don’t have enough time to do any of the many things I like to do most often. But I do play a lot of music, or have most of my life anyway, for better or worse. A bit of a hack there too of course, but more time woodshedding, and more public stuff.

So we worked almost immediately on me doing some music for this thing in some way…I have a lot of toys here, and just enough brass left tucked in the sack to get up and play on them in front of people, as if I can.

Being an art show, I went for piano: I started playing that when I was in high school, and still do a bit. I am a noodler, and play by ear. But there is a caveat here, in that I hardly ever play music at all anymore. Family life was more of my drill. When I do get a gig now, I need to play for a few weeks to re-learn everything my muddled middle age likes to forget, be it on drums or guitar or (shudder) singing…but I hardly ever, EVER get called on to play piano for anything. It has been YEARS, and typically it is only a couple wedding songs or something. Pianos are just too hard to lug around.

Still, this was important to my dad and my family, and piano seemed to be the right thing, so I committed to playing for a few hours, figuring I could fake my way through it all.

…and then, I started practicing like a crazy man. (Thanks again going to my wife and son, who had to listen to it for months, and help me to not spaz out because I KNEW I was going to be terrible. They had to hold my hand quite a bit more than they usually do.)

I played for at LEAST an hour a day (going into 3 or even more in the weeks right before the show) – and started writing out a song list. I was trying to remember anything I thought people might know or that I could play (lucky if it was both), and trying some stuff I never had, but thought I could get away with. I worked on a bunch of songs I wrote myself, back when I used to do that…and then started going thru Beatles songs, and Billy Joel and Elton to find shit I could fake. I saw a movie that used Mad World by Tears for Fears, and added it. I remembered a couple mellow Velvet Underground songs I could play on guitar, so added them. I think I came up with about 68 songs in all…scrawled on one coveted masterlist.

But the point is, it mattered to me a great deal that I could do it, and do it at least marginally well – I was representing, as far as I could tell. My family is VERY musically gifted, so I wanted to be semi-good for all of us, as a way to display it publicly…you know? I wanted to display both taste and style – two things I typically could care less about at a gig. So I practiced, daily, for months. Practice, panic, sweat. Practice, panic, weep. Panic, panic, practice.

But it came together, and I was getting pretty psyched. I had not seen a lot of my family’s work, not like this – especially not all in one place.

When I got down there (rented a car, and drove solo), I went in when they were moving in the art and played on the piano a bit. Mine here at home, is a cabinet grand built in 1908 (rebuilt by me a few years ago)…it is a bit of a chore to hit it properly, but I do love it so. The low range just punches you in the chest – sounds like heaven probably tastes, to me. But the art center had a Steinway grand, that even though it was just a little out of tune in a couple spots, it played like butter, comparatively. I looked like butter, so it was a good match.

I played it for a bit and it felt really good to me though, and so did my head, really – I felt I was adequately prepped, I had my list, the axe was a good one, and I was ready to go…I even determined a few things that this piano would allow me to do that mine kind of make tough…trilly stuff, and happy tinkles. It seemed like everything was a lock – so I decided to go fishing that night.

As I have mentioned out here before, my buddy Darin is an amazing fisherman and guide, and is generous as hell with boat time for me in Florida, taking me out every time he can when I am down there. This was no different: we had arranged our night before I even left Atlanta. Fishing around Sanibel Island is truly spectacular – I can’t recommend it enough. And Darin is an expert, so going with him is even better than simply going out. We have a lot of fun out there.

I got to his house a bit early, but we went straight out on the water with enough gas in the tank to cruise for a while before the bait came up. Truly beautiful stuff…and I was sending my son iPhone videos, asking him what he was doing while I was forced to be out on the boat (he loves the water and fishing as much as his old man).

So after Darin and I checked out the sunset, we caught some bait (ballyhoo!) and went to work.

I dropped the first bait down, and literally within about a minute (not stretching that one either), tied into a big old tarpon.

I love this game fish a TON – and this guy, though not my biggest one ever, was super strong, and a great fighter – he jumped out of the water at least 6 times while I tired him out. I got him to the side of the boat (after about 3 false positives, where he got up there and then took off again), and we decided to haul him in for pictures.

The way you grab a big tarpon if not using a gaff, is with your thumbs under his bottom lip, and your fingers curled into his mouth – you grab and hold. This guy was somewhere between 50 and 80 pounds I would think (about 5 feet long), and I have only held a couple this big before…so while Darin was getting the camera out, this palooka decides to try to wiggle out of my arms, and his full weight came down on my right thumb.

I dropped him onto the deck, and saw stars for a minute – but quickly picked him back up for the pix, because we wanted to get him back into the water ASAP. Darin snapped one, and I tried to move the fish and my hand screamed at me – I knew something was wrong, so held it a different way as you see in this pic. But adrenalin was high, the night was just starting, we got our pix, so we got him back into the water.

He actually floated back up, and we had to motor over to him to help revive him.  I grabbed him in the water, flipped him over and held him in the current until he pulled away from me (again, strong as hell-a feeling hard to describe to you, but immensely powerful to experience). He was fine.

But this was not all the night had for us out there by Sanibel Island – we caught a bunch more fish, including some snook, which are my all-time favorites. But these were not ordinary snook, in the 20-25 inch range: some of these were just monsters.

After a couple decent sized fish, my thumb was obviously not OK. The tarpon had jammed it bad, and it was hurting more every passing minute – but the fish were hot, and I did not want to stop. In this picture, I am trying to hold the snook with my thumb in its mouth but pain made me switch to my never used left hand…I look like I am going to puke, but I am only trying to figure out just how badly I am hurt (this snook was not too big, but I still couldn’t hold him), and panic is rising in me a bit.

…and then, I caught the bad boy.

I knew from the first hit, this was a big fish – and his fight was epic. But about halfway thru it, my thumb quit completely, so I was trying to reel in with a club that was dangling useless digits. I was incensed: I had a huge fish on, and could not get it together to land it properly. The pain was making me spaz out…I got the fish within a few feet of the boat, and begged Darin to take to pole from me, because I could not even hold it right, and started fearing this fish would rip it from my paws. Darin did – and he would not let me let this great fish go…netting him in short order. So technically, I did not actually swing him over the side: Darin did it for me, because my thumb made it impossible to think, much less reel. But biggest snook I ever caught (damn right, I caught him – only a fool would not claim a fish like that!) – he was a beauty. Note, I am holding him lefty, and we could not really get a good pic of him, because my left arm was too weak to hold him dangling full-length, so I’m holding the tail, which put a bend in him (and yes: we let him go like the rest, and he was also fine).

But at this point, my thumb was such a problem, I actually stopped fishing. Sat on the bow, and watched Darin reel in a few.

I use this only to illustrate how dire it was: I was in the thick of big snook biting (which is like an angel’s handjob to me), and opted to watch for a while rather than living it. It’ll never happen again, I am sure – and if I didn’t have to play the next day, I would have ignored the pain completely. Taped it down. Chewed it off. But each fish I caught was making it worse, so I just had to stop and sit down to panic a bit more. Then I tried to fish, but the tides were shifting and things started to slow down anyway.  Needless to say, we ended shortly after that…it was late, we had landed big fish and actually had pix of a few, and I was now looking kind of pathetic and pale, and mumbling things incoherently about pianos, and total idiots, and woe-is-megasms.

Darin offered the whole time to take me home (half-mockingly), reminding me that fish for him, can be a near weekly thing: he was super cool to offset my spaziness. But I didn’t want to leave, even though I was thinking it was probably better to go, and not risk really doing some damage by tempting myself anymore with these horribly beautiful fish.

Driving home was amazingly hard – try that sometime without ever using your thumbs. Try most anything for that matter. 🙂

But the next morning I awoke at my friend’s place to find I could not even bend my right thumb any longer: that fucking tarpon apparently wrecked my gig completely. Months of practice, done. Family depending on me, done. Cue massive irony swell, with Satan giggling as he rides his surfboard on the crest of my crestfalleness.


I went over to my folks’ house, where my mom, Parkinson’s and all, was busy cooking everything on the planet. She catered the whole evening, which was an amazing feat for anyone to do as well as it went, much less solo – but with her physical issues it was monumental, really. She fed hundreds of people cooking everything in her kitchen with her sister and carting it over to the art center… and it lasted all night long – and people absolutely loved her food. So I had offered to come over and help – but as I drove over there, I just kept trying to figure out how to tell them what happened. They also have a beautiful baby grand, which my mom even had tweaked for me to practice on – so I was going to see if I could play anything at all.

I got there, and made a few jokes about it -but was only trying to downplay it. I sat at the piano and tried, and it did not look good at all, feeling even worse – I was about 7 hours from the gig, and just could not play without the lightning and laser show going off in my hand. The location of the issue could not have been worse –  I kept downplaying it as much as I could, but I was totally freaking out in my head.

My uncle was there, and he has a good number of years being a coach, so he came over and worked on it, which helped a ton…and he told me to start icing it no less than every 1-2 hours for about 20 minutes. I made a mitten out of a plastic ice cube sheet and a rubber band, and did what I was told. I helped my mom with a couple things, but was so wrapped up in my private panic and so useless without my right thumb, I was good for nothing that wasn’t focused on ME, and not doing too well with those things either. She didn’t need me at all anyway, but still.

We carted stuff the rest of the day, and I kept my regimen of icing it down and babying it, and my uncle massaged it a couple more times. I was so distraught about everything, I actually ran right into a truck on the way back to my parents’ house to get changed for the gig – I even dented the rental. Luckily no one hurt, so I simply got out of there as fast as I could and went on with it, but was wondering what the hell was going to go wrong next.

Turns out only one thing: I got there and left the song list in the car, and sat down to play before realizing I would not be getting up for a few hours in a row. Ironic bliss showers over me once again.

But by the time I started to play, I was doing it in part, just to see if I could. I was so worried about my thumb, I forgot to be nervous about playing at all, and sailed thru about 2 1/2 or 3 hours before I even took a break. I was winging stuff, and doing what I remembered from the list – but it just kind of fell into place, and felt perfect. Slightly painful, but emotionally fulfilling to say the least. I can’t say what it sounded like, but it seemed to be going over well.

I took a break, and my nieces both played – they each have waaaay more talent than me, and both can sing like angels. We then switched around for the rest of the night, taking turns entertaining the masses. I was outclassed, but proud to be there.

At the end of the night, my thumb was turning purple and swelling up again – but I did not care anymore, I had made it thru.The show ran for a month, and just ended…but I heard it was a very successful opening night for the art center, too.

The end result, was they sold some art, mom fed half the city, everyone represented well, hundreds of people came and saw it (thanks again, all you kind people) – and I learned even a tarpon is not going to keep me from hamming it up whenever I get access to an open stage. I suggest to hide the mics if you see me coming – not all of them are friendly art shows. 🙂