“Simple exchange of values. You give them money, they give you a stuffed dog.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
Reading The Sun Also Rises during my first year at Syracuse University changed my life, and I became a devoted Hemingway disciple. It was this line, more than any other, that endeared me to the story. Jake Barnes, Hemingway’s main character, has suffered a traumatic injury in the war, and he’s come to hold one simple truth in life: You get what you pay for. In typical Hemingway fashion, the concept is illustrated with a blunt and simple metaphor when Barnes considers buying a stuffed dog.
I sacrificed a great many of the things we are taught to work for throughout much of our youth: a full-time job, a steady income, security…
I gained… well, I saw almost everything in lower 48. I spent 200 nights, exactly, sleeping in that Jeep and fished my way from remote northern Maine down to the Keys, out to San Diego and up to Seattle. That was my “stuffed dog.” A simple exchange of values.
This morning I met a woman near Palatka, Florida named Jackie Bliss. Jackie’s husband lost his father to melanoma, and Jackie keeps the bait shop she works in, Bob’s Bait and Tackle in St. Augustine, stocked with strong sunscreen. I gave Ms. Bliss a Catch a Cure shirt, and a few surveys to hand out for the magazine I’m hoping to build.
I’m hoping to create a beautiful publication, showcasing a side of the sport that all of us appreciate but perhaps we find hard to articulate. I’m hoping I can find writers and photographers to wrap words and images around the beauty that draws us all back to the water. But most importantly, I’m hoping to build a magazine that you’re looking for, that you want to read, and you can help me do that here.
I spoke with Jackie for a moment, and we smiled and exchanged stories. I told her about my father, and she shared some stories about her father in law. She said the T-shirt was her favorite color, and with that I was back on the road.
We’d both lost something essential in our lives, a loved one. But now we shared this appreciation for the time that we do have, and a fight for a better future. A simple exchange of values. What was never traded, sacrificed or given up, is the one thing that I believe, above all else, defines us as a species: Hope.
Alright, we’re all for beating melanoma, and thanks to some great sponsors we are making a serious inroads toward that end, but on a lighter note… we need to have fun. That’s why I’ve gathered some great gear for you guys to have a chance at winning on Catch a Cure.
You ready for the rules? Okay. First, go online and fill out this survey:
Now here’s some added incentive: this survey is designed so that I can build you the EXACT fishing magazine that you’re looking for, the one you want to read. It’s short, it’s easy, and ultimately… if you’re honest, it just might result in you getting a fishing magazine you love.
The next part is a suggested donation to the Melanoma Research Foundation. Now… we are not all Donald-Trump rich, and I get that, believe me. So I’m not going to ask you for a “minimum donation,” to be entered. I trust you’ll give what you have. Maybe that’s $1, maybe it’s $10, and maybe it’s $100. I’ll leave that up to you. Here’s where you can do that:
Honestly, even if you just donated a dollar, that’s not going to affect your ability to win these prizes. And hey, if you don’t want to, or can’t afford to donate… I’ll still use your input and feedback to build the magazine, so don’t let that deter you from filling out the survey. And by that same token, if you donate to the MRF and send me a confirmation of that contribution at email@example.com, you’ll be entered to win the prizes anyway. But if you do BOTH, you could win big and have a say in the next great fishing magazine.
A Catch a Cure T-shirt/Sunscreen Package (value: $35)
So, right now you’ve got a little downtime, you’re fooling around online, and what’s that going to get you? At best a laugh, or a “poke,” on Facebook, whatever the hell that is. But what if you took five minutes to fill out this survey? That… THAT might get you a fishing magazine you helped design, and a chance to win a pair of polarized lenses that quite honestly are some of the best that money could buy (and they will only cost you as much as you want to give to a skin-cancer free future)! I’m not asking for a “purchase,” to be eligible, what I’m looking for is something you’ll feel great about doing anyway. And believe me… I can’t wear four pairs of sunglasses and thanks to Rick Roth at Mirror Image T-Shirts in Rhode Island, I have more shirts than I could wear if I changed into a new one every day for the rest of my life. So these prizes are going to someone, and it might as well be you.
And I’ll be building this fishing magazine either way, so you might as well help me make it one you love. Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for more fish, prizes and chances to win.
I have to say, I’ve been a fisherman my whole life, and I’ve always gotten excited and a little bit nervous the night before a trip. But being at the epicenter of the bass fishing universe is something else entirely.
I was checking out Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees near Tulsa, Oklahoma today, where I’ll be getting on the water tomorrow, and absolutely everything was centering around this one event. No matter what store, tackle shop or gas station you walked into, you could feel a tangible enthusiasm about what will be happening there next weekend.
It was like the Christmas Eve of bass fishing, and it felt as though I were at the North Pole. Everyone that walked into a shop, gas station or by a dock was talking about next weekend’s classic.
And it wouldn’t be Christmas-Eve-Special if it weren’t for a few miracles. I’d reached out to guides, hoping one would want to get on the water for a good cause, and I’d been waiting to hear back when…
And he went on to say, and it almost pains me to repeat this… they were on some fat fish that were feeding heavily. Now as a superstitious guy, I am not… repeat: NOT assuming that that will be the case tomorrow.
Having that said, it was good to hear. So I’ve got five alarms set for bright and early tomorrow, and when you hear from me next, I’ll have taken my crack at fishing the lake that all the best professionals will be competing on this weekend.
The rod is rigged, the stage is set… now if only I can get some sleep before this first trip. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has read or followed my journey this past summer, and this second go-around this winter.
Every “like,” “Share,” or comment I see on a post, blog or Instagram photo reminds me that I am not alone out here fighting melanoma, that I’m a small part of an army of us that each do it in our own way.
From the bottom of my heart… thank you so much, and I’ll check back in tomorrow. – Rick
It’s 1 a.m., so I suppose World Cancer Day is over. It was heartbreakingly beautiful to see the outpouring of support on all forms of social media in support of our battle against humanity’s deadliest foe.
I’m an optimistic guy, on most days I truly love my life and I’ve been blessed in so many ways. But I got to thinking about cancer, and what it means to me, what it has done to my family. And the temptation in today’s world of “share-everything social media,” is to remain constantly upbeat and optimistic in your presentation of self.
I’m reminded of a scene from one of my favorite films, Cinderella Man, when Paul Giamatti’s character, boxer Jim Braddock’s manager, opens the door to his New Jersey apartment to reveal that he and his wife have sold everything they own during the Depression. They’ve kept the apartment, “For appearance’s sake,” but it’s bare inside. I can’t help but wonder how many Facebook profiles that friends use to showcase recent meals, smiling faces and 24-hour happiness are hiding, to some degree, that emptiness underneath. And that might be fine, or even “strong,” had I not chosen a profession that demands, above all else, honesty.
I’ll shut the door on my apartment tomorrow, but on today of all days, it seemed a sin to keep it closed.
I’ve tried having a conversation with my Mom in which my father doesn’t come up, but it’s impossible. On the good days we laugh about how much we loved him. On the bad ones we don’t. Our house in Upstate New York always seemed big to the kid inside me that moved there from my grandmother’s basement at four, but it never felt as enormously empty as it has since he left.
Because in truth it’s not what cancer takes that makes the disease so awful. Sure, those last months spent with Hospice care, with the drugs making communication harder, with the nightly phone calls that you think might be the last… sure… they’re painful. And if I ever wish he were here, I think of those days and nights, and I’m glad he’s not… not like that.
But it’s the emptiness that it leaves behind that is the absolute worst. I know that I am not alone in all those moments when I’ve almost gone to dial his number, just wondering if he’d answer, somewhere. I know that there are millions like me, staring at their phones, wondering where that number goes, now.
It leaves so much behind: His shoes, suits, favorite books or old files. It leaves the hollow inside of everything that’s not him.
My father was the type of guy who never got so much as a common cold. I imagine he got in the habit of waking at dawn in the Army, where he served his country in Arizona and Alaska, and it never left him. Even at 77, he woke at 5 a.m. and was to work by 6. ‘Retire,’ was a word you used when going to bed for the night, not when discussing life and/or work options.
“He would have lived to be 100,” my mother always says. “Yeah.”
Saying that cancer “just takes a loved one,” is like saying that a wrecking ball only takes out the window it first collided with after the building that held that window crumbles.
I didn’t take great care of myself when my father was sick, which is no one’s fault but my own. I’ve rebuilt my life, because it is what he’d want, but it took a while.
If there’s a 27-year-old man that could have flown home to say goodbye, waded through a living room of Hospice nurses to hold a hand connected to an unresponsive father, and then continued with graduate school for a week, flown back to give the eulogy the next and then kept moving forward without missing a beat, I wasn’t that guy then.
I hope I am becoming a man capable of not only enduring that kind of pain, but using it for good. And the people at Outdoor Sportsman Group, B.A.S.S., and so many sponsors have helped and are helping me turn hurt into hope. I hope I am becoming that man in his memory.
I guess I wrote this because I wanted someone to know that if cancer comes into your life, steals a parent, a loved one, a friend… that you can get back up and be better for having known them, for having shared the part of your life with them that you did. I wanted that person to know that they’re still with you.
And as I sat awake wondering whether or not to write something so personal, I couldn’t help but think about what the purpose, the point of “writing,” as an art must be, at its core. And certainly we all have our own definition of that purpose, but I know that the writing that has most moved me, changed my life for the better, and inspired me, has in some way articulated an expression of one single sentiment: “You’re not alone.”
So if you’re feeling this way, or have felt this way, about a loved one cancer has taken from you, know that you’re not alone.
We all have that bucket-list of places we’d love to fish, and it makes for some great winter conversation with fellow fishermen… because dreaming’s free. But what about the places we have been blessed enough to experience? It’s equally important to think about the water we’ve been fortunate enough to fish… and these are my the top ten that I’ve fished in my 29 years.
10. Montana Trout: Some will be shocked that this isn’t higher, but keep in mind I’m only talking about my personal experience, and I’ve only fished Montana in December. Still, fishing the Madison River with Fly Rod & Reel Editor Greg Thomas was a memory I’ll cherish forever. The most amazing part about Montana, for a kid from the East Coast, is the stunning beauty of the scenery you’re surrounded by.
9. Texas Border Bass: There’s no doubt that an element of danger adds some excitement to any fishery, and when you’re on the border lakes between Texas and Mexico, you’re in an area that’s been notoriously problematic for U.S. law enforcement, but that makes you all the more appreciative that you’re able to, with relative safety, pursue some of the U.S.’s largest bass right where the lower 48 ends.
8. Virginia AJs: I have never fought any fish that left me as completely tired, worn and whipped as an amberjack off the coast of Virginia. That alone puts this fishery in the top ten.
7. South Carolina Sharks: There’s a guy named Tommy Scarborough who is a South Carolina legend. He’ll laugh hysterically while a South Carolina shark “Whoops your butt…”on light tackle, and that’s part of the fun
5. New Orleans Redfish: Start a conversation with a Texan and a Louisiana fishermen about who has bigger redfish… and you’d better wear something bulletproof. But the fishing culture around the Big Easy where you’re chasing redfish in water that came sometimes barely cover their backs is one of America’s truly unique ones.
4. Seattle Salmon: Seattle gets a bad reputation for wet weather… but here’s the catch: That’s from people who’ve never fished there. Sure, it rains. And if you’re on the water when the silver salmon bite is on with a guy like Chris Senyohl,it can be pouring silvers and chum salmon. You’re a fisherman… how dry do you want to be?
3. Maine Salmon: Grand Lake Stream, Maine, is not the southern coastal part of the state that most New Englanders envision when they think “Maine,” and I promise you it’s not where most of those “Maine” stickers you see on the back of S.U.V.s come from. On GLS, you can wade crystal clear water and cast flies to landlocked atlantic salmon that will sit right in front of you, taunting you, while passing up your fly.
2. The Keys: The beauty of the Florida Keys defies description. Every day when you wake up and look at the water, it’s as though some part of hardened cynicism you’d developed along the way in life just melts. And the number of species you can potentially target on one given day is greater than almost anywhere else in the lower 48.
1. The Brewster Flats, Cape Cod: Right on the elbow of the Cape, you can wade out almost a mile and cast light-tackle gear to striped bass that feed on one of the world’s largest tidal flats. The mile walk out is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been lucky enough to transverse. Again, there’s some danger here… when the water floods the flat as the tide comes in, you’d better be high and dry. But the chance at connecting with a striped bass, on light tackle gear, hip-deep in the Atlantic, almost a mile from shore, is one that’s hard to come by anywhere else on the coast. (Disclaimer: Our entire enormous Irish Catholic family packed mini-vans and crammed into a rental house on the Cape for a few weeks each summer when I was growing up, so this one has some sentimental value, boosting it to number 1).
My favorite book is The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. There’s beautiful language, it’s concise and moving and it’s important from a literary standpoint, but that’s not why I love it.
In the book, the fictional character Jake Barnes, because of injuries sustained in war, cannot be in a physical relationship with a woman, despite being in love with one.
When I first read the book, in my freshman year of undergraduate school at Syracuse University, I was immediately taken aback by what type of modesty and openness would propel a man to write something that many men would spend a lifetime trying to avoid the mere suggestion of. There are many causes for insecurity among men, and we all deal with them in different ways, but few seem as harsh as the one described by Barnes. What I loved most about the book was the honesty, even if it were fiction. It seems that some of the most honest writing is.
I think that to admire a quality without trying to emulate it constitutes some type of cowardice or hypocricy, so here goes.
I was on the train into Boston yesterday, working toward a Directed Study that would function in the capacity of a repeated Catch a Cure project, in Texas this time, and I was trying to post something on Facebook in commemoration of my father’s passing on that day, two years prior.
I just started crying. There have been plenty of times, his birthday, Father’s Day, talking to my mother, when I’ve swallowed those tears but the well where I put them must be full. I just miss him, I guess. Emotion isn’t typically terribly complicated.
When I was 24-years old I slept in the back of my Jeep Wrangler at the time for 200 nights, to fish my way across the country. I lost 42 pounds. Some nights, toward the end of that trip, were brutally cold, and I mean like 20-below, Ketchum-Idaho cold. I’d shiver myself awake in the night to blast the heat and fall back asleep. Since I was about 18 I’ve been covering myself in tattoos that I hope act as some means of telling my story even if I’m too quiet to. Some were smaller and took less than an hour, but others took three-plus hours and the needle lingered on the skin that barely covers the bone. When my father passed, I flew home from Boston, stood in front of a crowded church, and did my best to eulogize the man I loved. I say all of this to suggest that tears aren’t an easy thing to extract from me, by any means. I could count the times I’ve cried in the past decade on one hand, with fingers to spare.
And I was very hesitant to write this, but two notions gave me some solace. First, I am fairly certain that only a few human beings actually lay eyes on these words, and most of them know me well enough to know these things about me anyway. Secondly, I thought: perhaps, and more than likely, there are others out there feeling this too, going through what I’m going through, and what purpose does it serve for us all to smile and hide our pain so that we might, on the face of the matter, all seem to be utterly alone in how we feel?
Two years ago yesterday I was on a plane back to Boston, having visited my father for the last time, when my mother called to tell me he’d passed, and yesterday at that same time I was on a train into the city.
It’s pure coincidence that I was aboard public transport both days, but I find the circumstance strangely fitting.
On a train, or a plane for that matter, you both are, and are not, moving. You might be said to be sitting still while speeding over land at dozens, or hundreds of miles per hour.
And losing a parent, as many of you might know, feels oddly similar. I know it has been two years since I’ve held my father’s hand, heard him speak or tried to make him laugh. I know that time has moved, and me with it. But, like on a train, it does not feel as though I’ve moved away from the son who would call every night to exchange casual pleasantries and assurances that I am okay, along with questions about his well-being.
I remember the first thing I did when I’d heard that he’d passed: I tried to call his cell phone. He was a nervous guy, and because he was constantly afraid of losing potential business as a criminal defense attorney, he’d answer his phone no matter the time of day or night, without fail. It just rang. And rang. I was 27.
I’ve undertaken a battle against melanoma, the cancer that took his life, and absolutely everyone who has shared my content, purchased a T-shirt, donated a product or given a dollar has meant more to me than I can express. It feels like I am fighting back against the evil that did so much harm to my family’s life. It is not happiness, but it is some solace.
So when I thought about sharing this, I heard the voices of those who might potentially respond, and I’ve heard them aloud. “Nobody wants to read about cancer.” “Death is depressing, move forward, find happiness…” And I’m trying. Friends here at Emerson in Boston, friends from back home in New York, and so many anglers in Florida have made that so much easier for me than it might have been otherwise.
But I thought that perhaps out there there might be one other person, going through something similar, something equally painful, if not more so.
And I’ve read and debated and listened a great deal about the purpose of writing, or any art, but only one thing has ever made sense to me in a way I can’t shake. I believe that whatever we are saying, in words, images or with paint or drawings or photographs… should be some variation of one simple idea:
“You’re not alone.”
One angler's attempt to strike back against skin cancer.