Route (to) 66
Last month, the theme of my article was about taking the “road less traveled” and how that, to some extent, got me where I am today. That also got me to thinking (always a very dangerous thing). By the time this article is being read, i.e., October, I’ll be turning 66. I’ve always said that, once you start putting a “6” in front of that second digit on the age line, you can’t deny that your an old person. And, I guess, once the second digit is also a “6,” it’s even worse. I mean, come on, that’s when Social Security and Medicare benefits have already kicked in. You’re OFFICIALLY OLD!
66! That number also got me to thinking. In keeping with last month’s “road” theme, Route 66, a/k/a the Will Rogers Highway, which stretched from Chicago, IL, to Santa Monica, CA, is probably the best known and most iconic road in U.S. history. It was even the name of a very popular 1960’s TV series about two young guys traveling across the country in a Corvette as well as a 1946 hit song by Nat King Cole that was subsequently covered by many artists, including the Rolling Stones. Route 66 was basically “America’s Highway” before being outdated, replaced by the Interstate Freeway System, and removed from the U.S Highway System rolls in 1985. For about 50 years, however, if you were heading cross-country, it got you where you wanted to go. Well, metaphorically, as with any long road, my route (to) 66 had a lot of twists and turns, but it definitely got me to where I wanted to go.
I keep getting comments from friends, customers and passers-by such as “I wish I were you” or “You have the life” or something similar. And you know what? I’ve got to admit, I don’t wish I were anybody else and I do have the life. Living - and running a boat for a living - in Key West is just as much fun as it sounds. Sure there are the occasional downers, e.g. maintenance work in a cramped engine room, costly repairs, slow fish days, etc. Still, I always go to sleep happy every night - usually very early – with that feeling that I can’t wait for tomorrow to arrive so I can do it all over again.
The “high season” here - January through July - was great this year people-wise and fish-wise. We’ve probably had our best year ever trip-wise and we did well in several tournaments as well, placing in the money of 3 of the 4 tournaments we entered in 2014 (and 5 of 8 over the last 2 years). While those things are important, the best part of this year, and of the whole almost-ten years I’ve been doing this, has been the good, long-term customers/friends who continue to return; the great new ones we meet almost weekly; and the amazing things we see on the water almost daily. I was reminded of that latter point most recently when I was fortunate enough to see a sperm whale about 15 miles offshore. First I saw it spout water 3 times and then I got to see it majestically kick its tail fin completely out of the water as it sounded. Not something you see every day and something that can still momentarily totally entrance even an old coot like me. The whole year has been a series of great little episodes like that.
As I reflected back on the bends and turns in my route to 66, that also got me thinking even more about the unexpected things that have happened to me in the last nine-plus years I’ve been here doing this. One of the biggest of those from an exposure and name recognition point of view has been my meeting and subsequent relationship with Captain Marlin Scott and his FishMonster Magazine. Marlin probably doesn’t even remember how that relationship first began, but it actually is a pretty funny story and would fit very well under the title of my last month’s article - “Using Our Heads.”
I’m going to say that it was more than 6 years ago. At the time, Marlin was the host of a morning radio show that did occasional remote broadcasts from our marina in front of the old “Damn Good Food” eatery location – one of his sponsors - (now, the “White Tarpon”), a spot which is directly behind my slip. It was also right outside the entrance to the marina restroom/laundry area, which was next door to that eatery. At the time, my boat was the old “Fatal Attraction”, which has since been replaced by the “High Class Hooker”. I hadn’t yet met Marlin at that point and he had an ongoing relationship with another captain who would occasionally “sit in” with him on the show. I remember thinking to myself as I saw those remote sessions while getting ready for trips in the morning that it would be a cool way to get a little “pub” for the boat. However, I also figured that Marlin had his own “regulars” and a waiting list of others who probably wanted the same opportunity, so I didn’t give it much thought beyond that. Then, one morning when I didn’t have a trip, I was emerging from the restroom after finishing the normal morning bathroom routine just as Marlin was getting ready to do the first segment of his radio show. As I walked past, he stopped me, introduced himself, and inquired if I was, in fact, the Captain Gene who ran the “Fatal.” When I answered in the affirmative, he then advised me that the other captain he had scheduled as a guest was unavailable at the last second and wondered if I would mind filling in on that first segment. Well, because I had no other commitments that morning and because my mom didn’t raise a stupid kid, I jumped at the opportunity, grabbed a cup of coffee, threw on a set of headphones, and winged it. Fortunately, Marlin asked the right questions; I guess I gave at least some right answers; and we had some laughs. It must have gone fairly smoothly because, as I was pulling the headset off to get up and leave, his producer back in the studio said that the segment was “good radio” and suggested that I stay for the next segment as well. I did, and that went well, too, so I suddenly became a fairly regular sit-in guest with Marlin on his remotes both at the A&B and, later, at the “Rum Barrel” here in town, and even once or twice at his old studio on Stock Island. Anyway, I guess you could say that I used my “head” to “get my foot in the door” with Marlin and his media activities.
Over the course of the next year or so, Marlin and I developed a great mutual respect for each other. Because of that, and, at least in part, because he had learned of my prior level of education and former legal career, he asked me if I would mind contributing articles on the Key West fishing scene to an internet-only magazine - “FishMonster” - that he and his wife Dianne were starting. I told him that I would give it a try, but only if he let me do articles that weren’t just fishing reports and that focused more primarily on the people and waterfront lifestyle that make this such a great job and great town. Fortunately, that’s what he wanted as well and I believe that it is now just over 4 years that I’ve been boring the readers of this great magazine with my sometimes rambling stream of consciousness. I hope that I’ve occasionally entertained some of those readers and they have gotten at least some pleasure out of something that I enjoy immensely. It’s been a great ride watching the magazine grow from its internet-only gestation, through its tabloid format adolescence and into its current glossy maturity.
The magazine now has a very loyal core of followers and every now and then I get an e-mail from some faraway state complimenting me on an article I’ve written or I’ll have someone stop by the boat when they see me and express some nice thoughts about my writing. Also every now and then, some direct good comes out of it as well. The latest example pertains to an article I wrote last November entitled “Giving Thanks” which referenced a customer/friend, Tom Khoury, whose daughter Kimberly had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m happy to report that, after major surgery and extensive chemotherapy, she is well on the road to recovery. Not only that, due to the kindness and generosity of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their C.O.O., who is an avid follower of FishMonster and who learned of her circumstance through my article,, she and her dad will be special guests of the Bucs at their 10/12 NFL Breast Cancer Awareness Week game.
So, I just thought it appropriate at this time to thank Marlin and Dianne for the opportunity to express myself and represent my boat, our customers and our lifestyle through FishMonster Magazine. I’d also like to thank those readers who follow the magazine and it’s Facebook page every month, especially those who have told me that they find my articles enjoyable. As I said, it’s been a great ride so far and I hope the trip has many, many more miles to go.
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