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Salamanca Sundown

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Something made it feel different at night.  Maybe it was the friendly flickering lamps that did it, rather than the harsh sun of the day.  It’s true there were much fewer people around at night and at this time nobody seemed to bother you.  There were no more beggars or venders surrounding the walls because they had exhausted themselves earlier on, trying their best to hustle some unfortunate tourists with cameras hanging from their necks and the occasional sack slung around their back.  At night it wasn’t like this, it was peaceful.  All of the restaurants and bars on the inside of the plaza shared this incredible ambiance during the later hours.  Early in the day, location is critical because of the shadow cast at any given hour of daylight.  The shade meant comfort and the sun meant sweating as you try to enjoy a late lunch.  Sundown always brought a cool breeze along with it, such that even in mid-summer you may need a sweater when you go out for the night.

Each night I would meet my friends from other apartments under the great clock in the center of the plaza right at the hour of ten.  This is quite early for the locals, but we were only enjoying Salamanca for three weeks and didn’t want to waste any of it.  This time of day was one of my favorites because the air was crisp and the crowd was gone.  Sometimes Henry, Carson, and I would sit there for hours and watch the happenings in the plaza.  We might talk about a typical night at home and how we wish we didn’t have to go back.  There was never a lot of activity at this time of night.  There would be plenty of couples having a late dinner together, several friends having drinks, and always the three of us trying our best to fit into this lifestyle that we began to love so much.

After a couple of cañas and three quarters of a montecristo Carson and Henry would get the urge to find some local girls.  They always wanted to hit the local clubs and bars so they might have a chance at some of them.  I knew they didn’t have a chance if they found them or not, since they would have to ask me how to speak to her.  The American girls would join us on occasion, but neither Carson nor Henry liked that.  I enjoyed it when they came along they could speak Spanish well too and when we felt like it, we could leave Carson and Henry out of the conversation.  That always pissed them off, I assume it made them feel even more foreign than they were but I didn’t care.  The boys would get drunk and the girls tired.  “Estamos cansados” Payton would say.  “What’s the matter with her?”  “I’ll be right back,” I said.  “Hah, yea right,” said Carson.  Most times I came back, sometimes I didn’t.

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The Real World

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You hear it all the time growing up.  You start to hear it even more once you hit college.  Just wait till you’re in the real world.  It becomes this daunting cloud that hovers over your head.  It follows you everywhere.  All you can do is wait for it to inevitably come crashing down on top of you.

Is this what we want to call the real world?  That time when we’re supposed to have some realization that it’s time to stop having fun and put a suit on.  If that’s the real world, where the hell have I been for the past twenty years of my life?  Purgatory.

Some people see that dark cloud coming for them and they turn around and run.  Maybe they seek shelter from the storm in a band with a couple college buddies–playing at a bar a few nights a week, just trying to hold on.

For me, that storm is supposed to hit in May of 2015.  That is unless some unexpected headwinds push it back a semester or two.

My parents have tried to prepare me for it, but I dodged the warnings.  They encouraged me to get a job, so I did.  I worked as a sailing instructor at a summer camp for a month, took my paycheck and drove out west with my best friend.  We hit every river we could across Wyoming and Montana–even dipped into Idaho for a day or two.  Eventually our time ran out and the Fall semester began.

IMG_0270The next summer rolled around and I was told to find another job.  Maybe one I could put on my resumé this time.  I interviewed for an internship at a marketing firm.  A couple of weeks later they called me and said they only needed me for a month.  Perfect.

I worked during the week and hit the beach to fish for the weekends.  A spot opened up on a tagging expedition to Belize.  I took my paycheck and bought my plane ticket to San Pedro.

People have become so caught up in the corporate world and making money that they’ve forgotten why we do it.  We work the week to enjoy the weekends.  We sit at the desk and stare at a screen so we can sit on a boat and look out on the flats.  We endure the corporate world and hopefully learn to appreciate the real one.

The real world happens after work.  It’s in the river that runs by your office building, it’s in the trees rustling outside your window.  Hang your suit up and go find it.

-FS

*Currently looking for a job to occupy my time away from the real world.

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Me, My Brother and the Road

 

We had no jobs and nothing but time, a car and the road to take us wherever we wanted to go.  Our parents agreed to let us go under two conditions: 1. We stop at specific places they wanted us to see 2. We each send them one picture each day.  Done and Done.  It was like a grown-up treasure hunt in some ways, and all the treasure could be enjoyed through the windshield of my now 256,000 mile old Yukon.

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El Pescador

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This past summer I was fortunate enough to be a part of a team that I never imagined possible with my experience. Because of a last-minute vacancy, I found myself on my way to San Pedro, Belize to be a part of the first ever tarpon and bonefish tagging expedition in the country.

Like most great things that happen, it all began over happy hour after a few drinks. “Ford, you gotta come on this trip with me man,” my uncle Preston said. After about a half-minute explanation I was all in. Even a rookie saltwater angler like myself knew that this was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. And I wasn’t about to turn it down to sit in an office for the rest of my summer.

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I had just recently been in Islamorada with a friend trying to catch a tarpon on fly for the first time. My friend Mason poled me around the Florida flats for days coaching me up from his platform on the stern. After countless refusals and even more missed shots, I finally felt that tug. “He ate! Strip it!” I hit the thing so hard I broke him off and watched the splash settle with the waves, heart thumping.

I didn’t know how long it would be before I felt that rush of adrenaline run through me again. A few days later I had my ticket to San Pedro. I would be joining the rest of the team at El Pescador, a fly-fishing lodge in San Pedro, Belize only three weeks later.

Once everyone arrived at El Pescador we had a little tagging expedition orientation over cocktails. It was an eclectic crowd. Five from Chicago including a married couple, a father and son, and the crazy guy who organized the whole deal. There was another group of three from Boulder. Mark from Fairhope, Alabama to add a little Southern flare, and then there was Bruce. One of the funniest dudes I have ever met in my life. He brought some of that psycho die-hard fishing mentality from the Florida Keys.

We headed out to the dock at 4 a.m. where we met our guides for the week. Our guide, Ketchu, introduced himself to me and took some of my gear. The first thing that came to my mind was how many jackass customers have said, “Catch you? I wanna catch some fish!” I chose not to add to that number and hopped on the boat to ride off in the rain.

The rain began to subside once we reached long key where we were told the big boys hang out. In the first thirty minutes two of the other boats had already hooked up. I kept blind casting into nothing when I felt a tug. Like I had been told to do, I waited about three seconds and stripped the shit out of my line. Fish on.

I knew what I needed to do to hook the fish, but since I had never done that, had no clue what to do next. Ketchu gave me a speed course by yelling commands as Preston laughed in the back of the boat. After about a twenty-minute fight I landed the fish.

We had only been on the water for an hour and three of our four boats had landed fish. None were big enough to tag, but the trip was looking promising from the start.

When we got back to lodge, we celebrated with some beers by the pool and watched an afternoon storm roll in over the water. That storm was the end of the tarpon. The water temperature dropped ten degrees pushing the fish into deeper waters. Nobody hooked up for the rest of the week.

Some members of our team were pretty down about it, but I didn’t care. I finally caught a fish I had been chasing for years. Tag or no tag, I would do it all over again just to feel the rush when you’re hooked up and the line is screaming out of the spool.