Favorite White Trash Moments #5

5. [Tie] OK, I couldn’t decide! Both involved fishing, my ex-wife’s job, and posh resorts. [I promise, numbers 4, 3, 2 and 1, in coming days, will be truly singular and more brief.]

    a. Place: Ritz Carlton Hotel, Naples, Florida. The ex was a reporter for Miami Today, Michael Lewis’ intelligent and no-nonsense business newspaper; and we had an all-expenses paid weekend there for her to cover Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce meetings with all sorts of South Florida power-brokers present. Not desiring to schmooze with those people at a dressed-up hors d’eouvres function the final evening, I slipped out to get some bait shrimp and squid, then drove a short way down to a favorite angling spot: the Marco Island bridge’s fishing catwalk. A couple of hours, one really soothing and beautiful sunset, and several saltwater catfish and seatrout later, I was ready to head back for bedtime. Too bad I had forgotten a wiping rag for bait handling, and used my shirt and pants instead. I didn’t look or smell good at all but didn’t notice at the time. I had just relished a fine evening of fishing, and had my catch on ice in a couple of buckets. My intention was to get fresh ice and the fish into a cooler in the room, hose off in the shiny shower and sleep the second of two nights in a beach-facing balcony room. It was living, and living well! This didn’t really register with me until later, but I noted in passing the bug-eyed looks on the faces of the bellhops when I pushed a borrowed shopping cart full of fish buckets, rods and reels, a tackle box and some old bait containers through the front entrance, past them, and to the lobby elevators, trailing what must have been a rather pungent aroma. Had I put myself in their shoes at the time, rising through my contented but tired oblivion, I might have ascertained the reason for their distressed expressions.

    b. Place: PGA National Resort, West Palm Beach. We stayed there another year’s weekend for the same type of Chamber of Commerce gathering — all food catered, the room and normal guest priveleges absolutely free. While my former significant-other attended some afternoon meetings, I went exploring. This place was amazing. They had an awesome spa and swimming pool, and a series of warm little outdoor pools filled with reconstituted mineral waters from famous places around the world. My favorite was the Dead Sea pool, bitter and smelly, but virtually impossible to sink into. One of those strangely common, forty-five-ish executive wives, among several I noticed to be in remarkably fit athletic shape but badly and prematurely wrinkled from too much youthful sun, was reclining at poolside. Under an umbrella, she nursed an icy beverage of many colors, face embedded in some engrossing book. I briefly noticed and felt sorry for her, then went back to the more concerning matter at hand: testing the water’s famous buoyancy. The pool was small and fairly shallow, but I figured the hypersaline conditions would keep me from hitting bottom if I flew in doing a cannon-ball jump. The test succeeded! Unfortunately, some of southern Israel landed in her drink, on her reading material and in her hair. Before I could apologize, she quietly beamed a burning glare at me, then quickly got up and walked away, nose and chin held firmly aloft. It was a scene of pompous astonishment that I would love to have the artistic talent to reproduce in a painting!

    I might have gotten, but failed to notice, similar looks later that afternoon from all the folks arriving who saw me covered in weed debris as I fished for bass in the ponds that adjoined the entry drive. Fortunately, the gatekeeper, himself a fisherman, had already cleared me to do it. “You’re the first guest who’s ever asked to fish there, far as I know,” he told me, “Go for it! Good luck, man!” I actually caught (and released) several good size largemouth in a span of two or three hours.

The enjoyable irony from number five was that I actually met a small but very cool subset of down-to-earth people at those functions who (unlike me) just happened to have a lot of money, but (like me) didn’t care for all the fancy pomp. They helped to break down a strong stereotype I had of rich people as universally arrogant anuses. Instead, to a man, these guys were poor early in life and hadn’t forgotten from where they came or gotten too big for their britches. Except for the setting, you wouldn’t imagine them as the major movers and shakers they were in Miami commerce and finance. One of them at PGA, a youthful 35ish real estate magnate also wearing a casual shirt and jeans, noticed easily that I was not part of the prevailing crowd of big-talking, name-dropping braggarts. He began a great conversation about saltwater fishing, pro football and girls — real regular-guy stuff in South Florida. After we chatted a little, he shared his secret to success: Make lots of money, but don’t act like you are. It’s a wonderful philosophy, but the first part is a lot harder than the second. Then his gorgeous girlfriend came over for a brief introduction, thereby erasing all memory I had of his name. 🙂


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