Saturday, January 8, 2011


One beautiful Saturday afternoon in May, my father and I went fishing. Going fishing for us meant hopping into the old Chevy, back seat and trunk full of magical tools that had and would repair anything that needed repairing, and heading south towards Foxboro on Route 1 (which was then only two lanes, one for us and one for the guys coming towards us.) In those days Route 1 was decorated with huge advertising billboards which were set in the ground (not above our heads) and were great for the state police, who would hide behind them in their motorcycles, just waiting for the heedless motorist to drive faster than the posted speed limit. And so it was that on that very afternoon, as my father was telling me stories peppered with Bible verses and his philosophy (or should I say philosophies) of life, we saw a huge Bryl Creem billboard. You remember, right?

Bryl-creem, a little dab'll do ya,
Bryl-creem, you'll look so debonair.
Bryl-creem, the gals will pursue ya,
Simply put a little in your hair!

Hiding behind that billboard was a Massachusetts State Policeman sitting on a motorcycle, waiting . . . (a policeman who used Bryl Creem, perhaps not on his hair -- I don't remember -- but certainly Bryl Creem's bigger than life billboard on Route One going south!)
On the encouragement of said policeman, my father pulled over to the side of the road and both he and I got out of the car. I can still remember standing next to my father and looking up at the policeman when my father said, 'I was only going 47, officer.' 'You're a liar,' answered the policeman. 'My father is not a liar,' 7 year old me shouted back at the policeman. And that ended that! The officer and my father started laughing, and my father and I both got back into our car and drove away. If there's one thing I knew for sure, it was that my father was not afraid of anything -- not of life, not of death, not of that policeman, and certainly not of the truth!

N.B. Daddy never needed to use Bryl Creem as the barber always gave my father a crew cut!


  1. Going Fishing, wow, now there is a long string of memories and fish. First, when dad took us children along on the trip, and he could not take more than two of us at a time because the boat would not hold any more than three people, he got very little fishing done. what he got done were the worms on the hooks, either by our own efforts, or his, while the forest and lake was serenaded by a stream of squeamishness emanating from the throats of one of my sisters, i won't say whom.
    He sat there, shirt shed, on the lake, with two energized children, one reading a fish behind every movement of the bobber, and the other trying to hook a worm without getting her fingers dirty, and when that was accomplished, immediately hooking a whale at the bottom of the lake, or landing a tree limb, or a lily pad. those lily pads, if they had been any bigger would have been man-eaters, because at their normal size, they ate every hook thrown in their vicinity. Dad's fishing soujourns amounted to casting a couple of dozen times, and unraveling the lines, most of the other times. i can see him, now, always calm, always patient, at the stern of the book, but not stern himself, sitting next to the motor, unravelling lines, respooling his rods. there were no houses, no roads, no cars, no clock. water was there, cradling our rowboat, wooden and with a slow leak, and so was the sun, an early morning mist, a wind sail of mosquitoes and a 5 horsepower evinrude motor. the oil slick left a rainbow of color and scent in our wake, quickly disappearing once the engine was shut off and we reverted to rowing to the perfect spot, quietly, so as not to alarm the fish and alert them to the traps we were about to cast their way. Dad always seemed to know where to go on the lake where there were no others, except fish.