Thursday, December 20, 2007

I'd be lying...

if I said I missed typing shit here. I actually don't. Ever since escaping from corporate hell over a year ago I haven't found myself bored enough to log on here and type. Instead I've been writing elsewhere, actually being edited and published by someone other than myself. It's refreshing to have someone hand you back a copy with things for you to change, it's even better when they say it's perfect as it is and that its off to print.

Don't get stuck where your at people, life's too short. Did you picture what your doing right now as a kid? No. Don't give me that bullshit excuse that you need the money. You don't need half the shit you own face it. Ok maybe I still have a little Durden in me but seriously think about it the next time you sit down to your desk with your coffee and your donut. Maybe then you'll realize you should have been having OJ and a banana with some oatmeal the last 15 years.

Freddy, Fried and Ready

The stream washed along silently through the chilly spring morning in April. The sun was trapped behind the fluffiest white clouds you can remember. You know the type that just sits there in the sky never moving. Perfect for a painter who enjoys that type of thing but for an 8 year old boy out fishing with his father at 7 in the morning it really didn’t help the situation. Not that I minded going fishing with the old man. I just preferred doing it in the sun while sitting on a log or a chair fooling around while he minded the rods and reels. But this year was different, it was my first opening day of trout season and it would be one that I would never forget.

Dad was always an avid fisherman taking me and my brothers whenever he went to wet a line or as he put it “drown some worms”. We would run around doing anything but fish while he would be content just sitting there eating a sandwich or a soft pretzel. But this year he was going to make fishermen out of us. He bought us new fishing rods. Mine was fire engine red with Mickey Mouse on it while my brother chose the orange Donald Duck special edition. After filling up our new tackle boxes the night before we went to bed because we were leaving early for the secret fishing spot that no one else knew about. Excited we dashed off to bed as if it was Christmas Eve.

Well so much for the fishing spot being a big secret. Everywhere I looked that morning the banks of the Pennypack Creek were crowded with anglers with their lines in the water. We sat alongside my Dad eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast. Dad had a secret way of making sure the bread wouldn’t get soggy from the jam. He would cover up both pieces of bread with peanut butter instead of just one making a jelly proof barrier that tasted just perfect on whole wheat. After an hour of sitting around freezing my little ass off I finally felt a tugging on my rod. I had caught fish before but this one was a fish clearly not designed to be handled with my new Mickey Mouse rod. “Reel it in, this one’s all yours!” my father yelped as I became terrified that I was not only going to lose the half eaten sandwich in my lap but also the fish at the end of my line. Cranking the reel back I began to drag the mighty beast on the end of the line. “You were so excited about that fish you said ‘I think I’ve caught Godzilla!” my father tells me years later. With a couple of more wrenches on the reel I finally lug in the biggest fish I had ever caught up to that point, a 17 inch rainbow trout.

“Put him in the bucket!” my dad said and like a good little soldier I did just that. I couldn’t go back to fishing after that, not with my new found friend swimming around in the bucket at my feet. I dropped little kernels of corn in the bucket for him to eat but for some reason he didn’t want any. By the end of the day my new friend, Freddy was what I named him, was joined in the bucket with 4 or 5 more trout which my dad and brother had caught throughout the day. It was time to go home so my father emptied the bucket of its water and put Freddy in his trout box as we started to walk for the car.

Arriving home I couldn’t wait to put Freddy into the family fish tank. “He was going into something that night but it wasn’t going to be the fish tank.” my mother later remembered. I was informed that Freddy would be joining me for dinner that night and really what kid wouldn’t want to have his new buddy over for dinner right? Well that wasn’t exactly what my father had in mind. Being that it was my first fish of the season it was “family tradition” to eat your first catch. Shaking my head in disbelief I watched as my father pulled Freddy out of the trout box and onto the cutting board. My little buddy wasn’t moving, in fact he looked dead. Not that it mattered because two seconds later my father was chopping off his head with a butcher’s cleaver. Next he cleaned Freddy, filleting him and then placing his meat into a preheated cast iron skillet along with some onions, peppers, butter, and fresh garlic. He then sprinkled some salt and pepper on him for good taste I guess. I was going to be sick. Reeling from my loss I was told to have a seat at the dinner table. I ate my salad like I was told to and when the main course arrived on my plate I instantly broke down into tears. Sitting in front of me was the filet of my good buddy Freddy. “Here you go son, Freddy, fried and ready!” I heard my father yelp with what I remember sounding like a southern accent. I couldn’t do it, couldn’t even look up at the horror on my plate. Still crying profusely I begged my parents to let me go to bed without dinner that night. They refused my plea stating I had to eat my dinner. “Eat my dinner?” I thought to myself. They had to be kidding right? Me, eat my little aquatic play pal from just an hour and a half before? I don’t think so. I ended up sitting in my kitchen chair for the next 2 hours mourning the filet that was on my plate. Eventually I was given my reprieve and I got up to go to bed. I left Freddy on the table that night. I don’t know what happened to him after that but I would bet $2 my dad probably had something to do with disposing the body.

To this day I have never eaten a fish I have caught out in the wild. Now I practice C.P.R., catch-photo-release, when I go fishing. Even my old man stopped eating them. Part of it I’m sure was learning how much the old Pennypack Creek was polluted but also I like to think he remembers that one night many years ago when his son was served a fish he just couldn’t eat.

It’s Not the Champagne Rattling

It is amazing the feeling of speed one gets when flying 30 feet over the barren desert landscape and then to have the Earth suddenly fall out from underneath you into what seems momentarily a bottomless abyss. The butterflies that reside in our stomachs suddenly decide to throw a party while a thermal air current catches the helicopter we are flying in and sends it shooting upwards. Dizzying and maddening you finally get an idea that you’ve arrived. Through the glass in the floor of the chopper you realize you are now over a mile above any tangible earth, you are now hovering above the north rim of the Grand Canyon and your guide/pilot informs you your ride is just getting started. With that the nose of the chopper began to dip reminding you of that impending doom-like sensation as you reach the top of a roller coaster. The butterflies began to party like it was 1999 and before you know it you are shooting straight into the canyon at over 100 miles per hour.

When my girlfriend and I had inquired at the concierge desk about Grand Canyon tours the woman warned us both that there were some tours “more adventurous” than others. My girlfriend, never having been a big fan of anything fast or involving heights, wasn’t really into the idea of a helicopter tour; I on the other hand was. If I was going to see the Grand Canyon I was going to get the entire experience. After looking through the endless catalogues I settled on the tour that the concierge described to me as “…like a roller coaster ride through the canyon with a soft landing on the bottom.” I was sold, my girlfriend not so much. She wished me luck as I booked the trip and plunked down the money for my upcoming thrill ride. As we walked away it dawned on me to ask the concierge if there had been any accidents lately. “There was one last week, but it wasn’t this company. You’ll be fine.” she said. I was scheduled to be picked up the next day at 3:00 p.m.

Diving into the Grand Canyon in a chopper is crazy. “What the hell am I doing?” you think to yourself as the pilot pushed the chopper through the canyon with what seemed like reckless abandon. Someone onboard commented how it is like riding with Luke Skywalker down the trench of the Death Star. Swooping back and forth, up and down, the rush of excitement just would not end. Finally, after what seemed like an hour but was actually a little over 5 minutes, we found ourselves in the heart of the canyon. Everywhere you looked was nature’s majesty, with colors ranging from the tan of the desert to green grass growing by the murky brown water of the Colorado River. We cruised for 20 minutes, taking in the canyon from above, snapping pictures every second. It was surreal. In front of you is a place you have seen a thousand times before on both television and in photos but now you know it actually exists. For miles around all you see is canyon, the sheer size of which is nothing short of daunting. You are told by the pilot that you are would be landing shortly to refuel for the rest of our flight and to give everyone on board a chance to stretch their legs. The time you have spent over the canyon has only wetted your thirst for more of it.

With the fuel tank full we head out for our landing at the bottom of the canyon. The trip to the location takes about 25 minutes and the entire time we are surrounded by the huge crack in the Earth. The descent into the canyon at slow speed was a little eerie. I couldn’t help but feel like we were travelling to the bottom of the planet and I guess in a way we were. We were scheduled to be on the bottom of the canyon for an hour and a half so I decided to walk with two other people along the river at the very bottom. Before we left on our short hike the pilot had put out a spread of beverages, assorted cheeses, and fruits and vegetables. We all reached for champagne and toasted to our trip thus far. The breeze blowing gently through the valley brought with it a sweet scent of flowers that were blossoming along the river. There was something religious about the place. It was absolute quiet minus the sound of the water and the wind running by us. As we walked by the river we were greeted by another sound. What sounded like a baby’s rattle only got louder as we progressed forward along the river’s edge. “It’s not the champagne rattling,” I stated out loud. Then, as if almost on cue I noticed on a rock 4 feet in front of me a brown snake curled up and looking none too friendly. Instantly my mind started thinking about what I had seen on shows like Nature and The Crocodile Hunter. We decided just to back up slowly making note of where we stepped figuring where there was one rattlesnake there was probably another close by. It was decided amongst the three of us walking that we had gotten close enough to Mother Nature already and we started back towards the chopper for more alcohol to calm our now “rattled” nerves. The rest of the time at the bottom of the canyon I went and explored by myself with a plastic cup refilled with champagne and enough cheddar cheese cubes and crackers to last me a day or two should I get lost. Finding a rock I just sat down and listened to the quiet while letting the breeze hit my face and carry away any worries I had in the world. The bubbly never tasted better.


The road to stardom isn’t as easy as most people think it is. Every year people from around the world land in Los Angeles and New York seeking to land a role in a television show or movie. They crave the spotlight, the fame and fortune that come along with celebrity and the advantages that follow. But it is not only in those two cities that a person can chase that dream. In fact in a warehouse in Bensalem, PA a man is chasing after that very dream, only he cannot pursue it until he is done sweeping up.

Jim Fetters by day runs his own exterminating business. Measuring 6’2” and weighing 280 lbs there isn’t much you could show him in the way of household pests that he couldn’t handle. “I get calls all the time from people freaking out because of the tiniest mouse running around their home. I go down and take care of it for them for $50 and have to stretch out the time I’m there to a half hour as to legitimize the fee.” When done with his daily duties of protecting us all from termites and the like Fetters drives a half hour to work out in a rusty old gym for an hour and then practices his three point landing. He states “In wrestling the first thing we learn is how to fall properly.” Fetters is in training to be a professional wrestler. He was going to originally enroll in college and pursue a degree in chemistry but decided the science of the squared circle was more his calling. When faced with the high costs of tuition of today’s universities and not wishing to go into debt because of it he decided to pay $3,500 to the Ring of Honor wrestling school. “I wasn’t getting any younger and wanted to do something with my life. I would watch the shows on television and say to myself ‘I can do that!’ so here I am busting my ass three nights a week and usually both Friday and Saturday nights on the weekend.”

The wrestling life is not an easy one. Wrestlers on the independent circuit today generally make no more than $75 a show. There are no health benefits as each wrestler is treated as an independent contractor. They have to get themselves to the shows on their own and maybe, just maybe, the promoter will load up the locker room with a couple of pizzas and some cold beer. “Try telling your wife that you just paid $3,500 for the right to make $75 a night twice a week.” Fetters makes a good point. The wrestling business makes its money by touring and putting on shows on a weekly basis. One week the show is in Boston, MA the next it could be Chicago, IL. For a married man with a baby due in less than 6 months the time away from home can be tough and it doesn’t help that he has only wrestled in one match thus far. In fact Fetters spends most of his Friday and Saturday nights setting up chairs in the arena, tearing tickets at the front door, selling programs, and then ultimately sweeping up the arena after the show is over before loading one of two trucks full of production equipment. “It’s tough; I’m not going to lie to you. I leave my wife every weekend and miss her like crazy just so I can get one step closer to fulfilling my dream of being a pro wrestler. She’s a good woman to let me do it, especially with the baby on the way.”

The **** ** ***** wrestling school has a stern policy on making sure its students learn the business of wrestling from the ground up. They are expected to be a member of the “ring crew”, the stage crew of the wrestling world, for a year before actually getting placed into a wrestling match in front of a live audience. Fetters just had his first professional match two weeks ago right in front of his wife here in Philadelphia. He came out dressed as an exterminator, “The Bug Buster”, as he didn’t have any money to buy the usually colorful spandex outfits the professional wrestlers sport today. He wrestled a fellow student who was half of his size and lost the match “because no one wins their first match.” Fetters exited the ring to a standing ovation after losing as many of the fans have come to know him as the guy who rips their tickets at the shows. “They’re a good bunch of people, they know how tough it is for us trying to break into the business and so long as we put on a good show they’ll be back the next week to show their support.” His wife was proud of him. She admits to not liking the schedule that comes with the sport and hopes that if he does make it in the business that he will be home more to be with her.

Following his first match Fetters explains he went into the backstage area where he got high fives and hand shakes from the fellow wrestlers. He then got undressed, showered, donned his civilian clothes, and waited for the show to end before grabbing his broom to sweep up. “It’s a surreal experience. You have the fans cheering for you, the lights burning hotter than they ever felt before, and this unimaginable adrenaline rush like nothing you have ever felt. I can’t wait to do it again.”

Back in the warehouse where the wrestling school is located five men are working out on old gym equipment that looks like it was imported from an eastern European prison. rusted in spots and patched together at points with duct tape. The smashing of weights against one another along with the smell of diesel fuel from the truck garage next door makes for an interesting training environment for sure. The ring, which the students are not allowed to use until they receive permission from the teacher, stands behind them with a single spotlight highlighting it. For them it is the promised land where each one of them will be able to make their mark in the world. Where they will get their chance to hold up the golden belt as champion of the world and gain that fleeting moment where there is no one that can touch them on this planet. Fortune and fame can be had inside of that ring so long as they are willing to give it everything they have and sacrifice whatever they have to in order to achieve it. Jim Fetters knows this and acknowledges it has been a tough time getting the support he needed from his family to pursue it. But how often does a person get to truly pursue a dream of theirs? Not often and Fetters knows this. “I’m realistic knowing this may not end up being a career path for me but I would never know if I didn’t try it. I want to die with as little regrets as I can.” With that he climbs into the ring in the back of the gym and stands under the spotlight basking in its warm glow.