Nobody wants to be out on the road for every holiday. But it happens. I remember having Thanksgiving in hotels attached to small clubs “back in the day,” before we had hits…and before we could say “we aren’t working on Thanksgiving.”
It’s the music business. It’s SHOW business. Sometimes, it’s the holiday that makes the show…and sometimes, the show just happens to fall on the holidays. It’s just how it works with what we do.
Take this morning. Lots of folks started this morning – (or should have, guys) — with breakfast in bed for their wives. Kids were waking up moms with homemade Valentines cards, and sweethearts were waking up to deliveries and gifts from admirers known and unknown across the country.
In my world, I woke up from a nap on a bus parked in the middle of the track of the Daytona 500. Grabbed a cup of coffee from a table in the middle of the parking lot…and stumbled groggily to a flatbed trailer of a stage. Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors are kicking off the race with songs from our new “Southern Voice” album, it’s on TV, and we’ve got a sound check to do before we perform for an audience.
Valentine's Day: 2010
Not so last year. We were off…but sitting around at home over Valentine’s weekend, even if I could, wandering back and forth from room to room and intermittently jumping online to be find someone’s idyllic storytelling of romance or syrupy anecdote of the lovelorn rescued by Match.com just wasn’t crankin’ my motor.
I did jump online to search “half marathons, February 14.” I don’t recall finding anything. I did find a few options for “February 15,” but most were too far from Nashville. Then I found “Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon”…and a road trip began to form.
A buddy wanted to tag along and visit family in Sarasota, so the drive would be shared. Another buddy lived there and suggested possibly deep-sea fishing on the Saturday before the February 15 race. I had really just been looking for a place to run, but in a weird way, it all started to fall together.
Valentine's Day: 2009
Yep. I was goin’ fishing. On Valentine’s Day. To me, it made sense.
Not that I had ever GONE fishing before; I had only the foggiest recollection of going fishing with my grandfather once as a child. This would be, for all practical purposes, a “first” for me.
I googled “deep sea fishing” and “Sarasota, Florida” and pulled a fishing trip at random. Placed a call to see if a space was available, as I was going solo. The fella on the phone didn’t have an opening, but he wandered up and down the pier – (as there are strings of folks that do these all along the coast) – and found a colleague that had a spot.
Awesome; I’d be headed out with Captain Tommy Tinacci from Catch the Spirit Sport Fishing to bring home some amberjack. I didn’t know what amberjack was, either…but I could google that, too.
I found a description on a website for Light Tackle Fishing in Key West, Florida. They referred to amberjack as “solid muscle, the “Mike Tyson of the fish world. According to the site, amberjack “fight dirty and never know when to give up.” So, if I hooked one of these suckers, it would be between me and him, and I had better be packin’ my “don’t quit.”
Cool; I had already packed it for the half marathon anyway.
I arrive at the dock before dawn for our early morning departure. Captain Tommy rallied the troops and our boat headed out pronto. I wasn’t feeling especially chatty and found a corner of the boat where I could embrace the morning wind in my face and the best view of the sunrise.
It was beautifully melancholy and, at the same time, invigorating. Deep breath. This is good.
After a couple of false starts and “no luck” fishin’ holes, Captain Tommy anchored our boat in what would be my battleground. He set up a fishing rig for me – (again, I’m the rookie of our crew) – and walked me through the “if you feel this, pull hard to set the hook…and go to work.”
Captain Tommy Tinacci of Catch the Spirit Sport Fishing in Sarasota, Florida.
I felt it. I pulled hard. I set the hook. Here we go.
To say “Jack” was not especially interested in joining me in our boat is an understatement. When I hooked him, he took off..and fast. I wondered what would happen if he carried out all the line on my reel. Then he took a turn and I felt the line slack a bit…so I started reeling him in.
I imagined myself on one of those fishing shows on The Outdoor Channel: ride up slowly with the rod, keeping the line taught, then lean forward to create just a hint of give such that I could turn the handle, once, twice, three times perhaps…and do it again. And again. And again.
Jack and I had been at it for probably twenty minutes when Captain Tommy offered, “If you are getting tired, you can hand me the rod.” Seriously? Not gonna happen. Look, Cap’n, while I would not pretend to have won every challenging situation I’ve confronted…even when I lose, I don’t go down easily.
Now come here, you rascal! Another twenty minutes and “Jack” was in the boat. Success. “Sorry, ‘Jack.’ Oh…and Happy Valentine’s Day.”
The rest of our boat each scored one as well; I was the only one to be catching his first. And as this trip was “full service,” the captain explained that each of our catches would be filleted and wrapped such that we could carry them home to our respective freezers for a proper dining experience.
Oh. HUH. In the eighteen years I’ve lived in Nashville, I’d used my kitchen…let’s see…never. But after winning the long, hard fight with my saltwater scoundrel, I hardly wanted to find myself deterred by the idea of seeing this journey all the way through.
Stunned at the mere thought, I took my wax-wrapped winnings, iced ‘em down in a Styrofoam cooler, and resolved not to even contemplate the next steps until I got home.
Until after the half marathon. That, I was ready for. I had the rugged for the run, the strength for the struggle.