Author: therealorchidthief Page 2 of 3

How to Ruin a Childhood in 4 Easy Steps – Prelude

My early childhood was pretty damn good. I had a puppy, friends, and loving, caring parents. As mentioned in the Orchid Thief, my mother nurtured my love of our natural world and taught me to be kind and caring. This was “The Official Story” everyone was told, rather than have to explain or admit to the truth.  We’ll have a chat later as to why “The Official Story” is different from a lie.  The reality is that four specters rose to ruin a wonderful little boy; mental abuse, violence, religion, and sex.

Our story begins before my birth.

My late sister Debbie Gammon

My Mother married one Franklin Gammon, a TV repairman from Ohio in 1955 when she was 21 years old. In the same year, on December 11th, they had a child, Debbie, and they moved to North Miami Beach, Florida, into what would later become my childhood home. I would assume that this was an unplanned marriage due to the timing and the era.

The Gammon Family
It’s a happy family.

As far as I can tell, they had a happy life up until my sister, Debbie died in 1958.  One moment she was a perfect child, the next she lay dead in my Mother’s arms, asphyxiated by a tumor that had fallen across her windpipe.

That tragedy leads my Mother into an understandable downward spiral into mental illness, suicide attempts, drug abuse, and more.

Debbie died on July 12, 1959. I was born in 1962. What happened between those points in time turned my Mother into a monster. I pretty much think that my ‘supposed’ biological father was a massive dickhead.

Franklin Gammon and Deborah Gammon
Good ole Franky was never one to shirk out on bottle feeding.

What transpired in the two and a half years between her death and my birth is mostly a mystery to me. I know there were two suicide attempts. One was a good old wrist slashing (but no one told her down not across), and the other was a hardcore throat slash. Also during this time, of course, was a stay at an Institution. I was likely conceived in May of 1961 but the stories told to me by my Mother about that time period are a concoction of lies, half-truths, and misdirection. What my Mother hadn’t calculated was that her bullshit would be unraveled by “The Internet”.

Wilfred Laroche and Lily Cave
Wilfred Laroche and Lily Cave , notice some distinct Native American features.

Meanwhile, Wilfred (my adopted Father) was married to one Lily Cave in August 1960. It was a short-lived marriage and they divorced in June the next year when she apparently left him and he spent a number of months recovering from the trauma in a Mental facility.

I was born in February 1962, my mother divorced Gammon in April of 1962 and she married Wilfred in July of 1962. My life was a cluster fuck by the time I was six months old.

A new happy family was started, and we will continue this story with mental abuse.

I Made a Dumb

Oy Vey.

Update One: The site is moved and broken. I think e-mail works.

Update Two: Woke up to see the hurricane is going to miss us. Let’s get this site fixed and move on to Kerry’s websites and email.

Update Three: The hurricane seems to want to miss us. I’ve no complaints there. I have been having fits all day with WordPress.com. Their “happiness engineers” finally sorted out my site so I can continue to fix it.

The Orchid Thief Begins

… in which Mr. John tells the whole story of Adaptation’s “Fuck Fish” scene

One of the most asked questions about “the movie” is the “Fuck Fish” scene. It’s been a band name, a song, several memes, and it is a long-ass story and not the brief scene you get in the movie.

A Pattern Emerges

For many months after Hurricane Andrew and my divorce with Cindy, my life was a cesspool. I crawled out of homelessness, violence, and substance abuse, realizing that I needed to do “something” to recover a career and a life.

Contrary to popular belief, when I have a passion/career break or otherwise fail, I don’t throw it away lightly. If I can retool my knowledge, I will always prefer to do that over starting from nothing. Example: Collecting Fish > “Fuck Fish” > Pet Shop > Fish Import/Exporter/Breeder > Tanks to You. In another instance, Construction Summer Job > Partners with a Contractor Next Door > The HandyPeople.

It was no surprise then that I would seek to recycle my horticultural knowledge as I picked myself out of the wreckage that was my life.

What to do?

When I started my nursery businesses, it was with Cindy, and with my life’s work destroyed. I didn’t have the will to start my nurseries over again, especially on my own. Although, in hindsight, starting over was what I should have done. Instead, I kicked around a month or so and then responded to an advertisement placed in the newspaper classifieds. The ad was looking for a “nursery manager” for an upcoming project for the Seminole Indian Tribe.

The interview was more of a “checklist” of things they wanted and my affirmation that I could make them happen.

They don’t want much, do they?

“We have two tracts of land in Hollywood. We want a nursery on the first, both wholesale and retail. If this is successful, we want a second retail-only nursery on 441 (the main drag through the Hollywood reservation)”.

“We want tribe members trained to run the nurseries and care for the plants. You will be the General Manager.”

“We need some highly skilled labor to come out of this project. The knowledge that if they want, they can take what they have learned off-reservation and work anywhere.”

“We need to make money, not chump change but MONEY.”

“Finally, we have “special” medicinal plants as well as those that we use in our tribal rituals. These must be cultured and remain within the tribe.”

I responded slowly and with a measure of confidence and composure.

“I can do everything you want and more. I won’t tell you my full plans now, of course, because that would be stupid. You’ll need to buy into what I know.”

The response I got was that I was an arrogant and ignorant white man that thought that he could con the tribe.

I agreed that I was very arrogant (earned and well deserved), and explained that I deeply respected indigenous peoples all around the world. I gave him the cuff outline of what I could do.

The Sell

We could build a rotational tree farm on the large Reservation in the northern part of the Everglades; plant many highly desirable palm trees each year for 10-15 years. At the end of the cycle, you harvest, replant, and reap up to 20 million dollars annually, depending on the number and species grown.
I gave him a brief primer on micro-propagation and plant tissue culture, explaining that it was kind of like xeroxing plants. It required trained technical staffing, help to stock the nurseries, and help to deal with their “special” plants issue. I had a reasonably broad knowledge of ethnobotany. We spoke at length of Ayahuasca, Brugmansia, Amanita mushrooms, Ibogaine, Datura, Cannabis, Mitragyna (Kratom), Salvia Divinorum and Calea (Dream Herb) amongst others.

That Was Easy

I told them my salary expectations, they showed me my office, and the next day, I began my career as “The Crazy White Man” and “The Orchid Thief.”

Le Carnaval des Animaux’ (The Carnival of the Animals) : The Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saëns.

It was either this or “Under The Sea” which it too “Nemo”

I Have Returned!

… in which Mr. John makes excuses

Hi. I’m back. Sorta.

I’m back! After a longish hiatus, a long summer, and a fresh perspective on life, I have returned to the keyboard. The kids are heading to school soon. Life will return to what resembles normal around the Stafford house. I’ve taken the opportunity to revamp the site. It should be better organized and look a bit nicer.

As you can see, I have changed some stuff up around the site. Some asshole spammed the comments, so I deleted them all. If you said something nice and want to again, I would love that.

I promise to post more often.

That is all.

Devo – Come Back Jonee

https://youtu.be/XJ5NwboGo-k
“We are all DEVO!”

Late Mid-Century Racism

… No one is born a racist

If you were white and alive in the late mid-century, the odds were that you were prejudiced. My childhood neighborhood was all white and mostly Jewish. If a person of color was seen walking down the street, it was assumed they were a maid or a gardener. If that person was running, this was cause for a call to 9-1-1.

I hope you will forgive me for the use of the following term, but I feel it’s essential to this tale or I would not use it.

My parents used the term “Nigger” like it was just an ordinary word like say, cat. One of my earliest memories was at night when they put me to sleep. I remember them saying, “You be good now, or the Niggers will come and get you.” I wasn’t sure who these monsters were, but I wanted to be good.

Growing up, I didn’t understand. Why was “Colored Town” such a terrible place? Why were these monsters going to get mad? Why were my parents so scared?

My First Best Friend

electric-football
It vibrated, and the men had magnets on them. You could “throw and catch.” After a few hours, you realized that it sucked.

When I was in third grade, my best friend was Charlie Devoe. We were inseparable. We did everything that best friends did in those days; traded baseball cards, made up grand adventures of Pirates and Dinosaurs and Spacemen. Life was pretty perfect. I had no idea that Charlie was “a Nigger”, he was just my friend. Some kids were fat, others had freckles, one kid had no legs, and some of us were white or tanned or brown. No one cared.

I had been given the mecca of all toys back then; Electric Football! This was a silly contraption only the cool kid’s had, and I HAD ONE!

Charlie was so jealous and begged to come over to play. I asked my Mom and she said, “Sure.” She had never met Charlie. I remember cleaning my room and getting the game set up, “just right,” and when the doorbell rang, I rushed to the door behind my Mom. She opened the door, saw Charlie, and said: “We don’t want any” and slammed the door shut. I yelled that this was Charlie and in her infinite racism announced: “I won’t have any Niggers in my house.”

I ran out of the house to find Charlie walking down the street crying, and I remember hugging him, telling him that I was sorry, that he was my best friend forever and that I loved him. We were friends for life.

In fourth grade, things got confusing. My parents were talking about “busing” and how horrible it was. They made it sound scary and evil. I was informed that “they” would be taking good white kids out of schools and busing in black kids from “Nigger Town.” Charlie and I didn’t care. It would be more friends.

The Fan is hit with Poo

Fifth grade started, and things were much different. I looked for Charlie and found him hanging out with a bunch of other kids. I ran up and was so happy. The biggest kid, James Hill, asked what a “Honkey” wanted with a bunch of black kids. I told him that I was Charlie’s friend and that I wanted to “hang out with you guys.”

For my trouble, I was pushed into the dirt and told that if I ever messed with the Black kids again, I would get my ass kicked.

Not being one to give up, I persisted in trying to talk to Charlie. He said he was sorry, but I just didn’t fit in anymore, like my mom wouldn’t let us play together. I was crushed.

During recess that day, I went to the group and pretty much demanded to be a part of it. James Hill said, “If you don’t go away, I am going to kick your ass!”. Using a word that was often used around my house, I said: “Fuck You!”.

Now, James had a good foot in height on me and outweighed me by a lot, and realizing that I had bitten off more than I could chew, I started to cry and ran away, with James hot on my heels.

Running as fast as I could, my crying turned to rage, and at that moment, I learned to fight dirty. Losing was not an option. I dropped to the ground and curled up into a tight ball. James couldn’t stop in time to avoid me and tripping; he flew face-first into the dirt. I got up, jumped on his back, grabbed his “fro” (complete with an afro pick with a closed fist on the end of the handle) and proceeded to pound his face into the ground over and over streaming a mixture of every obscenity and racial slur I had ever heard.

I didn’t get in trouble as I was “defending myself” and no one dared to mess with me for the rest of that grade or sixth. I was weird and brooding, and no one wanted much to do with me. My half-ass conversion from Judaism to Catholicism didn’t help that either I suppose. (Yet another ‘another story!’ moment)

The experience left me with the new determination that I must always “Fight to win at any cost.” I also secretly loved it. Seeds were sown that day.

My mother said, “I warned you,” and I hated her for it. If only she let Charlie play electric football.

Regret, Learning, Being Human.

I carried the scars of racism for a long time. In large part, I became my parents. I was a racist pig.

Years later, I dated a black girl. She was funny and kind and understood correctly “The Charlie Story” and what it did to me. She “taught me” how to bury the hatred of losing a racist friend and helped me come to terms with everything that had happened.

From best friend to racist, to interracial girlfriend, to respect and care for human diversity. It was a journey that was well worth it.

To this day I occasionally have nightmares about “The Niggers” and making friends is very hard for me.

I can’t get my head around the term “African American.” Until we stop labeling ourselves or each other, as a species, we are doomed to repeat a cycle of violence, distrust, and pain. Love. Respect. Be Human.

The Vomit Story

Introducing: Puke Man and Gag Gal

Me: “Hey, Dad, I think the cheese in the fridge has gone off. “

Father: “Gu-u-uuuuuph

Me: “Ma. Maggot!”

Mother: “Bluuuuuuuuuuurk.”

I tried to do this at least weekly as one of my paybacks for all the years of torment I suffered. They both had dentures, and at the drop of a hat, they would pop them out gagging. Gross, but funny as shit.

Dinner was often a dichotomy

OMG Fish Jello
OMG Fish Jello

Mother was a cook of a unique nature; some of her food was amazing, but she also had no problem serving us the vilest of swill. She could take perfectly good ground beef and turn it into a hard, dry, brick, and label it ‘meatloaf.’ Her stew was a marvel of canned veg, insipid “broth” and meat so dry and gristly that chewing a single piece was exhausting. I can’t even begin to describe the trauma that was her soup, and what she could do to a fish was unmentionable. Expect more stories of failed dinners and misadventures with dentures later.

Much of her food looked like dog sick, and I was amazed that my folks could eat it when the most innocuous thing would make them gag.

And Finally: The Story

Ralph and Tiger
Kittens are fantastic, and cats are assholes

One evening, when I was in my late teens, we were sitting at the table after having been presented with some inedible meal. At the time, we had two cats; Ralph and Tiger. Awesome cats. Anyway, during dinner, one of the cats comes into the dining room and starts chucking. Cats (and dogs) can’t ever just quietly puke. They have to build up to a crescendo of vomit via a series of violent retches.

By the second retch, forks were down, and the gagging commenced. All dentures remained firmly in place when the vomit hit the floor. I found this extremely disappointing, so I commented;

Me: “Is that a lizard in there? Is it moving?” (laughs)

That was enough for more gagging and the revolting sucking, clicking sound of dentures expelled into hands. Mission accomplished. The chuckle turned into a full-on laugh, which earned me a death glare.

But wait! There’s More!™

The second cat noticed the pile of warm vomit and decided to “re-eat it,” sending both parents into full vomit mode, chucking into their napkins. By now, I was in tears laughing.

The second cat wasn’t pleased with the re-eaten vomit and barfed that up, prompting both parents to spew in their dinner plates. By now, I was hysterical. When the original cat started puking again, I completely lost it and devolved into uncontrollable hysteria. My mom, mid-vomit, yelled at me to ‘fuck off’ and tossed one of her dentures at me, which skittered across the floor where one of the cats grabbed it and ran off with it like a prey.

The spectacle was just too much. Still hysterical, I left my parents to vomit in peace and escaped to my shed (my sheet metal fortress of solitude), sparked up a joint, cracked open a beer, lamented my family, and laughed and laughed.

The Summer Job That Tried to Kill Me

Hard Work Can Kill You

My Father was a Highrise construction worker. An unsafe profession that paid well but took a toll on the body and mind. When I was 8 or 9, he fell three stories off a building and broke his back. He should have spent the rest of his life paralyzed. Instead, he was back to work within two months. A couple of years after that, he witnessed a beheading on the job. He was never quite the same after that.

Hollywood-Young-Circle
Hollywood Young Circle the building next to the arrow that wanted me dead.

One summer, I reckon I was sixteen or so, I was invited to take a summer job working a bank building on Young Circle in Hollywood, Florida. I was at the time, always thin, but I was strong like an ox and recklessly fearless.

Orientation

On my first day on the job, I was given a talking to by the Foremen and my Father. The foremen looked dubiously at the kid in front of him, long hair, low cut hip hugger jeans-wearing some random concert tee-shirt. He began.

Foreman: “You need to be strong in this job. We can’t have anyone to baby, Will’s son, or not. Now see if you can pick up one of those sheets of plywood and bring it over here.”

They were clad with fiberglass, an inch thick, and weighed about 50ish pounds. I grabbed two and walked them over.

Me: “There you go.”

Satisfied with my show, the foremen went on to describe the job. Before he began, my Pop interjected.

Father: “If you tell your mother any of this, you are done. Nothing! Not a word!”

With this ominous warning, the foreman began,

Foreman: “Look, kid, it’s important to be careful on this job site. Lots of men get hurt here, and I don’t want you to be one of them. Your father got blown off the building, and if he didn’t have a safety line, he would have gone splat. A man was carrying a glass sheet that broke, cut him from shoulder to knee. One hundred twenty stitches set him right. We’ve had more accidents on this job than most men see in a dozen jobs.”

Me: “Gotcha. Don’t bust my ass. Don’t die. Keep quiet.”

They weren’t kidding about the carnage

vulcan_hand_signal
Artist rendition of the aftermath of an idiot using a knife.

In the first week or so, I learned the ropes and got to witness more than a few accidents. Some of them were nasty. One incident I can never unsee was a guy using a box cutter knife to cut some rubber or something. He held the material down and pulled the knife toward his hand.

I think he misjudged how sharp the knife was because when it got to his hand, it kept going. His hand was split open from finger web to palm. I put a tourniquet on him, and the “accident siren” went off.

That damn thing was going off all the time.

Working the roof was hell.

We were close to the beach, and upon the top floor, the wind was pretty intense. Everyone soaked in sweat from the heat. Top floor work was hellish.

One day I was tethered to the building handing down these large plywood sheets to a guy on a scaffold. We were framing out the lower floor walls. My anchor rope was 20 feet long (so I could get to the pile of wood), attached to my safety harness. I was using a rig of cable to help support the 4 x 8 sheet of wood as I lowered it down.

Most of the morning was without incident until someone got careless. I was standing on the roof edge, rope rig in place, ready to kneel. Little did I know, but some asshole was carrying a 12 foot 4×4 on his shoulder behind me. For whatever reason, he swung it around and knocked me face-first off of the roof. Now I don’t remember a thing after this, but I was filled in on what happened later.

I flew out about 6 feet, missing the scaffold my partner was using (had I hit him, he would have fallen too). Holding on to the rope rig as hard as I could as the tether played out, tightened and slammed me into a column on the floor below. I was or almost was unconscious, the rope rig somehow got snared on my hand and boot, and the plywood didn’t drop on the group of workers on the ground.

I was battered and bruised with a couple of cracked ribs, but relatively unscathed. My “cred” when up hugely though, by not losing the wood and being “tough.”

There is no way you could get hurt

shoring-jack
Shoring Jack

Ribs taped up, they put me on light duty work, sweeping, emptying rubbish bins, sorting nails and such. I couldn’t get hurt, the foreman assured me, even thinking this is an invitation for fate to fuck you up, in my opinion.

A couple of days after the “incident,” my father (who was in charge of the columns and shoring and I were talking about my next job; ironically checking each jack on each floor for slippage and safety nails.

The contraption pictured is a shoring jack. While the real concrete columns cure and harden, each floor will have dozens of these to help support the building. The angle things holding the Jack-up are supposed to have a safety nail driven in them to keep the shoring from accidentally collapsing. The rig was made of 4×4 wood and weighed a ton.

I rested my hand where you see the arrow, and my Pop leaned against the other side. I hadn’t even started the “job,” The job was being explained to me when Fate saw the opportunity, and since THIS jack didn’t have the safety nails in place, the top 4×4 slid down to the small wood where my hand was. The noise was a cracking, squishing sound. The funny thing about getting badly damaged, initially; there is no pain. My Pop grabbed the jack before it could fall and do any further damage, and we looked to free my hand. After further review, this was a bad idea when a decent amount of blood started oozing from my the side of my hand.

That damn accident siren

The siren sounded, and someone called the paramedics. I stood there with a now swelling and painful hand. Men clustered around me, and I couldn’t cry or scream or do anything “unmanly” as this was the age of “toxic masculinity” and real men “sucked it up.” I stood silently and waited. A brigade of firefighters and medics showed up. A big production commenced as they cut away the area crushing my hand, wrapped it up, and with backboard and neck brace, in place we departed. An ambulance ride and a day in the hospital left me with a broken wrist, compression fractures, and something called compartment syndrome, which required several long cuts along my hand. I was sent home with pain killers and a prognosis of two months of recovery.

The best summer ever

An on-the-job accident meant that I would get paid regardless of work. I got a few hundred bucks each week (for nothing) and spent the summer at the beach, drinking, fornicating, and generally having a blast. In hindsight, this was the start of my “rough patch.” More on that later.

God, though, must have been pissed off because fate had set its evil eye on my penis. (to be continued)

My Brain Broke

To make a long story short, the cumulative effects of my life; Abuse, “The Rough Patch,” Accidents, Traumas, my Penance, and pretty much everything you will read about here has broken me. The story of my decline, how we discovered my disability and treated it, is for another story or two, but here are the basics.

A laundry list

In short, I have :

  • C-PTSD
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Cognitive Dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Previous undiagnosed ADHD
  • Prone to fits of rage (I have a doctor’s note to be a raging asshole)
  • To quote my Psychologist “behavioral abnormalities” (which I “think” is shorthand for “You’re an Asshole.)”
  • and my favorite; “You might be on the spectrum, if not then really close.” (this must be a massive surprise for the Adaptation folks -insert wry grin here.)

Concentrating is very hard and exhausting for me. I pretty much cannot do simple math anymore.

I take drugs for my issues, and I take medications for side effects of these drugs. These can sometimes leave me in various states of mania, stoned, raging, or unable to stay conscious. Some days I can’t get out of my tracks and therefore accomplish nothing.

So if I skip a week (or six) between posts, now you know why.

The good news is that I have over 30 draft posts ready to share with you when I can. The bad news is that it takes days to write a single post and it must be proofread and edited by Kerry before finally posting for you all to see.

House Elf?

If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will instantly know Dobby the House Elf. Here in case, you forgot, or you are a godless heathen that knows not of Harry Potter, this is Dobby.

When It became evident that even simple math was an issue for me and there was no way I could get a steady job doing anything, my wife stepped up to the plate and became not only a Realtor but an Insurance Agent. My life was reduced to housework, naps, and attending to the children. I have become a House Elf.

My wife also blogs about our life so if you want to read her thoughts on all this mess, you can read them here: Life in the Cuckoos Nest.

Fuck Fish

… in which Mr. John tells the whole story of Adaptation’s “Fuck Fish” scene

One of the most asked questions about “the movie” is the “Fuck Fish” scene. It’s been a band name, a song, several memes, and it is a long-ass story and not the brief scene you get in the movie.

The clip from Adaptation

“Done with Fish”

The whole story

When I was 21ish and at the tail end of “The Rough Patch” (more about that later). I was looking for something wholesome to fill my hours, after bouncing around a few things that didn’t work out, I landed on marine fish collecting. Why? Well, my love of all things aquatic started in my childhood, and living on the coast in South Florida, I spent a ton of my youth enjoying the beach, fishing, boating, and the sea. My folks had a great love of aquariums and passed that on to me. It seemed a perfect fit.

The library saves the day

Way back then, we didn’t have the luxury of the interwebs, so I spent my time in the Library studying and learning. I stumbled across this book (see below), which turned out to be perfect. This man, Bob Straughan, outlined everything needed to start a fish collecting venture. Still, flush with cash from “The Rough Patch,” I bought everything I needed and, pockets lighter, I went out to one of the spots mentioned in the book, netted up some fish, and had a grand old-time.

An obsession begins

The Marine Collectors Guide
The Marine Collectors Guide

Armed with a few buckets of fish, I dropped into one of the local pet shops and walked out with about a hundred bucks and the promise that they would buy anything I brought them. I had found my thing. Clean, wholesome, adventurous, and decent money to boot. That I was getting carved and golden brown was a nice bonus too.

I spent months diving. Always alone and with nothing but a mask, fins, and snorkel. Yes, it was dangerous, but to me, that was a large part of the attraction. I was hurt regularly. Waves crashing me into barnacle-covered rocks, and if something could sting me, it would. You haven’t lived until you’ve sat on Fire Coral. One day while collecting Sea Horses, I stepped on a stingray. I still carry the scar that took 20 stitches to close. Generally, though, if I saw something like a shark or barracuda, I would leave it be, and it would return the favor.

As my “career” continued, I bought a fish tank after a fish tank to store my stock, and business was booming. Things were great.

Darkness falls. Bad things happen

-Me
patch-reef
Patch Reef in the early ’80s

Success breeds arrogance

With each victory, I took more and more risks. Someone told me of a plateau about fifty feet wide that was covered with stunning patch reefs, caves, and meadows of Seagrass. To reach it, though. I had to swim out about a quarter of a mile into the Ocean. I just had to go. When I reached the spot, below me, about twenty feet down, there was the plateau as mind-blowingly beautiful as I’d expected. Beyond it was an abyss that dropped, for all I knew, forever. There were so many fish I didn’t know where to start. By this time, I could hold my breath like 5 or 6 minutes. Usually, this was plenty of time to swim down, snag a few fish, swim back to the surface, and deposit the critters in the oversized life ring I had equipped with a diving flag and nets.

Nurse_shark-at-large
Nurse Shark Cruising and Chilling

Collecting Tropical Fish Today

Presently, what I did would not be possible. To conserve our amazing Florida coral reefs, nearly everywhere I hunted, the National Park has protected fish. This watery wonderland will be preserved for future generations (well until climate change kills the reef and drowns most of Florida). Fishing and Lobstering are permitted, but the collection of ornamental fish is strongly regulated. If you get to South Florida, carve some time out for a visit.

When I went out, I usually scouted about to make sure things were safe and look for prey. I had noticed a couple of Nurse Sharks cruising around, but they are typically harmless unless you mess with them, so I had no concerns. You will see in the photo there is an overhang/cave of sorts next to the nurse shark. I had looked into a few of these and found a gold mine of Jackknife Fish. At the time, each Jackknife Fish was a 20-dollar bill, and there was at least 50 swimming upside down in a six-by-five overhang. There was nothing else in the small cave. It was perfect.

With great excitement, I rose to the surface, gathered enough breath for a big dive, and shot back down. My gear consisted of a weight belt, a sharpened “poke stick” made of a lead pipe, my net, a mesh bag for the fish, and my wetsuit.

Gleefully, I started scooping up the fish. I knelt on the sand and instantly knew I was fucked.

Sand doesn’t move.

Jackknife Fish

What happened next was so fast and yet seemed to take an eternity. At first, I felt this incredibly painful crushing on my leg, and when I looked down, I saw a five-ish foot Nurse Shark gnawing with raspy teeth through my wet suit into my flesh. Sharks tend to spin when they are trying to kill their prey (or protect themselves), and this one was no different. It began twisting its body, alternately slamming me into the rock on the roof and the sand on the floor. I knew this was where I would die. As the cave filled with my blood and all the air I was holding in my lungs, I started beating it about the head and eyes;

Amazingly, it just let go. I had just enough peace of mind left to un-clip my weight belt and push-off the seafloor to the surface. Somehow I made it to my dive ring, paddled to the shore without a “real shark,” smelling the blood, and drove myself to the hospital. My leg looked like raw hamburger. I was battered and bruised.

Apparently, it is easy being green

slippery-dick
Yes, it’s called a Slippery Dick. Stop giggling.
molly_miller
Molly Miller, the clown of the aquarium

I took several months off to heal and re-energize myself, bought all new equipment, and decided to give diving another go. Picking a particularly safe area where the worst thing that could happen is a scrape or an odd cut, I headed back out. The water was crystal clear and only five feet deep. I was after two, easy to catch, fish, the Slippery Dick and the Molly Miller, (who names these fish?!) each worth only a dollar, but money wasn’t the motive, getting my “sea balls” back was.

I poked around some (with a new and improved poke stick), caught a few fish, and then noticed a slightly larger hole and thought I could “go for it” and look about for a “real” fish.

Well, fuck me if this asshole didn’t pop out of the hole. The Green Moray can grow to six feet and weigh as much as 50 pounds. Human attacks are very uncommon, but when they happen, they can be severe.

moray-eel
Hi, my name is Asshole. I am a Moray Eel.

We stared each other down. I thought it was just an exciting encounter for a moment, and we would go our different ways. However, as usual, Darkness falls, etc. and it shot out of the hole, snatched my mask off, and cut the fuck out of my face. It then promptly retreated into its dastardly lair. Fucker.

Here it comes.

At this point, I hauled my ass out of the water streaming obscenities, ripped off all my gear, left it where it fell, and said: “Fuck this. Fuck the ocean. Fuck Fish. I am never diving, swimming, or anything to do with the sea.”

fuck-fish
One of my favorite memes

For 35 or so years, I never set foot in the ocean. Well, I have gone in twice, but that is another story. I rarely eat fish. Fuck Fish.

Now, this isn’t the end of “fish” in my life; the tale will continue with “The Day I Met God,” however, that’s for another day.

Le Carnaval des Animaux’ (The Carnival of the Animals) : The Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saëns.

It was either this or “Under the Sea” which it too “Nemo”

Don’t Damn Me

… in which Mr. John wrestles with credibility issues

Throughout my life, I have had some issues with credibility. With my lifestyle and the crazy situations, I found/find myself in my stories are so fantastic, so random, so unlikely that some people have difficulty believing me.

Stories like The Pink Shirt are OK if a person has a few such incidents during a lifetime. When there are one hundred or more? The “Stink Eye” often makes an appearance.

Let’s Hear From A Couple of our Main Cast

If I didn’t witness half of them for myself, I would think most of your stories were bullshit.

Will Laroche

Near the entrance to the Seminole reservation in Hollywood, Florida, there is a large wooden sculpture of a Seminole man wrestling a bowlegged, bucktoothed alligator. Laroche told me once that his father had been the model for the Seminole wrestler. I found this improbable since the Laroche’s have no Indian blood at all, but Laroche explained that the sculptor had been a friend of his father’s and had asked him to pose because he thought the elder Laroche possessed a quintessential Seminole build. I still found the story improbable, so I asked Laroche about it several other times, including once when we were on the phone and I knew his father was in the room with him. I had counted on his father to act as a sort of lie detector, but instead, the two of them launched into a discussion of whether the carved Seminole was life-size or larger than life-size, and whether it had a penis, and what the scale of the penis implied about Laroche’s father’s penis. This was not what I was hoping would happen, so I dropped the topic and never brought it up again.

Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief

Susan had the “Stink Eye.”

The Original Crazy White Man

When Will Laroche came to Florida in the late ’50s, a sculptor approached him. The man needed a tall model with a decent bod and large hands to pose with a plaster alligator. Money for just standing around was too much of a temptation for an ex Northeastern Crabber/Fisherman learning the ropes of High rise Construction. All he needed to persuade him was the promise that his face would be changed. Immortality, of sorts, would be his.

Seminole Indian Village
Defunct Indian Village With Offending Statue

The result rested in all its bizarre glory at the Indian Village for years. Every damn time we drove past it, I would hear the story — Every. Damn. Time. They even made a postcard out of the damn thing.

The statue was his “15 minutes” and in the eyes of a child, “a giant man kicking an alligators ass” was what a Dad should be.

When interviewing for The Orchid Thief, Susan would often give me “that look.” I was sure it was code for; “This guy is so full of shit,” which is what we shall call “The Stink Eye.” Frankly, I was amused. In this particular instance, I saw that she had dug her heels in, convinced that it was a manufactured story and brought it up several times, in an effort, I presume, to trip me up and prove the “lie.”

Hard Rock
This abomination of nature stands at the site of the original Indian Village

Chatting with the old man one day, I mentioned that Susan thought the statue story was bullshit, which pissed him off to no end. It was apparently “OK” for her to call me a liar, but to question him, that was unforgivable. I, honestly, begged him not to go on Orlean.

“Just let it go Pop.”

Letting go was not a real thing in my house, and the old guy gave me that “hold my beer” look and launched into it. I played color to his commentary, and the conversation ended as written by Orlean. In case of anyone wondering, we estimated the statue’s penis at some 15 inches.

The Orchid Thief Published

My old man had his penis in a book. Virtually, but still, it was his dick.

At first, he wasn’t amused. Throwing gas on the fire, I suggested that he send Susan a Polaroid of the actual member. Looking back on it, I think I might have invented the “Dick Pic.” (Sorry.) In the end, he came around and during a recital of the tale, ended it with pride that his dick was in a bestselling novel.

Years later, as he was dying, we talked about my life and what I had done and seen and reminiscing, he reminded me that there was something he had accomplished that I never had; Yep, someone wrote about his penis in a bestselling novel.

Point?

The point is that this is all true. Everything happened.

Old Axl and friends pretty much sum up what I feel when folks doubt or hate on my stories. Furthermore, they are spot on here:

I know you don’t want to hear me crying An I know you don’t want to hear me deny That your satisfaction lies in your illusions But your delusions are yours an not mine We take for granted that we know the whole story We judge a book by it’s cover and read what we want Between selected lines.

AXL ROSE, SLASH AND DAVE LANK

‘Cause silence isn’t golden When I’m holding it inside ‘Cause I’ve been where I have been An I’ve seen what I have seen I put the pen to the paper ‘Cause it’s all a part of me

AXL ROSE, SLASH AND DAVE LANK

There are so many things about my life that I hate, that disgust me, and when out of context, make me look like some Hellspawn. This said I wouldn’t change a single moment of my life because every tragedy and every triumph I have had in my life has brought me to now. I have the best wife a man could imagine and two brilliant children who have the brains and intelligence to change the world if they choose.

Listen, Learn, Make a Choice.

I realize I am a dinosaur, and my relevance to a 21st Century born is minimal. The world of most of these stories is dead and gone (which for the most part is a good thing).

As you read these posts, I hope they make you think and perhaps see things from a different perspective. See what I have done to cope with a life many are not blessed (or cursed) to have. I hope my choices help steer you in how you deal with tragedy or triumph. My way wasn’t always the right way; it’s just what happened. A mistake isn’t a mistake if you learn from it.

Guns N’ Roses – Don’t Damn Me

Don’t damn me when I speak a piece of my mind

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