By Shell Fejio
My husband was born one of three boys on the east coast, in a small town known for its Portuguese fishermen, perhaps more for their drug use and hard drinking than for the big catch, but they were known nonetheless. When his parents left for sunny California in his early childhood, they landed in a more fog covered Bay Area, but there was water, and my husband’s father took advantage of it. His dad would show up at the elementary school just past noon on a Monday, barely cleaned up from a late night of partying, pulling in the parking lot and honking. The receptionist would send the boys out, and under the guise of a doctors appointment (nobody at the school ever questioned why they were so many appointments, it was the seventies), Pops would take them down to the marina.
A ninety-nine cent package of bologna with a bottle of mustard and a loaf of white bread fed them for the day. Pops drank beer while the boys shared sugar laden Shasta soda. The lake was the bathroom, unless number two was needed, then, a bucket in the back of the truck sufficed. By sundown, Pops would be drunk, the boys tired and cranky, and the fish, on a good day, were flopping on a stringer in the water by their feet. Weekends might be searching for crabs or clams at the ocean, rushing them home to get them in the pot, simmered in garlic and spices. In bad times, his dad would marinate smelt, a tiny fish abundant in the Pacific, a fish that soaked up the wine and got everybody drunk from tasting before dinner. Parties were oysters on the barbeque, hot sauce and a beer chaser.
My husband became a big drinker too. At twenty-two, he worked ten hours a day at a dry cleaners, with no respirator, inhaling any chemicals he could, hoping for a little buzz. After work, the first stop was the drive thru liquor store on the Mission Boulevard strip, a six-pack, at least. He’d get home, eyes shiny, beer in hand, ready to grab his pole. Night fishing was catfish. An early morning before work was hoped for rainbow trout. On Wednesdays, he got off early, picked me up from high school at first, later, from our tiny run down apartment, and begged to go to the lake – the ocean was too far on a work night – even in California, you can be a flatlander. Continue Reading…