Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Dad the Fish Monger and the B Roll

Dad’s are born in this world with faulty wiring below the body panel. Depending on the era there were no inspectors present to send them back for an overhaul - so you get what you get. Not a bad thing, just more delicious humor.

Pops stood six foot six - bald in his early twenties and with thick black frame glasses looking like an economist at a farm auction. I truly don’t know what that means other than he was a blend of things beyond description. Wait a minute – the final touch – the ever present baseball cap.

Pops had a love of fishing. Not a normal love affair with a pole and a brook but a lifelong obsession. I have this vision of him in a crib with a thirty pound rock bass sporting a bonnet cradled nearby both asleep in the land of bliss and with a serious lack of common humor - dad looks over and says – ‘One day I’ll reserve space on my trophy wall for you.”

After college we rarely spoke until old age – he saw me as a peacenik commie - I him - the Imperial Wizard. He was all turn of the century Southern white male never really warming to emancipation. 

After cable arrived you could walk in his house and he’d be sitting in the recliner with FOX News posted past ear splitting and he’d be talking to Bill O’Reilly. ‘You’re right Bill,’ then he’d asked the house – ‘Did you hear what Bill said – or he’d say – ‘They caught another one’ - whatever that meant. He was like our favourite cartoon. Most days he was blowing angry in that chair waiting to steam sand furniture and you could sense it coming. He’d make this spitting sound like a goose blowing pumpkin seeds – ‘Sput, sput, sput’.. and of course we’d go into a laughing frenzy. In fact, my side of the family, brother Wayne, my late sister Karen, Jesse , Kris and I never stop laughing – so the old man just egged us on. It was truly his glorious fault.

Dad fished from the first breath of morning past the last meal at night. Fish jumped hurdles in his dreams. The guy had two fishing camps – one down in Kentucky another in Belle Glade, Florida. I’d call home from the road and ask mother what’s dad up to and she’d say fishing and she’d ask me – 'Are you working?' End of conversation in fact the same conversation rolled on forty plus years.

Pops dressed in a tan jumpsuit with fish emblems pasted from head to boot. There were stuffed fish on the walls – one that laughed on the mantel – gorgeous collection of lures and poles on the back porch. With this in mind the old man became fascinated with video cameras. I have no recollection when.

I drop in for Christmas and I see racks of VHS tapes. Most were his collection of the bombing of Dresden and Hitler’s march across Europe. Get past that and you get to the meat of my dad Barney Fellini.

“You boys want to see something I shot at camp.” I’m thinking sure – haven’t seen the place or the people. So, full of excitement he stuffs the large cassette through the mouth of the player and sits back for a screening.

First thing you sense is the sound – dad talking to ducks. “Were here in Florida and the weather is nice – oh there they are ducks on the pond.” OK cool- .. forty minutes in and brother Wayne asks – is this all there is? “ Pops hesitates, Well – mother’s coming up.” Another five minutes goes by of Zen watching when a voice returns – “Mother can you move in a little?” Little did we know pops didn’t believe in panning. So mom keeps moving to the left until in full view. Now, mother’s biggest life move is standing with hands to the side of the body – we called that emotion. She moved as if this was a session of still photography. Then says – “Can I go?” End of film.

I surmised dad had developed his own style which I call the surveillance technique. He’d just stick a camera on you – never move and leave it there.

God bless him because he found another passion in life that stayed with him until he died.

One last story. So pops calls and says – ‘I made a film of that jazz bird you like.” I’m thinking – what is a jazz bird. Then I remembered from youth everyone he had an issue with was a bird. Lord knows why.

So, he goes on telling me – ‘You know that weird bird we saw at the Cincinnati jazz festival that walked around the piano. ‘Thelonious Monk?” Yes that’s the bird. ‘Have you seen it.” I’m thinking – ‘Straight No Chaser”.. Yeah that’s it. I can mail it to you. Then he says – “I didn’t think it was going to be that long – my shoulder’s killing me.” He catches me with that. “Your shoulder’s killing you?” Yeah – I had the camera on my shoulder while I shot if for you.” Are you kidding – you can just record off television I tell him. “Don’t know how to do that.”

God bless pops and the fish that took him.

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