“I never like to see a man in a suit, you know what I mean? A man in a suit is up to something I think. And it’s never something good. Unless he’s dead. And even then…”
I’m ice fishing. Ice fishing is like a code phrase for drinking outside in the winter.
“You’re saying the dead are up to something?”
“I don’t trust ‘em.”
I’m drinking outside in the winter. And I’m fishing. With Gerry. The fishing is irrelevant. Unless I hook one, and then it’s relevant as hell. But that doesn’t happen.
Gerry wants to know about the writing.
“You write those books. They do well? I mean, you see some money out of that?”
The point that I’m leading up to here is that, probably like a lot of writers, I have friends who write and I have friends who do not. In my case these two camps never meet. They are countries apart. It’s not that my friends who are writers couldn’t ice fish. I suppose they could. I don’t think they do. They don’t. They do other stuff. But I’ve never heard of one ice fishing.
“What are you doing this weekend?”
“I’m going ice fishing.”
“You mean outside?”
My friends who are not writers can write, they’re literate; it’s just that they just choose not to write. Last weekend a few of us got together in Gerry’s garage and watched Steve put the snow tires on his truck. It was a spectator sport. Gerry has the air compressor you see. It was like practising for ice fishing because it’s starting to get cold out now and we opened the doors so we could get some physical conditioning in. We set up folding chairs and got comfortable. It was like being in the pits at a NASCAR race. Only Steve wasn’t that fast and he had to deal with a lot of abuse. Some beer bottles were thrown. It took about an hour and a half to complete the job. That’s a little off the pace for Daytona but it doesn’t matter, there’s only one car here.
“Whyn’t you tighten those nuts?”
“Tighten your own.”
With writers mostly I drink, and mostly we talk about writing. Which is something you really can’t compare to a sport of any kind. As a spectator sport it would rank right up there with bridge, or maybe tournament darts. And even though I’m predisposed to the discussion of writing I get winded easily. My long game is crap. I can’t keep up the pace. I get carried off the field. Just thinking about it makes me sink into a holding tank of bad sports analogies. Nobody cares what writers think about writing aside from other writers and even then it’s a stretch most of the time, at least it is for me. It’s not that I don’t really care about my friends who are writers, some of them are very nice and often quite interesting. It’s just that I don’t care too much what they think about writing which often seems to be the only thing that they have to talk about when I’m with them. Maybe it’s me. It’s probably me. It’s the only thing I have to talk about when I’m with them too. We share this disease. Maybe the thing is that what makes these people interesting is never actually the fact that they write.
With my friends who don’t write the topics of conversation are more wide ranging: drinking, stories about drinking, sex, stories about sex, jokes about sex, sports, stories about drinking and sex, jokes about drinking and sex, sports, stories about drinking and having sex at sports events… fishing, drinking and fishing (there is no sex in fishing), sports, places to go where it is good to fish, places where it is good to go and drink, places where it’s good to go and hunt… places where it’s good to go and have sex…it’s never about post-colonial theory or post modernism… it is sometimes about post coital rashes. I don’t know. It’s just different. A friend of mine buried his dog in a sealed Rubbermaid. Can you imagine what that looks like now? Another friend is having sex alphabetically with all the women in Brockville. Well, not all the women. One for each letter of the alphabet. He’s up to “N”.
“What do you think about the Giller prize?”
Actually that exchange could have happened in either camp I suppose, if my fishing friends were aware of the Giller. But they are not. Most people are not aware of the Giller you know. True story.
This year we’ve pooled our resources and we’ve bought a hut to put on the river. We’re getting too old to keep freezing our asses off. This year we’ll need a cooler for the beer and vodka. Things change. But not Gerry.
“I’m happier than a buzzard on a gut truck,” he says, having just finished drilling a new hole in the ice. Gerry is of the Swiss cheese school of ice fishing. The more holes the better.
“Happier than a car wash hooker on wing night…”
He’s on the low end of a bottle of Russian vodka which is one reason he’s so happy. Plus he caught a fish about an hour ago, bled it out on the ice, and now it’s packed in snow in the cooler next to the ham sandwiches. If he gets drunk enough he’ll fillet it. He only fillets when he’s really drunk. The knife moves like magic.
And he has some venison pepperoni. Gerry’s always happiest when he has venison pepperoni.
“You make much money on those books?”
“Short of fifty.”
“I don’t want to piss on your eggs but that’s not a lot of money for all the time you spend on it, is it?”
“No, it’s not.”
“But you like it?”
“You think we should get a heater for the hut?”
And that’s the longest discussion I’ve ever had about writing while ice fishing. I’ve seen writers discuss writing until the bar closes and the streetlights go off.
It’s ugly in a bar when the fluorescent lights go on, you ever notice that? And then they start to clean it. As if a bar could ever be clean.
I’m saying that as a writer ice fishing is good for me. And I don’t think talking about writing is. I think that’s what I’m saying. But I might be wrong. It’s hard to tell. I’ve been drinking since breakfast. We’ve been out here on the ice most of the day and I can’t feel my toes anymore.
Which is fine.
It’s just fine.
Michael Blouin is the author of I Don’t Know How to Behave, which is fiction that occupies a happy grey area between prose and poetry and reads like one of the best novels I’ve ever read (I being the intern), and you should read it immediately. Actually, it’s 25% off until December 1st, 2013. Buy it here.
Read more about Michael in his Author Profile.