“Guest Blogger – One”
While I’m bribing my way to a prime beach chair location in Hawaii, I have decided to hand this space over to a young writer, whose work I admire, and whose approach is compatible with what you’ve come to expect here. It should be. The young writer is me. Age twenty-four to twenty-six.
That’s right. This whole week, I will be offering (sometimes shortened) selections from Earl Pomerantz’s first paid writing job, as a weekly columnist for the Toronto Telegram, circa 1968-70. I believe I’m a better writer now – more focused and (slightly) less self-indulgent – but I think these random offerings reflect the stylistic and subjectival seeds of what comes later, demonstrating that I was me back then too. (And who of us wasn’t?)
The issues and concerns that I thought about more than four decades ago continue to grind on my mind today. Common denominator – no answers then; no answers now. I am still stuck on the questions.
It will take all the discipline I have to resist the impulse to rewrite. Writers naturally want to present themselves at their best. But I also want to true to this experiment. This was my best back then. For the most part, it wasn’t all that bad.
Okay, here we go. Lower your standards and open your hearts. A young Jewish writer’s about to make his www debut.
I’ll see you after the holidays. A little older, and considerably more tan.
Happy New Year!
My first blast from the past concerns a salmon father clueing in his young salmon son on the pescatorial Facts of Life. This section was preambled by a “heart to heart” about the boy’s future, revealing his decision, not surprisingly, to become a salmon. That preamble shines a light on a twenty-four year old’s concern for his own future, and his (irrational) resentment of the lower species for having that issue naturally taken care of.
Okay, father and son. Two salmon, engaging in the time-honored “Talk.”
“Now that you’re ready to swim alone, it’s time you knew about the Facts of the Pond.”
“Oh, I know about that, Daddy. The lady fish lays her eggs and the…”
“Not those fact, Horace. I’m talking about fishermen.”
“Oh. How do they do it?”
“Oh, boy. What do they teach you in that school of yours?”
“Spelling, Italian, typing…”
“And nothing about fishermen?”
“No, Daddy. Who are they?”
“Listen, Horace. I know you’re a sensitive kid, but you’ve got to be told. A fisherman is a person who…catches fish and…eats us.”
“Like the bogeyman?”
“No, Horace, this is real. He throws a string into the water. At one end of the string is the fisherman holding a stick with a winder on it, and at the other end is a sharp hook. Like a coat hanger.”
“More, Daddy. This is a good story. Much better than the princess and the frog.”
“I don’t seem to be getting through to you, Horace. Maybe…look. You see up there?”
“Hey, it’s a worm. Let’s eat it!”
“But worms are delicious. You’ll like them, Daddy. They taste like chicken.”
“I’ve had worms, Horace. But this worm is a killer!”
“A Killer Worm?”
“Aren’t you the least bit surprised to see a worm in the water?”
“Hey, yeah. Worms don’t live in the water. What’s it doing here?”
“Let’s swim on up, and I’ll show you. See that? This worm isn’t working alone. He’s stuck on one of those hooks I was telling you about. You see the string?”
“Yeah. You weren’t kidding with that story.”
“There’s no kidding here. Take a bite of that worm, and the hook will stick you right in your throat. The fisherman feels the string get heavy, he winds you in, and it’s all over. That’s how they got Uncle Murray.”
“His own fault. He thought he could beat the odds. I’m telling you the emmis (‘the truth’, to non-Jewish salmon.) It can’t be done.”
“I bet you could do it, Daddy.”
“No, Horace! That’s ‘crazy talk!’”
“Come on, Daddy. You’re smarter than Uncle Murray any day.”
“Do it, Daddy! Do it!”
“You know… Listen, don’t tell you mother I told you, but I used to do it all the time.
They made us, when we were pledging the fraternity. It’s pretty easy when you know the trick.”
“Show me, Daddy!”
“The secret is, you gotta come in from the back. Like this. The fishermen, they always put the worm on facing front. He can’t see me back here, so all I have to do is open my mouth and…AGGGHHHHH!!!”
“What’s happening, Daddy! You’re going up!”
“Two-headed worm, son! Oldest trick in the book, and I fell for it, hook, line and…oh, so that’s what that means! So long, son. I’m going up where the air is…air. Take care of your mother. And remember what I taught you.”
As Horace watches his dad get reeled away, a tear glistens in his salmonic eye. As he sadly swims away, seared in his brain is the lesson fish throughout the ages have learned before him.
“It won’t happen to me.”
Unfortunately, it’s the wrong lesson.
Re: Last Friday's post: I believe Jimmy Carter amnestied the draft dodgers, but the deserters are still not permitted to come home.
Also, a "Thanks for sticking around this long" farewell to "Follower 39." I'd have preferred if you'd found a "pinch Follower" to take your place - "Now reading for Follower 39, a new Follower 39" - but I appreciate your presence, and though I don't know who you are, I'll miss you.
In any case, there is now an opening. Anyone's who's wanted to be "Follower 39" but found the position filled, now's your chance.