The Gulf Coast of the United States is a self-contained biosphere. The selection of things you can do to entertain yourself is as unique as the culture, and boats piloted by Cajun sea captains are as abundant as the restaurants selling etouffee and crawfish. Frequently trips leave the Louisiana shores on expeditions out into deep water where adventurers hunt for yellowfin tuna hiding below the waves.

A few years ago I left on one such voyage out of Venice, Louisiana. Unknown until the recent BP oil spill, Venice is a bit removed from the regular, beaten path. If you’re unfamiliar with its exact location, it is seven hours east of Houston and two hours south of New Orleans. From there, you drive to the end of the world, go through a frozen sea, past the dead floating bodies of pirates that have lost their way, and over a giant waterfall.

Venice is eleven miles past that.

My grandfather was an avid fisherman his entire life and instilled the love of the sport in me. From the day I could walk, I can remember standing on jetty rocks and throwing my line into the deep. A cooler full of redfish and speckled trout would accompany me and my grandfather home, where my grandmother would fry them up. My childhood is a collection of Saturday afternoons filled with the smell of hot oil in the air and a pan full of freshly cooked, cornmeal covered fish on the table.

I cannot begin to count the nights that I’ve spent on one beach or another, stoking a fire to burn away the dark’s chill and waiting for the first fingers of sun to reach over the horizon. Mornings spent waist-deep in the ocean with a fishing rod in my hand have always been the most peaceful, even if not necessarily safe. When you’re in the water, it is seldom efficient to walk back to shore with every fish caught. A stringer tied to a belt loop will often suffice, with each fish added to the string until you hit your limit. I vividly recall having had that string hit by a massive force and jerked out towards deeper water before the pressure released. Pulling it in, the half of a fish dangling off the end is all that is needed to remind you that sharks are quite present. They’re usually black-tips though, and I have shared the water with them my entire life.

As teenagers, we used to fish specifically for them, swimming out to the second or third sand bar with a fishing pole and a piece of bloody meat attached to a large hook, casting from the shallower water, and then swimming back with the pole to wait for an indication of a hit. Swimming with blood-drenched chunks of flesh through the murky gulf probably doesn’t rank high on my Brilliant Things I’ve Done list, but it is exhilarating.

And though I’ve spent a lot of my life on the water, I had never been offshore to fish. I knew only of the tales of snapper and tuna that my friends brought back with them when they went out. Venice would change that.

My brother Jeremy called me to meet him at the last minute. We needed a break, he said. He and his friend Scott had chartered a boat and the other two people going with them had suddenly backed out. Our cousin Marshall and I had been called in as replacements. I, though, was the only rookie on the tour. Offshore fishing was a regular pastime for Jeremy, Scott was a lawyer that owned his own boat and went frequently out on the Gulf down in South Texas, and Marshall had worked as a hand on a vessel for most of his life. It was the perfect crew, as long as I could manage to hold myself together.

“You’re gonna get sick,” Marshall said. “It’s okay though. Everyone does their first few times. Just make sure you throw up over the side.”

“And you may want to take it easy on the alcohol tonight,” my brother added. We were sitting on the deck of the house boat at the fish camp and I had just poured another massive glass of Jack Daniels, sans mixer. I’ve always found it disrespectful to the whiskey gods to add anything to it but ice. The three of them had been there for a day already and were well rested. I had just driven in from Texas.

“I’ll be fine,” I said confidently. They chuckled together at my ignorance, then Scott began to brief me on what to expect aside from the inevitable sea sickness. The weather had been bad he said, but a hole was opening up in the morning and that was when we were going. It was January so it was going to be cold, but worth it. On top of it all, he’d found the perfect captain and the perfect boat. Money can’t buy a better trip, he swore, and then he was interrupted by the skipper himself.

Though Scott was a bloodthirsty demon of a fisherman himself, he had gone to great lengths to find a captain that was even sicker than he was. Captain Al was the kind of guy that went spearfishing for mako sharks in his down time; just him, a pointy stick, and five-hundred pounds of muscle and teeth in the water at the same time. I had always considered myself somewhat brave for swimming with the black-tips, but this man chose to virtually French kiss the fastest fish in the ocean for fun. He was a young version of Captain Quint.

“I don’t want anyone in this goddamn boat that doesn’t want to kill stuff!” he began. “You got that? This isn’t a goddamn pleasure cruise! We’re coming back with fish, and if we can’t catch ‘em and reel ‘em in, then I’ll stick raw meat in my pockets, jump in, and bite them to death myself. I’m serious here, people. We’re going to war!

I know where they are, and if they’re not there, I know where they’re hiding. We will hunt these fish down and we will kill them. We’ll kill their families. We’ll kill every one of their goddamned fish friends. We’ll even kill other fish that might owe them money. Nothing is safe out there! I swear to God, if I have to put hooks in my face and swim down there and wake ‘em up, we’re coming back with fish. Now get some sleep. We leave at 6:00 am.”

With that, he slammed a double shot of Jack and went to bed.

Following his lead, the four of us retired as well. Final advice was given to me as we drifted off in our bunk beds. Scott’s multiple offshore trips a month qualified him to brag and explain his strategy for soaking up the sure-to-come excitement of the next day.

“No cameras. That’s the first rule,” he said. “There are a lot of things that not everybody gets to experience and this here’s one of ‘em. I don’t carry a regular camera and I don’t carry a video camera and I don’t carry any of them other kinds of cameras. You gettin’ what I’m sayin’ here?” He was drunk, and his Texas accent was getting thicker.

“I don’t neeeeeeed a camera ‘cause I keep all the pictures right here in my head. Right here.” It was pitch black, but I assumed he was pointing at his head. He continued. “You can’t print it, because it’s all in my head. There’s a lot of stuff up there that no one will ever get to see. Places I’ve been. Fish I’ve caught. Memories that will never go away.”

There was a long pause.

“A lot of fat girls in there, too,” he finished.

We drifted off to sleep with perfectly justified high expectations for the next day, and then somewhere through the night, Murphy’s Law stepped in.

We awoke the next morning to find Captain Al storming up and down the dock and screaming into a cell phone. As we made our way out of the house boat he finished his call and informed us that our plans had changed.

“Someone stole my goddamned gear in the middle of the night! I don’t know who it was yet but I when find that sick sonofabitch I’m gonna cut him the fuck up, eat some of him , and feed what’s left of his ass to the goddamned pelicans! But don’t worry. I got everything under control.”

Not only had all of his equipment been stolen, but the weather was deteriorating as well. Still, Al had arranged a replacement boat and a new captain to take us out in his stead. It was up to us to decide whether we were going to attempt to salvage the trip or not, and like any group of testosterone driven, still slightly drunk males, we did.

The four of us climbed into the new boat and headed fifty miles out to the Midnight Lump, a salt dome in the Gulf of Mexico that is legendary among deep sea anglers. The three of them laughed a bit more at me, satisfied that I was going to lose what little food I had eaten somewhere on the ride out. I wasn’t very confident myself. I had never been this far out on a boat before. I had driven seven hours, slept very little, and eaten even less.

It was forty degrees outside before the spray hit, and when that happened it dropped to absolute zero. The water temperature would not have been an issue had it been avoidable, but the seas were anything but calm, as if Poseidon had been up drinking the night before as well, perhaps playing quarters with Davy Jones. The 2-4 foot waves we had been expecting quickly turned to fifteen foot swells which we were hitting at 140 miles per hour. That may be a bit of writer’s embellishment on my part, but still, 4-6 foot waves in a fast boat sucks.

If you haven’t done it, do this instead. Crawl into a rock tumbler, put that in a clothes dryer, get someone to push the whole thing off a mountain, land on a trampoline, and bounce into the side of a moving train.

While you have to pee.

Charter services usually provide bean bag chairs so the passengers can flop down on the ride out to deep water. They do it because the bags absorb a lot of the impact as the bottom of the boat smacks the surface between swells. That, and who doesn’t love bean bags? I rolled over in mine to see my brother’s face buried in his rain slicker. He looked slightly green. Weird, I thought. I feel fine.

I pulled myself up to the center console to watch the waves as we hit them. As I did so, I noticed my cousin attempting to hang his head over the rail. Every time he tried to throw up, he was launched backward and away from the side. “Are you okay?” I asked.

“I will be. Gimme a bit,” he replied, groaning.

“So when does it get bad?” I asked. “Because this is awesome so far!”

He rolled his eyes upward at me from the deck. “You. Shut. Up.”

Scott was in a similar position on the other side of the boat, retching violently into an even more violent sea. The grey rain ran in ice cold rivulets down his brow as he turned to me. “How the fuck… are you… not throwing up?” he managed to ask, and then his head flopped forward again.

I didn’t have an answer for him. It was a bit disturbing to find that my body didn’t consider any of that abnormal enough to react. Then again, where was the difference between being out on that water and any of the other things I’ve forced my body through over the last two decades? Years of riding rivers, climbing rocks, jumping out of planes, combat landings and sideways helicopters and a million other things probably made my body feel like it was on vacation bouncing around in those waves.

I held onto whatever I could find, savoring every moment of it. The butterfly feeling hit my stomach and left again, only to return as we launched off another wave. I let go of the rail for as long as I could, only to be tossed haphazardly back onto my beanbag, and then I clawed my way back up to do it again. “Wooooohoo!” I yelled as the spray washed over my face.

If there was a letdown at all, it was finding out that you can’t catch big fish without a boat full of people working together. With the sport of it over, I was left to soak up the rollercoaster ride by myself as we headed back in.

“We’ll have to do this again when the weather is better,” my brother said as another plume of icy water broke over us. “It’s way more fun.”

“I don’t know how it could be,” I said. “This was amazing.”

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SLADE HAM is a stand up comedian. He has performed in 52 countries on six continents, a journey that can be followed in his book, Until All the Dragons Are Dead. One day he hopes to host a travel show and continue to trick the world into paying him to do the things he loves to do. Slade is also an Editor for The Nervous Breakdown's Arts and Culture section. He keeps a very expensive storage unit in Houston, TX.

136 responses to “Through a Frozen Sea”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    Phew. I was getting a little queasy just reading about the ride out.

    I used to fish for blues off the coast of Cape Cod growing up. The very first time I went out on a charter, I got sick as a dog, hating every single person on the boat who was not throwing up. Oh, and if you want to emotionally cripple a kid who’s already queasy and trying not to puke, put some squid guts in front of him, like the stuff we were using for bait that day.

    >>It was pitch black, but I assumed he was pointing at his head. <<

    This exemplifies what I dig so much about your writing.

    Rock on…

    • Slade Ham says:

      Thanks, Joe. It’s strange. I have an iron stomach when it comes to motion sickness yet I cannot handle blood and guts. I could never have been a doctor.

      Squid guts don’t bother me at all though.

      How was The TNB thing last night? Awesome I assume? I reeeally wish I’d made it.

      • Joe Daly says:

        Maybe you could be a fantastic doctor, so long as all of your procedures were performed in motion. While standing over an open body in an OR might not be your cup of tea, I have to think you’d enjoy tremendous success if you could conduct surgeries from a boat, or even some sort of carousel. Don’t give up on the medical career yet!!

        The TNB thing was loads of fun. Fantastic crew, lots of spectacular profanity, and really fun to meet everyone. Btw- I had no idea that TNB events always end with a pipe off between the male authors. When in Rome!

  2. Matt says:

    The Young Fools and the Sea, huh?

    Awesome. I love fishing trips like this. And I’ve met a few guys like Captain Al: salty sea dogs who probably would have been more at home on a ship sailing 150 years ago.

    I used to get violently carsick when I was younger, but I’ve never, ever been sea sick. Probably for the same reason as you: years of exposure to the ocean and the waves (not to mention the occasional whitewater canoing trip) have conditioned my body against it.

    Damn it. All this water talk makes me want to ditch work and go surfing.

  3. Slade Ham says:

    Whitewater is so fun. i am due for a trip. It’s been a while. It’s a shame I’m not in CA. I’d take you up on the surfing day. Well, that, and if my Achilles tendon weren’t still screwed.

    I really wish we’d made it out with Al. The replacement was nowhere near as hardcore. I really think al would have barehanded a few fish while we struggled with the waves.

    • Matt says:

      The guy who took me cage-diving with great whites years ago was like that. He was one of those nutjobs who reach down and slap their noses so they rear up. I really wanted to do that, but he wouldn’t let me.

      • Slade Ham says:

        Are you fucking serious? That is on the absolute top of my stuff-I-must-do list. The tippy top. I have had recurring nightmares since I was a child about being in the water with Great Whites and I am hell bent on facing them down.

        I don’t think I’ve ever been so jealous of anyone in my life.

        I’ll get over it in a minute, but for now… lucky, lucky you.

        • Matt says:

          Oh yeah. This was off the coast of Monteray about, oh, ten years ago or so. It was my second time; the first was when I was about 12.

          I’ve never had any sort of animal-related phobia. It doesn’t seem to be in my genes. I become fascinated in situations where where flight would be a fully justified response. It’s an honest wonder I haven’t been eaten alive. Yet.

          Far as I can remember I’ve been in the water with great whites, nurse sharks, sand tiger sharks, hammerheads, leopard sharks, Moray eels, sea lions, Humbolt squid, gray whales, dolphins, and once–from very, very far away–a whale shark.

          Also, I meant to mention earlier that I used to go spear fishing in my early teenage years. As you say, it was easier to use a stringer than bring each individual catch in to shore. Except the sea lions around here have gotten very good at swiping your catch off the line. Little bastads.

        • Slade Ham says:

          It’s not so much the Great Whites that have me scared, as much as it is the actual dream itself. It’s just a sensation I get when i envision deep water and Great Whites. I just need to do it to shake the image up in my mind.

          I was supposed to go swimming with whale sharks off the Somalian coast a few years ago. The trip got rescheduled at the last minute though and I was gone by the time the the boat went back out. I imagine that it is incredible.

          I’ve been in with dolphins too, which really psyched me out. I’m not a certified diver though, so I only go in with a snorkel. That’s something else I need to remedy. You have me wanting to go out and get wet now, for sure.

        • Matt says:

          “You have me wanting to go out and get wet now, for sure.”

          That’s what she said.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Goddammit. I knew it when I clicked Submit…

        • Richard Cox says:

          I love how “The Office” single handedly revived that joke. Now it never gets old.

        • Slade Ham says:

          I somehow doubt that this will be the last time this pops up…

        • Richard Cox says:

          That joke is so well established it ought to pitch a tent.

        • Slade Ham says:

          I’m trying to come up with another one to keep the trend going.

          This is really hard.

        • Richard Cox says:

          The competition is pretty stiff.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Wow. You got that one off pretty quick.

        • Richard Cox says:

          That’s what she unfortunately said.

        • Slade Ham says:

          That’s horrible. She never should have let that come out of her mouth.

        • Richard Cox says:

          She’s so pissed she could just spit!

        • Slade Ham says:

          Maybe you didn’t get your point across. Is it possible that you just couldn’t put your finger on it?

  4. Ofelia says:

    The exhilaration of your experience jumps off the page beautifully, as always. I have always loved going fishing, though I’ve unfortunately have never gone offshore myself. Opportunity hasn’t presented itself but I figure it’ll be something that will eventually be checked off the list.

    I loved going out with my father to fish when I was a kid. We could spend the entire day and not catch a thing or say a word to each other, but come back home as if we had had the best conversation. There’s peace in fishing, an activity none of my older brothers ever really understood. Then again, they never were good at having patience.

    • Slade Ham says:

      My memories with my grandfather were similar, except he ALWAYS caught something. He could tough the string and tell you what kind of fish was playing with the bait. He was like the Fish Whisperer. His ashes are actually scattered in the Gulf.

      All of my brothers picked up the love. I couldn’t imagine if they hadn’t. I go out with all three of them still.

      And don’t sweat it. You’ll knock it off eventually 🙂

  5. Richard Cox says:

    Ah, Gulf Coast fishing. Drag your feet on the bottom so you don’t step on a stingray. If you feel something bite your foot it’s probably a stone crab. Watch out for jellyfish! Don’t pop the man o’ war! If you can’t find any sand dollars on the beach, go dig them up on the first sandbar. The most fish I ever caught was with my dad, standing in the first gut, using a gold spoon with red strip of reflective tape stuck to it. Honestly you could catch a speckled trout with almost every cast. It was awesome.

    I don’t know how you didn’t throw up. The first time I went into the choppy waters of Corpus Christi bay on my dad’s boat I spent the whole trip vomiting. The weird thing is my stomach turns to iron when it comes to roller coasters or riding in acrobatic airplanes. But put me on a booze cruise with that gentle rise-and-fall motion and I turn green.

    So have you gone again in better weather?

    • Slade Ham says:

      Ah, you DO know the coast. I have the exact same lure in silver. It is unstoppable. When I can snag a friend with a boat, we go chase the birds across the water. We follow them and they follow the bait fish, which is where all the specks are.

      Silver spoon… and POW. Every time.

      I honestly think I got distracted by the fun of it all and wasn’t paying attention to my stomach. Adrenaline trumps everything. I haven’t been back out actually, and that was two years ago. I thought about going this summer, but i have to wait for my foot to heal first before I tackle a rocking boat…

      And man, do jellyfish suck.

      • Becky says:

        I don’t get seasick either.

        Maybe it’s all the time I spent in boats as a kid. Jackpine savage MN fish people.

        Granted, I have never been gulf-coast fishing, so maybe I’m small time. Maybe the ocean would get the best of me.

        I am terrified of jellyfish. Horrified.

        And really, terrified of a lot of ocean creatures. I surprised even myself when I had a panic attack while snorkeling in Hanauma Bay because I saw an eel, just chillin’ in his den, not bothering anyone, through a hole in the top of the coral.

        Living thing! RUN AWAY!!!!

        Husband was like, “We’re here to SEE the living things.”

        It had big, ugly teeth. What can I say? I beat cheeks back to shore so fast, I’m pretty sure I left a wake.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Yeah, nothing in the water really phases me. Just the big sharks. I snorkeled around a bunch of sea snakes when I was in Japan. Beautiful things, those.

          It had big, ugly teeth. What can I say?

          Never go swimming with Jewel or Steve Buscemi then.

        • Becky says:

          I think it was the weirdness of it.

          I’m pretty at home in water and with water creatures in a general sense, but I’m used to fresh water and its inhabitants.

          Eels are aliens as far as I’m concerned. My thinking brain knew the creatures would be different, but my animal brain was going “fish, fish, fish, pretty fish, OOH! Red fish! Fish…..AHHHHHH WTF IS THAT?????”

          I was not in control of my actions.

          I think I remember my thinking brain saying, “Jesus, it’s just an eel,” but it was too late for that kind of sense.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Yeah, depending on the type of eel, they can get a bit scary looking. And supposedly their bite can be pretty vicious.

          They make great sushi though, and that sort of seems like justice for all the scaring they do.

        • Becky says:

          It was a moray eel. It was big, and brown, and slimy looking. And it looked right at me.

          I do love unagi, though. Tasty, tasty vengeance.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Thos really are the scariest ones, with their big, wrinkly necks. They look like they would slobber if they weren’t underwater.

          What kind of eel is unagi anyway? I hope it’s not that one.

        • Becky says:

          Unagi is freshwater eel. So not vengeance, really, I guess….

          More sort of mobster-style violence.

          “Cross me and I’ll kill your hick cousins, Eel.”

        • Matt says:

          I love Moray eels. Had three or four of them swimming around me one morning while I was snorkling off the coast of Dana Point during college. I just floated there as still as I could while they investigated me. After a minute or two they got bored and swam off. It was really neat, and I afterwards I was kicking myself for not bringing along a disposable underwater camera.

          Though I presume, Becky, that this would have given you a heart attack.

        • Becky says:

          All signs point to “yes” so far, but I have only had the one encounter.

          If I snorkeled regularly and was used to seeing them, I’m sure it wouldn’t bother me.

          I swim around with Muskies without thinking twice, after all.

          Another thing that really put me on edge at Hanauma was not being able to put my feet down; you’re not supposed to put your feet on the coral.

          This was just another thing that changed being in the water–something that was old hat for me–into some scary new thing. So I was nervous to begin with.

        • Slade Ham says:

          They are apparently edible as well, though it’s recommended that you kill them with a direct headshot. Hmmm.

        • Matt says:

          A good friend of mine is deeply, deeply terrified of the open ocean. I don’t even think I’ve ever seen him go in the sea deeper than chest height or so.

          I, on the other hand, am that moron who will slap on his mask and fins and dive right off the boat a few miles out to sea. Mostly because I never spent any time wondering if there might actually be anything down there to be afraid of.

        • Slade Ham says:

          I’m guessing martial arts lose their effectiveness underwater, no? Hahaha.

          We have a lot in common. We should brave the ocean together one day.

        • Matt says:

          By sailing a clipper to New Zealand, perhaps?

        • Slade Ham says:

          You know I have nothing but time on my hands…

          Say when.

        • Becky says:

          I am slightly nervous about the open ocean.

          I’m not positive how I feel about it, actually. I’ve never been out in it. Maybe I am terrified.

          I do remember, a couple of times at Hanauma, looking out towards the opening to the bay, face underwater and all, and thinking that it just goes on and on an on and I was just this little morsel of flesh floating around making surprised eyes at other animals I had no intention of attacking or devouring or anything…and out there, there were creatures…huge creatures…

          Though I’m not sure if that was actual fear of the creatures/ocean or more of an existential terror.

        • Slade Ham says:

          That’s sort of the dream I keep having. I don;t even think I get eaten in the dream, but I am acutely aware of how I am in comparison to it/them.

        • Matt says:

          @Becky – It’s a pretty valid response, I think. We puny humans aren’t built for the open ocean, so a sense of stark, utter terror and/or vulnerability is well founded.

          @Slade I’ll check with the Harbormaster. And we should ses if Captain Al is available to man the helm.

        • Becky says:

          The vastness of the ocean is troubling.

          It’s a lack of control issue for me. I’m perfectly fine in 100 feet of water in a lake, but that’s contained. It has visible borders and is inhabited by known, predictable creatures.

          But 5,000 feet of water? 5,000 feet of nothing. Might as well be in outer space.

          Is it possible for water to be TOO over one’s head?

        • Slade Ham says:

          I don’t know. You can’t really end up more drowned or more eaten…

        • Becky says:

          That’s the kind of thing a logical brain says. As Matt points out, it’s probably something more primordial than the prefrontal cortex is equipped to stomp down.

          Though to be fair, in most North American lakes, or at least the ones in MN, there’s nothing that can eat you.

          Maybe you could lose a finger or two to a snapping turtle or a Muskie, but that almost never happens.

        • Slade Ham says:

          We’re just gonna have to take you to the ocean then. Want to jump on the clipper with us? New Zealand’s not that far…

        • Slade Ham says:

          And you guys have snapping turtles up there too? I thought that was a Texas/Louisiana thing…

        • Becky says:

          Um. Sailing? I’m not going that far on any boat without a casino.

          Oh hell yes, snapping turtles. HUGE ones. 50, 60, 70 lbs.+ Monstrous things. And mean, too.

          Very common on the St. Croix river where I grew up. It’s one of the creatures I was taught to identify when I was very young. Go ahead and touch the painted turtles, but not the other ones with the spiky backs.

        • Slade Ham says:

          I honestly thought that was a Southern swamp thing. Sweet. They are like dinosaurs. They can literally bite off your hand. Cajun fishermen hold them up by the shells… and it’s pretty intense looking. And those guys still “noodle” for catfish in these waters. Scary shit, man…

        • Becky says:

          The St. Croix and Mississippi rivers are right on the western edge of their Northern range. They are of “special concern” here, but not necessarily rare or endangered.

          It’s not odd to see one or two a year if you spend a decent amount of time on the water.

          I was always told they were more dangerous on land, were their clumsiness compels them to fight rather than try to flee.

          My father didn’t explain that part to me until I started asking him if there were snapping turtles every time I went into the water.

        • Slade Ham says:

          I’d rather have one on land. I like my chances better. Like crocodiles, it’s the snapping turtle you don’t see that takes your foot off…

        • Becky says:

          They bury themselves in the mud, too. With just their heads sticking out.

          Only in shallow water, though, so, theoretically, you can see their heads.

          Just don’t try Richard’s foot-dragging technique on them. Better to step on one’s back then kick it in the face.

        • Slade Ham says:

          See, that’s the problem with aquatic animals. They all need to get together and decide how they don’t want to be fucked with. Some you have to drag your feet, others want you to high step. They need to have a store meeting…

        • Becky says:

          *THAN* kick it in the face.

          Geez. That’s a potentially dangerous typo. Don’t step on their backs thEn kick them. I repeat: Never kick the snappers.

        • Slade Ham says:

          If you were writing the guidebook, we’d all be dead…

        • Don Mitchell says:

          I think I’m more with Becky than not. In the ocean, I can’t keep from thinking about creatures that could eat me, if they wanted to, which is why I prefer snorkeling in bays and coves. I know that a shark could enter and take me if it felt like it, but it seems safer anyway.

          When I was in the Lau Lagoon on Malaita (Solomon Islands) it was a little different. Sharks? Don’t worry, the local people said, They come into the lagoon but they are our friends. Yours, but maybe not mine. Crocodiles? Oh, they don’t come into this lagoon much. Uh, not much. But the worst was the neurotoxin-ed sea snakes. Them, I saw regularly and they scared the shit out of me because who knew what they wanted to do? Not eat me, no, but who knew what would make them angry? The people said, Just keep away from them. I couldn’t stop thinking, Same venom as cobras . . . .

          But back to Slade’s piece. Amazing description. I wonder if it’s salt water that makes everything and everybody more intense (for better or worse)? I don’t do much lake fishing, but it seems totally tame to me, even on the larger lakes like Erie and Ontario and the Finger Lakes. Maybe it has to do with seeing that land really recede? Maybe it’s the big bad things down there (in the water, I mean)? I’ve got to try it some time.

        • Becky says:

          The second time we were in Hawaii, we decided to go snorkeling on the Molokai reef. The big one. The one that has no bay.

          We stopped by my father-in-law’s house to get counsel on the best place. He was rattling off all the cool stuff we could see at a favorite fishing spot of his…”get some little sharks…”


          Husband did a face palm and started laughing. Dad was all “what? What’d I say?”

          Husband explained that I was terrified of sharks. Dad headed off to the garage and came back with a spear…one of those hand-held harpoons.

          Husband: “What am I gonna do with this?”

          Dad: “Scare away the boogeyman.”

          Never felt like such a haole in my life.

        • Slade Ham says:

          @ Don – I was in the water with sea snakes in Japan. They seemed completely non-aggressive, though I wasn’t going out of my way to screw with them, haha. I somehow thought I read somewhere that, while they were as toxic as a cobra, they couldn’t open their jaw wide enough to easily inject a human. I could be making that up. Now I have to go look it up.

          As for the ocean, I do believe it the knowledge that the land isn’t just over the horizon. The curve of the earth only allows us to see 15 miles, and on a lake that generally means land is in sight or close. Not out there though… It’s unnerving.

          @ Becky – I assume you chose another spot? hahaha.

        • Becky says:

          We didn’t. It was actually a really nice little piece of local beach, known only by its mile marker.

          I passed on the snorkeling, though, I’m sad to say. I did the only-go-in-up-to-my-waist-to-cool-off thing.

          Palani swam with a couple of sea turtles. Didn’t see a single shark. I missed the boat.

          Though he said he did see an octopus, which probably would have sent me screaming to shore again.

        • Erika Rae says:

          Wha? Did I see sushi mentioned waaaaay up there? Viva la Tijuana Ninja!

        • Slade Ham says:

          Hahaha! I was trying to explain that roll to a friend just the other day. It’s impossible you know? To recreate it in verbal form…

          It’s like a Southewestern/Eastern fusion thing with salmon and jalapenos and mesquite wood decor, with Japanese people Mexicans and green tea and queso…

          Just order the goddamned roll already.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Have either of you guys surfed in the Gulf? I saw a video where guys surfed the wakes from oil tankers and it was crazy. One wave could go for 20 minutes!

      I wonder if anyone’s ever been seasick from surfing…

      • Slade Ham says:

        I haven’t, though I have a friend that does it all the time. You don’t even have to go out in the Gulf. There is an inter-coastal canal down here that he surfs. You run a boat along side the wake, and then surf it. It’s intense. I’m nowhere near a good enough surfer to attempt it.

        It is insanely cool though.

      • Richard Cox says:

        Unfortunately, no. I’ve never surfed. Not waves, anyway.

        • Slade Ham says:

          What then? Crowds? Those are fun.

        • Richard Cox says:

          You know, the joke is there, the famous alternative band from Texas, but I think I’ll just leave it.

        • Matt says:

          *humming the melody*

          I don’t mind the sun sometimes
          the images it shows
          I can tast youon my lips
          and smell you in my clothes

        • Slade Ham says:

          Tommy played piano like a kid out in the rain, then he lost his leg in Dallas, he was dancin’ with a train…

          Surf what ya like, Rich 🙂

        • Richard Cox says:

          Pucker up, butter cup!

        • Slade Ham says:

          Are we still doing song lyrics?

        • Richard Cox says:

          Ha. No, that’s a line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, spoken by Principal Rooney, a.k.a. Jeffrey Jones, who (ironically?) was convicted of a sexual offense against a minor in 2003.

          I guess now we know why he was so obsessed with Ferris.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Ahhh… It is a Junior Walker song though. That much I do know.

          I like when movies are prophetic like that. I can’t think of another example right off, but I know there are a few.

        • Joe Daly says:

          >>I like when movies are prophetic like that. I can’t think of another example right off, but I know there are a few.<<

          I can’t think of any either, but I can think of a few that I hope are prophetic:

          Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure- I’d like to have access to a time traveling phone booth

          On Deadly Ground- if anyone can save the environment, it’s Steven Seagal (I’m talking to you, BP!)

          Pretty Woman- it would be kind of funny of Julia Roberts turned into a real hooker

        • Slade Ham says:

          If Steven Seagal saves the world, I want out.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Oh, but if Julia Roberts becomes a hooker I want back in again.

  6. Heather Green-Bateman says:

    Good Stuff.
    I was reading some of the other ones from Myspace the other day and you have some pretty funny ones! The one where you got locked outside of your brothers apartment is still pretty hillarious!

    • Slade Ham says:

      Funny, I was just toying with a rewrite of that story the other day. It’s a good thing I am easily amused 🙂

      So glad you made the transition here with me…

  7. jmblaine says:

    Now here’s a thing:

    I’m from South Louisiana.
    I don’t like boats.
    Or crawfish.
    Or shrimp.
    Or crabs.
    Never did.

    But I like your stories.
    You captured that boat sickness

    • Slade Ham says:

      How can you be from Louisiana and NOT like those things? Particularly the shrimp. I’m getting hungry thinking about it now, and I just ate. Cajun seafood would be my last meal if I ever had to pick a last meal.

      I’m happy that my stories are better than seafood to you. Better than my favorite thing in the world… that says a lot 🙂

  8. Dana says:

    Holy crap did you just bring back a truly horrific memory! But I do remember that I was the only one on our boat who didn’t hurl. And that included the captain.

    Great story Slade! Hey don’t you have a cd coming out or something? 😉

    • Slade Ham says:

      It feels good to be the only one that holds it together… even if it’s not intentional.

      And yes, I do! June 29th. Digitally anyway. I think that’s the date.

  9. Jude says:

    You tell a great story. (Do you have a touch of the Irish in you?) This was hilarious. Look forward to more rock n’ rollickin’ tales.

    • Slade Ham says:

      More than a touch. Exactly half of me is very Irish indeed. They’re told much better over a glass of James.

      Thank you, Jude. Being called a good storyteller is the best compliment I could receive. It’s better than good-looking or smart, to me anyway.

  10. J.E. Fishman says:

    Last time I got seasick was on a ferry ride out to Monhegan island, Maine. The tide was coming in and we were going out and pretty soon so was breakfast.

    I went marlin fishing in Jamaica once and the seas were a little rough. When the captain left the wheel to help haul in the fish we twist-dropped four feet and my stomach traded places with my lungs.

  11. Lorna says:

    Wait a minute……I thought this was a story about fishing, but after reading the comments, I’m gonna have to go reread it for the hidden metaphor.

    • Slade Ham says:

      It is. Rich and I just ended up in a weird place, hahaha.

      • Richard Cox says:


        Now go to Simon’s FB page and read about Joe Daly’s fascination with Simon’s caboose.

      • Lorna says:

        I love the ocean although I can’t fish worth a damn. Snokeling is one of my new favorite water activies. Although when I was told not to wear anything shiney in the water because it would attrack the piranhas I did get a bit nervous thinking about losing an arm or a leg or my life.

        I don’t believe I have ever gotten sea sick. There was that one time I tossed my cookies on the cruise, but I’m pretty sure the was due to much champagne.

        I second the storyteller compliment. It’s why I keep coming back for more.

  12. Lorna says:

    Wait, maybe it was barracudas? That was in Cozumel. And I was told about them AFTER I had gone snorkeling.

  13. Jordan Ancel says:

    I love your adventure stories, Slade!

    You must have an iron constitution. I’m glad you got the last laugh after everyone pegged you for a lightweight.

    It’s too bad Captain Al didn’t work out. I can only imagine how he would have handled everyone in the midst of a pukefest.

    I’m sure, had he been your captain, not all of you would have made it back.

    • Slade Ham says:

      I’m not so sure any of them would have had the balls to puke with Captain Al on the boat, hahaha.

      I’m glad I saved some face myself. I thought it might get ugly until we actually hit the water.

  14. Jessica says:

    I made a similar trek off the Florida coast (near Pensacola) many years back for a deep sea fishing expedition… However, unlike your iron gut, I spent much of the time hanging onto the side rail of the boat, praying for death or at least, smaller swells. When the skipper mused aloud, “We normally wouldn’t be out this far in this kind of weather,” I knew it was going to be a memorable trip, if not necessarily enjoyable. I mean, even most of the crew was ralphing at that point, so I took comfort in numbers.

    Several hours and miles later with stomach contents fully removed, we returned to solid ground. That’s the only quasi-(queasy-?)-negative fishing-relating incident I can recall. Thankfully, other lovely memories (including other deep sea adventures) trump the unfortunate Florida barf-o-rama.

  15. Slade Ham says:

    When the crew is chucking, too… that’s no good.

    I think you’d be in the majority when it comes to good experiences outweighing the bad. For some people though, one bad one is all it takes.

    And you fish? Didn’t know that.

    • Jessica says:

      Of course I fish!

      1. I’m from the coast, too… remember?
      2. My dad was a bass fisherman in his spare time.
      3. Many of my aunts and uncles lived on or near water, so fishing passed much of the time.
      4. My parents owned a boat & outboard motor store for a few years in the mid-80s. (‘Jess Marine’ ring any bells?)
      5. Fishing sure beats the hell outta crabbing.

      • Slade Ham says:

        Huh. I didn’t realize that…

        And yes, fishing is WAY more exciting than crabbing… but crabs are delicious. I learned to barbecue them years ago. I won’t stand there in the mosquitoes and catch them, but I will cook them once they’ve been brought back and cleaned.

  16. Irene Zion says:


    (I still don’t believe that Slade Ham is your real name. It’s too spy novelly.)

    Damn, I look away for a while and here I am past a hundred in comments!

    This was a really funny story. I really liked it that everyone thought you’d get sick, but they did instead of you.

    Would you mind explaining the “Combat Landings?”

    Surely you don’t do combat landings to go perform a comedy show in a war zone.
    Explanation, please….

    • Slade Ham says:

      Oh, but that’s exactly what I mean. We fly military air into the bases in Iraq, Blackhawk helicopters to the small ones, but usually C-130’s or C-17’s to the big ones. A typical landing – the long slow approach to the runway – leaves the planes far too susceptible to possible enemy fire. instead they do “combat landings”.

      It is a hard, fast downward spiral designed to get you on the ground quickly. I’m sure there is order and design to it, but it feels like someone turned off the airplane and jerked the stick hard to the left as you drop out of the sky. The first time it happened I was on a C-17 – the big plane – and I felt myself come a bit out of my seat as my iPod floated an inch or two off my lap in a few seconds of almost Zero G.

      It is a very unusual sensation if you’re not expecting it. That’s a lie. It’s unnerving even if you know it’s coming.

      And then BANG. You’re on the ground.

  17. Irene Zion says:

    Whoa, so-called Slade Ham,

    That sounds like so much fun!
    I wouldn’t jump out of a plane, like you do though.
    That sounds like suicide to me.
    I wonder why one sounds like fun and the other like dying.

  18. Amanda says:

    Did you say you had a beanbag in that boat?

  19. I went deep sea fishing and there were hellish swells. More than half the boat got sick and I caught a fish eye. Just this large gooey fish eye. Now that’s luck.

    It wasn’t cold like your story though. I mean, it was chilly as heck. But zero? Brrr… That’s cold. Especially when you have to take a leak.

    Thanks for taking me along.

    We should have been seamen.

    • Slade Ham says:

      My memory definitely recalls this trip as being colder than it actually was.

      A fish eye? What a strange place to hook a fish. Perhaps it was old and blind and was getting close to take a look, and BAM! What a story to tell the kids though. Here’s how grandpa lost his eye…

      We should have been seamen.

      Weren’t we all at one point? Give or take an A.

  20. Holy crap… that’s scary about the sharks, man. Damn. I like sharks, but that’s a little bit close – having them eat fish attached to you.

    Seasickness is a motherfucker. I used to get it all the time as a kid, riding the ferry to France every year. Then last year -after a ten year break – it came back on the boat to Japan in the midst of an awful hangover. I puked into a urinal.

    I’ve never really done much fishing in my life. I’ve been fishing about five times for a total of maybe an hour or an hour and a half. I caught four fish, though. I even ate them. Went squid fishing once, and a poor girl got so seasick we all had to go back early. It’s weird watching the squid shoot about under the dark water. Very trippy.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Having spent a few mornings on the Korean coast – as I think you and I briefly talked about before – and seeing the wonderful fishing culture there, I don’t think I could avoid doing it. Fresh fish is delicious and Asian waters have such strange new things to catch. Like those squid. Do you fish for them with a rod and reel?

      • I’ve only been fishing in Vietnam and Indonesia, I think. The only things you can catch around Korea are herpes. Haha, just kidding… kinda. The waters here have been over fished and over polluted. I wouldn’t stick my rod in…

  21. Erika Rae says:

    This started out mellow – and then you whacked us over the head with funny. Love that. That captain’s speech alone. The bloodlust! Hooks in his face- Hahaha. You’re so talented, Slade.

    I would have been one of those hanging my green head overboard. Oof. Just the thought. A beanbag would have been nice, though. I used to have to ferry across from my little island in HK to the school. I got better by the end of two years, but I always had to sit facing front. Man. Just the memory.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Aww, no iron stomach Erika? The beanbag definitely makes it a more comfortable way to be uncomfortable. If there’s ever a next time to have to tackle a ferry, you should just bring one and flop it down on the floor. I don’t sit well on boats of any sort, especially ferries. I like to hang my head out and feel the wind like a dog.

      Captain Al 🙂 That dude got fired up over killing stuff.

  22. Judy Prince says:

    Wotta ride, Slade! Beautifully written, and I loved the guys throwing up!

    I totally thought you’d suddenly be puking over the side just like them—–but no you bastard!

    I went deep sea fishing in the bay in SF, and when we hit those swells, I ran downstairs to the head, slammed the door and vomited. Rinse and repeat. And repeat. Finally, the captain’s voice could be heard on the intercom all over the boat: “DO NOT USE THE HEAD; YOU’RE CLOGGING THE TOILET—-PUKE OVER THE SIDE!”

    So I climbed up on deck and fed the fish, so to speak, every 3 minutes with each swell, and NOBODY else on the boat was the least bit bothered. My partner took my pole and caught “my” fish along with his own.

    See why I hate you now, Slade?

  23. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Ha! I can’t get the whole Slim-Pickens-riding-the-H-bomb image out of my head since reading your “Wooooohoo!” moment.

  24. angela says:

    somehow i’ve fallen massively behind in my TNB reading so i’m only getting to your piece now.

    man, i’d have hated you if i were on that boat. i went whale watching once, and that was on a pretty calm day. i couldn’t leave the side of the railing, my eyes clutching the horizon, for a moment.

    lovely and funny piece, slade.

  25. Jason Black says:

    HA ! HA ! HA ! OK . . . Thats the stuff I remember when I used to go to the oil rigs to fish with a friend an his dad. As we ride out I would cum the water for a few hours and then after a few cokes and of all things tuna fish sandwich. Why that worked I’ll never now.
    But of course that was just the beginning of my long line of brushies with the sea. I was in the Navy and had to stay in a hurricane for three days to try an save another ship off the coast of Japan then of course there is my fave like a fore shadowing . We went out to a rig to work on a tower there that needed a little up keep and found are selfs suck right in the middle of the sea on a rig with no power and nothing but a connex strapped down with wires. We watched the weather roll in and just like BP some1 waited to long to pull the cord and it was up to nature after that. . .
    We did get to watch a hurricane start up from in the eye and it is alot like the movies just not cool and cozy from home like. Ha !

    Life got to love it.

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