Ain’t Ever Seen it Like This

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It’s downright weird when you consider the incredibly bad weather that has shown up in my life whenever I leave town and especially on fishing trips. I used to blame my fishing buddies, Stu Schwartz and Rick Roberts for this, which is absurd. Stu and Rick are not to blame. Howard Mullen is. This is because, as the organizer of these fishing excursions (bless him), Howard always picks the first week of June for our trips. Why? Because that’s the week the bass are supposed to be spawning and will strike out at anything (see what parenthood does)? We’ve never actually caught them spawning and wouldn’t know if we did since we can’t see more than two feet from the boat because it’s raining, snowing, or a typhoon is slapping us silly.

Locals are amazed that’s it’s snowing in July in Canada, flooding in New Mexico, or hailing in Arkansas in April. But that’s not the worst of it. Some fishing guide we’ve hired (who doesn’t dare go out in the Perfect Storm) or the guy at the bait shop will invariably voice his opinion about the bizarre weather by uttering the six words I hate most in fishing, Ain’t ever seen it like this.

Sometimes they offer variations on this theme such as, Ain’t seen it like this in 40 years, or Ain’t even seen it this bad. Semantics may vary, but the meaning’s the same: the bass will take a pass, the pike will take a hike and the final analysis will be that the fishing smelt. To make matters worse, guides show us photos of the usual catch at that time of year. I look at these pictures and say, Wait a minute, are those whales? No, of course, they’re not. They’re simply bass the size of whales!

And that’s just sucky weather having to do with fishing trips. Bad weather has also struck on vacations, family visits, and business trips. In Boston once, the fog rolled in so bad, we didn’t know if we were visiting my sister’s family or my brother’s. It turned out we were visiting my brother’s next door neighbor.

We rented a cottage in Cape Hatteras with our friends Jane and Joel. It rained 9 of the 14 days we were there. Two times that we visited Jamaica, my wife, Merry Juell and I hit hurricanes. One was a near miss, the other a direct hit, which wrecked our favorite Island and the trip.

I know that into each life a little rain must fall, but must it always be on my trips? I’ve always whined about this, until my wife offered another idea. Perhaps, she noted, You take the tempest with you packed into your suitcase along with your underwear. If this is the case, I argued, how would I get through security? I can see the TSA agent now. ‘ Sorry, buddy, you’re only allowed three ounces of fluid, this tsunami in your suitcase has got to go.’Her theory makes sense, however. Wherever you’re headed, it’s hard to leave a stormy soul behind and that defines me to a tee. It wasn’t always the case. In my younger and slicker years, stormy times used to roll off me a lot easier. Now, raindrops leave dents.

But I don’t have to accept this, right? After all, isn’t it just matter of attitude? I could just accept my tempestuous nature as a welcome part of who I am and the storms as a constant test of how well I can do through the lightning cracks, thunderclaps and twisters of everyday life. Yeah, I could do that and the next time I’m on a fishing trip with my buddies and it’s snowing in July, I could raise both hands up high in defiance of the weather gods and shout, Go ahead, Gods, lay it on me! It doesn’t matter anymore because, thanks to my wife, I’ve got a new attitude and I ain’t ever seen life like this! Yeah, I could do that, if I weren’t so worried about dropping my rod and not catching fish!

Linguini con Vongole (Linguini With Some Damn Good Clams)

With a new positive attitude, I’m coming out of my shell to announce this is my favorite fish dish in the world and this recipe is good, only exceeded by the linguini with clams I order at LaScarola Restaurant in Chicago. I’ve studied their dish when it arrives, which may look weird to my waiter. They may add lightly sautÈed shallots. The jury is out. The taste is incredible. People may look at what you’ve prepared and say, I ain’t ever seen it like this, but these are probably people who never go out.

What It Takes

  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 5 cloves unclothed garlic (minced)
  • Salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes to taste, not too much salt
  • Cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 dozen whole clams (optional, but recommended)
  • 2 cans whole baby clams
  • Plus 1 can chopped (not minced) clams (Walgreen’s has ’em and so do stores)

How You Make

If you’re using fresh clams, steam them in 1 cup of seasoned water (pepper, no salt) until they open. Let them cool. Chop half up and reserve six for presentation. Save the clam juice. Meanwhile, fry the garlic in the oil in a quart-size pan. Wham bam, add all the clams and all the juice, including reserved stuff. Add touch of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, wine and parsley. If you like parsley don’t add it partially, add a lot! Cook ’til bubbling then pour over al dente linguini. That’s it. This dish could not be easier, simpler, or cheaper. That’s why it amazes me when restaurants charge $15.00 or more. That’s nuts. It’s so delicious it should be served free!

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