Steamy here this morning. We were out of bananas so I sent Bluffo out to find some. After several hours I am becoming concerned that Bluffo hasn't returned. I don't know why, on this particular morning it worries me - but it does.
I am fretting.
It is typical of Bluffo to go off into the jungle in search of bananas, monkeys or blowfish and not return for hours -sometimes days. An unsettling feeling has come over me this morning, perhaps because it has been pouring rain all night and the sonorous rhythm of the jungle torrent beating on the lush canopy of leaves has lulled me into a dark, listless state.
It is so typical of me, with my sad soul, to become neurotically melancholy on rainy days in this jaded jungle.
Why I am worried isn't important. I feel maligned and morose because I really wanted bananas this morning and I don't have any. It's as simple as that. No deep-seated psychological reasons - no bad childhood excuses - I want bananas and I want them right now.
I don't know why I've become so wanton and given to my urges lately. It seems I've become an aficionado of the allure of instant gratification. After this many years of living among grubs, slime worms, spiders and sleeping on piles of moist rotten leaves, it is rather unusual that I've become so intensely hedonistic and wanton.
I know the right thing to do. I should have given up long ago and jumped from the precipice of Figuna Falls and ended it all by plummeting to a certain death by impaling myself on those strangely appealing, moss-covered rocks that scream out to me above the crescendo of that roaring cascade.
I should have ended this worthless life of mine long ago and I know it. Endless desires that cannot be quenched searing inside me is a chronic disease of fate. My fate is one of endless suffering from endless desires not sated -a fate no human should ever have to endure.
Bananas. All I want now are bananas. Bananas. Damn Bananas. I crave them. I push aside those visions of jumping into those falls and smashing myself into the rocky gorge below - now it is only the thought of bananas that consumes me and tortures my sad soul.
I need them - bunches of them. I need them so bad. All these crazy desires in the rain and nothing can stop them but a banana.
I grew up banana-less in Toledo, Ohio. My parents, barely able to support a family of two, had four children, of which I was the last. I always felt like a mistake.
My father built a home for us out of leftover girders from the ubiquitous bridge construction that has made Toledo a laughing stock. Have you ever gone half-way over a bridge and encountered a "Bridge Closed" sign?
In Toledo, construction crews like to put the "Bridge Closed" signs in the middle of the bridges rather than at the egresses. Some sort of sick Toledo joke. It's not funny if you're in a hurry.
My mother, who didn't speak English, hated bananas. The sight of them would make her bleed and swoon. It scared me when I was a child. She used to scream at the sight of bananas and shout in whatever language that struck her fancy. I couldn't understand her cries for help.
I was such a useless child - I always felt alone, worthless, and humiliated.
You don't know what being alone really means until you've been alone in Toledo, Ohio -especially with those skeletons of half-finished bridges silhouetted in the smog looming all around. Toledo has more bridges per capita than anywhere else in the world - even Venice.
My father used to find occasional work spearing carp in the Maumee river. The carp business is a capricious one at best. During good carp crop years, my father would leave the house, spear in hand and not return for months.
Carp spearing is a difficult, dirty and demeaning way to earn a living - and my father knew it. There is not a day that went by that my father didn't think about his station in life. He tried hard, but just couldn't wiggle free from the lure of carp.
He'd come home stinking of rotting fish and intoxicated.
Back in '87, Toledo was the carp capital of the world. People in Europe would pay several cents a pound for Toledo carp and my dad knew it. He was making only a few dollars a day even though he speared carp sixteen to eighteen hours a day. His plight was shared by fellow carp spearers. It was a sad lot to be sure.
My dad was livid.
Angrily, he founded Carp Spearers Local 913 United Fish Cleaners - Federation of Carp Fisherman. He spent days trying to organize his fellow spearers - spreading the word of truth. But, they would have none of his incendiary talk - indeed they speared on oblivious to his impassioned pleas making vast sums of money for the carp corporations but only pittances for themselves.
I learned that life is not fair.
In the winter, my father would drink homemade turpentine and brood, mumbling about the inequities of life and opining about summer days on the Maumee and the thrill of the kill. He'd tell my mother, in English, how people in Germany were paying up to four cents a pound for Toledo carp yet he only made a few dollars a day. It wasn't fair, he'd tell her, tears streaming down his scaly cheeks.
She continued knitting. She didn't understand a word.
In those days, before the Maumee became heavily polluted with mercury and toilet detritus, carp were so thick that the water literally rippled with them. They were so plentiful, in fact, any new bridges built had to be built higher to accommodate the mass of the flotilla of wiggling carp.
These glistening, swarming cadres of Toledo-bred carp were the very lifeblood of my family and of Toledo's sagging economy.
Once the glass companies ran out of sand in Toledo, they booted their loyal workers out on the street, closed up shop and moved to Libya - leaving Toledo an economic disaster area. A slum-scathed landscape of broken bridges and decaying buildings.
Then the culinary elitists proclaimed Maumee River carp as the finest, most flavorful in the world and the carp business blossomed.
The displaced glass factory workers bought cheap but sharp Zulu spears and headed to the Maumee to stake their claim and amass a fortune by exploiting the carp craze that was sweeping Europe.
As with most things in Toledo, nothing turns out the way it is planned.
Cantankerous, cut-throat Carp moguls moved in and took over the carp spearing operations, paying the poor, downtrodden spearers a paltry price per carp. My father went from making almost $12 a day to making less than $5.
From their vast treasuries built on the backs of itinerant, uneducated men, these greedy moguls bribed Toledo city officials to look the other way.
They squeezed extra hours from the poor broken men and committed atrocities upon the gasping, flopping carp. They drew great pleasure from inflicting pain on the poor ugly fish as they flopped helplessly on the docks, fresh from their impaling. It was yet another form of sadistic recreation for these aristocratic and narcissistic carp entrepreneurs.
Suddenly the bottom fell out of the carp business in Toledo. After several million Europeans become sick from eating carp infested with Maumee River cholera, Toledo-basin diphtheria, and garden-variety fecal coliform bacteria, Europeans wised up and stopped eating carp - just as Americans had done a century before.
Carp are dirty, ugly fish with a vile mud vein running through their innards which contains all sorts of germs and other unmentionables.
It wasn't long after Europe began reeling from the carp plague that several hundred Germans came to Toledo to vent their wrath on the carp spearers. By the time the Germans had arrived however, the carp-mongering moguls had taken their money and left Toledo. The poor carp spearers were alone again with only their dull, rusty carp spears to fight off the angry mob of wild Germans bent on exacting revenge on the carp industry.
There is nothing quite so frightening as a band of crazed Germans running amok in downtown Toledo. The enraged Germans lined the bridges over the river and threw hand grenades at my father and his friends.
As luck would have it, one German grenade severed my father's left arm and it fell flailing into the Maumee River with a sick splash. They may have been able to save the arm had they been able to retrieve it quickly.
Unfortunately, my father's arm was consumed by the angry carp that writhed and undulated in the filthy Maumee. Hungry and eager for revenge, the carp consumed every shred of the one vibrant limb.
There would be no reattaching it now.
My father didn't last long after that. The carp business flopped. My dad had only one arm. He did the only thing a proud carp spearer could do - he decided to end his miserable existence by jumping off Bridge #269 .
It was on March 10, 1992 that he made his historic leap. He waved goodbye and jumped off the bridge into the foul filth below.
Always thoughtful, my father had planned well. There would be no final expenses for him - he knew we couldn't afford to bury or cremate him. Now there would be no need for either. His turgid body was quickly and gleefully ravaged by vicious, voracious and vengeful carp.
How ironic that these foul carp, once the foundation of his life and the sustenance of mine, had rendered a final and fitting service to our family: unwittingly they had become my father's pro bono funeral directors.
Services rendered willingly are often the best services of all.
Even after my father's jump into the Maumee River, I still couldn't understand my mother. Though she spoke sixty different languages, she just couldn't - or wouldn't - learn English. She mourned for my father day and night, gnashing her teeth on nearby bridges, cursing the carp in some unknown dialect and wailing for hours and hours as she crawled pathetically through the streets of Toledo wearing her favorite Aunt Bea designer house dress.
She was the ultimate woman of woe.
All this wailing and gnashing was depressing me. I could not stand it another day. My sanity was being eaten away like my father's arm by the carp.
I made my fateful decision as my mother clung to the girders of bridge #137, sobbing and moaning in her abject sorrow.
I said goodbye to her in English and waved farewell in Turkish. I was off to the jungles of Columbia.
I would never to set foot in Toledo again.
Bluffo still isn't back yet. My mind teeters on the brink of insanity once again. The falls yearn to me and the thought of bananas consumes me.
It's still raining and the air is sticky and thick with little green bugs. I am beginning to think Bluffo has gotten into a poker game with the local Shaman of the Wadituya tribe and has frittered away all of my bananas.
I think Bluffo is staying away for fear I will punish him violently for this transgressions with one of my patented vine-related tortures.
I don't resort to torture often, but when bananas are at stake I have no other choice, do I?
I think I hear footsteps approaching but I can't be sure. The rain is beating down so loud on the cacao leaves and drumming on the rotted mat of vegetation that lines the jungle floor I can't hear much else.
I want those bananas but I'm terribly afraid of getting wet - being cold and wet reminds me of my awful childhood in Toledo, Ohio.
My kingdom for a banana.
I hear the falls calling me.
Tags: Toledo Maumee Slime Fruit Bananas Carp Fishing