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A Weekend That Wowed; The Clash of the Cursives

By JAY MANN | May 29, 2014
I’m a weird local. I love a summer crowd.

That said – and in the truest spirit of Memorial Day –  I have to point out that none of us could enjoy ideal fishing days like these if it weren’t for the men and women who fought – and often paid the ultimate price – to keep our freedoms alive and biting, so to speak.

Importantly, the folks who serve(d) off the battlefield are just as important as those on the front lines, or “in-country” as we’d say in the Vietnam days.

Please carry on this weekend’s appreciation by helping in every way possible to gain benefits and medical assistance for our current and former military personnel. It’s hard to even fathom the horror stories of sick and wounded warriors being all but spurned by the government. So, let’s fight for the men and women who fought for us.

THUNDEROUS TATTOOS: I had a fellow send me a photo of a natural tattoo. Ouch! I don’t care how much of an ink bad-ass you are – or how willing you are to get pierced in places where even the midnight sun don’t shine – this semi-temporary tat is not for you. It even has a name. It’s called a Lichtenstein figure, or, in my words, a Lichtenberg figure fractal tattoo. Its shape is all fern-like and wispy and rivery – a bit like a satellite view of  an elaborate riverine system.

Why is this tat so insufferable? It’s the result of a direct and powerful lightning hit to one’s body. Obviously, only a lucky few folks get to show their instant artwork to neighbors and friends.

Arms, backs, legs, shoulders and thighs are the most common skin canvases for that great thunder artist in the sky. Many lightning tattoos are truly astounding, easily matching the finest manmade tats, though they’re pretty much restricted to reds and scarlet, at least on white-skinned folks.

To see these natural and highly organic temporary tattoos, Google “Lichtenstein figure” and click on “Images.”

As for actually going afield to seek these scalding-hot tats, ye modern day Ben Franklin-ites, you might want to have your life insurance paid right up to date.

CURSIVE-CLASS FIASCO: Cursive writing is dying fast. Longhand is soon to be long gone. In memory, I have to pass on one of the greatest cursive stories known to Mann, which isn’t saying much.

I was in a demographically challenged fifth-grade class. There were 15 girls and seven guys. The girls would mass together against us boys, like a creature trying to make itself look bigger, just to intimidate. It worked. Hell, face it, they were a little army of witches-to-be, led by Ellsinore, my cursive nemesis.

As if things weren’t tilted enough, there was Gordon, who perpetually hung out with the girls. He even began to walk and talk a bit like them. You can guess where he was headin’, right? Wrong! The bastard now owns a million-dollar lingerie business and recently married his third 20-something knockout wife.

On the other hand, we had Rosalie. She was hot – in a guy sorta way. Rosie was one of us, though fully capable of kicking all our asses – at once. That was due in large part to the fact she shoulda been in something like eighth grade but kept getting left back.

Rosie taught us vital life lessons, like the usage differences between a switch blade and a stiletto. More importantly, if the girls got too aggressive against us boys by purposely blocking the doorway into our classroom, Rosie only had to walk toward them and they’d scatter like backfired doves.

Most memorably, Rosie taught us how to lean our entire desks back. Sure, we all knew how to lean back in our chairs, but Rosie taught us how to balance our desks on our knees and lean the whole shebang backward. That all ended when Karl the Klutz fell over backward, desk and all, and somehow got knocked silly. Damnedest thing I ever saw. Tons of blood. We all freaked while Rosie laughed her ass off.

I’ll proudly note right here that our gal Rosie went on to become a highly successful biker chick. We’ll overlook those occasional stints in the Big House. I’ll have you know she was the only Hell’s Angel chick whose boyfriend sat behind her on the Harley.

But this segment is about doomed cursive writing – and my fiasco with Ellsinore the Ugly. OK, so maybe she went on to become, like, Miss Universe or something like that, but back then she was this snooty little snot who sat in front of me, with all that frickin’ blond hair spilling down her back and sometimes even onto my desk. But it was her exemplary proficiency in cursive writing that pushed me over the edge that fateful May day, way back when. The highly likable Mrs. Verrazano was returning corrected, end-of-year cursive writing exams. Having begun as a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Verrazano had maintained a four-gold-star system for rating our fifth-grade cursive writing. For this exam, I was actually psyched. I had taken such artistic care to nail every swirl and loop on my lettering. I thought I was a solid three stars outta four.

It was not to be, this cursed cursive day, beginning when Mrs. Verrazano stopped at Ellie’s desk, raised Blondie’s paper in the air and proclaimed, “Ellsinore is getting my very first 4½ stars.” Sure enough, on the top of Goldilocks’ exam were four stars and a carefully halved star to boot. WTF!? When did half-stars even enter into it?

But that was the least of it. Upon reaching me, there was no fanfare. Despite a verbal “Nice job, Jay,” I still got only two frickin’ stars!

That’s a buncha bull****, lady! That, of course, was not only unspoken but also un-inferred. Back in those days, not only could a teacher pound you with whatever said teacher had in hand – or within ready reach – but there was a sure-to-come homefront pounding that would offer stars in a whole other light. Corporal punishment was issued in a major way.

Having my cursive talents so obviously underappreciated, I sought payback. The writing was on the wall: Get Ellsinore.

Quickly told, the backs of our classroom chairs had a hand-sized opening so janitors could easily lift them. As I sat there, steaming, I focused on all that cocky blond hair of Little Miss Cursive, right in front me. Aha. I gingerly pulled a wad of Ellie’s hair through the chair opening. I then painstakingly tied a Cub Scout square knot with another wad of Ellie’s hair, essentially tying her hair to her own chair. Sure, she felt me messin’ around back there, but I had oft taunted her locks in the past. Upon my knotting, I heard a poorly stifled giggle nearby. Rosie was watching me and could hardly contain her elation. For me, that was a dubious affirmation of sorts.

As I figured it, Ellsinore would soon move her head and realize she was stuck. Her friends would then scurry over to untie the knot – and that would be that. But as is the case with many ill-conceived efforts, they can turn overly ill, very quickly. How in bloody hell could I have known Principal Persons would, at the very moment, decide to have one of his beloved fire drills? What’s more, how could I have remotely factored in Ellsinore’s role as fire drill marshal, which meant she had to be the first and swiftest to her feet, to coordinate the escape from a hypothetically blazing building?

You see where this is going. And away it went.

When Ellsinore burst to her feet, her chair exploded off the ground with her. That girl had some seriously good roots. Powered by adrenaline – and completely confused over what was going on – she tried running to her assigned post at the classroom door – as her chair swung back and forth behind her, smashing into other desks and students. What a confused mess.

Right smack at the doorway, the weight of the chair finally overcame Ellie’s adrenaline and started weighing her down – backward. Mrs. Verrazano freaked. She was convinced Ellie was having some sort of backward seizure and tried jamming a chalkboard eraser into her mouth so she wouldn’t bite her tongue clean off.

That day, for the first time ever (and since), the school’s fifth-grade class pretty much failed to execute a fire drill evacuation – though tilly-assed Gordon, suddenly believing it was a real fire, managed to get out of the building by hysterically trampling over the gathered throng around a seemingly seizing Ellsinore.

Me, I didn’t move an inch. I just sat there repeatedly going “Oh s***,” as the deafening fire drill bells went on and on, with Principal Persons waiting at the kill switch for the fifth grade to appear. It didn’t.

I’ll jump ahead by noting they somehow figured out that I had tied Ellie’s hair to the chair. I was delivered the most insufferable punishment that any student had ever been issued: an entire week of detention in Principal Persons’ office – after the school year had ended!

On the homefront? My folks rocked! After hearing the whole detailed story – I was actually a damned honest kid – they first began by giggling, and then laughing like crazy people. I just stood there with an uncertain smile, nervously thinking I might have actually driven them into some uncharted parental territory, where insane laughter precedes my being driven to a sand pit in the Pines for proper disposal. Nope. They giggled for weeks. In fact, it got disconcerting when I walked up to either one of them and before I could even say anything they just busted out laughing. Weird.

I’m not sure if it was the rocky start or what, but that ended up being one of the greatest summers of my life. But that’s for another column.


INLET ALERT: Little Egg Inlet is a mess – a shallow, shoaly, dangerous mess!

Talking with top-notch captains Frank C. and John K., the entire south end charter, commercial and recreational fleet is in danger of being literally grounded for the entire upcoming angling and boating season. I’m talkin’ all summer. We’re also talking impacts on events like the famed White Marlin Invitational Tournament, which draws in larger vessels, to be sure.

This past weekend, charters were opting for the “closed” North Cut. That’s how hideously bad the shallowing of Little Egg Harbor has gotten. It’s so bad that Capt. Frank thinks the only solution is legally opening that North Cut, aka Beach Haven Inlet.

Capt. Frank is not sold on reconfiguring the existing buoys in the Little Egg Inlet. “They can put them anywhere they want; it’s not going to help. There are solid breakers in the inlet,” he said.

As to why the shoaling is taking over, I’ll bet the farm it’s the fallout from thousands and thousands of cubic yards of sand being swept from a horribly eroded Holgate. Where else could those acres of south-end sand have gone? Gimme aerial photos, past and present, and I can point out the equivalent of an entire island’s worth of sand being driven into Little Egg Harbor.

I’m hoping to help the south-end folks fight for their channels, but it’s gonna be a bitch since the feds seem to think the Intracoastal Waterway, from roughly the Causeway south, is of little commercial import. That s*** doesn’t fly with me. With the ongoing growth of population and boating in Southern Ocean County, the ICW is beyond essential. Now to sell the brass on that reality. I heard from the Army Corps, just this weekend, that there are absolutely no plans to dredge LE Inlet. Sure hope it doesn’t take a tragedy to change the Corps’ thinking.

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