Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Progressive Nashville Boat and Sportshow

5 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

Dear Jack,

I have lived in Nashville for over a decade now and didn’t even realize we had a boat show here. But sure enough, because of my blog, I was provided complimentary tickets for our family to attend the 2016 Progressive Nashville Boat and Sportshow, so we did.

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

My agenda the whole time was to simply follow you around with a camera, as would demonstrate what kind of fun a 5 year-old boy could have there, so I did.

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

One of the places you spent a good amount of time was the Drake’s Creek Marina exhibit. You loved being able to explore boats, as well as yachts.

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

As long as your shoes were removed, you could go explore each one.

We began to explore beyond the boats and a man making balloon animals was the first to catch your attention. He was with the Nashville Boat Club. You smiled as he made you a “white dog” by your request.

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

You also really enjoyed being able to go fishing. There was this big tank full of real fish and you were given a fishing pole with real bait on it.

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

It just so happened that you were one of the few kids there who, within just a couple of minutes, had a fish bite. We quickly pulled the fish out of the water together.

You were so happy. That made the first time you had ever caught a fish; you’ve always been intrigued by the concept of fishing.

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

Thanks to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, there also was an area where you got to shoot a bow and arrow towards a floating ball. You liked that a lot!

From there, we stepped inside a trailer that featured the skins of forest animals; like a fox and a wolf. That really impressed you.

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

The place was packed. Here I had no idea the Progressive Nashville Boat and Sportshow even existed, and yet all these other families already knew, since they walked among us.

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

I have a feeling our family will be going back next year!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: We Visited the 2016 Nashville Boat Show

Classic Home Videos

Where were you on Labor Day of 1990?Before there were reality shows starring idiots for us to pity/make fun of every week, or a phenomenon called YouTube where any fool can upload their tomfoolery for the entire world to see, there were two decades (the ‘80’s and ‘90’s) where we filmed opportune moments of our own lives and kept them to ourselves to laugh at.  And they became classic VHS gold, forever saved in our memories; ready material for reminiscing with those involved, in an instant’s notice.

The most honored tape of cherished memories still at my parents’ house is labeled “Labor Day ‘90”.  It had just been a few months earlier that my parents finally sacrificed a thousand dollars for the behemoth black-and-white-view-finder-equipped video recorder.  On that lazy afternoon at my Italian grandfather’s house with the whole family there, our lazy vacation day became a personal collection of gems. 

So maybe those moments aren’t funny to the rest of the world (not YouTube material), but to our family, the tape is hilarious every time we throw it in the now antique VHS player.  These moments include, but are not limited to the following:

“Is this thing gonna be that thang?”- My sister holds up to the camera in one hand a dandelion in which the wind had blown off the seeds, and in the other hand, a dandelion still with all its seeds in tact.  Then in her (at the time) Southern-fried accent asked the camera operator (my mom), “Is this thing gonna be that thang?”

“Can you figure it out?”-Sitting sideways on a plastic ribbon braided lawn chair with my arms behind my back, I faced the camera while my dad hid behind me, putting his arms out as my own.  As my mom asked me basic questions, none of which I seemed to know the answer, my dad used his arms to make motions to indicate it (he used his arms to scratch my head like I was thinking, etc.). 

It was pretty obvious he was behind me, not only for the fact that his arms were much bigger and darker than mine, but also because his mullet was showing in the shot.  Finally my mom (as the cameraman) asks the viewers at home, “Can you figure it out?”

“Nick and Dana… back up now!”-  My grandfather lived on five acres which he was very proud of and which was prone to appearances of wildlife.  In the front yard that day, he found a baby bird in nest in a small tree (only about five feet tall).  My mom walked the camera over to the tree, attempting to zoom in on the bird.  In the meantime, my sister and I (respectively ages 6 and 9) ran over to see if we could get a closer look at the bird. 

For fear of us scaring the bird away (like a baby bird is going to fly way…), my mom warned us, through clenched teeth (to keeping from scaring the baby bird away) “Nick and Dana… back up now!”  The hilarious part is that the whole time the camera was on the tree, the bird was barely visible up in the top corner of the shot. 

“I’m a winner!”- My dad, who a year later won 2nd place in the Northeast Alabama karate sparring tournament, was “play fighting” me.  Doing my best to ward off his slow-motion kicks and punches, he finally got me in a headlock.  He growled to me, “Say ‘I’m a winner’!  Say it!  Say it!”  I struggled to escape as he took me to the ground.  I gave in, with a clever twist.  I declared, “I’m a winner!” in a wimpy, Southern, nine year-old voice that in no way indicated what I was saying was true. 

We were the original comedians of comedy in our own worlds.  And even if we never get around to converting those video clips from VHS to digital format and eventually to YouTube, those classic hilarious moments in our minds are still better than any reality TV shows we’ll ever know.

A Storytelling of Snake Charmers (or Escapists)

Sometimes there’s no way to get around or over a problem; the only way to get past it is to just go through it.

This past Saturday my friend Tommy and I embarked on our second annual canoe trip on The Harpeth River in Nashville.  The same river that just a month ago flooded much of the western part of the city.  I would love to paint myself as this avid outdoorsman, compensating for the fact (as I’ve established before) that I’m no athlete.  But really, it’s just that I can’t turn down an activity with a friend that allows me to spend several hours breathing fresh air, getting sunburned (just my knees, very badly), and getting to see wildlife.

Especially one that I deem as a lazy adventure (Manspeak, Volume 8: Relaxation).  With the water being as high as it was, very little power was needed on our part to get the canoe moving.  Just basic steering away from rocks and into the best currents.  Like most male oriented social activities, canoeing  kept us from awkwardly facing each other the whole time (Manspeak, Volume 4: Stance).  And gave us something to do when there was nothing to say (which never really happened, because of our mutual love for Super Mario Bros. 2, McGee and Me, and fatherhood).

Two hours into our journey, after relatively no stress whatsoever, I had to do it.  I had to, in typical 1980’s sitcom fashion, speak a line of ironic foreshadowing: “This has been a really laid back trip.  No problems at all.”

Instantly, we look up and ahead.  Two trees had fallen from the flood; one from both sides of the river, blocking the entire length of passage, doubly.  But even in that moment, we didn’t realize that this puzzle ahead was more complicated than just getting past two fallen trees.

We decided the right side of the river promised the easiest and quickest clearance.  I had learned from our last trip that where there was thick, abundant, yellowish foam, it meant there was a decaying animal trapped alongside the river.  As we got closer to the foam, both of us smelled the corpse before we saw it.  A large dead fish, head and tail missing.  Still the size of the pillow you sleep on every night.  Meaning that passing through would ineviditably mean we would have to step in the water to lift the canoe over the fallen tree, we opted to check out the left side of the river blockage as to not get funky fish foam on our sunburning legs.

We steered to the canoe to the other side, seeing right way that the depth of blockage was even greater.  In our strategy forming minds, we both came up with our own idea of how to get through.  Tommy wanted us to stick to our original plan; to step in the water and lift the canoe over our heads and over the trees, then place it back in the water and hop back in the canoe.

I, however, saw a different means of escape.  Shaking the tree and its submerged limbs further in and out of the water, I came to the conclusion that if I crouched down low in the boat, Tommy could stand on the tree, pushing the canoe through the limbs as I helped keep them pushed down to make way for our path.

Tommy is an easy-going guy.  Or maybe it was my natural older brother demeanor, but I convinced him to do it my way.

And right as he said, “alright, let’s do this”, I replied with “Oh, there’s a snake right there!”

I picked my oar up, placing it on my shoulder like a rifle.  “Look five feet away from the end of my oar.  There’s a black snake wrapped around that branch.  He blends in almost perfectly.  His head is up, and he’s looking at us right now.”

It’s not that he didn’t believe me, it’s just that my head was in the way for a few minutes before he could finally see the thing.  And when he did, he jumped in to “crisis mode” with me.

Of course, a man in Crisis Mode is not a man who gets nervous or noticeably excited.  He is a man who speaks lower and slower as he attempts to play the situation in slo-mo, in order to figure out the best practical solution for the potentially dangerous and deadly problem.

After another five minutes (which seemed like 20) of deliberation, after realizing our wishes of killing the snake with a flame thrower were not part of reality (thanks a lot Contra), that we had to meet this problem head on, we went in to Action Mode, while of course, simultaneously remaining in Crisis Mode.

Keeping our eyes constantly scanning the weather, the bank (filled with a good amount of visible snake holes), and the canopy of tree branches over us for more snakes, we carefully lifted the canoe out of the water and over the fallen tree, sliding in the mud (he was wearing flip flops, I was wearing my ten-year old New Balance cross country running shoes), only to realize that once we set the canoe back into the water, another 12 feet ahead was another (this being the third) fallen tree blocking the entire width of the river.

The snake, now behind us, had slithered off of his resting (preying) place on the branch.  Was he in the water now?  Were his friends waiting up ahead of us?  We tried not to think about it.

We hoisted the canoe over the final tree.  The only way into our vehicular escape module was to hop down a few feet from the tree we were standing on at that point, which meant possibly tipping the boat over.  Thank God, we both landed it and got out of there as fast as we could.

The final hour of the trip involved a lot of head turning at every threat of another lethal animal.  We did end up seeing a doe that froze once it saw us.  I was convinced I would see a great beast out there, like a mountain lion or a blank panther.  Never happened though.

The thing is, I’m typically the last person to ever spot any kind of creature in wildlife.  And despite me being so close to the snake, I’m still amazed I spotted it.  We talked about the possible ending this story would have had if I wouldn’t have miraculously seen the snake.  I would have remained in the canoe as Tommy pushed us through, the snake would have been inches away from my nose- either biting my face and falling into the canoe with us.

When I bought my mountain bike back in April, the girl who sold it to me told me that when her brother was working at Bonnaroo last year, he got bit by a water moccasin.  He had to be airlifted to the hospital and given a $40,000 antidote.  Now he was to pay off that debt on a $30,000 a year salary.

But in that moment encountering the snake on the river, what else could we do?  We couldn’t go over or around the problem, we just had to man up and go through the problem.

Myself and Tommy back in 2008