gulf coast.

The next time you hear from Uncle Crappy, he’ll be writing from a beach somewhere in Florida. It’s a only a short break, boys and girls, but it’s extremely necessary. Rum drinks for everyone…

passed tense.

Just after I outed myself to my friends earlier this year, I heard from a couple of you about how odd it can be to read what someone else writes about his life. While there are a lot of entertaining blogs out there, you also tend to feel a little voyeuristic, and depending on the content, even a little creepy.

I’m not sure that’s quite the feeling I got from reading Greg Mergen’s blog last night. Greg was a fixture in Athens when I returned to school, and I got to know him just well enough to stop and chat when we walked past each other on Court Street. Greg was heavily involved in campus politics, to the point where he actually ran for Athens City Council a couple of times (losses both, but pretty close). I remember him as being a smart and pretty funny guy, and his blog reflects the same. There’s the day-to-day tedium: Exchanging his broken iPod for a new one, bitching about riding his bike to work in the heat. There’s the political rants, a natural for Greg. Lots of computer-related stuff, because he really knows what he is doing, to the point where he did support work for several offices, on both Mac and Windows platforms. Applying for jobs. Almost getting run over by a pissed-off Metro bus driver. Funny shit about pets, relationships and Coke Zero, which he was surprised to find that he liked.

Nothing weird there. Except for the fact that I found Greg’s blog about a week after someone found him dead in his apartment in D.C.

I still don’t know what happened. I know what conclusion I reached about the death of an apparently healthy 35-year-old, but it after reading Greg’s blog, it seems less likely to me that he committed suicide. He seemed happy with what he was doing at the moment and excited about some new opportunities on the horizon. Suicide rarely makes sense, but in this case it seems even more unlikely than usual.

Of course, Greg’s blog just stops, after a July 27th entry about how freakin’ hot it was in D.C. on that day. If you don’t read the comments, you obviously don’t get the sense that anything has happened. (If you do check the comments for the last entry, you see a message from Greg’s younger brother asking a few friends to get in touch with him as quickly as possible, and then you see the reactions as people who really knew him.)

Blogs are funny things. Someone who stumbles across Uncle Crappy is going to get a decent idea of what I’m about. But the picture is definitely incomplete. That’s what I found myself wondering while reading Greg’s blog last night: What’s missing? What isn’t he saying? Is there anything hidden in the posts that would indicate what happened? It’s a hard thing to know, because while I didn’t know Greg well, the Greg Mergen in the blog is the same Greg Mergen I remember from Athens years ago.

Hm. I’m left with lots of questions. And there probably aren’t many answers out there.

something fishy.

This weekend is going to be interesting. My mother-in-law and her husband arrive in Pittsburgh Thursday for a visit. They haven’t been up from their home in Texas for a while, but this trip isn’t just social — there really isn’t much social to it at all, in fact.

They’re coming to watch a fishing tournament.

Let me be more specific: They’re coming to watch THE fishing tournament. The 2005 Citgo Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of bass fishing, as we’ve been told. $200,000 for the guy who catches the biggest fish over three days.

Look. I’m one of those guys who either laughs or bitches when the fishing shows are taking up time on ESPN that could be devoted to college football. But this apparently is a huge freaking deal — a multi-million boon to Pittsburgh’s economy, something that’s going to bring thousands of fishing aficionados to somehow watch the tournament. It’s going to be on ESPN2 nearly non-stop this weekend. And The Wife’s mom — and her husband, both of whom fish in tournaments at home — are coming up for the fun.

I’m actually looking forward to this. I mean, I’m looking forward to seeing my MIL and her husband, but I’m also looking forward to the fishing stuff. All kinds of events are scheduled, and we’re going to hit up a bunch of them. There’s a huge outdoor gear show in the convention center. And the daily weigh-ins, held each afternoon of the three-day tournament, typically fill arenas with screaming fishing fans.

Yes. I did just write that. And yes, I really am looking forward to the whole deal.

I haven’t done any actual fishing for years. Dr. History and I used to try when I spent summers with his family in northern Wisconsin. Over several summers, I caught a total of probably a dozen fish, most of them not worth keeping. Or even mentioning, for that matter. But I mention them proudly, mostly because I wouldn’t want it to seem like we were incompetent. Even though we were. We set out one day in two separate boats, intent on holding our own two-man tournament. We switched locations, we worked the structure, we changed up lures so we were fishing with the appropriate stuff at the appropriate times and places.

And neither of us caught a goddamn thing. Very nice. We were ridiculed for the rest of the summer.

I came close, a couple of times, to what would have counted as impressive catch. Once, Dr. History’s sister had hooked a sunfish off of their pier, and the little guy swallowed the hook. While she ran up to the garage to get a pair of pliers, I knelt on the dock, swishing the fish back and forth in the water. Just before she got back to the dock, I saw a long, striped fish swoop from under the pier and swallow the sunfish whole. That was a good-sized muskie, the big fishing prize in that part of the country. Lots of big pointy teeth on those fuckers, and those teeth were about 10 inches from my hand, which was left holding nothing but the nylon line.

My other encounter with a muskie was a little closer to an actual fishing triumph. Dr. History and I got up early and headed to a little bay in Lake Tomahawk to find us some bass. We didn’t find any bass — I never found any bass up there, despite claims by otherwise reliable people who insisted they were present. So just before we were set to bag the fishing in favor of the water skiing and, later, the drinking, I started casting into the opening of the bay, and almost immediately hooked a muskie that was clearly long enough — 32 inches was the standard, I think — to be a keeper. I wasn’t using a leader — a length of wire connecting the lure to the line — because we had been fishing for fish without substantial teeth, and I was concerned that the muskie, which, as I stated earlier, definitely has teeth, would bite through my line, so I decided to try to get it in the boat as quickly as I could.

And it worked. I reeled the fish up next to the boat while the doctor scrambled to get the net. The cotton-cord net, probably as old as we were at the time. The net, which as the doctor scooped up my greatest fishing triumph, that broke, dropping my trophy, which had just chomped through my line, back into the water.

The pros won’t have that problem this weekend, largely because A) I imagine they have better equipment than we did back then, and B) I’m certain they know what they’re doing. But I would get a kick out of seeing at least one of the pros step up during the weigh-in, smile and shrug his shoulders: “Fish? Hell, there aren’t any fish in those rivers…”