Queen Nation

This weekend Patti and I saw the band Queen Nation because 1. it was free and 2. it happened within walking distance of our house (stumbling distance if you count the alcohol).

As a fan of Queen, I went with every intention of hating this, their tribute band. I’m not big on concerts anyway, a place where they ruin all the songs you loved on the radio.

But these guys were really super hella good. Damn them.

The singer, Greg, looked enough like Freddie Mercury that if you squinted your eyes, you could forget about his moose knuckle. He also had Freddie’s copstache and biker hat. (You get the feeling that handcuffs came with the outfit.)

Legend has it that Greg was chosen to play Freddie Mercury the same way they find the Dalai Lama: As a child, he was presented with different objects and headed directly for the wrist band.

“We have found The One.”

And we the people gobbled Him up, tossing beach balls, waving glow sticks. Tonight Camarillo would party till ten. And talk about diversity: There were short white people, tall white people, old white people ...

Not a one of us had rhythm. I caught myself several times doing the whitey lip-bite. The guy in front of me -- wearing an Eagles shirt, wrong concert -- swayed the entire time with a #1 finger. He would have used a lighter, but that’s illegal in Camarillo.

Some of the pre-teens formed a mosh pit. They didn’t recognize the guy in tight pants, but they kinda sorta knew the songs and couldn’t wait for him to do “YMCA.” So it goes.

If you plan on seeing a concert in Camarillo, come early. A week or more if possible. I’m not saying we’re starved for entertainment, but the entire populace showed up, pets included. It was like Woodstock 40 years later.

PA announcement: “We’re told that we’ve got some bad Metamucil going around...”

Patti, five feet tall, couldn’t see the stage, so I rolled up our blanket for a step stool. Problem is that from then on I had to hold her by the belt loops. Patti got a false sense of security, like a harnessed trapeze girl, and started swinging left and write to snap photos.

Queen Nation closed with “We Will Rock You” slash “We Are the Champions,” and why are those songs conjoined in the first place? I thought we had the technology to prevent that during the songwriting process.

Greg pranced into the audience while people grabbed at him for a touch, a tear, some brief encounter with this man who was practically almost Freddie Mercury...

And I got to thinking.

Why am I developing new material when I could just recreate the old? How much easier would that be? Maybe it’s time I become Rodney Nation and tour the country doing one-liners.

“When I was born, the doctor slapped my mother. I tell ya.”

In conclusion, this band was so good that I felt the way I do after a long fireworks show -- guilty for having not paid. Then the guilt wears off and I start thinking about how much I spent on alcohol.


Fishing With Dad

A few years ago, my dad retired to Big Bear and lost all touch with reality. He doesn’t wear a watch or own a calendar. It’s like talking to Sitting Bull.

I asked what time I could expect him; he just hit his peace pipe: “When the shadow falls long from the pine tree.”

My dad came down the mountain because he wanted to take me fishing. It was on his smelly-bucket list. Dad is an old fisherman and I ... well, I carry Purell.

I had fished only once, when I was three, and Dad caught me plucking guppies from the aquarium. He freaked out like I was eating them, when it was strictly catch and release.

Now, as an adult, I wonder why I would hunt for something that costs a dollar at McDonald’s? And while we’re asking questions, isn’t “Filet-O-Fish” a little ambiguous? Filet o’ what kind of fish?

McDonalds: Ask us no questions; we’ll tell you no lies.™

At least my dad didn’t charter a boat. Fish aren’t the brightest of God’s creatures, yet we come at them with radar, sonar, migration charts. Some fish just lose their nerve and jump in the boat as you pass.

The jacksmelt, says my dad, is so dumb that you can catch one without any bait. They just like to swallow glittery hooks. Like many voters.

Dad and I didn’t need a boat. We would squat old-school on the jetty, like people who refuse to give up chopsticks despite the superior fork-and-knife technology.

My dad asked if I had a license, so I pulled out my I.D.

He shook his head at the heavens: “Is this really my son?”

Evidently, you need a license to fish and can take home only so many (if we could just apply those same rules to childbearing).

My dad brought a bucket of live, highly attentive anchovies, and I realized, watching them swim their last laps, that you don’t stand much chance as a fisherman when you feel sorry for the bait. So it goes.

I’m not a vegetarian, per se, but I require at minimum that my food be murdered in some remote location. Left to my own, I’d stand on the shore waiting for the fish to die of natural causes.

Dad anchovied my line, then started on his own, not once looking down. By all accounts, he was a master baiter.

He let me cast my own line, damn the torpedoes, and I’m pleased to report no blood loss. I aimed for a seagull, who was happy to guzzle my bait. Dad reeled me in, shaking his head at the heavens.

Poles in place, my job was to report on nibbles, which happen every time the water moves.

“We got one! Wait, no. It’s a nibble! No, no.”

My dad stopped looking over. I was the boy who cried fish.

Turns out that fishing isn’t so much about fishing as it is about not watching TV. My dad and I talked about all kinds of things that don’t come up during commercials. He recalled, for instance, the time I poured Ex-Lax in the salad dressing and how he almost decided to undo me.

And just when I had forgotten about nibbles, my dad’s pole doubled over and he woke up like a fireman, shoving me the net as he reeled, reeled, reeled. The fish, unsure of our intentions or religious beliefs, struggled like a madman.

Moments later, a slimy silver body flickered in the sun. I hooted and cheered like we had captured Nessie. My dad plunked the rockfish into my net, where the little guy thrashed for his life.

“You will have my dead body, but not my obedience.”

Dad and I admired the trophy and then, without snapping a photo or calling the Star, released him back to the wild. Even now the poor guy is spinning tales of his abduction.

“There was a blinding light. I think they planted a tracking device.”

Without looking down, my dad re-baited and crouched down like a baseball catcher, this time with a secret smile. He reminded me of the Buddhists who toil over sand designs for an entire week, then just blow them away. Dust in the wind.

I myself didn’t actually, officially catch a fish, but I did avoid falling into the sea, which is more than anyone expected. My dad has since returned to Big Bear, where he continues to fish not two blocks from McDonald’s. And I can’t wait till the shadow again falls long from the pine tree.