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2006-04-28 - 9:41 p.m.

Long overdue here. I was at my job until nine or ten four out of five nights this week, doing a proposal for a big pharmaceutical company that makes large profits from people getting sick. But tonight, I'm at the Ottobar for three bands and more beers and maybe some yelling.

Last weekend was great. I picked up my older brother and we visited my parents. The plan was to go fishing on Saturday, on the South Branch of the Potomac (there's a North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River and also a South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River, but we were downstream from the point where they come together). And since that was the plan, that's what we did, and after it was all over, I said to my dad, "How about that?" and he said, "Those were possibly the worst conditions for fishing I've seen in my life." And they were. We got up at six-thirty, had breakfast and coffee, and the three of us slid into the cab of my dad's big Chevy. We took 220 south to Keyser ("The Friendliest City in the U.S.A." and home to baseball contact-hitter John Kruk) and stopped for more coffee. The rain picked up and we kept on south. The colors, in the low mountains, were all light greens and soft greens and pinks and lavendars from the flowering trees. The clouds met us so far down they took off the tops of the mountains. We got to the Smoke Hole, to Pap's favorite spot, a just beautiful bend in the fast-moving river, and put on rain gear. Dad didn't want to go all the way down because brown water and fast-moving water is no good for catching trout. But we went anyway, partly because my brother and I pushed him and partly because I think he wanted to take us to his own dad's spot.

And, of course, the fishing was awful. It was raining so hard that all the culverts and little streams out of the mountains that fed the river cleaned out the year's leaves and dumped them into the Potomac. As a result, on every cast, first the lure and sinkers and then the line caught all kinds of leaves on the surface and down, under the surface, too. It felt like you were getting bites and bites and bites, but you were getting heavy, brown clumps of wet and sullen leaves. So we did that for forty-five minutes, got back in the truck, ate a ham sandwich, drank a Coke, and headed back north.

These roads were familiar, but distantly. I hadn't been on them since the last time I went to the Smoke Hole with my dad, which was probably middle school. He knows them well, taking the curves easily and pointing out turkeys along the way and little churches where he'd given talks and where he'd been invited in for chicken dinners. We went to New Creek Dam (#14), a reservoir for the town of Keyser where we'd gone much more often when I was a kid because of the easy fishing and where I'd stepped over a copperhead when I was seven or eight, a snake as big around in my memory as my calf is now. We fished for two hours. My dad took a crap in the woods. I got two bites, lost my bait once, and reeled in nothing. But it beautiful there. The clear gave it up to the fog by then, letting it down low to the surface of the water. We saw a hawk and what I thought looked like a bald eagle but which my dad says was an osprey.

Saturday was clear and bright and warm. We had lunch and I got bored and went to the front yard and dragged the root ball from a dead bush around to the back of the house. My mom and my brother came out about a half-hour later, when I was edging the two beds out front. All the bushes had begun dying a few years ago, for some reason, and so there was nothing in them, just two patches of dirt with some irises popping their spear-like leaves up into the air. My mom's birthday was two days away and so after a while Jake and I got together and we decided that, since we had my truck, we'd take my mom to LaVale to the Lowe's there. She was excited about this. We loaded my truck up with six or seven little potted bushes and ten bags of red-dyed mulch that Jake wanted to get. We spent a great few hours out front, digging up the last few root balls and raking the soil and digging holes. We planted the bushes and spread the mulch. Last, I dug up two clumps of the wild spearmint that grows by the corner of the driveway and transplanted them to the walkway. Chloe, my parents' new lab-spaniel mix, nosed around in the mulch pretty good and tried to dig some holes before we shooed her away.

My mom made lasagna and I made a spinach salad with pears and gorgonzola and we had it for dinner on Sunday. My dad gave each of us a Ziploc bag of turkey jerky he'd made and, as usual, it was a little too salty. But we both took it with glee, ate it on the way back to Baltimore, and saw the best display of heat lighting either of us had seen in a long time. We caught no fish, planted things that made my mom and us happy, and forgot to watch the two movies I'd rented from Blockbuster. And on my hands, I got the angry beginnings of calluses.

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