Kamalame

Kamalame

(2004)
Each year, my law partner, Kevin, and I try to get away and spend a day or two together just as friends, to expand our shared experiences beyond the borders of work. Kevin and I live dissimilar lives but have forged a good working relationship. Kevin stands a lean six-three and has a head of thick, dark hair; the voice of a man who subscribes to Southern Living; two children; a wife who reveres Tennessee football; a large tract of land in the suburbs; a stable of horses; a tractor; a monstrous Lincoln SUV outfitted with DVD players and seats the size of couches; work boots; riding boots; dress boots; belts studded with worked silver; and the capacity and desire to strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere, especially if the conversation may lead to sharing a story over a glass or two of whiskey.

One of Kevin’s finer qualities is that he will call a son of a bitch a son of a bitch, regardless of the circumstances or likely effect. I respect him generally, but for this I admire him most of all, despite the discomfort his countenance has at times occasioned on me. What Kevin and I do share transcends lifestyles: we both carry a deep-rooted streak of anger, buried in our respective childhoods—now somewhat tempered by age—that provides the source of our independence, detachment, and drive to succeed. We do our best to channel our anger into a form of motivation, and our law practice has provided an outlet for both of us.

Our regular diversion is fishing. And our quarry is a medium-sized fish known as a bonefish, or macabe in Spanish, which lives in tropical waters and is best caught with fly-fishing gear.

In planning our escapes, we have tried to go somewhere fairly well out of the way so phones, faxes, and other disruptions are not an issue. A change in time zone and step down in technology usually help handicap our chance for distraction and, hopefully, peace. We have in the past years been traveling to a fishing lodge known as Cuzan in the remote area along the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico near the border of Belize, where anglers can fish in international waters. Cuzan itself consists of three palapas, or elevated, thatch-roofed huts, strung along the beach, and an open-air dining area in a fourth palapa set back from the beach that serves as the lodge manager’s residence. The lodge is part of a village located at the epicenter of a federally created biosphere. Approximately four hours by jeep from any paved surface, there is little evidence of civilization beyond the narrow border of sand dividing the beach and the jungle. The jungle serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes; take a step into the dense greenery and you become a living oasis for the little demons.

While the fishing is good, the accommodations should best be promoted as primitive. The palapas have crude plumbing, and “central air” means propping open the front door and back window in hopes that a cool breeze from the ocean may penetrate the mosquito netting. The ferocity of the sun determines both the availability of hot water, warmed in a gravity-fed black water-tank, and the efficacy of the solar cells that power the fluorescent light strip inside the palapa. On the up side, you cannot stay any closer to a beach.

The surrounding village centers around a small wood pier that serves as a gathering point for the local lobster fishermen. Lobster fishing is the main source of revenue in the village, and most men are engaged in the lobster trade, directly or indirectly. The value of a lobster in the village, however, is cheap—less than that of a hamburger—so each night the lodge manager/cook apologizes again for the repetition of lobster on the evening menu. We don’t complain.

Combine four or five days of unabated heat, a limited diet, mosquito-induced anemia, and questionable sanitation, and a day at the office or the sight of an architecturally depressing strip mall may seem like a reasonable barter for civilization…

Download the full story in PDF here: Kamalame.