©Wolf Avni 25/5/2005
“Money doesn’t talk - it swears.” #1
Joe Soap is your regular success-story kind of guy; a productive worker and a devoted family man. His adult-long life has been spent in labouring towards providing himself and his lovely family with all the trappings of ‘the Comfortable life’. Though he might just as easily have been a lawyer, physician, accountant, IT-geek, Ad-agency exec., or any other high-end-spin-master, he happens to be an engineer by trade.
Mrs Soap is the perfect wife. Not only has Sally given Joe his complement of beautiful children, but throughout their long years together, she has played the polished and glamorous foil to his social and professional ambitions. Joe’s good fortune falls comfortably around his shoulders and he wears it with urbane ease. They make an handsome couple; the kind which one might secretly envy - and though one may begrudge them their considerable social status, most of their associates would, at the drop of a hat, willingly swop places with them.
Indisputably, Joe is a skilful negotiator who has parleyed his way through the life-maze to a number of enviable successes, the fruits of which were all invested with admirable prudence in low-risk commercial environments. With this judiciously woven net of soundly diversified investment, no longer driven by the hunger or the insecurities that keep most of us tied to the whipping post as long as we may live, these past few years he takes things a little easier than once he did, indulging himself with good solid chunks of leisure time and filling it with all manner of quality extracurricular interests. Still, too much of anything can leave a man kind of starved, and so, to keep ennui at bay, he travels, searching for distractions in the great wide world beyond the confines of narrow earn-a-buck suburbia.
About ten years ago, Joe discovered fly-fishing. Throwing himself headlong into it with all the zeal and compulsive focus which make him the formidable life- player that he indubitably is, he has enjoyed what can only be described as a turbo-boosted learning-curve, touching bases and sampling as wide a range of fishing opportunities along the way as only the credit-rich might. He worked methodically, visiting every high-profile destination that jumped up at him off the pages of glossy angling journals, once there, lubricating his way into ‘real McCoy’ angling experiences by engaging only guides of legendary repute. The strategy paid handsomely and Joe caught more big fish in less time than almost any other trout fisherman.
Never the less, something was not quite right. Although catching more than his share of enviable fish, and incidentally capturing every memorable moment in unassailable photographic record, he soon began to feel the pangs of an ungratified desire that he could never quite give a name to, but one that no number of glorious technicolour photographs could paper over. He loved this fishing thing. Of that there was no doubt, but somehow, no matter where he went, or how many trophies his ghillie hooked him into, somewhere deep inside his core there remained an inexplicable void; a sombre and frustrating place. He felt as if he were missing some part of himself that he had never known, but that rightfully belonged to him. Being nothing if not a materialist, he determined to buy a cure for whatever it was that ailed him.
And so, in search of more bang for his buck, he resolved to explore the investment prospects in maintaining his very own angling resource. Perhaps that might raise the thing to a new level where there were no voids. Looking around, he soon discovered the well-heeled game of syndication. After researching the subject carefully, he finally tendered for a one-tenth share of what seemed like an absolute slice-of-heaven - the apogee of high-end trout fishing in an exclusive little syndicate that owned what seemed like the slickest little trout fishing operation on the planet.
For a while, he felt that he had found the perfect solution to his fly-fishing compulsions and though himself happy. But even in paradise, the perfect apples that hang from perfect trees are food for perfect worms, and once stung, they rot right through to their perfect cores. Everything was five-star... except for the fishing. Although the partners, among themselves could boast all manner of formidable skill, they were individually and severally bereft of the least shred of expertise in the fields of aquatic biology and ecology. The thing is, in the perfect syndicate, all of the shareholders are equally aristocratic, which is to say, rich - and, naturally enough their egos are all equally robust, which is to say, that when it came to managing the fishery, there were just too many chiefs and not an Indian brave in sight. Every slightest intervention, be it common-sense or not, became the subject of endless and petty debates among equal partners with little in common, aside from well developed senses of self-esteem. Joe soon came to understand that the only truly slick part of the operation was in its promotion and marketing of itself. Bummer! Speedily, and by dint of his negotiating skills, he palmed his one-tenth share off onto the next poor schmutz behind him on the conveyor belt, remarkably, recovering most of his investment in the process.
Joe Soap is the philosophic sort. He licked his wounds and took stock. “Bugger them all,” he said to himself, “I’ll go it alone.” And so he did, forgetting that he had no special aptitude in this field so fundamentally foreign to his qualifications. He began a search to find the perfect spot where he might build his very own private fishing Valhalla . Unfortunately, no matter how much loot one may have, they are few and far between,
and after fruitless years, eventually old Joe decided to broaden his search criteria. “So what if it’s not perfect,” he told himself, “I can afford to fix it up, to mould it to my image of what it should be.”
Lo and behold, the man soon had every estate agent on the planet clamouring to afford him their undivided attention, and before too long he was fixed up with as pretty a piece of ground as ever sat at the foot of any mountain. With characteristic fervour, Joe lost no time in throwing himself into realising his dream; Joe-
the-engineer, lost in some fantasy of being Joe-the-Naturalist, was finally designing and building his very own image of a fishing paradise here on earth. Of course, given his complete lack of insight into its ecology, along the way there were slips twixt cup and lip and in the end it all cost far more than anyone might ever have expected - so much so that along the way Joe felt the pain down to the recesses of his deep pockets.
Yet he persevered, he stayed the course - and eventually his project was complete. A stunning, split-level, double-glazed Gothic homestead overlooked the gently lapping waters of a broad lake. Manicured lawns surrounded the dwelling and ran right down to the waters edge. Trout were stocked, boathouses and jetties were built. Tuscan outhouses and a Mediterranean entertainment pavilion completed the picture. Indigenous fauna made way for showy exotics. Finally Joe Soap was content. He had stamped the tread of his own fat foot-print upon the land and now he could relax. He wanted for nothing and what his Valhalla lacked in style, it made up for in precision engineering.
One day Joe was out on the sundeck, sucking on a tall whiskey, contentedly watching the subtle rings of rising fish out on the lake; his trout, his lake. Suddenly, slap bang in the middle of his perfect reality, a cormorant surfaced with a fat fish in its gape, which it speedily dispatched down its gullet. Then he noticed another, and another. Five minutes later the bird surfaced again with another fat fish. A frown flickered across Joe’s face. “That bird has got to go,” he muttered darkly to himself. No sooner had he dealt with it than a shadow shimmered across the corner of his eye. He looked up to see a graceful African fish-eagle swoop in and lift a fine four pound rainbow from the lakes waters. “That bird has got to go,” Joe scowled murderously.
Poor Joe! If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. One day he was forced to watch as a family of otters lay on their backs in the water tearing one of his trout into bite-size pieces. Well Joe just took out his rifle and showed those thieving water dogs whose fish they really were. Then there were the herons, the hammerkops, and half a dozen species of fish-thieving kingfishers. For almost a year, they all just kept reappearing no matter how often one shot at them. Finally Joe had them licked and they came no more to plunder in his paradise. But it didn’t end there. Golden moles ruined his perfect lawn so he poisoned them. Porcupines rooted among his flower bulbs till he trapped them. The damn jackals and genets were goddam poultry serial-killers. They just had to go. To cap it all, there was the incident with the a martial eagle and Joe Soap’s prize pheasants. Did I mention that old Joe had imported a batch of priceless game fowl so that he could produce his own fly-tying materials? One fine day this damn immature martial eagle, barely off the nest, came swooping down on Joe’s valuable birds that were just minding their own business. Before Joe could blow its head off, it tore the hell out of his previous flock of pretty birds.
Although I’m just a simple country soul and no-one ever asks me, I figure Slick-City success sucks!
#1. Robert Zimmerman