Steamy here this morning. We were out of bananas so I sent Bluffo
out to find some. After several hours I am becoming concerned that
Bluffo hasn't returned. I don't know why, on this particular morning
it worries me - but it does.
I am fretting.
It is typical of Bluffo to go off into the jungle in search of
bananas, monkeys or blowfish and not return for hours -sometimes
days. An unsettling feeling has come over me this morning, perhaps
because it has been pouring rain all night and the sonorous rhythm
of the jungle torrent beating on the lush canopy of leaves has
lulled me into a dark, listless state.
It is so typical of me, with my sad soul, to become neurotically
melancholy on rainy days in this jaded jungle.
Why I am worried isn't important. I feel maligned and morose because
I really wanted bananas this morning and I don't have any. It's as
simple as that. No deep-seated psychological reasons - no bad
childhood excuses - I want bananas and I want them right now.
I don't know why I've become so wanton and given to my urges lately.
It seems I've become an aficionado of the allure of instant
gratification. After this many years of living among grubs, slime
worms, spiders and sleeping on piles of moist rotten leaves, it is
rather unusual that I've become so intensely hedonistic and wanton.
I know the right thing to do. I should have given up long ago and
jumped from the precipice of Figuna Falls and ended it all by
plummeting to a certain death by impaling myself on those strangely
appealing, moss-covered rocks that scream out to me above the
crescendo of that roaring cascade.
I should have ended this worthless life of mine long ago and I know
it. Endless desires that cannot be quenched searing inside me is a
chronic disease of fate. My fate is one of endless suffering from
endless desires not sated -a fate no human should ever have to
Bananas. All I want now are bananas. Bananas. Damn Bananas. I crave
them. I push aside those visions of jumping into those falls and
smashing myself into the rocky gorge below - now it is only the
thought of bananas that consumes me and tortures my sad soul.
I need them - bunches of them. I need them so bad.
All these crazy
desires in the rain and nothing can stop them but a banana.
I grew up banana-less in Toledo, Ohio. My parents, barely able to
support a family of two, had four children, of which I was the last.
I always felt like a mistake.
My father built a home for us out of leftover girders from the
ubiquitous bridge construction that has made Toledo a laughing
stock. Have you ever gone half-way over a bridge and encountered a
"Bridge Closed" sign?
In Toledo, construction crews like to put the "Bridge Closed" signs
in the middle of the bridges rather than at the egresses. Some sort
of sick Toledo joke. It's not funny if you're in a hurry.
My mother, who didn't speak English, hated bananas. The sight of
them would make her bleed and swoon. It scared me when I was a
child. She used to scream at the sight of bananas and shout in whatever language
that struck her fancy. I couldn't understand her cries for help.
I was such a useless child - I always felt alone, worthless, and
You don't know what being alone really means until you've been alone
in Toledo, Ohio -especially with those skeletons of half-finished
bridges silhouetted in the smog looming all around. Toledo has more
bridges per capita than anywhere else in the world - even Venice.
My father used to find occasional work spearing carp in the Maumee
river. The carp business is a capricious one at best. During good
carp crop years, my father would leave the house, spear in hand and
not return for months.
Carp spearing is a difficult, dirty and demeaning way to earn a
living - and my father knew it. There is not a day that went by that
my father didn't think about his station in life. He tried hard, but
just couldn't wiggle free from the lure of carp.
He'd come home stinking of rotting fish and intoxicated.
Back in '87, Toledo was the carp capital of the world. People in
Europe would pay several cents a pound for Toledo carp and my dad
knew it. He was making only a few dollars a day even though he
speared carp sixteen to eighteen hours a day. His plight was shared
by fellow carp spearers. It was a sad lot to be sure.
My dad was livid.
Angrily, he founded Carp Spearers Local 913 United Fish Cleaners -
Federation of Carp Fisherman. He spent days trying to organize his
fellow spearers - spreading the word of truth. But, they would have
none of his incendiary talk - indeed they speared on oblivious to
his impassioned pleas making vast sums of money for the carp
corporations but only pittances for themselves.
I learned that life is not fair.
In the winter, my father would drink homemade turpentine and brood,
mumbling about the inequities of life and opining about summer days
on the Maumee and the thrill of the kill. He'd tell my mother, in
English, how people in Germany were paying up to four cents a pound
for Toledo carp yet he only made a few dollars a day. It wasn't
fair, he'd tell her, tears streaming down his scaly cheeks.
She continued knitting. She didn't understand a word.
In those days, before the Maumee became heavily polluted with
mercury and toilet detritus, carp were so thick that the water
literally rippled with them. They were so plentiful, in fact, any
new bridges built had to be built higher to accommodate the mass of
the flotilla of wiggling carp.
These glistening, swarming cadres of Toledo-bred carp were the very
lifeblood of my family and of Toledo's sagging economy.
Once the glass companies ran out of sand in Toledo, they booted
their loyal workers out on the street, closed up shop and moved to
Libya - leaving Toledo an economic disaster area. A slum-scathed
landscape of broken bridges and decaying buildings.
Then the culinary elitists proclaimed Maumee River carp as the
finest, most flavorful in the world and the carp business blossomed.
The displaced glass factory workers bought cheap but sharp Zulu
spears and headed to the Maumee to stake their claim and amass a
fortune by exploiting the carp craze that was sweeping Europe.
As with most things in Toledo, nothing turns out the way it is
Cantankerous, cut-throat Carp moguls moved in and took over the carp
spearing operations, paying the poor, downtrodden spearers a paltry
price per carp. My father went from making almost $12 a day to
making less than $5.
From their vast treasuries built on the backs of itinerant,
uneducated men, these greedy moguls bribed Toledo city officials to
look the other way.
They squeezed extra hours from the poor broken men and committed
atrocities upon the gasping, flopping carp. They drew great pleasure
from inflicting pain on the poor ugly fish as they flopped
helplessly on the docks, fresh from their impaling. It was yet
another form of sadistic recreation for these aristocratic and
narcissistic carp entrepreneurs.
Suddenly the bottom fell out of the carp business in Toledo. After
several million Europeans become sick from eating carp infested with
Maumee River cholera, Toledo-basin diphtheria, and garden-variety
fecal coliform bacteria, Europeans wised up and stopped eating carp
- just as Americans had done a century before.
Carp are dirty, ugly fish with a vile mud vein running through their
innards which contains all sorts of germs and other unmentionables.
It wasn't long after Europe began reeling from the carp plague that
several hundred Germans came to Toledo to vent their wrath on the
carp spearers. By the time the Germans had arrived however, the
carp-mongering moguls had taken their money and left Toledo. The
poor carp spearers were alone again with only their dull, rusty carp
spears to fight off the angry mob of wild Germans bent on exacting
revenge on the carp industry.
There is nothing quite so frightening as a band of crazed Germans
running amok in downtown Toledo. The enraged Germans lined the
bridges over the river and threw hand grenades at my father and his
As luck would have it, one German grenade severed my father's left
arm and it fell flailing into the Maumee River with a sick splash.
They may have been able to save the arm had they been able to
retrieve it quickly.
Unfortunately, my father's arm was consumed by the angry carp that
writhed and undulated in the filthy Maumee. Hungry and eager for
revenge, the carp consumed every shred of the one vibrant limb.
There would be no reattaching it now.
My father didn't last long after that. The carp business flopped. My
dad had only one arm. He did the only thing a proud carp spearer
could do - he decided to end his miserable existence by jumping off
Bridge #269 .
It was on March 10, 1992 that he made his historic leap. He waved
goodbye and jumped off the bridge into the foul filth below.
Always thoughtful, my father had planned well. There would be no
final expenses for him - he knew we couldn't afford to bury or
cremate him. Now there would be no need for either. His turgid body
was quickly and gleefully ravaged by vicious, voracious and vengeful
How ironic that these foul carp, once the foundation of his life and
the sustenance of mine, had rendered a final and fitting service to
our family: unwittingly they had become my father's pro bono funeral
Services rendered willingly are often the best
services of all.
Even after my father's jump into the Maumee River, I still couldn't
understand my mother. Though she spoke sixty different languages,
she just couldn't - or wouldn't - learn English. She mourned for my
father day and night, gnashing her teeth on nearby bridges, cursing
the carp in some unknown dialect and wailing for hours and hours as
she crawled pathetically through the streets of Toledo wearing her
favorite Aunt Bea designer house dress.
She was the ultimate woman of woe.
All this wailing and gnashing was depressing me. I could not stand
it another day. My sanity was being eaten away like my father's arm
by the carp.
I made my fateful decision as my mother clung to the girders of
bridge #137, sobbing and moaning in her abject sorrow.
I said goodbye to her in English and waved farewell in Turkish. I
was off to the jungles of Columbia.
I would never to set foot in Toledo again.
Bluffo still isn't back yet. My mind teeters on the brink of
insanity once again. The falls yearn to me and the thought of
bananas consumes me.
It's still raining and the air is sticky and thick with little green
bugs. I am beginning to think Bluffo has gotten into a poker game
with the local Shaman of the Wadituya tribe and has frittered away
all of my bananas.
I think Bluffo is staying away for fear I will punish him violently
for this transgressions with one of my patented vine-related
I don't resort to torture often, but when bananas are at stake I
have no other choice, do I?
I think I hear footsteps approaching but I can't be sure. The rain
is beating down so loud on the cacao leaves and drumming on the
rotted mat of vegetation that lines the jungle floor I can't hear
I want those bananas but I'm terribly afraid of getting wet - being
cold and wet reminds me of my awful childhood in Toledo, Ohio.
My kingdom for a banana.
I hear the falls calling me.
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