Beautiful women are walking by in droves, 'The Bachelorette' lady is standing right next to us, there are Hooter girls wandering about and the service yard mechanics are ogling and talking about... BAKED GOODS.
What have I done.
The Mercury mechanic has an apron on. The Powerpole mechanic is telling me how to MAKE SAUCE. The Skeeter mechanic is running around with a spoonful of vegetables, "db taste these they're caramelized."
What have I done.
The Yamaha mechanic is explaining to me the intricacies of BACON. Keith Allen, the Bass emcee, is up on stage talking about...BBQ. There is a line of Elite anglers all waiting by their boats and they're holding PLATES IN THEIR HANDS.
What have I done.
And then I spot this, and it sends shivers to my core. Even now I can barely compose myself; my hands are shaking as I type this. I breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, journalism Lamaze, but it must be written about. YOU must know this: In the Mercury service trailer there are.... napkins.
And they are folded.
What have I done.
Cuisine meets Crew-sine
At every BASS event, off somewhere in the distance, there are a group of people, unseen and mostly unheard, who, like the guys up on the stage, are the very best at what it is they do.
They fix things. Fix all things designed to keep the Pros in the water and on fish.
The service crew. They get there before the pros do, and they are there after the pros leave.
These are the grease monkeys of the sport.
Here's where I come in... they still are grease monkeys, but it's COOKING GREASE.
The oil on their hands... unhydrogenated extra-virgin olive oil. For possibly the first time in man-history, a cook book is leaning on a service manual.
On the work bench, mega-RPM high torque power wrenches and a Teflon coated BBQ cooking set (black and very stylish BTW). DW-40 is flanked by salt and pepper. Metric and mayonnaise, horsepower and horseradish coexist.
The end of the world comes, it seems, smoked and basted.
It's 2:15 pm... all the Elite pros' boats are out on the water and running fine, but the crew is in chaos, "Happy," the Nitro whiz-mechanic, is NOT.
"db... does this look alright? Presentation is everything you know."
Over "Happy's" left shoulder, an Elite pro (un-named in case of some wife-imposed diet that for some unknown reason frowns on BBQ) is sampling grilled chicken wings; from the look of his chin I know the BBQ ones are winning. Drips of teriyaki sauce dot his trolling motor. The baitcasting reel smells like a burger.
"Happy" being unhappy now moves into my personal space; imagine the world's best treeing dog with a wrench, "db..."
And he lifts one of those very expensive paper plates that you save for only the good neighbors...
"...db ...is my GARNISH OKAY."
To the "Happy" relatives everywhere... forgive me.
Before I can say anything, "Happy" is off... It's 2:30 pm... High Noon (close enough in guy-time) and, as I turn, I watch as the ENTIRE service crew walk down the gravel boatyard road... OK Corral style... to a BBQ shootout with the local food vendors.
Presentation is, indeed, everything.
If you can, think back to the hour after you were just born. You have no idea what happened, but as you look up from the bassinette, you see guys behind a window looking at you, pointing, making all googly eyes...
That's how the Pork Chop is feeling right now.
On one side of the eatin'/judgin' tent...the ENTIRE service crew...they're staring at the locals' entry like it's a bad electrical harness and the whole thing needs rewirin'.
The locals... they're staring too... at the ENTIRE service crew.
Serious tension is building over the Funnel Cake (which, no offense to the ENTIRE service crew... is a damn fine piece of powdered sugar art if you ask me).
Jay the Merc Mechanic: "db... I haven't been this nervous since my kids were born... maybe even worse now."
(***Dear Jay the Merc Mechanic's children, please do not take your father's quote to mean that you have somehow been supplanted in his heart by a Buffalo-style Chicken Wing, as that was not his intention at all, but between me and you, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea of you could come up with some honey glaze wing sauce, you know, just in case.)
"Happy" is nervous, the Yamaha guy is scowling, one of the judges just put down the Jalapeño, cream cheese, little smoked sausage wrapped in bacon concoction that they have named something that I could never squeak by the editors.
The food eatin'/judgin' folks move behind the tent and start discussing the eats.
I sneak back there... the ENTIRE service crew, now out of hearing range, is watching my right hand... if I hear something good, I'm supposed to sneak a thumbs up... something bad, thumbs down.
This is what I hear, exactly: "I like the plates with the leafs."
That would be "Happy's" garnish... Instead of a sprig of parsley garnish, "Happy" had pretty much just emptied the whole bag of it on the plate in the time honored chef tradition of the more leaves, the better. Pretty much a lifetime of garnish on that plate there.
I take my right hand and stick it in my pocket not knowing exactly if a clump of sprigs is good or not.
There is talk of the magical healing powers of funnel cake (granted that was pretty much just in my head as far as I know, but one of the judges never spoke, having a mouthful of powdered sugar art throughout most of the tabulating process); behind me I hear from one of the ENTIRE service crew, "we should have entered the drunken monkeys."
I turn to the drunken monkey remark just in time to watch Andy, the biggest of all the ENTIRE service crew mouth silently to me, "...MUFFINS." Drunken monkey are some kind of ENTIRE service crew muffins.
And then the moment of truth... Five out of six judges voiced their choice, one just pointed.
And the winner is...
The ENTIRE service crew.
They won 2 out of 3 categories... 1st place for taste, for scallops wrapped in bacon and cooked in a brown sugar rum sauce.
Trust me when I say, 'I can not believe I just typed that sentence.'
And 1st place for Creativity, which I take to mean it didn't actually kill anyone when they ate the Jalapeño/cream cheese/sausage/bacon concoction.
Arms were pumped in the air; presentations were made; handshakes all around, pretty much just 14,650 calories worth of fun.
Later that night, as I walked by the service yard and the ENTIRE service crew, this is the last thing I heard, exactly: "Hey Andy...if we can get some kind of satellite dish can you rig it up...
"...we need to start watching that food channel, you know."
Don Barone is a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. Other stories of his can be found on Amazon.com. For comments or story ideas, you can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com