Thanksgiving With Ike: A Jersey Tale

“…time seems to go by so fast…”

“The first thing I ever collected, were, you know….butterflies.”

Nope, Michael.

Nope, Michael….didn’t quite know that.


Didn’t know that.

I knew it was going to be a bad week to give up drinking.

“You know db, the bugs, I started collecting them, pinning them on a board, beautiful colors…”

Nope…didn’t know…didn’t know that.

“Then Uncle Don and I started collecting old ink bottles…started digging around in privies looking for the bottles…you know what a Privy is right…”

Yep, yep got that covered, yep know exactly what a privy is….

“…we would get old maps to property lines…find the back outer corner of the property line for a house from the 1800’s…get permission and start digging.”

The results of those privy digs sits in an old cabinet in Michael’s home office…right across the room from his Bassmaster Classic and Angler Of The Year trophies.

“db, some of these ink bottles go back hundred’s of years…to the 1800’s and even earlier.”

He has hundreds of bottle…bottles that look like and are called, “Turtle” Shape,  school house bottles…black bottles…you name it he has it, most found while digging in the ground with, “Uncle Don.”

“db it’s like fishing…you find the spot…you start working the spot…and then suddenly when you are in the spot…there it is…you see not the whole bottle but just a tiny sliver of it…like this…”

Michael folds his hand over one of the ink bottles to show me what it would look like sitting in Privy dirt…

“…and there it is…the treasure…it’s just like fishing…the find…the find is the coolest part of it…catching the fish is great…that’s the money shot…but finding the fish in the first place…that…that’s where the adventure is…that’s what gets me all jazzed up.”

Later, as the turkey was still cooking, and most of the family were standing around talking in the kitchen, Michael and I sat at the unset Thanksgiving table.

Alone, just the two of us.

And we were talking about, The Find.


Just two guys…one 40 years old…one 60 years old…friends…and as we talked I said to him this:

“Michael…the universe, the universe she does some crazy things, most of which none of us really understand…but what of this…what if knowing what was going to happen to your dad…what if that was the reason Uncle Don was placed in your life…not just Uncle Don, but  a guy with the qualities of Uncle Don…special qualities…what if Uncle Don was one of The Finds of your life…one of the biggest…”

And sitting at the end of the unset Thanksgiving table, Michael switched his eyes off mine…off to my left, and when I turned I saw he was looking at Uncle Don standing in the kitchen doorway…

…and it was then that I knew what the answer to my question would be.

“…in the twinkling of an eye…”

Down there at the end of the kitchen island.

Down there amongst the mystery of the green vegetables, down there where even the dog won’t go as long as there are still Maraschino dreams up by my end of the island, down there sitting talking to Becky…is the no-doubt-about-it, down there is The Find, of my life…bb.

When she smiles, I give thanks.

When she looks at me, I give thanks.

When I sit up in bed at night and watch her sleep, I give thanks.

When I couldn’t even Find myself, the universe found her for me.

And is my find, so be it Michael’s.

I believe, The Find, in my friend’s life, to be his wife, and also my friend, Becky.

Beckonelli, as I call her.

A founding member of, The Breakfast Club…along with Kerry Short, Julia Kennedy…and me…wives..and me..who get together with each other…and the kids…after the Elites launch…and who act as The Find for each other while on the road, while on the road through life.

It may be Mother Mary who brings peace to Paul McCartney…but for Michael…it is Becky…who in times of trouble…

Barb told me on the ride back to Connecticut, told me this, I was driving not taking notes so it may or may not be a correct journalistic quote but I’m going to put the quote marks around it anyway…

“You know I went there not knowing much about Mike other than what I saw on TV, thought he would be this hyper kind of guy, but all I saw was a peaceful, calm young man, very pleasant family man, dad, husband, you know.”

Yep, I know.

And I know why.


In fact, the first time Michael took Becky fishing…it was their third “real” date…he took her to the exact….I mean EXACT spot on the Schuylkill River in downtown Philadelphia where his Grandfather and Great-Grandfather fished.

The comfort of three generations fishing the same bank, the same ledge, the same spot.


THE Find, in Michael’s life.

“…let's enjoy it while we can…”

As is Elite tournament fishing NOT about the fish, but the MEN who fish, Thanksgiving is not about the bird, but those who gather around the bird.

On the day that Barb and I sat at the Iaconelli Thanksgiving table, two good friends of ours back in our Connecticut town of Farmington, Skip and Inger were driving north to the upper reaches of New York State and the military base of the 10th Mountain Division, Ft. Drum.

They were on their way to pick up their youngest son, Stephen…Stephen who just stepped off a plane from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  Their oldest son, David, now recently out of the Army, also served a tour or so in war zone combat.

At breakfast the day before I left I told Skip, “Dude, you just had two sons go through war zones, and come out alive…”

Skip looked at me and all he could say was that what I just said sent chills through his body.

Ask Skip and Inger if Thanksgiving is just about the bird.

As a non-family member invited to a family shindig, I have no dog, so to say, in the fight.  No vegetables either.

I am the fly on the wall.

I could have had Thanksgiving with pretty much any Elite angler I wanted to, may do it again next year with another friend, but this year I picked Michael.

I wanted to see Michael away from the crowds, away from the fans, away from the fish.

Away from the Ike.


And this is what I found,

he is the New Jersey, you never see.