I was mulling over the news story of a 43-year-old JD executive when we were
stuck in north-bound traffic near SFO. It sounded all too familiar: a young man
striving for fame and fortune came to a point of reckoning after being diagnosed with
a terminal illness in mid-life. While not giving up his career, the guy had improved
relationship with his wife and even wrote a guide for his two-year-old son. It has
been a recurring theme in the news.
It reminded me of eight years ago the last stage of a best friend. I remembered
walking with him two months before he passed away. He was so frail from chemo
that we had to stop after a few blocks. He showed me the avocado tree in his back
yard and talked about how he wished he had spent more time with his two kids.
Why this always had to happen and only death could awaken one to what was really
important? And what good advice could the rich and successful winner gave
besides his heart-felt regrets? Could the lesson even be learned? At my
friend's funeral, we talked about his kindness, his generosity, and
mostly what a great employee he was and his achievements at work. We hated the
cancer that took away such a dear person, we were scared, but no one hinted at
how we should live differently. We huddled like a dazzle of zebras camouflaging
well against each other and bracing for the next strike from the lions.
I myself could have gone down a similar route, but here I was, healthy and still
improving at 48, in the car with my teenage son on our trip to crab. No complaints.
It was around 9:30am when we arrived at the SF municipal pier and cast the cage.
The breeze was gentle and the sky clear and blue. No giant ocean liners came to
block the view. We could see well the Alcatraz, Sausalito, and of course the
Golden Gate bridge. A few swimmers paddled contentedly within the big corral
formed by the arched pier. Outside, giant pelicans ruled the bay.
The tide was high as Tim observed. Only one angler came before us, an Asian
woman in her late 50s on a motorized wheelchair with her chihuahua. I was as
oblivious as always. I came for the air, the scenary, and the time with my kid
with his phone tucked away. If we had a good catch, great. Or, we could just
return what we got back to the sea.
Two hours and three good-sized rock crabs later, we ditched our bait and catch.
It was only when we started to pack up that the woman turned our way and we
greeted each other. She had a ruddy wrinkled face and bright eyes and, although
not fit, didn't need the wheelchair which she referred to as her BMW. It turned out
she used to live near TianJin and acquired the accent before coming to America.
We were both happy to have someone to speak Mandarian with.
"I used to work in San Jose but I'm retired. I load up and come here every
morning. Right now is the perfect hour for crabbing."
"Too bad. We have to go. We came from Mountain View." I said and added "I didn't
know there was a perfect hour for crabs. We have always just come and leave it to
"No. You need to come when the tide is going. Let me show you." She beckoned,
brandishing her cell phone. On the screen was today's tide forcast for SF pier
41. "This window is best for crabbing and as the tide goes up again in a couple
of hours, it would be the best time for catching smelts."
"Thank you! I came here for five years and never suspected!"
We went away empty-handed but feeling like bandits.