Jeff Reese helps celebrate his son’s 21st birthday in San Diego with tattoos, fishing, a stunning meal at Club 33, and a show at The Casbah … and he’s starting to feel old.
A couple weeks ago, I set out to create one of the most memorable 21st birthdays for my son that I could imagine. We really don’t know when this whole crazy thing we call life is going to stop and we’re nothing but the memories and experiences we leave behind. Add to this all that I’m moving to Mexico in about a month and we probably aren’t going to see each other as often as we currently do. With this in mind, I think I created one of the most epic trips a 21-year-old could have aside from the seasickness.
We arrived in San Diego on Thursday. Both of us were born in America’s Finest City so it was a good homecoming. Fresh off the plane, we had appointments with Mike Stobbe at Avalon Tattoo II. Mike has been tattooing me since I was 18 and it was pretty fitting that my son and I would have him tattoo us together. Those who’ve read my previous articles should know about how Brandon Carlisle influenced me with his motto “be sweet.” My son and I decided it was a fitting tribute to both get “be sweet” tattoos to commemorate this trip.
The next morning, we were scheduled to go shark fishing with Kory from The Fly Stop. A piece of advice for anyone taking someone out on a fishing boat for the first time, don’t wait to give Dramamine until symptoms occur. Before the boat launches is a good idea. Actually, the night before and then probably nonstop through it. Poor kid spent six hours throwing up the day before his birthday. But hey, I caught a blue shark. No one said the memories all had to be about him. J
Deep-sea fishing on fly-fishing gear is growing in popularity (at least I hope so, because that’s the plan in Puerto Vallarta) and any species of fish can be targeted and caught “on the fly.” Often, the ethos of catch and release fishing and conservation follows also. Shark, being an apex predator, are often an indicator of the health of a particular fishery and, as such, I’m a pretty firm proponent of keeping damage to the fish as minimal as possible.
The way one targets shark on fly gear isn’t that different in the initial stages. Get into deep blue water and set up a chum slick, then it’s all patience and watching what’s going on. If you get out on the ocean, it’s often pretty surprising how much life you actually see. Birds, dolphins, whales, and schools of baitfish are all around you if you are observant and have good eyesight. You can watch an entire ecosystem form, thrive, and disappear in a matter of minutes. It really is my favorite part of ocean fishing.
About four hours into the drift, we were debating moving to another spot. Kory was securing some gear to move the boat and out of the corner of my eye I spotted it. A blue shark. Estimated to be over 120 pounds. It circled the boat and the chum bucket while we readied the gear. Casting a fly at a blue shark is pretty exhilarating. Watching it approach, follow, and bump the fly is maddening, frustrating, and equally exciting. Getting it to finally take and setting the hook? I’m not sure I’ve felt anything like it before. It was a 45-minute battle with power. When it ran, there was no stopping it, then it was a battle for a few turns of the reel that sometimes I was on the losing end of. Eventually it tired and we were able to bring it alongside the boat. The barbless hook was removed and the shark was released, hopefully just a bit worn out.
Saturday was the big memory day. If you’re a fan of Disney or high-end bars and restaurants, you may have heard of Club 33. It’s a private club created by Walt Disney when he designed the original park. It is also the only location in the park to serve alcohol. It’s one of the hardest bars or restaurants to gain entry to in the country. Fortunately, I have a friend who’s a member and he isn’t really that hard to convince to go have a good time. My son’s first legal cocktail in the U.S. (we did go to Europe a few years ago) was in Club 33. I think that moment really will be a memory he’s going to have for the rest of his life and it was well worth the cost and effort it took to get it done. We then had lunch at the restaurant. A four-course, full, five-star-service meal and probably one of the best I’ve had in my life. Every course outdoing the last and the staff being world class made this something that was well worth the pricetag. We then hit the big rides (the new space mountain is so much better than the one of my childhood) and ventured back to San Diego.
The evening plans involved seeing Three Mile Pilot at The Casbah and cocktails at Live Wire. I took my son into Live Wire two days after he was born to introduce him to my best friend who was working the day shift. I’ve also written about Stimy and his impact on my life, so taking Jade to see the memorial they’ve put up for Stimy was special. It also really hammered in how old I’m getting. A feeling that really only got worse when we arrived at The Casbah to see a band that’s been around longer than he’s been alive. Three Mile Pilot are amazing and it was nice to see so many old friends.
When I’m in San Diego, you can almost bet that if it’s a Sunday, I’m at Bali Hai nursing a hangover with a mai tai and then heading to my happiest place on earth, Fathom Bistro. My friend Dennis has created a business that is so perfectly suited to who he is and what he loves. It’s inspiring to see friends do such amazing and successful things.
I guess I’ve gone from being an angry political commentator to a leisure and travel writer now … much sweeter state of mind.
Be Sweet and Viva Mexico.