The Genius of John Candy

Since 1989 I’ve been a big fan of John Candy. The movie that came out that year was Uncle Buck. I was seven, about the same age as the character Miles, portrayed by Macaulay Culkin, and I often thought about some long lost uncle sweeping into town and making me gigantic pancakes for my birthday.

Since then I’ve grown to really love John Candy like an uncle. It’s not just his character of Uncle Buck, who still makes me laugh to this day with a congenial combination of slapstick, silly, and smart, but the way that he can do nothing and it’s hilarious. Just a simple line of “Sure” was somehow hysterical. I’ve not come across many actors that can say or do nothing on screen and still get a laugh.

I grew up with actors like Jim Carrey and Chris Farley being beamed into my home regularly. I watched both In Living Color and Saturday Night Live, their energy and slapstick style was something that I had never seen before. They made me laugh until I cried on plenty of occasions. Then the next school day, my friends and I would discuss the craziness of their portrayals and laugh all over again.

We never talked about John Candy. But even then he was still my go to. If I was home sick from school, I wanted John to be there, as Uncle Buck or Chet Ripley, or whatever other movies of his we could rent at the grocery store.

He was real. A real life person who could show up at your house and punch a clown in the face. He wasn’t over acting to get a laugh, he just was a guy who happened to be really funny and could put on a serious face when the role needed him to. It wasn’t magic or explosions or a hard bodied beauty, just a regular guy who chose to be an actor because he had something different about him, even if you could never actually pinpoint what that was.

Movies are much different today and to be honest I don’t watch them. I see one or two movies a year, and it’s usually the ones that won a ton of awards or enough people told me I should watch it that I eventually do. They are very rarely, if ever, comedies. They are rarely heartwarming. For the most part they are serious movies that are almost difficult to watch. I like art, but I also like to be cozy.

Most movies today don’t have the greatest acting, but are rather vehicles for beautiful people to do magical things. The plots are basic, the melodrama heavy. They are meant for a world wide audience. They are moving investments, the art stripped away to make something that won’t be difficult to understand with subtitles. The money is heaped high for special effects and the latest starlet with a curvy body. The John Candy’s are few and far inbetween.

“I think I may have become an actor to hide from myself.” – John Candy

A few years ago it was a slow day at work and a bunch of us were standing around before punching out shooting the breeze about movies. The topic of your favorite actor came up and it was my turn to say who it was. I said John Candy. Everyone laughed at the same time. They told me that I couldn’t pick him as my favorite actor. That I had to choose someone else. I protested immediately. I said “Here’s the thing. I said his name and you all laughed, right? That’s it. He’s still making you laugh.”

That is the genius of John Candy.

Anthony Norman White - Fishing is a Language

The International Language of Fishing

There is just too much going on in the world right now to comment. It’s been a tough few weeks for everyone.

But what I try to remember is that a tough few weeks for us can be a lifetime for others. Keep in perspective that civil unrest is a way of life for some people, their whole lives drowning in constant turmoil and chaos. That’s why they seek asylum. It’s why they walk hundreds or thousands of miles with starving children on their backs. They desperately seek change. The Americans protesting seek change too. We’re all one in the same, we all want something more. Listen, be patient, and try to learn.

That’s why I love fishing so much. It teaches you something new every time you get out there. That paragraph above took me a week of fishing to get to. But that wasn’t all. I learned something else too; Fishing is an international language.

It’s not just about other cultures either. It goes beyond that. Communication is possible with little babies and dogs and everyone with fishing. But in particular my experience recently along the Charlotte Pier in Rochester, New York was with a man who spoke no English and, as I learned, was from Nepal.

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Lake Ontario waters looking quite like the Atlantic Ocean.

He was a short middle aged man holding his phone out and taking pictures along the pier. I didn’t notice him right away. He wasn’t dressed out of the ordinary in any way. But I suddenly realized he was coming to look into our fish bucket. My son and I had been there less than an hour but already hooked into a couple good sized perch. Our bucket had the perch in it along with a few fat head minnows that someone gave to us on his way home. Fishing is a community like that.

The man from Nepal stopped and looked in our bucket. My son, who is six, was all smiles, as he had caught the biggest one and loved showing it off to onlookers. I asked the man how he was doing, a common and mindless way of greeting someone. He nodded his head and pointed at the perch. “Matza”, he said continuing to point. I said “Oh yeah?” because I wasn’t sure what was happening yet. He became a little more emphatic “Matza, matza”.

I said “Perch.” and he shook his head yes. “Nepali”, he said smiling. “Matza”. I suddenly understood.

“You’re from Nepal?” I asked.

“Yes. Matza”, he said and he brought his hand up to his mouth like he was eating.

“Oh absolutely”, I said and I pointed to my son and then back to me and made the same eating motion. He seemed content and patted his stomach and I did the same. We both liked to fish for and eat perch and without the convenience of a common language we figured that out in just a few short minutes. He held up his phone as if to take a picture, and made a noise like a questions mark. I said “Go ahead” and he took some photos. I turned back to the water and my rod, jigging my bait while he took a few photos.

He started to walk away and patted my shoulder. He said thank you in Nepali and I told him to take care. He headed on down to the end of the pier and after a few minutes I turned and watched him and actually thought to myself “that guy is my friend”.

In everything that’s happening in the world there’s always moments like this. Seemingly insignificant moments that should be forgotten, but they’re not. They’re important. For some reason we can speak the same language in fishing and where you’re from or how you grew up doesn’t matter. Fishing is more than the fish. It’s about the story.

(A simple google search shows that the man was more than likely saying macha, with a small line over each ‘a’. When he said it to me on the pier it sounded most like matza.)

Forage Ramps in the Woods of Western New York

Fishing, Foraging and Finding

The woods do something to your soul and it isn’t something tangible, although what you can get from the woods often times is. 

This is the best time of the year because it starts the season of the getting meals for free from the land. It’s not always easy and you have to do your fair share of studying before you head out and start picking and eating stuff. But it’s worth it. And not just for the meal, but for the part of you that fills up that you can’t say what it is.

April first marks the start of trout season. They are mostly stocked but that doesn’t bother me. It gets you outdoors doing something and while your there you can start looking at how the trees and landscaped changed over the winter. Usually I do a little fishing over the winter too, but this year I couldn’t so getting back to my favorite spots was exhilarating. Nabbed a few trout early in the season too.

Anthony Norman White - Freelance Writer - New York Trout Season
New York Trout Season Opens April 1st

The magnificent colors of this rainbow are the beginning of color returning to New York State. After a tough couple of hours of no bites I went back to one of my favorite spots and changed up my presentation. First cast this beauty hit like truck. My fishing buddy, my five year old son, was so happy he could barely talk. First trout of the season is always exciting, doesn’t matter the age.

Forage Ramps in the Woods of Western New York
Forage Ramps in the Woods of Western New York

Next to show up is ramps. Ramps are wild onions and there are some spots I know of around here that grow thousands. You could never dig them all even if you had to. The entire plant is edible, from it’s white bulb, through the red stem, and straight to the tip of it’s perfectly green leaves. They consequently go excellent with trout! I typically fry the whole trout in butter with the diced bulbs, then throw in the chopped leaves at the end for a perfect meal.

Foraged Spice Bush
Foraged Spice Bush

Next to start popping up is the tasty little flower buds of the spice bush. When these grow they end up with bright green leaves with a citrus flavor, eventually the plant producing red berries that can be dried and used as allspice. The bark tastes of allspice as well, and in the spring the little yellow flowers have a slight citrus flavor. It makes a fantastic tea or the base for a brine. I used it to make both, drinking a hot cup of tea while I made a brine for a duck that I’ll smoke. The duck came from Fisher Hill Farm.

What I have not seen yet are morel mushrooms. This morning there was a freeze alert so that certainly doesn’t help. Possibly the ground has not been warm enough and maybe I’m just getting antsy. These mushrooms can go for as much as $20 per pound. But they’re free if you know what your looking for and sauteed with ramps and butter they’re might not be a better meal.

I have also found fiddleheads this year, but none from the Bracken or Ostrich fern, only from the Christmas Tree Fern. They are edible, but don’t taste all that great. So I’ll keep my eye out for those as well.

Also edible are dandelion greens, which make for a great salad. It’s been a great year so far, even though it’s been a little chilly. I fully expect the warmer weather to bring out more.

 

Opening Day of Trout Season in New York

April 1st marks the beginning of my fishing season, although I fish year round.

This year fishing past Labor Day weekend was scarce, only making it out another dozen times during the fall and winter. But with all that’s happening right now I’m not sure I have been this excited for trout opening day in a long time.

There’s something ancient about fishing. It makes you feel like time stopped hundreds if not thousands of years ago and there you are, nestled into a bank of rocks that have been there forever, seen it all, in water that’s thousands of years old, doing something sacred. It’s a quiet mantra that gives you something to do with your hands, your mind focused on feeling a tug, always in the ready position to set the hook, listening to the babble of the body of water in front of you.

It’s exhilarating and relaxing at the same exact time and there are very few things in life that like that.

I’ve been fishing since I was a little kid. Both my grandfathers were into it, my father, my uncle, my cousins, my friends; we all fished growing up. I remember tying my rod to my bike to ride down to Lisk Bridge with Brian Erdner and the gang and hooking worms, corn, or blue gill eyes to our hooks and hoping to catch a trout. But we were happy snagging creek chubs.

April 1st isn’t just about trout, its about the start of another year of fishing. It’s about remembering all the fish you caught the year before and talking about it. It’s about remembering years past and the fish you caught with family members who might not be around anymore to talk about it.

It’s about memories. You probably won’t remember a lot of specifics about things in life but you will certainly remember fishing. The stories are deeper than just the fish. Time spent together, the gear, the weather, the beer, the meals, all of it ties into one day of fishing. I can think back and remember specific days so well, even if there isn’t a picture to prove the catch.

the biggest fish in the world!

Like that time my Uncle Scott caught this cat off the bank of the Chaumont River. Someone snapped this pic of me going in for the closer look. What a hog that thing was. And to this day I still set up the same way he did and try to get a bigger fish. Even though Uncle Scott passed away. This moment in time is frozen for me and I attempt to recreate it every year.

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Same bank, same spot, same cat method. I’ve caught some, just not as big as the cow he brought in. But that to me is what it’s about. So when people tell me they couldn’t get in to fishing, it always surprises me at first, but then I sort of feel bad because maybe they just didn’t have someone to point out that it’s not about the fish but about the memory.

Plus, if you haven’t had the chance to search for, then locate a school of jack perch, then get them into a frenzy and pull about 100 out of the water, then filet them up and beer batter them, frying them in a skillet over the open fire; then dude, you haven’t lived.

For an updated guide on New York State Fresh Water Fishing Regulations click here.

Anthony N. White - Arts and Culture Writer searching for the American Dream

What the Hell is the American Dream?

Most of the research you read says you should have a niche as a freelance writer. I had no clue what category I wanted myself to be in the last few years so I bounced around between sports, arts, and local.

But none of it felt like something that I could stick with long term until I realized that everything had a common theme. I realized I was trying to define this country with my words no matter the topic and everything came out as if I was toying around with what it is to be American, to feel American and to live in America. Oddly enough It all felt so foreign, as if I was an innocent outside bystander constantly looking in.

I tried to be non-partial, I tried to simply tell a story as if I was a from another planet but it was way too difficult. I couldn’t see this country as anything other than how a typical American sees themselves; proud, tough, gritty, and outspoken.

One day when I was sitting there at the picnic table in my backyard waiting for the grill to warm up, I suddenly had a strange and outrageous thought that I had never had before. I suddenly found myself questioning everything I know. And I mean absolutely everything. Maybe it’s the disinformation age we’re currently living in that brought me to this thought, but what if everything I know about America is actually wrong.

What if history is, as most of us view it, completely revisionist.

Maybe everything that ever happened just seems so much more principled, astute, and well planned because those who retell it decided it that way. Maybe everything is just completely made up in some half ass attempt to cover up some wicked truth.

I couldn’t make the connection. How could I convince someone that this was true if I couldn’t convince myself of it? It wasn’t like I could look something up in a history book, that’s what I supposedly couldn’t believe in anymore. I sat there for a long while trying to come up with a way to test my theory in a subtle way, one that attacked the fabric of society but not directly America itself. The grill got hot.

I decided to attack Peyton Manning and I wrote an article that suggested that he was a lying scumbag. It was my way of seeing if an American archetype could have holes in the argument, my way of taking a shot at what is viewed as truth, Peyton Manning is the All-American Quarterback. Taking a shot at his truths are just a tiny microcosm of what we all agree is the acceptable and true version of American history.

I decided to attack Peyton Manning and I wrote an article that suggested that he was a lying scumbag.

What happened after that article was published was truly amazing. Something that I honestly didn’t see coming. Absolutely no one agreed with me. And I mean no one. I got hate mail. My twitter blew up with people hoping that I could casually get hit by a bus or get blown up by a bomb and right then and there I knew I was on to something.

It reminded me of the time in college when in the common area, on a big screen TV, they were showing Forest Gump. I decided to go just to make fun of the movie, out loud. I got thrown out in about thirty minutes. No one thought making fun of that movie was funny. But why?

Going against the grain just because you can, is just being anti for no reason and that’s pretty annoying. But it’s really the most American thing you can possibly do. Status quo and this country do not belong in the same sentence. We were once the global misanthropes, the dreamers, the hell raisers. Some of us sent here, some came here seeking change, others were just plain hellions. And that’s what I wanted to be, a hellion, a rebel, a punk, a goddamn outspoken misanthrope. I wanted to purposely bring the antithesis, I wanted to go out of my way to hate Forest Gump, I wanted to be what I thought America was. The attention, however negative at times, emboldened me, and I started craving more.

I wanted to go out of my way to hate Forest Gump

But I quickly found out that it wasn’t enough to incite. I wanted it to be deeper than that, to explore something, and get minds moving. What I didn’t want to be was Kent State Gun Girl or some other flash in the pan Instagram hack job. While at first it was the attention that I craved, it didn’t last, and I started to feel hopeless.

But there was that longing feeling, the one where I felt like I touched something, something real, it was ephemeral but it was so real. It was an American nerve, and what I wanted to do was follow it, not agitate it.

I wanted to follow it to the epicenter, one sentence at a time, one project after another, until I found something. I was let go from that writing job a few months later, but it didn’t deter me. In fact, I’m probably more in debt to that group than anything for allowing me to speak my mind and to find the nerve I wanted to follow. So, thanks to Dan McAuliffe, wherever you are, and Wai Sallas, too.

So here I am. Following along the nerve path, desperately trying to find what I’m going to call the American Dream through arts and culture, through writing, through connecting, through being an out spoken American, an extroverted misanthrope.