My friend John and his wife Chieko left John’s son from his first marriage behind at Stone Farm. Stone Farm, Suffolk, is all I need to write as an address on the letters and postcards I send to him twice a year in the United Kingdom. The family home (occupied by John, Chieko, John Jr., and John’s mother) is older than the United States. When the bowing timbers used to frame the home were cut, the colonies were still colonies.
John spent a week in Duluth. He was to give lectures at the Alworth Institute about energy policy in the U.K. And of course, ostensibly, he was here to visit his friend, David. But John was a fisherman. You don’t cross the Atlantic to talk about U.K. dependence on natural gas to Minnesotans. You come to fish.
We visited Gooseberry, and John took romantic photos under the falls. We ate smoked fish and lobster — John ate at Red Lobster so many times because the exchange rate between the pound and the dollar was so favorable.
But the highlight was the guided fishing trip. We paid a professional to meet us at the mouth of the St. Louis River (because Lake Superior is lifeless, relative to the river, according to the guide). He would arrive at noon to take John up the river.
We had time. So I took John to one of the fishing tackle shops, locally owned, hoping he might find a paradise of tackle and equipment and whatever-words-for-fishing-equipment-I-don’t-know unavailable in the U.K. After all, when I visit the U.K., I find collectibles unavailable in the United States.
I’d never seen a fifty-year-old man salivate. I’d never seen a grown man smile so wide. So many gadgets, doodads, and things. He was in heaven from the moment he saw the first of several aisles.
And then he reached for the peg.
“Barbarian,” he said, and lost his glow.
“What’s wrong,” I replied?
“Lead has been illegal in the U.K. in fishing tackle for a very long time.”
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