Men and Their Adventures

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

“Cuba is two weeks from today!!! Got to admit I’m a little nervous going where my phone and credit cards don’t work, and taking some ancient helicopter.”

That’s the text I got from my buddy Geoff this morning. He’s had this Cuba trip planned for almost a year but it’s only now sinking in. He’s fished all over the world, and in places a hell of a lot farther than a sixty-mile, ancient helicopter ride from a nice American hospital, but Cuba is an unknown and the unknown is scary.

“You can give my contact info to your wife,” I replied, “I can be there in a couple of hours.”

“Plenty of help here. She just worries.”

“It’s good for them to worry about us once in a while,” I answered.

I think my wife gave up worrying about me a long time ago, but there was a time I scared the living hell out of her. There is something in a man’s soul which needs adventure. Something which requires a bit of risk, the sneaking suspicion that everything might not be alright. Take it away and he becomes something else. A “man” only in description.

All of you women who are firing up your keyboards to tell me how sexist I am should calm down for a second and listen. This has nothing to do with you. I’m not making a judgment or a comparison. I’m talking honestly about what goes on in the head of the male specimen. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be a woman, but I can tell why we men do some of the stupid things we do.

“I didn’t want to tell you about this in the first place,” my mother told me “because I knew you’d do it.” 

I was twenty years old and had taken a job, my mother had told me about, photographing archeological sites for the Israeli Department of Antiquities. I landed in Tel Aviv on the first plane to arrive after a bomb threat and unpacked my luggage with two M-16 rifles pointed at my head. I rode a bus to the site of the ancient city of Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee. It was April of 1982.

“Everything is fine,” I shouted to my parents through a scratchy phone connection, which had taken the better part of twenty-four hours to make. “That was just a sonic boom.”

“I’ve been to war, son,” my father answered, “I know what a damned bomb sounds like.”

Seven hundred crude PLO missiles landed in our general area that weekend.

They couldn’t really target anything but they made up for it in numbers. I witnessed, first hand, the resolve of the Israeli military. It was not a response I’ll soon forget.

I spent that season in a grass hut on the Sea of Galilee but I never got around to fishing. I eventually made a couple of more trips around the globe before I thought to take a fly rod. Fly fishing wasn’t a global pursuit back then. Eventually my travel became less about finding myself in a war zone and more about “finding myself” on a river. It’s been a very long time since I had a bomb lobbed at me but I still get something very real from the feeling that somewhere, someone should be worried about me.

I don’t think this is a unique feeling. I may have had a unique introduction, but I believe I am far from alone in the feeling that living without testing one’s limits isn’t really living. And I do think there is something buried in the male psyche which is more than just a wanderlust. Something in our monkey brain needs for it to be just a little dangerous. Maybe it’s a ride in an ancient helicopter, or knowing our credit card is useless. Maybe it’s a boat ride up the Amazon or just wading a run that’s a little too deep or too fast. Whatever it is, for some reason, if death isn’t an option we just don’t feel like men. Whatever that means.

I’m many years older now and I don’t need quite as much mortal peril as I used to, but I wish I was getting on that helicopter with Geoff. I wish I was leaving my phone and credit cards behind and stepping into the unknown. Not this week, but soon.

Have a blast brother, and scare the hell out of us all.

P.S. If you still think I’m sexist, you should know this. My wife is spending two weeks in Borneo this summer working with orangutans, and she’s doing it without me because I’m terrified of apes. So I guess that makes her more of a man than me.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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2 thoughts on “Men and Their Adventures

  1. I listened to that April Vokey interview where you tell about the apes attacking you. One of the freakiest things I’ve ever heard.

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