"...ONE MAN'S VERSION OF HEAVEN IS A SUPER HOWARD JOHNSONS WITH 28 FLAVORS AND NO LINES FOR THE REST ROOMS. MINE IS A FAST-MOVING STREAM."
One man's version of heaven, says Jean Shepherd, is a super Howard Johnsons with 28
flavors and no lines for the rest rooms. But Shepherd himself would gladly skip all 28 for a fishing rod and a fast-moving stream in Maine. That's his version of heaven.
It's not a new dream. One of Jean's childhood joys was fishing for crappies in northern
Indiana. And fishing for crappies is just another name for snagging hooks on beer cans
and old submerged tires. The "dream" was to fish from the banks of the Kennebec River.
And that's what he finally gets to do.
That's not all you'll hear about, because Shepherd keeps up a non-stop monologue. He
doesn't just follow the camera around, explaining what's being seen. And he is definitely
not into show-and-tell. When you see an unbroken stand of Maine forest, he's telling
some great fishing story. And it's beautiful.
Shepherd himself puts it this way, "If a guy sees a glass of beer on the screen, he knows
what it is and I don't have to tell him. My series isn't a documentary. It's going to be hallucinogenic."
There's a main street of a small town in Maine, looking like an America of Simpler times. And a county fair, where you'll meet Bob, the champion weight-puller of the Skowhegan County Fair. Bob is only the strongest horse in the whole world. At least that's what Jean Shepherd says.
[ Courtesy: Pete Delaney - 09-18-2016 ]
"I suppose some people's version of heaven is a super Howard Johnson's with no line for the rest rooms. Mine is a fast moving stream." The fast moving stream that Jean casts his fly rod into is the Skowhegan branch of Kennebec River in the state of Maine.
Shep explains that not only is this stream his heaven, but it's his Oz, his Samarcand, his Timbuktu, his Wonderland, his Khartoum and his mystical kingdom. It's a desire for a woodland paradise born from growing up in "Always cloudy, always smoky industrial Northern Indiana, where the refineries smelled like rotten cabbages, and the most exotic sound to be heard was the clack of pool balls down at the Bluebird Tavern."
This was the world he once only knew in the pages of Field & Stream magazine whose photos and articles prompted his eventual mantra of "Maine! There is a Maine! And one day, I'm going there."
But for all the pristine beauty surrounding Shep as he casts, the humorist can't resist telling one of his funniest stories dealing with fishing at its grimiest "Hairy Gertz & The 47 Crappies", a raunchy tale of grizzled office workers (including Shepherd's father) and 10 year old Jean fishing for the aptly named fish in Cedar Lake - America's biggest polluted mud puddle. The story ends with bleary-eyed, mosquito bite covered Shep gutting and cleaning the 47 stinky fish on his back porch before joining the
adults for pastrami sandwiches and dirty stories in the kitchen at 4:30 AM.
The show features magnificent vistas of Maine scenery and includes a visit to the 1970 Skowhegan fair.
The show also gives us an unpleasant look at the sexist side of Jean Shepherd as he foolishly implies that women don't fish, don't drink, don't fell dirty stories or don't even read adventure books borrowed from the library as a kid.