Ian Scheid won a goldfish at the Huron County Fair a few months ago.
He gave it to his little brother, Jarrett, who named his new pet Nemo. It’s very unimaginative name, but when you are two, it is the only fish name you know.
I felt sorry for this fish as soon as I saw it. But then I always feel sorry for goldfish, endlessly darting around in their little containers waiting to eat or be eaten or flushed.
Nemo’s container was especially sad, essentially just a big glass with some stones in it. I have seen bigger beer mugs.
In my role as grandfather, I set about finding more suitable lodging for this little golden creature.
Knowing that the long term prospects for a goldfish are not great, I didn’t want to make a big investment,
That’s what took me to my matchbook collection.
For readers too young to remember, in the old days — before, say, 1995 — not only could individuals smoke in bars and restaurants, the owners of those establishments actually helped people do it by giving out free matches.
Often, the cover of the matchbook would say something clever like: “For our matchless friends.”
But, just as often, the matchbook cover would display the name of the place that was providing the matches.
I have never smoked, but in my business travel days I went to a lot of interesting places, and I brought home matchbooks from some of them, tossing them into a pair of large globe-type clear glass vases I kept by my desk.
One of those vases is now home to a little boy’s goldfish.
Of course that means I now have a few dozen loose matchbooks lying on my desk. And most of them trigger a memory.
Here’s a good one; a book of matches from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Dec. 2 to 9, 1984. Our first cruise. It was on the biggest of just four Royal Caribbean ships at the time, Song of America.
And here’s one from the Paper Valley Hotel and Conference Center in Appleton, Wisconsin dated September 24, 1984. I was booked to fly into Appleton, but fog caused the plane to land in Milwaukee. No flights until the next morning. But I had a work obligation and had to get there that night. So I split the cost of a rental car with another guy and we drove up together. He was a robe-wearing Catholic monk. And he must have taken some sort of vow to not use deodorant.
And, oh yes, this one from La Pinata Mexican restaurant in Snowmass Village, Colorado in January, 1985. The food was only fair, but the view was memorable. My friends and I had just settled in at our table overlooking our hotel next door. As we watched, a woman opened the drapes and was checking out the nearby mountains. In that absent way people looking out windows sometimes have of not remembering that the view works both ways, the young woman casually peeled off her sweater and was wearing nothing underneath.
I made a note the night I got matches at Marchelo’s located at Naval Air Station Bridge in Pensacola, Florida: “January 16, 1991 First night of Gulf War.”
But no note was needed in my matches from Boyne Mountain, Michigan, January 9, 1987. That was the day I interrupted my skiing to watch John Elway of the Denver Broncos engineer what has come to be known as The Drive, perhaps the saddest five minutes in Cleveland sports fan history.
Okay, enough of this. As I said, I have dozens of these matchbooks, and I am sure you — my matchless friends — have had your fill of matchbook memories.
But remember, even if it resulted in a boring story for you, dumping all these matchbooks onto my desk made a certain goldfish very happy.
Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.