End of the Line

Fishing for Compliments

Do skin creams belong in the tackle box?

illustration: Barry Blitt

About my most recent fishing trip to Alligator Point, Florida, I have two 
regrets: 1. I failed again to see sea-turtle babies being born. 2. My fellow 
fishermen failed to show the slightest interest in the male cosmetics—I mean skin-care products—I brought for them to try free of charge.

The seven Alligator Point Boys (alphabetically, Vereen Bell, me, Gerald Duff, Bobby Herbert, Dan Mayfield, Cliff Probst, and Jim Seay) first gathered to fish and pick on one another thirty-some-odd years ago. At that time, it is fair to say, none of us exemplified classic male beauty. It is also fair to say, I believe, that the six of us still living (we lost Bobby) look even worse now. We have got to where we pay somebody else to clean our fish, so we are in better financial shape and may not smell as bad. But as to appearances, here is how I would put it: If we were fish ourselves, and you were to pull any one of us out of the water, you would never in the world say, “Look at there, that’s a pretty one.”

So when I received an e-mail from Cliff’s spirited daughter Michele, I thought: There’s a column. Michele Probst is the founder of Mënaji, a highly successful men’s skin-care-product company. Pretty funny, us old grizzled guys sitting around…no, not primping. It may be sexist to say this, but the fact of the matter is that primping would be more girlish, if not more pitiful, than anything any of us would be a party to. But according to Michele, today’s man can indulge himself in a little cover-up here (Mënaji’s is called Camo), a little “natural green blend of jojoba beads, ginseng, sea kelp, azulene, certified organic lime peel oil, and aloe vera” there, without feeling the least bit swishy. Famous men who have used Michele’s products include Al Gore, Garth Brooks, Evander Holyfield, and Aaron Neville (not necessarily on their bald spots, hats, ears, or moles).

“This is not your grandfather’s skin care,” Michele says. Now, the only thing I recall about my grandfather’s skin is the apparently permanent Brown’s Mule tobacco stain at the corner of his mouth. I thought maybe the other Alligator Point Boys would be willing to join me in such reminiscences as that one, in a skin-care-product context.

But no. Talk centered on how much we miss the crab salad sandwiches at the Oaks (a lamentably shuttered restaurant in nearby Panacea) and how unimpressed we are by Gerald’s induction into the Texas Institute of Letters. (How many letters do Texans ever really use, anyway?) Cliff, whose interest in fishing and drinking has diminished, did not come this year, so I had no support from Michele’s daddy.

How, then, can I bring skin-care products (beyond sunblock, which even the most hardened Gulf Coast fishing guides slather on these days) into an Alligator Point context?

Turtles. We were out in the flats throwing Gulps, the miracle faux shrimp, at speckled trout, when what should break the surface five yards away from the boat but a loggerhead. A great sea turtle. And I thought, That old fellow looks, in the face, quite a bit like pictures I have seen lately of me.

Wherein the resemblance? Profound dignity (or, you could say, not much expression) and heavy-lidded eyes. If my lids and bags encroach on my eyes any farther, I’ll have to get one of those signs you see on run-down roadside cafés that read, Yes! We’re Open.

Good thing Michele had sent me a tube of Mënaji eye gel. Chill it in the fridge, dab it around your eyes, and bingo!

Unless your lids and bags have established as strong a position as mine have. That gel felt nice and cool, but I could sense a struggle, and then a little sigh, and a shrug, and that was that.

Well, every year at Alligator Point, I go out early one morning and patrol the beach with Dean Newman, who is active in the effort to save sea turtles from extinction. Dean says a newborn turtle is about the size of a cockroach but too strong to hold with one hand. When those scooters hatch from where their mother laid them (if people haven’t despoiled the nest), they burst up through the sand by the dozens and race into the surf, under attack from seagulls. I still hope to see that one day. I need to get wide-eyed more often.