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Volume XVII, Issue 7 - February 12 - February 18, 2009
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Bay Reflections

The Deadliest Crush

Shaking the hand that holds your heart

by Diana Beechener

My taste in men has always been what my mother would call unique and my father would call weird. At 13, I sneered at posters of Leonardo DiCaprio while I searched memorabilia shops for posters of my true love, Kevin Spacey.

My parents, in what I still qualify as the greatest gift ever given, bought me tickets to see Spacey during the Broadway run of The Iceman Cometh. In payment for their wonderful gift, I made them wait at the backstage door for two and a half hours.

We lost our dinner reservation, and my diabetic father’s blood sugar plummeted, but I got an autograph and a handshake — lasting until my father reminded me to let the poor man’s hand go.

That’s the beauty of a celebrity crush. You get all the fun of romantic euphoria without the headaches of your beloved’s irritating personality traits. If you’re lucky, these romantic notions will lead to a brief meeting and a handshake; if not, you can moon over star-crossed love.

Though I’ve found new crushes over the years, the handshake has eluded me. Mostly, this has been for practical reasons. The corporeal state of John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen made their handshakes less desirable. Plus, digging is hard work.

This year, as my mother stood next to me in line to meet The Deadliest Catch stars Sig and Edgar Hansen, I could see her reliving the infamous Spacey meeting.

My father had passed on the opportunity to join us. “Oh no. It’s Spacey all over again. She’s on her own.”

For four seasons I have watched Sig and Edgar battle frigid temperatures, rogue waves, crashing equipment and ice along the cold, wet hell of the Bering Sea on the Discovery Channel reality show. They risk their lives hauling in tons of Alaskan king and Opilio crab to bring us dinner.

Sig, a modern Ahab obsessed with being on the crab, works his men with sadistic glee, his motto: Shut up and fish. But Edgar has my heart. The younger Hansen works the deck, offering sarcastic commentary on deck life, dangling off the boat in 40-foot seas and setting various objects on the boat aflame. He possesses the same slightly unbalanced charm that had drawn me to Spacey all those years before.

Waiting for the Hansens to appear, I checked my compact one more time.

“I don’t know what you’re worried about. You’re the only girl here,” said my mother. She was right. We were at Disney World, surrounded by middle-aged men and bored little children.

“So I’m pretty by default?” I took out my lip-gloss; clearly I needed more work. Sure, Edgar’s married, but I wanted to look decent in the picture.

Midway through my dissertation on Edgar’s most memorable pyromaniac moments, a rotund man in a Mickey T-shirt squealed “They’re here! Sig! Edgar!”

The two children sitting at his feet stared in horror at their jumping father.

That’s when the nerves kicked in: What could I say to Edgar? I love your work? The Northwestern has the cutest crew? Thanks for the crab legs? How do you get flames to shoot that high when you ignite the aerosol containers?

The men in front of me blushed and stuttered through their meetings, until it was my turn to face the fishermen.

Their eyes grew large as I deposited my trove of Deadliest Catch treasures on their signing table.

“Wow, you’re a fan, huh?” said Edgar, picking up a cap to sign as I gushed about the show, their work and its meaning to my life.

“Thank you for risking your lives for my dinner!”

Had I been in my right mind, I would have joined my mother in a collective eye-roll at such a phrase. To their credit, the fishermen smiled. I managed to squeak coherently about Annapolis and discuss East Coast fishing.

“Hey,” said Sig, finding an out. “Is that you’re mother? Let’s get her in the picture!” With my arm touching both fishermen, I nearly split my face smiling.

After the camera flashes, Edgar offered his hand for a goodbye shake. My mother caught her breath as I latched on to the work-calloused hand.

“Well, at least you let go,” my mother said as we waded back into the crowds of sticky children and tired tourists.

I held my hand aloft as I ducked into a bathroom to change into my Shut up and fish! T-shirt.

© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.