I may have first noticed Paul in one of my graduate psychology classes. It’s easy to notice him—he’s a tall dude and if you catch sight of his forearms you’ll see a field of tattoos. Also, I can never imagine Paul without a beard. I don’t remember if he had one when I first saw him, but he seems to always have had some sort of wooly outcropping on his chin.
When I was learning to play poker for a charity tournament, Paul was also the guy they asked to school us. I got a short lesson and listened to Paul with the knowledge that I was learning from a master.
Paul is one of my favorite Facebook friends, partly because he will occasionally hijack his wife’s Facebook status and write outlandish adventures about their dog Mr. Green, and partly because I get to see photos of enormous fish with big gaping mouths or boats floating among mangroves.
For reasons that will become clear when we get to talking about motorcycle culture, Paul requested that we do not use his last name in this interview.
Wendy C. Ortiz: Your wife posts photos on Facebook of fishing trips and alligators and manatees. I think you may have posted status updates on behalf of your wife, with stories of your dog riding a manatee. What do you think of folks who ride manatees?
Paul: Although I am a firm believer in evolution, I have no idea how manatees have not learned to stay away from boats and people in the last 1000 years. People that ride manatees are pretty dumb. Actually, while fishing I have spooked manatees and had them almost flip over my boat. They are big and powerful creatures. I’m just waiting for the day one of these idiots gets killed by getting knocked out by a manatee’s tail. I hope it happens. Leave the manatees alone. They are great for tourism.
Wendy: I understand you were involved with motorcycles for a bit. How did that come about?
Paul: It sounds stupid but I kind of fell into “one of the top five notorious biker gangs in the country”—that’s the feds’ words, not mine. Since Las Vegas, I had been involved in the hot rod and motorcycle culture and was a member of a loosely affiliated group of like-minded people, who all wore the same logo and all had tattoos of that logo. We were like a wanna-be motorcycle club. We still drank together when we were in the same area and got in bar fights and stuff, but it wasn’t a big deal.
I was with some of the members of this group in a bar in San Bernardino one night where we had an encounter with some members of a large motorcycle club. It was the first time I felt totally powerless. I am a big dude and have been told my appearance can be intimidating. Plus, I used to really enjoy punching people who deserved it. It killed me to sit there and take shit from these assholes because I knew if I said anything wrong or started anything I would have, best case, been beaten, and worst case, been killed. This also made me realize that my “club” while somewhat of a big deal in our “scene” didn’t mean shit in the big picture.
So after I moved to Utah, I was hanging out at the tattoo parlor owned by a friend of a friend when I met a member of the club that I eventually joined. We started hanging out. Then I moved through the stages of joining before becoming a full patch member. Those were some of the most fun and most stressful times of my life.
Wendy: Something tells me that you arrive into a culture and suddenly you are in it, deeply. I admire that. How do you see yourself?
Paul: I’m glad you admire it because I don’t know if I do. I have never half assed anything. Even when I was a kid, I would not just get into something, I would be completely obsessed with it for varying amounts of time. For instance, I never just wanted a baseball card collection, I wanted a card collection that was worthy of display in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I have a lot of hobbies and activities in my past that totally consumed me for a time, only to be left for dead after spending countless hours at the detriment of the rest of my life and often thousands of dollars. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 19 or so. These obsessions usually coincided with my manic periods, only to be left for dead when the inevitable depression hit. In the past, I often saw myself as a failure because I could never achieve what lofty and unreachable goals I had set for myself. Let me clarify this. I was never one of those people who wrote down goals in order to motivate myself. It was more like my brain told me that instead of having surfing as a hobby, I had to figure out how to make it my life.
Wendy: What is your life’s ambition?
Paul: My life’s ambition is pretty simple at this point. I would like to not have to worry about paying my bills every month. Overall, my ambition is to become one of the better saltwater fly anglers out there.