If there is a management philosophy I could point to that has given me the most guidance and solace as editor of this magazine, it would be that of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, beautifully portrayed by McLean Stevenson on M*A*S*H. If Lt. Col. Blake had written a book encapsulating his management style, the title would have been something like Fishing Through the Apocalypse. While he played the part of a commanding officer in charge of a frontline hospital—performing surgery and running the show in the operating room, maintaining some semblance of order in a chaotic war zone, keeping the egos of his officers in check, and delegating most command decisions to his alter ego, Corporal Radar O’Reilly—Henry Blake’s mind was elsewhere. It was his chief survival mechanism. Mainly he seemed to dream about fly fishing—a shining ideal of peace and pleasure that he could pursue alone, far away from the insanity of war.
Every June since about 2008, I follow the lead of my management sensei and light out with a group of friends for a long weekend of fishing in Michigan. Oh, we have fun. We eat huge breakfasts, drink copious cans of good Michigan craft beer, fish a little, drink more beer, and then head out for a big guided excursion that lasts into the wee hours and involves a lot of boasting, casting, laughing, smack-talking, mosquito-repelling, cigar-smoking, more beer drinking, and the occasional catching of a really big trout. But to call it idyllic would be overselling it. Because as Blake teaches, the world is too much with us; you can never fully escape it.
Case in point: We usually spend Saturday in recovery—beer, fishing, cigars, and mosquitoes take a lot out of you—sitting next to the river just out back of our motel, watching a parade of drunk, lobster-skinned yahoos float by in kayaks, canoes, inner tubes, sometimes even makeshift plywood platforms. It’s highly entertaining, though it can also make you question God’s plan for humanity. Over the years we have come to the aid of more than one person who misjudged the current only to wipe out and see their possessions swept downriver as they cling to an overhanging branch. Yet it’s in those moments that I feel Blake’s anywhere-but-here ethos working its magic. Like: I got away from there to be here, and if being here means saving this idiot from himself, then alright. I have a feeling the fish feel the same way about me.