|kpetunia.com -> road stories -> fishing report from alaska|
Some of you may have received a request from me on June 20th that went something like this:
okay. have i got a deal for you. i've procured a 10 cd player with great speakers and have no music. so. here's the deal: you send me music, i DHL you fish. fresh yanked out of bristol bay, better than any other salmon you've ever tasted, i guarandamntee it. what kind of music? not hip hop. not rap. fish killing music. moose hunting music. music to keep us going, music to inspire, music to rock out to, music to come down to, music for when the sun is shining and the bugs are biting and music for when it's blowing out and pouring down freezing cold rain and we're all seasick and sore from picking fish. that kind of music. but here's the catch - i am shipping out with opie of flyin' tiger infamy in just a few days. mail takes 3 days to get here from the US. so, if you want to send this summer's soundtrack my way, send it sooner rather than later and i'll reimburse you in fish, fresh or smoked. and don't worry, i worked a deal with the DHL guy, so it'll be sure to get to you in good shape. i have been working like mad to get the boat going and having a blast and will send more stories soon! please let me not have a summer full of playing the same white snake CD over and over and over again and rock my world and send me some beautiful noise! love kat
* * * * * * * * *
My DHL connection dried up two days later. He went fishing far far away in a place called Igegik and I never saw him or heard from him again.
Now, I have lived in a lot of far away places and I have sent out a lot of requests for stuff through the mail in my days. And my experience up until this point has been that for every 10 people I sent a request for letters, birthday presents or other things to, 1 person would step up to the plate. So you can imagine my surprise when the CDs started pouring in. I received enough CDs from enough people to fill a grocery store bag. I guess a lot of people wanted a piece of fish. Or they really felt for me listening to nothing but White Snake for a month. Or maybe they just wanted to be a part of it. Despite my dried up DHL connection, I wasn’t worried about keeping up my end of the fishy bargain. It was early on in the season and we hadn’t even gotten our nets wet. Reports were that the fish were out there for a killin’ and the price for catching them was lookin’ good. I figured I’d have tons of money to spend on sending salmon to all of my wonderful friends and family.
If you got my last road story, you know what happened next: After the boat nearly sank, after Opie went crazy, after I got knocked off of the boat by a 1000 lb bag of fish, after a month of no sleep and working harder than I ever knew was possible, after making enough to cover my expenses, but not much more, (but doing all of it to great music! Thanks!) I staggered off of the fishing boat and caught a ferry to Ketchikan. It was a four day trip and there was no way to keep a fish cold all that way. I figured I’d catch some in Ketchikan. Long story short, the fish acquisition didn’t work out in Ketchikan after all. I took some more boats and made it to Vancouver Island in time to try out life as a field biologist.
But first, I must tell you The Story of Luna.
On the west coast of Vancouver, in Nootka Sound, a killer whale has been harassing people in their boats. She chews and bats their propellers and rudders with her fin, flippers, tail and tongue until the boats are so broken down that they are unable to run. She pushes them around and lifts them up when they are trying to get somewhere. The native people in this area believe that they become killer whales when they die. And three days before Luna showed up, they lost their chief. He told his tribe before he died that he planned on coming back as a whale. And so, while the locals were delighted to see their chief out there so full of energy and mischief, the fishermen have been going nuts. The feds want to relocate Luna to a less boat traffic heavy area because she’s a pain in the neck and if this keeps up, she’s bound to get hurt. But the first nations people know that Luna is there because she wants to be around them, so they won’t let her go. At one point federal scientists tried to capture Luna and take her elsewhere but the first nations people wouldn’t have any of it. They paddled out into the bay in their canoes with their drums and chants and drew Luna away from the nets. She’s still around.
Boat Bay, Vancouver Island
I think I might have gotten in with the wrong group. Today, once again, I woke up at 5 am and climbed uphill for two hours to reach my perch on a cliff where I am serving as the Robson Bight Marine Warden Program’s assistant Eagle Eye. I watched through my binoculars as the kayakers way down below were treated to spectacular show of feeding and breaching orcas around their boats. The warden, who the senior Eagle Eye was on radio with, was fuming because the kayakers were way too close to the orcas. They were also not rafted up. And they didn’t try to move away from the orcas when approached by them. I couldn’t help it; I kept taking the tourists’ side. “Ah, hell, they’ve only got a few days set aside in maybe their whole lives to see orcas in the wild. They don’t live in Orca Central year round like you do. They live in Cincinatti or Cleveland. And this is their Big Trip of the Year. So what if they got too close. Everyone around here is too close. I’ve never seen so many orcas and boats in such close proximity. Besides, orcas around here are as common as squirrels.”
There are a lot of people up here who make a good living off of the orcas. There are hydrophones everywhere, so you can almost always turn on the radio and hear them squealing, squeaking and popping away. Whale watching companies generously share their information and sightings gossip with each other all day. You don’t even need to keep an eye out for fins in the distance or blows. Just look for the little boats; that’s where the orcas are. Somewhere in the middle of all of those little red, yellow and blue kayaks, there’s bound to be a fin. Want to discourage the tourists? Make a decoy flotilla of kayaks way over yonder. Move it somewhere different every day. Have a couple of volunteers out there in the bay paddling around like mad. Like they’re in a hurry to go see something. People herd. They can’t help it, they just do. I have had tons of fun causing traffic jams at Yellowstone and other national parks jumping out of my car and pointing excitedly at nothing. If you go to Burning Man, another great place to conduct anthropological experiments, and stand out on the outskirts of where it’s all happening and stare intently at the ground, you will soon find yourself surrounded by dozens of curious freaks who have joined you to look at it, too. A dummy flotilla would give the orcas some peace and quiet.
What usually happens is this: The orcas come racing into the straight making a beeline for the rubbing beach. They look kind of like me after fishing in Alaska heading for the spa. Once there, it’s bouncy bouncy bouncy time against the sand as they rub rub rub in the shallow water making silly chatty noises, scritching their bellies and goofing off.
Now, Straightwatch races over in their zodiac. Straightwatch is an educational organization that monitors the orcas and educates the tourists about them out there on the water. The Eagle Eye keeps a close eye on the boundaries of the reserve, which is across the bay, about a mile away. Nobody is allowed to go into the reserve, not even Straightwatch. If someone approaches the boundary, it is our jobs as Eagle Eyes to sic the warden on the trespasser. Meanwhile, the kayakers hang out on the beaches just on the edges of the reserve. When one of them sees the orcas, or a boat that looks like it is driving toward something special, they leap into their kayak and paddle out. Within minutes the water is covered in little red, blue and yellow dots.
So, what I was hoping would happen would be that I would be riding around in the zodiac with the warden some time when some dump kayaker had paddled into the reserve and was happily cavorting with the orcas. And while the warden was busy chastising the tourists, I’d get to be real close to the whales. And it would be legal! (My psychic told me that I have to follow the law to the letter for the next few years and so I have been trying to be good. It has not been easy.)
What actually happened is that I ended up as assistant Eagle Eye on the cliff. And so, every morning, I had to wake up at 5 am, make some coffee and food for the day, climb uphill through the rainforest for 2 hours until I reached the lookout. Then, as assistant Eagle Eye, I would sit there with a timer and every 15 minutes scan the horizon through the telescope looking for boats. I had a log and had to mark how many boats were in which quadrant of the straight and what kind of boats they were. The head Eagle Eye kept her eye out for orcas. When and if they showed up, she had to write down how many of them there were and what they were doing. And she usually talked to the warden about it. The warden sat down on the water in her zodiac taking catnaps. When Eagle Eye told her to, she bombed across the straight to talk to people who were getting too close to the boundaries of the reserve.
Okay, so, it turns out that I’d make a lousy field biologist. I’d gone there to try it out. I had this fantasy, you see, of getting close to the orcas in disguise as an expert, a VIP. I would be better than all of those other whale huggers out there with my credentials and experience and therefore get to go places where amateur orca junkies never get to go. Kind of like when you get a PhD in Ancient Christianity and so you get to go into the secret rooms of the Vatican, or if you’re a high falootin’ enough art expert you get to go into the basement of the Louvre. I’d also get to flaunt my superior orca expert status every time I yelled at an amateur who was trying to play with my whales. They would have to paddle away and I could stay behind in my fast, shiny zodiac with my beloved orca pals swimming around me letting out little squeals of affection and love.
Besides, I just got too damn excited every time the whales showed up. I kept almost falling off of the cliff every time I saw them while Eagle Eye just calmly jotted down their number and activity in her notes. There was a different Eagle Eye here last year but they fired her because she was anthropomorphized the orcas. She came here every summer for eleven years and claimed that she knew each of them by their personalities and even gave them human names. The scientists thought that this was a conflict to their projects’ philosophy and so this year they let her go. So, I quit field biology just like I quit being a classical musician, a religion scholar, an artist and a museum lady. All classical musicians ever think about is music and sex and they don’t even have sex. I couldn’t take brushing the cobwebs off of my classics colleagues’ dusty old faces over and over again for the rest of my life. I get all worked up and start jumping up and down about art concepts when they excite me and I am too literal, impatient, and easy to please when it comes to the cool-as-a-cucumber art world. And I can’t seem to sit through the constant meetings that are a big part of museum world and end up going renegade on a project and getting in trouble for it. So. It turns out I’m no Scientist either.
Oh, okay, some days, it was lovely. Pfffffffff… I’d be woken up by the blows of orcas as they swam by, surfacing to breathe. Shhhhhhhhhh…. The bay kissed the rocks onshore and they tumbled around gently. There is no color palette in nature more healing than that of the Northwest Pacific rainforest. A humpback slithered by looking like the lochness monster. I had a view from my tent so blue and pretty, it made me go weak in the knees. Cooking dinner while listening to conversations between orcas on the hydrophone in the background. All those giant dripping mushrooms, all that wonderful, incredible green. But oooooooh, my body was hurting. I’d busted my tailbone riding around on an all terrain vehicle in Alaska with a horny little pirate, I had no sensation in my fingertips because I’d messed myself up fishing, and more than anything, I really, really needed to get some sleep.
The two senior wardens were both in their early 20s, and therefore omniscient, except in regard to the male species, by which they were completely perplexed. They radiated vibrant health, although their sharp young minds had grown a bit dopey from napping in the boat and lounging on the cliff day after day. Nonetheless, it was impressive that they were so young and already getting paid to do a job that they were interested in! I mean, jeez, when I was 22, instead of getting my PhD or starting a million dollar .com startup, like a smart person would have, I flew to Germany and then hitchhiked to Greece, where my job was to shake my booty in a little red dress on bar tops for horny old men and all I ever got in exchange was a place to stay, the occasional meal and a couple of really cool scars. These chicas were smart!
So, we’d sit there on the cliff getting lopsided suntans day after day and every once in a while, the orcas would show up wayyyy farrrr awayyyy in the reserve. And all of the kayakers sitting on the beach would dive into their kayaks and frantically paddle out to them.
“Warden 1, This is Eagle Eye. There’s a group of kayakers in Zone 3.”
Warden 1 stretches, yawns, sits up in her boat and zooms off to the reserve and makes the tourists go away.
I got spoiled stinking rotten in Peninsula Valdez watching those transient orcas put on stealthy, spectacular displays of hunting, when they weren’t surfing the waves with their bodies sticking out or temporarily stranding themselves on the beach to get a good look at us. These Canadian fish eating orcas seemed pretty dumb in comparison. They hang out underwater gobbling fish all day long, scratch their bellies on the sand and chat chat chat.
After Warden 1 had chased the kayakers away, there was inevitably a phone call (so that the other boats with radios couldn’t listen in). Warden 1, Eagle Eye and The Other Volunteer whose is one of those people obsessed with exercise in general and with rigorous kayaking in particular, would cluck and shake their heads over the fact that the kayakers don’t even bother to paddle around all day. They just sit there and wait for the whales to show up before they get into their boats.
Well, duh! Who’s the biologist here? Not me, but I can tell you that those human kayaker specimens were demonstrating some clever energy consumption and efficiency methods out there. They are evolved creatures to lie there in the sun all day and stay warm and dry and evenly tanned while they munch on their brownies and Cliff bars in preparation for the 25 yard sprint to the orcas when and if they show up. They are not here for the scenery and they are not here for the exercise. The Charlotte Islands up north are where the scenery is at and you can get plenty of exercise at home on a stationary bike. They are here for one thing and one thing only, and that is orcas. Big sexy black fins rising up next to their paddles. The sight of a beautiful black and white head with a blinking eyeball that is looking right at them. The smell of fish in the air, lingering from their breath. They want to feel their boats vibrating against their knees from all of the orca chatter around them. And I don’t blame them one bit. There is nothing in the world like sitting next to the king of the sea when it graces you with its presence, so perfectly black and perfectly white, probably smarter than you in ways that you’ll never know.
I have been having the same recurring dream for years: I am underwater and I am swimming around. Maybe I am human, maybe I am not. There’s things going on under the surface and I am checking them out. The storyline changes in this dream but one thing always remains the same. When an orca comes by, I am momentarily blessed with the ability to see into the true nature of things. I can see a little bit beyond what is going to happen next and I can understand the pure intentionality of all living things around me. And then, the orca power wears off and I am normal again. Except for the breathing underwater bit. I know that being the owner of this dream places me firmly in the category of whale nut and way out of range of ever being labeled a legitimate whale scientist. But I don’t mind. I’d rather hang out with the first nations people than the scientists anyway. With the guys for whom Luna is their chief. Anyway. Back to the story.
Almost every day we saw orcas. I wanted to go be with them. Maybe accidentally capsize my little kayak right next to them to see what they’d do. But I didn’t have enough money to rent a kayak for a couple of days and I lacked the scientific qualifications to get in the zodiac to go yell at tourists. (Warden 1 had a master’s degree in whaleology.) And the worst part of it was that I was stuck up there on that cliff because I’d submitted a resume and written a long, passionate letter about my dedication to saving the whales. I’d asked for it!
To add insult to injury, the fish showed up. Right below the cliff. At this point, I was still knee deep in fresh fish debt to all of the wonderful, thoughtful people who had sent me such nice fishing CDs. And now, right before my eyes, the fish were leaping and splashing down below me, out of reach. Between and during boat counts, I’d be neurotically muttering, “Jumper…jumper…oh-oh – there’s another jumper…”. It was an old habit I’d acquired in Bristol Bay.
There was only one fishing pole in Boat Bay, and it belonged to Warden 1. Warden 1 was too busy napping to hang a line off of the back of her zodiac but she didn’t want anyone else to use her rod until she’d broken it in. I cannot relax when there are fish in the area. My Norwegian fishing genes rule me. I must take them, kill them, eat them, make them mine. To make matters worse, the young wardens are still in their vegetarian phases and I want meat. In my frustration, I try to weave a fish net out of dental floss. I learned how from the Eskimos. I run out of dental floss about 16 squares in and I’ve got about a 12” x 12” net. The fish are bigger than that and they will not be captured so easily. All of my muttering about jumpers starts to drive Eagle Eye nuts and so she tells Warden 1 to take me fishing. So, Warden 1 comes over to my tent, where I am sulking about running out of dental floss and asks me cheerily if I’d like to watch her break in her rod. I leap out of the tent and start to put on my waterproof zodiac-riding fishkilling clothes and am by her side in about 2 minutes. She sees me all dressed up and ready for fishing and says, “Oh, I was just thinking we’d fish right here off of the beach. I don’t feel like going out in the zodiac. I’ve been sitting in it all day.” I throw up my hands in exasperation and go back to my tent. She walks down to the beach, in front of my tent and trying to be real inclusive, calls up, asking me for advice about which lure I think she should use. I tell her that it doesn’t really matter because she is standing in front of a kelp bed. She casts (a really shitty cast) and catches some kelp and a rock, spends 20 minutes extracting it, and then goes back to her tent for a nap with her fishing pole. I am going completely mad with frustration for no good reason and so decide that I need to call Dr. Tags for her expert medical advice on the matter. My symptoms: I still can’t sense heat, cold, smoothness, prickliness, itchiness or anything else in any of my fingers. My tailbone sends lightning bolts of pain through my body every time I have to climb a staircase or go uphill, which is unfortunate, since I have had to climb up for 2 hours every day for the past week. My body is generally all munched up and I am crying too much. Dr. Tags, in her infinite wisdom, prescribes soaking in Epson salts, getting lots of sleep, jump starting my fucked up chi with lots of TLC and downtime, and tells me that I must focus exclusively on healing so that I will be bright eyed and busy tailed at our upcoming annual white trash waterskiing extravanganza. She tells me that she can’t wait to see me in my flame-patterned bikini skiing off of the back of her jetboat and I burst into tears.
There is going to be a fishing opening in two days in the reserve. And then commercial fishermen will be allowed inside of the reserve. Right where the rubbing beach is! The wardens grumble about being invaded by a city of boats, but I know that if I weren’t so messed up, I’d probably swim out to the boats and start picking fish just for fun. Maybe they’d pay me in fish and I could give them to my friends.
I can’t take it. I tell them that I am exhausted, I’m worried about my injured hands, I’ve got trapped nerves everywhere, a banged up and maybe broken coccyx, and besides, just about everything is making me cry. And I rarely cry. In truth, maybe it’s just that I can’t stand the prospect of another 5 am hike up to strand myself away from the action on that goddam cliff. I’m not even allowed to talk on the radio, since I am only the assistant Eagle Eye. There is one thing I know for sure, after a summer marked by sudden dawn awakenings, you can mark my words on this: “I DO NOT CARE IF I NEVER SEE ANOTHER SUNRISE IN MY LIFE.” Although they’re nice when you’ve been up all night.
And so I left early.
On my way out, I ran into a couple of my favorite whale nuts. They ride around in their floating 1939 courthouse that has been converted into a houseboat with their dog, Shadow, who sniffs out the whales for them. Captain Mike has a big benign tumor on his shoulder that he tattooed a turtleshell onto, so now it looks like there’s a turtle sitting on his back. Skipper Judy has made a giant paper mache orca and a big purple dinosaur, which ride on the bow and stern of their boat. We met once and just started laughing at nothing together. They invite me to come onboard their boat whenever I want to play with orcas. Next year, maybe I will.
I started researching cheap cool spa options in Victoria and found a few. I called the one that cost $20 a night, Canadian. It is right on the water. It’s got a good looking hot tub, and English garden, scones for breakfast, the whole nine yards. She told me she’d pick me up at 7 PM at the bus station since she was planning on being in town around that time anyway for a gig.
“What kind of a gig?” I wonder
“I’m in the adult embarrassment business.”
“So, what are you up to tomorrow?”
“Oh, it’s nothing big. I’m just dressing up as a clown and singing the special happy birthday song for someone’s 75th birthday.”
“Do you jump out of cakes?”
“No, I’m too old for that. I have others do that when they want it.”
“Yeah, I’m a retired cake jumper, too,” I say.
“Oh, you’d love my wacky birthday fairy. I do that one for men’s 40th and 50th birthdays.”
“You are soooooo cool! I can’t believe I get to meet you! I can’t WAIT until tomorrow!”
“See you at 7 at the bus station, then?”
“I’ll be there! Bye bye, wacky birthday fairy!”
The wacky birthday fairy picked me up in full clown regalia and stuffed me and my fishing gear into her little clown car full of balloons. Over the next week, I bounced around on her trampoline, ate good food, slept in a heavenly bed and went to a different spa every day. But then I found out that she had fish. One morning, during a delicious breakfast, she whipped out a plate of homemade smoked salmon. Trying to hide my excitement (I owe a lot of people fish, you know…) I asked her where she got it.
“My husband caught them.”
“Oh! Is he a commercial fisherman?”
“Nah. He just fishes for fun. We’ve got a whole freezer full of them.”
“I need some fish. Could I buy some of them from you?”
“No. We’re not licensed to sell them.”
You can always trust a Canadian to follow the rules. But remembering what my psychic told me about following the law, I did not try any further to corrupt her, and instead, explained my predicament, how I had all of these wonderful fishing CDs now and how I owed a lot of people fresh fish. I was moving further south all the time and getting farther and farther away from salmon country.
She thought that my predicament was the funniest story she’d ever heard and said that she’d give me a fish, no problem. I refused to accept the fish outright, and insisted on doing some kind of work in exchange for the fish.
“I could do your dishes for the week…”
“Oh, no, I’ve got my little system, I’m fine.”
“How about your website? Do you need any help with that?”
“No, we have a girl that does that.”
“Want my new Harry Potter book?”
“Just bought it.”
Looking down at the fresh laid eggs on the breakfast table, I said, “I could clean out your chicken coop…”
“Oh! Yes! The pets! You can do the pets!”
I thought I was getting off easy. There were only about 9 chickens, and maybe they’d peck me a little bit, but they wouldn’t be that messy. I was so wrong. She is a clown, after all. She tricks people. She took me back to her animal menagerie and put me to work. It took all day, but after chasing around and cleaning up the messes of 5 bunnies, 3 guinea pigs, 3 doves, 9 chickens, 3 dogs and a cat, I was the proud owner of two big wild dead fish.
I lugged them down to the post office in a garbage bag and figured I’d worry about dry ice and packaging later. I got there, though, and they didn’t know what to do with me. Apparently, no one had ever tried to ship a fish from there before. They checked and crosschecked their post office books for fish shipping prices and finally came up with $100/5 lbs, eh? I didn’t make enough money fishing in Alaska to pay for shipping the fish from Canada. Besides, they were frozen solid and I didn’t have a chainsaw handy to split them into pieces for my friends and didn’t want to thaw them out so that I could cut them because it would ruin their texture. I brought the fish back to the wacky birthday fairy and told her that I had failed. I couldn’t afford to mail the fish.
And then I went to the spa and got an Ayurvedic hot oil massage.
On my way back from the spa, I worked on adjusting to my new reputation as a flakey person. There is a horrid little dictator who lives inside my head and he makes me do things that I do not want to do just because I said I would. I thought I had him well gagged and blindfolded in regard to this fish business, but just then he spoke up: “Katherina Louise. Have you tried your best?” (When he uses my middle name, too, I know that it is serious.) And so I acquiesced. The little bastard was right. I hadn’t tried my best.
I went back to the wacky birthday fairy.
“Wacky birthday fairy,” sigh, “I haven’t tried my best. I am going to have to take those fish from you after all.”
A few days later, I strapped the two giant frozen fish onto the back of my superheavy backpack and staggered onto the Gulf Islands ferry. I was off to visit my aunt Sarah and uncle Sean on Galiano Island.
I named the fish “Goddammit” and “Oh Jesus” because that’s what I tended to call out when they were strapped to my back and weighing me down.
With a fair amount of effort and the sacrifice of a cold bottle of champagne, Goddamit and Oh Jesus were crammed into the freezer when I got there. It was Sean’s 70th birthday and since his Chinese zodiac makes him a piggy, his birthday was all about having a refrigerator full of food. Our friends Robbie and Georgie did us a favor and hauled the fish back to the mainland when they left the next day. They had to choptheir tails off with an axe so that they could fit in the cooler in their car.
My expat aunt Sarah and her husband, Sean, are a living lesson in the fine art of doing things right. I hung around Galiano with them for a few days enjoying their good lives, devouring great art magazines and eating and sleeping and laying about. Georgie called us and left us a message one day while we were out having a wander. She wanted to see if I minded if they ate a little bit of the fish. Well, those fish were pretty heavy and there was a lot of it, so I didn’t sweat it. I never called her back. I had also offered some fish to Sean for his birthday. Georgie said she’d cook it for us when we got back to Vancouver. Georgie is a terrific cook.
A few days later, we made it back to the mainland and went over for dinner. Dinner was fantastic, as it always is at Georgie’s house. The only thing I can’t decide about it was which was more wonderful, the company or the food. However, the dinner was decidedly lacking in overall fishiness. There were itty bitty salmon chunks floating around in the chowder but I have a feeling that Georgie’s family of sisters and her parents had been over the night before and they’d made short work of Oh Jesus. I was down one fish. I carried the other big guy back to Sarah and Sean’s place, rearranged their freezer, shoved him in, hung out for a few more days and then left.
Before I boarded the train for America, I made a bunch of phone calls. Hassle free border crossings are hard to come by these days. My road worn passport alone sends me into the special search room more often than not. They confiscate unlikely things. They have taken my coffee beans and postcards but have had no problem with my bottle of mercury, rattlesnake tail, peyote induced art or coca ointment. That said, I just wanted to make sure that the fish was legit before lugging it all that way. The guys on the phone said that since it wasn’t a mad cow, it wasn’t alive, it wasn’t for sale and it wasn’t illegal, it wouldn’t be a problem to bring Goddamit home. The bungie strap that was holding Goddamit the fish onto my backpack broke in the transition between the bus and the train and so I was pulling the fish in a plastic bag behind me. I dragged it across the floor of the customs building and reentered the states.
The train was hot and the sun shone brightly through the window on Goddammit all day. When I finally arrived in Portland, he was a little bit mushy on the outside. I rearranged my friend Erics’ freezer, and shoved the fish in, with promises that I’d get him out of there the next day. Eric was suspicious but I was true to my word. (I am always kissing up to the little dictator.) We even gave Goddamit his own special cooler for the drive down to Lake Shasta where our annual white trash waterskiing extravaganza was about to begin. Unfortunatley, it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius) on Lake Shasta and we kept breaking the generator on the boat. I thought I’d cook up a little fish for everybody. Start paying my debts off. After all, Eric had sent me a CD and I’d really enjoyed listening to it. And Staci had meant to, which surely counted for something. And even though Dr. Tags didn’t, she did send me birthday presents in Bolivia last year, so surely, she, too, deserved some fish payment.
I took Goddamit out to thaw in the sink. Even though people often like to eat fish, they don’t always like to see it in its fishier states. By this point Goddammit was missing both his head and his tail, but with all that skin and bones, he still appeared to be decidedly fishy. Maybe my friends were worried that he was thawing too fast when we accidentally killed the air conditioning again, or maybe they just didn’t like seeing at him that way. The put him back in the freezer. I took him back out and put him in the fridge. They froze him again. I took him back out. The next night, using a steak knife, I was only able to fillet half of Goddamit, and using the only condiments we had on the boat – some olive oil and a lemon, I tried to fix him up real nice, and I put him on the grill. Everyone else was on the upper deck of the boat having a big fun dance party, so I cooked Goddamit up and hoped that they would be all too drunk to notice his tough texture after all of those temperature changes he’d been through. They weren’t too drunk, but all politely took a piece of him and praised me on his taste because my friends have very good manners and they know that I hate it when I fail. But I knew the truth. This was the only bad tasting fish I’d ever served up. The next day I tried to salvage him by making salmon melts, and buried under layers of goat cheese and brie, Goddamit was slightly more edible. We left the next day and during the flurry of packing everything off of the boat, I am fairly sure that someone threw the remains of Goddamit overboard.
So, there it is. I have failed you. I now have hundreds of great new CDs and my friends’ and you, who deserve so much, have no fish. I really feel terrible about this. What does a girl like me have in the world but her word? The little dictator is irritated, but he knows, as do I, that I honestly tried my best.
Now I am writing from the easy going, hippy dippy, sincere little city that is Portland. I can feel nine out of ten of my fingers, which is great news. My feet and hands are chubby and clean and soft again except for the usual callouses and crud.
Tomorrow, I move into a new apartment in an artists’ community in North Portland. This weekend, I am thinking, I’ll buy a huge, cushy bed. If you offered me the choice between a trip to the moon and a trip to a bed already has my scent on it, today, I’d choose the bed.
My beautiful art studio is in an old seed factory on the river just down the road from my new house. I have been doing lots of web work to bulk up my tropical escape fund because I am nervous about the rain while I know I should be busy fine tuning my book of adventure stories, sculpting great big Buddha and Ganesh figures and finally really learning how to breathe. I am also currently looking into boyfriend possibilities, electric fireplaces, and movable mechanical bulls. Next time I write, I’ll tell you all about it. Meanwhile, to quote some famous cetaceans, so long, and thanks for all the fish!