I really want to get this going....

Each day's listing is an excerpted edit from my work. These are numbered and sub-headed for ease of read and isolation from full body of continued text. Each small excerpt is a single-themed piece culled from a much larger whole. Please follow the heading numbers down to #1, or click on 'archive'. The highest numbers are most recently posted, obviously. If so interested, for follow-up, you may contact via e-mail shown - perhaps for discussion or annotation needed.

Monday, September 11, 2006



The woodshed lesson is one I never forgot and the sequence of events leading to it is perhaps unclear but I think I still remember much else having to do with it - which was after all one of those life-edifying small claims to information that one always thinks fondly upon and in this case what makes it so touching is the location for it was still again another of those cold dark damp days along the waterfront by the fish market at the lower east corner of Manhattan where I’d somehow ended up with time to spare and a few bucks too at least enough for coffee and something simple to eat and as I sat there (yes it seemed too like I’d done it a hundred times before) I was daydreaming while looking out at the harbor and in front of that to my eyes to worksheds wherein the fish guys worked my eyes were caught by a lone figure in a slicker and rubber boots slowly making his way over from the shed towards the area where I sat and sure enough before long this fellow sat himself down a few seats over from me and morosely garnered the attention of a soup bowl and a cup of coffee and I surmised (correctly all as it turned out) that he was a worker from the nearby fish market operation this day engaged in sorting and throwing various fish varieties from the boats as they were brought in actually boat AND truckload freshly caught and in need of sorting and scaling (curiously meaning weighing and not ‘scaling’ or scraping as you’d think) and all he was doing at this point was working hard in the early hours to set the fish market up for a day’s commercial shopping - this ‘shopping’ of course meaning the walk-in trade of citizens and landsmen as they perused the market as it was and all of the other ‘commercial trade’ customers had already come through for the truly early-morning pre-dawn was their time the restaurant buyers and purveyors and suppliers who’d always get first catch and usually bought in volume by weight and not in any way by ‘single’ fish as the regular shoppers did ANYWAY this was all said and related to me eventually by this fellow who did eventually come around to talking to me or at least responding to my idle and probably somewhat annoying chatter and questioning but he was nice enough about it all and I sat there as he consumed his soup and coffee and the next thing I knew there I was in the long middle of his discourse on ‘Cod’ as a breed of fish in need of new attention and he was quite knowledgeable and helpful on the point and quite ready too to lend his information out to a budding fish-fool like me and here’s how it went : "well let me tell you a few things from what I’ve learned over the years for this long arc of the fish-trade has greatly changed and some time back it was when the actual downward spiral began even after the dirtying of the waters had ended (‘you see things is a lot cleaner now really’) but that never really affected the fish none you see it was rather something that affected the ‘people’ the ones with the mouths that talk for they could SEE the dirty and foul waters and therefore they interpreted all that as they thought they saw fit to do but in actuality what I’ve done has always pretty much been the same without much change or dying out but the one point I’m making here goes back to my favorite fish my pet project my idea of ‘gentility’ amongst the fish-world and that my man that one word is ‘COD’ for cod is a fish deserving a story of its own and it’s a fish that is disappearing too - the deep gray waters of Denmark stretching to the horizon and through the gull-festooned towns there - for there’s but a finite number of fish in the sea odd as it seems and funny and the appetite for seafood is eventually to ruin it all in places like the North Sea the cod stock is about done which means not enough fish necessary to repopulate the over fished region and cod are so depleted that science isn’t even really sure any longer of the population dynamics but it’s at the lowest level ever and way below what’s been considered minimum for species propagation and all fish are running low as it’s the last food source still hunted on a large scale in the wild and I been in the fish industry for many a year but I’ve never heard or seen it like this like it is now especially for cod which is a really meaningful fish for so much of the world and it once was known as ‘beef of the sea’ as the most popular food fish and a driving force in the growth of the global economy and COD are easy to catch - thanks to a lethargic swimming style - and have the whitest flesh of all white-fleshed fish and the meat is low in fat high in protein and easily filleted and of course the low fat content makes it easy to cure and historically that made it the perfect fish for marine provisions and international trade before the invention of refrigeration in fact the Massachusetts Bay Colony was established precisely to make money by selling cod to England and it was once so abundant that off the northeastern coast of America the Italian explorer John Cabot reported catching them in buckets in 1497 but after 500 years of intensive fishing and the repeated warnings of demise or endangerment the cod started to suddenly begin disappearing more than a decade ago and by the mid-90’s all trouble was a’foot - which is about from where my main interest and trouble over the species started - and even with a fishing ban of sorts they’ve still never recovered (they’ve fiddled with quotas and sizes and changed the sizes of the net holes to let the younger fish through and free to propagate more) and part of the problem is the usual one of trade-offs and the refusal of ‘mankind’ to cease its work because NO ONE wants their local economy devastated and little towns and fishing ports all across the North Sea fight these limitations bitterly for in their local economies there’s just nothing else and nothing to replace the cod trade and they fight against the restrictive quotas and the shortening of the fishing season - which has already been shortened there from 10 months to 5 months but people are still scared and unsettled and interestingly enough - and this is where America comes in - demand for cod rose substantially in the early 1900’s after Clarence Birdseye developed his method for freezing food and the fish industry began filleting fish by machine and then in 1962 the owner of a McDonald’s franchise in Cincinnati invented the Filet-O-Fish sandwich for Catholics who did not eat meat on Friday and demand for cod surged again and TODAY it is eaten in almost every country of the world so to meet that demand the competing Danish and Scottish fishing fleets use nets that drag across the seabed and can sweep a mile or more of water free of fish in a matter of hours ! now don’t get me totally wrong there are still places where cod remain yet plentiful - around Iceland and the Barents Sea but the rest of the world’s major stocks are thinning rapidly or already depleted - and there were days back around the early 1900’s when fishermen could still catch man-sized 200 pound cod but such old fish are rare these days and another problem nowadays is the under-reporting of catches which is a chronic violation everywhere and it tries to control both the quantity of the fish caught and - much more ephemeral - the length of ‘time’ that fishermen can spend fishing which is a much more cerebral and intrusive imposition and one for which old salts like myself and others have no understanding but anyway I ain’t been in the at-sea business for a couple of years now and most of my time is spent on land mostly right here just dealing with the dead-end the other end of the business ‘selling to the folks’ as it’s called and yeah sometimes I do almost hate it but I’ve got enough salt and briny in my bones and blood to last me a few more years anyway right like this and maybe just maybe towards the end at some other time I’ll go back to the waters even if it’s just to die out there and request being thrown overboard a dead-man’s stiff and happy ceremony my last dunk so to speak but for right now this works and it’s even sometimes interesting to me especially when I start talking like this and the I hear some land-locked hotshots talking back to me about legalities and the ramifications of law at sea and the rules and protections of international law and all that SUCH rubbish such as it is and like I said before people themselves they just don’t know really don’t they just think somehow the fish come to them and are there’s to behold by God and the Heavens or whatever they’ll start on about ‘anything less than a total ban may leave the fish and cod population vulnerable to nature’s periodic environmental shocks like changes in water temperature or a sudden drop in the food supply’ and really they don’t know what they’re talking about they just want their filet-o-fish or their fish sticks fish and chips fried fish sandwiches and all the rest and the little they know isn’t worth even the knowing because what they don’t know is all what they don’t see - like ‘capelin’ (do you know what that is?) it’s a tiny fish eaten by cod and it’s found in ever-dwindling numbers and the lack of capelin hurts the cods’ fertility when its numbers are already reduced - but they don’t know that they just don’t even know that exists as a problem BUT I just listen and talk talk and listen and then go on about my way" and with that he was finished and he arose with a smile edging too on seriousness and extended his hand - a roughened hand still coarse but also wet and cold and in fact very fish-like - and we shook and he bade a fond farewell as he walked off and I watched him walking away heading back pretty much to the same area across the roadway from which he’d come.


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