Sunday, December 19, 2004

Back At The Beach

Sat quietly on the beach and let a fish fight it out with my line -- until it finally bent the hook in half. My fish stories have evidence. I was kinda glad it got away. I was sitting there with the pole stuck in the ground, just watching the end tremble and jerk now and again, and reeling in when I could. Imagine cleaning that thing.

I guess I'm going to get my short ocean pole down there. I hate my ocean pole -- too stiff, very hard to cast. But it's got 80-Lb. test on it, and I have some huge hooks and weights. Maybe I just need to learn to cast with it.

I've gotten to the point where I can go get greenling or perch like I'm going to the store to get a pint of milk -- we've plenty of frozen and pickled fish, now -- now I'm wanting to duke it out with the big guys. These are predators. And they'll have a lot of meat. Worth smoking.

By the way, pickled greenling is really good. And now I'm salt/sugar curing
a jar-full.

I'm glad it's raining today -- I can work on my art instead of listening to the siren call of the fish! The fishing is a challenge -- after 45 years, the art is -- just art. Breathing isn't very interesting.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

A Little Jesusland here, too.

Okay, okay. Living in Clallam Bay isn't perfect. We've got our bit of Jesusland, here too. By that I mean, stubborn lame-brainedness, ignorance, prejudice and mysogyny. I mean, this IS part of America, after all. Leviticans we all have with us.

So, to get the party started, witness this conversation between a trio of testicles at the Breakwater Restaurant (and nothing against the Breakwater, by the way, which serves THE best Reuben sandwich this side of Manhattan. I mean, a pile of top-quality pastrami, and sauerkraut so mild and juicy even Dan will eat it -- and he hasn't eaten sauerkraut since he was poisoned by it as a kid a half century ago).

Anyway, these SoftandDangly guys were discussing what was a Slut, and what was a whore, and who could you call a whore? Did it depend on whether or not she was a prostitute. They all decided that a woman could be a whore without being a prostitute.

Isn't it great to see that the Ballocks are still having so much fun sitting in public defining what kind of sex life the Human Beings have? These are three adult males, with no female company, making rude remarks about females, loudly enough for all the females in the restaurant to hear.

And these are also the guys who use "gay" as an insult. Will they just buy a clue and go to bed with each other? They will probably find their resentment of females will just evaporate, if they'll just admit it and come out, to themselves, if no one else. Or maybe to everybody else, so they don't have to keep pretending they're hostile to the sex that gave them life. And maybe they should meet some gay people, so they find out that that's not how gay people act.

One of these guys, by the way, is a truck hunter. Means he runs up and down the roads and shoots at deer from his truck. I guess it's easier. Gay AND lazy. Not a combination you usually see. Most gay folks I know are the hard-workingest folks you want to see, and the cleanest. This guy is definitely the exception that tests the rule. Oh, boy, just what I want, to duck bullets while I'm trying to negotiate curves on the way to pick mushrooms.

He's probably like my gun-nut Testicle friends -- can't shoot straight. Like drug-dealers. The reason drive-bys are dangerous is because those guys can't aim.

Let's see. Forks. The local logging town. The guy down at the second-hand fishing shop who says, "I hate trees. It would be easier to get the elk if there were no trees."

Yeah, he's probably trying to torque me off. He should probably hang out with the Breakwater boys, if he gets off on pissing off women. And what's with not liking part of the machinery that produces the oxygen that keeps his lungs pumping?

OOH! I just sussed it -- these people never look quite human, do they? A little narrow between the eyes. Usually not quite clean. And don't care about oxygen or clean water. Well, what does that tell you? Does the word "alien" spring to mind? Is it possible we already have creatures from other planets living here?

Or maybe he doesn't need as much oxygen as those of us with the larger brains.

It has been said that "loggers are afraid of trees." This has been tossed around locally since the Forks library lost its trees because, or so it's been reported to me, "They were afraid the trees would fall on the library." Well, of COURSE, loggers are afraid of trees. They're afraid of them the same way Ahab was afraid of Moby Dick -- you really hate anything you've hurt, because way down inside you know it will come after you some day. And trees really can come after you -- especially if you top 'em wrong.

Let's face it, most of that logging money left town to send other people's families to college. You need to get a copy of the video Cuts to see the damage logging has done to people -- and done nothing to fix the damage. You just need to see the clear-cuts up here to know that they're ripping out everything they can get before controls or regulations are put on the rampant ravaging of the crop. The full logging trucks come whipping out fast like bandits -- literally.

Let's see. Local names for animals.

You know how in an actual Jesusland state (Kentucky) they call green peppers "mangoes?"

Well, here are the local (non-Makah) misnomers (so far):

"Civet cat." It's what they call the striped skunk. They insist it isn't a skunk. We don't have civet cats in Washington state. It's a skunk.

"Duck." Any water bird, including grebe. Though, if all you want to do is fish, whether or not a bird is a duck probably isn't important. Though I would be learning the habits of these water birds if I wanted to fish.

"Black bass." It's what they call the striped sea perch. I mean, they are absolutely adamant that embiotoca lateralis (as in http://www.oceanlight.com/spotlight.php?img=09010 is an "immature black bass." I guess their fathers tell 'em stuff like this, and it gets passed down.

THIS is a black sea bass: http://www.oceanlight.com/spotlight.php?img=07613 I know. I used to catch these things when I was a kid. Or at least my dad caught them. I would sit with my hook in the water a lot.

And they all hate that the Makah are being allowed to whale. They have no idea that once the Makah found out what the whaling commissions from Iceland and Japan were up to, they immediately cut out fraternizing with those people. All the Makah want is a whale or two a year, to eat, that they get from a canoe. The gripe is that the Makah still have whale in the Halibut Morgue in Neah Bay, and so don't need any more. I wonder how much elk, deer and salmon these gripers have in their freezers, regarldless of the regulations.

The people who bitch about it the most are the guys who stand right there and try to catch lingcod out of season. Whose ancesters let salmon rot at the canning piers -- by the TON. Whose relatives slaughtered those whales by the thousands -- and used the oil to lubricate sewing machines. Don't get me started on the bison genocide -- or the idiocy of replacing a large native meat-producer with an animal that has to be babied every step of the way. I mean, putting an African animal -- the cow -- into North Dakota? Where were their brains?

And food prejudice: I eat bullheads, if they're big enough. I'm told, "EWWW! They're bottom fish!" And this from people who buy beef in the supermarket. I mean, they'll eat an animal that eats cardboard, dead cats and dogs, dead sheep, and cannibalizes dead cattle -- and they won't eat a bullhead that's been devouring crabs, mussels and barnacles?

And yes, I do fish. But I fish my limit, and I only take what we can eat. And if I don't like it, I put it back.

Yeah. Now I'm getting spoiled. I like greenling, but striped perch aren't as good, so I put 'em back. Picky picky picky.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Sensory Overload

I was going to get a lot of work done yesterday. I mean, I had a lot of plans to get a mass done, coloring pages for www.moderntales.com (and ultimately for www.booksurge.com). Oh, yes, virtue was breathing out at my pores.

But it was high tide, and sunny, and I thought I'd go down to my favorite trout hole on the river. It wouldn't take long, I was sure. And it didn't. Caught my limit -- two -- in about ten minutes. Nice cutthroats. Great! I could get right back to work.

Okay. That meant I could go back to work. But I get back and I'm in the middle of cleaning the fish when my Horse Friend calls.

"Wanna go riding? I'm taking the kids."

OOh. Well, uh -- that'll take about three hours. But -- it's excercise, right? And it's nice out, though now it's overcast and cold. So I'd better take advantage.

So we spend three hours dragging around trails not only LEADING extra horses but with KIDS on 'em, one couple being an autistic girl and the gelding who had bonded so fiercely with her he would try to run through you if you got between him and her, and thought EVERYTHING in the world, including yellow caution tape, was out to kill her.

I was leading the lazy white greenbroke mare, and the little boy who spent most of his time staring at the sky and NOT keeping her going, until she decided to trot and he hauled back so hard he nearly took my arm out of the socket with him.

When I got back, I remembered I'd promised to take the Neighbor Girl to cast, and she's officially a fisherman, cuz she got my hook in her thigh (she will never stand behind a caster again). We about froze our fingers off, so we went back to the house to drop off the fishing poles and hit some hot cocoa and raw ramen noodles (which is what we use for crackers).

And I should mention we'd invited a friend down for dinner that evening partly because we owe him for helping us haul left-over cedar ends from the saw mill, but mostly because he's a nice fun guy, and Dan and he have a load of fun talking. So I fired up the wood stove and got to cooking up dinner.

And fishergirl's mom came over to pick her up, because I'd overheated her cocoa and it was taking her a while to drink it. And F's mom stayed to chat and have some jug wine and smoke cheap cigarettes out on the porch with me.

And it turned into a party! Trout and home-grown taters and black-berry dumplings and jug wine and homemade pear ice cream. Stuffed ourselves silly.

'till the deputy's kid's miniature horse, Rex, took off down the road and F's mom and I went to the rescue in the dark and Chewie the giant malemute dog was found gently herding this tiny horse very little larger than she is back home (good Chewie!). Chris and I led Rex back, while he rubbed his head on my side. Rex only comes up to about my hip, and is just as sweet as sugar, and all furry for winter.

Nobody was home at the deputy's residence -- what's called The Lighthouse up here, even though it's just the old caretaker's house, the lighthouse itself being long gone, since they put in the buoy.

So we took the p0ny back to F's mom's house and had to call 911 so they could find the deputy, because the family had all gone to Forks and left the pony tethered right next to Bear Kill ridge, which wasn't a good idea because the bear had been coming down and snacking on the salmon coming up the river, and the cougars are always looking for McDeer's, and the little horse, Rex, is about the right size.

Anyway, Rex's owner's dad showed up and took the horse home, where he could be locked up safe. Sawmill guy and husband Dan had had a great time, talking away at the house without the womenfolks. And Fishergirl was all excited by the pony's visit. Chewie stayed right by Rex the whole time.

Ain't animals great?

And that's why I didn't get any work done yesterday.

>^..^<
www.stinz.com
Latest book: www.stinz.com/home/otherbooks/bosom04.htm

Friday, October 29, 2004

What, no gooey?

Okay, I've been here too long.

I was standing on the river bank the other day, drooling at the 3-foot-long Winter Chinooks, and just itching for November 1, when the season opens. And reminding the neighborhood boys that if they get caught with a fish before season, or over limit, they can have their licenses revoked -- for their lifetime. And letting them know that my Indian Name is "Brings The Warden."

And one of the kids, over in the bankside grasses, yells, "Hey! There's a dead silver here!"

So we go over, and yup, there's a big fish, half-eaten. Guess the bear that hoots around up on Bear Kill Ridge came down and had a midnight snack.

One of the kids says, "Look, it's full of eggs."

And I'm over there in a split second, and going "WHERE?" And the next thing ya know, I've got my hand inside that fish, ripping out those cold sticky egg masses. And when I'm done, I sling the rest of the fish into the river, and explain to the kids that the river needs the rotten fish to make food for the young salmon.

These kids are typical up here -- they all know how to kill these fish, but they don't know what helps 'em. Americans. Ya gotta -- well, not love 'em, because that would mean you had really low standards.

Anyway, the kids ask if they can have a few eggs, and I hand 'em half the mass. Before the day's done, they've just left most of the mass on the stream bank.

So I wander home with two big cold egg masses, for the bait jar (I pickle 'em in salt, sugar and Anise oil -- hardens up up and makes 'em like candy for the salmonoid fish).

And I've figured out why I'm no longer squeamish up here. In a city, you have to be careful of germs, cuz there's so many others of your own species. In the wild, we're few and far between.

Heck, the other day, I found out I wasn't squeamish about oysters either. I learned to shuck 'em -- and that's not hard, if you know the trick -- and didn't say "EEEWWWW" once. We deep-fried 'em. And deep-fried a mess of soaked Bone Polypore while we were at it.

Dan said he liked the mushrooms better. They were both pretty delectable, served up with the cold sour apple-cider we'd picked up at the cider-squeezing at the Preschool the other day. It's an annual thing, everybody showing up with plastic milk bottles and messes of culled apples from their trees. And paying $3.00 a big jug -- it all goes to the Preschool.

I tell ya, for poor folks living out here in the woods -- we're eating like we're living at the Savoy grill.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Dead Things

17 October, 2004 Payback today.

Those long sunny walks on a sparkling beach, those views of rainbowed cloud and autumn orange on Bear Kill ridge, are getting paid for today. Went up the Hoko Ozette road the other day, just to check out all the little streams that run into the Hoko. Mainly because the fishing rules on them aren't so stringent as on the Hoko or Lake Ozette, and we might have been able to pick up a nice trout or two.

We'd already been up there the last few weeks, to pick mushrooms. You don't want to go picking mushrooms with Dan – it's like a military campaign. On the best day, we lunged and ducked around through the underbrush for two and a half hours, until we had thirty pounds of Chanterelles and White Sheep Polypore, mostly, with a handful of Puffballs, Honeys and Angel Wings. We've got bottle after bottle of pickled Chanterelles and salted Polypores in the refrigerator. We won't need meat for the rest of the year – or fish. I've been cooking the mushrooms in a little water, and the juice ends up in a steadily concentrating broth that we use to make sauce or cook pasta in. Forget beef stock – you've never had rich fulfilling broth until you've cooked about four changes of mushrooms in the same water, and strained it for pine and fir needles. Needles are to mushrooms as bones are to fish – you just have to pick one out now and then. It's worth it.

Speaking of meat, the stream reconnaissance turned out to be an adventure, and not a very pleasant one. We stopped at our favorite little stream-side beach on the Hoko, and got proof, once again, as though anybody needed it, that human beings are filthy monkeys. The place reeked of rotten flesh, and as we walked down the stream, it began to smell like an old outhouse. We soon found the sources – somebody had just taken a big old toilet-papered dump, right there on the bank, where the water could get at it. Don't be telling me that humans are any different from any other monkey. We shit in clear water, or near it. And don't tell me you don't – checked out your toilet tank lately? If you're not using your gray-water to flush with, you're shitting in the drinking water, you monkey you.

And right next to the pile of shit (man-sized, of course, because they're just closer to monkeys, and anybody who knows about those broken chromosomes they have can tell you that) – was, in a kind of altar, a stack of rotting long elk-bones, with a decomposing arrangement of bits of hides and the heads of the young bulls with the tops of their heads whacked off, to take the antlers. I mean, Jesus, there aren't enough clear-cuts up here to dump rotten elk bits in the middle of? If nothing else, for Raven to find. I mean, don't these hot-shot hunters know that Raven is the Wolf Bird, and without wolf, the Man Bird, and once he figures out that humans rip open carcasses, he'll tell you where the elk and deer are? Rather than warning anybody else about you, he'll cooperate.

But noooooo, we've got to follow our monkey instincts, and dump the rotten carcasses next to the river. Some hunters. Some monkeys.

And when that's been considered, and the memory set in our minds, our trip up to see streams got screwed up when the bug's brakes decided to go completely soft on that twisty, humpy road. Oh, was that ever entertaining. When we got back, the local guy had no idea how to fix a bug, without taking three days to do it. And he sure as heck didn't have a replacement master cylinder for the leaking one we got now. So I blew half my AAA towage mileage sending the car into Port Angeles. A

And now the phone's gone out, because the wire outside has been dinged. But now the gods will leave me alone – because they finally drove me to jumping up and down and cursing them really loudly. They never lay off until I blow up, and then they quit. And I can't fish now, because last week I caught a 15-inch greenling, and her belly was full of eggs. So I let her go, and I can't fish until January, when the spawning season is over. So all I can do is sit home and write and draw and try to figure out how to color pages on the computer. Oh fricking boy.

(The neighbor, Joel, came over, and we sat in the rain and hooked the phone up again. And then his wife, Chris, came over and we sat around drinking wine in front of the fire and having long discussions, and boy did I need those).

Cross your fingers on the car.
Part of the Past.

The following article should have been posted in May.

So here it is!


Doin' The Wave
May 23, 2004

No fishing yesterday evening.

The sun was going down golden, and the water was powder-blue, and clear azure where the sunlight glowed through, and the foam was white as snow.

The tide was in, about as far as it was going to come. The waves had built the pea-gravel beach into a head-high cliff. To get to the water, a person took a jump and ran down, to keep the gravel out of her shoes.

There wasn't going to be any fishing, because the tide was in and the waves were crashing against the little cliff. But I had my fishing pole along anyway, because if I couldn't catch, I could practice casting. I'm getting pretty good at casting. I was showing my new neighbor Tracy how to caste with a bail reel, and she said that her husband had taught her to do it just that way. Which was cool, because I'd had to develop the method on my own. I've no fear that any part of civilization will ever disappear. Somebody will figure it all out of then. We'll not get into whether that's a good thing or not. I did get to tell Tracy she casts like a girl.

"I like being a girl!" she said.

"I was more of a tomboy," she said.

"That's my daughter," she said.

I'd just got done terrorizing her daughter and her friend. They wanted to pierce their noses, so I told them all about my own nose ring, and that yes, indeed, it DID hurt, and it DID take a long time to heal, and yes, it did smell pretty rank while it was doing it.

But back to the beach. The kids were all down there fishing, or sort of. Again, they were just casting. The red-headed kid who is the boss colt decided that, like me, he wasn't even going to try putting on any bait. He'd just enjoy flipping the line out as far as it would go. I was doing the best job, of course – I was using my home-made rock-and-wire weights, and those things just take a line out in a high distant arc. Lovely to see. And I'm getting better at thunking that line into just the hole I'm intending. Some of my best casts, my most heart-satisfying flight of line and weight, have happened when the weight snapped the end off the line off, and went flying as though propelled by an atlatl into deep water. No matter.

I usually carry extra weights, or a little extra wire to make a new one. My fishing kit has become my pole and reel, Dan's buck-knife (just in case I ever do get to fillet another fish on the beach), a little camera case somebody left on the beach and that Dan rescued from the tide – and it was full of big hooks and plastic worms, so I'm putting them to good use – a couple plastic bags, a small rag for wiping bait guts off my hands, instead of using my blue jeans, and a little bag of bait.

Tracy had accidentally left a bowl of big prawns uncooked the night before.

"Don't tell my husband," she'd said. "He'll kill me."

"No, that's not wasted food," I said. "That's bait!" So we'd used it that morning to get a lot of nibbles and no fish. I don't know what Jim would have said to our using big prawns to feed fish with no fillets in return. But Tracy said we'll all go fishing in Jim's big fishing boat next weekend, and since fish caught that was cost about $75.00 a pound if not more, I don't think a few little prawns come into the computation.

While the kids and I were pretending to fish, Dan was down the beach hunting agates. Meanwhile, the kids were playing I Dare You with the waves. On the way back with Dan, I started playing it myself.

By the time I got to the kids, I was ready to tell them that the way to get the big waves to come in was to stand with their backs to the water. Water and fire are carnivorous, and they'll go for you if you turn your back on them or aren't especially careful around you. Fire will literally snatch you bald-headed. That crackle and stink as your hair goes up in smoke is not soon forgotten.

We were discussing the eating habits of the elements when the red-headed kid yelled, "Oh, big one!" and we all took a quick glance and jeezus crimeny, yes, that was indeed a big one, and it was going to have our asses if we didn't jump, and jump fast. But the only place we had to go was straight up that shifting loose pea-gravel cliff.

I haven't screamed and scrambled and laughed so hard in years. We all got soaked. Then we just stood dancing around in the foam out of the pure exhilaration of having lost to the elements, becoming soggy one with them, and survived. Well, not that we were really in danger, but we could have been.

And that evening Dan and I watched "What Lies Below," with the lights out, and scared the bejesus out of ourselves. No fakey psychological thriller, that. Zemeckis promised ghosts, and he delivered. Even though we knew that ghost was going to be in the bathtub, we practically jumped off the couch when we saw her. Ya gotta love it when they're not afraid of the ghosts.


Friday, October 08, 2004

Fungus Fever

Don't ever go mushrooming with Dan and me.

We could, of course, wander dreamily through the woodland glades, stopping now and again to worship in sacred vaults of hemlock branches with soft spaghnum moss underfoot. We could point out fens and stand listening to the cry of the raven and the un-identified ululating owl. We could observe light poking through the canopy to gild softly rotting red trunks upon the needle-soft ground.

Yeah, we did some of that.

But mostly we hunted shrooms like we were after terrorists, and I don't mean the roundabout head-up-their-ass way our government goes about it.

We hunted shrooms like we meant to not only FIND those people, but sit down and discuss social needs with them, and really DO something about the situation, like building roads and cleaning up drinking water and cutting all our lines with the local dictator we'd been paling up with.

We were out there for about hours, and we did spend about an hour of it driving up the Hoko Ozette road, and an hour, on and off, of it resting and talking and having a snack, and at least an hour going around "just one more bend" in the logging road, and listening to a red-tailed hawk tell raven that we were Over Here.

So we figure we were actually picking mushrooms only about two and a half hours. But we got thirty pounds of 'em.

That's more than ten pounds an hour. Mostly Chanterelles, with a handful of Angel Wings, and about two pounds of White Sheep Polypore.

And this is plunging around through dead branches and crawling up and down rotting hummocks of old clear-cut debris, most of which had hemlocks growing up out of them, and occasionally breaking through those rotten hummocks, and ducking more branches, and generally not taking the stroll in the park you hear about.

We'd heard about that moment in mushrooming when you were walking back along the logging road, weighed down by the haul, and refusing to look back into the woods because you were afraid you'd see another drift of orange or white to come back and pick. Actually you cut 'em -- you don't pick mushrooms, you cut 'em off at the base, to protect the mycelium, which is delicate. You won't find any more unless you close your clasp knife, because then they know you're coming, and they'll run. No, they do.

We drove home really slow, partly because my right foot was totally dead from wearing THE wrong hiking boots in that soft debris, and partly because I wanted to see the bigleaf maples going gold and the vine maples turning scarlet against the dark green firs.

We stopped off at a friend's house on the Hoko Ozette (we have Friends On The Hoko now!) and left him about a pound of chanterelles, in exchange for the good beer we'd been sampling there.

When we got back, we gave a pound to the neighbor, who always gives us veggies from her garden, and sometimes canned salmon (the good stuff -- smoked and home canned). We left another pound with another artist friend, who asks us over for wine and conversation.

Then we went home and processed mushrooms for HOURS. They gotta be brushed and cleaned, and cooked over the wood stove, and then packed in vinegar or salt. The chanterelles don't change much, other than to release a rich brown juice, but the polypores turn dark yellow and have the best mushroom smell.

We didn't have enough contains for all the polypores, so I guess we'll just HAVE to have mushroom spaghetti tonight.

Oh, darn.





Sunday, August 29, 2004

Makah Days

Makah Days happens in Neah Bay the last weekend of August. People greet each other with "Happy Makah Days!" which gives it a very holiday feel.

We went up Friday because we wanted to see the Fireworks -- I'm capitalizing it because the Makah do fireworks right. BUT of course we got our information a little scrambled, and ended up on the wrong side of the harbor, where the 4th of July Fireworks had been held.

The Fireworks were on the other end of town this time, because a lot of people were camping on the beach (this IS a pow-wow, and folks are in from all over), and there would be too many kids and dogs to wake up and too much Gortex to set on fire.

So the Fireworks were a little distant and misty, but Dan said that was good enough for him. Fireworks are not a big deal with him, after Vietnam and all. He LIKES fireworks, but he kind of got a lifetime's worth.

We went back the next day, and ended up spending most of our time at the Slahal, or Bonegaming.

Dan just now said, "Boy, I had a GOOD time last night."

Because he got totally hooked watching and listening.

You never heard or saw or felt anything so wild, loud, intense -- if you
crimped a Coke can, you could feel the vibrations in the metal.

The games was imported from the great plains around 1900. It's meant to be played
outside -- the west coast plays it inside, and the volume of drums and yells
and singing is unbelieveable. Take the plains-based Lakota yell, men's base and women's nasal ululation, and put it in a longhouse! Ow.

Yes, the Makah have Indian gambling -- but it's not the tourist version. It's Slahal. It's what they do in place of Bingo.

You need stamina, VOICE, concentration, shamanic power and CASH. There were twenties all over the floor. It was $125.00 to register for the tournament. That was scary to a bunch of Alaskan guys who showed up and asked me, and when I told 'em they turned around to each other -- "Dis is SERIOUS, man! Dese people play for real!"

The meanest competitors are -- to quote a boy -- elders and women. Elders because they've been playing for a lifetime, and women, because they cheat ("Cheat" is the male term for fast hands and good moves). The loudest drum was a guy with a wicked elastic beater-stick -- but the loudest voice was a young woman. And there were two elder ladies who were just EVIL. The winning circle was the one with all the elders.

There WAS one young team, with the loud-drum guy and the loud girl. They had good moves, too. We didn't stay late enough to see 'em go up against the elders.

These things go 'till 3:00 am, and when it's over, you're deaf.

If you're losing to the elders, you say, "I'm respecting my elders, is what I'm doing. Yeah, that's it -- I'm respecting my elders."

I was itching to try it, and Dan got so into the beat I could hardly drag him away. Oh, please, don't let us end up blowing the utitlities and tax money on Bonegaming...

Oh, and now I am officially Weird Girl in both Clallam Bay AND Neah Bay, because, as the Makah were telling each other incredulously and with shudders -- "She eats BULLHEADS!" The local food prejudice, and I broke it.

Hey, that bullhead was nasty hooked and dying, so I decided to eat it. Well, I'd seen photos on how to clean bullheads, so what was the big deal? They have green flesh like a Cabazon, that cooks up lovely and white and tasty. A lot of meat for a little fish, and very very good. Okay, their guts are kinda nasty, but they clean up nice.

But NOOOOOO, I'm still Weird Girl for eating bullheads.

Dan eats 'em too!!!




Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Ouchy Grouchy

Just got back from the beach. Picked up three nice greenling, two females and a male. They're pretty fish. Google: Kelp Greenling.

Caught a little bullhead, and was not happy to find out I'd left my pliars at home. I was not happy digging the fishhook out of his mouth. It was too big a hook just to snip and leave in him, and I had to bloody up his mouth to get it out of him. And he had inch-long bone spines on his head I had to duck. Laid him carefully in the surf to give him time to recover with each receding wave. He swam off fine.

While pulling the hooks out of the big female greenling, jabbed myself twice but good with fishhooks (well, with my idiot double-rig, why not? It catches fish. It catches PEOPLE). Missed the pliars again.

Hadn't been paying attention to Rocko the big lab or Rebel the blue heeler. They were right up on my butt, as I bent over studiously wrapping a mess o' mussel booger around the hook rig.

Suddenly -- and I know it was Rebel -- somebody did a bite. And there I was, pinned down under a dog fight in the middle of my back, with hooks and mussel in my face.

Next thing I was on my feet, scared to death and madder than hell. I started fire-hosing handfuls of pebbles at those dogs, and chewing them out at the top of my lungs. They QUIT. Then I let go at full volumn. I flayed both dogs like a roaring bear with my tongue for about 8 minutes. We're talkin' Marine drill sergeant.

"You will NEVER fight on a human! You will NEVER do that again! I catch you coming near me when I'm fishing, and you're both going to be too sorry damn hounds! We're talkin' you two idiots will be happy if you have four legs and an eye left to walk on or SEE out of! You will never ever ever EVER fight near a HUMAN!!!!"

I mean, I laid law down like it was cobblestones. You probably heard it.

Rebel took off for home, and Rocko just looked like I'd beaten him. Which I might as well have done. He was one sorry make-up-to-mommy dog for the rest of the time he was on the beach. And it wasn't even his fault. I ended up throwing him cleaned mussel shells to keep him busy. He was so happy. Master was happy again! Dogs. It's all it takes.

Later sliced myself good with the fish knife. It was like a First Nations grandma reached out and gave me a good slice to say "No, bad child! That's not how you fillet a fish! It's sloppy and dangerous and wastes meat!"

Blood just everywhere. Fish and mine.

BUT will never forget to bring my pliars again. Or fillet fish THAT way.

We live and learn. You should see the nice clean pretty fillets.

Fish fry tonight!

And hopefully better-behaved dogs.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Lost Weekend, Day Two, Part Two.

Okay. Time for the evening activities, including -- ta da! -- The Fireworks At Neah Bay.

Dan gets cleaned up, and I get a nap, and we wait 'till about 7:00 on a beautiful sunny afternoon, with a cool breeze coming off the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Mapquest it). I recalled I hadn't cornered Ken Dehnert yet, and since I'm taking the camera anyway, we drive up and stop off at his house. It's easy to recognize. With a view of the Strait, Ken has filled his yard full of 1/2 life-size wooden, painted killer whales, swimming and diving through the grass like water.

I wanted to do an interview about Ken and his work, but he doesn't want any more publicity -- he gets enough from people just driving by. He's happy doing gnome-style trees and selling a few paintings. He's been through the gallery thing and the agent thing, and he doesn't want that again. And that's why a lot of these people are up here -- whatever they do, art, fishing, writing, you name it -- they want to enjoy what they do, have a bit of a day job, and be left alone. Ya gotta respect that. And if there's anyplace you could do that, it's here.

Just be on the lookout for Ken's killer whales. Because the first time you see 'em, you'll nearly drive off onto the beach. They're that great. Slow down, and you'll catch the two harbor seals and the sea lions poking up out of the grass sea and watching the pod.

So we go ahead and drive up on up the coast to Neah Bay. The light is limpid on the water and the Kalakala, the streamlined ferry, quietly rusting away in the outer harbor. We didn't quite know where the fireworks were, so we looked for someplace that might be open. On the left side of the road was a fry-bread stand, homemade, out of plywood. We pulled onto the right side of the road. I hopped out of the car and walked toward the stand. A group of people was sitting across from the stand, in front of our car, and a young woman in an apple-leaf-green jacket jumped up and came running toward me.

"I'm sorry!" she grinned. "We're still warming up the oil!"

I said, "No, I just wanted to know where the fireworks were."

"Oh, they're down by the elder center, down by the beach. It's really something if you watch it from there, but all the smoke is hard on the breathing. This is my family," she said, and swept an arm at them. "And we just sit here across from our house, and watch from here."

"It's about 10:00?"

"Yup. You want to join us? We're just bone-gaming. Have a seat!"

"Hey, can I go get my husband?"

"Of course!"

I went back and got Dan. We slipped in on one of the raised logs that were set up around the folding chairs where the family was sitting. They were drumming and chanting, and using what appeared plastic thread spools as "bones." What looked like thick chopsticks with sparkly blue ends were the ten counting sticks. Maybe they were made of bone, bleached white. The point of the game didn't so much seem to be the count of sticks, as how much fun they could have doing complicated fake-out hand-movements and chants, to the rhythm of a hide drum. I kinda sorta started to figure out the rules, with the help of one of the guys, while I petted a "Really Stinky" dog, as he was called, a handsome friendly guy -- "He's always finding something stinky to roll in," said the guy, rubbing the dog's head affectionately. The dog's name meant "Lightning" in the Makah language, but they used a short version (my apologies for my bad memory, as usual). The funniest, liveliest member of the family was the grandmother, in her baseball cap, brightly patterned blanket, and big smile. She was good at winning the sticks.

The man with the drum across from her who kept losing sticks to her said, "I'm respecting my elders, is what I'm doing. See? This is respecting my elders," he said, and threw Grandma another stick while she clapped and hooted at him and told him to keep right on respecting them elders.

The woman who had invited us chatted with me, and turns out she's a teacher at the Neah Bay school. Pretty quick, we'd exchanged phone numbers. Neah Bay has plenty to say, culturally, socially, and politically. Nuee V. Ward says she has dances and cultural events I need to bring my camera to, and write articles about. Good things!

Dan had had to leave to find a restroom, but he was gone for a bit so I thanked the family for their hospitality, and took off with the car to find Dan. I found him walking back. He hadn't found a restroom, but he'd walked off his stomach cramps wandering out toward the Kalakala, and he felt better.

We drove on toward the beach, and at the far end of the beach area, parked in front of the Elders Center. Porta-potties! Whee! I'm always glad to see those. I grew up traveling in the woods and using those old rotten wooden restrooms. I'm sorry for being such a plastic person, but them old restrooms reeked. Americans don't know how to compost human manure cleanly and safely, without filth and smell. We're not Koreans or the Chinese, after all. The best we can do is use a lot of chemicals to stop the stink and the infective capabilities of what comes out of our own bodies. I apologize for using Porta-potties, but I wish I had stock in the franchises.

We wandered out on the beach and the kids around us were beginning to set off good ol' Fourth-0f-July Fireworks. Big dogs wandered calmly around, grinning, helping out. The kids all had big long lit punks in their hands, and were hauling handfuls and backpacks of fireworks down to the sandy beach. The beach was already full of burnt out firework bits. There were rockets of every size. And burning whirly things, and spinning things, and huge explosive things. Whoa. You couldn't buy these brutes back in Seattle, I tell ya. We got off the beach so the burning bits didn't end up on our heads and set us on fire.

By now, we realized we should have brought something to eat and drink, because this wasn't some kind of fair or public display. This was a family get-together, and most places were closed. People were there to enjoy themselves, blow off fireworks, sell a couple sweatshirts for funding for Makah Days, and have cookouts on the beach. We were definitely getting the munchies, and we were quite a ways from Nuee's family -- we wouldn't have wanted to infringe. Though, come to think of it, they would probably have been proud to share; "Makah" means "People who will feed you" on the Northwest coast. We could always have bought some of that good coffee and frybread from them. Maybe next year, we could bring something nice along, and join in. We had to hunt around to find a place still selling food, and got lucky.

In a little blue building, built within the last year, we discovered Raven's Corner, the art gallery, had moved out of its house and into a business cubicle. The art's gorgeous -- nothing naive or primitive about this. It's modern developments of the living, breathing Northwest Coastal Art. If this stuff was good in 1895, it's even more vibrant today. An "exploding" Raven mask, opened to show the inner beak lined with turquoise-painted filigree, and the Sun in bright beaten silver. Price: $3000.00. That was a lot of work, in carving and metalwork and painting, and a lot of precious metal. Worth the price. And it will appreciate. Wish I had the money.

We found, in the same building, a little pizza place. Smelled good. So we went in and ordered one, a large with one topping -- pepperoni -- and a couple soft drinks. Root beer and -- lord knows why, for me -- strawberry soda.

We went outside to sit on a picnic table, smoke a clove cigarette -- I wasn't used to tobacco any more and would have a hangover the next day -- and watch the clouds go golden, and the fireworks come out bright against the tall forested hills. A couple guys speaking Makah stood in the dusk. In a half hour, we figured the pizza was ready.

Not quite. But we'd gotten pretty chilled, and it was nice to stand in the warm shop. And it smelled good. A handsome 80-year-old woman was listening to soft native pipes, on a CD played on a big bright silver-colored tapedeck, radio and CD player. She and her daughter, who ran the shop, said their mother/grandmother had died at 100, and they both planned to do the same (so there!).

Here came the pizza. We headed back to the picnic bench. We hadn't had a pizza in a while.

That was the best pizza I'd ever eaten, including homemade. The base was a big, thick, rustic white flour crust, cooked slowly until it was perfectly dry and light, slightly browned. It was brushed with just enough savory tomato sauce, and sprinkled with just enough fresh cheese, to fill your mouth with flavor, and there was one layer of pepperoni over the top. There was no grease dripping off the filling, and the bread wasn't soggy. It was like a big fry-bread "Indian Taco," but baked instead of fried. It was so delicate and greaseless you could have eaten it and then picked up a book and read it without wiping your hands. We were both well-satisfied. Price, pizza and soda and tip? $14.50. We know what we're eating next Fourth of July. And we know where we're going to be. Man, the First Nations got ahold of white flour and just do these amazing flatbreads with it; talk about fortuitous cultural combinations. It's all good.

We're going to be in Neah Bay for the Fourth because of the fireworks. We settled down on bleachers near the community dance-floor above the beach. As it got darker, a man came up and said to everybody on the bleachers:

"We got the kegs right down here." He pointed to the beach, about 50 feet away in the deepening dusk, where we saw a few dozen big black kegs with silvery sealed tops, standing out against the water. "So if anything goes wrong, get ready to run."

Not "You have to move back," or "This isn't a safe zone," or "State law requires you leave this area." Just: this could be dangerous, but you're an adult, and if you're here, keep your wits about you. And watch that little girl you got with you.

One guy said, "Does this mean we're not quite bright?"

I said, "Well, maybe it means that some of us are just near-sighted."

We watched the kids' fireworks growing in intensity and color. Dan blinked and grinned and said, "Mad moment," referring to wild shootouts in Vietnam.

Some fireworks bounced across the water. "Dat'll wake dem salmon up," said a guy on the bleachers behind us.

Pretty soon another guy comes up and says, "We're setting off a line, now, so we're gonna start. So be ready."

Down on the dance floor, about 30 feet from us, they were laying out a row of big dark-red crackers about 25 feet long. And when those things took off, crackling loud in a myriad of white flames, well, I knew my hearing wasn't going to be the same for a few hours, and I was going to be seeing purple spots for the next fifteen minutes.

The fireworks started up from the kegs, and I started trying to take photos with my lousy little digital -- missed practically everything -- needed a faster shutter speed. Nemmind. I've never gotten to sit this close to professional fireworks. It was stupendous. One green short round blew up too close to the ground, and a shower of golden fire rained down all around all of us on the bleachers. Everybody was ooing and ahing until we realized this was a mistake, and an almost-better run. It was chilling and glorious.

After innumerable explosions, including fancy fireworks the like I'd never seen, the finale came -- a flaming Old Faithful of spiraling white fire. Backed by dozens of red and orange and green round blasts. Fire was raining down like mad, right in front of us.

The colored blasts and the white columns died out, and the audience was completely silent. They were waiting for something. And it came.

From the water, side-by-side, like a mined and sunken battleship, came three huge gouts of red-orange-and-pink flames. The effect was -- no, you had to see it. You just had to see it. I can use all the damn adjectives I want, and you're not going to get it. Mark TWAIN couldn't make you do more than imagine it in soft focus. It was just… incredible.

The white columns went up again. This time they were accompanied by screaming bee-blasts of metallic gold and silver, exploding by the thousands nearly simultaneously, like stars and comets trying to imitate the Big Bang. Those of us on the bleachers were gasping and laughing and howling like idiots. It was unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

The columns and bee-blasts went out, leaving the audience dizzy and hardly able to cheer.

And once again, up went The Fireworks From The Water, and I'm no more able to get an idea of those things across now than I was the first time. Everybody finally got up and yelled and cheered -- and then everybody went for the trucks to get home and have some more parties. The Makah evidently do Party real good.

Dan said the only time he'd seen better fireworks was in Vietnam, and those weren't as pretty. He also said he was glad he hadn't brought a folding chair – just in case he had to Run.


Dan was worried about all those trucks and cars rolling around us, but I said, "Well, you'd have to worry if those were pushy white people, all standing on their rights and privileges, but these people's attitude is that if you're driving, you're responsible for your vehicle, and you'd better not run down a kid or a grandma. Think of the trucks as Indian Ponies. They go around people."

We kept running into Makah who were asking people what they thought. All I could say was "unbelieveable." "Just unbelieveable." They were pretty proud of the display. Wouldn't you be?

Anyway, that's why I spent most of today in bed, freezing and hungover from tired; I have to let my heart and circulation get up and running again. Doing perty good now. Tea and rest and comic books – the gods' little remedies.

The Lost Weekend, Day Two, Part One.

Part one was Saturday. The next two parts will both be Sunday, but they're in two different towns, about 50 miles apart, and one of them is officially in another sovereign nation.

Drove down to Forks (Mapquest it) before 9:30, having been told the BIG Fourth parade started at 10:00. Of course, when I got there, I discovered that it was at noon.

So I gassed the car. The power toxin is cheaper, the closer you are to the hot heart of civilization, and even Forks is warmer than Clallam Bay. Saved about 2 cents a gallon. Then went down to the Thriftway and picked up things we couldn't get in Clallam Bay -- like adhesive strips to keep people from killing themselves in the guest tub and suing our asses, and fish hooks Greenling size (all I can get are trout and salmon jigs). We'd already picked up the toilet valve (not ball-cock, thank you, why do they still make those crappy things?). Anyway.

The parade entries were gathering out in the Thriftway parking lot. Well, I thought I'd at least try to take photos for the Peninsula Daily News with my crappy little digital, so I wandered around seeing what I could get.

The Kids Run For Life (American Cancer Society) was very cooperative, them AND their bubble-blowing. The Quileute sang and gave a drum chorus, and held the baby up for a photo. The Red Hat Society was there, two chapters out of three -- The Red Fedoras and the Scarlette Ladies. "We do a lot, so this is how we have fun," said their leader. "We built this float out of whatever we had that was sparkly in an hour and a half." There was a Mexican Folklorico group, the girls in the most brilliant ribbon-decorated rainbow-colored dance gowns. They kept running back to use the restroom in the Thriftway, and I lived in fear of them spotting those satin dresses when they washed their hands.

Finally took the car and ran it down the road a bit, and in a line of trucks and teenage stock junkers, and found a perfect slot for Honig, my 1970 beige VW bug. Dug out the ancient Marine blanket Dan and I have used for picnics for 30 years. If we'd know the military was going to stop making those warm, light, thin olive-green blankets with the black Hudson Bay stripe, we'd have stolen a bunch more of them. The one we have is almost a family member; worn places and holes have been repaired with red felt heart-shaped appliqu├ęs sewn as back-to-back patches. Call it irony. I folded it up and placed it on the front of the bug; any of you who have ever sat on a bug know it is one of the most comfortable car to lean back and relax on. It gets warm -- and that's good, on a chill windy 4th of July.

The kids to the right on the red stock junker are pretending to shoot their classmates with a pretty good replica of a pistol. The kid with the pistol keeps telling the "victims" that they are lucky they don't live in Tacoma, because this would be real. The kid points the pistol at a bike cop, but only when he's passed by and his back is to the kid. Welcome to Columbine.

The parade finally gets started. Right behind the Sheriff's posse comes a Chinese lion-dance group. The above-mentioned floats are in the line, but most of the entries are stock junkers being dragged by somebody's truck with a logging chain, and some shiny Classics. The junkers were scribbled on with bad paint jobs, some of them done with markers. And damn, I'm trying to remember the great line somebody had drawn in black across a yellow top. I'm going to have to write all this stuff down. The drivers were teen boys, girls and one woman with a little girl. There was a 1928 Ford tractor carrying a calliope and shooting clouds of stinking black smoke into the air. The other shiny oldies had fake power plants in them, but this guy was proud of using the original clunker. Up ahead, logging trucks kept pulling into the line, carrying the old-growth forest logs they've had to keep for all the parades; they can't find any new ones, so they have to keep these for show. Hell, they should just name those logs. The four biggest I'm calling Sue, Phineas, Pitty-Patt and Joshua.

At the very end of the parade came the entry from The Peninsula Daily News. Their basic outfits were based on the paper's logo, blue and white. First came John Brewer, Our Fearless Reader. Leader. Oops -- Freudian slip. Anyways, he's carrying a roman-style banner that says -- deep breath -- "The Grateful Deadlines." Behind the PDN white van is a group of the pressroom people, with homemade kazoos made from orange newspaper delivery tubes. They started a routine based on Tequila. Well, it was kinda like a train-wreck. And they weren't even ashamed or anything. John was over there with his banner, while the Deadlines did the dance, and John... hey, wait! John IS on the other side of the van where he can't be photographed with the Deadlines.... Hmmm....

What are those photographs worth? What is the CHIP worth?

Then I drove home, cuz I was going to the Neah Bay (Mapquest it) fireworks display that night. Where The Fireworks Come Up Out Of The Water.

What?

Stay tuned.


Monday, July 05, 2004

The Long Weekend (Part One).

I am a wreck today. The following is the description of just Saturday.

The following involves comic books stores, parades and fireworks. Scroll down to whatever interests you (not everybody is into fireworks) (Actually, check out upcoming posts. This became a post all on its own).

Saturday, drove to Port Angeles for a signing, at The Odyssey Bookshop (Mapquest it, and the following places).

Craig Whalley runs a nice little shop, very plain raw wood shelves, brightly lit, in what was once a frontier bar, that retains walls and ceiling lined with the original tin tiles, painted bright white. Very attractive.

Craig used to own Pulp Fiction, the only comics shop in PA. But when Marvel shot itself in the foot (and how many of us could have told those fanboys NOT to mess with the actual book market if they didn't have the margin to take the burn?), Pulp Fiction, in Craig's words, "Crashed and Burned." Marvel, of course, doesn't respect its retailers, and that is always a BIG mistake, because those guys interact with the all-important customer. Marvel is a putz. And a bunch of amateurs. But that's enough of that, why beat a dead AND rotten horse?

Along come Diamond Comics Distributors Free Comics Day. I managed to get myself together enough to be a Bronze Sponsor. Yay. But I did NOT get myself together enough to figure out there were no local commie book shops. Hey, we moved, we had leakage and woodstoves. Whadaya want? And I was learning to fish and dig giant horse clams (after years of being away from water, I had a SERIOUS seafood deficiency, and your health comes first).

At the last minute, called Craig, and asked him if he was interested. He was very tentative, and that's when he used that "crash and burn" line. Ow. Damaged goods. Would have to be very gentle with this poor little whipped puppy (I can so! No, I can. Really). Kick Marvel here.

Since I'm the semi-volunteered West West Side stringer for the Peninsula Daily News, I cobbled up an article and a photo of me, and got it in. Well, things happen. My editor, John, has had a bit of a crash-and-burn in his own life (it's serious stuff, and he needs major slack cut), and the press release just didn't happen.

Anyway, Dan and I drive around Lake Crescent on Saturday (always lovely!), and I turn him loose in town (and he heads for the local nice Irish pub and a pint of Guinness), and settle down at the little outside table Craig has provided.

Now Craig's all "We don't have much good luck with signings," and apologetic. I tell him, don't worry, a signing is a signing, it'll be all good. It's a bit windy, but I've pasted on my deal-with-the-public smile, and I'm all ready. So he goes back into the shop, and I wait.

It's pretty disappointing, and the wind is lifting. After all, nobody wants to talk to a writer just sitting at a table on a sidewalk. But that's what Craig wants, and we'll see what develops.

Pretty soon out comes Craig, looking kind of apologetic, and we get into a whole spiel on the commie book, the Marvel crash, and the future of the art form. Have we NOTICED the guy with the camera standing there? We have not. We're so intent on our own little industry history, we haven't even noticed he's taking pictures and got a recorder on. When we DO notice him, we find out if he's from the Peninsula Daily News, and he's "got everything he needs." And he extends John's apologies for not getting the press release in!

Welp. If you don't think Craig is impressed. And happy. Look at all the free PR! Whee! And I'm all "Whew!" but I'm not showing it. Now we'll get a good shot of me at work, with a good camera. And a better article. I'm a FICTION writer, damnit, not a journalista. I've never had any training in writing except typing millions of words. This is the ONLY training that counts in writing fiction, because trained fiction writers are boring as hell, and their training sticks out all over them (you can even tell which textbooks they've been reading) but journalists really do need school training (awright, Twain didn't, but journalism back then was more like fiction anyway).

Craig goes back into the shop, but pretty soon he's out to check on me again. The wind has gotten really sassy, now, and you can imagine trying to hold down an art-form that is enamored of flying air, anyway. So we set up again back in a nice little cranny in the middle of the store, and I get my own silk-brocade-covered Rococo chair, and I'm all warm and comfy now (summer up here is like winter in Texas, remember).

Craig is back chatting with me, and all of a sudden, John, the editor at PDN, shows up. Well, ain't this cozy? And John's funny and chatty, anyway. So now the editor of the damn paper has come down to see Craig's shop. Can it GET any better?

Sure can. Craig gets a phone call. A couple customers know about this Free Comic Book Day. They are desperate to find SOMEPLACE in on it. He says no, but he's got a writer here who is a Bronze Sponsor.

Anyway, John the Editor has fun talking to me about this commie book biz, and I give him a copy of THE DESERT PEACH, and he goes his way (and the contents shocks the hell out of him, and he starts kidding me later about what I write, trying to use humor to get his head around it, and this is why I'm now signing email to him, Donna Barr, The Woman who Writes About Nazis).

I find myself facing three potential fans – the ones who called? – and they're all delighted that there is SOME kind of comic book thing going on here. Pretty soon they're into my books, and they won't let me give them any. They buy 'em and I sign 'em.

Craig comes back, and buys the remaining Graphic Novels. We agree that now The Odyssey Bookshop will be the contact point for comics in Port Angeles and the whole region. And good ones – not those ratty spandex things. No. Instead -- Eric Shanower. Carla Speed MacNeil. Pete Sickman-Garner, if I can manage it (I LOVE that guy's "Hey Mister."). My humble self. And I've got this little plan to present him with a present from our industry…

The signing goes on for a bit, and at 3:00 Dan's ready to take off. Craig has had to leave. I gather up the remaining staple-bound books and hand 'em to his XO – "Seed stock," I grin. "Remember – the first one's free."

Comics are back in PA -- and NOT in a commic book shop, where "comics are for kids," according to the minds of benighted prosecutors and judges. They are in a book shop, where adults go to find books, and where children are supervised! I would like, in the end, to destroy the comic book shop and industry as separate from the book industry. And I would like to destroy the book industry as it is today -- including the idiot returns policies. I want everything available everywhere, under the umbrella of art and literature. Call me an activist anarchist, if you will.

First steps...

LTD!

(On the way home, catch people wearing renaissance costumes, selling jerky by the side of the road, funding for a project. Do a quick photo-op and email pickup for later. There will be PIRATES and possibly a major guest star in Port Angeles in October – stay tuned!).

And drove home on 112. This time of year it's gorgeous. But those tight curves for an hour start a wrench in my left arm and back. I'm gonna pay for this.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

BIG Dog

There's this BIG dog in our neighborhood.

I'm talking BIG. A big pale malemute bitch, with a neck you need both arms to encircle, and fur two inches deep, so thick she never gets anything but the surface wet in the rain. This dog has a neck and body like a bull. You have never seen such a big dog.

And we're really happy that what she wants to do with people is talk and grin and lick your face and roll over and get her belly rubbed and sleep on the blanket next to you.

Cuz if this dog ever got mad...

She has this horrible wolf grin -- and I remember one night when I heard her weird cross between wolf mumbles and Japanese war talk behind me, and turned around in the dark to see her approaching with her huge head low, and those horrible snaggly white teeth gnashing at me -- -and her tail wagging. I just about had heart seizure.

That's what she does. It's her idea of how to say, "Hi! Nice to see you! I'm a cute puppy! Pet me!" I honestly think she believes that she's a dear little lapdog, and is a little confused that she can't get crawl into a person's arms. She was probably a lap-puppy.

Yesterday when we were lying down, here comes this massive buffalo of a malamute swaying into the yard with that huge head directed at us, ears back, mumbling and gnashing. Until she came up and licked me all over my face.

We're REALLY happy she's such a nice gentle dog.

And that she's so clean and has clean breath.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Blistering hot for here -- 75-85 degrees. Oh, people are just melting. I'm fine. Last year's road trip with Roberta Gregory, tooling around Palm Springs and environs in August, at 114 degrees in the shade, has made me appreciate this weather for the balmy coolness it is. Lovely breezes off the ocean.

Fishing notes: was out yesterday trying to catch some greenling. Hooked one, lost it.

Then saw a long golden fish fooling around in the kelp. Saw it roll twice. Decided to try for it.

Now Jim down the street has done wonders with helping me get an idea what to do to fish. So I flipped the bait right over THERE where I'd seen the fish.

Pretty soon, I got a NICE hit, and started to reel it in -- and suddenly it was hit even harder, and the hook snapped right off the line.

A lingcod had decided it wanted my greenling, durn its gold-speckled hide! That was a lingcod I saw, and I should have known, it was that big ('bout 27 inches -- I'd say just the good side of the limit).

Well, I didn't mind losing it. Considering the lingcod season quit on the 15th. So I can say I at least shook hands with a lingcod.

In return for a business article I sent to the Peninsula Daily News, Ric at Jack Mackeral seafoods gave us a nice fillet of marbled salmon -- something you can't get anywhere else in the world, unless you're Japanese, and willing to pay ungodly prices. Grilled it slowly over driftwood coals. Not grilled one moment too long or too little.

To die for. Tender, moist, juicy -- and just slightly smokey. Best job of cooking I'd ever done of the best fish I'd ever had. And such a delicate crispy skin. The fish was so fat the drippings made the coals flare up.

And after loading wood and giving blood yesterday, the salmon and the fruit juice we drank all evening put us right back on our feet.

Which reminds me. I'm thawing some old freezer salmon that nobody up here will touch, and I'm going to need more drift wood.

Hey, someday we may be spoiled -- "Is it bought, or is it caught?" but not yet. We're feeding a fish hunger that goes back years.

See ya.

>^..^<

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I keep trying to get to the yard to sit and draw on the next Bosom Enemies story (no laptopping in sunlight, ya know), but between gorgeous weather and -- ahem -- the beginning-of-summer controlled happy white stuff stuff busts going on right across the street and all over town -- they do sweeps for early in the summer for the hard stuff, 'cuz, while everybody agrees that the old Mary Jane does less harm than alchohol, the damn crank and meth gets made to leave Dodge -- I did tell you we live right next to the sherriff's office? -- and taking a turn at throwing a line in the water again, just to see if anybody's out there and hungry, and this morning the tide being out practically to the end of the entire reef, and grabbing the opportunity to see just where all the rocks and weeds were, for later, and teaching a Neah Bay missionary how to find agates -- where the hell did the time go? Of course, every place in the lawn and garden I walked by needed just a few more minutes puliing up grass and weeds, just to save time for later.

I'm starting to feel like Hugh Grant in "About The Boy." Jobs -- how do people fit them in?

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Sink the Kalakala.

Steve Rodriques is considering sinking the 1935 art deco ferry Kalakala.

Speaking to the Clallam Bay/Sekiu Chamber of Commerce on May 19th, Rodriques clarified that Lost Horizons, which owns the ferry, may have to be dissolved, and the hull sunk to become a fish reef.

Accumulating costs, inability to find a permanent home for the Kalakala, difficulties in obtaining permits and the deteriorating condition of the hull have led him to consider this course.

The Kalakala Alliance Foundation plans to rebuild the hull, but specific construction methods are still under consideration. The Foundation owns all the ferry's remaining artifacts, including original furniture, glassware and sinks, and the all-copper wheelhouse, built to support the world's first F001 radar system. The Foundation also owns a data base of over 1000 historical photographs of the Kalakala, and computerized schematics of the original construction. The ferry itself includes two 1000-horsepower engines, capable of generating 7000 watts per hour, built by Anheuser-Busch (then Busch-Sulzer). The company had resorted to building diesel-electric engines in place of brewing beer during Prohibition. Westinghouse built the ferry's electronics and fire-suppression systems, the first of their kind. The Foundation plans to use the artifacts and slides to create a permanent historical exhibit.

"I will get the financing," said Rodriques. "The media follows the Kalakala. It is the world's most well-known derelict vessel." Of over 500 derelict vessels worldwide, only the Kalakala attracts this kind of media attention. A French company filmed the ferry's latest move from its last moorage at Seattle's Lake Union.

"Lost Horizons -- it will go," he said. "If I go into bankruptcy, it can go."

"I will recreate the inside without the shell, and Boeing will recreate that shell," said Rodriques, referring to the ferry's signature silver-colored streamlined steel outer hull, and to a grant he says he will receive from the aerospace and air carrier manufacturer. A company in Oslo, Norway, has proposed a fiberglass sandwich-plate system for the construction, all cold-work, with no welding.

The Kalakala is presently moored in Neah Bay, on the Makah Indian Reservation. Rodriques has been asked to remove the ferry by May 29, because the current in the Strait of Juan de Fuca makes it impossible to maintain stability. Heavy winds had caused the ferry to smack into the pier, requiring an extension of the pier, and the pumping of 35,000 gallons of rainwater from the hull.

"I made a mistake. The Makah know that. I promised them it will not sink. And it will not."

Anchorage and moorage are also impossible at Sekiu, but Rodriques has been promoting a Clallam Bay property, and has contacted the owner in Forks. He has collected letters of resolution and support from local communities. He says he has a letter from the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and that Forks will "give 100% percent." He doesn't know if Port Townsend will sign. He has requested a letter from Clallam Bay/Sekiu.

"Many people want it back," said Rodriques. "It served routes in Seattle for 30 years. About 200 veterans from 1941 and 1942 want to hold a reunion on board. I have protected the history of the vessel and its future." He hopes to take it to a place where there will be no offical problems. "Victoria loves the Kalakala, and may end up with it." He named Bremerton, Mukilteo, Friday Harbor and Bainbridge Island among the sites of failed attempts to find a permanent home for the ferry.

"Tacoma welcomed us," he said. "It costs too much although the moorage is perfect. It's sufficient for a dry-dock. I'm not excluding Tacoma."

"The meeting at Sekiu gives me hope," said Rodriques.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Doin' The Wave
May 23, 2004

No fishing yesterday evening.

The sun was going down golden, and the water was powder-blue, and clear azure where the sunlight glowed through, and the foam was white as snow.

The tide was in, about as far as it was going to come. The waves had built the pea-gravel beach into a head-high cliff. To get to the water, a person took a jump and ran down, to keep the gravel out of her shoes.

There wasn't going to be any fishing, because the tide was in and the waves were crashing against the little cliff. But I had my fishing pole along anyway, because if I couldn't catch, I could practice casting. I'm getting pretty good at casting. I was showing my new neighbor Tracy how to caste with a bail reel, and she said that her husband had taught her to do it just that way. Which was cool, because I'd had to develop the method on my own. I've no fear that any part of civilization will ever disappear. Somebody will figure it all out of then. We'll not get into whether that's a good thing or not. I did get to tell Tracy she casts like a girl.

"I like being a girl!" she said.

"I was more of a tomboy," she said.

"That's my daughter," she said.

I'd just got done terrorizing her daughter and her friend. They wanted to pierce their noses, so I told them all about my own nose ring, and that yes, indeed, it DID hurt, and it DID take a long time to heal, and yes, it did smell pretty rank while it was doing it.

But back to the beach. The kids were all down there fishing, or sort of. Again, they were just casting. The red-headed kid who is the boss colt decided that, like me, he wasn't even going to try putting on any bait. He'd just enjoy flipping the line out as far as it would go. I was doing the best job, of course – I was using my home-made rock-and-wire weights, and those things just take a line out in a high distant arc. Lovely to see. And I'm getting better at thunking that line into just the hole I'm intending. Some of my best casts, my most heart-satisfying flight of line and weight, have happened when the weight snapped the end off the line off, and went flying as though propelled by an atlatl into deep water.

No matter. I usually carry extra weights, or a little extra wire to make a new one. My fishing kit has become my pole and reel, Dan's buck-knife (just in case I ever do get to fillet another fish on the beach), a little camera case somebody left on the beach and that Dan rescued from the tide – and it was full of big hooks and plastic worms, so I'm putting them to good use – a couple plastic bags, a small rag for wiping bait guts off my hands, instead of using my blue jeans, and a little bag of bait. It

Tracy had accidentally left a bowl of big prawns uncooked the night before.

"Don't tell my husband," she'd said. "He'll kill me."

"No, that's not wasted food," I said. "That's bait!" So we'd used it that morning to get a lot of nibbles and no fish. I don't know what Jim would have said to our using big prawns to feed fish with no fillets in return. But Tracy said we'll all go fishing in Jim's big fishing boat next weekend, and since fish caught that was cost about $75.00 a pound if not more, I don't think a few little prawns come into the computation.

While the kids and I were pretending to fish, Dan was down the beach hunting agates. Meanwhile, the kids were playing I Dare You with the waves. On the way back with Dan, I started playing it myself.

By the time I got to the kids, I was ready to tell them that the way to get the big waves to come in was to stand with their backs to the water. Water and fire are carnivorous, and they'll go for you if you turn your back on them or aren't especially careful around you. Fire will literally snatch you bald-headed. That crackle and stink as your hair goes up in smoke is not soon forgotten.

We were discussing the eating habits of the elements when the red-headed kid yelled, "Oh, big one!" and we all took a quick glance and jeezus crimeny, yes, that was indeed a big one, and it was going to have our asses if we didn't jump, and jump fast. But the only place we had to go was straight up that shifting loose pea-gravel cliff.

I haven't screamed and scrambled and laughed so hard in years. We all got soaked. Then we just stood dancing around in the foam out of the pure exhilaration of having lost to the elements, becoming soggy one with them, and survived. Well, not that we were really in danger, but we could have been.

And that evening Dan and I watched "What Lies Below," with the lights out, and scared the bejesus out of ourselves. No fakey psychological thriller, that. Zemeckis promised ghosts, and he delivered. Even though we knew that ghost was going to be in the bathtub, we practically jumped off the couch when we saw her. Ya gotta love it when they're not afraid of the ghosts.





Sunday, May 09, 2004

Well, they're right.

Everybody told me that the water around here is just too cold for swimming.

But of course, my having grown up by Mukilteo, made me think I could get away with it. Mukilteo is a native name for "Good Hunting Ground," or "Place where the ducks died," which, if you think about it, really means the same thing. Mukilteo is about 30 miles north of Seattle, and sort of cock-eyed over from Everett, which is also the home town of Senator Scoop Jackson, and the last place Jack London left his boat. At that place on the globe, you can imagine that the water is pretty cold.

It was cold for the Puget Sound. It wasn't the Pacific Ocean, or even the Strait of Juan de Fuca -- which you can imagine how we'd pronounce when we were kids, if there were no grownups around.

Anyway, we'd swim in the Puget Sound in the winter. Well, not so much swim in it as push each other into it. But we'd go on pushing each other into it, and not jumping out screaming.

I made up for that today. The water was absolutely clear, and nearly still, so you could see the pure clean pebble bottom. I waded in up to my knees, and that was all right. Then I fell in.

Oh, God.

I will admit I managed to jump into it twice more, but that made for a magic three, and that's all of that pie I ever want again. I'm still cold, and I'll be lucky if I don't catch something.

I have now officially swum in the water in Clallam Bay, and I will be damned if I ever do it again. Not even for charity.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Pft.

For all you people who have been reading me at Wolf Food (www.wolffood.blogspot.com), my rantings about kids are about to get a kick in the pants.

Remember I couldn't catch fish? Well, as I've said, I took in two the other day. With the kids hanging over me, watching every move. You catch a fish up here, everybody wants to know how you did it, and what you used.

So yesterday they were not only out on the beach using my terminology -- "That's just wave action!" -- they came along and asked to use one of my homemade rock-and-wire weights, because those things really fling a line WAY out there.

And they told me I should be using a #4 trout hook.

Oy. Some child-hating Cannibal Aunt I am.

Total fake.

The kids took 8 greenlings, by the way, and they and their dad had a great big ol' fish feast.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

More snips from a List:

Me: "Since they're a salt-water fish, if you put them in a bucket of fresh water, they die quickly of osmotic shock."

Them: "Man, remind me not to get on YOUR bad side... I wonder why no one ever tried that with Aquaman..."

Me: "Whoa. There's a thought. See? All these people whining about not being original any more -- and we got loads of ideas bubbling up on this list.

And I was trying to be NICE to the fish.

And the poor fish have a habit of throwing up in the water. So I'm going back to my dad's method -- pull the fish out of the water and whack it on the head really hard. Kills it instantly. Dad was right all along (D'uh -- the older I get, the smarter my old man gets. Is that Twain?) He was a kind man -- he would whack smelt, while other people would throw them into the fry pan alive. I come of a carnivorous family that insisted that animals not be tormented, just because you were going to eat them.

Knew a guy once who killed rabbits for food in an extremely humane manner -- but it was so personal that I don't think I would ever have the emotional guts to do it.

(I still ate the rabbits... and the liver from the bull calves that the neighbors raised for beef. And before anybody starts yelling at me over the bull calves, they were from dairy herds, and you know what happens to surplus dairy bull calves. It's why you don't go swimming in rivers in the Spring in farm country)."

Monday, May 03, 2004

Not so much chickened out of the great polar bear plunge as...

yup, went fishing again. Caught two -- no, they are not sculpin, after all.

They are greenlings. We can thank the kids who crowded around the bucket for that identification.

Well, whatever the heck these things are, they taste very good. Especially quick-filleted and, dregged in ground rice-and-barley, and thrown in hot butter oil. The skins are so tender and fry up so crisp, they're the best part.

But we ate so much fish that I've decided that from now one, one helping of fish, and the rest goes in the freezer. Or we will be growing fins. Greenlings aren't all that small.

The heads, fins and spines went into a pot of boiling nettle-water to make chowder tonight. Once I've stripped the meat, the remains will go out in the compost heap. And before you compost purists start whimpering, "No meat in the compost!" I have fresh manure in my compost, and the organisms that go with it tear through meat and oil and just about anything else in it. And I don't have to turn it, either. Only prissy people have to turn their compost, or pick through the ingredients. Compost sterilizes the parasites and germs in manure. Just not fast.

While I was down there at the beach, the neighbor came by with her little half-grown golden retriever, Wylie (all her husband's dogs are named Wylie, so he can always remember them. Does he fear Alzheimer's?).

Dog not only ate my raw mussel bait, but went down on the tidal rocks and caught a wolf-eel.

Talk about a beach dog.

And I now have a fishing hat. A small cap from the U.S. Shoup, DDG 86. (missile frigate? says Dan) washed up on the beach. Just my size. Very rakish. Spotted with grey, so nobody will want it back. Belonged to J. P- somebody.

Huh... we wondered why those helicopters and Coast Guard ships were cruising around here. I hope nobody's overboard, and I have their hat.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Went fishing again. Had the hook all baited. Oh, the lovely cast -- as the entire rig, hook, line and sinker, flew loose in a perfect arc, right where I wanted it to go -- no longer attached to the line.

Oh well. I have a rule: fishing ends when I (1) hook a fish or (2) loose my rig or (3) Dan gets tired of hunting agates.

So I headed back to the house, put the fishing pole in the corner and returned to the beach to help Dan find agates. Beautiful walk up the spit in the sunshine -- but what was this? The river water was leaking out through the neck of the spit.

After a mile's slog through the sand, we found out why -- the river had lost its mouth. Dried up for the summer. So what water it has goes out through the loose pebbles of the spit. However, it leaves behind a pool of water about 10-15 feet deep. Later in the season it goes all green and slimey. But right now, it's perfectly clear, with a pebble bottom, and slowly warming in the sun. Sort of.

Stay tuned for tomorrow... when I plan to go celebrate spring by walking up and diving in. You should be able to hear the screaming when I hit the cold water.

That, or I will totally chicken out.



Friday, April 30, 2004

Caught a big ol' sculpin! Now I know where they are...

I think I've figured out the quickest and easiest way to kill a sculpin -- place it in a bucket of cold fresh water. Since it's a salt-water fish, it dies quickly of osmotic shock. Damnit, I am NOT going to behead or gut a fish that is still gasping! Did you know they have a crop, and swallow pebbles like a chicken?

The one yesterday was about 14 inches long, and I made a complete dog's breakfast of filleting it -- but don't matter, chunks of meat go good in chowder!

And I'm learning.

Yes, when I've worked my brains out on the computer, and I need rest for the evening's long hours of art, I take a break on the beach. Lying on the warm stones. Seagulls flying overhead, or eagles, or crows. Some big dog with his head in my lap, or making a stinky dog pillow under my head. The loon pair swimming within 20 feet to watch us because they are the nosiest animal on the planet (read Thoreau -- he used to play tag with them and hide-and-go seek). Listening to the loons sing to each other, watching the courtship dances. My feet propped under the pole stuck in the sand, for when a sculpin grabs the mussle bait and takes off with the pole for deep water -- it should wake me up in time to grab it... Fish for supper!

Ain't life hard?

Do you KNOW how much wood you can get into a VW bug? Or strapped on top?



Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Agate Hunting As A Blood Sport.

Agate hunting is supposed to be an old man's activity, right? Slow strolls down the beach, hour by hour, stopping now and again to flip a shiny pretty stone into a little bag or bottle. Right?

So how come agate hunting with DAN involves heading out to the beach when there are thundering waves about three feet taller than either one of us, racing to snatch agates back from the foaming surf, running like hell because ONE of us -- I won't say which one -- is not wearing her rubber boots. Straight up a loose gravel dune. Hoping the surf won't snatch her back into the undertow. Remembering what the local maps say about logs in the surf -- "beach logs can KILL." Praying there isn't one out there with her name on it, that will come in on the ninth wave (always the biggest), bounce off the reef, and cave her little pointed skull in.

But we got agates the size of pullet eggs, and one that has got to be carnelian, and some sard, and -- what do they call yellow agates? And something big and translucent the size of my palm, that, while we weren't sure if it was agate or not, sure passed the stress test for sugar agates. If in doubt if what you've got is agate or sugar agate -- put it on a rock, and use another rock as a hammer. An agate won't even be chipped. A sugar agate will shatter to glistening bits -- just like sugar.

And on top of that, the colors of the waves were glorious, just un-fucking-believeable. Turquoise, cobalt, teal-green, foam the color of snow and vanilla ice-cream. And when the sun went down in a mist of orange gold, the orange and purple and deep blue flooded out in peacock's-tail eyes of hue. It just made you stand and gasp.

And Buddha, the black 1/2-Lab - 1/2 Greyhound was helping by catching rocks, as usual. He can catch any rock thrown to him, but we prefer perfect little round ones, so he won't hurt his teeth.

The new term for a sugar agate is "Buddha Rock." As in -- "Oh, look, a Buddha Rock! Want it? Want it? Catch!" And Buddha flies up in the air in a sleek black arc and catches the rock on his tongue.

Buddha Rock. Sounds like a band.

So does Corpse Octopus -- but that's something that's going to be published later, on www.moderntales.com

One of these days we're going to have to figure out how to make jewelry out of all these agates.

Answered a letter to the Forks Forum (what? I'm making all my email do double-duty...):

"Dear -- "

"After reading your letter in the Forks Forum, and as a fellow writer, let me say "welcome" to the West West End. We just moved here in October 2003 - because we wanted THAT beach. We live up on Slip Point, and can't get enough of it.

Let me reassure you: whatever opinions people on the other side of the Great Water (Puget Sound) may have formed of this area, you have no reasons to fear.

Because I'm a member of the Clallam Bay/Sekiu Chamber of Commerce, the Clallam Bay website now has a listing for artists, writers and books. The place is loaded with artists and writers -- and they have all sorts of opinions. And they're not afraid to express them!

Like yourself, I drive a VW. But it's a 1970 beige bug. I keep swearing I'm going to buy a pick-up, but Honig has been hauling everything from wood scraps for the stove, to cedar shavings for the cats' litter boxes (am presently involved in an experiment I was requested to make, to see if cedar will stop imported ivy in gardens).

Secondly, you'll find your values may change. Actually, out here, life IS handed to you. Glorious sunsets. Agate-hunting as a blood sport. Fish you can catch and fry up yourself. Helpful, fun, smart, comical neighbors. Elk in the neighbors' back fields. Big happy healthy dogs to walk with you on the beaches. Big strong cats that go to the beaches with the kids. Kids who play outside, rain or shine! You'll forget about the cell phones and credit cards, because you'll find other ways to complete your lives.

As for being tree-huggers -- you don't have to say you aren't. You'll be arriving right when people are realizing that the way we handle forests have got to change. With the price of gasoline going up -- and it will continue UP --we've got to find a way to make sure every drop used to get wood out of the forests will not be wasted. The inefficient 19th-century methods of using forests are changing, as people begin to realize that a tree is not a "crop plant" -- it's a production unit. We can only keep clear-cutting so long, before the production base breaks down, and we're left with scrub that won't hold up those glacial-till hills.

As a writer, faced with the problems of acid paper, you'll already know that paper made from trees is expensive, both in terms of money and wasted water and bleach, and in the quick break-down of books and artwork. Use anything else on the planet to make paper -- corncobs, soy leavings, old clothes -- it's all available. Trees are too precious a research to be frittered away on paper (I grew up in Everett, and my whole family worked in the woodpulp-to-paper industry; we knew how poisonous and archaic it is).

It's not just loggers or fishermen out here -- it's also people who can't get enough of avant-garde movies at the libraries. People who write. People who are into theater. You've never seen a controversy as fearless and hot as the one we've been having in the Forks Forum (www.forksforum.com) over The Vagina Monologues. And while we're at it, let's remember that the loggers and fishermen watch those same movies and make beautiful art during the winter. They just need a way to sell it to the outside world. And since everybody wants the local environment restored and the tourist trade developed -- who better to act as guides and experts in management than the loggers and fishermen? (Or fisherfolk -- our local women don't just sit home and make tea!).

Come on over. Become part of the rennaissance of the West West end. You'll be welcomed with open arms.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Let's see, what was going on at the Slip Point beach yesterday...

Dan and I were down hunting agates as usual. You'd have to have a PhD in rocks to figure out all the wave-smoothed glacier-dumped pebbles rolling around on this beach. And forget about coming up here and strolling -- these pebbles are a real workout. You'll need a couple weeks just to learn to walk in them. A mile on these rocks is like 3 miles up a mountain, and back down again. And I'm talkin' Wagon Wheel (which I've done, in the Cascades -- in three hours, up and down), which is listed as "brutal."

Anyway, kid came down and leaped into the surf, gorgeous turquoise- and cobalt-blue surf, frilled with boiling snow-white foam. Had his surfboard with him, and his wetsuit, because without it this water will kill you in a half hour.

Surfing up here is for the ballocky (or ovary-y), because the water is cold, and the thing that makes the waves hump up are ship-killing reefs, that are decorated here and there with the iron knees from 19th-century shipwrecks.

The guys' friend came down and used a piece of driftwood as a bat to shoot big pebbles out at his friend in the surf. Surfboy covered his head and pretended he'd been hit. While riding in the reef waves. Beachboy was on the edge of the pebble cliff, not paying attention to whether or not he was going to fall in, or if he'd step into the part of the beach that was all like quicksand, due to the water under it, where the heavy waves could snatch him out into the nasty undertow.

Am I building up to a bad finish here? Nope. This is just normal fun up here. Nobody gets hurt playing with the beach. The kids at the day-care toddle up the waves, and the dogs swim into them.

Meanwhile, I'm up on the hill with the agates, laughing and pointing and clapping. I'm easily amused. But then, you have to understand that I spent a lot of time being dragged to drag-races as a kid.

Drag races are incredibly boring for spectators. Especially in the daytime. Two pastel-colored metal arrows, WAY over there, so the sound of their engines is muffled by distance. Going by in two straight, short lines. Over and over and over. When the daytime time trials (save me!) are finally over, the nighttime races come on. At a distance. Two metal arrows with muffled engines and lights, over and over and over again.

Even stock-car racing was more fun. And then only because you lived for the crashes. I remember those, vividly.

And -- don't tell Mom -- demolition derbies. Especially Powder-puff, cuz the women didn't care, and drove like banshees.

I'm easily amused.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Well, I have living -- literally living -- proof that Dan is the most compassionate and empathic man on the planet.

Sunday he was up hunting agates under the Slip Point cliff, and I had, as usual, flopped a line in the water from the beach. Now you must understand that I have been fishing for over 6 months, and have caught no fish. I'd lost so many sinkers that I've begun making my own out of beach stones and twisted wire.* Safer than lead sinkers, too.

The last time I'd caught a fish (see below) it had been from one particular hole out by the rocks. Always before, I'd slipped and scrambled out over the sea-bladder-grown rocks, to try to slip the bait and sinker into it again. Since the weather has begun to warm, the kelp beds below have been grabbing my rig and I've been unable to get it back without breaking the line.

I've gotten better at casting, too. I can pretty well throw a sinker-rock into whatever spot I like, using a reel that was never meant for casting. It's sort of what my dad used to call a bastard rig -- a pole a little too long for fresh water, a little too short for the sea, but useable in both. The open reel works for casting if I hold the line around my finger after slipping the bail. Yeah, you're not supposed to do it that way, but I gotta work with what I have.

So I thought I might as well sit on the beach and pretend to fish, if nothing else. It was what Barry Fitzgerald in The Quiet Man called "A nice soft day" -- very soft grey mizzle, that didn't get though the on-coming leaves of the maples, or the heavy brown cable-knit fisherman's sweather my sister made for me, or the black felt beret. Sitting nice and cozy in my rubber boots, on the plastic bag I always take along for many purposes -- gathering scallops, or rocks, or nettles (nettle omelets -- oh so tender!) or knotweed (steamed and marinated for salads) or beach peas (very soon now). And for a place to sit, especially on a wet cold pebble beach.

The bait was a mussel I'd picked up off the beach and slipped out of its shell with my Swiss Army knife. Threaded a barbless red egg-hook through the edges of the mantle and the siphon, so it would more or less keep the booger in place. Yup, that's the technical term for the rest of the soft gooey bits of a mussel. Well, it's the technical term around HERE. And this time, I'd put a little egg sinker right behind the hook, just to keep it on the sea-floor where something could sniff at it.

Flipped the rig into the water and sat down on my plastic bag to watch the drizzle. Dan was puttering around amongst the agates, making a soft rattling sound to match the deeper rattle of the little waves. Fish don't bite much in rough weather. The tide was just beginning to go out. Supposed to be a good time.

After about 10 minutes, I got bored and decided to reel in the rig and try it again. It started back and -- "Great. Stuck." Gave it another pull. Pft. Still stuck. But.... was that a wriggle in the line?

The end of the pole bobbed, and I began to evenly reel in the line. I wasn't going to pull it this time -- I was just going to keep reeling and reeling. And even though the line was hard to pull in, it kept coming. And it didn't feel stuck -- it felt heavy. Oh, man. Did I have a fish?

Sure did. Little 10-inch sculpin came sliding out of the water onto the gravel. "Supper!" I exulted to Dan, who didn't hear me. Last time, the foot-long sculpin had gulped the whole rig, and was hooked way down in the throat. This one was in the lip. Gently lowered it into the plastic bag and carefully holding its head, worked the hook out of its lip.

I walked up to where Dan was sitting and said, "Hey, watch this for me."

"You caught one?"

"Yup. And they don't die easy. Not even if you drive a nail through their head. So I figure the kindest thing to do is to just let him pass away here. Watch it for me?"

He said yes, and I went back to find another mussel. I figured that if I could get another fish, we'd have a real nice supper. After about 3 minutes he came down and said, "Can we let it go?"

"Let it go? We're gonna eat it."

"No, it's thrashing around in the bag and gasping. I can't stand to see it suffer."

Suffice it to say that I finally agreed to let it go. Took it down to the water's edge, and slipped it in. It just washed back and forth in the soft waves. "Oops. Maybe we'll have to eat it." Well, I knew a little about fish CPR -- I'd seen my dad do it. I took the fish gently in my hands, and washed it forward through the water, trying to drive water through the gills, to get oxygen back into its system. Waved the body so the tail would undulate in the water.

It took about 7 minutes, but the fish woke up and began to wave its tail by itself. I let it gently go, and it cruised back into the depths.

Dan and I have agreed that I'll only go fishing if we're out of the eggs we buy from a local farmer -- or if we don't have any other form of protein in the house. Or if he's just hungry for fish. I don't blame him for not wanting to see them killed. All through human existance,there has been a steadily-developing empathy for others' feelings. I'm beginning to think that what we call a sociopath is simply a more primitive brain. We've always had butchers, because there have been more developed farmers who could feel the pig's pain. If I can kill the fish, I'll kill it -- he doesn't have to. But I'm still going to share it with him.

I'm proud of having such a kind husband. And I'm pretty pleased at being able to respond to his feelings. I get kindness points, too.

But if that fish had been a 15-incher, I would have sat on it before I let it go.

*(that these stones, multicolored and in many colors, with a black rayon neck loop attached, have begun to sell as magical talismans, is another story.)