Self Deception and Cheap Paint

February is my favorite month; it begins with my birthday and ends with The Fisherpoets Gathering. This year is no different except this year my birthday is causing me to reflect more than normal. You see up till now my brain has done a pretty good job of convincing itself I’m still in my twenties, and its co-conspirator (my body) has done a fair job of going along with the ruse. But this year I will be turning forty nine and my brain is having a hard time laundering the birthdays to make it appear there’s only twenty-something (there’s no convenient Cayman Island account where one can stash a few birthdays). My joints are threatening to strike unless I stop working them like they’re twenty; they seem to be partial to this new concept of working smarter rather than harder, which looks good on paper, but implementation can be problematic unless you actually have gotten smarter. My eyes are still going along with the con; they claim everyone started using a smaller font in 2015. Needless to say, even someone as skilled at self-deception as me will have to admit at forty-nine I’m probably closer to the end of my road than the beginning, and that fact is causing some reflection.

                However, reflection I’m finding out is only painful if you aren’t proud of what you see there. Yesterday as Tiff and I were meeting our off-the-boat customers at The Fish House, and then later on when I was making restaurant deliveries, it hit me like a ton of fish, I’M PROUD OF WHAT WE’VE BUILT HERE! I feel so much richer as a result of all the new friendships with chefs, store owners, farmers-market customers, distributors, and other members of my new fishing community. I really enjoy providing that connection between the WILD fish natural resource that a lifetime of harvesting has caused me to love, and the members of my community who for a variety of reasons- quality, sustainability, social benefits, etc. have sought out that connection. I like having the opportunity to answer questions about harvest techniques, fish stocks, sustainability measures and the myriad of details people wonder about the life of a fisherman, Likewise, I’m excited to learn about the details of non-fishing lifestyles from our customers/friends. It wasn’t that long ago when the idea of performing all the steps on the supply chain (harvest, process, distribute) was just a dream that I didn’t have much faith would come true. So I must say, today, almost on the eve of my forty-ninth year, I am almost moved to tears with gratitude, (Tiff is rolling her eyes). I must be getting soft in my old age!

                Don’t worry I’m not going to get all maudlin with you and start making you read a bunch of sappy crap about all the obstacles we had to overcome to get here, but I would like to say this dream would never have come true without the willingness to take the risk necessary to pursue it. It also occurred to me risks are easier to take if you still believe you’re in your twenties. So, I guess if I had to come up with a moral for my little story here it would be this; let the wisdom of your years define your dreams, but go after them as if you still believe you’re twenty! And that my friends and $3.50 will get you a cup of coffee these days.

                -fair weather and good fishing!

                Because you were masochistic enough to read this far I’m going to punish you further with a poem I recently wrote.

.

 

PAINT’S CHEAP

Paint’s cheap,

for a hundred dollars a can

you can turn the old new again,

a two-part epoxy face lift.

One pass of the roller-

blemishes and imperfections disappear. With the

proper amount of prep-work dull and cracked will become smooth and

shiny. Let the needle-scaler chip away at the problem areas.

 

When you’re done painting

It’s important to step back and

admire your work. Take a minute to appreciate the

freshly painted perfection of your net-reel, say. Because,

you know as soon as you use it, it will begin its slow path of degradation

back to the state that caused you to paint it

in the first place.

 

But for that moment,

let those things you can’t control slip away, because maybe you cant

change the weather, or fishery politics, and maybe

your bouts with optimism are less frequent

                these days…

but, right now

your net-reel is flawless.

Football Food


In 1988 the price for Sockeye Salmon in Cook Inlet Alaska hit $2.65 a pound. We had a record season on my grandfather’s gillnet boat ‘Snug II’ that summer, and that was the year I decided commercial fishing was what I wanted to do for a living. In 1989 however, Cap’t. Joe Hazelwood ran the oil tanker Exxon Valdez onto some rocks in Prince William Sound, and some of the spilled oil made its way to Cook Inlet, forcing the drift gillnet fishery closed and beginning my education on the way the world works. When we came back in ‘90 there were no fish and the market had turned to farmed salmon to fill the void. In ‘91 the price for sockeyes in Cook Inlet was less than a third of what it had been three short years ago. Two more years, and the price hit its bottom of 35 cents a pound. Justified or not, since that time salmon farms and oil companies have come to symbolize for me all that is wrong and corrupt in this world.

Fast-forward fifteen years, and my son and I are sitting in the cab of my old truck at a football field in Astoria, Oregon, watching his teammates and the opposing team arrive for what was going to be his first football game. I could tell he was a little nervous. I was too, but I was trying to take his mind off it as much as I could. At one point he looked over at me and asked, “Do you think the other team eats farmed fish?” I had to restrain some tears, because it was at that point I realized he listens to what I say even if I’m not talking to him or am even aware he is listening. I remember feeling a sense of pride that what I talked about seemed important enough for him to store away. I realized I now had to caution myself when talking around him, knowing that what I was saying was possibly being mentally recorded. I don’t want my boy to grow up bitter.

In commercial fishing money is tight at times, and I am often gone working. Over the years I have had many doubts about what I have chosen to do for a living, wondering if my family would be better off had I found another means of support. The one thing however, that I have never questioned is my ability to feed my family the very finest protein available on this planet. I believe building a human body is like building anything else: the quality of materials used plays a huge part in the permanence and usefulness of the finished product. I was raised on salmon, halibut and moose. Over the years there have been times that I treated my body and brain very unkindly, but they have taken everything I have dished out, and somehow are still operational. It has been my hope that by replicat­ing the diet I had while growing up, I will be able to give my kids an advantage many parents are unable to give their kids these days.

Maybe it sounds selfish, but I have done a fair amount of head scratching over this, and I think it is natural for a parent to want to give their child an advantage over the other kids their age. Also, I am distrustful of anyone who, when asked why they do something, fail to list at least one selfish motivation. I have come to the conclu­sion that in order for my children to reach their full potential they are going to need to be challenged by other kids their age with strong bodies and minds. The more I become aware of the state of the world around me, and the condition in which we are going to leave this planet for the next generation, the more strongly I feel it is my responsibility to do what I can to help kids other than mine become the healthiest, smartest adults they can be. The crap we’ve been serving on the school lunch tray runs counter to this end. The obesity, heart disease, and diabetes statistics prove it. We have tied these kid’s hands behind their backs, and given them a challenge few in our generation have been able to meet. I believe a big part of the solution is wild, sustainable fish in the school lunch programs, especially if you live within 150 miles of the coast.

I want to be an example to my kids. Teach them when life gives them adversity, they can either be a victim and just complain about it, or get pro-active and do something about it, even if it’s wrong. Doing something forces them to take a position. As long as they own their actions they will be able to learn from their mistakes, hopefully in doing so they will become better individuals, and make the world a better place in the process.

 

FOOTBALL FOOD

If it’s true,

what they say,

and you are what you eat,

my boy, with his

ling-cod-fueled tenacity and stamina,

is going to go through your boy

like a hot knife through partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,

and leave him laying there

like some disease-laden feedlot cow

staring stupidly, wondering,

what just happened.

Now , it’s not my place

to tell anyone how to raise their kids,

but I hope someone

will build their boy out of ling-cod too.

Because my boy ,

is going to need someone

to play with.

 

Petrale Soul


To commemorate our new Seafood Watch GREEN rating for Petrale Sole, here's a poem I wrote about the most delicious fish on the planet!


Petrale Soul

 

The exquisite Petrale Sole,

is like the Yin-Yang sign of the sea.

They have their dark mysterious side,

the other white as purity.

They remind me that death creates life,

and ugliness defines beauty.

But when cooked with olive oil and garlic,

both sides taste the same to me!

Anchors, Change and that 92' Dodge

                For reasons that will become apparent a little further down the road, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about anchors, and change, and their relationship to one another.  See, in the nautical world one has an anchor to stop, or at least slow down movement, because on the ocean everything is always moving, even when it appears to be sitting still.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, it becomes desirable to become motion-less.  Maybe it’s because you’re tired and you just want to take a nap without drifting into something, or maybe you have a prop full of crab line and it just killed your main engine and you’re only in five fathoms drifting hard toward the beach.  In case of emergency, or for comfort anchors are important and it’s not wise to leave the dock without one.

                In a way, motion and change are synonymous.  The dictionary describes motion as ‘the act or process of changing position or place.’  Anyone who’s made it to the diaper stage knows, life is all about change.  Creating it, resisting it, avoiding it, dealing with it, doesn’t matter, from the cradle to the grave, its constant and unrelenting.  It follows, in a metaphoric sense; in life, anchors are just as important as they are at sea.  I realize at this point you may be feeling a little nausea set in, and you’re asking yourself “what the hell is a metaphoric life-anchor?” followed by some comments about the species of my mother.  And I will propose to you, it is something that remains the same over time, generation to generation, like tradition, superstition, religion, and myths; values and beliefs held over time that help us individually, culturally and as a species, process and deal with change.  Something we can turn to in times of emergency, or when we are in need of comfort.

                I picked up this book the other day by Charles Frazier, called ‘thirteen moons’, I highly recommend it.  It’s about one of the not so glorious times in our nation’s history, during the Jackson administration, when we tried to commit genocide on the American Indian, the Trail of Tears, manifest destiny, all that.  I’m not going to get all preachy on you, please be patient; I’m almost to the part where it applies to fish.  See, during that time, in an effort to control a race of people who had existed on the land for thousands of years with little or no impact, in one generation we wiped out the wild Buffalo, and many species of Deer and Elk.  I’d like to point out, they weren’t wiped out by the people who relied on hunting them for food, they were wiped out by the military and mercenaries.  Sure, some of those mercenaries were Indians, but they were Indians who made a decision to ignore their old traditions and superstitions in exchange for a new tradition, wherein, as long as the end is financial profit, then the end justifies the means.  

                The reason I’m risking losing customers and being called a communist, is because I think we are in the same situation now as we were back then, except this time it’s the ocean.  Instead of Buffalo, we’re talkin’ Salmon, instead of Elk its Tuna, and instead of Indians it’s the small independent fisherman (some of whom are Indians).  Once again it’s not the people who rely on them for food, it’s Pebble Mine, irresponsible energy companies, polluting aqua cultures, individuals and organizations who have chosen to ignore long term social and environmental consequences for short term financial gain.  Now, I’m a capitalist too, but I’d like to believe I’m a smart capitalist.  Unless we start prioritizing differently, we are going to be in a situation like we already are in on land, instead of a wide variety of wild game; we have Chicken, Beef, Lamb and Pork.  Paul Greenberg touches on this in his book ‘Four Fish’ he suggests we could end up losing a whole bunch of ocean bio-diversity in exchange for a few species of fish, bred for their adaptability to farming and quick growth with a minimum amount of food input.  Instead of wild schools of fish roaming the ocean we’ll have huge aquacultures, or marine CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).  Romantic huh?

                If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s someone who complains and complains without at least offering a solution and I’d rather be called a lot of things before hypocrite.  We all know things are messed up and if all we do is focus on the problem that’s taking the lemming way out, just get more and more depressed and keep running faster and faster towards the cliff.  So what I’m going to propose and the reason I’ve been going on and on about anchors is this; I think we need to modify our anchor.  Or, more accurately we need to un-modify it, we need to re-adopt some of those old traditions that allowed our species to exist on this planet for thousands of years with little or no impact.  How I suggest we do that is by looking at some of those old cultures.  Financial profit is a concept totally incomprehensible to them; they were all about social and environmental.  Now, I know we can’t just throw our monetary system out the door, so what I’m ultimately suggesting I guess is a hybrid anchor, one that combines old values with new, and attaches equal importance to social and environmental profits as it does to financial.  In other words adopt a triple bottom line approach. 

                The triple bottom line approach is already being used by companies like Patagonia and there’s a new kind of corporation called a B corp that uses a triple bottom line approach.  The Morro Bay Community Quota Fund is where I first heard about them and when we formed South Bay Wild we included the triple bottom line in our mission and vision and are currently going through the assessment process to become a B corp.  If not just surviving but thriving is important enough to us I sincerely believe we can undo a lot of what’s been done, in one generation simply by voting with our dollars and supporting companies who prioritize those values.  When you think about it, it’s probably a big part of the reason why you take the time to go to the farmers markets.  What we end up with is going to reflect the choices this generation makes, I’d like to think it could still be beautiful.

                Finally, because there’s really no limit to the amount of intestinal discomfort I’m willing to inflict, I’m going to include a poem I wrote about anchors and change. 

Fair weather and good fishin-

Rob Seitz   

               

Anchors, Change & that 92’ Dodge

 

On the ocean everything’s always moving, even when it appears to be sitting still.

You’ll find out if you stick around long enough, constant change can test one’s skill.

 

When ocean and events move too fast, you’ll need an anchor you can throw,

to buy time to take inventory, assess, how to avoid the rocky shore.

 

That old 92’ Dodge is an anchor of sorts I’ve found,

when life gets moving too fast it ties me to solid ground.

 

See, grandpa’s last truck was my first, when he died he left it to me.

With a note reading, “take good care of my truck & it’ll be the only one you’ll ever need.”

 

So when I find myself thinking too hard and my auto-pilot can’t see,

I go for a ride in that old truck and Gramps comes along to council me.

 

He says,

“ya know boy when you’ve got your head up your ass, installing a transparent belly-button will help you to see.”

“But pulling your cranium out of your rectum makes a lot more sense to me.”

 

“You’ll find tomorrow comes sometimes, and it’s better to be wise than bold,

take good care of yourself just in case you happen to get old.”

 

“The thing about those radio-fish is they’re already in someone else’s hold,

turn down the volume, pay attention to the signs, figure out where your boats gotta go.”

 

“You’ll see in time, the fisherman who has the better luck,

ain’t always the one who’s driving the newest truck”

 

“Sometimes money is tight and flashy won’t pay the bills,

the less you owe, the less you need, and the fewer fish you gotta kill.”

 

“So, maintain what you’ve got, might not be pretty but it’ll do,

remember, when it’s a hard pull, slow and steady gets you through.”

 

“And those fish, they’re like you & that truck, you gotta take care of the sea,

or you’ll find yourself on the side of the road, thumb in the air, without a fishery.”

 

“Truth isn’t always popular, and life ain’t just about collecting wealth,

let the idiots point and laugh, but make sure you’re true to yourself”

 

I don’t always like hearing what he has to say, but he’s pretty much always right,

a couple of times if he wasn’t already dead, I’d have invited him out of the truck for a fight.

 

One generation grinds to the next, when my turns over I wish those left luck.

And I’ll leave them with one word of advice; take good care of that old truck.

 

New Bedford's Working Waterfront Festival

                Your friendly fish lady Tiffani, and I returned early Tuesday morning from The Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford Mass.  Thanks to a fire at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Friday, flights had been sufficiently delayed to cause a near riot feeling by the time we came through there on Monday.  Luckily the mayhem was close enough to being cleared up we were only slightly delayed, but it was delay enough to force us to pull an all-nighter which in turn required yesterday (Tuesday) to be an unscheduled ‘brain-dead day’.  Now, with all that out of the way, feelin’ good, (though the condition of my brain is still arguable) I will try to impart to you the highpoints of our trip. 

                We were invited out to participate in the festival, Tiff to do a cooking demonstration and I to read some of my poetry and participate on a couple panels. The festival took place over two days, Saturday & Sunday, and occupied the two main docks that make up New Bedford’s working waterfront.  Music and the spoken word were performed on the ‘Main Stage’ and the ‘Steamship Stage’ as well as on the fish boat ‘Alaska’.  The cooking demonstration tent also housed the ‘Seafood Throwdown’ where two local chefs competed using only a species of fish made known to them just before the contest and ingredients obtained at the on-premises farmers market.  The scallop shuckin’ contest is always the favorite, but there was also a web (net) sewing contest and a tug boat muster, along with a whale boat and survival suit race.  The ‘Food Tent’ fed everyone, and the thirty or so venders and other industry related organizations completed the festival. 

                On Friday before the festival, in three teams made up of poets and musicians, we went to some of the local high-schools to read poetry or perform music.  That night the same crew did an intimate show in the upstairs of the historic ‘Seaman’s Bethel’ where parts of the 1956 movie of ‘Moby Dick’ had been filmed.  Placards lined the walls dating back to the early 1800’s commemorating whaling crews, and other seamen that had been lost to the sea, intensifying the feeling that we were in a sacred place, I imagined the crews of all those vessels occupying the balcony seats.

                Tiffani’s cooking demonstration went well, her ceviche turned out awesome!  A surprising number of people had never had it before and were pleased to learn of a fish dish so great tasting and easy to prepare.  For days leading up to the event I offered to do the demonstration with her because I know she’s a little shy about talking to crowds, but my independent bride kept telling me she wanted to do it on her own.  However, when crunch time came she decided it wouldn’t be so bad to have me up there, so I talked to the crowd and read a couple poems while she prepared her dish.  It sure was nice to feel needed!

                When we weren’t busy with festival stuff Tiff and I tried to cram in as much sight-seeing as we could, cobblestone streets, whale-boat captain’s homes, seems you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting something historic in New Bedford.  We went on a boat tour of the harbor; saw the hurricane gate, which can be closed to protect the harbor from unusually foul weather.  The Whale Museum is a must-see, dedicated to New Bedford’s rich whaling history without glorifying the act of hunting whales, also giving an education about whales and their need for protection.    

                    As often happens with me and things involving art I didn’t realize beforehand how badly I was in need of it.  Working all the time, even when its work I enjoy seems to suck the color out of life, and things were starting to get kinda grey.  Re-connecting with some old friends and making a ton of new ones, sharing my contribution with them, letting them share theirs with me, really re-charged my batteries and now I’m ready to push hard till Thanksgiving.  Tiff and I are already looking forward to next year’s festival.    

Fair weather and good fishin-

-Rob Seitz             

Seafood Watch, Curious Victories and Clem Stark

                I received an email from my Bristol Bay salmon fisherman friend Jon; he said he was the last set-netter to leave Nushagak Point this summer, called it “a curious victory, of sorts.”  I immediately fell in love with his term, ‘curious victory’, had to mull it over for a while, chew on it for a couple of days.  Then I responded saying, ‘congratulations on your curious victory, funny, but a large part of the reward system for this business seems to be based on curious victories, so I hope you enjoy it’.  Why I liked Jon’s term so much I wasn’t quite sure at first, but it kept popping back up in my brain, forcing me to think about it, like my sub-conscious heard something in there it knew I needed to ponder.  So I’ve been a-ponderin’, and I think I’ve gotten to the essence of curious victories, I think I know why that term keeps insinuating itself upon my psyche.  A curious victory to me is one that is hard to make someone else understand why you feel like you’ve won something, because the victory may have cost more than one could possibly expect to get out of winning it, or the cost out-weighs the tangible reward.  A curious victory is one that other, smarter people aren’t necessarily competing for, because they know in the end it probably won’t pencil out.  Here is where the importance of curious victories comes in, because few others want to win it, and chances are it will cost more than one will visibly get out of it, the true reward must be an internal one.  A curious victory is private; it satisfies something only the individual competing for it can understand.   

                You may have seen in the news lately, it made all the big papers, Seafood Watch just changed their rating for 21 species harvested by my fishery, the Westcoast Groundfish Trawl Fishery, moving them from the ‘Avoid’ category to ‘Best Choice’, or ‘Preferred Alternative’.  Huge news for my industry, something to be proud of for sure, especially when you consider it was declared a federal disaster in ‘2000.  As a parent, sustainability has taken on new meaning and importance; certainly this new rating is something everyone can agree was worth competing for, why then does this term curious victory keep popping into my head when I think of it?  I mean, to still be standing, to still be a participant in this fishery now that we’ve reached this huge, momentous milestone that we’ve worked so hard and sacrificed so much for over the last decade and a half; shouldn’t I be overjoyed, proud, shouting it from the rooftops?

                The key to my feelings about the Seafood Watch assessment, and why it feels like a dubious victory at best, lies not in what we’ve achieved, but in the cost.  Remember, if you are one of the last left standing, it means you’ve seen a lot of buddies fall, may have even been the cause of the fall for some of them.  This fishery over the last fifteen years has become increasingly competitive with diminishing rewards.  At the end of ’02 we had the Federal Buyback, a fleet reduction measure, where half the fleet got a loan from the federal government to buy-out the other half.  The owners of the boat I was running at the time decided to sell out, but neglected to tell me until a month before it went through, which means I hit the job market at a time when there was half the amount of available jobs, but twice as many people competing for them.  I found a job, but I had to take it from another guy whose only crime was being ten years older than me, the age I am now.  I guess what I’m trying to say here is; when I think of all the choices I was forced to make, all the sacrifices, missed birthdays and ballgames, in order to be one of those still standing, I ask myself would I do it all again knowing what I know now, or did it cost too much?  Would I choose to change occupations and keep my friendship with Jack (the guy whose job I took)?

                Don’t get me wrong; now that I’m here I wouldn’t give it up for the world.  I’m proud of our accomplishment; it was necessary and a worthwhile endeavor.  Maybe it’s that reaching the milestone causes one to reflect.  I know these days you don’t have to look very hard to find stories of hardship and sacrifice, fishermen don’t have the corner on that market.  But this Seafood Watch victory for me is bitter-sweet, red is the color of blood and it took some blood to get that green rating.  So I’ve been thinking a lot the last couple of days, what would I be doing now had I made some of those choices differently?  Then I read this poem by my buddy Clem Starck, and I smile a little to myself and go quietly back to work.

Fair weather and good fishin-

Rob Seitz

 

                          OTHER WISE

Stopping off at the Dari Mart in Harrisburg

for a six-pack of PBR,

I reflect on the path my life might have taken

had the conjunction of planets

been otherwise.

                              All things considered, I could have been

the founder of a U-Bake Pizza empire,

or wound up

living with a ditzy blonde and her two kids

in a trailer park

outside Harrisburg.

                                                             -Clemens Stark

The Connection


Pat and Kessler on Pats boat Veronika K  

Pat and Kessler on Pats boat Veronika K

 

I wrote The Connection years after it happened. I remember in the writing, the biggest struggle was to represent the events as honestly as I could – I didn’t want my son to feel minimized in the story whatsoever, even though that’s what I was doing to him within the story. I wanted my inability to understand his point of view to be the true obstacle between us, as it is with so many parents about so many issues. Once Veronica (his mom) intervened, I had no choice but to hear him. He was in his twenties, a grown man and on his own when I sent the story to him...besides his mother, he was the first person to see it. I needed his stamp of approval before I sent it out into the world. To my relief he told me the story accurately portrays events as he remembers them too. His mom is the hero of the story, even though she plays a small part, her role is the most important one. I hope you enjoy it.
— Pat Dixon

The Connection

The season is winding up, and as my deckhand, I look to you for help.

“Tomorrow’s the first big day,” I remark as we head out to the net rack. “We have to get this gear on today and go for groceries. I’d like to head out tonight.”

Your face falls, but I haven’t noticed.

“I’m not feeling so good,” you answer, and I see your scowl. I’m in my skipper mentality, what your mother calls my “jerk mode,” so I’m quick to assume the worst: I think you just don’t want to work. After all, I think, you’re 13, and though you like making money, you’d rather play video games than help out. It’s just my first wrong assumption of the day.

By the time I chew on that for a while, I’m angry at you. We work with the gear in silence. I stew over what to do. I need the help, but I don’t need the distraction of an attitude. You committed to working for me for the season, and I want to teach you to live up to your commitments. Isn’t that what being a Dad is all about?

I’m even more upset, and we haven’t spoken a word. You go through the motions, but the tension between us is thick. We’ll argue this out later, after the nets are on the boat. We drive to the cannery in a thick cloud of dust and silence.

 

Home, hours later, after dinner, I’m starting to pack up. “Got your gear together?” I ask, knowing you haven’t.

“I don’t feel good,” you answer from your bed. “My stomach hurts and I’ve got a headache.”

“Look,” I say, walking into your room, “I need your help tomorrow. I’m sorry you feel bad, but you promised me you’d come, and we need to get going. We have to get out of the river before the tide is too low. Take some Tylenol for your headache. You can sleep on the boat.”

“I don’t think I can do it, Dad!” Your voice rises as you start getting upset. “Can’t you just go without me?”

“No,” I answer, my voice getting louder, too. “I need you tomorrow. I’m counting on you.” I walk out of your room and down the hall toward mine.  “It’s gonna be a big day, and we really need a third hand to pitch the fish, and that’s you. Come on. We don’t have time to argue!”

“No, Dad!” you yell back at me, coming out into the hall. “I can’t go! I don’t feel good!” You run back into your room and slam the door. 

“What the hell? I mutter under my breath. “I don’t have time for this.” Your Mom, hearing the loud voices, comes down the stairs. “What is wrong with him?” I start with her, “Is he…?”

“Hold on a minute, she says softly, stopping me. “He knows how big a day it is tomorrow. Something else is going on.” She heads toward your room.

“Wait,” I say. “Let me.” I walk into your room and see your body under the covers, facing the wall, lights off, shades drawn. “Hey,” I say, trying to sound calm. “What’s really going on? Why don’t you want to go?”

“ I TOLD YOU! I DON’T FEEL GOOD!”  You pull the covers tighter. “LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Angry all over again, I yell back, proving I can yell louder, “HEY! Just get dressed and let’s go! Stop this ACT! Get out of bed NOW! Come ON!”

 

I raise my arms in exasperation as I march out of your room and down the hall again. Veronica just stares at me as I stomp by. She turns quietly and disappears into your room.

I’m angry, embarrassed and confused. I throw my clothes into my day bag like they were trash. I can’t BELIEVE this. Not now, not TODAY. I shake my head. Tomorrow is forecasted to be big, and could make the difference in how we do for the season. It’s too late to get anyone else, and I need the help! Why are you doing this?

I hear voices coming out into the hall. I step into the doorway to see you, tears running down your cheeks standing in front of your mother. She says gently, “Go on. Tell him. It’s ok.”

“Dad,” you say, with a look that goes right to my core, “I don’t want to go. I don’t want to do it.” You stop for a breath and look down. “I just can’t stand all the killing.”

 

…and I am no longer in the hallway with you. I am on the back deck of the first boat I fished on, the North Sea. Fishing my first season as a crew, no longer a 48-year-old skipper with two children, but 27 years old and as green as can be, I am watching hundreds of salmon come over the stern, and I am stunned at all the death. Some of the fish come aboard already dead; most of them will die soon; some struggle, some accept it, some are puzzled. Some actually look like they know what’s happening and are resigned to their fate. If fish are like people, I think, then it’s in this: they die in as many ways as we. But the part that’s hardest to accept is that I am partly responsible for their deaths. Confronted with this terrible sense of guilt and shame, I come closer to quitting fishing forever on this day than on any other for the next twenty years.

 

How could I not hear you?

 

My anger and frustration melt like ice in the sun. “I understand.” I say softly, because suddenly I do. “I understand completely.” We hug and talk. I tell you of that day, and how I had a hard time with the killing too. I explain the nature of it, how I came to understand I was harvesting a source of healthy food just as the fish were at the end of their lives anyway. You listen. We arrive at a compromise.

“So you’ll help with boat work when we get back to the dock?”

You nod and look very serious. “Yes. I ‘d like that.”

“It’s a deal. See you tomorrow.”

 

I lean over and give you a hug goodnight. Standing at the foot of your bed, arms folded, your mother looks at us, and smiles.

#

The connection was first published by The Journal of Family Life online, July, 2009, and most recently in Anchored in Deep Water: The FisherPoets Anthology - Family  Dynamic

Family Dynamic

Family Dynamic

I feel like the modern version of Steve Martin in ‘The Jerk’, remember the scene when the new phone books came out?  That’s me only I’m saying “My website is here, my website is here, I’m somebody now!”  A great movie and a great scene, if you’ve seen it please picture me acting that way, because that is exactly how I feel, if you haven’t then do yourself a favor and watch it, then picture me.  

Direct marketing the fish I catch to the end consumer has been a dream for my wife and me for close to a decade, beginning when we lived up in Oregon, (I know, sad but true).  Packing up our family, all our worldly possessions and moving to Morro Bay has actually been part of fulfilling that dream.  So, this website is very important to me, it symbolizes the culmination of that dream, or maybe the beginning of the realization of our dream.

Like many of my dreams over the years this one also depends on my wife, Tiffani, for it to come true.  She always says I have the hard job and long hours of catching the fish, which is true it’s a hard job and long hours.  But my quality of life would not be what it is without the hard work and long hours she puts in, in town.  With my prolonged absences our kids wouldn’t be the exceptional people they are turning out to be had I not been able to convince this amazing woman to marry me.  So, for this very symbolic first blog I want to highlight her contribution with ‘Family Dynamic’, a poem I once wrote about her.  

This poem will be featured on the program for the ‘Working Waterfront Festival’ in New Bedford, MA in September, and is also the title of one of the seven book ‘Fisherpoets Anthology’ that was just published this year.  I’m a little proud of it, like I’m proud of the woman who inspired me to write it.  When you see her at the farmers markets don’t let her humility fool you.   

 

FAMILY DYNAMIC

When I get on the boat,

and I point her out to sea.

I always remind the crew

this ain't no democracy.

 

I don't want no misbehaving,

and don't ya give me any lip.

Cause this here fishing vessel

is a dictator-ship.

 

My word is law,

and I'll bend their will to mine.

If it ain't so now,

it will be in short time.

 

But back on land

all my authority is lost.

It's just like my kids say

“at home mommy is the boss.”

 

Now I've heard all those theories,

about who should wear the pants.

But when dealing with matters of town

my wife has a better grasp.

 

Like a lot of fishermen’s wives

she's smarter than the guy she's married to.

So it only makes good sense

for her to rule the roost.

 

She runs a real tight ship

it could pass any inspection.

The slightest piece of dust or dog hair

are beyond my detection.

 

See, I've crossed breaking bars,

been in the worst storm's you've ever seen.

But, that stuff don't scare me half as much

as neglecting to keep the bathroom clean.

 

She's a loving mother

but will stand for no infraction.

Homework is as disciplined

as a military action.

 

The pace at which she works

is staggering to see.

If I ran my crew that hard,

they'd probably mutiny.

 

So, I'll be the boss at sea.

She'll be the boss in town.

I think them fish are lucky

it ain't the other way around.

 

There you have it, South Bay Wild’s first blog- I look forward to meeting you in the days to come.

 

Remember- ‘You are what you eat…wouldn’t you rather be wild?

 

Rob Seitz

South Bay Wild