I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the readership to a new word:
Squack. (Rhymes with "quack.")
Though many of you are familiar with that universal term for failure in piscatorial endeavors: skunk, very few of you have yet embraced the total squalor that is "squack" (you will notice that squalor, squalid and squack share the same Lain root, squalidus: to be filthy, encrusted with filth).
What can be said? This picture very clearly represents the ultimate squack.
To squack (See MFN #3 for Paczkowski's high-slavonic definition), is not just to skunk. To squack is to fail utterly and completely. It usually involves humiliation, financial loss, a very large chunk of time that could have been better spent in other more worthwhile pursuits, a hurt back and wet feet. Squack usually starts early and ends late. And when I say, early, I don't mean normal fishing early (5:00 to 6:30), I mean like 2:30-4:00 early. And when i say wet feet, I throw this out as the bare minimum. Really, wet legs, wet torso, wet underwear are the norm in squackdom.
Take this morning for instance...
Actually, let's back up. The squack really began the day before when 6 or 7 of my top line MFN operatives called to inform me that the herring had, at last, arrived (a funny statement to anyone in-the-know because Dec 10th is still a tad early for a major spawn in that area). As everyone reading this well knows, I am very much in love with this species. Not only for its flavorfullness and its top of the line nutritional benefits, but for it's Scandinavian affectations and its harbinging of winter (can I distort harbinger in that manner, dad?). Aw shux, what can I say? I just love 'em.
I mean... it's very weird. What I'm trying to say... I like eating herring. I like the process of pickling them (unlike Dr. M. Love who compares the process to re-grouting a bathroom). Nothing floats my boat like kippers for breakfast... but all of this is secondary. See, it's all about the spawn. How can I describe the sacred mystery and intense beauty of a herring spawn? The first time I witnessed this was 7AM of a misty Embarcadero morning, the boats were out working their nets and the pier fishermen were literally dancing in circles--birds and sea lions, even a few harbor porpoises moiling in the milty water. Gawd, a herring spawn is a life affirming thing! (MFN Editorial Machine: like Whitman before him, Lombard of the Intertidal will make abundant use of the exclamation point). I swear, if you could bottle the cold, pure, oceanic scent of a herring spawn in mid December, you would have a potion that would end human suffering. Depression would be defeated. Impotence would cease to exist. Ennui ridden junkies the world over would throw out their works, click their heels and take up tap dance. The common cold, ha! Take one wiff of that salty stuff and... and... and... I can refrain no longer... I simply must haiku:
In What Distant Deeps!
The fish-pure foam (life) begins.
Men, birds, fish... all one.
Ha! How many fishing bloggers quote Blake in their avant haikus about herring? Huh? Answer me that! (Go ahead ye nudniks, Google "In What Distant Deeps" and see how Lombard of The Intertidal likens the diminutive Clupea pallassi to the greatest of all creatures).
Wow I'm on a roll. I used to do this more often here. Let's keep going with the herring poems... why not... got a six pack of "Simpler Times" pilsner from Trader Joes, an easy day counting pogies (uh oh... I feel a pogey Haiku coming on) in Alameda tomorrow, an unopened bottle of Armenian brandy and a beautiful young herring-fed, half-dane whipping up a kale (thanks Loren), chick pea and chicken curry in the kitchen. Okay... so in two weeks I have no job. So fucking what. I'll figure something out. Tuba lessons anyone?
Where was I?
I will now wax poetic on the subject of the herring spawn in SF Bay. Throwing away the cruel 5-7-5 Nipponic structures of the land of the rising sun, in favor of the free-form horrors of American verse (!)
Herring are spawning as I sit at my console!
candle burning to the left
picture of Ava Gardner in waders to the right.
Santa hat on my head.
Herring are spawning but not where we can reach them.
Our interlude, throwing nets from concrete slabs on a Friday,
is really a small part of a herring's day, a herring's life, a herring's death.
Herring are spawning and I am a witness... as are all those smiling men
who pulled them from the foamy waters
and dumped them shimmering into plastic buckets
and ate them
or saved them for bigger fishes
and warmer days ahead.
Anyway, where in the hell was I? That's right. Squack. I was introducing "squack" to the American lexicon. First thing you have to understand is that squack begins with intense desire. Obsession even. I offer the above portion of this post as evidence of my obsession, capisce? And so, when 6 of my MFN A-team operatives called to inform me that the herring spawn was "on," I kind of went nuts. You see, I was at work. In Half Moon Bay. A 40 minute drive from the spot in mid day traffic. No way to take 3 hours off in the middle of my work day. Nothing I could do but work till five and then jet down to the spot and hope they were still running.
I pulled up at the location at 17:38. Everyone was leaving. I threw on my Grundens, rubber boots (anyone who has caught herring will understand this), and lucky Santa hat. Guys with teeming buckets, coolers packed to the brim, garbage cans etc etc etc, passing me by. "You're too late," said Eugene, "they're gone, you missed 'em."
I ran down to the channel, found a spot on a wide flat chunk of concrete, looked around--pitch black, everyone was gone... dang it! No fish in the water. I walked to the edge of my concrete platform, it projected out over the water and was slanted downwards toward the bay. I noticed a slippery film of green algae on it's northern edge, said to myself, better be careful, Kirk, that algae looks very slippery, grabbed my net, wound it up in the Greco-Latin Champion de la Banana style, and launched a perfect umbrella, a parabola of fish killing wonderment into the night sky!
But then, in that brief moment as the net descended, I stumbled a bit, set my foot on a patch of algae, felt my feet give way beneath me, and then I was airborn! Arms and legs akimbo! I landed flat on my back, (really my neck and head) and began to slide, inexorably, down the length of the concrete slab, digging my fingernails into solid rock in an attempt to impede my downward momentum (not unlike the picture of Quint at the top of this post).
In short, I threw my net, fell onto my head, and slid into the bay. The spot where I happened to land was really only 3 feet deep. And, happily, no one was around to witness me in my squackhood. A squackhood that was made all the more poignant by the total loss of my casting net. Which became ensagged on a subtidal chunk of rebar studded concrete.
Yes I have a back up net. Two in fact. So the squack is tempered to some degree. And of course there was no one around to witness my ineptitude, and I only ended up slogging around waste-deep in the mud for about 25 minutes (trying to get my net), and I sustained no permanent injury, but still... I am giving this a rating of 6.5 on the 10-point scale of squackhood.
Anyway, just thought I'd share.
Gotta go. It's my last day working Alameda today.
Peace on earth, good will towards men.
Ho ho ho and all that jazz!