11 July 2011 § Leave a comment
I’m betraying my ideabook by writing here. Here, I am a traitor to the privacy I flaunt for those in my company – the black, fake leather binding that contains indecipherable poetic secrets, drunken scrawls, and quickly-drawn maps of places I’ll never go moves with me, a willing burden, and is inevitably the topic of passing, curious questions, which often end at a brick wall, complete with crumbling mortar and generation-old graffiti. But it has been with me for weeks, and I could use a break from it.
Fishing for salmon in Bristol Bay this year was a flop. Highliners, who usually catch anywhere from 100,000 to 400,000 pounds in a month’s time, ended up with a meager 70,000 this summer. That wasn’t the case across the board, of course – some captains are ruthless fishermen, willing to cross any lines – including district lines, which are sometimes patrolled by the state troopers in fast little boats – to catch as much fish as possible. They were lucky to pull in 100k this year. Good for them. Sort of.
My annual adventures to the sea, which began as a temporary solution to a severe lack of both housing and cash, have become routine and expected. They’re now an integral part of my life that my whole year revolves around. And I’ve just returned from three weeks at sea, more or less, all of which were spent waiting for a big push of fish that would force me out of a fickle cycle of sleeping an hour here, thirty minutes there, to wake up and pick ten fish from an unproductive set. The weather was good, at least, and I even saw the sun in Egegik! Once. Egegik is a desolate planet, somewhere in the Bristol constellation, up on the right, and a sun has been reported in that galaxy before, but I have photographic evidence now. It’s done.
Whatever. We caught half of what we did last year, and who know what the end-of-season check will be like. I can only hope to fill up my gas tank a few times with it.
Oh, wait. I won’t need that. I’m hitchhiking across the fucking country in a few weeks. Great idea, Sean. Idiot.
I’m a little bitter about being home, because Dillingham was full of bipolar insanity where happiness once pretended to be, and negativity inexplicably reigned supreme. I felt outcast from the outset, and it rarely changed but for a couple of generous evenings of religious talk and a relaxing smoke on land.
Speaking of, if you haven’t read Life of Pi, you’d better go read it. Now. I waited too long, so you shouldn’t. The story is incredible. True to its claim, this book will make you believe in god.
Okay, okay. But at least it’ll make you think about it.
I’m not in the mood to capture the essence of standing on a fishing boat in the middle of the sea, some XX song going on the deck speakers – sad and peaceful lullabies, every one of them – looking out at the great unknown in every direction, all of it somewhere past that flawlessly straight line, the only one in nature I’m aware of, and knowing that I’ll never get farther from the center of the map than that. The seacities by night sparkle incandescent and streelightorange, moving with the waves like bulbs strung along the cobblestone alleys, a morning breeze approaching the post-festival with soft breaths of solsticecold.
Flat and infinite, the coastlines banish settlers and setnetters to small groups along the beach, who rove along the eroding bluffs in their rusted trucks with Mad Max ferocity to pick salmon carcasses from the mud. They’re empty, for the most part – the coasts, that is – and no one seems to live out there in winter. Some do, the fortunate escapees from a society they tried out, succeeded in to some degree, and promptly ran from. Ramshackle towns with dirt roads and three businesses: a cannery, a post office, and a liquor store open for an hour a day – by far the best-supported entrepreneur, that man who conducts his sales in the middle of a leisurely evening stroll.
The man-eating insects will take chunks of your flesh without mercy. The only protection against them is the wind. Even the highly respected DEET will not dispel their efforts to massacre the human race.
I haven’t the energy for this, like I said, so I leave you with a picture of a baby seal.