Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fish Tale

It is an ill wind that blows in from the Atlantic tonight, and the ships at sea look down their long-lines with fear. The tourists are staying in their hotels, and there are no lines at the theme parks. Ice is melting on the docks, pooling up and flowing slowly back into the sea. The wharf rats are too stoned to function. Only the alley cats are out tonight, looking for one last chance. There is nothing more erratic nor stupid as an alley cat thinking he's getting only more chance to breed.
The fishmonger division of Let It Grow has, thus far, I believe, gone unexplained in these pages. It is now time to remedy that, before the sands wash back into the sea and before the fish stop breathing.
We started selling fresh seafood at our little Hot Springs market last year, and this year brought fish to the big city. J* sells fish at one of the Asheville markets, and I do, too, when logistics permit. If all goes according to plan, we'll pick up another market next year. We're the official fishmongers to a restaurant in Hot Springs, and may start supplying a few other places near here, soon.
D*'s been driving fish up from Kitty Hawk for a few years, now. D* or one of his friends. Somehow or another, someone, in some kind of vehicle, has made the fish run every week during the summer, driving from Kitty Hawk to Asheville with a half dozen coolers full of ice and fish. It's D*'s fish business, or, rather, it's his family's. Has been for something like twenty-five years. D* hit the road early, though. He wound up in Asheville, among other places, living on the street. Living on the street by choice, though. They called him Camper. He'd forage along the roadsides. He'd go into the woods for weeks at a time and live off the land. D* knows every edible weed and twig in the forest.
He did this for years. He'd go down to the coast in the winter, sometimes. Sometimes he'd stay up here. "One thing I'll say about foraging," he'll say, "you're not going to gain a lot of weight." Then he'll talk about everything there is to eat in the forest, and then talk about primitive societies and their dietary habits.
Sometime during these years, D* was down at the beach, and he'd even started a little herb garden for himself. Some Asheville friends spent some time with him there, and one day they decided to all come back to the mountains together. D* brought a few armfuls of herbs with him, thinking he could make back gas money by selling them to the Co-Op. He also brought a cooler of fish, thinking he'd have a big fish dinner for his friends.
"Well, no one cared about the herbs too much," he explains. But everyone went nuts over the fish. Everytime he came up to Asheville, he'd bring a cooler of fish with him. He started making regular runs. He or someone he was connected with started selling fish regularly at our Wednesday afternoon market.
That's about when his parents were diagnosed with Alzeimer's. He moved to Kitty Hawk to become a full-time care-giver. This is a decision he seems to have made overnight. He abandoned his homeless, foraging lifestyle and moved in with his parents. He stopped hanging out with his old crowd and stayed home. Once a week, he makes the trip up here with a truck load of fish and sells it at our market, and then heads home.
It's his fish that we're selling, where-ever we can get a market.
I make my call on Sunday night. I call D* and tell him how many pounds of fish I want for J*'s market, what kind of fish a restaurant wants, whatever special orders we have. Then we start talking about growing vegetables, or selling fish. We talk about foraging in the woods, or riding on trains, or various characters we've known over the years. We talk about friends who have kids, or the habitat of grouper, or the soil requirements for eggplant.
D* won't be making the trip up this week. His dad has been in and out of the hospital lately, and D* doesn't want to be away from him right now.
How's everything going down there, I ask him.
Oh, my dad's fine, D* says. Every day I ask him how he is, and he says, "Well, I'm still alive, so I must be alright."


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