Dead Fish in a Box

The chronicles of a suburban fishpimp trying to keep it rural.

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Location: United States

Friday, April 30, 2004

Outraged in Seattle

It looks like we're getting into the seafood high season a little early this year. This has been a very strong week for sales. It's been pretty crazy around here. Yesterday we were all on fire; 5 lines holding, a dozen voice mails, short 5,000 lbs of shrimp, trying to tack down the trucker with the missing halibut, you get the picture.

Then my manager (not Simon, the other one, the Duck) calls up from his business trip in SoCal and wants to chat. "How ya doin' buddy? Just ran into Heather Locklear, she said our fish looks great! my picture taken in front of the Hollywood sign...Universal Studios.....going to the beach...Beverly Hills...Will Smith shops at this store....Blah Blah Blah.......

How does one politely one's manager that he is about to get his teeth kicked in?

I guess I should expect as much from a man with a "Recreational Science" degree from ShouldaWouldaCoulda U. Asi es el Pescado.

Monday, April 26, 2004

And I Ran

After spending most of my life as an inactive couch-slouch, I decided to stop being fat and to start running. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was doing triathlons. Now, I'm no Ironman, I'm more of the Aluminum Foil type, but there's a ton of fun events out there to be run. The latest-greatest I'm planning on doing: The Run Hit Wonder in Portland, OR.

How cool is this: every mile (it's a 10K, or 6.2 mi.) there is a different One & Done act from the 80's. Here's the current line up: Devo, Tommy Tutone, General Public, Tone-Loc, and Flock of Seagulls.

Forget the Tenderness. I'm going to whip it into shape - I'll be the Wild Thing, so that I can say when I ran I didn't come in 867-5309 th place.

The first person who can match the refrenced songs with the artists wins a giant box of salmon heads.

Good Luck and Best Fishes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


A large contingent of our staff here in at Das Fishhaus hail from Mexico. Most work out in the fillet room cutting the dead fish so that it will fit better into the boxes. I probably have more interaction with them than most folks here since I’m the only one who speaks any Spanish. After 7 years of classes, limited travel in Central America, and a whole lot of B.S. with my main man Jeff who spent a few years in Ecuador & Honduras, I know just enough Espanol to get in trouble.

Around here they’ve had me translate training manuals, job applications, and scripts for the ‘on-hold’ message. I even did some vacation coverage for the Mexican restaurant rep a couple years ago – did $50,000 in weekly sales all in Spanish. Here’s a quick primmer on Spanish seafood vocabulary:

Almejas = Clams
Almejas Empanezadas = Clam Strips
Atun = Tuna
Bacalao = Cod
Bacalao del Profundidad – Chilean Sea Bass (‘cod of the deep’)
Camarones = Shrimp
Cangrejo = Crab
Langosa = Lobster
Langostino = Crawfish
Osteones = Oysters
Trucha = Trout
Pescado Muerto en una caja = dead fish in a box.

Now, throughout Central America “Que Pasa” is the typical greeting, but different countries have different responses: “Nada nada”, or “No pasa nada” in Mexico, “Pura Vida” in Costa Rica, or “Todo Macanudo” in Honduras. Literally translated “Todo Macanudo” means “everything is fabulous”. I think it’s got a nice ring, so I added it to my vocabulary, often saying it to my Spanish-speaking friends here. The Mexicans here think it’s great. They joyfully started calling me ‘Macanudo’. I though it was great, I’d made some real friendships across cultural lines. Then I stared wondering why they always laughed when they heard me say it. I asked them what ‘macanudo’ meant to them, they snickered and said it didn’t’ mean anything, that it just sounded funny. Fine. I can live with that. But after another attack of the guffaws I brought it up again. I got a more accurate translation of my new nickname, and I’m not so sure I like it anymore.

Turns out ‘macanudo’ in Mexico is slang for ‘penis’

Carajo = Damn.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Norwegian Salmon

You might have heard some blurbs in the news about the controversy surrounding farm-raised salmon. The overwhelming majority of it is either false or based on old data. Regardless, the people are now think that eating smoked salmon will give you lung cancer. Garbage.

One of the biggest complaints is that the farmers add canthaxanthin (pronounced: CAN-thuh-ZAN-thin) to the fish feed to, among other things, enhance the color of the flesh. It might sound trivial, color in salmon, but it nearly touched off a riot in Bellevue yesterday at a grocery store that I sell. Now all retailers have to put a little note on the case that says "color added". (note: the farmers who feed the same chemicals to the chickens for pretty egg yolks don't have to label their stuff that way - everyone loves a lobbyist!) The people don't want colored fish in their fridge next to the marichino cherries, ketchup, margarine, cola, jam, mustard, fruit punch, cheese, jello, ice cream, salsa, and eggs.

So we started bringing in this "natural" Atlantic salmon from Norway. It's antibiotic-free and fed with Algaemeal (tm) so the stores don't have to label is as "color added" It's great stuff - raised by Vikings in cool, clean fjord-water of the North. It's Valhalla-approved. Each fish is lovingly hugged and kissed by beautiful, tall, blonde Scandinavian women before they have their heads lopped off, are filleted, and thrown in a styrofoam box full of ice.

Now, I write all this to give y'all a little background. The following is the transcript from a conversation that I just had with an actual seafood department manager at local grocery store - a person one would trust to be a seafood expert, to be able to answer all of one's seafood questions. And, as Dave Barry so often writes, I am not making this up.

Hello, this is John
-Hey I've got a question about that new Norwegian salmon.
OK, shoot
-Where is it from.
Uh, Norway.
-No, I know it's Norwegian Salmon, but where is the farm.
Somewhere in Norway. I don't know exactly what fjord.
-Oh, it's not from Washington?
No, they farm Atlantic salmon all over the world, Chile, Canada, here, Norway, Ireland & Scotland...
-No, not Atlantic - this is the Norwegian salmon I'm talking about.
Yes it's Atlantic salmon raised in Norway.
-But I thought it was Norwegian.
It is Norwegian.
It's the same specie of fish they raise here, but they do it better in Norway.
-You mean it comes from all the way over there?
Yes. They call it Norwegian, because it's from Norway.
-So, it's not local.
No. Norway is very far from here.
-Oh.........So it'
Yeah - how many boxes want?

And I thought the Tourists in Alaska were bad.

If any of you are looking for information on what the Salmon farmers are doing to improve their products check out this link


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I'd like to share with you one of our favorite subjects here at the House of Fish: our boss. Simon is his name, and butchering cliches is his game. So much so that it could be said that he has his own dialect. Abotu a 18 months ago I started documenting these "Simonisms". The list is now six full pages of single-spaced 10 pt font.

Here are some of the team's favorites:

Put your ear to the grindstone…
We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.
You’ve got to screw your friends because your enemies don’t come around.
If you don’t go home with a knot in your stomach, you’re not doing the job right.
We’re in psychic lock.
The policy has always been (insert new policy here). We’ve just gotten away from it
Dot your “T’s” and cross your “I’s”
Keep your head down, you’ll last longer.
Us being out of clams is like Dairygold being out of butter.
Do as little as possible to get as much as you can get
Look under every rock and in every hard place
By hook, by crook, or whatever, this is the goddamn fish buisness!!!
I’ve never seen that world peace depends on manila clams, but this is a sensitive issue.
I’m focused on it like a laser beam.
Why do I always skip your name, Mark? Believe me, that’s not a Freudian skip!
If you can’t make a buck on crabmeat, then why get out of bed?
Unless you can contribute to our success, keep your hands off the keys on your keyboard.
If I’m gonna come in just to lose money, shit, I’ll stay home and watch Oprah.
We need to fix our catfish problem before Bush fixes Iraq.
When the upload doesn’t connect with the download and the fish is still here tomorrow, we’re all going to feel terrible
It’s our F*** up, pardon the pun
I know nobody’s gonna be scrambling, because you’ve had more warnings than Bush gave Sadam!
If you can’t make them buy, then cram it down their throat!
It there’s anything I ever say to you, lock and load this, it’s the absolute gospel!
There’s only one way out of this – either drop the price or freeze it.
In a New York second
It’s like a 3-legged stool: it’ll fall over.

Seriously, folks - this guy is a piece of work.


Woke up to a grey & drizzly sky today, the kind of weather typical of Southeast Alaska summer. Dreary, but calm, soggy, but cozy like a glazed pumpkin cookie from Mabel G Smith's in Skagway.

The whole thing, combined with my current case of spring fever (AKA "the spell of the Yukon"), had me feeling a bit nostalgic for the Great White North. So I dialed up an old cohort from my bus-drivin' days, my brother-from-another-mother, Luke Thayer. See, back in "the day", when none of us had any responsibility (wives, mortgages, veggie gardens, etc.), we ruled the roads of the Alaska in 40', 17 ton motorcoaches of tourism fury. Witty & knowledgeable tour guides by day, hiking, biking, singing, Irish-carbomb-drinking, irresponsible, college grads by night, terrorizing the town of Skagway from May to September.

Now, we've all got "real" jobs. We can't just take off for six months at a time anymore.

Unless you're Darryl. But I digress.

These days Luke is in L.A. showing the people of SoCal how serious the comedy really is. Not only that, he's got a "totally rad" weblog over at He convinced me to start my own. So here we are.

I know what you all are saying: "What business does a fishpimp have on the internet?" I tell you this: The life of a protein expert is rife with action, adventure, and all the dead fish in a box you can handle! You will have a front row seat to to see the scintilating seafood scene of Seattle.

And by "scintilating" I mean completely banal.