Slime Line: Adventures In Fish Processing

From the blood and guts fish disassembly on the slime lines, to the dock crews that unload the fish from the boats, these are the true stories of the Filipinos, Mexicans, Africans, ex-cons and other derelicts from the Lower 48, who come to Alaska each summer to work as fish processors during the three month salmon season. 

Set at a cannery in a small town in southern Alaska, meet One-Eyed Eddie, Al the crew chief, the half-wit Keith, Menter the Iraqi, Jorge, Francisco and others. Read of dangerous, backbreaking work inside and outside the cannery, 20 hour days for weeks on end, forklift and machinery accidents, drunkenness and drug use, rapes, assaults, and one very violent death on the dock.

Included are appendices containing practical information on:
  • Types of fish and long line fishing
  • How much you should expect to earn during salmon season and other fishing seasons (pollock, herring, halibut, pacific cod and black cod) 
  • How to secure unemployment compensation after the season and maximize your benefits
  • How to get hired as a deckhand on a commercial fishing boat
  • A list of land and floating fish processors in Alaska and Washington


Conquistadors of Credit

After the physical exploitation of the earth is completed, stripped of its metals and petroleum, the bankers undertake the credit exploitation. This entails the offering of credit to the governments and citizens of the poorer countries — for the consumption of gadgets or creation of businesses or the building of infrastructure — and the long-term interest harvesting of the credit-based GDP growth that follows.
The bankers are the new risk-taking explorers of the planet and through securitizations, derivatives, and explicit State backing (tax payer guarantees limiting their downside risk), are able to strip wealth out of even the poorest inhabitants.
It all seems good and right in the beginning as the credit bubbles are created in the poorer countries, and the citizens are able to buy goods and services they were historically unable to afford. But the only real winners after the inflationary collapse can be the asset holders. And these assets will eventually be repossessed by the banks after the extension of credit has peaked, overall growth has flagged, deflation has destroyed those who were too leveraged, and the loans have now become unpayable.
It will be many generations before the collapse of the banking created credit-based growth model. 80% of the planet awaits the promises of growth offered by the banking credit apparatus. The Western world has been harvested, its economic soil deadened, the people and governments no longer able to accept further credit exploitation. But the impoverished rest of the planet is waiting and willing and the bankers have only just begun to exploit it.


Fish House

from the forthcoming masterpiece Slime Line
There was bad news coming out of the Fish House. Salmon season had just opened and already half the workers had quit the slime lines. Of the four lines only two were running. There were only the Somalis and a few of the mental defectives left to work them. The salmon backed up and the Fish House Lead had a nervous breakdown. He began to shake violently, unable to speak, and laid down on pile of fish guts and passed out. When they got him awake he tried to quit but the foreman wouldn't let him. There was talk we were to be pulled off the dock and sent inside to help.
"You don't want to go in there," said One-Eyed Eddie. He had started out in the Fish House twelve years ago. "I got out and I never want to go back. You don't want to go in there."
The next day the Plant Manager sent us.


The Death of Francisco Flores

from the forthcoming masterpiece Slime Line
It was a beautiful late summer day. Salmon season was ending and the seiners were coming into the harbor after two months of fishing on the Sound. The Kaylor T had made its last contracted trip and the big tender was docked beside a seiner that was having its nets and a small skiff craned up onto the dock. The captain of the Kaylor T had gone to the Fisherman's Lounge to wait his turn at the crane. He wanted a huge section of steel housing removed from the deck and put into storage at the fishery until next season.

The Plant Manager told Francisco Flores to get the old mobile crane truck. The captain of the Kaylor T was an old friend. There was no reason to call him down just to move the ship to the dock-mounted crane.

Francisco Flores drove the old mobile crane to the edge of the dock above the Kaylor T and secured the stabilizer legs. He extended the boom out and began lowering the hook. It was low tide and the boat far below the dock in the water, and Francisco Flores let out a lot of cable to get the hook down to One-Eyed Eddie. It was a huge section of metal housing that covered half the deck. Nobody had any idea what it weighed. Eddie secured the big four-ways sling to each of the corners and he clasped the hook to it. "Winch up! Winch up!" Eddie yelled, signaling with his index finger.


On Domestication

4. The whip is the first law of domestication: the making into property of animals and men.
9. The beating of farm animals into submission: man's first practice of domestication—teaching him the usefulness of brutality—a domestication he would learn to perform upon himself and other men.
10. The hunter-gatherers banished a man from their lands, but the farmers (the early Statists) instead took custody of the man and through physical coercion attempted to change his behavior. For when all lands are owned—are the property of States and other men—there is nowhere to banish a man. Outlaws must be whipped in the public square, imprisoned (made the 'property of the State'), or put to death.
14. The hunter-gatherer had no use for the whip. He had neither animals nor men to swing it upon.
17. The first instruments of war were implements of farming, for the tilling of fields, repurposed to kill other men. The first weapons of war were made in the same blacksmith shops as scythes and ploughs.


The Iraqi

from the forthcoming masterpiece Slime Line

The Iraqi named Menter was a refugee from the war. He came from Baghdad to Alaska in the middle of winter through a job placement program for refugees. He came to America already unhinged and his discovery of alcohol, cocaine and loose Alaskan women had only unhinged him further. His English was a barely comprehensible mumbling of words that he ended with a smile. He seemed altogether harmless if you didn't know him better.

The Iraqi enjoyed smashing things. He would push over and kick the 160lb. metal totes while cleaning them, making huge booming crashes along the dock. Down in the ship holds where we pitched black cod and halibut, Menter would overhead slam the fish into the metal totes. Esteban would joke that he was trying to re-kill them.

For many months he had an off-on relationship with the moody, big-boned Russian girl from Alaskan Fish and Game. Her job was to stand on the salmon sorting belt and do some sort of analysis on the brains of red salmon. She would lobotomize the reds by cutting off their foreheads with a knife and then, with a tweezers, pluck out the tiny brain and place it on the back of her hand. She examined the brain for a moment before flicking it away and beginning again on another salmon.

Every few days the Iraqi threatened to kill her. He left hundreds of messages on her cell phone saying, "I kill you. Bitch I kill you." Sometimes he threatened to bomb the cannery and kill everyone.


A Dialogue on Surplus

Moraline: I feel a restless in the city. I have rested for long enough and must return to training and writing. The city imprisons me while far away, in some frozen north, I feel there is what I am looking for.
Maximin: But anything is better than the West. I just wonder if the bike has any place anymore. I now think it may be the backpack and the hiking boots to explore the wilderness.
Moraline: Got to go and get your wilderness skills up first with some small trips.
Maximin: Right, perhaps a base camp of some sort, then exploration in well organized efforts to gain the skills.
Moraline: I'm more unsure of myself and my next move than ever before. Acquisition of skills makes sense.
Maximin: Indeed, you have moved beyond boundaries. Perhaps the gods are now wondering your next move.
Moraline: I looked into learning Inupiat but there are less than 2500 speakers left now in Alaska, and the young Eskimos have no interest in it.
Maximin: You have travelled so far from the system that you are in an ether few men know.


Something Strange

Gil, the crew chief, came over to our table.

"We got nothing more coming in until after lunch. Maybe we get a salmon boat then, man." He grinned. Bald-headed and squinting he always looked happy. He was a good chief and a good man and we all liked to work for him. "Come back after lunch and see what's going on, man."

"Okay, man."

"Yeah, man. Go into the town. See what's going on in the town. You might see something strange."


"Yeah, man. School just let out. Maybe you see something strange. Maybe come across it,"  Gil grinned broadly and showed the yellowed stubs of teeth. "Yeah, man, something strange."


On Greatness, Again

In spite of the many accounts of historians and biographers, there is no chain of choices and explanations for a particular man's rise to power, or his technological invention, or scientific discovery, or work of art. Great men act according to obligation: the mysterious obligation of a lineage, both genetic, historical and divine.
Verily, greatness is a destiny thrust upon men by gods and it will more often destroy men than make them memorable. For divine destiny is more often a fatal, life-shortening curse, than a gift. For the few who have their achievements remembered, there are multitudes of similarly disposed talents who through some sort of bad luck died early—struck down by angrier gods—or succeeded but were not acknowledged (e.g. Wallace who theorized about evolution contemporaneously with Darwin; or Tesla and Edison; the list of painters and writers is a longer one; the list of warriors and hunters still longer).
But in this, the Epoch of Middle-Class Equality, of scholarship and domestication, greatness is peddled as achievable by all. Universities teach men and women to be creative in the arts (MFAs) and in business (MBAs). Self-help books abound. Middle class men call themselves alpha men, and women proclaim themselves the equals of men. Drugs and surgeries improve their bodies and computers provide assistance and reminders.
The divinity inherent in greatness, its wellspring in mystery, its terrifying irrationality, is subsequently repudiated through the reasoning of lesser men, through their scholarship and history telling. Greatness, they argue, can be reduced to charts and 10 step programs. The great man of history appears as someone who was manufactured and that other men can replicate.
In the historical post-mortem of the great man the scholar makes no acknowledgement of the terrifying and irrational and the great man's courage before it, his lack of hesitation, his grace, his inability to see any choice, or probability of success. For in greatness there is no calculation, there is no cost-benefit analysis, no weighing of alternatives for and against. Greatness is the push beyond measure, a man alone obligated to trespass upon divine lands.


On Cowardice

1. It is not nearly enough to conduct the epoché. A man must have the courage to live the way of life that he seeks to understand. To really fucking live it, regardless of consequences, scholarship must be suspended along with judgment.
4. Objectivity: an admission of cowardice.
11. Understanding arrives in silence. To understand is to no longer need to write.


The Osprey

Today was the opening of the fishing season and I went into the shed and rigged up a rod with a lure and went down to the dock. I made some casts and thought about the better fishing that was over in the channel, and all the good spots that I had fished as a boy and young man. But I didn't have a boat to get over there and now someone else owned that property and it would be trespassing to walk onto it. So I continued to cast out into the very weed-less waters around the dock.
I could see I would not catch anything. There was no activity in the water. The lake was brown and dead. It was a late thaw for the ice and it had gone out only two weeks before. Spring had begun on the land and the birds were active and building nests and the trees were budding and the animals had returned from winter, but under the water the spring had not yet come. None of the underwater plants had started to grow. The water was still to cold. The fish were in some other place. They were not yet ready to spawn. I did not know where they were.
Across the lake I watched a great black bird soaring back and forth over the water. The bird was hunting the water for something. I saw the angle in his wing and his white head. It was an osprey. He must have been six feet across in the wings. The great osprey stopped in the air, flapping its wings dramatically, and held itself over the water, studying it. Then he soared high and dove, crashing through the surface of the water and then flapping out of the water, he soared along the height of the pines, hunting the lake.
The osprey had seen something. I didn't think there were fish yet but the osprey was hunting them. The osprey again hovered on beating wings and dove and crashed into the water and he came out and gliding low across the lake and towards me on the dock and soaring over me, I saw in his talons he had one, he had a fish. The osprey had caught one. It looked like a little perch. The osprey circled back and showed me again the perch he had caught and I watched him soar along the tree line and down the channel. For the great hunter the spring had come.


On Game & Feminism

Feminism and Game are similar programs in the sense they each offer their adherents the idea of becoming something they are not. Women: to become men. Men: to become alpha men.

Both make the same democratic assumption: that anyone can be anything they want to be.*
Both, to be successful, must make similar denials of fact.
For women to become men the idea of a man must first be whittled down. Through laws and social pressure men are made to be more feminine, making equality more attainable for women.
Likewise, average men must reduce the scope of the alpha male to make it attainable. Alpha is simply redefined as quality and quantity of sexual partners. In place of a conquering Alexander, there is now a snappily dressed man plying drinks and jokes to women in bars in exchange for sex.
The antagonism between the two programs is curious given that they essentially provide one another with what they are each looking for. The women: to be with a man who excites her like a natural alpha, but with none of the actual danger. The men: a larger pool of sexual partners who aspire to be as promiscuous as the most promiscuous men, thereby allowing him to pad his notch count and proclaim alpha status.
Indeed, in the natural alpha the two groups share a common antagonist. Both women and non-alpha men have throughout history been subject to his mistreatment and subjugation. It thereby comes as no surprise that both Game and Feminism flourish among the college educated middle class, a socio-economic class devoid of the natural alphas who are either oligarchs or outlaws.**
The natural alpha is a continuing reminder that not only are men and women not equals, but men cannot make themselves equal to other men either. Though the natural alpha is a fact of the species, the middle classes have little contact with him. It is not that the middle classes have banished or repressed him, it is that he has no interest or capacity to live among them. Cubicle jobs and working for others does not become him. Verily, as the middle class erodes economically the natural alpha will return to restore order in things, for he is drawn to danger and opportunity. Women will again assume their place as women, feminine and submissive, and selective in their sexual partners. And the game player, that Napoleon without an army, will be revealed as what he always was. In other words, just a short man.
* There is something of the "blank slate" argument in it too, and arguably, in America, the anti-aristocratic aspects of the Horatio Alger myth.
** Today's Game-playing alpha lives in danger of encountering a natural alpha who calls his bluff and perhaps pulls his card.


The Hunt *

The Indian admired many animals for certain skills which he recognized were in excess of his own. The Indian saw in the wolf a great hunter who moved quietly throughout his lands and who cared and provided for his family and children, the old and the sick, and his pack. The Indian hunter sought the wolf's abilities and attempted to approximate them to provide for his family and his tribe. He observed the wolf closely and sought out the wolf's spirit to assist him in his own hunt, to help him to locate the animals. He wore the wolf's pelt and performed elaborate rituals to bring the wolf's spirit to him.

Western men do not admire animals. They look at animals and believe they can do nothing better then men. Animals cannot fix broken air conditioners, or perform accounting tricks, or operate jet airplanes. It is not just that most men only observe animals in zoos and not in natural settings. Men do not appreciate animals because there is nothing in animals for the animals to teach them.

Western man sees the animal either as a nuisance and something to be driven off, or sees only himself in the animal and calls the animal his equal and demands for it the legal protections of men. Neither perspective attempts to see the animal as it is in the animal world.
The animal that crosses his backyard and leaves its droppings, or that digs into his trash and makes a mess on his driveway, he wants that animal made to go away. He hires other men to do it and he feels that he has reasserted his control over his land, the land he has deed to.
The animal rights activist demands that the laws of men are applied for the animal's protection. He may refuse to eat animals and in some cases even attack other men and property to free or protect animals. To the activist the animal is as a man and to be treated no differently.
Curiously, among Western men, is it often the hunter, the killer of animals, who feels strongest for them and their protection. For it is the hunter unique among Western men who observes the animal in his animal world. There the hunter sees the animal as neither nuisance nor equal of man. The animal in his world is animal, and the hunter learns of both the animal and his animal world. The good hunter learns to see how the animal world is threatened and changed by Western man and he observes characteristics of the animal that he admires and may even acknowledge as being superior to those of men.
From Aldo Leopold to Teddy Roosevelt, it is no great coincidence that the men who have been most outspoken about the conservation and appreciation of the beauty and mystery of the undomesticated animal and land have also been its hunters. For these Western men through the hunt have come closest to understanding the animals as the Indian hunters did.
* Now, of course, men define "the hunt" as the plying of drinks and jokes to women in bars as a means of procuring sex with them. These hunter-naturalists of urban nightlife call themselves "Players" and are said to practice a way of life known as "the Game." It is an indication of the darkness of this time that the author must counsel the reader against any interpretation of this post in the context of bars, nightclubs, coffee shops, and in any other setting women can be located and approached.


The Hundred Year Oak

The hundred year oak is gone.* It was rotted out and struck by lightning and the Inda boys came and cut it down and sawed it up. It is stacked in stove-sized pieces in the wood shed behind the cabin.

There is a big, new stump at the shore. But the hundred year oak remains. Even when the stump is gone I shall remember its place. The hundred year oak doesn't go away. Neither does the land go away, the land that you have known and lived on. The land is remembered. There is neither simply land then, nor simply memory. It happens if you are lucky to have lived in a place, really lived in it.

They cut down the hundred year oak, and it is still there. It is there just as my grandfather is there on the frozen lake when I pause while cutting a hole for fishing and in the morning quiet look down the channel at the sun coming up over the pines; it is there just as my grandmother is there walking the old path along the shore and pointing out the first shoots of skunk cabbage in the spring. Look down too for the marsh marigolds, she said. Look down to see the spring, she said. Look down.

* Rings on the trunk date the oak at 157 years. The usual life of an oak tree is 80 to 100 years.


Fear The Gods

my iglu after the rain
1. The prideful man declares in what and in whom he believes. But the gods are only to be feared. What is mysterious and powerful and beyond men are facts he must simply accept. To believe is to impose upon the gods. Do not believe in gods. Fear them.

2. Understanding, even dignity, begins in fear.

3. Nuannaarpoq (Inuit): to take extravagant pleasure in being alive


Poetry from the Black Poet

A poem written for me by La Poeta Negro de Ibarra, Ecuador and my translation of it.
Ignoto amigo, polen de luz
Libélula en lo que oida de polen de arrebol
Antorcha de enardecido viento es
Tu rebelde caballero de pensador
Tu corazón es una lágrima de lluvia
Que nadie mina caer
Tu pensamiento es perfecto, pero helado
Como las lenizas de la muerte
En los labios candorosas de la vida
No ames la filosofía
Ama el espejo triste y mustio
De los corazónes de los locos
Llena tus bolsillos de viento
Y tendras no la fealdad de las palabras
Y sera tuya
La impressible belleza perfecta del cielo.
Undiscovered friend, pollen of light
Dragonfly that heeds the pollen of the setting sun
A torch of wind inflamed,
You noble rebel of thought
Your heart is a tear of rain
That no one can undermine to fail

Your thought is perfect, but cold
Like a game of death
On the outspoken lips of life
You love not philosophy,
But love instead the sad and cloudy mirror
Of the fool’s heart

Go fill your pockets with wind
And having no longer the ugliness of words
All shall be yours
The perfect, impressible beauty of the heavens.


On Overgrown Paths

"The Stone Breakers" by Gustave Courbet (destroyed in World War II)
I had a hair cut appointment at 5pm and took the Metra into Union Station. I watched the men and women thumbing at their devices and listening to the cords that ran into their ears. The subdivisions passed through the green window, then parking lots, then shopping centers and the Chicago River and the sky scrapers and I got off the train.

It was cold and blowing and I walked quickly to the Art Institute of Chicago and went to look at the Gauguin’s from Tahiti. I had recently become interested in this man. How had he come to give up a career as a Parisian banker to live in Tahiti? I looked at these colorful paintings, the tawny skinned women, their wonderful dark breasts and darker nipples and the oranges and deep reds and the blues and greens. How had a banker come to paint this?

"Why Are You Angry? No Te Aha Oe Riri" by Paul Gauguin
Then I went to look at the Millets. There was a husband and wife shearing a sheep. In another a man was chopping wood. Men worked in a field to gather hay. None of it had been made to be romantic. There were simply men working and it was wonderful. Nearby were some Courbets and they knocked me out. Courbet could really paint stone and earth, though Courbet could paint any damned thing, and when he painted a portrait it was something else. The one Courbet I have always wanted to see was destroyed by Allied bombs in the war.

File:The Philosopher.jpg
"A Philosopher (Beggar with Oysters)" by Manet
After the Courbets was Manet and he did not impress me this time around. I liked two simple portraits he had done of street people. He called them both beggars and philosophers in his titles. Since I had been meditating recently on the nomadic and homeless man as enemies of the State, I took a careful look at these paintings. Perhaps the proper philosopher must be without a home? It was something to consider.

"The Return from Parnassus, Part 1" by Cy Twombly
I finally ended in the contemporary wing where I had the good fortune of coming across two magnificent Cy Twomblys. “The Return from Parnassus” in two parts was a helluva knockout. It put the whole of the contemporary wing to shame and it was clear to me why they didn’t often bring these paintings out for display.

"Gray" by Jasper Johns
On the way out I took a quick look at a Jasper Johns and realized that here was a guy who could have been a shit philosopher probably on the order of Derrida. Instead he had decided to paint. What he paints is interesting and you can look at it. I stood in front of the big gray painting with the string necklace that I always see whenever I come and I realized that if only more of these bad philosophers had just tried to make paintings a lot of confusion might have been avoided.

Later I was sitting in a bar near the hair salon in a neighborhood called the Ukrainian Village. There was little evidence from what I saw of any Ukrainians. The bar had been labeled a hipster bar but there was a long list of very expensive exotic beers on a chalkboard. They call such beers “craft beers” these days. There was no happy hour the tattooed barman told me. I took a pint of the one label I knew, Sierra Nevada. When I was coming up in the world in New York a place labeled ‘hipster’ meant ‘cheap’ and to be a hipster was to be impoverished and to wear $1 t-shirts purchased in thrift stores. Verily, much had changed.

At the end of the bar a gringa with those thin glasses they wear now was speaking so loudly I heard everything she said to the young man beside her. I could not ignore it. She did not let him speak. Her voice was shrill and penetrating and it was clear that she liked to be listened to and agreed with and I began to feel I would weep for her and for him. How had it come to this? The whole scene began to unsettle me and I felt I would weep too for the tattooed barman who worked in a bar without a happy hour and for the passersby on the streets, the men pushing the strollers, the pierced young men and women, and I wanted to weep for them, for the whole city, this place they had come to with such expectation.

I wanted to tell them the truth of it all. That the city was a mistake. The city might be a sort of happiness to a few but to the many it could never be. But this I could not do. To tell that truth would be to be ignored. To show a path to that truth is to make some effect. And I did not know yet how to show them this path. There was nothing I had to show them. I did not know yet how to show the long path that I had taken to this truth. Perhaps I was still on the path and had not yet arrived at the truth. There was much I could not articulate and perhaps much I did not yet know.

So I began to weep for myself. I began to weep for joy. I was teary eyed in the hipster bar in the Ukrainian Village and weeping for joy that I had found an other path and rejected all of this. That I could sit in this place and be so joyful that this was not my life. Because it very might have been my life. It was very possible that I might have been that young man at the end of the bar during the happy hour that was not a happy hour, drinking expensive exotic beers and listening to a shrill gringa tell me the stories of her dating life and career and agreeing with her and playing the game and hoping and praying that I might get that thing I came to the city for.

Later I had my hair cut by Monica, the tattooed girl from Minneapolis who cut my hair more than a year before. They serve you cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the salon while your hair is cut and she did a good job again on my hair, cutting away much of it, straightening it with the chemical relaxer, and I had three cans of cold PBR in total and then I took the subway to the Metra. On the way home I watched the commuters thumbing their devices and I looked out the green window at the darkness and the lights and the passing subdivisions did not look so depressing in the darkness. I hoped that maybe there was some happiness somewhere in some of them, a happiness that resembled the happiness I knew everyday and carried with me and could draw upon when I needed it. I did not think there was that sort of happiness there, but I didn’t know. A city is a big place and you cannot know everyone.



(720 ILCS 5/24-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 24-1)
Sec. 24-1. Unlawful Use of Weapons.
(a) A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly:
(1) Sells, manufactures, purchases, possesses or carries any bludgeon, black-jack, slung-shot, sand-club, sand-bag, metal knuckles, throwing star, or any knife, commonly referred to as a switchblade knife, which has a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, or a ballistic knife, which is a device that propels a knifelike blade as a projectile by means of a coil spring, elastic material or compressed gas
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