Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Big Fish: The One We Wished Had Gotten Away

Today I was to have lunch with all of my coworkers from the Special Education Dept for the school I work for. We had been assigned an entire half of the dining area of an all-you-can-eat buffet at a local luxurious Indian casino.

As we all gathered at the buffet, two coworkers and I were separated while checking in and were seated on the opposite side of the dining room. 

While perusing the salad bar (ok, I'll confess, the dessert bar) I had been approached by our director and it had been suggested that we join the rest of the group. Once I had my salad (brownies) appropriately plated, I made my way to the group but was stopped dead in my tracks as a coworker walked right in front of me with a platter draped and dripping with overwhelmingly stinky King Crab legs......YUCK!!!

the blonde is heartless....right???
I promptly made an about face and distanced myself from the smelly, stinky, exceptionally grossness that was before me. I quite literally let out an involuntarily retching sound as I nearly puked.

As I hastily fled in the opposite direction , I offered an apology from over my shoulder murmuring something about how I can't, I just simply cannot, stand the smell of anything seafood.

The guttural reaction I displayed that day goes back much further than the last few months of my self-imposed vegetarian state of mind. No, this is directly connected to a childhood memory that even the best of psychotherapists will not be able to erase from my mind.

Mitten Mountain in Dolan Springs

When I was 6 or 7 years of age, my family lived in Dolan Springs, Arizona. This open-range cattle-country desert community is located about 72 miles beyond BFE in the middle of nowhere. Chances are, you've never even heard of the place.

A set up similar to what we lived in

My family lived right off the main highway in a single wide trailer void of any modern convenience we take for granted now. We didn't have a city sewer system (we had a septic tank), no running water (we had a water tank that had to be trucked out to be filled every so often... shhhhh, don't tell anyone, but my brother and I swam in that tank all the time not thinking it was our drinking water...ewwww...*giggle), and our electricity was wired in from a line off the telephone pole at the street. I'm not even sure we had a phone. Yeah, we were roughing it!

I can only imagine how depressing it must have been for my mother to live there with her four children. My dad, on the other hand, was able to escape during the week as he worked across the state line at Kaiser Steel in California and would be gone Mon-Fri, returning home on the weekends.

One year, my dad proposed a deep sea fishing trip with the promise to my mother that he would take the rest of the family on a nice, well-deserved vacation far away from the desert's oppressive heat and wind storms when he returned. My mom agreed to the deal and off he went for an adventure on the high seas.

With my dad ~ Summer '73 or '74

He returned a few days later with a grin from ear to ear. I remember how proud my dad was when he returned from that trip with the prize catch of the day. Not only had he snagged the biggest catch of the trip, but he had also won the money pot for doing so! I don't recall how much money he pocketed, but it was nothing compared to how proud he was of the Yellow fin  tuna he carted 200+ miles back home

At some point shortly after this picture of my dad and I was taken, he skillfully cut, sliced, diced, and chopped that poor fish into Tuna Steaks which my mother promptly wrapped in saran wrap and foil and placed into the freezer with the promise of stews, casseroles, salads, and whatever else one does with tuna.

So, with the man trip a distant memory, my parents loaded up the family truck and we headed off  for a family get-away. I don't recall where we went, and I'm certain it wasn't all that great; certainly not Hawaii or anything grand. Most likely, it was a trip to Vegas to visit extended family, which for my mother, probably wasn't much a better Hell than the solitude of the desert. But, the thought of civilization, running water, air conditioning, and adult conversation  would be enough to make a week or more with one's mother-in-law a paradise in and of itself.

If memory serves, we were gone about  two weeks that summer. Not that it's important, really, other than to note that we were gone from the trailer for an extended amount of time. We're not sure when it happened, but at some point while we were away, a summer storm blew through the region and lightning  knocked out all the power to our home.

I will pause here for a moment to let you complete the perhaps not-so-obvious equation in your head:

60 ft long tin can (aka trailer)
- electricity
+ summer temperatures over 100 degrees
+ 50 pounds of tuna in the now defrosting freezer
+ extended fermentation time
= a nose-hair curling stench that permeates the senses and stays with you for the rest of your life !!!

I have the vision clearly ingrained in my mind of my parents opening that trailer door !!!
The stench was unbearable, the reality unimaginable, and I"m sure you can only imagine the reaction !!!

All that tuna had defrosted in the freezer and all those fish juices ran out the drain in the back and all down the coils on the rear side of the fridge.... onto the floor .... through the cracks in the linoleum ..... and into the subfloor... and baked in the hot summer sun the entire time we were away.

We kids had it easy, but my poor parents had to clean that mess up. I don't recall, but certainly, there had to be maggots involved, which would only be a secondary inconvenience to the stench.

We were too poor to simply toss the old fridge and buy another. No, it had to be salvaged and cleaned and every effort was made to rid the fridge and the trailer of the smell. My mother even resorted to burning coffee on a hot plate placed inside the fridge.

I honestly don't know how she survived ... my mother truly is a saint!

So, those of you who know me, and even for those of you who don't ... I hope this provides you with a better understanding of why I won't be joining you at Red Lobster, or a clam bake, or the fish market at the pier.... don't try to convince me that I will like fish if I try it prepared this way or that. I simply don't want it! It's one of those childhood memories that stay with you forever.

I simply cannot stomach it.... and that is no fish story !!!  

1 comment:

  1. Laughing so much right now.
    I'm a sea food fan. My instant gag/retch reflex is triggered by mucousy sounds and imagery.
    My Dad once burned coffee in an apartment he was managing to cover up the scent of decomp so they could re-rent it after the previous tenant died (true story, ask him).