The Emerald Carp

The Emerald CarpThere was a guy I knew who roomed with a bunch of students from China when he was studying to be an engineer.  Right next to their dorm was a big pond full of algae, bluegills and carp.  Big fuckers–a few pounds each–so big they could slurp down frogs and other fish and amphibious creatures.  The Chinese students could not have been happier.  For them, this was like winning the fucking lotto.  Pond-raised carp; all you could catch and all you could eat.  I never knew the fuckers were edible.  These guys would make carp balls and deep fry them.  The stench from the smell of them cooking the carp was enough to gag a carrion bird, but these guys loved them some carp.  The thought of eating a carp makes me ill, much less the reality of gobbling down one of these garbage fish.  These Chinese students?  Man, those guys ate the ass out of those carp.

I love drawing the bastards, though.  To me, they’re beautiful in an odd, prehistoric way.  Plus, all of the Japanese etchings I love so much of carp and catfish make them a compelling subject for me.

In Lake Michigan, they’re trying desperately to keep the Asian carp OUT.   This is the fish that jumps out of the water and tries to fuck you up.  A fish that tries to defy the food chain.  Kind of a “Fuck you and your fishing pole, Skippy–I’m going to kill and eat YOU” type fish.

I  like them.  No shortage of stones within the Asian carp family.  The assholes in the boats go bugnutty when this happens.  they’re not used to the lowly fish fighting back.  I think it’s good.  Especially for the goofs who like to stuff fish and hang them in their house like they just caught Moby Dick’s ass.

The footage I’ve seen of the Asian carp is hysterically funny.  They come barrel-assing out of the water and sometimes slap the dopey anglers in the head.  I almost wet myself when they score a direct head shot, whereupon the angler flails his arms and screams and it fucks up his whole day.  It is screamingly funny.  There is a “man bites dog”-like schadenfreude about it.  One film I saw, there were so many fish launching themselves out of the water, it looked like a coordinated attack on the fisherman.  I laughed so fucking hard, I had to change the channel for fear of a vapor lock.  Jesus Christ it was funny.  When the douchebags start swinging oars over their heads and hit each other, it is a  laugh riot.

We always think that what goes on underwater is peaceful, blue, and bucolic.  It’s not.  Life under the waves is around-the-clock murder.  Every sea creature eating the ass out of smaller, weaker sea creatures.  I love shows about the ocean.  I saw one where this octopus blended in perfectly with some vegetation, only to jump out and surprise a starfish before ripping him scrot to throat and devouring him.  The ocean  may be beautiful and blue, but it is an extraordinarily ungentle place.  We think of dolphins as the jolly-chollies of the sea. . .until they see a shark.  They hunt and kill sharks just for fun–for snicks–and sharks kill everything; ripping ass on seals left and right, sea turtles, pot-head surfers, you name it.

In Chicago, we’re blessed with the Shedd Aquarium.  It is a beautiful collection of underwater life.  The colors alone make the eye drunk.  On Thursdays, after hours, they feed the sharks.  I’ve never seen it but friends of mine have.  A diver goes down in the huge middle tank and hand feeds the fuckers.  He is a braver man than I.

While I was in Tokyo last year, I was astounded at how beautiful some of the sushi was.  Damn near too pretty to eat.  A sushi chef explained to me the plate presentation was a way of honoring the creatures they had butchered.  I kind of liked that idea.  I asked him why there was no carp sushi?  He made a face and said Japanese don’t eat this thing and he shook his head.

Slowly but surely, the state of Illinois is building fine mesh nets to stretch across feeder-rivers in an effort to keep the Asian carp out of Lake Michigan, calling it a destructive and invasive species.  I don’t know.  I wonder if anything could fuck up the lake any worse than we have.  The years of letting steel mills and factories and tanneries dump shit into it unchecked was once so bad there were floating masses of “fecal grease-balls.”   Yum.

Maybe the Asian carp are nature’s payback.  Maybe launching themselves out of the water into some slapdick’s head is nature’s way of letting us know it has the ass over us.  That in nature, while there is no right or wrong, there ARE consequences.  And maybe we need to be slapped hard in the squash to wake the fuck up.

Published in: on June 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. I hate fish. Well, let me rephrase that. I don’t like to eat fish. I like my food to have personality and pretty doe like eyes like a cow or intelligence like a pig. The one exception is chicken. They are not exceptionally attractive or smart. I love chickens. I like saying the word: “chicken.” I often create terms like love-chicken, or sex-chicken or my favorite – snow-chicken.

    Anyway, you used my favorite word: schadenfreude!! I couldn’t believe it!
    Thanks Tony.

  2. I’ve got to tell you Tony. I’m a fan of your art and writing and I have been for years. But you’re wrong about the carp. Except for the fact that they are fun to look at and to draw.

    I just came back from a trip to the Missouri River to catch them for a book I’m working on. We went out on a an electro-fishing boat with some biologists to see exactly what is in the water. The biomass is literally about 95% silver carp. Everything else there is disappearing and dying. Its like if McDonalds bought every building in Chicago and turned literally every single street into nothing but McDonalds. Maybe you like Big Macs but there’s a line somewhere.

    Many of the species that belong on the river are going to eventually become extinct because of this fish. We’re talking about extinction here and that is very serious stuff. The fact that a fish looks charismatic or that a fisherman looks silly getting hit in the the face doesn’t outweigh the honest-to-God extinction of entire species.

    Carp tastes fine, by the way. I’ve eaten a ton of silver and common carp. Just don’t get them out of water full of sewage, and filet them right away instead of gutting them. Most people literally can’t tell the difference between fried carp filets and fried cod.


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