Jerry Dresden, Hake Diver Elite, scooted up Lexington Avenue
on a brilliant, late-fall Sunday. His SCABA equipment was working swimmingly. Against
all odds he would, were his mission successful, be the first hake to successfully
accomplish two of the most impressive feats the Phylum Chordata had ever
attempted: to not only navigate New York City, but to fly.
grandfather, Budge Dresden, the pioneer of hake exploration, had chosen New
York City to explore in 1990. On a rainy summer day Budge had flopped onto land
in his rudimentary Walking Bell, only built to last for two hours above water. Budge’s
series of yanks on the water supply-line — a one, two, two, one combination
that signaled, “Haul me in” —came after an even ten hours. Despite his
excessive, fresh air exposure, he insisted, to the protestations of his
underwater research team, on going back ashore the very next day. He was up for
a full eighteen hours before his team felt tugging at the line. When they
reeled him in, only the dorsal fin-shaped fabric to which the hose was
Budge’s journey, though
unsuccessful, had yielded enough data to spark the hake public imagination and
other expeditions were undertaken. Bilton Peabody, a closeted alcoholic and
wife-beater, made deep and fruitful forays onto the boardwalk of the Jersey
Shore from 1993-96. Renaldo Nestle, brother of famed conservative hake
politician Dill Nestle, traveled up the Seine in 2001 and made four tours of Paris that were later adapted into
the blockbuster hake film, “Paris by Land and Love.” Recently, though, there
had been only quotidian trips: beach buzzes, dock flop-bys, coastal sneaks, but
nothing groundbreaking thanks a tightening of the THE — Terrestrial Hake
Expeditions — budget and a contracting public imagination.
An impressive mission was needed to
reignite the public imagination. And so, instead of piddling the rest of THE’s
meager budget into more flop-bys, the hake powers that be had decided to bet it
all on one last-ditch act of bravado. That was why they’d chosen Jerry. He was
the grandson of a hake hero, the best in the THE class of 2014 and, likely, the
best ever. He’d been proven stalwart, unflappable and generally a nice young
fish, genial to a fault.
The stakes were immense. If his
mission failed, it would most likely denote the end of above ground hake
exploration indefinitely. Success, though, promised an expeditionary resurgence
and possible rallying cry for all hake-kind.
Jerry’s SCABA whirred across the street at 21st
and Lexington in search of Madison Square Park. Looking up at the buildings he
felt a pang. Something about the way the buildings hemmed the streets and
Jerry stopped where his mind was
going by focusing on the humans.
With no known predators but
themselves, homo sapiens sapiens seemed oddly nonplussed at Jerry’s SCABA suit.
The suit’s fuselage was built to resemble a Cairn Terrier — the only archival
footage available to THE researchers in constructing this newest suit had been,
oddly enough, the Wizard of Oz — though, hair being a sticky wicket for hake
craftsmanship, the suit looked less like a dog and more like a slimy badger.
But none of that mattered. His
grandfather’s first expedition had delivered the invaluable discovery that no
humans really cared about hake explorers. With no known predators but
themselves, humans had seemingly regressed to a state of permanent
un-vigilance. Certainly some were curious enough to glance at the SCABA suit—
usually these inquiries came from adolescent humans, older ones tended to
simply go about their business — but most lost interest quickly.
It couldn’t be ignored. The
restriction of movement aboveground affected Jerry more than he’d imagined. He
had the urge, as any fish would, to explore all the surroundings: up, down, left
and right. Being stuck to one surface was altogether disorienting… Everything
felt too close. Jerry’s extensive training had never prepared him for this
intense a feeling of immobility.
Jerry pushed it out of his mind
again. He had not been chosen for nothing.
gathering up a NY Daily News, a gum wrapper, seven cigarette butts and a paper
plate he activated “Service Dog” mode and artfully snuck aboard a bus bound for
While snappers were hailed as being
the most technologically advanced and bluefin were known for their nearly
religious investment in terrestrial research, no fish in the sea could beat the
ingenuity of a hake. It was why hake-kind had always gone farther and seen
more: they could get places. And Jerry was doing just that.
Human flight had long been a
fascination of the hake researchers. Attempting to glide through air as fish so
effortlessly danced through the water seemed the ultimate act of hubris.
Impossible even. Yet, they had accomplished it and the fish were determined to understand
its implications firsthand.
terminal Jerry slipped effortlessly past the nitrile rubber gloves of security.
hubris of success, Jerry fished in a trashcan for exploratory samples of a
pumpkin spice latté, one of many boons desired by the THE.
Though he was closer to the plane, Jerry’s
mind remained an un-ruffled slate. His movements precise and his manner
perfected. I’ve got this, Jerry
stepping aboard the plane, he thought have
planes always been this… tight?
What sort of tube had he crept into? Surveying the plane’s
less-than-crowded interior Jerry secreted himself under a seat about
midway-back in the plane. The flight attendants announced that the cabin door
had been closed. And like a stiff, wooden frame, gnawed and gnawed by tiny
termites, Jerry began to feel his poise crumble.
Through his suit he could smell the
noxious recycled air inside the cabin — acrid propane smog. There were bangs,
the sounds of grunting drills. Surely the humans knew what they were doing,
Jerry thought. But then again, thought Jerry, perhaps they didn’t. Gill-tightening
claustrophobia seized him. The clinical walls of the fuselage crept inward.
Jerry felt the water rushing through his gills. Panic caromed through his head.
His SCABA suit felt as if it were constricting. He had to get out. Had to get
Jerry ejected from his SCABA suit
and leapt onto the carpet. Blind with panic, no plan of escape, Jerry’s mouth
gawped helplessly on the mid-century modern rug of the plan. He was flopping
and his gills burned and he felt the life draining… seeping out of him…
stick this one out, Jerry?” said the voice of Budge Dresden, hake explorer.
this what happens when you die? Jerry thought as his last watery breaths
escaped him. Hearing the voice of your
hero before an ignominious death?
Budge. “I’m talking to you.”
turned and forgot everything he’d been thinking. Sitting in a fine tweed suit,
cane at his side, bowler hat resting upon his lapless lap was Budge Dresden
himself. Alive, 5-feet long from unchecked growth and breathing recycled air as
if it were crystalline Bermuda reefwater.
need that muskrat suit,” said Budge. “Come up here.”
holding it in,” said Budge. “Let yourself breathe.”
Jerry did. The
cabin air had cleared of its dreadful stench and passed cool and crisp through
his gills. He lay, breathing, for a little while, feeling the walls decompress,
his mind return to its familiar, calm state.
“Now get up
here,” Budge patted the seat beside him with a flipper. Jerry, using the
terrestrial movement techniques he’d practiced, flopped up.
“How—“ Jerry said.
“Not right now,” said Budge,
flapping a fin at the window. The plane was taxying itself into position.
“Don’t want to miss the fun part.”
cascaded to life, their hurricane gyrations rumbling the fuselage of the ship.
No longer was Jerry worried; he was confused, in awe. Jerry looked over at Budge,
the same Budge Dresden captured in a coral statue outside the hake Memorial
Museum of Exploration: impressive jaw jutting outward, un-shuttable eyes
looking patricianly upon him.
you still alive?” asked Jerry.
know?” asked Budge.
at the words they were made of. The bedraggled manchild at his computer,
blearily typing at six in the morning on a damn Tuesday trying to finish a
story that was already beyond the pale of implausibility.
“This is a
story,” said Budge. “None of it made sense so far. Why should it start now?”
said Budge. “A modality of speech with the intention of evoking emotion or understanding
in the reader.”
Jerry, or at least the words of which Jerry
was made, shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “What does that mean for the
“Well,” said Budge, rolling the
bowler onto his sloped brow with a deft flick of his flipper in a movement that
could never in real life be physically accomplished. “That depends.”
“OK,” said Jerry.
They sat in silence for a spell,
feeling the plane gently rumble up into the crystalline sky.
“Depends on what?” Jerry asked.
Budge, or the brain of budge that
was really the writer’s brain, thought about it for a second.
“Considering,” Budge said. “That you’re just an analogy meant to
represent realistic human emotion and hopes, I have two options. One, I could
disappoint the reader by actually remaining real, thus returning with you to
the hake kingdom as the true hero: the one who learned how to live on land.
That would, of course, make you a less than stellar side note in history and
leave the question of how the heck we’re both breathing up here in a plane in
the sky that the writer still hasn’t fully figured out how he wants to handle.
That’s not what the readers want, though.
“My second option is to remain what
the readers most likely think I am right now: a figment of your imagination
— a deus ex machina of an image
meant to calm your crippling claustrophobia long enough for you to get back
into your SCABA suit and complete this daring mission, sending you back to the
hake kingdom to the fanfare and veneration you truly deserve.”
Jerry nodded. He kind of
understood. It was all getting a bit heavy.
“Which do you think it’ll be?”
“Well,” said Budge, turning to look
Jerry full on. “The writer is looking for an easy way out and there is none simpler than old deus ex machina.
Plus, I’ve had my glory, I think it’s time you had yours too. You’ve earned
Jerry nodded as his mouth pulled
into a slimy, involuntary grin. Beneath them the fang of Manhattan slid into
haze. The two hakes gazed out the window — silent together in mutual admiration
and contemplation — while the sapphire sky and sea melded into one endless
I’ve been saving this review for quite some time. Before
Central Provisions slapped the Portland culinary waters with its formidable
flukes, I would have said that Street & Co. was the best meal to be had
in Portland (yes, even over Fore St.). I know that probably galls many of the
Fore St. fan club (it’s the better
Street restaurant damn it!), but it’s purely from my experience living here
for the past two-ish years. Street & Co. with its fisherman’s stew, its sole francaise and, last but not least, one biblically moist swordfish
steak has proven itself to be a sumptuous pescitarian feast waiting to
Thar she blows
It’s not cheap by any means, but it’s not going to bust you
wide open like a Hugo’s, per se. It’s a restaurant made for “occasions.” Take
a date. Take your parents. Take yourself. Unless you summer on an island, you
probably won’t be able to afford to make it a daily excursion.
Not that this place actually feels like the below decks living
quarters of a working ship, but it’s got a comfortable and intimate feel that
lends itself perfectly to their fish-focused menu.
At the Ready
Most often, when the prices rise, so does the service quality. S&C
is no exception.
EAT OR SKIP:
I said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a Portland
staple. Street and Co. has yet to serve me a meal that was less than
belly-pattin’ fine. Even Ahab would (perhaps) crack a smile.