Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My account of the terrorists attacks on Brussels, March 22, 2016

Some of you may know that I live in Brussels now. So, this isn't going to by the typical post about fishing. Unfortunately, it's a much more somber post.  This is how March 22, 2016 unfolded for me.

First off, I have to let you all know that I am fortunate to say that me and all my friends are fine, well, at least not physically injured. I was in my office at Vrije University Brussels (VUB) around 8:10 am as usual. Around 9 am my colleague, Joanna, arrived and asked if I had heard the news. There was an explosion at the Brussels airport. We started looking online for information when we heard that there had just been another explosion, this one at the metro station Maelbeek, around 9:15. We immediately tried to find out about our colleagues, Mahi, Safâa, Edina, and Jemima, who would all be traveling through that stop. It was only a few minutes, but seemed like an eternity. We found out that Mahi was trying to take the metro but was turned back. Safâa was traveling by car and was also told to turn back. Jemima, who comes into the city by train then takes the metro through Maelbeek, was also turned around at the North Station. Edina had taken a few days off and was a home. What a relief! Everyone was OK. That started the spider web of texts between me, my friends, my colleagues, and their friends. We were getting reports via text before we saw them confirmed on online news sources. There was a second explosion at the airport, there were several explosions at different metro stations in the European District Area (these proved later to just be rumors), all public transportation has been shut down and we are told to all stay put. That’s when we learned that the ULB, the neighboring campus was evacuated, but we didn’t know why. 

About 10 AM, in an attempt to continue business as usual, we had our monthly departmental meeting. I couldn’t pay attention at all. I had my laptop with me trying to figure out what the hell was happening to the city I now call home. Trying to get in touch with friends that may have gone through Maelbeek Station. I had sent a text to Enser earlier, he works at the European Commission, but I hadn’t heard back. Then I texted Anne to see if she had heard from Enser, but I hadn’t heard back from her either. Ok, now I’m worried about both of them.

We were getting mixed and confusing reports from the VUB, that afternoon meetings were cancelled but classes were to continue as usual. Then that classes were cancelled but we weren’t supposed to leave campus. These messages were all in Dutch, making them even less clear to me. Even Google Translate has its limits. Finally, after an hour of trying to look attentive, the meeting was over.

At 11:30 a handful of us decided we’d better go grab a sandwich, in case the situation changes and the shop closes. Terrorist attacks are always worse on an empty stomach. We turned the corner to find four soldiers were guarding the shop. Soldiers have become a normal sight in Brussels since the attacks in Paris. You often see them patrolling in pairs. But these four somehow seemed different, more somber, more grave. Seeing them evoked a wave of the realization of the situation. Waiting in line to order, two soldiers came into the shop, scaring all of us who were already on edge. “Well, I did see one of them out there with a coke, maybe they are just going to the loo” said Jonas. Soldiers are people too.

We returned to our offices with food in hand, only to find out someone was giving away cake down stairs. Turned out, a woman in the economic department was to have her public defense that day. It was cancelled, of course, but not before her order of treats for the after party had arrived. I did my duty and had a really nice chocolate mousse. Then came a report that the bomb squad was at Etterbeek Station, a small train station about a block or two from the VUB.

Finally, I heard from Enser. He was on the bus and because of the explosion at Maelbeek, got rerouted. Ann was in stuck in London. At least she was safe! Back upstairs in my office, things started to get weird and scary. There was a report of a small explosion at Etterbeek Station and a “suspicious package” at Delta Station, another small train station right next to the ULB. That must have been the reason campus was evacuated earlier that day. In came a report that there was an armed man spotted on campus. Then the news that there is now a “concrete threat” on campus and to stay indoors. Ronnie, from the secretary’s office came around a took a head count. Ok, was official. I was freaked! We had been discussing all morning that we felt like sitting ducks here at the VUB. Security isn’t real high and a university seemed like a potential target. We all agreed we’d feel safer at home, but were told to stay off the streets, for the time being. And with no public transportation running, that’s exactly where we would be.

Then we heard an explosion close by. No body panicked, I think we were all too stunned. But, holy shit! Things just got real. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably about 15 minutes, we were told that the explosion was controlled. Police had found a suspicious car near campus and blew it up. That’s when I learned there is a police station right across the street, which was also thought to be a potential target.

About 3 PM campus got the all clear and we were told we were free to leave. I think we all took off like a shot! It was eerie to walk out onto an empty campus. Joanna, Matheiu and I all live more less in the same neighborhood so the three of us walked home together. Traffic was amazingly congested since there was no public transportation running and several of the city’s tunnels were closed. Lots of people were on foot, too. It was only a 30-minute walk home for me. Under different circumstances, it would have been a pleasant walk.

The rest of the day was letting friends and family know I was alright and watching it all unfold online. Though, I was happy to see strangers pull together through this trying time and try to help one another out. People were on Facebook, offering spare rooms and rides to stranded strangers. Hotels were offering free rooms, internet companies were offering free Wi-Fi in efforts to help keep phone lines clear. It was heart warming to see the city pull together. 

I know this is a lot different than the accounts you are seeing on TV or reading about. This was just my experience of the tragic day.


Though it has been my home for only a few months now, there is one thing I know about Brussels. You can’t keep this city down. Though she is wounded and grieving, she is determined to get back up, dust herself off, and just keep on keeping on. I don't know about you, but admire that in a city. 


Memorial at the Bourse in downtown Brussels, March 23, 2016

People gathered at the Bourse in downtown Brussels, March 23, 2016



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's THIS weekend!

It's THIS weekend!  The 18th Annual Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon!


Me reading in Cannon Beach, 2013

This is going to be a short post because I have a plane to Oregon to catch.  I'll be performing a handful of times this weekend AND will be live on the radio Saturday night about 8:45 (ish).  You can tune into KMUN at www.coastradio.org and stream live!

Friday 4-5 open mic at the Voodoo Room

Friday at Fort George's Lovell Showroom about 6:30 with my fishing buddy Emily Springer. 

Saturday at KALA at 2:55 for a 5 minute read from the  Anchored in Deep Water, the Fisher Poets Anthology.

Saturday night at 8:45 at the Astoria Event Center and KMUN.

Sunday 10-noon at the Astoria Even Center's farewell open mic

Sunday 4-6 at Cannon Beach Art Association Gallery

You can find the complete schedule of events here at www.fisherpoets.org.

Here is a great read about Fisher Poets in Oregon Live online.  They even feature one of my poems!

http://www.oregonlive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/02/fisherpoets_converging_on_asto.html

And here is what Coast Explore Magazine has to say about us:

http://coastexplorermagazine.com/features/fisher-poets-gathering-in-astoria-oregon-last-weekend-in-february-2015


Reading at the Astoria Event Center, 2013




I look forward to seeing you in Astoria!

I'm out.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

18th Annual Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria Oregon, February 27 to March 1, 2015

2013 Fisher Poets 


Time to set the net!  The 2015 Fisher Poets Gathering is almost here!  This is the 18th annual Fisher Poets Gathering set in beautiful downtown Astoria, Oregon, February 27th until March 1st.  And, hey ya, if you are looking at me, you are looking at one of this year's performers!  This will be my 4th FPs and I can't wait!  I've been working hard on my polishing up my fish tales. 

Folks, we got quite aline up this year, the deck is awash is poets. Some 85 participants will be at the helm this year.  That may even be a record run!

Dave Densmore  2013 (photo by Jen Pickett)
You can check out the cast here at their very own website: www.fisherpoets.org.

Dennis McGuire 2013 (photo by Jen Pickett)

I had to give it a miss last year, I was dog-sitting in England.  But will be there will bells on this year!  Even if I do have do come all the way from Finland.  Its worth it to see all my fishin' buddies again and hear their song, poems and stories.

Ron McDaniel, Jen Pickett, and Steve Schoonmaker


As one fan says, "there is something in the FPs that cannot be described in clear words.
I've got a deep appreciation towards fishermen and fisherwomen..."  So come see for yourself!
I'm having a hard time describing FPs gathering here... a bit at a loss for words, other than it is totally awesome.  Let's take a look at how their web site describes it:

Expect performances from scores of fisherpoets Friday and Saturday nights and lots of company. Saturday morning we'll have writing and issues-related workshops, tours of old canneries and working fishing boats.  Saturday afternoon we'll have film at the Columbian Theater and our Story Circle at the Astoria Event Center.  Our bookstore, the Gearshack, will be open all weekend for fans to check out their favorite fisherpoets' books and cds or to bid on silent auction items or to sit on on the occasional musicians' jams there.  Stay late for the annual Poetry Contest finale and for open mic and for dancing.  Sunday morning we'll say "farewell" at the Astoria Event Center with a little Gospel sing just for fun followed by something very short from those what want to.

Jay Speakman & Jon Broderick, the grandfathers of FPs
Ok, that didn't help, did it.? But it gives you and idea of the opener... I mean schedule.  Let's see if I can get this off the reel without a backlash...here goes. The FPs gathering is a weekend of celebration by those who make their living on the sea.  There are songs, poems, and stories, all original works, all straight from their salty hearts, written by those who have slayed at least one fish for money.  We laugh, we cry, we laugh some more.  Its a grand time.  Check a bit out for yourself and have a looksy at different folks in the act: www.inthetote.com.

But to really savor the flavor, which is as rich as King Salmon, you have to see it for yourself.  Hope to see you in Astoria!



Ron McDaniel & Carey Jones  (photo by Jen Pickett)


I'm out.






Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Salmon Appetizers

Looking for a way to spice up Thanksgiving this year?  How about adding a little salmon into your Thanksgiving Dinner this year!  Well look no further!  Below I have two of my favorite recipes that are 1) easy to make, 2) can be made a few days ahead, 3)  great crowd pleasers and 4) super delicious!




Copper River smoked salmon dip

  • 1 can/jar of Smoked Copper River Red Salmon
  • 1-2 packages of cream cheese (or Neufchâtel cheese which I prefer because it is softer and has less fat)
  • 1/2 C milk (or 1/2 & 1/2, which is even better.  Even better yet is heavy cream, just a splash will add richness to the flavor.)
  • 1 T red onion, very finely sliced
  • 1 T capers
  • In a double boiler, melt cream cheese until soft.   Mix together milk (or 1/2 & 1/2), red onion  and cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese until smooth.
  • Add salmon and stir until salmon is all mixed together.  
  • Add capers and gently fold them in, careful not to break them.
  • Serve with crackers.










Smoked salmon deviled eggs


Make your favorite deviled eggs recipe.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of Wasabi and 1 tablespoon smoked salmon to the yokes. Don't worry, the Wasabi will mellow with the mayonaise and just be a nice flavor with a small kick.
Finish as usual.
Yum yum in the tum tums. (The best part about this recipe is not only is it super tasty but you don't have to share too much of your smoked salmon! A little goes a long way)









Happy Thanksgiving!




Friday, November 14, 2014

PickFishes' Copper River Smoked Salmon Chowder Recipe











PickFishes’ Copper River Smoked Salmon Chowder


Ingredients: 

4 slices bacon
1 carrot
1-2 stalks celery (optional)
1 -2 small onion
1-2 cloves garlic
6-8 small potatoes, pealed
¼ cup flour
2 Tablespoon butter
4-6 cups stock (I used home made chicken stock)
1-cup corn (I used frozen)
6-8 ounces Smoked Copper River Salmon
½-1 pint heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

I’ve learned over the years of cooking on a boat, life is just infinitely easier if you just prep absolutely everything you are going to need to prepare a meal before hand.
Because, inevitably, there will be some surprise come up while cooking.  Either another boat runs by and wakes you, the skipper decides he has to run the net just as your pot starts to boil and you have to grab it before boiling spaghetti water goes flying all over the cabin getting everyone nice 2nd degree burns, or its just rough enough that you have to hold on while you are cooking (which means you will have to hold the pot while its cooking). If you are like me and only have two hands, its impossible to hold the pot and chop something at the same time, or  (and this is my personal favorite) even though the skipper knows you are cooking a meal, he decides the net needs to be picked right this very second and the whole meal gets put on hold.  For whatever reason, I just like to have everything ready before I begin.  But, you can do whatever you would like to do.  This recipe is just a guideline.  Actually, as some of you may know, I personally can’t seem to follow a recipe to save my life, which is how I came up with this recipe.  I don’t know why, (maybe I just have a problem with authority) or I just don’t have all the ingredients so I substitute (again, boat life means you sort of have to work with what you have since running to the store usually isn’t an option), or I don’t like an ingredient so I leave it out, or (which just happened with this recipe) after going to three different stores, I gave up looking for celery so I left it out.  Anyway, I digress.  This recipe here is a combination of four different recipes that I found for smoked salmon chowder.  Well, actually, three different recipes for smoked salmon chowder and I followed part of the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for “Perfect Potato Soup”.  (Thanks Pioneer Woman!)  So feel free to follow it or use it as a guideline, up to you. Ok, here we go.

·      Peel potatoes and cube into small pieces (otherwise they take forever to cook)
·      Dice onions, carrot, celery (optional) into small pieces
·      Peel garlic and either slice it into very small pieces or get it ready for the garlic press, which is what I did
·      Slice bacon into small cubes
·      Measure out ¼ cup flour
·      Measure out about 1 cup of corn

Ok.  I’m a little afraid of your judgment when I tell you the first step so I’m going to defend myself right now.  As I mentioned I’m in Finland for the winter at latitude 62.24.  Its mid November and it is already cold and dark.  My body wants FAT!  So, if you are concerned about your fat intake you can adjust the first step to your liking but if you are in the mood for hearty chowder, then I’m giving you permission to follow this recipe to a “T”.  And, for the record, this first part is part of one of the recipes I found and followed.  So, don’t shoot the messenger.  Ok, here we go.  Again.

In heavy soup pot on medium high heat, melt your 2 Tablespoons butter, add bacon.  Yes, this recipe calls for cooking bacon in butter.   Yum. You know this is going to be good.  Besides, the goodness of the salmon should counteract the badness of bacon cooked in butter.  I think.

·      Cook bacon until mostly brown, about 2-3 minutes.
·      Add onion, carrot, and your optional celery.
·      Cook until onions are near translucent, about another 2-3 minutes.
·      Then add your potatoes and salt to your liking.  Cook this bacon, onion, carrot, optional celery,   potato and salt combination about 4 or 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
·      Add garlic, stir. 
·      Add pepper to your liking.
·      Sprinkle on ¼ cup flour and stir, making a quick roux.
·      After the flour is all mixed in, add your chicken stock, about 4-6 cups. 
·      Stir and turn heat down to about a low-medium.
·      Add your cup of corn
·      Open your 6-8 ounce package of smoked salmon and pour the oil from the salmon into the soup.  Then dump salmon onto a cutting board and cut into small pea sized pieces.
·      Add smoked salmon to soup, go ahead and throw in all the skin and oil.  Its good for you.
·      Stir and let simmer about 5 minutes or until your potatoes are fully cooked.  Once the potatoes are fully cooked, you can add the cream.
·      Then add your ½ -1 pint heavy cream.  Stir. (I used ½ pint and it was plenty rich and creamy.  Feel free to substitute milk or a combination of heavy cream and milk, but with the bacon and the butter, does it really matter at this point?)
·      Turn down heat to low, you don’t want the soup to scorch or the cream to separate.
·      Serve and enjoy!

Let me know how you like this recipe, how it came out for you, or if you made any changes!




Monday, October 27, 2014

Blast from the past




Its that time of year again where the aches and pains from fishing have finally vanished and nostalgia for the season starts to set in.  Ah, selective memory....a fishermen's best friend.  In my mood of reverie for fishing, I scrapped up an old article I wrote for The Cordova Times, (Prince William Sounds oldest newspaper, established in 1914),  a few years ago and wanted to share it with you.  Apologies if the format is a little funky, its taken right from the paper.  Added bonus is a salmon recipe at the end!  I hope you enjoy.

 


 
CORDOVA LIFE
Custom Built



 
originally from the Czech republic, Vince Beran has been fishing in Prince William Sound since 1978.



 
  DOCKLINES
Scuttlebutt and boats 
of the harbor

JEN PICKETT / For The Cordova Times
The Cordova Times | Friday, June 15, 2012 | www.thecordovatimes.com
F/V Pasak, original and one of a kind
By Jen Pickett 

For The Cordova Times 
 
Vince Beran doesn’t like to brag, “Its really nothing special, you have to just keep fixing it.”
In most cases, saying something is original and one of a kind is a bit redundant, but not in this case. The Pasak, Vince’s gillnetter is original and one of a kind. 

Originally from Czech Republic, Beran fished for 2 years in Puget Sound before bringing his boat up here and fishing the Copper River in 1978. He fell in love with the fishing exclaiming “It’s an easy live right, you give them fish, they give you money, right?” 

His boat, the Pasak is a 28’ bowpicker built by Vince in 1975. He bought a Uniflight hull then took it from there. He did the deck and cabin himself. He installed a Chevy 454 engine, Mercruiser Outboard Outdrive, and made a stainless steel reel stands. And all three are still the original today. But that’s not all. 

Beran made pretty much everything else, his entire interior of the boat, from the helm station, to his bunk to his oil stove. Yup, made the oil stove out of stainless steel, complete with two carburetors, two separate air intakes (one for when he is running) and a fan to circulate the heat. Most guys buy pre-fabricated boat furniture but not Vince. He even made a crafty little table that folds up out of the way when not in use, a cook station, his bunk, and shelves. He made a shock absorbing helm’s chair out of stainless steel and a big spring.


Pretty much everything onboard the Pasak was built by it’s captain, Vince Beran from fabricating steel parts to it’s custom interior.


“Hours? 

I don’t know how many hours I have on the engine,” said Pasak. “You don’t ask me how many hours. I don’t dare to think. I can tell you how many years. Thirty-seven.” 
 
That’s right, his 37-year-old engine are still buddies with his 37 year old outdrive and 37-year-old reel. 

“For the engine, I try to get the premium parts, especially for the amount of work you spend on it, it pays to get quality.”
But that is not all, he has fabricated a stainless steel heat exchanger, exhaust manifolds, additional air filters and countless gadgets in addition to wiring. And he isn’t afraid to experiment with things like dry exhaust. He figured cars
have it, why not boats? “Dry exhaust, improves it (engine performance) makes it even better but nobody told me the vapor get so hot, you can’t imagine how hot vapor gets from a gas engine.” 
 
Turns out, the reason boats don’t have dry exhaust is because they don’t go fast enough for the air to cool the engine. You have to give him kudos for trying. But he didn’t let that set back of nearly catching the whole boat and himself on fire stop him, he simply plugged the holes in the stern from the failed experiment with those infamous Wilson tennis balls and moved on. When I asked him if he’s had to replace those he answered, laughing, “not yet, not yet.” I should have known those were still the original ones. 
 
“I have 1975 outdrive but you do not let mechanic fiddle with it. You set the gears correct, how they are designed. You have to be patient when set the bearings, its really not difficult you just have to be patient.”
Vince took the time to call the manufacturers of the bearings and got the correct spacing for each bearing for his outdrive. 

“You change the oil, maybe take out a seal here or there, and it works. You put oil on everything and zincs on everything,” advises Vince. “And try to make everything easy to repair.” 

Out on deck, he made his reel stand out of, you guessed it, stainless steel. “That’s the original chain from 1975, I put a big chain and large gear and it lasts.” But that’s not all. He fabricated an additional fuel tank one the bow that also aids in dealing with sharks when they get caught up. He mounted a pulley system that is driven by a mini winch mounted on the cabin. He can haul the shark aboard, cut it out of the net, then, the front of the fuel tank, which is angled, acts as a ramp and he can set the net back out, discarding the shark. How many gillnetters can say they can be self- sufficient when it comes to dealing with sharks? I know I wasn’t.
 
I haven’t even gotten to his truck yet. It’s a 1963 International pick-up truck that he has driven up the ALCAN every year from Washington State for the past 37 years!

“The truck is a masterpiece, I had it since ‘78. I used to tow the boat back and forth, I was dumb, ya know? It has about 700,000 miles on it. Rebuilt only once. The seal of the camshaft went out but the engine by itself never wear out.”
Vince’s equipment has outlasted his fishing career. He sold out last year but the boat, is still for sale. He admits it isn’t beautiful but I think it’s a work of art, for the right person. 

“You have to have personality that likes to fix things,” says Vince Beran, That and “you need constant protection from heaven, nobody is that good.” 

Jen Pickett is a freelance writer and fisherman in Cordova, alaska who also blogs about her fishing adventures at: www.pickfishtales.com. she can be reached at pickfish@gmail.com. 




RECIPE oF THE WEEK

alaska salmon Ciabatta sandwiches
PreP Time: 10 min Cook Time: 15 min Serves: 4
iNGreDieNts
  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 4 ciabatta or hard sandwich rolls
  • 4 Alaska Salmon fillets (4 to 6 oz.
    each), fresh, thawed or frozen
  • 1 Tablespoon olive, canola, peanut
    or grapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 4 leaves butter or curly leaf lettuce
    DirectioNs
  1. In small bowl, blend mayonnaise, lime juice, and celery salt; set aside. Slice sandwich rolls in half; toast or grill and keep warm.
  2. Rinse any ice glaze from frozen Alaska Salmon under cold water; pat dry with paper towel. Heat a heavy nonstick skillet over medium- high heat. Brush both sides of salmon with oil. Place salmon in heated skillet and cook, uncovered, about 3 to 4 minutes, until browned. Shake pan occasionally to keep fish from sticking.
  3. Turn salmon over and season with salt and pepper. Add green onions to bottom of pan. Cover pan tightly and reduce heat to medium. Cook an additional 6 to 8 minutes for frozen salmon OR 3 to 4 minutes for fresh/thawed fish. Cook just until fish is opaque throughout.
  4. Blend cooked onions into mayonnaise mixture; thinly spread mayonnaise onto each cut side of roll. To serve, place a salmon fillet onto each roll bottom. Top salmon with dollop of mayonnaise; add a lettuce leaf and roll top.
Nutrients per serving: 521 calories, 23g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 40% calories from fat, 115mg cholesterol, 37g protein, 41g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 846mg sodium, 115mg calcium and 1000mg omega-3 fatty acids.
Courtesy: Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute



Get with the times. The Cordova Times. www.thecordovatimes.com