Fishing Trip

I went to the fish store yesterday. It’s not really a store in the pure sense of the word. More like a drive-up ATM, which it was until a few years ago. Now it’s Ideal Seafood, which in comparison to another Ojai landmark, Osteria Monte Grappa, leaves little doubt as to its focus or pronunciation.

Access to the market is a challenge, requiring a left turn from busy highway 150 onto a poorly paved driveway. The faded blue structure now houses one lonely attendant, suspicious hygiene, and an amazing array of fresh and smoked fish.

The market has its own idea of the definition of regular hours, and you should call before making the trip. I often ignore this advice and sometimes turn a quick shopping trip into a lazy driving excursion. But today is a good day. It’s open.

As I pull up to the kiosk, I am greeted by chalkboards on either side of the drive-up window that exposes the innards of the market. Dozens of items appear on both boards. Chilean Sea Bass had a prime spot on the list of available fish, but no longer. Delicious, and therefore overfished, it and its $50 a pound price tag are only a fond memory.

I’m seeking salmon today, prompted by a New York Times article extolling the virtues of certain foods, including that silvery fish, that will allow my brain to function properly until it’s no longer needed.  I shall continue to test the fish’s virtues by occasionally counting backward from 100 by sevens. Reciting the names of all nine Supreme Court justices, once another of my favorite memory tests, has stumped me for the last few years, perhaps prompted by my hope that some of them will find other employment.

The pickup truck in front of me finished its business, pulled away, and let me carefully coast to a stop in front of the kiosk without damaging my door or the fish house. Congratulating myself for this brilliant Mario Andretti maneuver, I greeted today’s attendant, Roberta, and asked, “Salmon today?”

I’m not sure why I always ask that question. Unlike the much lamented Chilean Seabass, they always have salmon. Great mounds of it, I presume, since they have never said anything to me like, “No, we don’t have salmon, but how about Seabass?”

I asked Roberta for a pound. Thirty seconds later she returned with a filled Ziplock bag and announced, “OK if it’s a tiny bit over, or do you want me to trim it?”

I quickly estimated the weight of a “tiny bit” and its additional cost. My inability to upset anyone, even where money is concerned, went into my decision process, and I said with a smile, “No problem. Love to have the additional fish. Good for my brain.”

The rest of the process is like buying a Starbuck’s Grande at the drive-up window just down the street from the fish place. Hand my credit card to Roberta, she runs it, and then hands me a bag of salmon. Pretty even exchange since the Grande also weighs a pound. Except for the cost which is about one-sixth that of the salmon.

I mentally wrestled with the option of asking for some ice to keep the fish cold during the 15-minute ride home. But it was cool outside so I waived my rampant paranoia and decided that the fish could take care of itself for a quarter hour. I wished Roberta well and drove off.

About half-way home I remembered that we needed something to go with the fish, like a salad. I weighed the probability of Jackie stopping for it after work and decided that, why take the chance, the fish will stay cool, and I can earn some husbandly brownie points.

Westridge market was coming up and I prepared myself for a right turn on Blanche and an immediate left into the parking lot. Piece of cake.

The corner is ripe for a fender bender or a dispute with pedestrians crossing mid-block from Westridge to the Bank of America on the opposite side of the street. I carefully watch for it.

Sure enough, a young boy, maybe 13 sprinted across the street without seeing me. But I had anticipated it, stopped, and watched him. He seemed weightless. His feet seemed to hover over the asphalt. His arms moved in perfect synchronization. He had boundless energy. He was fearless. He slowed, glided onto the sidewalk, and moved along as if choreographed.

I thought, how long has it been since I could do that? I couldn’t remember. But I could wish.

It was a great fishing trip.

1 Response to “Fishing Trip”


  1. 1 jackielakshmi May 1, 2022 at 10:22 am

    Thank-you for doing all that for me- I can visualize the whole process!
    You forgot to mention how the fish turned out🙄
    With all that hard work I won’t complain – perhaps the salt shaker broke on my half!
    Love you anyway and all your thoughtfulness 😍

    Like


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