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Day: June 18, 2018

“Born to Fish: How an Obsessed Angler Became the World’s Greatest Striped Bass Fisherman” by Tim Gallagher & Greg Myerson

c.2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
$26.00 / higher in Canada
205 pages

Book review by Terri Schlichenmeyer

It was not your typical romance.

She fell for the first line you fed her and she played hard-to-get, but she was a beauty and she was worth every ounce of effort. A catch like her doesn’t come along every day, and in the new book “Born to Fish” by Tim Gallagher & Greg Myerson, you had her for sure, hook, line, and sinker.

By the time he was two years old, Greg Myerson was already fascinated by fishing. As the story goes, he was caught more than once with his toy rod and reel, trying to make a catch in the drainage ditch in front of his parents’ Connecticut  home.

Not long after that, though he was barely old enough for school, Myerson understood that his soul needed the outdoors to thrive and he spent hours alone, exploring the woods just beyond his back yard. He was never good with a classroom, but he got by; the best thing he gained from school were friends who taught him better ways to hunt and fish, and they showed Myerson the fine art of trapping.

At age eight, he was already determined to have a skiff of his own so that he could fish for striped bass in the ocean near his home; trapping muskrats and selling pelts would get him to that goal within two years. His parents were wise to what he was doing by then but, despite their wishes and that of the Coast Guard, ten-year-old Myerson began taking his new boat asea, into dangerous parts of the water. His fascination with fishing had become a full-blown obsession that only grew.

The summer after his first year at college, the obsession finally paid off when Myerson, who’d been ruminating on an idea, had a breakthrough that led to the catching of a record-smashing fish of epic size.

And that fish led to a fisherman’s change-of-heart…

First, this: “Born to Fish” can be a struggle to read.

To start, there seems to be a lot of repetition. That may be because, unlike most other biographies that offer a little more surrounding backstory, this book is almost completely about co-author Greg Myerson. You’ll read about his life in fishing, but also about a lot of fights and disregard for rules and laws, and that gets pretty stale. We’re also offered tales of elementary-school children alone on boats, and with guns.

And yet, there’s the fishing.

Co-author Tim Gallagher tells heart-pounding stories of landing the biggest of the big ones, tales that will thrill even the most neophyte of fishermen. Those parts of this book are like sitting around in the bait shop, ears open to tales of lures, equipment, boats and motors, and long battles with water monsters.

In the end, what you want from a book will determine how much you’ll like this one: if you come for the sport, then “Born to Fish” will hook you easy enough. If you’re looking for biography, though, let this book be the One That Got Away.

“Milk! A 10,000-Year Food Fracas” by Mark Kurlansky

c.2018, Bloomsbury
$29.00 / $39.00 Canada
385 pages

Book review by Terri Schlichenmeyer

Your cookies are no good today.

They’re too crumbly, too soft, too… something. They don’t taste right, maybe because you’re missing an essential from your fridge. Ach, no snacks for you; instead, you might as well dunk into “Milk! A 10,000-Year Food Fracas” by Mark Kurlansky.

In the beginning, there was Earth – sprang from milk, if you subscribed to the beliefs of the Fulani of West Africa, the Norse, Iraqis, the Egyptians, or the Greeks. They and others had milk or lactating women at the forefront of their creation myths, which made things easy for them to explain.

Even so, there’s no denying that farmers were in on this history.

“Each species has its own unique milk,” says Kurlansky, and though it should be no surprise that simian product is “closest to that of humans,” virtually nobody ever has a refreshing glass of monkey milk. Instead, we mostly drink cow or goat milk, as we have for the last 10,000 years since herding began, though mule milk may be better for us, and pig milk is likewise palatable.

Even so, it’s possible that the first time milk was taken from an animal, it wasn’t meant to be consumed in liquid form: it was probably meant to become cheese, yogurt, butter, or something portable and less liable to spoil. Nobody knows when those products began, but curds show up in ancient text and the Greeks knew how to make feta. Ice cream, by the way, surely has roots that are ancient but it wasn’t written-about until surprisingly later in history. By the time that happened, Europeans had already literally changed the landscape with cows they brought with them to the New World; settlers underscored that by accepting milk cows from England , and new dairy practices.

As for the littlest milk-drinkers, wet nurses were often employed for reasons of illness, convenience, or vanity on behalf of the mother. Maybe that was safer anyway, because drinking cross-species milk was sometimes chancy and could even be deadly but, says Kurlansky, by the late 1800s, there was “a scientist in France who had a theory.”

You may not believe that there’s a lot to consume about a basic substance like milk. All you know is that you can’t touch the stuff, but hold on. Inside “Milk,” there’s a surprising fact about lactose intolerance, and a whole lot more.

Starting in antiquity and bringing us up to modern times (and modern problems), author Mark Kurlansky exhaustively examines everything you ever wanted to know about milk but didn’t know enough to ask. Kurlansky writes about humans, milk, and human milk. We learn that dairying was perceived as playing in Marie Antoinette’s time. We see how American history would look vastly different without cows. Kurlansky shares other facts and looks at esoteric milk-based foods that have been enjoyed through the ages – and he includes recipes for the brave.

While this book is absolutely entertaining, it may be best-suited for foodies, historians, and the curious. If you got “Milk,” you’ll know exactly how t
he cookies crumble.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin

Would you know what to do in a mental health crisis?

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

News of Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide was the first alert on my tablet when I awoke Friday, June 8. What followed was hours, then days, of would’ves, could’ves and should’ves voiced by people who knew him well and those that didn’t.

I’ve written previously, and in hyperbolic fashion, about the hardest words to say in the English language, but time and experience are still teaching me that such difficulty is the direct result of context. When someone angers us, we have to find our way back to “I love you.” When someone we love is being abused, we need to silence doubt and say, “I believe you, and it’s not your fault.” When someone is under assault by their own mind and looking for a way out, we have to ask, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” And then, if the response is “no,” ask again.

Under the right circumstances, each of those phrases is an oversized elephant in a claustrophobic room and knowing what to do when the moment arrives can be a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, we often wait until life doles out a hard lesson before seeking out what we might do to prevent tragedy. I’m weary of tragedy, in my personal life and in the more difficult aspects of my job. It’s why, less than 24 hours before news of Bourdain’s death broke, I was in Corvallis taking a class in mental health first aid for youth.

Developed in Australia, the Mental Health First Aid curriculum is now taught internationally and throughout the United States. It is a free, eight-hour crash course in what to do when someone you know, love, or barely know, is experiencing a mental health crisis. The course is offered occasionally in the Salem-Keizer community but more frequently in Corvallis and Portland. There are courses that focus on adults in addition to the ones that focus on youth as well as Spanish-language options. A full list of upcoming free classes in the area can be found at www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org.

I opted for youth curriculum because I’m the parent of a teenager and because I volunteer with a group of creative writing enthusiasts at McNary High School. I don’t want to be wondering what to do if confronted with a crisis in either circumstance.

Like most things in modern life, Mental Health First Aid has been reduced to an acronym, ALGEE. It stands for: Assess for risk of harm or suicide; Listen non-judgmentally; Give reassurance and information; Encourage professional help; and Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Assessing is one of the trickier aspects of the technique because, as adults, we are given to chalking up out-of-the-ordinary signs and signals to teenage angst when darker forces might be at play. However, look for physical signs of distress like uncharacteristically high energy, binge activity, excessive crying or long periods of isolation in a bathroom or bedroom. Pay particular attention when those signs present themselves as wild swings in mood or interfere with motivation, appearance, or social abilities.

Listening non-judgmentally is another place where people tend to stumble. Responses to pain we cannot quantify typically fall into neat categories such as telling the person they are wrong to feel what they feel, trying to coach them up by pointing out the things they have going for them or being dismissive of the emotions at play all together.

Instead, maintain eye contact; reiterate what the person is telling you so they know they are being heard and understood. Ask questions about what they are feeling while realizing there are elements to mental crisis, like cultural backgrounds and experiences, that we, as first aiders, have no equivalent for.  Acknowledge that what the person is feeling is real, and be empathetic and accepting even though you may not agree.

When giving reassurance and information, focus on hope without making promises. Remind the person that others have found healing and that assistance can come from any number of sources. Instead of telling a someone that “it gets better after [insert current life obstacle],” try telling them that their world is going to get bigger. Refrain from telling the person what they need to do or should do. Look for commonalities between your experiences and theirs. Talk about your experience and invite the person in crisis to talk about theirs and how the two differ. Don’t fixate on outward things like weight, injuries or substance use, try to understand the underlying issues.

Encourage professional help without trying to fix things. There are numerous local avenues for support ranging from hotlines to group therapy. Encourage the person to reach out to one of them. In addition to counselors, psychiatrists, and primary care physicians, social workers, drug and alcohol specialists, dietitians and certified peer counselors are options. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (put it in your phone contact list now).

Encouraging self-help means identifying the people or activities in the person’s life that might be of the most assistance. Help them explore activities that might bolster their mental health, like regular exercise. Engage family members as well as the person experiencing the crisis. The most important protective factor for a youth against a mental health crisis is feeling close to at least one adult. You may be that person or you might be able to help identify that person. Don’t underestimate your potential impact.

Despite all your preparation, the person you are dealing with may be at wits’ end. If you think there is a chance to intervene, ask the person directly if they are thinking of killing themselves. (You should practice this before you need to do it in person). It’s unlikely anyone has killed themselves because someone asked if they are feeling suicidal, the idea was already there, just unvocalized. If they say “no,” ask again. Someone might be able to shrug off the first inquiry, it’s harder the second time.

If they say, “yes,” ask if they have decided how. If they know how, ask if they’ve decided when. If they know when, ask if they’ve gotten the things they need pull it off. The more answers they have along this line of questioning, the closer they are to a suicide attempt. Be comfortable in silence while waiting for answers. Sit with the person while they talk to someone or until someone else arrives who can relieve you, but do not leave them alone if you believe self-harm or harm to others is imminent.

Finally, if you are concerned that harm is imminent and it’s beyond your abilities, call 9-1-1. You don’t have to walk someone through the whole process, but being there at the right time for the right person can make a difference even if it is only a short contact.

Please don’t take reading this article as a be-all, end-all training. The course takes eight hours to complete and it will leave you feeling better prepared, but there is always more to learn. Mental illness and mental disorders take varying forms and participants in my class were also given a free textbook that detail support strategies for many of them.

It would be disingenuous to think that we might prevent every death by suicide, but suicide rates in the United States have shot up 30 percent in the past 19 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Being prepared to have a difficult conversation with someone in crisis might help reverse that trend.