Freudian Slips: Rubbing Salt In My Wounds

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

July 26, 2005

Rubbing Salt In My Wounds

On better days...
Saturday July 23, 2005 represented the end of an era. I chose to abandon my saltwater tank, a four year science project that has cost me mega dollars with minimum satisfaction. I still do not know what stung me a few weeks ago( see July 3rd post called Fangs for the Memory ) while cleaning the inside of my tank but I believe it was a warning sign to wave the white flag of surrender. Furthermore, I recently found all but one of my gorgeous fish waterlogged floaters. If that isn't a second sign, I may need a lightning strike and a visit from Aquaman himself. I wish I could blame the massacre on a stray cat that found its way into the house but I have only myself to blame.
Let me explain. A saltwater tank hobbiest needs to be part veterinarian and chemist to maintain a healthy ecosystem. I have come to realize that I cannot pass the entrance examinations for either occupation. My dead fish and fragile coral reef are examples of my incompetence. A saltwater tank is like a soup that never gets done. Too many things can go wrong in a saltwater tank and you keep adding stuff to the mix to rectify the situation. You keep cooking and stirring. I devoted regular time to aquarium maintenance and water changes in the 40 gallon tank but some pool owners had more free time than me. Incidentally, pool owners got to swim in their water and not be reduced to a full time lifeguard like me. Power outages, Ph variations in the tap water system, skyrocketing nitrate when a fish had the gall to die on me, contamination from airborne cleaning products, changes in temperature, disease, pestilence, and any number of wildcards like children throwing pretzel rods in the tank as make believe canoes all negatively effect the water quality. Saltwater fish are expensive, many costing over $50.00 each. Whenever I lost a fish, I thought of how much flounder I could have put on the kitchen table to eat. A gruesome analogy, I know.
Using a mesh fish net, I scoop out the lone surviving braveheart Trigger fish from the recent death toll. He is eager to leave the land of the dead and does not fight his eviction. I place Trigger and just enough bubbly in a Ziploc bag and head off to the aquarium center. Once inside the store, I start feeling like a parent deserting a child. I muster up enough gumption to talk about trading the fish in. There is nothing like buying a fish for $39.99 retail and being told there is a no trade-in policy on livestock. Talk about rubbing salt in your wounds. I look down at the bagged Trigger fish, who all but shouts to be thrown in any other tank, including a skinny dip with the piranhas, before returning home to my cesspool. I offer up the sacrifice. The young worker with multiple tattoos snatches the plastic bag from my grasp.
I am feeling bad, really too much sentiment towards a slimy fish with scales. I start walking up and down the aisles now empty-handed admiring tropical fish waiting for adoption. My mind laments my decision to abandon sea. Have I turned this into a bigger decision then it needs to be? Should I give up my hobby all together and just play online checkers? My mind begins to enlist instructions to prompt me to action. 'Now go home and drain the tank then throw some stupid goldfish in the glass menagerie and be done with it. Do not stop at any fast food joints to indulge in guilty eating.' My face is all but pressed against a tank of tinfoil sharks when a stranger strikes up a conversation with me.
"Have you ever raised koi?"
If it was koi he wanted, coy he got. "I don't raise too much in water except toxic PH and nitrate levels."
He persisted, "But what do you think of koi?"
"Hearty fish." I answered matter of factly. "I hear they can live 50 years."
"You're God damn right. That is way too much commitment for me. Thanks." ...He walked right out of the store.
I decided then to keep my peaceful hobby but with a full retreat back to freshwater aquariums, where maintenance is lower and fish are inexpensive. Six hours later, I finished breaking down the saltwater tank for its conversion all the while the stranger's odd remark kept cycling in my head. Keeping anything in this world alive and healthy takes responsibility. Any fish hobbiest comes to understand that fact of life. And any divorced father will tell you that with can't start over.

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Blogger Lost said...

I've never had the longing to have a salt water tank after seeing all the work that goes into maintaining it. All of that constant fiddling about so all your expensive little captive don't go belly up. Go for the freshwater! Your new (slightly less colourful but way cheaper) residents will thank you and love you every time you feed them LOL

3:11 AM  
Blogger Weary Hag said...

Joe, So much to say, so little time. Firstly, you own a most excellent blog! I've just come from reading several of your recent posts and I'm thrilled that you stopped by my place to pass on this link. Great fun!
Secondly, I too live my life around irony. You have recently retired your aquarium, and so have I. (employed by a large aquarium and am currently working the final two weeks of my notice to resign)
We're also former neighbors ~ somewhat; years ago, anyway. I'm a native Staten Islander, though I cannot for the life of me recall any of the town names in NJ that you've mentioned within your glorious writings. I lived in Toms River and in Seaside Heights many years ago. I still have family in NJ and have written extensively on a few 'incidents' I've endured in your state.

Sorry for the lengthy comment here, but it's kind of neat to find a new blog every now and again, and especially one of such quality, candor and wit.

6:07 AM  
Blogger The Other Half said...

I having a hard time taking care of my daughter, let alone fish...whew! you are a braver soul than I...Thanks for visiting my blog!

8:14 AM  
Anonymous et said...

Joe, so sorry for your tropical fish loss! Your endeavors, to raise these exotic beauties, went above and beyond most people’s patience. Your tenacity never ceases to amaze me. I’m happy that you had the gall to print this interesting story.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in responce to the comment "with children you can't start over" no but you should never give up because relationships with children and are a constant work in progress, and there is no grater joy then a happy, healthy child who adores you.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

yes, freshwater fish are the red-headed stepchildren of their exotic saltwater counterparts.

Weary Hag,
Anyone who exalts irony the next drink is on me. i picked up the irony in your posts and that is why I left you a comment. I remember reading that you were leaving your current job but isn't it ironic that you work for a large aquarium? Visit again.

Fish are way easier to give up on.

there are plenty more fish in the sea.

I'll take that advice over to Freud's couch and ponder awhile.

7:56 PM  
Blogger lilly05 said...

Great read! I'm glad I found your little corner of the blog world.
I have trouble even keeping the fresh water fish alive!! Sad isn't it?

4:54 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Maybe we should both stick to the fish we can fillet. thanks for visiting.

7:31 PM  
Blogger justrose said...

this is what i went through in my short-lived caretaking of the hermit crabs. there is so much that can go wrong in these painstaking frontier-outpost ecosystems. i think you made the right decision! (but just wondering, did you ever have seahorses? they are very cute.)

10:06 PM  

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