THIS fish story, which is not about bragging men in rubber boots, and does not involve lengthy discussions of lures and lakes and fish this big, is actually true.
Baltimore's "Fish out of Water" sculptures have been cropping up on sidewalks around the city since late April. If you haven't seen any of them, we're sorry, and we wonder where you've been. Because this school of fish is now 120 or so strong (and there are just as many fish puns floating about town, it seems).
Following is everything you never knew you wanted to know about the finny creatures. All true.
The fish lady
A woman named Leslie Landsman is, above all, the one responsible for Baltimore's fish. (Follow along here. Credit must be given where credit is due.) This was her idea. She saw Chicago's cow sculptures on NBC's Today show. She thought Cows on Parade was "the coolest thing ever." She wanted to do something like that in Baltimore.
Landsman went to City Councilwoman Catherine Pugh. Pugh went to Mayor Martin O'Malley, who gave the idea his OK.
He, Mayor Martin O'Malley, is the one to blame for the fish puns.
"Let's go fishing," he said when he approved the plan.
The Downtown Partnership got involved. Landsman went to work. A model fish was constructed of gray fiberglass by Steven Weitzman of Weitzman Studios in Brentwood. Plans were made to spawn the model. Artists were contacted to submit designs for the fishes. Sponsors signed on to fund the project. There was laughter, there were tears.
"There are so many challenges," says Landsman, who admits the fish have made her cry on more than one occasion. "It gets to be overwhelming sometimes, juggling the sponsors and juggling the artists. Sometimes they mix well, sometimes they don't."
More fiberglass fish were made -- 200, to be exact. One hundred and twenty of those fish were sponsored, decorated and installed. More are on the way.
Landsman, now the creative director of Fish out of Water, loves each and every fish.
"They're like my children or something," she says.
She visits the Inner Harbor-area fish sculptures every day because she works nearby at the National Aquarium, where she is director of volunteer services. Her office has lots of windows. She calls it a fishbowl.
Leslie Landsman does not eat fish at home.
The fish are this big
Ichthyaerius Baltimoris, which is the official name of Baltimore's fiberglass specimens, are 6 feet long, 3 feet high, and 1 foot wide. This means that if a 6-foot-tall fisherman caught a Fish out of Water and stretched his arms as wide as he could, and said he caught a fish "this big," he would, for once, be telling the truth.
The fish are covered in auto paint, oil-based paint, or no paint at all. One fish, Spoon-a, is coated in silver dining utensils. Another, the Orange Ruffian, is decorated with shredded orange weed-whacker cord. The "Raven Fish: Never More," covered in feathers and complete with a beak, does not look like a fish at all. (This is Baltimore, once the home of Edgar Allan Poe. Of course there is a raven. Of course. )
Each fish, before being turned over to the artists, weighed 55 pounds. Some of them, like the Susquehanna Dam Jumper, a fish covered in copper wire and located on the bridge between Piers 3 and 4, now weigh much more.
The fish are anchored to concrete bases that weigh between 700 and 1,200 pounds. This is to protect them from wind and sticky fingers.
Someone made off with one of the fish once; the one in front of the Friends School in North Baltimore had not been welded to its base and was fishnapped June 21. That fish story has a happy ending; the sculpture was discovered in fair condition the next morning in a nearby yard. It has since been bolted down.
Other than the fishnapping and a few missing fish appendages here and there (noses, for example), the public has behaved itself around the fish.
Fish beats crab
Why, you wonder, do we not have giant crab sculptures on the street? We have, after all, a huge stained-glass crab in the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Did Obrycki's do something to make the mayor crabby? (Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.)
The answer is no, and the reason we do not have crabs is because -- here's a shocker -- we have thieves among us.
Fiberglass crab legs, understand, can be sawed off way too easily. Free souvenirs, in other words. Vandalism, in the plainest words.
Instead, the fish people want you to pay for souvenirs. Yes, there will be fish merchandise. (Did you ever think there wouldn't?) In a couple of weeks, Fish out of Water T-shirts, hats, postcards and maybe even "Go Fish" cards featuring the sculptures will appear at a tourist-magnet shop near you. Try Celebrate Baltimore at the Harborplace or Hometown Girl in Hampden. The National Aquarium in Baltimore will, of course, have Fish out of Water souvenirs in its gift shop.
There also is talk of a fish book. Proceeds will benefit charities.