This site is the home of works by Michael Kai Louie, journalist, editor, fisherman, skateboarder, amateur photogapher.


fairest of the seasons

photo by Geralyn Shukwit

An update is well overdue seeing as how it is now mid-December. A lot has happened since the last update. When I returned from Europe in May, I became partner in the company where I've been working for the last six years. It's called Coeur Noir Specialty Printers, and aside from putting money in my bank account at the cost of keeping me from writing full time, we produce high quality work for the likes of the fashion industry and art world, corporate clients, small businesses, and a fair share of weddings and other private events. We specialize in letterpress, foil stamping, spot-color offset, emboss/deboss, and spot-color edging. It's a small operation, but we produce a lot of work out of the shop. The neighborhood has changed so much, and so quickly, in Williamsburg, where Coeur Noir has been for over 10 years: the condos and towers, the crowds and influx of new money, curious tourists, and music events and other trendy happenings. It's the shimmering, physical reality of an Apple commercial. The grittiness that Robert Anasi wrote about in his memoir of Williamsburg, The Last Bohemia, is long gone, and Starbucks and Apple are moving in.

I wrote about the changing waterfront in North Brooklyn for the blog I run for the Brooklyn Urban Anglers, the group with whom I organize a yearly East River fishing derby. Williamsburg is already spoken for, and Greenpoint, just to the north, is next for development. Massive warehouses and lots have been sitting empty or underused for years, just waiting for the time to sell. And when it happens, which will be soon, it's going to happen in a flash. There's local, grassroots resistance, but it just seems inevitable that money will win out, and the quiet neighborhood will be in the shadow of a couple of giant, gleaming towers along the waterfront. This series of posts was my chance to reminisce about one of my favorite fishing spots in Brooklyn, one of the last of the secrets of this part of the river: an old, dilapidated death trap of a shipping pier at the end of Green Street. Getting in and out was an adventure on its own, but I've also caught hundreds of fish in this spot, all in the silent glow of such a unique view of Midtown Manhattan. The above photo was taken at the end of the pier looking back in toward shore. I think that's my silhouette. I'll miss the solitude of decay, as Geralyn Shukwit said in the first issue of Fish Bum, but ephemerality is what makes things like this so special.

See the archived article here.


May Update

I recently returned from my first visit to Europe. I left New York City on a Wednesday night to arrive in Reykjavíc around 5:30AM. It was one of the cleanest and most efficient airports I've ever arrived in. I skipped the travelers hostel this time around, though I had some misgivings about whether or not that would be a good idea, and opted instead for a bed+breakfast type called Egilsborg Guesthouse. The above photo is taken from Saebrut, one of the main roads in Reykjavíc, looking out on the North Atlantic. I spent most of the day wandering around Reykjavíc and found it surprisingly easy to get around. I went to the Saga Museum, then walked to Hallgrimskírkja—a massive church in the center of the city and the architectual highlight. After that I found out for myself the delicacy of Iceland's national dish: the fermented shark. Chewy and gummy with a pink fleshy color, it has a flavor that really sneaks up on you, that's for sure. The next day I took a bus tour to the country, photos of which will be found on my photo blog when I get the film developed. The remainder of my trip I spent in the sunshine (mostly) in Hamburg and traveled a little bit around northern Germany with some friends who live there; all wonderful, beautiful, intelligent people.

Now that I'm back in the U.S. I'm getting ready for the third annual Potomac River snakehead tournament. I fell off a bit with this story during the winter, but now that our short spring is almost over and it's nearly summer again, the fish will be active in the shallows. I've reconnected with sources and am hoping to get on the water with them before the tournament to get an inside view of the snakehead problem and its potential solutions. The fish remains an exotic, trendy specimen when brought to the table, and its potential as a sustainable food source remains uncertain, but there are many reasons why this could/should happen.

I'm also working on a story about an art therapy group for war veterans called Combat Paper and is run by a friend of my brother's who is a former Marine who served in Iraq. Combat Paper offers veterans a chance to express themselves and, in effect, transform their experiences into art through the act of turning their uniforms into cellulose, to paper. It's a practice that has its detractors given the reverence (most of) the public has toward veterans and current members of the military during wartime, but it's not a new one either. This type of therapy has been practiced in support groups around the world, for example with victims of the sex-trafficking industry. Their theme is Deconstruct, Reclaim, Communicate, and the program has been highly effective, particularly for younger veterans who are trying to readjust to civilian life. Combat Paper holds several workshops each month, from their headquarters in New Jersey to college campuses to military hospitals. One might wonder how well-received the transformative process of art would be to a combat veteran just returning from Afghanistan, and this story will focus on that aspect and the program's effectiveness.


Hockey on Lock?

As many of my friends know, and if you've read some of my earlier sports pieces, I'm a huge fan of the Philadelphia Flyers. And while I'll watch pretty much any sport, the only sport I really have ever followed has been hockey. It's been that way since the 1986-1987 season, when I first saw Ron Hextall clanging his goal stick against the posts for the Philadelphia Flyers (see @ :11 of the linked video). That iconic gesture was Hextall's signature move, and watching his absolutely ferocious competitiveness and fast temper influenced me greatly in the world of sports. I loved the brand of hockey that other Flyers' fans know as "Flyers Hockey": physical, lunch-pail attitude, and aggressive worksmanship to go with prodigious talent. It's been more than 25 years since the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Finals that year, and more than 35 years since they last won the Cup, but the die-hard fan in me won't let up. It's funny because I've never really cared much for other Philadelphia teams, despite spending a lot of my youth in the city where my mother was born and raised, and especially when the Eagles, Phillies, and the Sixers are perennially favored in the city. I'm a hockey fan.

So this season marked the third lockout of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's legacy. It's been 20 years since he took over the league, and the fans, players, owners, sponsors, investors, and everyone else has suffered mightily under his tenure. More than 2400 games have been lost during the collective lockouts—in 1994-95, 2004-2005, in which the entire season was dusted, and for half of this season. It's caused near-irreparable harm to a league that trails by, well, leagues behind other professional North American sports in terms of marketing and television rank. The article I wrote for Fanzine describes the attrition accrued by the league during these work stoppages, the opportunities lost, league hypocrisies, and while the true fans may have suffered during the exhausting deliberations, how the NHL itself is always the biggest loser.

Permalink on this site here.


The Last Bohemia

I wrote up a short review of Robert Anasi's latest book, The Last Bohemia, about Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I've lived for the past six years. Anasi's Williamsburg predates my own, and most of his memories in the book are about the older, grittier Williamsburg than about the upscale, beaten-to-death-hipster-joke that the neighborhood is mostly known for today. He writes about a time in his life that I must say was very similar to my own in San Francisco: both hustling up cash, living in unadvisable conditions, both looking for something like a secret history in the city's walls. The parts of his book that focused on the changes on the waterfront are most significant for me, as one of my favorite things to do is talk to the old timer fishing guys on the piers and ask them where they were and what it was like twenty years ago on this spot.


This year's fishing derby is slowly coming together. The snakehead story is again on hold as the summer got crazy and I wasn't able to head back down to Maryland to meet up with the guys I interviewed. I really feel like this is great subject matter, but with the weather cooling off, those fish are going to head to deeper water and the striped bass are going to move south again. I still have a few hours of interview tape to transcribe in between several other projects. The time for fishing has been rare these last few months, but I'm hoping to get back to the ocean again in the next few weeks.


One Thousand Hurts

After tracking down all the interviews and everything else I needed I was forced to give this article one last heave-ho to get it done before the June Spartan Death Race in order to save a source the pain of a 12-mile swim penalty. Hopefully I got it posted in time; if not, sorry Yitzy. I tried. I know you have what it takes to finish this year. This is the culmination of about a year's worth of reporting on the culture of obstacle racing, exploring the ideas of what makes these events so attractive and, more so, what keeps people coming back. I had a lot of help with this article, so big thank yous go to my sources, namely Mike Warren, Eric Delahaye, Casey Hereth, Audrey Bollers, Amelia Boone—whether she knows it or not—, Daniel McCurdy, Ryan Christie, Roxanne Meeker, Yitzy Sontag, Carrie Adams @ Spartan, and Jason McCarthy and Sophie Pollitt-Cohen at Goruck. Also special thanks goes to Amy Herschleb at Fanzine for getting the article up today in time for the Death Race that starts tomorrow. Take a read here. Archived article coming up.

Next up is the snakehead story. Ben Sargent and I recently went into the backwoods of Maryland for a snakehead fishing tournament and came out with a whole new perspective on the potential of this fish. There will be a new Fish Bum zine about the tournament and, hopefully, an accompanying magazine article to go with it. Taking one night off, then it's back to work.