Sure, we beat New York. It's not the first time. We've always raised more alfalfa than they do.

           We've always processed more turkeys. We built our mall bigger. We have more sports fisherman, and now, finally our murder rate is greater. Bigger. Higher. Vaster. Grander. It's about time! We're a first-class city, with no where to go but up. Murder is clearly a growth industry, a soaring enterprise zone, and to get in on the ground floor you don't need deep pockets. You don't need high tech equipment. You don't even need a trendy urban address, with all the hassles of those damn helicopters. You probably already own everything you need to join this field of exploding growth: a string, a hook, some live bait, and a fishing license. Good-bye Murderopolis, hello Murdersota!

           That's right. You can get in now, virtually for free, while helping the environment. First step, stop by your local library and pick up the helpful state pamphlet "To Your Health: Eating Lake Fish in Minnesota." Read between the lines of the 'Dick and Jane' prose. "Eating fish is good for you. Fish are a good source of protein and are low in fat. But some fish from lakes in many states, including Minnesota, contain mercury." (See Dick eat fish and die!) "These fish don't taste, smell, or look bad. But eating too many of them can make you sick." An environmentalist's nightmare, is a 'life expectancy consultant's' best friend.

           Thank you, tax dollars! The guide helpfully points out that the largest and most delicious top predator fish--northern pike and walleye--are conveniently the most dangerous and deadly.

           "Eating Minnesota Fish" is another good resource, explaining that "Methods of cleaning fish can reduce the level of chemicals in some fish by 20 to 50%. Organic contaminants such as PCB's and pesticide concentrate in fat, so skinning and trimming fish to remove the fatty areas shown in the diagram below will reduce levels of these chemicals. Mercury does not concentrate in fat and these precautions will not reduce the amount of mercury in a meal of fish. Broiling, baking or grilling so fat drips off reduces PCB and dioxin levels even further. Poaching and deep fat frying removes some contaminants--but discard the broth of oil. Pan frying removes few contaminants."

           What does this say to the budding life expectancy consultant? Bisque. Stew. Chowder. The greatest French chefs always take fish skins and bones to make their broth. 'Trim away' indeed! Of course, pan frying is Minnesota's favorite way to enjoy fish. Perhaps your intended would enjoy a pan seared walleye filet dusted in a pistachio crust? Who wouldn't?

           So you're thinking 'With 12,000 lakes and dozens of rivers, I wouldn't know where to start.' Answer: The "Minnesota Fish Consumption Advisory." This booklet is the yellow pages of death. A mega-helpful chart lists the safety of fish from International Falls to Blue Earth. For example, carp from Pigseye Lake, right in St. Paul, are lethal! Ditto for channel catfish from Silver Lake in Rochester. Any siscowet out of Lake Superior look pretty bad, but for those special cases where nothing can be left to chance, pull any big fish at all out of the Mississippi downstream of Minneapolis. These fish are not just full of mercury, they're studded with PCBs, they're larded with dioxin, and they're chock full of the banned pesticide toxaphene. These aren't mere fish, they're a stunning smorgasbord of suspicious substances--and one of the great natural resources that are going to help us stay way ahead of the once mighty Big Apple.

           Of course, you'll encounter some doubters. Minnesota Department of Health toxicologist Pam Shubert insists that there hasn't been a case of mercury poisoning through fish consumption in Minnesota in years, and that you'd have to eat ten times the amount of fish they warn against before you could achieve real harm. She will admit however that the mercury in fish, methyl mercury "if a person could get enough of it, could have severe health effects of paralysis, even, and death. Methyl mercury was certainly the cause of some people's death in Japan during a period of time when there was a huge amount of methyl mercury or organic mercury being poured into the water around Minimata Bay." And of course, there's the greatest benefit of all--death comes slowly. Victims might "never know there was a problem," Shubert affirms. "You might confuse the symptoms with old age." You might. But we know better, don't we.

           So, anglers: ready, set, cast! Not only will Minnesota's new found primacy in the unnatural death race increase our prestige nationally, it will generate income by drawing crime-tourists and is sure to attract income-generating big budget television projects, like Baltimore's "Homicide," or "New York Undercover" (are you listening up there in the helicopter, Governor Grumpy?) But when all that money comes around to reward you all for your industry, City Pages will be one slight step ahead of you. We've copyrighted Murdersota. And Murdertonka. Murderhaha. Murderdale. The Hubert H. Humphrey Murderdome. And of course, the Murdersota Department of Natural Resources.

--Dara Moskowitz


           Speaking of fishing, the latest offering from the Biddle Publishing Company ( is worthy of note. The venerable publishing house has taken niche marketing to a new high with its new book by Jim Tayoun whimsically titled: GOING TO PRISON? On second thought, with almost half the U.S. population in jail, and the president calling for a constitutional amendment to "protect" victim's rights (at least he doesn't keep his promises), Tayoun's tome may signal a move away from niche marketing. Here's what Biddle has to say:

           GOING TO PRISON? is a practical guide for the soon-to-be-inmate. It helps ease the transition to prison life and has been praised by inmates and prison staff alike:

           Prison counselor: "Tells a prisoner everything there is to know. Makes our jobs much easier."

           Prison caseworker: "It gives inmates an idea as to what our roles are and what we expect of them. A great help to all of us who interact with incoming inmates. Gives them an understanding up front."

           Inmates: "The best defense lawyers should give this to prison-bound clients. It is a needed service. I wish I had a copy before I came in."

           GOING TO PRISON? not only contains invaluable information for the new prisoner and his or her family and friends, but also for probation officers, attorneys, social workers, clergy, prison staff and administration, law and criminology students, prisoner advocates and even for the general public. Whether personally, professionally or financially--prison affects us all.

           About the Author:

           Jim Tayoun has peppered his six plus decades in this life with three
2-year terms in the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, four 4-year terms on the Philadelphia City Council, 19 years as a newspaperman, while sandwiching all the above with his role as manager of his family's famed Middle East Restaurant in the historic district of Philadelphia. He received a 40-month Federal prison sentence in 1991. He considers his prison time as his fourth career, and looks to further writing as his fifth.

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