Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Breaking News
Home » Rockies » Idaho » Boise » The Great Sandpoint Fish Flop Flap
The family I grew up in was very particular about how a slice of a round cake was to lie on a plate. It was supposed to be positioned so that you could eat it from the inside out and from the bottom up. For all of us right-handers, this meant the frosting had to be to the left. A piece of cake with the frosting on the right was said to be “flopped wrong.” This attention to direction has come to mind recently, as the citizens of Sandpoint have debated about whether the fish on their newly installed Sand Creek arch are flopped correctly. I thought the shiny metal back sides of the signs would all be on one side of the arch, so we would have shiny metal fish on one side and colorful fish on the other. Instead, the fish appear to have been more randomly flopped.

The Great Sandpoint Fish Flop Flap

The family I grew up in was very particular about how a slice of a round cake was to lie on a plate. It was supposed to be positioned so that you could eat it from the inside out and from the bottom up. For all of us right-handers, this meant the frosting had to be to the left. A piece of cake with the frosting on the right was said to be “flopped wrong.”

This attention to direction has come to mind recently, as the citizens of Sandpoint have debated about whether the fish on their newly installed Sand Creek arch are flopped correctly.

Followers of this blog will remember the piece I wrote about the arch a year ago. It was to be built using an Enhancement Grant from the Idaho Department of Transportation Artists submitted ideas, and the winning design involved metal fish cut from old highway signs. These signs, of course, have colored paint on one side and a plain metal finish on the other.

The arch was finally put in place a few weeks ago, and its fish are not flopped the way I envisioned them. I thought the shiny metal back sides of the signs would all be on one side of the arch, so we would have shiny metal fish on one side and colorful fish on the other.

Instead, the fish appear to have been more randomly flopped, and color is showing on both sides of the arch. As you approach it from First Avenue, you see among the shiny steel fish a lot of colored fish. And if you turn around and look back after you’ve passed under the arch, again there are mixed fish.

I don’t mind that it’s different than I thought it would be. I like reading the fish: There are fish that read “BRIDGE,” “AIRPORT,” and “SKI AREA,” and there are several “STOP” fish as well as fish with smaller bits of words that I can’t completely make out. I’m happy to read the fish from both sides.

But not everyone is happy. In a letter to the editor of the Bonner County Daily Bee, Dan Mimmack complained that the randomly flopped fish were “a mess.” Inspired by the flap over the way the fish are flopped, online commenters have made unflattering comparisons to the widely unloved piece of art that sits in front of the county courthouse—an amorphous construction of logs called “Tolerance.” More fervent writers go on to suggest that proposals for public art should be put to a vote of the public that will have to view it regularly, and some say it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars anyway.

But not everyone is unhappy, either. Another writer, Daryl Baird, defended the arch as “delightful” and “full of lively color on both sides.” Word on the street appears to be balanced. And it’s not overwhelmingly evident that many citizens care a whole lot which way the fish are flopped.

It’s clear they lack the commitment to correct flopping that my family had. And in this small town, where people with passionate and possibly opposing positions can’t help but run into one another in the grocery store, maybe that’s just as well.

About Cate Huisman

Check Also

the colorado river utah Moab_by Corey Burger_Flickr

New West Daily Roundup for Nov. 21, 2016

Today in New West news: conflict between water districts and company pushing nuclear power plant ...

2 comments

  1. There will always be those who question art and its value to a community. As fast as some people drive through Sandpoint, you could hang someone from a rope where the Sand Creek Arch is and they wouldn’t even notice. For them, the entire length of 1st Avenue/Cedar St. thoroughfare, and its 25 mph speed limit, is an annoyance. They resent anything, and anyone, that causes them to slow down. I haven’t done any surveys but I’d guess there are people like me who enjoy walking around Sandpoint and who enjoy seeing the weeds and trash that used to line the driveway by the Panida Theater replaced by “The Arch” and the new Sand Creek viewpoint.

  2. just reading your post about the fish flopping fracas and i must say, i truly thought in all the world, my father was the only one who cared about which way the cake went on the plate. i know now, my sister and i are not the only ones who had this childhood adventure!

    he has a very logical reason for it (as he does with everything): if you’re right-handed and the frosting is on the right side, then your fork clogs up with frosting from the very first bite, therefore somehow diminishing the cake-eating experience (although any cake-eating experience is a good cake-eating experience, as far as i’m concerned!). if someone outside the family slices cake and offers him a piece that’s flopped wrong, you can almost see the disappointment wash across his face, but only if you know what you’re looking for.

    so it was always as you said, frosting on the left (we were a 100% right-handed family) with the skinniest part of the cake closest to you. and let me tell you, my sister and i became experts at determining which way to flop the cake, while at the same time slicing it and moving it to the plate. to flop it the wrong way is to invoke the wrath of the cake flopping gods. and who wants that when you’re trying to enjoy dessert!!

    thanks for the great memory!!