Haven't been here since spring 1994, when I often caught trout to take home to my wife-to-be in North Plainfield, New Jersey, the two of us living on the second floor of a Victorian manor. The Green Brook is just above Scotch Plains and Route 22 here where I came to photograph it. As I walked in after parking, I thought of how long ago it was, and with hiking boots on the ground, the time seemed pretty distant. I found the place OK, but with some uncertainty as to quite how to get there. Now that I'm comfortably at home, oh, yeah, doesn't seem very long ago at all when I fished there and photographed it with my Pentax 35mm. That's why it's important to get outside and walk with ground under boots. How else clue into reality, basically?
The Green Brook hasn't enough springs feeding it to nourish wild trout, although it does roll down from the 300-foot hills named Watchung Mountains--enormous volcanoes millions of years ago. I stood on a ridge of basalt to get two of these photos, and could have used a wide angle of say 7mm, if any exist, since I could not get back any further with my 11-16mm zoom wide angle. That rock is ancient and persists in existence with a sort of bold indifference to our development. The region along busy Route 22 below is loaded with businesses of every description, but the brook has pretty good water quality at least where I stood. And below 22, in North Plainfield, I sighted largemouth bass. The Green Brook flows on to empty into the Raritan River.
I got on 22 West, heading home, dusk falling, and an old gas station sign caught my eye. Excel, a small-time outfit. I remembered always noticing it, but I could not quite place the station as being in operation nearly 22 years ago, or not. I thought maybe. Now the little building has a caved-in roof, is boarded up on the sides with wood that makes it look aged like a corpse, and the pavement is shattered. I felt it deeply, as I self-identified with the situation. I've always tried to excel in life, and in some things actually have. It's just my temperament. I refuse to feel entitled just because I have energy. I must make something of this, or get destroyed by my own excess.
Driving on, my 2007 Honda with 126,000 miles still smooth as a dream, I thought that could have been me. What the Excel station symbolizes. How ironic, if someone who desired to excel...ended up like that gas station in ruins.
North Plainfield was pivotal for my life. Patricia and I moved there in September 1993. I had just given up my commercial clamming business to begin the long, hard effort at readjusting to the broader society I had escaped, mostly to study and write, although the work in brine to harvest clams paid pretty well. We've since made it by the skin of our teeth. And that spring of 1994, I began fishing again, more than I had since my teens when I fished almost every day, sometimes in the morning before school. When we lived in North Plainfield, I knew there had to be a way if I was going to become anything but a miserable wreck. If we would succeed.
I've made persistent efforts at many things all these years. And I've fished all the years since I was eight, but after my teens, I could never quite get the spirit again of fishing, besides shellfishing. I renewed my fishing log in 1992, yet still wasn't quite there.
And then my son, Matt, four years old, persistently asked me to take him fishing, three, four times a week, and I obliged. Observing his complete value for fishing, his sudden mastery of the plastic worm....that's what made all the difference.