Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Jersey Outdoor Alliance to Host Feast

The grassroots New Jersey Outdoor Alliance mission involves stewardship of the state's environment while championing fishing, hunting and trapping among policy leaders, opinion makers and the public. They have an online legislative action format from which anyone can participate, and I suggest you go to and before you finish reading, click on and read the Chairman's message to get an idea of how politically effective as NJ outdoor participants we are.

And NJOA serves great food, an opportunity like I've never seen before.

On Sunday, March 13th, beginning at 4:00 pm, the Aichem family of chefs at the Black Forest Inn, 249 U.S. Highway 206 in Stanhope, is serving NJOA a feast of venison, wild boar, pheasant, turkey, freshly caught fish and more. This is an opportunity to meet pro-outdoors state legislators, officials from NJ hunting, fishing and pro-outdoors organizations which comprise NJOA Conservation Foundation, and to support the NJOA grassroots effort. Tickets stand at $100.00 per person.

Chris Lido sent us information, and I wrote back that I was thinking of coming. "Bruce, the food alone is worth more than the price," he wrote back. I told him I agree, but we're going to wait until next year--and I hope this event is hosted again--since, well, the economy just isn't as good as MSNBC sometimes makes it seem. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

River Styx Parallels: Could be Ice Fishing's End this Year

Joe Landolfi invokes the spirit of Bob Neals.

Can't remember specifically when I last fished a really mild day on the ice, but they've always been enjoyable in a sort of special way. Yesterday, four of us came to Hopatcong, five of us including Tracy, who joined later, and Jason's Doberman and my Labrador. Ice five and six inches thick had not yet begun to rot, except at the very surface, which allowed for good boot traction. Temperatures rose to at least 60, felt a lot warmer, and as usually happens, the lake region felt vibrantly alive with social activity. Other people came and visited us, and a tavern on the northern side of the bridge bustled actively with guests outside happy to pay keen attention to goings-on atop the hardwater.

This is Lake Hopatcong's River Styx, ultimately named by an ancient Greek for the boundary between our life and the underworld after death. I had come in my car, Joe in Jason's. And then Homer arrived, or so I learned by chance this is Paul's nickname. River Styx happens to be the last place Odysseus visited on his return home in Homer's great ancient Greek The Odyssey. Homer seemed every bit as full of stories as is a writer, but he tells them, just as The Iliad and The Odyssey began as oral traditions. He and I sat in foldout chairs and I felt refreshed to hear such a high and precise vocabulary speak. I look forward to a Delaware River float trip in the future, which Paul and friends do every year in kayaks. Homer's known Joe since Joe was teenaged, both of them growing up in Berkeley Heights. I plan on buying two kayaks this year.

Currents in our culture do run as deep as ancient time, but you have to get close to nature to connect. Nevertheless, a name given to a place can really help, although the full history of that name, including its modern application, implies the complexity of modern responses on many levels compared to only the very deepest.

As always, I'm amazed at Joe's expressiveness, Joe with a natural actor's talent and many others besides. At one point, Homer and I traversed ice together and as we conversed, he said, "Joe has so much talent, he could do anything."

As I set nearly 15 tip-ups, I caught Joe, about 20 yards to my side setting another, glancing skyward, calling out, "In the name of Bob Neals, let's catch some fish!" So here we have River Styx, Homer, and an invocation as if to the gods, just like the ancient Greeks, all of this spontaneous, without my mentioning the parallel between this narrow cove of Hopatcong and the ancients, until at one later point I did find it appropriate to voice an attribution. But after all, however and whoever decided to name this section of the lake, the fact remains that the source of the name is very long ago, yet central to Western Civilization, and although America is something new, the constitution never could have been written without the studied work of British philosopher John Locke, nor could Locke have produced his philosophy without the ancient Greek Aristotle prior to him.

Bob Neals died last year from cancer, only in his 50's. Homer pointed to a brown house about 200 yards from where we sat, on the bank of River Styx, telling me that Neals had lived in it for a time. Neals was Joe's ice fishing mentor, who once told him, in 20-degree weather, to place his bare hands in the water exposed by a cut hole, and then wring them out in the wind, so they won't feel cold for the rest of the outing. Neals caught the New Jersey state record, 42-pound, 13-ounce muskellunge through the ice of Monksville Reservoir, and I'm told this fish is the world record ice-caught muskellunge.

Neals' legacy persists among New Jersey freshwater anglers and surely will remain with us for many years yet to come. But during at least the past decade, the name Dante Dimarco eclipses the record-holder's on Lake Hopatcong. No one else catches more muskies here. All of you who read my blog know about my literary excesses, and sometimes I feel they disturb straight-forward fishing facts, as I know they piss off some of my readers sometimes, but frankly, if you just want straight scoop: 1. I write a lot of conventional fishing articles for magazines and often post those later on my blog, once the rights restrictions clear: 2. There must be thousands of other fishing websites out there that work within narrow limitations on language. I don't insult your intelligence, so stick to my posts. Now that I've created enough distance from mention of the modern-day Dante so as to not disrespect what he does, in keeping with this ordinary yet seemingly weird day on the lake, I have something else to add. First, it was not a weird day at all. I write of deep cultural currents, and obviously such were with us today, but the better anyone gets at navigating the likes, the less awesomely they confront the traveler who becomes better acquainted over time with the fact that history is not really linear, as if the past is "behind" us and only exists as a timeline we fill with references no longer existing. It's all here now. But this means: as history actually was, say about 2500 years ago, that of course is not physically present--as was. It is physically or spiritually--on some level the same--present as is. Different from as was, but something essential must in fact persist and is with us.

Dante Alighieri was a poet, 1265-1321, author of The Divine Comedy. He lived many years after ancient Greeks came up with River Styx, now a sector of this glacial lake which in fact has existed since long before ancient Greeks explained their sense of how things go for the dead. River Styx was already long here, where we ice fished today, when whichever individual Greek came up with the word naming it. But it wasn't a river-like cove as it is today, because the modern-day Lake Hopatcong water level is elevated 12 feet by a dam. River Styx is no more than eight feet deep and mostly shallower. We've appropriated the waterway. And we've appropriated the name of it for reasons unknown to me, but everything designated by words has weird poetic logic. Underneath it all.

The poet Dante was a Christian. The ancient Greeks, pagan. But I've always felt Dante bore greatly intimate knowledge of the Greeks who lived long before him, and when I read The Inferno, the first of the epic poem's three parts, I felt as if Dante's greatest moment was in viewing the Palace--in hell--of philosopher Aristotle. Perhaps I only felt this, as a young man, because I identify with whom the Middle Age's philosophers named The Philosopher, but it seemed to me as if Dante was telling me he felt the same. Aristotle only went to hell, according to those in the know, because he was not here on earth after Christ made going to heaven possible.

Jason caught a few perch jigging; that's all the fish we caught.

Just before I had to leave early, letting Joe care for my tip-ups and power auger so the rest of them could fish to dark, and then again another day, I caught sight of Marty Roberts checking out our scene from the bridge. He's featured in the post about the sunglasses story.  I hadn't seen him since that October 2012 day on the lake, nor had Joe, although Marty had tried to get in touch with me from Laurie's shop a couple of times when told by her that I was out on the lake with my son.

Regarding Marty, this miracle hybrid striper catcher, there's also a way to tread that fine line between disrespect and mythic comparison for the sake of waking up to possibilities that might make us greater. A lot of us who fish disdain high culture as effete and removed from reality, but I rarely meet an angler without a wide-ranging knowledge of rock 'n roll. Steely Dan's "Home at Last," for example, is an homage to Homer and his Odyssey. The list of rock references to high literature would go on for pages. Why do rock lyricists care? Because many of them, highly intelligent, are inspired by forms of art other than that which they compose. They understand that rock is a community, and that all communities thrive by incorporating ideas from other communities. Modern-day philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand--who claimed she owed a single literary and intellectual debt, to Aristotle--wrote affectionately about a story character, Marty. I know them both. I know something about them both the same.

So much for poet's license today. We like to live our lives as if we belong to newspapers. Or now, as if we belong to the web. Either way, newspapers or the web, facts are certainly in question now as they certainly were not only 30 years ago or so before the web's prevalence. It's the beginning of a new age now, and we're uncertain what it is and how to go about human relations. I know I take an edgy risk when I write posts like this one, because it can shake up readers' sense about how events really are and who really occupies them. Some readers designate me a hopeless crank or resent what seems my distortion of character. But read this post again, if you wish. It's pretty straight-forward. I didn't make anything up. I reported on Joe invoking the presence of Bob Neals, though Neals is dead. I never suggested Joe start behaving like ancients invoking gods. I wrote about Paul, who has been called Homer for many years, in fact, but I met him today for the first time. That's River Styx we stood on, in fact..

Here's the rub. Never value mythical heroes more than real people. That's my advice. And hard advice to follow. Just think of the droves of TV addicts who get more turned on by those inflated dramas than real life. I'm not one of them. That may seem ironic. Dante Alighieri must mean more to me than the best musky fisherman on Lake Hopatcong, since I'm a poet, right? I don't even know the modern-day Dante well. But I ask the question. What is more and less about this? The categories are different. And yet, here we see they're related just the same. I don't take a side: that Dante, instead of this one. I let them be together.

Homer in Black. Jason on the left.

Marty on the Bridge