Saturday, July 22, 2017

How did the Ayn Rand Institute get my Mailing Address?


I-78 Exit 7. Highway 173 begins to uncoil. "I Keep Holding on," Ambrosia, completes as Warren Glenn Road unfurls on my left after a mile. Motion feels smooth as the low register of a French horn, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of the band members plays the instrument. They had performed with Leonard Bernstein at least once. I reach into my stacks stuffed in the driver's door and come up with my Outlaws c.d., load it, and select track 5."Green Grass and High Tides."

Through Finesville, into Riegelsville, I listened to what Tom Breen, during the 1980's, named our Clammer's Anthem. Tom and I had shared a house in Brant Beach or Ship Bottom during spring 1987. I lived in so many houses and apartments and rooms on Long Beach Island, Cedar Bonnet Island through which the Causeway channels, and Manahawkin on the mainland side of the bay during my 13-year adventure, I can no longer place each rental. Breen had enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, but absconded for the free-spirited and self-employed Long Beach Island and bay life. He wasn't the only Navy man among us. My 1983 and 1984 Surf City housemate, George Cunningham, served in the Navy for a number of years as a scuba diver. He came to Long Beach Island for some of the same reasons as had Breen. George summed his motive in one word. Freedom. 

George read literary classics. His favorite wasn't a classic I would have read at St. John's College, situated across the street from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and dubbed "the American Oxford," where I enrolled during the spring 1982 semester. Kon-Tiki by Peter Mathieson is the true story of crossing the Pacific by raft in 1947. I happened to read The Snow Leopard by the same author--about a soul-searching Himalayan quest--during my March and April 1984 Appalachian Trail hike from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Hot Springs, North Carolina. 

But about The Outlaws. The Outlaws achieve, to my appreciation, a very interesting evaluation. "Green Grass and High Tides" suggests an author I take very seriously. During my second stay in Surf City, this time with George and comprising almost a year of my Island adventure's early period--I came in 1980--I had my most inspired encounters with Friedrich Nietzsche, who I began reading in 1981. The Superman idea is part of the philosophy, but Nietzsche actually names the possibility the Overman. It entails mankind beneath Nietzsche's hero and serving him, a notion that always struck me as absurdly un-American. But the Outlaws' refrain line about kings and queens bowing and playing for the implied hero of "Green Grass and High Tides," I feel amused by this.

Early in 1986, a brochure from the Ayn Rand Institute based in California mysteriously arrived in the mailbox at my front door. I had never sent them any of my contact information; I'm very sure of this. The brochure loudly proclaimed that Nietzsche's Superman idea is NOT....well, whatever were the words, not a good idea. Because, the brochure stated, it's socialist. I've lost the brochure along the way of my travels. Whether or not Nietzsche was socialist, for me it's that simple issue: Imagine you, my reader, in service to me. What more need be said? Nietzsche's notion is ridiculous.

If you read Nietzsche, though, perhaps the only way you would ever imagine him as socialist targets that sense of him as effete despite his work--for the most part--roaring, as if in epic paean style to greatness and vitality. I never did imagine him socialist. And the ARI's loud proclamation seemed absurd.

But there is more to say, coming from another philosopher, for whom that Institute I've named stands. Ayn Rand claimed that man adjusts his background to himself, a notion which, without more detail deduced from the broad grasp it implies, might be almost as ridden with error as Nietzsche's idea. If I simply adjust my background to myself, this seems to include you, adjusted to me. But if my background cannot possibly be your background--this makes sense--then we're fair and equal. But Rand never makes such a distinction to clear up any possible confusion. Typically, she makes broad, sweeping statements. Like a bipolar woman on a manic trip.

By the time I post this story, it will have been yesterday when I was on my way to Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, where, two years ago, my wife and I ate at the Riegelsville Inn. (I shot the photo of the Inn, above, before crossing the bridge to return home.) My destination Mueller's General Store. Eels awaited. So I hoped. I had phoned a second time the day before and was assured.

There I parked, slung out my camera, got a photo. Bagged the camera, went in. "American Woman," the original version by the Guess Who, began to grind. Song I loved as an 11-year-old and still have a liking for. I thought of Rand, also a novelist, whom I took seriously in my early and mid-20's. Conflicts with her presence in my life have continued since, though for the most part, now this is evened out, and the song was a recollection rather than any stormy confrontation.

But frankly, I don't know how that brochure from ARI got to my front door. Maybe I am mistaken. Maybe I mailed for information or subscribed to the Intellectual Activist. But I distinctly remember feeling completely baffled at the time it arrived in the mail. The Guess Who shouts at American Woman, telling her not to come hanging around the door of the assumed man in the song. He don't want to see her shadow no more.

I bought nine eels. Nine to about 16 inches long. Drove home, listening to some of the rest of the Outlaws. I heard my second favorite song, "Hurry Sundown," and though I know the musical and lyrical quality doesn't measure against my upbringing--my father is Director Emeritus of the American Boychoir School--I still like the song and have my personal reasons.

"How do you like my pets?" I said to my wife as I opened the cooler, took hold of an eel, and held it for her to see as it coiled and uncoiled. Laughter.

Oliver Round and I fish a dark bank of the Delaware miles from mainstream civilization until about 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Striped bass, I hope. And for Oliver's sake--flathead catfish. Last I heard from him, he's catching some bluegills to keep alive and use for bait. Flatheads have got very big in the river. I guess 20 or 30 pounds--at least--is possible. I caught a nine-pounder in 2008.

They are not scavengers. Live bait is--almost--the only way. Mine did take an eel that had died. I baited an extra rod and just lobbed the eel out there, where it settled to bottom about 15 or 20 feet down. This was at the beginning of the game that evening, before sunset. I also hooked and lost a striper.

Don't sparkle striper eyes with a lantern or fire. We had a lantern burning after midnight, and when the striper got close to the bank--and that light--it took off on a run so powerful I could hardly believe it. Pulled the hook free.

Mueller's General Store


Common Roadside Attractions. Chicory (blue) and Queen Ann's Lace.


An old Riegelsville, New Jersey, station. Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, is directly across the river.







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