Saturday, May 13, 2017

Democracy, Individual Freedom, and Hitting the Holes

I digress. Get off the program. (Do you remember when "Get with the program" suggested we all stick to the beaten path?) I went back through some old posts before I opened this tab. Clear, well-defined writing that never loses sight of the definite subject in plain view for anyone to comprehend, and I assure you I'm proud of these posts. If not for ordinary reality well represented, anything extraordinary is doomed to failure. Every working man knows this, which is probably why so many are angry these days. I believe I made just this point in another way recently. The post, "Nothing without Feet on the Floorboards."

I got so caught up in other ideas writing last night's post, I forgot to make the point that since I have an ambition to write a book-length essay on fishing, I need to practice. I need to ferret out every advantage I can, because getting such a book published is very difficult. So Litton's Fishing Lines is experimental. From the beginning, it's about writing as much as it's about fishing, which is why I chose the word lines in the title. Writers form sentences in lines. Poets form phrases in lines. I spare my blog readers. I don't begin to experiment as much as I do in my handwritten journals.

I mentioned democracy last night. That's not only about people who fish stocked trout, but also people I work with as a wage earner myself. At age 15, I shot straight up in bed one night, suffering a terrible nightmare. I dreamed that because of my association with my fishing mentor, who to me was just an older friend, but he was a mentor, in fact, because of this association with a fry cook, I would find myself stuck in the working class as an older man. I told myself it just couldn't be. I was the son of a world-renowned musician, solidly middle class, advantaged in so many ways. I persuaded myself enough that it was just a dream to go back to sleep, but I knew better than to think that's all it might be.

A God-fearing young lad would have made damn sure to get that college degree. But as I wrote in the first paragraph, I get off the program. I don't blame my former mentor one iota. I went off the grid to discover the source of all that makes the grid and anything else. And I don't find my job a nightmare. At least, not any longer. But making it livable in a positive way involves sticking tenaciously to the program. To those tasks I not only must do; they are the reason I go to that workplace. I made my mind up about doing tasks before I applied there.

I knew, this afternoon: I have to advance a point about my belief in democracy. I try to dig deeper than any ideological rallying behind a collective nationalism. National freedom from foreign imposition is important to me, just as the political freedom to get involved in decisions that affect society locally or nationally is also, but I believe most in individual freedom. I think not only of my own potential and the difficult effort to articulate a complex vision of life. I think of the rest of us in a confused age of distraction also and never give up the hope that so much resigned cynicism will pass away as new possibilities for everyone become manifest.

I've made this clear. I want to write books. I'll add that I want to get paid, too. I've had dreams of far-off fishing destinations for many years. But as I've told Fred Matero, what would life amount to, if not for hitting the holes? The local waters familiar to both of us.

Coming Books

I may change the Coming Books notice, since I've my doubts they'll become available so soon. The book about the salmon egg method I began three weeks before Opening Day, but of course with all this fishing and my job, haven't got much done. As related in the recent Spruce Run Creek post, I had read some of my first published fishing articles, and this book--which I conceived more than a decade ago--confronted me as something I must do.

Walking Sadie minutes ago, I realized my first article published in The New Jersey Fisherman was the perfect choice of subject--early season largemouth bass--because I met my fishing mentor two years prior at just that sort of fishing. He was no writing mentor. More like the opposite--a fair trade, since he not only taught me a great deal about fishing; he got me motivated to fish even more than I had been fishing.

I paid a Devil's Bargain. Ernest Hemingway and Jim Harrison were just about the only great literary writers also anglers. Today's literary community seems especially detached from the outdoor writing community, and my welding of both pursuits is an unlikely proposition. When I began fishing as an eight-year-old, at first with a friend and his father, that's when I learned about literary classics. My mother eagerly introduced me to Izaak Walton, 17th century author of The Compleat Angler, the most bestselling book of all time besides the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. She introduced me to Walton's book as a classic perhaps on that day I first went fishing. The qualification went straight to my brain. I fished Little Shabakunk Creek regularly that year, and I remember--yet aged eight--walking in on my parents to tell them about how I took fishing seriously, and yet without confusing the objective order of greater and lesser values.

My father comes from strong West Virginia mountain people. I never met my grandfather on his side, but my great-great grandfather came from somewhere deep in the farming wilderness before seeking the modern adventure. I can't say Dad's not anything like a farmer, but he is a world-class musician. So growing up, I understood our lives depended on music, since that's how Dad got paid. But of course, more than that; to grow up steeped in sacred and classical music was to develop a great understanding of art's value. Not only music. My mother was a chemist for Esso, now Exxon, but she minored in English. So when I laid claim to fishing that day, we all understood I did not place the value above genius.

Caught in the Devil's Bargain of having invested my life in the outdoors, while all the while struggling to create art, I think of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock." She implied that we're all caught in the Devil's Bargain, and the way out is to get back to the Garden. So this problem I have is very ironic, in light of Joni's prescription. The Bargain I made took me all the way back. From fishing 250 days a year in my teens, to clamming commercially, which paid so well I often didn't have to labor much. Most of what that adventure was about wasn't beach bumming or even studying, though I studied a great deal. It was about going as deep into nature as I possibly could.

Maybe Joni was sly. Maybe she dreamt of a future when some fisherman would catch us all in the Devil's Bargain. But I've never believed in "back to nature." I always understood; I was trying to conquer nature itself. "Nature, to be conquered, must be obeyed." I studied Francis Bacon in not every detail, but seriously. Bacon was one of the very greatest. The father of the modern age. He challenged Aristotle and won the battle that led to modern science. As the result of this science, we have entered a new geological epoch. The Anthropocene. Nature is conquered enough already for us to have begun reshaping the planet. What is yet to be seen is beyond imagination.

A book on fishing salmon eggs may seem beneath what I can really do, and it is. But everything is interrelated as one effort affirms another, and I can't help but feel I believe in people who come out and fish trout in the spring. Democracy gets a lot of lip service. Why it's so threatened now can only be the result of false belief in it, if we assume the standard of belief is equal to practice. So what I am doing with this book is more than just explaining how to catch trout with salmon eggs. Centuries of scholars have pondered what it was Walton really did. I am not Walton, but what I'm doing with my book on salmon egg fishing is more than just explanation. Nevertheless, I'm free to say more in America than Walton felt free to say in his 17th century England.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Follow Up

When I publish a post like this with a title that will rank a thousand pages back, and I don't post it on Facebook, it's for myself and my regular readers. That last post raised an angry stir from one quarter. Mike and I laughed it off, though we both hope we can repair ill feeling coming from elsewhere. A trusted friend from more than a decade ago told me that if my writing--she was sure I would eventually incite controversy--polarizes, so long as I am on the right side with my friends, it pays off, because controversy stirs interest and profit.

I won't go into details. I just want to comment on one word that does bug me about that post, though I won't go into edit function and change it. Significant.

Honestly. One hundred percent honestly. I am very proud of the writing I have got published. That's significant. And I've worked damn hard and continue to work damn hard to get these articles published. All of the magazines I write for are significant. Of course they are. Anyone who would doubt this, when these magazines sell, is a fool. But I am a complicated individual. I just emailed my father two nights ago, relating how my mother told me in 1999, when we were coin shopping for our collections, "Don't do any psychological tests on your son." Matt was with us, six months old. She wasn't joking. I wrote Dad, "My journals test me. Anyone who will read them will be tested for sure."

When I wrote about getting published significantly last night, I didn't see the brush against condescension myself, nor feel it at all: it's a matter of context. To forget what that word means is to invite no less than insanity. To gain the broader issue of the post is to realize: maybe the reason I didn't see or feel condescension--is because it simply is not there. No one in his right mind would believe Ernest Hemingway's best work was published in Field & Stream, not that I have been published in this magazine; I have not, but if I'm not mistaken, Hemingway was so. Gathering from what I've read, both Hemingway and Zane Grey remained very proud of their fishing articles. I would guess so. Partly because I know: no matter how I finish in life--or after I am dead--I will always be proud of my fishing articles. And I will always remember where I first got published. On fishing early season largemouth bass.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bedminster New Jersey's Super-Centrality: Meaning Rainbow Warrior

March 28th seems a long time ago; ever since then, feels like I've fished non-stop: for the fun of it, for the friendship, for the wider fraternity, and for the fuel to power my writing. Readers of this blog are privy to a tip of a very complex and complicated iceberg, and most of what is underneath may never see the light of day, but there's hope that some future editor will pick and choose the best of what I've written by pen. And in the meantime, I have my ambition to get significantly published, not only before I blast off the face of the earth, though most people would say pass away, but significantly published before I will officially retire--no one knows whether or not I'll reach this goal. The effort hurts like hell sometimes, because I invest so much hope--energy, value, effort, and time. Without the vigilance of this attempt, my life would go out to the trash with the bad vegetables at the supermarket.

I think of Jim Morrison and his writing. Not because he was any great writer, but partly because he might have been, had he not fallen into a glut of celebrity. I discovered Morrison in the fall of 1980, long after all of my friends had become familiar with his Doors rock band without clueing me in, perusing the biography No One Here Gets Out Alive in a Manahawkin, New Jersey, shop. I lived alone on Long Beach Island, harvesting clams self-employed while studying literature, mysticism, and philosophy. I learned within five minutes or so--without embarrassing myself before the shop proprietor, not interested in actually buying the book--that Morrison was serious about becoming a poet and very much influenced by Aldous Huxley and William Blake. At the time, both of these writers were two of my favorites as it just so happened I stumbled upon Morrison. Morrison would have named the band The Doors of Perception, a line of William Blake and title of the very influential work by Aldous Huxley, the book I had finished reading a day or two before coming upon the Morrison biography, but I believe it was the band's guitarist Robby Krieger who insisted the awkward wordiness for a popular act needed to get cut.   

Mike is like a lot of us who fish: clued into myriad details of rock culture. But of all the performers and acts, Morrison is most significant to him, as Morrison is also to me. Of all these recent trips, going back to Round Valley Reservoir in February, I've played music as we have traveled here and there hundreds of miles only twice. Conversation fills the time instead. Now three months since I played Ambrosia's "I Keep Holding on," it seems like last week. Mike had never heard the song. Coming home from the Pequest, about halfway back, I put on the Grateful Dead album, "American Beauty." Mike hadn't heard these cuts either. I told him "Box of Rain" was one the most influential pieces for me during my teens.

As a former choral artist, I'm familiar with music of long tradition: from hymns, chants of the Middle Ages, 17th and 18th century anthems, to many great masterpieces such as Handel's Coronation Anthem #1 and Mozart's Requiem. A huge repertoire in total. Difficult to reconcile differences between sacred and classical works taken together, against a complicated plethora of popular modern forms and particular numbers, I suffered a hell of a lot of conflict because I neither rejected high forms nor popular. By fits and starts I would assert the value of classical and sacred against the popular, but as I aged, all this wealth of contradiction in my consciousness began to settle where it belongs. Space within me large enough to hold it all together.

I could have played Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Shake for Me" a week ago. Last May, that was my theme song for the hybrid striped bass trolling pursuit. No fish shakes like a hybrid striper hitting a trolled plug. And a big one will pull on forward with the power of a cable winch.

Fishing is absurd compared to the grand stability of serious art forms, but this is the very clue to fishing's value. The highest art achieves immortality: Moby Dick remains with us, for example. But Ralph Waldo Emerson understood that the past is a dust bin, despite the presence of spirit captured millennia ago capable of life yet today. This begs the question. Assuming such life long after death is possible--to realize life of ancient Athens, for example--how?

Another favorite of Jim Morrison was Friedrich Nietzsche. I have grown to hate this philosopher. If he were reduced to working in a supermarket for low wage, as I am, he would not implore his readers to let many of us be slaves--he meant slaves literally, in the 19th century--so that the upper crust, our 1% today, can be happy. Every time I hear that phrase "upper crust" or think of it, a joke from choir camp in Black Mountain, North Carolina, 1971, is lurking not far behind. About caked excrement in the pants of a na├»ve journeyman. It's not that I hate the rich, it's that I hate their folly, their unwitting going along with ideas they are not conscious of, and refuse to become conscious of; Nietzsche's notion of exceptions, for a particular example. I used to believe--trenchantly--that I was one of the exceptions, but I've grown up enough to at least hope to believe in democracy. Really so. And yet, Nietzsche understood that the only to way generate such power as to realize spirit of any age, and especially of the future--is to unify with nature. "Remain true to the Earth!"

I'm also a birder. And as a birder, I know delicacies having a fish on a hook can't conjure. But I also know birding is less involved with equipment and bodily acts such as the difficulties of wading, fighting fish, removing hooks, etc. Fishing is more involved in nature than any other outdoor activity, perhaps. Obviously. It has to do with food. That's also a plus, I realize, for my supermarket job. Nothing is more basic to economics than food. Nothing is more basic to ecology, either. And nothing--actually--is more basic to philosophy and art. Franz Kafka wrote The Hunger Artist. But no starving artist can escape the implication of that denial--food itself.

Mike told me a Califon tale today. During the 1930's, a grocer in town sold a loaf of stale bread; presumably this was an innocent mistake. The buyer discovered the staleness at home around lunchtime, stormed back to town and beat the grocer to death.

Food is at the root of passion. This must be why so many chefs bear a Napoleon complex.

Mike showed me more of the South Branch Raritan River today I'd never before seen. And more of Califon culture. Only some 15 miles from Bedminster, Califon is another world. Bedminster, of course Bedminster is all over the news now. This "little" town is actually rather large, considering the wealth contained. We live in "The Hills," and these condos and townhouses are not in the least run down or occupied by miscreants, but they're not as expensive as the traditional estates elsewhere throughout the Township. We're just about right in the middle of the former Supercontinent Pangaea. I had already committed hopes to writing an epic poem, vaguely modeled on William Carlos William's "Paterson," which I named "Crossroads," when I learned of this Bedminster Super-Centrality about 12 years ago. Having conceived the poem a year or two before it crystalized distinctly at the foot of Passaic River Falls in Paterson on a New Jersey Audubon geological outing, it must owe some its inspiration to Allen Ginsberg, also. About a year before "Crossroads" came to me, I contemplated a photo of Ginsberg standing on the walkway over Passaic River Falls with his mother, looking into the camera lens with an expression of greeting. I have not written this poem, but I hope to write it. Califon people we encountered weren't miscreants either. We drove by quite a few standing about where the river is dammed in town, gazing on us with the sort of open curiosity you may find in many rural places, rather than the implied contempt of urban disregard. One older man chatted with us at our most upstream destination, where any further, according to this man, involves a club membership fee of $3000.00 annually. He spoke ebulliently, with very local feeling I simply gave up on, not out of any dislike, but knowing I wouldn't have the patience to try and connect, though Mike continued talking without my sort of difficulty. (William Carlos Williams might shame me for copping out, since he was all about American idiom, and that, of course, is very wide ranging.)

As my time this morning came near closing, Mike's friend Jesse showed up. I've heard a lot about Jesse's fly fishing, and soon he showed me his RS-2 and Rainbow Warrior dual presentation, keeping pace with my salmon eggs. He's good. For a beginner--real good. The man studies fly fishing constantly. Mike and I caught only rainbows. Jesse caught his first brook trout, of around 14 inches or so--and how it wound up in Califon, don't know; the state hasn't stocked any brook trout for years, and I've heard nothing of Shannon's Fly Shop stocking but browns, tigers, and rainbows. And Jesse caught one of the tigers of 12 or 13 inches. I really like his self-tied Rainbow Warrior especially.

Looks like a psychedelic zebra midge.

"Size 20 is best," Jesse said.

All told, between the three of us today, we caught 75 trout. 
 We fished two spots in High Bridge, and we caught trout at all spots.