Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mike and Philippe Head out for a Tournament Night Shift

Mike Maxwell and Philippe Rochat are about to head out on Spruce Run Reservoir for a night shift. I spoke to Mike minutes ago. They haven't yet placed in the Howie Behr Hybrid tournament, running on until 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, night catches permitted. First place thus far stands at 12 pounds, six ounces. Mike lost a good-size hybrid. Neither man has boated any.

Mike and Philippe set up camp last evening, so the boat is right there. With two dozen live herring left, thanks to Laurie Murphy and Joe Welsh at Dow's Boat Rentals, the herring in a plastic bag treated with oxygen, they stand a fighting chance. Win or lose. So long as the effort presses through, life is the reward.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


That's the goal. I just spoke with Mike Maxwell and Philippe Rochat on my way into the neighborhood after work, as they prepare for the Howie Behr Hybrid Tournament this weekend. Behr's Bait and Tackle projects that the winner will weigh-in two hybrids at a total of about 13 pounds.

I told them they have stiff competition. They know it. But they do have a secret weapon. Our rally curbside confident and strong, I know they must have a chance, because I've seen unexpected things happen, but some of the guys who fish Spruce Run Reservoir are practiced like professionals.

So my favorite number gets sent out worldwide as a prayer for Michael and his friend. I've been behind them along in their effort towards this tournament, and if Jim Morrison cares for a dedicated admirer, I know Michael is the one to give a nod after the album title. 

The Dog of Odysseus Before the Arrows

That week's vacation I mentioned in an earlier post is over as of this past Monday. It seemed to pass too quickly, until the charter trip sort of took me out to sea. And in fact. The next morning, my family boarded a Boeing 737 at 8:00 a.m. in Newark. Haven't flown with United in many decades. Landed at Bush International, Houston, and though we boarded again on Sunday at 7:44 p.m., it felt as though we had spent a week.

My nephew Michael got married to Melissa on Saturday. They had previously vacationed in New Orleans and visited a great plantation outside the city, Melissa so impressed with the estate that she researched possibilities in the Houston region. A gorgeous hall and property is the result. The music leading into the ceremony was of the highest genius. I have never before better heard Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."

We had some time as a family on Saturday. This is our second visit to family on Patricia's side in little over a year, and we took a thorough tour of the Johnson Space Center in January. As it turned out, Trish and Matt took another ride and visit of the center this time, but I had gorged myself at dinner the night before and got sick. I am under 200 pounds for the first time since 1993, not on a diet; I just don't eat as much as used to, and my job has required extreme daily exertion. I felt like taking a big exception. Woke up ill in the morning Saturday, but went along with Trish and Matt, and then decided to let them tour without me. I drove back to the Inn and picked them up later.

During several drives, I noticed creeks we passed over. As I said, it seemed as if we were away a week, but as we drove back to Bush International, it felt as if I never quite experienced Texas. I didn't feel this way in January. For one thing, it was January but 85 degrees out. For another, I took the tour. The Space Center is Texas for sure. But what piqued interest in this special respect on that tour was catching sight from the tour bus of turtles basking on a log in a slough. This time around--had I felt better--I would have liked visiting a green space I viewed on a map. Some water associated. Once Trish concluded upon Johnson Space Center, I felt relief that I had not uttered my humble preference. I never did utter it. Trish and Matt would have felt disappointment in me, and I fully understand. I don't forget those turtles on a log.

Trish had spotted a lizard near a curb when we stopped for a red light. Had we simply visited this wild place I saw designated on a map, my camera would have served use for something similar, but here's the gist. At least I myself don't get much of a feel for a faraway place by limiting my activities to venues on the same general grid pattern nationwide. The old plantation and wedding was an exception. You don't find 400-acre estates quite like it in New Jersey. I also took leave from the reception afterwards and visited a large pond in the night, a little wary of any possible night-feeding alligator. They can run a lot faster than I can, if I'm not mistaken. Not certain they exist in Texas. Or if cottonmouths do. The snakes occur to me now. And I know coral snakes do exist there. I went back inside the hall and soon invited Trish outside. She wouldn't leave the porch, but it was nice sitting in relative quiet and talking, another of the guests we knew out there with us. Ted sighted a possum over the rail and along the building. We leaned against it and delighted in watching the creature just below, unafraid of us. I asked Trish to have a look. The fur on the head such a striking pattern of black and white. She wouldn't get off her chair. To her credit, she told me she would never go camping. When she did--through Cub Scouts--she loved it. We've gone a number of times since. But she remains essentially an urbanite. There's no conflict from me about this, since I have a lot of urbanity in my biography too. We never would have dated, had I not. We plan on moving to Manhattan in about 10 years. I'm not saying we will. I can't quite believe it. But Trish researches, and she's smart as most living there. If we do, I plan to come to Jersey to fish. Often. Wouldn't mind having a boat docked on the Hudson, either.

That January I mentioned, while staying in Webster, outside of Houston--Trish's brother and his family live in Friendswood--we watched news on TV at the Hilton Inn, as we did this past week, same Hilton. United States Supreme Court Justice Scalea died in Texas on a hunting trip. I happened to pick up a letter from the lamp table next to the bed, a letter from my outdoor writer friend Jim Stabile. An instant before news of Scalea's death broke, I was about to begin reading. The envelope contained a printout of an article Jim had published in Field & Stream or Outdoor Life--almost certain the former. I have it in my messy study. Away from home, weeks after I received the mailing, I made a point of packing the letter along with very little else, which is just peculiar, but all my life I've exercised peculiar habits. Drove my dear father nuts. Why not have simply opened the envelope here at home and have read what was inside? Some hunch informed me to wait. And some hunch informed me to take the letter with us to Texas and read it there.

My son Matt is politically on the ball. Follows all sorts of sources. He was concerned about Altright fanatics having a rally in Charlottesville, VA, weeks before the event, which broke news when we were in Texas this past week. We watched on TV back-and-forth between Charlottesville, VA, and Bedminster, NJ, not happy that the sitting President of the United States spoke such vague drivel in response to the violence, our hometown spelled out as the place from where the words came.

Litton's Fishing Lines comes to you from Bedminster, also, although some posts have come from Ocracoke, NC, and one from Exmore, VA. I hope the words are better adjusted to reality than what comes out of Trump's mouth. Nationalism, which does not amount to individuals valuing particular places for their true and independent substance, especially places amounting to country (land and water), places appreciated for particular values and events within them, which is what this post is about, nationalism is left without a nation. This country we name America is, in essence, beyond human conventions, such as nationality, because country is nature independent of and including man, but man, to apprehend nature, must do so by choice. Nationalists want fulfillment in the dream of a "nation," when fulfillment can only be realized existentially. I think of Ernest Hemingway in this respect. He would laugh at being called an existentialist, and if he were here with me now, I'd compliment him by remarking that he has one up on Martin Buber, because his idea of country is better grounded than the notion of the existential. There is no nation of any substance without individuals who actually value country. People, at least in their better moments, appreciate dirt for what it is, which is not only what we are made of--all plants grow in it and we eat them, for just one example of why we are "clay." People may value dirt not only for what they are, but for what they may grow to become; these individuals I regard as realists, because the ground at the feet supports the head up top, and the heart closer to the midriff might feel that awesome rough character in an expanse of dry dirt, not as a burden, but as an invitation to new beginning. The human potential implies beginning with barren expanse by binding what little the space does contain to an idea. (There is no space without some content.) And building gradually. I am always reminded of Winston Churchill. He understood the need to progress gradually. In a similar way, so did 17th Century English philosopher Francis Bacon, who inaugurated the modern age of science.

I emphasize individuals. Nationalists who make a gruesome show of not respecting other individuals' boundaries make a display of their unfit character as citizens of a nation. And a so-called President who refuses to name the offenders shows clear evidence that the Presidency is vacant. As an example of individual boundaries violated, a woman was killed by an Altright fanatic who drove his Charger into her during that rally. Obviously, I hold President Trump--and those who voted for him--responsible. This is not to confuse the issue. Of course the man who killed the woman--and injured many others--is the man to have been charged with second-degree murder. He acted independently, which, also, is not to say he didn't act within a larger context of possibility. Oh, sure, Trump named names later, regarding the drivel we heard from Bedminster. But then he began to say worse, as if these fanatics include among them some who are not fanatics. No one who would join ranks with the group which unleashed the violence shown on TV is not guilty. Guilt by association is a serious issue to anyone with a conscience, and all the more likely lethal for anyone without a conscience. How were these fanatics so emboldened in the first place? Trump could have named names before he got elected. He might not have got elected, had he done that. He clearly seems to demonstrate that he thinks this the case. Why did he sympathize with the likes of these fanatics in the first place? Stay tuned if you like specific personal stories that offer clues, as more about the situation may get published in this blog yet. But any of my readers knows I can't afford a full-time commitment. Not with a $12.875-per-hour job. Was the sacrifice of Iphigenia right, so the Trojan War could be fought? Judge consequences for yourself. A relative few of the victorious made it home, and more to the point: When Agamemnon did make it home, he was promptly murdered by his wife for the killing of his own daughter. Any decent American knows at least on some level within--human sacrifice is not just.

Any of us who voted Trump in knows the only voting alternative was not for Hillary Clinton. I decided not to vote for her, because the status quo has done me personal damage. I voted for Jill Stein. I was not vehemently opposed to Clinton. I had no reason to feel vehemence. I know she is knowledgeable, responsible, stable, Presidential. I don't know the Green Party's policies. I was childlike about my vote. Green is the color of the sunlit realm, land-bound, during summertime. This sunlit realm I sometimes mention is not a moniker of my origination. I borrow it from Ayn Rand. From her novel Atlas Shrugged. My silence with respect to explicitly condemning Trump in Litton's Fishing Lines until now regards a complicated inner situation. (I borrow this two-word phrase from 20th century depth psychologist Carl Jung.) My private journals are another matter, as have been some private communications going back to when Trump entered the race for 2016.

We arrived back in Bedminster just after 1:00 a.m. on Monday morning. When I opened my study door, I met a wave of familiar odor. Dead fish. For once in two or three years, I have killies. (Fundulus heteroclitus, the Atlantic killiefish.) To be exact, four. Three years it is, I recall. Father's Day 2014, last I had them, while I yet worked for Affinity Federal Credit Union. Then I enjoyed weekends off, and vacation days amounting to about five weeks each year rather than one week. But this purchase on Sunday more than a week ago shows I'm still in the habit of buying killies, using them in the surf for fluke, taking the remainder home, and setting any that survive in the sights of smallmouth bass while fishing the South Branch of the Raritan River. I would certainly use them in the North Branch Raritan as well, but I do not recall ever having done so, and don't particularly care to research the information in my handwritten log just now. Unfortunately, these remaining four of at least three dozen will surely perish before my son and I get out in my Great Canadian canoe next week. As yet, once again my aerator hums, and bubbles emit scintillating sound in my study. Nothing lost, because these fish accompanied a fulfilling possibility. More than that. These fish essentially are that possibility. Even though all will die before it could happen. Most likely. They help redeem the future, because exercising the habit makes such fishing possible yet, though I really did mean to put them to this good use soon. I didn't set them free. Anyone can infer: I could have simply dumped them in the ocean where I had surf fished. Not anyone can judge that action would amount to no freedom whatsoever. This species does not exist in the ocean. So I could have stopped the car bayside somewhere. Nope. Instead, it was a shot in the dark. I sure had hopes of aggressive smallmouths killing them.

How can true affection--these four fish are my truly beloved pets--coexist with that kind of ruthlessness implied? Perhaps this relationship of extremity is no more than the whisper of a hint you can't hear. Homer's Iliad may reveal less of the reality to you than the work he composed in later and wiser years. The Odyssey gives a clue I hold dear. The dog of Odysseus upon his return home.