Thursday, December 8, 2016

What's Happened to Us? Still Here

This month of December in New Jersey feels lonesome when you get away from the holiday hoopla. Otherwise, it's as if--at least for regions with chilly weather--Western Civilization long ago conspired to counteract natural recess due to forbidding elements by bringing emotional and spiritual warmth into the lives of people brought close together by the holidays, just as winter's brutal turn comes. People try to escape reality in so many countless ways, whole encyclopedias could be devoted to this behavior.

Nevertheless, true to our odd practices, which could be taken either way, depending on who you are and what you think the real world is--as an escape or of facing reality--my son, Matt, and I came to stand beside Round Valley Reservoir this afternoon, amble about taking in the scenes and the gravel and the sand and the mud at our feet, and the rocks, just waiting on five lines baited with live shiners we put out for trout. We caught nothing, but as dusk fell, Matt did reel in one empty hook, so who knows. One thing is without doubt. If reality exists, we made contact with it. I sort of feel like Rene Descartes at present, beginning with thought as certain, but that's because I'm behind a computer screen. The self-evident is that. To deny it is to doubt yourself in turn.

Early on, a boat came in. I had driven our Honda down to water's edge at the end of gravel laid for boat launching.

"Catch anything?" I asked.

"We did OK," one of the men said. Terse tone of voice, his eyes refused to meet mine, and I felt put off.

Nice boat.

An all-too-typical image script came to mind immediately. There my son and I, two guys who can't afford a boat to fish in style. Here the elect who wouldn't even answer my question with any definite response. The masters. And we the slaves. But had I accepted this as the situation, it would have served as my own choice. I knew that, and sort of kicked the proverbial stone about, thinking.

During the 1970's, I asked that same question habitually, and responses more often than not offered meaningful information. Cheerful and respectful, regardless of obvious social status. A short chat would ensue. Now I was thinking of T-Rex and Jurassic Park as analogous to T-Rump and America.

What has happened to this nation in which we all felt included? I guess that's an ironic consideration, given Trump's election purportedly due to the voters...who felt left out.

The men hiked to the lot to fetch their vehicle. In the meantime, I politely moved our Honda further back from water's edge, anticipating that they would need space. Some minutes before I made this maneuver, I checked two rods I thought might have suffered the boat's landing; line could have got caught by the outboard prop.

Minutes later, I sullenly watched one of the men load the boat. The second had stayed behind. The same man who barely uttered any words looked our way once, harshly.

And then some time later, Matt noticed a rod move. I went for it, walking behind the boat just a few feet from me, seeing that it pointed towards the vehicle, not the water...aha. The man stood in the boat, arranging things, and now I saw he fiddled with my expensive Power Pro braid line, wrapped around his body. I felt not the slightest anxiety. I knew this was at least our opportunity.

"Your line's caught on me," he said matter-of-fact.

I had some of that line in my right hand aside of his port gunnel.

"Here." I got it free from behind the trailer as he unraveled himself, and then I lifted the end leading to him. He had backed the trailer into the reservoir and apparently just barely caught the line on the left side, facing the water.

"Mind if I cut it?" He said.


I freed the line, got the rod, reeled in what was left, and had a look at my spool, judging that I need to add a little to maximize casting.

"You caught lakers?" I asked.


"Regular four-pounders?"

"Yeah. They're either about that, or 20 pounds."

Here is where the chatting began. We probably spoke no more than two minutes. Just like the 1970's again. Two Januarys ago, he caught a 23-pounder. He's caught four in total over 20 pounds. We said some more, and then, "Take it easy."

Imagine, had things been different. Had my line not saved us from isolation in a world insistent on oil from the age of dinosaurs, instead of the minds of people like ourselves, figuring out an appropriate future on the basis of reason and respect. Many of us feel the 1970's were a crazy time, but I insist, that decade was much more rational than "crazy" and "mad" repeated ad infinitum on TV and radio and just about any media you can pick up. And by the mouths of people you might meet every day. They might tell you everything is crazy. We always said in the 70's, "If you think the world is crazy, it's you who is crazy." I never say the world is crazy. I'm just reporting on what I hear from others. After the 70's, we somehow ended up in this current social morasse, and not because of that decade.

As we packed our gear, a little sedan came racing down and stopped almost directly across from our Honda, yards away. Two attractive girls in their 20's leapt out. Naturally, since I'm just this na├»ve, natural sort, I said hi, quite audibly, but they didn't seem to hear. Nor did either girl so much as acknowledge us in any way whatsoever.

I considered. Well, here my son and I stand, this area to ourselves. These two people just barge into our space. I mean, any form of decent respect would sense this as the case. They behave--completely--as if we don't even exist.

Both of them giggling over mobile devices, of course photography went into action. Pictures of themselves, a half dozen or more in less than a minute. At that rate, they'd have taken more than I shot in an hour-and-a-half, within the next two minutes. Now one of them pulled a fake ukalale from a hatchback or whatever. She perched on the back of the car, fake strumming. The big photo op.

I got in the driver's seat of my car, Matt beside me, window coming down as I started the engine they didn't yet seem to hear. I budged the car. Then just as I had anticipated heads to turn, I said, "I'll wait for you to get your shot."

"Oh, no. That's OK!"

"I'm just going to pull ahead and turn around."

Suddenly, the girls were all smiles and recognition. I smiled back, drove my son and I forward, and turned around ahead of their vehicle.

Total narcissistic self-absorption. I had skillfully broken that spell to reveal the truth. It sure can seem as if people have utterly forgotten humanity, but we're just lost for the time being.

At full pool, the reservoir easily gives you the impression of having a rocky, gravely, and sandy bottom down deep beneath its heavy water, since the shoreline edge at that level is chiefly so composed. The thick mud revealed in this photo is about 26 feet under water at full pool. You can smell sulfates. I'm no expert on chemistry, but wouldn't be surprised if sulfate is part of the composition or formation of oil.

 Round Valley Pond shot from atop the dike.
I stood nearly 20 feet under water when I shot this sunset, given full pool.