Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Nothing without Feet on the Floorboards

I'll start at the ending. Near it. We headed to Nolan's Point around the corner and in front of Dow's Boat Rentals, where we would troll a final 200 yards or so, when it occurred to me my job drives me crazy. The two posts before this one take such abstract perspectives, especially the last post, that they're less revealing of life on the water than life inside a mind with some very difficult puzzles about the world to riddle at. This evaluation isn't to deride the effort, but to just let you know that when I got off work last night at 9:00 p.m., it wasn't to retire to my study and work my brain as life's platform until 3:00 a.m., but to briefly send a couple of messages, and then go to bed with my alarm set for 4:00 a.m. Mike got in my car at 4:47 and we headed north to Lake Hopatcong.

The first three hours were brutal. I wore a fleeced jacket; Mike had layers on, but we shivered to the bone. Strong breezes, temperatures that must not yet have reached the mid-50's, overcast skies, all this never turned us from steady efforts, even though the fish just were not hitting. I had caught a smallmouth bass, a largemouth, a big pumpkinseed I regret not photographing--colors multiple and beautifully patterned--and Mike two pickerel and a big crappie. No sign of the hybrid striped bass we hoped to catch. Further back in my mind I hoped for a walleye, as I always have while trolling, though so far this species has eluded all of us at this activity. We had fished more than half-a-dozen spots I've already familiarized myself with while trolling, and I had told Mike that when we got into this particular cove we were now leaving behind, we would hook up. I was certain. And that's where we caught most of our fish.

That certainty wasn't off the top of the head, but it was the only certainty of its kind today. Now trolling regions I never have before today, sunlight felt real good. Mike caught a trout. We motored further eastward into Henderson Bay and I enjoyed an area of the lake I've never visited. Trolling or otherwise. I caught a pickerel.

"It's a big lake," Mike said. I agreed. But because I read Bassmaster magazine during my teens, captivated by gigantic southern reservoirs, an internal interjection reminded me of how small New Jersey waters are. The bays I used to clam commercially are a lot larger than Hopatcong, also. Not to mention the ocean I used to take one of my boats out upon.

Hours later, we could have quit. Mike had caught another pickerel in Great Cove, right across from our landing point, which now we approached, having turned about through the Cove's belly, buffeted by big whitecaps, used to this after a couple of hours downwind. I felt like going back to my favorite cove for that variety of species and said so. Two miles distant--into the wind.

"I wouldn't mind, but what about gas?" Mike said.

"Oh, gas is fine," I said, at first disinclined to check on the tank. I second guessed that. "Let me check." I lifted an almost empty tank and told Mike.

"Yeah. We've covered a lot of lake. The motor's been running for hours."

We never turned it off all eight hours. I snapped on a Phoebe spoon and yet another kind of minnow plug and we trolled back across Great Cove. Joe Landolfi caught a brown trout over two pounds trolling a Phoebe out in the middle here with me several years ago. And now after a run with Mike up the shoreline opposite to Dow's docks, I suggested we go directly across the lake to the northern shore.

Mike might have preferred an easy exit from this attempt at these big hybrids. I knew that. But I also knew he really wouldn't mind a little extra effort. I had already said--speculating on returning to that favorite cove--that we rarely get a chance to do this, so why not give all? But for what? We were both all but certain we would not catch anything in the spot I now had in mind, despite its history. We could have bought live herring, but we knew that was useless. The cold front had not only turned fish off from feeding. It seemed to make them vanish. We had the fishfinder working all day and it marked about half-a-dozen fish--all day! Always when we fish Hopatcong, we mark plenty of fish here and there. Not today.

It was that change in plug brand. I hadn't experimented enough. Now I was ready to fish established trolling lanes, giving the effort my driven best. That included the passage to them directly into stiff wind with whitecaps soaking us with heavy spray. It was a push. But I ran plugs, settling the score of most of the trolling passes with a deep-diving Hot N Tot plug by the Storm brand, enabling me--trolled on a long length of braid line--to feel the lip of the lure scrape rocks 16 feet deep.

Just as expected, no fish hit. But the concentrated focus of my mind redeemed a whole lot of self-importance about worldly issues. This was an effort for the very slim--or nonexistent, in fact--chance of hooking a fish. And after some doubt in my mind about the value of such a pursuit, which so many people have for so many years felt is foolish, just a way to mindlessly pass the time, I came so fully clean that my sentiment in the August 28, 2016 post, about fishing on this lake with my wife and son, dissolved completely. As we approached Nolan's Point this afternoon, I was all there.

All the abstract theories and plots amount to nothing without feet on the floorboards.


Rainbow Trout
 The whitecaps had calmed as we crossed back to Nolan's Point.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Just not so Strenuous as was the Trip

"Immigrant Song" is printed nicely and secured to a wall of my study. I can't be brought up on any charge of treason, because America is not a Christian nation. I'll allude to this opening line that makes a joke of the highest crime--of course charge of treason can't apply to art in a free country--as my ditty of an essay comes to conclusion. As if led by a fiery manic Norse seaman, the oarsmen of ancient origin threshed their way to the Western shore of America. Heavy metal's maximum power of amplification. With whom that form of music began. Britain certainly hasn't found any cause to diss any member of Led Zeppelin, either. I've sometimes noticed the print there on my wall slightly to the left of my forward vision, and have wondered at how rock was derided by my parent's generation as cheap and immature. I'm 56 and I respond to this song--instrumentation and lyrics--as if ageless. Today, I thought of it because I had to stop. Just as one of the song's lines gives just that advice with electric fervor. I make ruins of my life. Over and over again. Always rebuilding.

I decide to go on a roll, always to gain a goal I know I need to attain, and though I don't tell anyone else, I do confide in others. They might read my handwritten journals after I'm dead and gone. If the best passages are transferred to print by a good editor who can read my handwriting, and who has the audacity to improve upon my errors within the context of meaning--as I've invited any to do-- more people will read than any in my family the immense stacks as they stand. Always I go out to stand my trials knowing that before any is over, there is the possibility I won't be here to recoup, but most likely, it will just take both a little R & R and the exercise of very strenuous effort to regain my focus. Just not so strenuous as was the trip.

Here it is only a day after the very long day I blogged about yesterday. After recent days on end fishing, blogging, photographing, doing other activities while sleeping irregularly and performing the hard tasks of my wage job to the expected level of competence and a little more than that. I'm happy to report that I'm fine.

Much of my life is not "held in abeyance" as poet Walt Whitman described suspense akin to depression but not the same as that, as Whitman seemed to know, though differently than I do, that depression is a failure of nerve, and nerve fails because of bad habit. Especially where I perform my job, though not always, my inner situation involves less abeyance of mind than deep inward engagement such as Danish existentialist, Soren Kierkegaard, fully committed himself to, calling this private activity "passionate inwardness." If any contradiction between the deepest inner reach and the immediate demand of a customer existed, I would be unable to perform the job I do very well. So it's not the same as "the dark place," featured in the terrific new movie, Get Out.

We all must dress, however, for the rigidly defined costume party or freak show our culture has become to some degree. As I write, there's a party across the street, and the mum sound of music and animated voices, no harshness in any of the tones, reminds me that America is still here, just as plenty of customers at work remind me every day. Martin Buber, 20th century Jewish prophet, wrote that anyone who comes to fully believe that society is the like of a freak show "has succumbed to demonology." Jared Loughner, who shot Congressional Representative Gabby Giffords in 2011, killing and injuring many others, hollered about the "freak show" in court. That statement of Buber about demonology, a sophisticated modern like us, strikes me as odd, but I know just enough about where he's coming from--a hugely broader and deeper perspective than his century--to respect those words he had published, despite their riling my humor a little, though with no respect whatsoever to Loughner.

Get Out serves as a powerful commentary on us today, but no one is slave, not in any circumstances, not even if bought and sold, in fact--unless a slave in his or her own mind. Resentment is always directed at a superior. It stimulates thought, but ultimately it is impotent if thought just digs a rut. A big rut got dug during the 1960's.

The transformation of Old Norse myth into modern paganism indeed targeted the West as, ultimately, its only goal--to conquer us. The "kids" of the 1960's and early 1970's called this "changing the world." I often drive past Ithaca, New York, on my way to fish the Salmon River. Thus far, always with my son. Ithaca is a hippy town, but instead of the modern shambles of religion in sex and drugs and rock and roll, I always think of ancient Greece. There is also Marathon and Syracuse on the way north. Three names of ancient Greek city-states. But mostly, I think about ancient Athens. And now the Latino immigrants across the street begin to play guitar and sing and clap along. Beautifully.

Ancient Greeks were pagans, too. Not the same as Norsemen, but not Christians, Jews, Islamists, or any of the host from the East. Many, many years ago, I dated a Princeton University student. I once told her that when I die, I want to be reborn, right here on Earth. A devout Christian, she was alarmed, and she told me, no less by a very informed academic grasp but from a very oblique angle that struck me directly, that Aristotle was in hell, because he lived before he could have received Christ's redemption. Of course, she got this from the poet Dante. I don't think she got it from the musky fisherman of the same name on Lake Hopatcong, who probably avoids River Styx, a sector of the lake I like for pickerel. It was her response that hit me as so wildly relevant to me. Why did she bring up Aristotle to warn me about my desire? Besides, here I am. Some 2000 years after Christ. The young woman and I attended the same Episcopal Church.

Most of the hippies had no idea what they were doing, but Led Zeppelin did and does, only now, well, things are rather uncertain now, compared to the revolutionary fervor of David Bowie's Golden Years. Martin Buber wrote, "The distorted face of man is temporary," forecasting the future from not all that long ago.

The past is pagan, not the future. Hubris, as the wise Greeks knew, always fails. This is not to say outrageous arrogance is not inspired by an idea; it certainly is so, but something stronger refuses to budge or give in. Aristotle was pagan. But do you really think, if he were reborn today, he would be a pagan like so many hanging out in Ithaca, New York? After the Catholic Church basically used his works as its blueprint? When the dozens of his interests, many divided into individual works, serve as blueprint for the universities developed primarily within a Christian ethos?

Oh, drop out and turn on. Where did that lead? "The distorted face of man is temporary."

You can tell by earlier sentences: I feel a certain reverence for "Immigrant Song." Such mania is of course native to me. How else appreciate that song? But I've also performed, many years, as a vocal artist. Not rock 'n roll, but a wide range of vocal forms, including great masterpieces like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem. This work is immensely more powerful than any rock performance. And it is pure sublimation. Not raw. Mozart possessed native mania, but as a great artist, he disciplined that disease greatly.

My favorite line of "Immigrant Song" is the last: Peace and trust will win the day. But the wolf-like moaning of Led Zeppelin vocalists after their last word--losing--is like a twist on the Lyceum, the failed school of Aristotle. The Academy of Plato is the university of today. The Lyceum, however, despite it's folding, never really lost at all. Plato's otherworldliness is no prescription for life on earth, nor do Plato's works serve the structure of the schools in his name, as do the works of Aristotle. Lyceum means--wolf den.

Just a pet peeve of The Philosopher.