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've read. 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 imagine him socialist targets that sense of him as effete despite his work--for the most part--roaring. As if an epic paean to greatness and vitality.

Ayn Rand claimed that man adjusts his background to himself, a notion which, without detail deduced from the broad grasp it implies, might seem almost as ridden with error as Nietzsche's idea. If I adjust my background to myself, this seems to include you, adjusted to me. But my background cannot possibly be your background, and if you adjust yours to yourself, we play a fair game in this world where the only good power relies on free trade and free society.

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 inside. "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, a novelist besides philosopher, 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. It's one thing to be very young--21, 22--and very idealistic. Another to have to earn a wage in a society that does not comprehend your artistic and intellectual ambitions. The latter is not the position of a loser. I grew in many directions. Including marriage. Any married couple knows what stormy confrontation is.

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 felt, for an instant I remember, benevolence coming from the ARI represented in that brochure. It wasn't until many months later that I felt differentlly. Was I mistaken about the nature of the initial benevolence?

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.


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.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lehigh River Smallmouth Bass, Crappie, Musky

I didn't know Pennsylvania's Lehigh River flows to the south of Interstate 78. Cramped for time, I snatched directions off the web and set out on an equally distracted ride west, finding myself in the middle of some neighborhood at least 10 miles west of Easton, not any sort of river or stream nearby. Not surprised--because I know web directions and GPS units alike shouldn't be trusted--I headed to U.S. Highway 22 for Easton. I use a flip phone and have no interest in upgrading. Nor did I bother with a map and I didn't need any. I own no GPS. I figured I could have continued north on 512 to cross the river, but it didn't feel right to turn north, instead of south back to U.S. 22. Committed to 10 eastward miles, a highway halfway to Easton tempted me to go north, though I wasn't really sure if this effort would result in what I wanted, but if the Lehigh flowed northward of 78, surely this fast paced four-lane highway 33 would cross it. I passed Stockertown (felt humor over the name) and wound up beyond the Wind Gap 12 miles north of where I began. Big mountains with only wind getting between. So I turned back to highway 22, drove on into Easton, and within some minutes, rode along the Lehigh River.

I must have driven three or four miles before finding a pullover. Here the river flowed slowly, as it had this entire length. Not promising. I walked the edge with my black Lab, shot a couple of photos for good measure, rounded up Sadie, and drove on. A mile or two later, I found Riverside Park and some riffling water. Down by the river, we began to head upstream as here and there I fished a paddletail swimbait, focusing especially on edges between swift current and slow water, also plumbing relative depths of eddying current, but the flow in either case was not very deep.

As we walked and waded the river's edge, alternately using a trail up on the bank when things got tricky, I wondered about the sound of roaring water upstream. All this time, I didn't feel well. In fact, very shortly after I began fishing, the second or third cast, I wondered if I was going to quit. But I had told myself before we set out--by writing in a notebook I keep in my car--that those of us who achieve glory in life invariably get tested by the opposite. I concluded: "That man who does not submit is a fool." (Who does not submit to the tests he cannot escape, except by suicide...but what would happen then?) Now only minutes later, I had forgotten about the words I had written. I was left to the mercy of my habits, and since I guess for the most part they're good habits, I bore down to gather my strength and went onward.

A big dam eventually came into view. Aha. That sound of roaring water. We got up on the bank and found a paved trail leading that way. After at least a half mile's walk in total, I cut off the pavement onto a trail leading down to the river and saw good-looking water for fishing, having--I felt--arrived upon destiny, feeling that uplift of mood telling me life will be worthwhile--normal--after all.

My third or fourth cast, I hooked a small bass that got off, and almost at my feet as the cast completed, a long narrow shadow came up behind the paddletail in the shadow-enclosed water. Sure this fish was a little musky, I got a better view as I pitched the lure back it's way, and when I saw it strike, I was even more certain the fish was a little muskellunge of about 16 inches. I missed that strike, but kept working the swimbait by its indifferent nose, until after a minute or two, it leisurely descended out of sight. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks the river with muskies a little smaller, which attain great lengths of 50 inches or more. They're not common, but in the river.

I snagged and broke a paddletail off, repeatedly cast and retrieved another higher in the water column to no avail, so again I let the lure drop, risking its loss by working slow and deep. Something added weight to the line and I reared back, felt sluggish weight, and then I felt a fish throbbing and--suddenly--brisk, line-straining resistance. Those tell-tale bulldog jabs. (A smallmouth bass lets you know it exists.) This one wasn't big at 12 1/2 inches. The drag on my reel had yielded, but such is the nature of an average bronzeback. I measured the fish be sure: I had paid $26.50 for the day's licensing, and my wife likes smallmouth bass for dinner. When Old Bay seasoning is added liberally. And by the way, the fish was absolutely delicious!

Maybe a half or more later, I caught the crappie. Best I can judge, most of this species--black crappie, I think--are above the dam in the implied slow water above that dam I estimated at 13 feet high. I never had a look. I released this fish, unsure if it was quite keeper size, not knowing the rule on this type. I fished somewhat into dusk, losing a total of four of my paddletails to submerged rocks, the entire remainder of my package of the smaller size, and I refused to tie on one of the larger I prefer for stripers in the New Jersey Meadowlands. They're more expensive, but especially, more useful to me for that Meadowlands reason. I cast an X-Rap and thoroughly enjoyed keeping level control of the plug while imparting frantic rhythms. Nothing ever hit it. That water must be eight feet deep or so out there below the falls. An X-Rap won't get down more than four. Above all else, I had become much more of my own self again, which daily drains at labor on the job steal from me six days a week. I had become free. Freedom is never a given. It is betterment that must be fought for. And though my half-mile effort up the river really wasn't much, it was infinitely better than had I given up.

Life in our society today with its cramped and uncertain economy, its loss of purpose and values, is a sickening and fearful demise that seems to test us all. America is the freest, noblest nation which has ever existed, and I just heard these words paraphrased by my friend Santiago from Paraguay, while I sat and enjoyed a beer with him minutes before I continued writing this post. We are the pinnacle of glory. At our best. When I saw white water flowing over that dam from a distance, I didn't feel elated, but I did feel a hint of relief. I recognized possibility, though I did not yet feel it. The catch wasn't much, compared to other outings. And yet, until the hook grabbed on that third or fourth cast, I felt as if the river would remain naked to me like an unclean vagabond. The destiny I felt upon arriving upon the spot at the dam, I felt this would be limited to getting some good photographs. But we never know until we have completed a full effort.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Well into summer, Laurie at Dow's Boat Rentals reports Knee Deep Club's hybrid striped bass derby saw an eight-pound, four-ounce winning fish and many others over seven pounds. Don't say they can't get caught during summertime. Last week, a rainbow trout nearly two pounds got caught. That's unusual with lake stratification, cold water down where no oxygen remains present, but it does happen. I don't know of any trout caught in August, though. Otherwise, a number of walleye as large as over seven pounds have come to the scale recently. Laurie also says a number of largemouths as large as five pounds, three ounces have recently come in, as well as that numerous smallmouths have been caught.

Closer to home, my son, Matt, caught a six-pound largemouth around graduation time while fishing with a friend, Jason, who caught another slightly better than five pounds. That wasn't on Hopatcong but a local pond. They caught eight smaller, also, but neither have fished since I took Matt to Aeroflex, what with partying, going to the shore...and their jobs.

Fred Matero caught a pool-winning fluke on a fairly recent Jersey venture, but I don't recall exactly how big. Nice one, though, and congrats!

Lenny Matera, from what I can assume, has not caught a fish all year.