Again, the fall run is a great thing to behold.
After September 11, 2001, longtime friends of my in-laws sent around an email detailing a new emergency response plan. Should all forms of modern communication cut out once again, we were to follow one simple directive: Head to McSorley’s.
Located at 15 East 7th Street in the once dangerous but now hipster Lower East Side, McSorley’s serves beer. You must buy two–either light or dark–and you must keep drinking to keep your seat. When I first moved to the area we went once a month on Saturday afternoon, crammed around tiny wooden tables and ordered rounds. And plates of cheese and crackers, with slices of onion and extra sharp mustard. There was nothing hip, cool, insider, or happening about it but to me it represented the best of New York.
Until 1998 when I caught a striped bass.
The best essay published to date on the city was was written in 1949 by E.B White. The best book detailing its modern infrastructure is The Powerbroker by Robert Caro. There are countless others but no matter how many books you read, nothing will emotionally prepare you for the moment when you look up to see the other passengers move from one end of a crowded subway car to get away from the half-naked, face-painted man twisting animal balloons. And he’s sitting next to you.
I once lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, which a friend of mine from Brooklyn referred to as, “The Gateway to the West.”
There is the idea that New York is the center of the Universe. (And the idea, pointed out by residents, that the least “New York” area of the city is its most visited.) This is just an article of faith, but at least one aspect about New York is grounded in fact: the heart of the city sits on an island in the tidal section of a striped bass spawning river.
The young fish that show themselves in the backwaters of the boroughs and suburbs of the Sound each spring are Hudson fish. News travels fast in the big city (and everywhere) and if you blink you’ve missed it.
Striped bass are already spawning in parts of the Chesapeake Bay. This according to my good friend John Page Williams of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, who also added that the hickory shad have started running.
In certain areas of the northeast, the striped bass never left, finding palatable water temperatures in this non-winter.
The Weather Channel reported 1,500 record highs across the country last week.
I am wearing shorts.
Will this be the new normal?
Maybe my late April trip to the Susquehanna will not be my first dance with striped fish this year after all.
Thanksgiving 2002. I don’t know why I felt compelled to do it, maybe an insecure need to prove I actually did catch that bass on a fly rod. Although in reality it proves nothing; it could have been a stage prop for all you know. (It wasn’t, piss off.)
A recent post by Bows and Browns reminded me of my personal evolution in fish-related point and shoot.
I have a large catalogue of hero shots that will likely sit unviewed for generations until my offspring’s progeny discover them in a hidden box and discard them after the estate sale.
For a while I wanted to document everything. I bought a sleek and compact Elph and thought that Eastman Kodak really hit on something big there, only to throw it in a drawer after purchasing my first digital and taking advantage of all 3.8 megapixels.
Taking one or two pictures per season increased to one or two a trip, then ballooned into memory cards filled with images of me and my friends and sometimes total strangers hoisting bodies. I filled three albums with pictures depicting some variation of the fish across the midsection, a montage of bad lighting and autofocus.
The last pages of the last album remain unfilled. If anthropologists look only at these and not my hard drive, they’ll hypothesize I quit fishing or died in 2006.
The digital cam is still a bad habit–the waterproof version is point and shoot oxycontin–but the fish burned into silicon always seem diminished. But the ones that exist only in the hippocampus somehow get meaner in recollect.