The old TV show began ‘There are six million stories in the Naked City’ and certainly plenty of them had to be fish stories – New York was, after all, the place PT Barnum had a museum (with live exhibits, no less).
So last night, I get on the 4 Train uptown, heading from the Ferry to Smitty’s apartment, and there’s a guy right across the car in hip waders, cradling two fishing poles with plastic lures between his legs, right under the signs for Technical Schools, the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit and ambulance chaser lawyers. He had a wool cap over his head and a little fabric box on the floor in front of him to hold his catch (my father was a fisherman so I know the paraphernalia).
But it’s the day after Christmas! Okay, the weather was warmer than usual earlier in the week but it was pretty chilly now. What possessed him to go fishing?
So I asked. I only did it for you, dear reader, because I knew you’d want to know – and because I needed something for the blog. And because Smitty would have asked if she’d been with me.
It turns out he always goes fishing this time of year, it’s his tradition. He takes the train out to Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island with his two poles and his plastic lures and catches perch and wall-eye and bass are biting but they’re out of season so you have to throw them back.
He tells me this in a polite but very disinterested tone of voice. Sleepy almost. And I remember the mornings getting up early with my father because you took the fish unawares in the morning (why this would be so was never explained to me). And listening to his slightly blurred diction, I remembered the tradition of beers in a cooler that also goes with fishing. Many beers – it’s a long day.
So Happy Holidays and New Year to the winter fisherpeople and all the other slightly eye-widening characters that keep the mad surreal caravan of New York City turning all year long.