I’ve only written a few posts so far but it was mostly recent stuff. So I decided today to “inquire within” as is said. So…
In going back into my twenty volumes of journals I see and recall that I first moved to Long Beach, NY in 1998 about a year after my separation. I had first moved to Deer Park, into an accessory apartment but it wasn’t for me.
I had visited the City by the Sea before, when my oldest daughter, Barbara Ann, lived in a rental on Roosevelt Blvd. She and her husband had been recently wed. I was taken by the ease of Long Beach, the gentleness of it, the sense of a full-time vacation land. People often said, “Hi.” as they passed in the street or at least smiled. Surfers pedaled down the streets with boards aboard. Tanners toted all manner of cart and carriage down to the sand and sea. Yes, I was impressed.
So, I found a rental at 340 E. Bway, The Floridian, a block’s walk to the boardwalk and the surf. If you’ve ever gone through a separation, or divorce, you know the pain that’s involved. The surf tends to heal that hurt, I’ve found.
Two of my nephews, Rob and James, helped me move, “helped” meaning they did the moving. And they refused to take a dime for the task. One of my daughters, Barbara Ann helped me buy an entertainment center where I plopped a new TV. My daughter, Kathleen, gave me an air conditioner she and her husband weren’t using and, well, I was pretty much set.
So, my first morning in Long Beach I made coffee and went down to the old boardwalk and the beach. The old boardwalk had a lot of “character”: boards that had to be constantly re-nailed or replaced and a pay telephone. The boardwalk was old but it did have it’s old-time charm. The sea too had it’s local charm, surfers, tankers and terns, all there for their individual purposes.
Well, I carried my newspaper and coffee and sat down on a bench. I didn’t read the paper for an hour and half though. A routine I’d find I’d do again and again, year after year. Just bring something to read but be too overwhelmed by the vista before me that I just couldn’t read anything in the face of the splendor. So that first morning I see that I wrote, “I just sat on the bench and watched gulls glide in the first pink promise of sunrise.”
It was the Lincoln Ave entrance to the beach and there was an adult home at the site. Men came and went in and out of the building, leaning against the boardwalk railing or sitting on the benches. Some smoked, some begged smokes, I noticed. The site now boasts the luxury, Aqua condo building and the rain-forest hardwood boardwalk.
I saw the fisherman, who was now approaching the surf’s edge, arrive a bit earlier. He had walked barefoot by me with a bucket and fishing rod in hand. He limped as he did so. I sat and watched him set up, then I walked down to him and the surf.
I spoke with him as he fished. He was weatherbeaten and whiskey beaten. He said he had such a bad hangover and he thought it best to come down here. He reached into his bucket and came up with a quart bottle of whiskey and took a drink…it was ten minutes to six…in the morning. I think someone must have told him, “Never start drinking till after five.” He seemed to be keeping to that policy.
He had a scraggly beard and dirty flannel shirt, but he seemed to know exactly what he was doing. He cast out and his sinker plunked down about twenty feet from the edge of the jetty. He fell down as he reeled in but I couldn’t be sure whether it was from the hangover, the bad leg or the bad booze. But when he got up he did have a striper…at six a.m. …on his first cast. I couldn’t believe his luck. And I’m sure many other sober, careful and strategic anglers would be enraged with the injustice, yet amused too.
He said the legal limit was 28” but this one seemed about 10” short, he said he was keeping it anyway. He explained he was using, a 3 oz pyramid sinker on a sliding rig and a leader of 36”. I asked “Where do you get bait?” and he said, “You take the bus to around plantation and walk like in a circle and it’s right there.” I didn’t know there was a plantation anywhere around here but upon further inquiry found out it was the name of a motel north of here.
He said he uses clam belly, salted, so they stay on better. He said he also collects fresh clams at low tide. The ones he had now he said he picked up yesterday at low tide and put them in the fridge.
A bit later he caught a fluke, first one he caught, he said. He said he usually only fishes till seven but that others usually stay till nine. He fished a while longer then lost his rig. He got out anther rig, and told me he doesn’t tie them like most men. He sounded proud when he said, “I have my own way.” Tying knots for some fisherman is an art, I knew, a carefully reasoned and seasoned procedure. He finished tying and was ready to go again. Yes, even if he was a bit under the weather, he showed me he sure knew how to tie one on.