Monday, April 28, 2008

Friday Evening Fishing

Two men prepare to fish near slip #4 at Battery Park, here at the confluence of the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean. Three of their lines extend into the dark water while one prepares to cast the fourth. From this far, the bait looks large, perhaps a herring, or multiple small fish. The cast is long, some 50 yards, and the fisherman deftly reels back, keeping the bait moving. Five other men stop for a picture, amazed at this urban fishing. “Catch the big one!” they call out as they continue on their way.

Bowling Green and Battery Park are at the very southern tip of Manhattan. This area used to be a separate island of its own; the short distance between the islands, once spanned by a wooden draw bridge, was filled with earth carved out of lower Manhattan. Here, where land and sea converge, is a place of mighty contradiction. Nature and industry and history and commerce converge at this point. The boat traffic is nearly as intense as the street traffic just 100 yards away. Sailboats commiserate with ferries, speedy water taxis, tourist cruises, tugboats, and container ships. Large port cranes dot the horizon to the east and west. Amid it all, Liberty stands tall, watching over the chaotic scene as the sun sets and her torch flickers to life again. What must she think of this noisy fray?

The warm day has slowly dissolved into a cool and breezy dusk, the characteristic urban haze illuminated by the last desperate rays of the setting sun. Could the lady focus her attention on the skies above her, she would witness a scene as full of activity as the choppy waves below her. Planes and helicopters and birds crisscross the sky in patterns. Have the planes learned their patterns from the birds, or vice versa?

The fishermen work quickly now, trying to net a catch, pulling up their prize, a large fish fit for filleting (my guess, 25-30 inches). The fish flops up onto the pedestrian walkway, slowly surrendering to its fate as one of the fishermen rushes back to get his car and, I presume, more gear, perhaps surprised by their early success.