I Was Once an American Angler
Well, it seems I’m no longer a full-blown fellow American, despite my devout, Taliban-targeting, gun-totting, ground-worshipping, Born in the U.S.A. nationalism. In fact, it seems I’m attached to the American fabric by one badly frayed thread.
I was crudely advised of my shaky homeland status while obediently trying to renew my NJ driver’s license.
I knew full well that there was this convoluted identification point system that I needed to fulfill, thusly rendering me both a legal driver and also a bona fide American. What I would soon have pointed out is how pointless I’ve become in the eyes of Homeland Security and its assigned point people – in my case, the unblinking eyes of the DMV, technically the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
All in all, I needed something like six stinkin’ points of ID proofedness. Although I heard it wasn’t all that hard to document one’s good American standing, I’ve long been quite light on deeds and certifications and paperwork and documents. Still, I headed over to Manahawkin’s DMV clutching the contents from a safety deposit box worth of ID-ish bits and pieces. To a shred, it turned out the saved and salvaged pages of my life were, at best, vague and pointless mementoes of having essentially only visited America – albeit since birth and before.
The pride of my life box – and what I thought to be the most point-worthy paper I owned – was an admittedly oddly yellowed but legible baptismal certificate – signed by an actual priest much less. The holy paperwork didn’t even garner a “No.” A DMV maven merely pointed to a pamphlet and the words, “No religious documents.” What a kick in the irony ass! In God We Trust – just not His paperwork.
Reeling from that first-round punch to the soul, I was forced to counter with what amounted to a technical ace in my heritage hole. I quasi-confidently whipped out a time-devastated birth certificate.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t an actual birth certificate, per se, but it sure as hell was a very official facsimile of a previous copy of what might have been my original birth certificate – which, by the way, had dissolved or some damn thing, back in the Sixties. I remember my mom telling me, “Your birth certificate dissolved or some damn thing. I have this copy, which is probably useless.” I recall my response down to a syllable: “What’s for dinner?”
As I handed over my sorta birth certificate, even I could see it looked about as realistic and convincing as that yellow stuff they squirt on popcorn at the movie theater.
The response wasn’t as bad as I had expected. “It doesn’t have a seal.”
That’s all that’s wrong with it. Damn.
I stared at the handed-back document and – I swear to you this is true – I actually flashed on a harbor seal I had seen last week. Even when my mind refocused on the issue at hand, I was sorely tempted to offer, “I know where I could find a harbor seal real fast.” But this was a tough room, to say the least. One false move, one wise-assed Mannly utterance, and I’d be driver’s license-less – and akin to countryless!
Then, as if inch-worming toward a green leaf of compassion, the DMV maven made a helpful overture, possibly to help or maybe just get me the hell outta line.
“Do you have an ATM card?”
Huh? “Damn straight I got one.”
Out and over goes my Bank of America ATM card – and back it flies in nothing flat.
“It doesn’t have a middle initial. You can’t use it.”
WTF!? “Here, look, I’ll just pencil it in. See, there’s a nice ‘G.’ And it stands for Geronimo. You can’t get any more Americana than that.”
“That doesn’t work,” she said.
“How about an income tax form?”
“Anyone can pay taxes.”
Wow. That was profound – or something. I vowed to think about that later.
At that point, I was going down with the ship – a ship with no port of origin, no nationality. I had always considered a skull and crossbones tattoo. Face it, Jay, the stinkin’ Taliban have better US ID than you do.
So, I stood there, groping inside my bag, and feigned having more useful point-garnering documentary evidence, knowing I was down to my saltwater angler registry card, a library card I had borrowed from a friend and a Joe Pop’s “Guest Pass” I hadn’t used. Just like that, I was teetering on nonexistence. To think the day had started so sunny and mild.
By now, a number of other impatient folks in line behind me began sliding past. I glanced over and saw their documentary lives were in perfect presenting order. They bandied about crisp birth certificates, ATM cards with a slew of middle initials, a poker deck worth of perfectly focused photo IDs; hell, they had the entire existential shebang – all but rolling in frickin’ points. Of course, none of them spoke a bloody syllable of English but damn if they didn’t get re-licensed in a New York minute.
That’s when it hit me. In what would surely be the oddest reversal of order known to Mann, I realized I needed to get over to LBI and find my good old Mexican buddy Carlos.
“Oye, mano. Que pasa? Look, Carlos, I need some good fake ID, amigo.”
“Uh, to prove I’m an American.”
“Now, let me get this straight, mang, you’re an American but you need fake ID to prove you’re an American?”
“Yep, I guess that’s kinda it. I just need to know where you got all your cool IDs from?”
“Mi hermano en Jalisco.”
“Jalisco? As in down Mexico way?”
“Crap! Does he ever make house calls up here in the US or anything?”
“No, he makes too much dinero down there to ever leave. You have to go see him, mang.”
So, get this, fellow Americanos: I’m now faced with the uninviting task of sneaking across the border – into frickin’ Mexico! I can just see me now, swimming across the Rio Grande against the tide, so to speak. Five million Mexicans swimming this way and here I am swimming against the human flow of traffic.
“Sorry. Oops. My bad. Sorry. Didn’t see you there in the dark. Ouch. You gotta hard head. Whoa, amigo, looks like I knocked one of your pot bundles off. Here, I’ll swim over and get it.”
Truth be told, I somehow wormed my way into a short-term driver’s license renewal. The thing is, when it runs out I’m a royally screwed, no-paperwork, illegally driving, Rio Grande swimming, former American. Admittedly, the ACLU is now fighting to prevent folks like myself from someday hearing those fateful Homeland Security Commission words, “We don’t care where you go but you can’t stay here,” sorta like those Indian caste “untouchables” were told. Of course, I’ll derive some odd comfort in knowing the creator of this “Prove You’re an American” inquisition, former President Obama, will be nomadically wandering around with me, now-and-again screaming, “I’m telling you this is really my birth certificate!”
FISH-FRIENDLY BRIDGE: I got an e-mail regarding the latest DOT updates on the “New” Causeway Bridge – work allegedly beginning next year.
The e-mailer asked if there were still plans to build a fishing dock as part of the project.
Kinda, sorta, maybe.
The building of a large sister span, to stand just south of the existing Causeway Bridge, falls under Phase 1. That’s the big build, so to speak.
Far less dramatic is Phase 2, which includes plans to rehabilitate the “approach bridges,” which I colloquially ID as the Hochstrasser Bridge (closest to LBI), the Dutchman’s Bridge and the Margo Bridge (mainland side).
The last I heard tell, there will be a fishing cutout on the north side of the Hochstrasser Bridge.
That said, virtually any and all fishing-friendly additions to any and all DOT projects have been the first things nixed in the face of cost overruns, a certainty.
If you want to keep the DOT on course toward a fishing sector on the Causeway, I suggest using the coercive power of fishing clubs and angling organizations (RFA and JCAA).
By the by, in a perfectly built world, the work on the approach bridges could be underway as early as 2015. In the far shakier real world, I’d be stunned to hell and back if even the sister span project begins by then.
MAXIMIZE YOUR MEAT: As fluke fishing season takes hold, I’ll reiterate my perennial waste-not suggestion: cook fluke in the round – skin, head and all. That’s a no-brainer when cooking fluke on a barbeque. Bare fluke fillets go to pieces when rack cooked.
There is no other fish flesh easier to peel off the bones than that on a nicely baked flounder – after the crisp skin is pulled off. The delectable white meat comes off clean and gorgeous. Try dipping it in a light butter, like lobster. On a barbeque note, cook whole fluke with the head off. This allows that outdoors flavor to leak in.
You won’t believe how much extra meat you get cooking fish whole – regardless of how great a filleter you may be.
PARTY POOOPING: Here’s the point (in most every column) where I get somebody’s goat. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but my grandmother would often say it. And it sounded kinda cool, in a get-the-goat manner. Also, goats are quite cool to get – by the horns. They’ll blissfully push back all day and into the night, with a dedication akin to a retriever going after its slobbery tennis ball.
Goatishly, a few folks will surely push back over my agreeing with Forsythe Refuge’s recent shutdown of profoundly partying zones of Barnegat Bay, adjacent to federal property.
No, I’m not concurrently giving in to the notion that the refuge can overtly and routinely inflict its wilderness will upon state/publically-owned areas near their lands, but in the case of oft-raging F-Cove and T-Cove, up north Barnegat Bay way, even the NJDEP agrees enough blatant partying is enough. And, yes, I’m familiar with the goings on thereabouts, though I’ve seen it primarily in passing.
Per critics of the party coves, the myriad of folks anchoring thereabout on hot summer days display nary a feather’s worth of wildlife appreciation, except maybe when trying to get laughing gulls to drink beer. “Come mere ya little bustard, I’ll give ya sumpin to really laugh about.” The only conservation that takes place occurs when beer kegs start running low.
During crazed party bay days, it’s the wildlife that gawks in amazement at the humans. I picture a snowy egret nervously crouching behind some bushes, speaking in whispers to a heron holding a video camera: “Here we have a pack of partying homo sapiens. Many of the nearly naked males are issuing raucous communicative sounds, seemingly meant to attract females or fend off rivals. Despite the poorly kempt appearance and physical condition of the noisiest of males, many of the females are seemingly aroused, returning high-pitched squeals of their own, roughly resembling ‘Woo, woo!’ The females even seem to be egging the males into bizarre physical displays with no apparent functionality whatsoever – as is clearly seen here. Let’s try to get in a closer, Mel. Oh, my, this has surely never been seen before now. An obviously well fed male has placed a large, white container over his head and is now flapping his arms rhythmically while walking around, allowing other males to aim fierce blows at the container. Are you getting this, Mel?!”
Anyway, does this fed/state shutdown move mean other partyous bay areas are also under the gun? Well, some locals are certain the famed and oft packed and frolicking Tice’s Shoal is next in line. By the by, you might want to go to YouTube and type in “Tice’s Shoal” just to get an idea of what kinda partying we’re talking about here. It’s pretty damn impressive. However, I’ve never seen Tice’s get as environmentally ruinous as the Coves, where it’s a proximity-to-nature matter.
On the other goat’s hoof, I can see why understandably paranoid angler groups, particularly the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, will see a threatening precedent being set in the name of B Bay protection. JCAA has long been passionately opposed to the closing of any bay areas to public access. Anglers become little more than the “public” in enforcement’s eyes. I stay in lock step with their fears until I see the disruptive folly of environmentally-inconsiderate partiers. In fact, I’m not sure I want to align with rowdies even in the name of angling freedom.
In the name of political fairness and journalistic honesty, I’ve never been wild about pleasure boaters. Admittedly, it’s a blind prejudice that may well have sprouted out of jealousy. I spent way too many years treading the muck and sucking surface slime while clamming for a living. To see pleasure boats zip by with music blaring, bikinied women laughing and hot-sh*t captains purposely diverting into the shallows to wake me led to more than a few clam slingings, and a lingering intolerance.
Back to today, even when boat fishermen jam into a certain hot-hooking bay space, they cause no damage and disruption vis-à-vis power-partiers. It’s always in the interest of angling to keep things as clean and quiet as possible.
I’ll even show I’m not a total party pooper by defending Ship Bottom’s splashingly popular celebration shoal, just south of the borough’s bayside bathing beach. It has a very low environo-impact, despite keel-to-keel vessels. It might even act as an example of proper gathering/partying zones, located where summer fun can be had without dragging down the bay.
ADMIRABLE ADMIRALS: I’ve been swarmed under by reports of bizarre numbers of butterflies a-flit over Ocean County, the state and even across the nation.
For whatever reason, be it natural, mineral or mystical (see below), red admiral butterflies made a record-shattering showing during this year’s northward migration.
Millions atop millions of these medium-sized, brownish butterflies, with distinctive splotches of bright red or orange on their lower wings, have the media buzzing.
While researching the event via Google, I randomly hit on this quote: “We’ve had reports from all over the city of people looking at trees in their yards like red bud or apple or lilac, and seeing dozens of red admirals crawling over the flowers,” said entomologist Douglas Taron of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Turned out that was from CBS Chicago. Gives an idea of how widespread and newsworthy this admirable butterfly bonanza became. Virtually every place between here and there was admiraled under.
But what could such a showing mean? It could mean a lot of butteflies showed up. Or, lest I resist:
In the annotated version of the now notorious “Kiss Your Ass So-Long” Mayan calendar, a highly-respected shaman wrote a thousand years back, and I quote directly from King Jay’s Version: “And toward the end of days, medium-sized brownish butterflies – with distinctive splotches of bright red or orange on their lower wings – shall flutter northward in torrential numbers and, unbeknownst to those on the planet in those dim days, these flitters shall soon inherit the Earth. After end times, the Age of Butterflies will commence, initiating the longest period of peace ever seen on the planet.”
Hey, you can’t make this stuff up. Forget the strawberry fields, try “Butterfly wings for ever.” Harmonizes in perfectly.
Personally, I’m trying everything I can do to join the march of the admiral butterflies, hoping to convince them it might, in the end, be kinda fun to keep a token human around, namely me. “I won’t eat much pollen at all.”
The ones I talked to pertly said they’d think about it – then took off, kinda snooty like. Powdery little bastards.
RUNDOWN: Bass are out there and awaiting. The Simply Bassin’ event is underway and I’ll soon have a snug read on stripering action. The contest goes all the way to June 24 so get signed up and add some competitive vitality to your spring stripering.
Blowfish are everywhere, bayside. Possibly too many people cashing in on them.
This is really not the time to nab them. Every one of them is full of roe. I’ll bet you’ll be able to bang away at them all summer after the honker down post-spawn. Be patient. They don’t go anywhere until fall.
Waves of racer/cocktail/eater-sized/tailor blues are showing in surf, sea and inlets, though not yet in typical springtime numbers. Of course, these ravenous rowdies are not overly appreciated when they go for fluke rigs. And there’s virtually no fluke angler who doesn’t know at a rod-tip glance “that’s a blue” messin’ with the drift.
Kyle M. had 28-incher that came in “bit real bad.” Sounds like a bluefish smack, but, with the warmer water, you can’t rule out sharks.
We’re going to have an insane shark year, even close to the beach.
I’m not talking human-inclined sharks here, but the far more passive types, i.e. duskies, browns, threshers, blues, sands – though whites are making quite a comeback, according to some studies.
No sooner do I mention that black drumming is slow than a mainland crew that targets the big fish sent my a photo of a couple massive fish. They weren’t overly impressed with the somewhat ugly looking monsters but I was. They’re now clipping a small piece of the tails to see if they’re catching the same fish each year. While I know they use clam as bait, they also have an entire buffet of “secret” baits – though I once noticed a couple of those white Styrofoam dishes that held fresh chicken parts lying on the bottom of their boat. That wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard of the chicken and drum connection. There’s many a back-in-the-day tale of lagoon crabbers using chicken necks on a string and suddenly having the line ripped out of their hands.
For daily blogs, go to http://jaymanntoday.ning.com, or Google Jay Mann Ning.