Friday, May 18, 2007

A lively subterranean riverlet

Continuing with the basement fishing phenomenon... Over at Empire Zone they found a letter to the editor titled "a manhattan reminiscence" published in the Times on Aug. 22, 1971. It sounds like an older man, and reads like something Stephen Crane might have written.

"...We had a lantern to pierce the cellar darkness and fifteen feet below I clearly saw the stream bubbling and pushing about, five feet wide and up-on its either side, dark green mossed rocks. This lively riverlet was revealed to us exactly as it must have appeared to a Manhattan Indian many years ago.

"With plum-bob and line, I cast in and found the stream to be over six feet deep. The spray splashed up-wards from time to time and standing on the basement floor, I felt its tingling coolness.

"One day I was curious enough to try my hand at fishing. I had an old-fashioned dropline and baited a hook with a piece of sperm-candle. I jiggled the hook for about five minutes and then felt a teasing nibble. Deep in the basement of an ancient tenement on Second Avenue in the heart of midtown New York City, I was fishing.

[Photo by Berenice Abbott-1936 via NYPL Digital Archive]

"Feeling a tug, I hauled up in excitement and there was a carp skipping before me, an almost three pounder. I was brave enough to have it pan-broiled and buttered in our upstairs kitchen and shared it with my brother..."

That's the gist of it anyway. Over at EZ, they found an expert who says carp are not fit to live in cave-like waters for very long, unless they're kept alive by artificial means. The author (one Jack Gasnick) mentions hurricane Diana at the beginning of his reminiscence but says that was fifteen years earlier. So who knows.

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