Makaira nigricans and Corvus brachyrhynchos
On Atlantic Avenue in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey • August 19, 2009
By Ebenezer Baldwin BowlesPosted on January 12, 2011, from Fayetteville, Arkansas
The commonplace and the rare, one a flesh-'n-blood visitor on the roost, the other a neon and metal icon representing a great seafish.
Neon tubes turned off in midday sunlight. Peeling paint and blue flakes on rust. Elegance to spite the evidence of decline.
Spikefish in the sky. Crow on the wing. Intimations of the natural world in symbols crafted for service to business and commerce.
The oceanside of New Jersey's southern peninsula is lined with an asphalt ribbon of neat little motels, architectural relics of the motor court era, some nicely preserved and others long past their prime. In contrast to its less-than-pristine neon sign, the Blue Marlin Motel is a going concern and a favorite among weekend beachcombers and budget conscious vacationers. The venerable roadside inn stands on Atlantic Avenue, the last major north-south thoroughfare beside the seashore and not far from the asphalt ribbon's end at the southern tip of the peninsula. Here the traveler is forced to turn around, head west toward Cape May, or stay a while and enjoy the ocean.
Optical perspective, point of view, the manipulation of an image to satisfy an idea — these and other curious pursuits occupy many of our hours here at the cottage. Strings of nouns and adjectives take primacy just now, cluttering the page with an unwelcome sameness. Everywhere we look they're stuck at the beginning of sentences. Why we can't say. It's bitterly cold outside and has been for some days and as many nights. Perhaps the gathering of manufactured heat and the long-burning smoke of incense make us addle-brained and tied to a repeating rhythm, Cage-like. Can't say.
Tonight we stand about a thousand three hundred miles distant and seventeen months removed from our brief encounter with the Blue Marlin's iconic sign along the broad boulevard by the sea. Wish we could have stayed to see the neon at night. Wish we could have lingered, felt the hot sand of the old beach under bare feet, the warm salt sea between our toes.
Instead, we look at the marlin and the crows on electric screens, wonder what symbols and archetypes they might cast forth, create what we can from the pixels we snared like a fisherman on the scene. The prototype of the glass and steel fish — see it, swimming high in the summer sky! — is a rare and beautiful creature on the fin, supreme in the deep blue sea, preyed upon by naught but the nets of men and the mouths of great whales. Experts say the female blue marlin can stretch as long as thirteen feet, weigh upwards of a thousand two hundred pounds, and spawn several million fragile little eggs in a single birthing. I can't imagine how they counted them.
As for the humble crow, she holds a place of honor here at the cottage, being the namesake of our enterprise and the critter a roostin' at the top of our totem. The crow is the messenger and a dutiful sentential who sounds the necessary alarm. I can see one now, pausing for a moment in the bare upper branches of the sweet gum tree. Two more alight amidst the topmost needles of the green loblolly pine. "Caw," go the crows. "Caw, caw."
L I N K S
The Old Man and the Sea
The Blue Marlin Motel
Notices announcing new entries for Crow's Cottage Glossary and Compendium are sent by e-mail express to my list of family, friends, students, and fellow travelers. If you've come here through some other avenue, I invite you to write me at the address below so I can add you to the list. It's a private list, shared with no one and guarded by a flock of warrior crows with loud alarms and diligent fairies with tricks of illusion. Aggressive or pacific — you choose — the guardians are in our service to ensure your privacy.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011