I'm in the back of the boat, tossing a blue and orange crankbait at the shoreline. Up front, my friend John Ryan sculls with one hand and casts with the other. We have a deal: I buy the beer; he sculls the U.S.S. Tadpole. All things considered, it's an equitable arrangement. And besides, in front, he gets to cast first to the best spots.
We're on a pretty tree-lined lake -- deep and clear, with a gurgling stream coming in on its north side. A great blue heron squawks and lifts itself clear as we approach, the sound of its wings stirring the still evening air. The sun is low in the sky; the clouds glow crimson and orange like a postcard -- just behind the enormous billboard. In the distance, beyond the trees, we can hear the sound of rush-hour traffic. We're well inside the Memphis city limits, on a lake you've never seen. We've caught six-pound bass here. If I told you where it was, I'd have to kill you.
Until a couple weeks ago, I thought John and I were probably the only ones who sport-fished Memphis' "urban waters" -- the myriad lakes and borrow pits behind abandoned shopping centers, alongside the Wolf and the Loosahatchie rivers, at the end of dead-end streets in questionable neighborhoods, along the I-240 loop -- but I was wrong. At the Flyer's Best of Memphis party, I ran into Andy Earles, one of our freelance writers, who, as it turns out, has the same passion. We traded stories and recommendations like chefs sharing secret recipes. (My latest search weapon: Google Earth's high-resolution satellite maps.)
Why am I telling you this? I'm not sure, except perhaps to point out that this city, and life its own self, offer charms that lie beyond -- and below -- the surface. We have only to open our eyes.
Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor
(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."