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
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...