An Afternoon in Prospect Park

“That’s why dogs are on leashes!” exclaims a startled white-haired chubby cyclist. A small Western Terrier had just barked and snapped at his back tire.

Welcome to Prospect Park, where nature is mixed with the attitudes of Brooklynites.

It’s a sunny and breezy afternoon in March. The trees are bare and the deep green lake glistens and ripples every time the wind glides across it. A struggling white kite tries to ride on the breeze. Sadly, it plummets to the ground. Two young sisters are doing their best to help it take flight. After exploring the many methods of kite flying, there is a loud cheer from the girls and their parents. For three seconds, the kite rises about five feet above the ground and flew with all its might.

My eyes catch a sparkling fine line that was thrown into a lake. A man with a bright red backpack had just thrown a fishing line in the water. This strikes me as odd since I never knew that there were fish in the lake. Besides, what kind of fish could there possibly be — a yellow three-eyed fish called Blinky? What is even more bizarre is that he keeps throwing the line and reeling it in, as if he’s just having fun just being able to throw the fishing line into the lake. It wasn’t until I meet Allen that I realized how ignorant I am when it comes to fishing.

Allen is a sixty-year old, six-foot-three, long-time fisherman in Prospect Park. He is appropriately dressed with a dirty, tanned rimmed hat, green poncho, dark brown work boots, and a big fanny pack around his waist.

Timidly, I approach him and ask, “What kind of fish are you fishing for?”

He smiles, probably at my naive question, and kindly replies, “There’s different kinds in here. There’s carp, cod, bass, yellow perch.” I probably looked very confused because he reached into his pack and pulled out a digital camera. He showed me a yellow perch lined up against a pocketknife.

The topic of fishing in a city lake sparks a surge of curiosity in me. I blurt out, “So how come you’re just throwing the line in and reeling it back right away? I thought you were supposed to let it sink for a while till you get a bite.”

I think I hear a chuckle from him before he says,  “I’m fly fishing.” Unable to stop my child-like curiosity, I ask, “What’s fly fishing?” He patiently shows me the rod and flies that he was using to illustrate that fly fishing’s lure is different from the bait used in  regular fishing.

Allen throws his line in and tries to reel it out. To my untrained eye, I think that he has caught a big fish and a tug-of-war has begun. Allen side-steps toward the left, then right, tugging on his line.

“I sure hope I don’t have to cut it.”

Still uncertain as to what he is talking about, I stare into the dark water where the line disappears below the murky surface. What is it that the line has a snag on? Is it a boot? A tire? After several tugs and reeling of the line, the mystery is uncovered. It wasn’t anything exciting. Just a web of tree branches.  By this time, Allen is several feet away from me, so I take the opportunity to turn my attention elsewhere.

Excitement appears instantly.

A six-year old boy with golden locks runs toward the drooping tree a few feet away from me. Its branches cascade towards the ground, just skimming it. A part in the waterfall of branches allows the boy to run straight to its trunk. His parents slowly follow him. Without any exchange of words, the father lifts the boy to the lowest branch. Automatically, the child begins to clamber up, testing out his footings on the knots of the tree. For what I think is poor parenting, both parents walk away from the tree! The father says to his wife, “Look at our monkey son.”

She, however, takes out her Blackberry from her pocket. From the top of the tree, the child yells, “Mom, look at me! But, I don’t know how to get down.”

She replies, without looking at him, “That’s okay. We’ll just leave you here.”

The father walks towards the bottom of the tree and tells his son, “Remember to have sturdy foot and grip.” With a big leap, the boy lands perfectly on the ground with a big smile across his face. He races toward his mother.

“Did you see that?”

With a sudden drop of excitement, he says, “Oh, you’re busy. You’re on your Blackberry again.”

The mother smiles, puts her device away, and says, “I’m done. Let’s see you climb again.”

Within half an hour of walking around Prospect Park, I found much entertainment. This was better than watching TV re-runs. Who knew that there are fish in the lake with experienced fishermen who frequent it? Who knew that city kids climbed trees?

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