Capitol Fishing Tackle, which has been in its present location on the ground floor of the Chelsea Hotel for sixty-five years, is moving at the end of July. Since we’d never been in there before, my girlfriend Susan and I figured we should visit the store at least once, and maybe even buy something to show our support.
Inside the tackle store we looked at various lures and bobbers and sinkers, and finally decided on a cheap rod and reel to use to play with the cat who lives on our floor. At the register a tall, gaunt man with red, curly hair rang up our purchase, scarcely even glancing at us.
“I heard you guys were moving,” I said. “What happened? Did Stanley raise the rent on you?” Stanley Bard is the owner and manager of the hotel.
The man looked up. “Twenty-one-thousand he wants! Can you believe it? Up from nine-thousand he’s getting now.”
“He’s raising it on a lot of us tenants too.”
“He’s got a good thing here, good people,” the man said in a Brooklyn accent. “Why’s he want to screw it up? He don’t know what he’s gonna get with the new people, he don’t know who’s gonna move in here.” The man seemed bitter.
“At these prices he’s going to have to provide luxury accommodations,” I said, half-jokingly.
“Yeah. And this place is fallin’ apart. You don’t know the kind of shit we’ve had to put up with here. It’s just greed. Greed is all it is.” He shook his head in disbelief. “Sixty-five years,” he said. “Why would he want to ruin a good thing?”
Back on our floor at the Chelsea, I couldn’t wait to try out my new toy. I unwrapped the reel—a Shakespeare!--and fastened it to the rod, then threaded the string through the eyelets and tied it to plastic casting plug. But the cat was nowhere to be found.
It was sweltering inside the hotel as well. Susan and I went out to the stairwell and I hung the rod over the edge and let the plug drop the eight stories down to the first floor landing. “Works pretty good, eh?” I said as I reeled it back up.
Somebody came into the stairwell on the second floor and started down the stairs. “I’ll freak this dude out!” I said, and I let the plug drop. (photo)
As I reeled it back up, a gray-haired man stuck his head over the railing and looked up at me. “Oh, shit!” I said, ducking back out of the way. “It’s Stanley Bard!”
Susan laughed, and said, “Quick, do it again!”
I let the plug drop. This time our illustrious proprietor was on the final flight of stairs before the first-floor landing. When he heard the plug hit the ground he reached out for the line. I jerked it out of his way but he ran down a few stairs and grabbed the plug as I was reeling it in. He was surprisingly spry and quick for a seventy-year-old man.
“Oh, we caught a big one!” Susan exclaimed.
Plug in hand, Stanley looked up and called out, “Why are you doing that?”
I was at a loss to explain it. “We’re practicing for our fishing trip to Montana,” Susan said. Sounded good enough for me.
“Well, stop it!”
My rod bowing, I jerked at the plug and tried to reel it back in, but Stanley didn’t want to let go. I think he was trying to either break the line or untie the plug, but I had it on there pretty good. Finally, he released the plug and it shot back skyward.
Stanley came up in the elevator. “It’s you!” he said with surprise when he saw me.
“Yes,” I replied.
“You could hurt somebody with that.”
“I’m just dropping it straight down,” I said. The first floor landing is enclosed by the railing, and nobody can get in there.
“A little kid could stick his head out and get a concussion,” Stanley said.
Whoops. I didn’t think of that. Seemed unlikely, the plug was too light, but he did have a point. “OK, I’ll stop it,” I said.
Stanley Bard: patron of the arts, sworn enemy of fishing. I guess he has to put up with a lot around here too. Some idiot casting a fishing reel down the stairwell, what next?