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Trout Fishing in America

When I was 21, Richard Brautigan was my favorite writer. I'm 52 now, and my tastes have changed somewhat, but rereading some of his stuff now somehow connects me with the foolish young man that I was then. Now I'm a foolish middle-aged man.

I was 21, and out of North America for the first time in my life. I had taken the first airplane ride of my life and had just finished a study abroad program in Denia, Spain, on the Mediterranean coast. In Denia I discovered paella, lamb, eggplant (I had never eaten these things in my life), and of course red wine, a bottle of which at that time went for the equivalent of 23 cents. I would go to the beach every day and did my best to give myself skin cancer.

At then end of the program, I travelled by myself around Europe. On a train between San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain and Paris, I met some hippie who told me about a bookstore in the center of Paris, practically in Notre Dame's shadow, which would let you stay there if you put in a little labor in the store each day. I stayed for about a week. The rules were to read a book a day and write your autobiography. The store, which is legendary because types like James Joyce hung out there once upon a time, was run one by an old dude by the name of George Whitman, who may have been a descendent of old Walt. He was crusty, but he liked me. I still wonder sometimes if my "autobiography" is in the dusty attic of the bookstore, or if somebody had the good sense to throw it away.

One of the books I read was Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America, a book that's easy to read in one day. I liked it so much that over the next couple of years I read everything by Brautigan that I could get my hands on.

When Roscoe was a puppy, about two years ago, he chewed up my copy of Trout Fishing in America. One day, a few months back, or maybe more than a few, a package came in the mail. It was from Jim Dandy and it contained his old copy of Trout Fishing in America. The format and the publisher were the same as another book of Brautigan's that I had lying around. Yesterday I opened it up randomly and read this poem:

Death is a Beautiful Car Parked Only

Death is a beautiful car parked only
to be stolen on a street lined with trees
whose branches are like the intestines
of an emerald.

You hotwire death, get in, drive away
Like a flag made from a thousand burning
funeral parlors.

You have stolen death because you’re bored.
There’s nothing good playing at the movies
in San Francisco.

You joyride around for a while listening
to the radio, and then abandon death, walk,
away, and leave death for the police
to find.


Death is something

Death is something I read earlier.
Death is something I read earlier but was too contemplated to respond to.
Death bares contemplation and conversation and then should be passed on before it passes away of mildew.

June 2019



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