IF YOU FISH IN THIS CREEK, WE’LL HIT YOU IN THE HEAD!
Ah, the transient existence of being Trout Fishing in America. At once we are a skid row hotel, half a block from Broadway and Columbus in North Beach, San Francisco. Our “lobby is filled with the smell of Lysol,” which “sits like another guest on the stuffed furniture… it is the only furniture I have ever seen in my life that looks like baby food.” We are not content with being just a cheap hotel. No, we are also the spirit of a generation, also the ghost of creeks and rivers that surround all of us in their watermelon sugar, running their cut throat trout from Tacoma, Washington through Oregon, down to California and back to Montana. We cannot change stairs into streams, but your dreams. We can change those. We will look at them in another life.
I was published in 1967, though I was written by a Mr. Richard Brautigan well before that. He showed me around town, gave me away for free through the Diggers’ free stores. He who once said “Please Plant This Book.” Richard stands on my cover in front of a statue of Benjamin Franklin in Washington Park. That park is still there, but they took out the playground (oh woe, to his daughter). I liked Richard’s voice when he would read me aloud.
I am not stream of consciousness. I am stream of troutedness. I know my maker labored over my every word, my short simple sentences that punctuated each rock along my twisting paths.
Even in the solace of this novel, one cannot escape fear. For here there are a “strange bunch of kids,” a group of Trout Fishing in America Terrorists. They are sixth graders, and they grab ahold of the first-graders, writing TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA on the back of their t-shirts with chalk. The principal handles the situation like a good leader though, appealing to the youth’s sense of authority: “Now wouldn’t it look funny if I asked all your teachers to come in here, and then I told the teachers all to turn around, and then I took a piece of chalk and wrote ‘Trout fishing in America’ on their backs?”
Imagine, in your world your leader confronting terrorism in this matter; would it be funny? Or is it already what is happening? I am the lakes and streams and being of the fishermen and women. I am not qualified to pass judgment.
I like to spread my lure. Please share me with others. Allow my rivers and streams to stretch as far as the earth will twist, and prepare all for the concluding “Mayonnaise Chapter.” For if there is to be any chance of survival at all in this world, one must understand mayonnaise in just such a way as to appreciate and mourn its passing or lack there-of.
Hi, I am still here. I still had something else to say, someone else I wanted to talk about and that is the Kool-Aid Wino. He is an inspiration to one of my readers. He is one of the original reality creators. I’ll tell you all about him a little bit, and then maybe you’ll find me in a store one day and remember his story and want to purchase the book and send some money to Richard Brautigan’s family (alas, he is up his own stream now…).
The Kool-Aid Wino became one because of a rupture. While his parents worked, he stayed home all day. The narrator knows this boy, comes and visits him. The narrator is made to pay for some Kool-Aid, which costs a nickel. They buy the Kool-Aid from a grocer with a birthmark that “looked just like an old car parked on his head.” The car wobbles “back and forth on the road as if the driver were having an epileptic seizure.” Now the wino makes his Kool-Aid ceremoniously. He gets a gallon jar and fills it with water, then dumping the single packet of grape Kool-Aid in, he turns off the water “like a famous brain surgeon removing a disordered portion of the imagination.”
You’re supposed to make only two quarts of Kool-Aid from a package, but he always made a gallon, so his Kool-Aid was a mere shadow of its desired potency. And you’re supposed to add a cup of sugar to every package of Kool-Aid, but he never put any sugar in his Kool-Aid because there wasn’t any sugar to put in it.
He created his own Kool-Aid reality and was able to illuminate himself by it.
Trout Fishing in America