To me, fishing is one of those all-American activities in which I’ve never taken much interest.  (See also:  hunting, tent-pitching, fire building.)  Men who fish, in my mind, are Raymond Carver archetypes:  stoic, beaten-down, hard-drinking.  Men who chill six-packs of beer in the river.  Men who don’t stop fishing even when they find a corpse in the water.

And although the idea of fishing appeals to me — patience; sitting out in the sun; yummy, yummy fish — I can’t imagine yanking at something with a hook in its mouth.  I prefer to imagine, instead, that fish, of their own accord, jump out of water, filet themselves and swim into a pan full of butter.

If anything, Fishing with John highlights the homosocial component to fishing:  John Lurie asking Jim Jarmusch, “Do you want to see my penis?”; Tom Waits sticking a red snapper in his shorts; Willem Dafoe suggesting that he and John zip their sleeping bags together; the narrator announcing, “Both fishermen are covered with sores and boners.”  No gay subtext here.  Whatsoever.

Fishing as male bonding:  on the wall of our garage (the repository for the detritus of the Dinh family) was a pegboard, and lying across the top pegs — the way one would display a samurai sword — was a red fishing rod.  Whenever I got out of the car, I saw it above my head.  It was something that was always there, something that would always be there, like air.

Maybe my father intended to fish more than he did, but I remember us specifically going fishing only once.  I would never be a fisherman myself — my attempts at casting brought the hook perilously close to my own face — but I could at least help my father with the bait.  We had jar of green-neon garlic-flavored marshmallows, a jar of cherry-red salmon eggs.  I threaded them on the hook as if preparing a shish-kebob.  Afterwards, my fingers smelled like a poisoner’s lunch, but I loved pulling the lead teardrop weighing the line.  The whole contraption bounced like it was waving hello.

As I rinsed off the odor, minnows darted in the shallows.  I tried scooping them up, but they were too quick.  I splashed around until my hands turned numb in the sun-dappled water.  I hopped from rock to rock, venturing as far into the river as I could without getting wet.  Occasionally, the current would catch one of the pebbles at the bottom of the riverbed and send it tumbling downstream.

I decided:  it wasn’t necessary to fish to enjoy the peacefulness of fishing.

In any case, my father only caught three six-inch brown trout that day.  Not a rainbow among them.  Nonetheless, he brought them home proudly — as any man would after providing a meal.  He had prepared a whole cooler of ice for them.  They lay on top like bottles of Coke.

My mother brought down the hammer on future fishing expeditions.  After all, she was the one who got the privilege of gutting, cleaning and preparing them.

“It’s easier,” she said, “just to buy the fish at the supermarket.”

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