This is it. The first day of Brautigan Salad leaving.
The trial in London Fields a month ago was half a success - it took half an hour for the Sweet Alyssum to be taken but it has taken a month for someone to not tell me that they’ve found it. I’m a little disappointed. Its not that I want people to feel they have to tell me they’ve found a part of the Brautigan Salad, it is that I would like them to feel they want to.
I packaged up the plants carefully, printed out the Google map of Brautigan related leaving locations, and arranged with Sarah and my friend Andy Gout to accompany me on the leavings.
The cover for Trout Fishing In America is a photograph taken late in the afternoon, a photograph of the Benjamin Franklin statue in San Francisco’s Washington Square.
Born 1706-died 1790, Benjamin Franklin stands on a pedestal that looks like a house containing stone furniture. He holds some papers in one hand and his hat in the other.
This is how Brautigan’s most famous book begins. And indeed on the cover of Trout Fishing In America is a photograph of Benjamin Franklin, and standing next to Benjamin Franklin is Richard Brautigan. Richard Brautigan holds his hands behind his back and on his head is his hat.
Standing at 36 Craven Street in London is the world’s only remaining home of Benjamin Franklin. I left a pot of Sweet Alyssum on the doorstep. A gift from Richard Brautigan travelling backwards through time.
Trout Fishing in America
There are no trout streams in London. But a search on Google maps revealed a Trout Terrace, what looks to be a short passageway near the Savile Row area. On the way my friend Andy reveals that he was bullied in school, one group of bullies taking particular delight in changing his name to Andy Trout. I said I guess that they weren’t clever enough to realise that his actual surname, Gout, could already have been used as an insult. Andy said that Trout still has bad connotations, but that the worst group of bullies used to call him Grout. Those bullies have probably spent the rest of their lives using grout on a day to day basis, while Andy has moved on and among many other things paints amazing portraits.
We were now standing where Trout Terrace should be, but it wasn’t there. It was as if someone had taken a section of the street and moved it. We checked the map I had printed, and the maps on our phones. I searched Google again for the place I had starred. We were right on it. It should be here at our feet, but it had vanished.
I read the map again - my map reading had suffered from word blindness - it didn’t say Trout Terrace, it said Trout Terence. Trout was a person not a place.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Terence Trout
It seems that not only had the non-existent Trout Terrace vanished, but Terence Trout was also an enigma. He owned a tailoring business, but a quick search revealed that Trout’s last tweet was from October last year, and that his website was just a domain holding page. But his logo is a jumping trout, and the only online feature about him starts: “Amusingly Stephen once crossed paths with an immaculately dressed client called Terence Trout and the seed was sewn”.
The seed was sewn. An awful and obvious pun, but the mention of ‘seed’ might indicate that although the Trout we were now fishing for wasn’t the Trout I’d started out fishing for, if I can find him he should have part of the Brautigan Salad. At this point Sarah senses that this could become another lengthy obsession, and Andy is clearly just wishing I’d stop saying the word Trout. She goes into the nearest open shop, a men’s shirt shop, and asks “Do you know anything about the mysterious disappearance of Terence Trout?”. The man behind the counter looks up, and with a shrug says, “He moved out six months ago, he’s looking for new premises. Good luck finding him”.
I have to admit to myself that in the space of half an hour I’ve lost two Trout, and that maybe it is time to move on and find another leaving place for the Trout part of the Brautigan Salad.
Instead I found a shop on Pall Mall that specialises in fly fishing equipment, and has been doing so since 1840. Over 170 years of helping people stand in hundreds of streams, thousands of historical trout swimming towards the future.
I left a pot of Calendua on the stone balustrade and said my goodbye. As I walked away I turned and caught a glimpse of sunlight shining on the flower head making the yellowest yellow in Piccadilly.
Willard And His Bowling Trophies
Willard is a fictional Papier-mâché bird who stands surrounded by stolen bowling trophies. Willard was also an actual Papier-mâché bird that Richard Brautigan first met in 1967. At the time he was owned by a friend of Brautigan’s who had made a shrine around the absurdist bird from discarded ten-pin bowling trophies. Soon after that first meeting Willard went to live in Richard Brautigan’s apartment and took his trophies with him too.
In the middle of London’s Bloomsbury area is a bowling alley, coincidently Andy’s favourite place in London. The bowling alley is just round the corner from where Charles Fort lived in the 1920’s. Fort was a man with an eye for the absurd that I think would have appealed to Brautigan, and another writer often wrongly labelled and undervalued. I like to imagine them both having a couple of beers at the 50’s style bar, discussing their work and woes, before bowling together, Willard perched on the ball return as a referee.
I left a pot of Calendua just outside the entrance. I have a good feeling that this part of the Brautigan Salad at least will find the right home.
The Tokyo-Montana Express
The Tokyo-Montana Express is a metaphorical train line with 131 stations chronicling the real and imaginary journeys made by Richard Brautigan. In the middle of London’s China Town is a Japanese restaurant called Tokyo Diner - open 12-12 365 days a year. This would be the first stop on the Tokyo-Montana Express for the Brautigan Salad. I left another pot of Calendula on the pavement next to a cigarette butt, just under the menu. A prime place to be found. There is a notice on the menu saying that their vegetarian dishes might contain traces of animal fats, which didn’t please everyone in the group, so we went to eat in a restaurant opposite hoping that by the time we’d finished the Brautigan Salad would have been taken.
Part of my desire for thoroughness wished we were eating in Tokyo Diner, but that was lost in the confusion of being handed five menus each. In the middle of the drinks menu was the most Brautigan of drinks: Fresh Watermelon Juice. Stop Two on the Tokyo(Diner)-Montana Brautigan Salad Express.
Fresh Watermelon Juice turns out to be one of the most unrefreshing drinks I’ve ever had -like all the water has been squeezed out of it, and all that is left is a thick pink gloop of watermelon sugar.
We finish our food and go and take a look to see if the Brautigan Salad as been taken. It hasn’t. But oddly the pot has been rotated, perhaps someone had picked it up, taken a look, and decided that it wasn’t meant for them. But they had carefully placed it back in the same place which I take as a good sign.
I walk away slowly through China town, and past a homeless man searching the pavement for cigarette butts. I know that just round the corner there is one, right next to the Brautigan Salad. I hope he picks it up, there is a lot of tobacco in it. And I hope he takes the Brautigan Salad with him too. A doorway isn’t better to sleep in with a pot-plant to brighten it, but even if it is a tiny bit better than a doorway without one, then growing the Brautigan Salad has been worth it.
There are another 129 stops on the Tokyo (Diner)-Montana Brautigan Salad Express, but they will have to wait for another day.