*Washington Park. Public park in San Francisco, California, that is meticulously described in the first pages of the novel. The park is named after George Washington, one of the Founders of America. Within the park is a statue of another Founder, Benjamin Franklin, whose autobiography and aphorisms are famous for their optimism. The statue’s four-sided base has the word “welcome” on each side. The park, however, is not filled with optimistic Americans opening their arms to strangers. Rather, winos hang around waiting for sandwiches to be distributed to them. The narrator reflects on the gap between the literary America represented by Franklin, and the actuality of the park. While average Americans hurry past on their errands, the narrator wastes time with the winos, including a man named “Trout Fishing in America Shorty,” who is confined to a wheelchair. The narrator recalls that it was one of his stepfathers, a drunk, who first told him about fishing for trout and about the great beauty of trout. If any Americans still appreciate the beauty and romance of nature, they are the bums, drifters, and assorted poor who have no place in the society around them, which views nature as a commodity.
The book’s winos—including a boy who is a Kool-Aid wino—enjoy one advantage over more productive members of society: They still have imaginations. They talk with passion about improbable and hypothetical things,...
(The entire section is 549 words.)