I took a seat on the Metrolink train going down to Los Angeles, one of the two seats that faces another row of two seats.

I sat alone until a man came and picked up the paper cup with a straw planted in the top setting on the floor.

This is where I was sitting, he said.

I asked if he minded if I sat there too. He said no, it was okay.

Newspapers were on the seat next to me and a plastic bag stuffed with something I would later figure were some of the man’s clothes.

He wore a white t-shirt, tan baggy pants and a bright blue ball cap that said I’m Hooked, and a fish or two stenciled on the front

I asked him, Do you like to fish?

He smiled and said, yes, he liked to fish.

Where do you fish?

Down by Dana Point, the man said. Surface fishing.

Is that fishing from the pier?

Yes. I go out on boats, too.

His eyes looked weary but friendly. He glanced at me, looking me in the eye, taking me in, scanning. I tried to keep the conversation going. I liked talking to him.

What kind of fish do you catch, I asked.

Eldorado, yellowtail. It’s hard to catch fish near shore now, he said, because it’s almost all fished out. You have to go way out.

How far out?

Maybe a hundred miles.

Then you go out overnight?
Yeah, you sail all night then fish all day, then come back in late at night.

Do they feed you too?

Sometimes someone will donate a fish they’ve caught, and the cook will cut it up and cook it. They feed you, though, yeah.

And they supply the beer?

They supply the beer. Sometimes the guys will clean the fish and filet them for you, too. You don’t want to be having to clean all your fish, so they do it for you sometimes, right on the boat.

We rode on. The man thought for a moment that he’d missed his station. He determined that had a couple of more stops to go.

I’m going to Baldwin Park, the man said. He held out his hand. My name’s Art, he said. We shook hands. I told him my name.

Have you ever fished in Alaska, I asked.

No. There are great fishing places up there, though. Off of Kodiak Island, on the Kenai Peninsula. There was a guy up there who studied bears, and on a documentary on TV I saw where he’d been eaten by a hungry bear who couldn’t find enough food. The float plane pilot came in one day to bring him food, and he was gone.

I saw that show, too, I said. It was spooky. You could see where the bear had broken off branches and grass, then there were the remains of the body.

They even played the tape of the sounds of the killing, the man said.

I couldn’t listen to that, I said. Too weird.

He smiled and nodded.

I was in Seward and I saw the fishing boats coming into the harbor, I said. Big rolling carts full of halibut. I showed him with my hands stretched apart how large they were.

He asked how long ago I was in Alaska and I told him it was three years ago.

I lived there for three years back in the nineteen seventies, he told me. Worked for someone studying vision improvement.

On my trip, I said, we drove seventy five miles on a gravel road on the Denali Highway, then traveled the next day up to Wrangell St Elias, one of the largest National Parks. Then it was on a ferry for an all day ride down to Valdez then on to Hope for two nights.

That’s near Porcupine Flats, he told me. Lots of squashed porcupines on the highway. That’s why it got its name.

The first day I got to Anchorage, we could see Denali. It was the first day of the year that they could see the mountain, the owner of the bread and breakfast place had told me.

Right. Usually the clouds cover the mountain top and you can’t see it.

We followed the mountain all the next day and we could see it all the way.

The Los Angeles Times? he asked, pointing to the paper in my hand.

I’m finished with this section, I said and I held up the automotive section. This is a hundred and ninety thousand dollar car, I said, pointing to the lead story. You can buy a small condo for that much money. He laughed.

I got out of prison today, he said.

Today? I asked.

Yeah, this morning.


Chino. Penn State. Instead of State Penn, Penn State. He smiled with those tired eyes.

How long were you in there?

Five months.

And nobody could come and pick you up?

I told my daughter to stay home. Told her not to come down and get all caught up in it.

Well good luck, I offered.


I think things are going to go well.

Thank you. I’ll hang out with my buddies for a couple of days.

Maybe have a couple of beers?

Already had a couple, he laughed.

Good. You’ve got fishing, a daughter. Some place to go. I think things are going to be all right.

Well, here’s my stop. Enjoyed talking with you.

Me too. We shook hands.

Here, don’t’ forget the paper, and I handed him the automotive section.

Sports page?

The automotive section. The hundred and ninety thousand dollar car. He stuffed it into the plastic bag and went down the aisle to the platform.

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