A Los Angeles River tale
Every once in a while, you have one of those days, days of insight, days when whatever glasses you usually wear are plucked off and replaced by the new.
And, I have to add, insight — the new — is not always wanted.
Let me explain. Friday, I finally got some time off, so I tied on a new bread fly, hoping not to get skunked. Readers of this blog have followed my fruitless progress, so far.
I was excited. I mean growing up in Chicago, I still can’t believe it when the January weather graces us with Santa Ana wind-warmed temperatures in the 80s. Plus, would you rather fish the glorious L.A. River, or be working? (That’s a rhetorical derrrrr).
Stopped at the freeway entrance on my way, I pulled out my wallet to give a couple of bucks to a homeless woman. If you live near Pasadena, you’ve probably noticed that their numbers seem to be increasing. I debated for so many years whether to give/not give that now whenever I see someone in need, I give what I can.
As I handed her the money, she launched into a rant about how the guy in front of me had given her coupons to Union Station, but she didn’t want to go, because there you had to play the “boy-girl game,” and that she wasn’t out here begging for money because it was such a good time. Anyway, engrossed in what she had to say, I missed the light. In L.A. that’s a major offense, but nobody honked. As I waited for the next green, we talked more and she explained how her friend had contracted scabies at the city-run shelter and she’d taken her to the doctor.
But it was the next part that got me: “You people,” she said accusingly, and I can’t remember what else she said, but I do recall vividly how she looked at me. Maybe you can see it in your mind’s eye.
To the homeless, I now had a moniker. “You people.” From my perspective, they were/are “you people,” so I suppose it cuts both ways. Anyway, I couldn’t shake our conversation, and it rolled around in my mind, still does.
Once parked near the river, I spend the rest of the afternoon searching for carp. Several hours elapsed without a sighting, when, suddenly, I came upon a pool of a half-dozen who spotted me almost as quickly as I saw them. Like trout, carp have excellent eyesight. Picking one up, you’d think that their eyes focus only on the bottom. Not so.
Frustrated after about 10 minutes of casting to likely spots they might have fled, I turned to the concrete bank, calling it quits. About 10 yards in front of me were clothes drying on the chain-link fence, a faded but functioning bicycle, a pair of tennis shoes, a sleeping bag covered by a makeshift tarp. I stopped. The passing water was calm, as was the setting sun, calm, even the repetition of traffic on the I-5, calm. But interiorly I hardly was, as not one, but two residents emerged from the tent, not seeing me in my sheltering thicket.
For a moment, I felt all sorts of emotions, from fear (Would I be attacked?), to stupidity (Why would I be attacked?), to anger (Hey, I’m just trying to fish here, gimme some space.), to empathy (It must be awful to live out here.), to aversion (How am I going to get back to my ride?).
Eventually, I moved quietly to another hole in the fence and climbed through, dipping my nine-foot rod.
As I walked into the park I saw:
a man walking his eager pooch
a couple riding their horses with English saddles
a student gliding on a bicycle
a teenage girl, also on horseback
a locked men’s room
a locked women’s room
my parked car
See you on the river, Jim Burns