Book: Waltzing with the Captain

Remembering Richard Brautigan.

We’ve all had a friend like Richard. He’s the one that calls to go fishing and ends the conversation by telling you not to forget the whiskey (or beer, or Carlo Rossi—any alcoholic beverage will do). Hours later you’re drunk, the sun is setting, and the only body of water you’ve seen is your friend’s toilet. The next day, the phone rings and it’s your friend saying, “Let’s go fishing, for real this time.” Hanging up the phone you think, I could write a book about this guy. Well, Bozeman’s own poet, professor, playwright, author, musician, and general wit-about-town Greg Keeler did just that.

Waltzing with the Captain tells the story of Keeler’s friendship with Richard Brautigan during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Keeler doesn’t risk boring us with an overly detailed biography of Brautigan—the famous writer who brought us Trout Fishing in America and In Watermelon Sugar—but instead gives the perspective of “a guy who drank with him and drove him around for a few years.” Keeler’s prose is conversational, as if we’re sitting down and listening to a few “glory days” stories from an old friend—except these are actually entertaining. He almost allows us to forget Brautigan’s tragic, early death by fully bringing him to life on the page. In sharing their friendship, Keeler also gives readers a glimpse into the Gallatin Valley when Bozeman had more cowboys than yuppies and everything was a little rougher around the edges.

Best of all, Keeler’s memories are contained in quick vignettes (i.e., the chapters are short) just long enough to let inspiration strike. Then you can pick up the phone and invite that puckish pal of yours fishing. Just don’t forget the whiskey on your way out the door.