I finally made it to the Goldfish bar a couple weeks ago and have gone back as often as I could. Let’s just say I understood the appeal of this wondrous place immediately. This led me to seek out more information on where its identifying verse- “I am the fish that is made of gold, what is your wish?” -came from. The verse struck an old memory it seemed, but I couldn’t quite place why this was so familiar. A check with the oracle turned up little, surprisingly, as the verse itself is not a direct quote from any known source (it seems the owner took it upon himself to coin the phrase).
Why it did strike a chord is that the inspiration (or so I assume) is from a Russian poem by Alexander Pushkin of an old fisherman who one day catches a golden fish. In return for his life, the fish promises to grant the fisherman any wish. The fisherman doesn’t think twice before throwing the fish back without asking for anything in return, as he has everything he needs. However, upon telling his wife later that night, he is scolded for not asking for a new house at the very least. The fisherman seeks out the golden fish the next day and asks for his wife’s wish. This is followed-up by increasingly larger wishes day after day until the wife asks to be ruler of all the land. With a heavy heart, the fisherman walks to the sea to ask this extravagance of the fish, but the wish is not granted like the previous ones. Instead, the fish punishes the wife for her greediness and returns things to their original form, making the fisherman happy to be back to his old, happy life. The golden fish never returned to the fisherman’s side.
When I finally came across the poem online, I remembered reading it at some point in my early education, probably in an attempt to instill restraint and curb gluttony in a child. The idea of it seemed to be stored somewhere in my being, but I couldn’t remember the tale vividly, which unsettled me at first, as I really connected with this place and this notion. I’ve been thinking of it the past few days though, and for me it goes back to my belief that everything happens for a reason in its time and place, even if it is not apparent why at the time.
I don’t believe I was meant to really contemplate the consequences of wishing and golden fish and finding a sanctuary and heart shaped cookies until this time in my life. I’ve had quite a few intense experiences in the past few years that seem to be settling into my life as I grow a little older and now have the capacity to understand what these collective moments in my past add up to. Until recently, wishing had been superficial or normative for me, but sitting at the Goldfish really made me think of what I want from life. When the story was first introduced to me I wasn’t at a place to think beyond Beanie Babies and getting to meet Ariel, but now, after some hard truths have been faced and being in a place as inspiring as Bosnia, I am able to recognize the new emotions stirring in me and manifest wishes (or dreams or aspirations or spirits or ideas) to take me to a place of pure contentment.