The Company We Keep

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Off the Island

When writer Chris Colin needed to find a subletter for his office space in San Francisco’s Mission District, he put an ad on Craigslist.

The man who answered the ad arrived at the warehouse two hours late, riding on a child’s wooden scooter, with a gleaming bald head and a purple beard.

His name was Randy Robinson, and soon he would introduce Chris to a world populated with gold-seeking salmon and Malaysian ravens.

Finding Harold

Laurel Braitman found unlikely companionship in a catfish named Harold. (Laurel Braitman)

Laurel Braitman met Harold the year she turned 13, when her father took her to a pet store and told her she could pick any fish she wanted. So she chose Harold — a brown, armored catfish who became her closest friend in junior high.Harold was her confidant, listening patiently as Braitman told him all about her unrequited crushes, how she ran for (and lost) the campaign for 8th grade student body president and how mad and scared she was about her father’s terminal cancer.


Harold eventually led Braitman into the Amazon and face-to-face with her grownup self.