Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dear Mid- 2000's Memoir Novels

This week, I celebrate my 31st birthday.  I recall my 21st birthday, back in college.  I went out and bought a six pack of Raison d' Etre beer because I thought that seemed grown up.  I stayed late at acapella rehearsal, then took a long time walking home as I flirted in spectacularly terrible fashion with a girl wearing one of those unfortunate pairs of fuzzy boots women loved in 2004.  When I finally got back to my house, I found that my friends had thrown me a surprise party, the only one I've ever had.

Things have changed spectacularly in the past ten years, some good, some bad, most just perplexing and unsettling.  Some things have remained reassuringly constant, though.  I've spent a surprising amount of time in the Barnes and Noble in Annapolis, both in the store and in the general strip mall it occupies.  I used to go to the Tower Records there in high school and college, back before record stores were killed by Al Gore's internet.  There is a delicious Lebanese place there, and a place that actually sells clothes and shoes that will fit my Elephant Man frame.  It is a pretty good place to go shop, even if it is an hour from my abode and I tend to hate shopping.  More importantly, it's a very convenient halfway place between my house and where most of my friends live.  I've seen people for the first time in months and years in that parking lot, had dinner or coffee with them, or just sat and talked with them. 

For a year or so after college, I freaked out about my new job and having a salary.  I didn't realize that just because it was a salary, that didn't make it a good salary.  I was used to making golf course money, and this was way better.  So, I would go on book binges, buying anything that looked even remotely interesting from the sale racks.  There were a couple of consecutive trips I took where I got onto a jag of buying memiors.  The unfortunate one that got me on the start was I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell by the human equivalent of a used condom known as Tucker Max.  As a 22 year old "man", I still should have been too old and mature to find it funny, but I liked it at the time.  Next trip, I found Superstud by Paul Feig, and I was hooked.  Paul was a big nerd, way worse than I was as a kid.  He did things that were so funny yet humiliating that if they had happened to me, I might not have recovered, but he took it in (relative) stride.  I later came to find out he used these experiences to make one of the better tv shows I've seen Freaks and Geeks.  If he wasn't someone I could look up to, then there weren't many others.

Then, I found Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement by Rodney Rothman.  He was almost an opposite of Feig.  He had already made it as a TV writer, but became disillusioned.  He decided to retire in his mid twenties (I WAS IN MY MID TWENTIES TOO!!!!) and move into a retirement community in Florida.  I could get down with this.  My background in sociology could help me write something like this, immersing myself in a scene and writing something really worthwhile.  In my previous job as a golf worker, I'd already tasted retired life.  I'd take a golf cart out after closing and play a few holes before dark, or fish in one of the ponds on the course.  In the winter we'd play stickball indoors or darts on a board we had hidden behind several golf bags, and there was always a chance to take a cart out on the course, park in the woods, and take a nap.  Truly, this would be my calling.  I just needed some more research in the memoir realm, and I would be ready to go.  Nothing could stop me, until of course, something easily stopped me.  That thing was Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner.

The base of the story is something really sad, and ripe for soul searching and find oneself.  A guy gets left at the alter, and instead of forfeiting the tickets and hotel for his honeymoon, he takes the trip with his brother.  Together, they try to put his life back together.  The problem is, Wisner and his brother are extremely rich.  He almost gloats about how much money he has to start the book.  In fact, he feels so good coming back from the honeymoon that he quits his high paying job he had because his parents are also rich, and he uses all his money to travel for a year.  He sleeps with beautiful women to get over his broken heart, and sees the world like I'll never be able to.

If I wanted to read a book about how rich people have it better than I ever will, I'll stick with Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.  I was so mad by the end of the book that this man wanted sympathy because he was able to drown his momentary sorrow in decadence and wipe his tears with money.  Then, as I thought about it, Paul Feig and Rodney Rothman only got book deals because they were already famous from years in TV.  I could never get a book deal for writing about my years in the golf industry (Carts of Plastic, Men of Steel- My Life as a Country Club Lackey) or my attempts to become the first full grown batboy for the Phillies.  I realized then and there that if you wanted to be famous as a writer, you needed to already be famous or rich.

Clearly, I had to redouble my efforts at gambling in Atlantic City, because in America, first you get the money, then you get the power, and then you get the book deal.  Nine years later, I am the author of a mildly successful humor blog, so clearly my plan is well into effect.  Now to just sit back and wait for the offers to roll in. 

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