GPS In Your Hip Pocket

19015309 My Heart Is An Idiot: Essays by Davy Rothbart
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you want a handful of life lessons (sixteen in fact) on how to fuck up more than a few relationships with a road map and GPS satellite in your hip pocket to comfort you on your dark days, then MY HEART IS AN IDIOT could provide you better comfort than a blanket, a glass of warm milk, and your favorite movie on the tube. Whether you’re a cynic by nature or even if you’re holding out for the storybook fairytale or maybe a hero that goes by another name, you could find yourself mixing equal parts amusement and sadness and then flipping the switch to high. What comes out on the other side could leave you more than a little horrified, like the latest train wreck plastered across the news, but you can also comfort yourself in knowing that you weren’t on this particular train when it exited the station.

“Bigger and Deafer” – When it comes to making fun of people with disabilities, the appropriate response is no. Always no. But then I like to think I have more than two cents to rub together.

“Human Snowball” – If you want to read about a bus ride and a botched encounter with Lauren Hill (not the Lauryn Hill), then you’ll probably want to give this story a go. On a side note, Vernon adds a bit of comedic relief.

“What Are You Wearing?” – If you want a checklist in how not to conduct phone sex, and when to probably pass on picking up the motel phone, you’ll find your answers here. If you’re still confused when you reach the end, you might want to start from the beginning all over again.

“The 8th of November” – How Jim Thompson, arguably the best Ford mechanic in the Beltway, developed a friendship with the author with the idiot heart.

“Ninety-Nine Bottles of Pee on the Wall” – Meeting an author can be a pleasurable experience (most of the time) unless you’re Davy Rothbart and you carry around a few bottles of pee in your backpack. Which leads to a whole new set of problems and more than a few therapy sessions.

“How I Got These Boots” – A pair of boots, the Grand Canyon, and more than a few memories. What more could you ask for?

“Shade” – Sometimes you need to do a bit of searching to find a shady spot in New Mexico, and the author certainly had more than a bit of trouble with this as well. If it wasn’t for bad luck, a missed opportunity with Maggie, and a fruitless search for the mysterious Shade—the person, not the spot allotted tree cover—this one might have had a positive outcome. Sadly, though, he’s striking out more often than a power hitter with a swing flaw.

“Nibble, Lick, Suck, and Feast” – If you want to discover a bit of hilarity on an author tour, this story’s for you. If not, then we’ll move right along.

“Canada or Bust” – Missy, another female name that begins with M, and thus we have yet another missed opportunity in the love quest. If you need to improve the dating pool, there’s always San Francisco.

“Naked in New York” – How does one end up naked on a park bench? Apparently it’s not all that hard to do, and certainly not in “The Big Apple.” Read this tale for a few pointers.

“Tarantula” – Don’t have sex anywhere near a tarantula. Even if it’s in a glass cage and it’s far away from the bed. I don’t care how good she looks (the woman, not the tarantula), or whether or not she kidnaps you and tosses you in the back of the trunk, and promises to rock your world for the next sixteen days. Just…don’t. You’ll thank me later.

“Southwest” – Davy Rothbart may be blessed when it comes to sitting next to beautiful women on airplanes, but he probably needs a bit of help with his delivery and follow through. But that seems to repeat a bit too regularly over the course of these essays.

“New York, New York” – Maggie Smith knows how to strike a pose; the Twin Towers ended up in a pile of rubble; a few interviews got off to a glitch filled start; the bus ride proved longer than planned; and never say no to a woman named Laquisha.

“Tessa” – Drexel University and beer pong sound reasonably appealing, until Tessa proves a little free with her favors with another man, and you’re left shedding a few tears in your beer. There’s no crying in baseball, but I guess there is in beer pong.

“The Strongest Man in the World” – Peter, Byron, Evelyn, and Davy sitting in a tree, recounting a few stories, or maybe it’s three. Tell a few tales, but don’t pass the buck. If you’re not too careful, you might be out of luck.

“Ain’t That America?” – The moral of this story: You can strike out in love on more than one continent. Just keep that in mind the next time you’re moaning and groaning in your cup of tea.

So, in summary, there’s much to enjoy here. If you’re the kind of Joe who likes to watch a train derailment or two, or you’re one of those rubberneckers on the interstate trying to see the extent of the damage, you’ve just discovered your new source of enjoyment for the day. Just be thankful it’s not your life, and hope to hell you have a bit more luck in the relationship arena, otherwise you might want a Prozac or a Xanax.

Eccentric Read

8710152Fender Benders by Bill Fitzhugh
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Money turns otherwise rational people into shitheads, and people with more money than sense often turn out to be the biggest shitheads of all. And fame amplifies small idiosyncrasies into major catastrophes, to include drug use, fornication, and anger management issues. These themes run rampant in Bill Fitzhugh’s masterpiece.

Eddie Long, a talented artist looking for his big break, gets it on both ends: Megan Taylor, a newly attached love interest, who is the pitch-perfect gold digger and Big Bill, a record executive with three ex-wives, who’s as unscrupulous as any political fat cat in the DC metropolitan area. Big Bill talks with one hand and shoves every bill he can find down the front of his massive drawers with the other, mostly off of unsuspecting artists too wet-behind-the-ears to notice. And he talks faster than a locomotive without brakes.

As for the best way to describe this book, it’s like Metallica combined with Carrie Underwood and Eminem. For the first part of FENDER BENDERS, I felt like I had wrapped an axle around a tree, but the car was still running, and so I checked my rearview to make sure no one had seen me or the tree, and then I peeled back out onto the highway and kept my eyes on the horizon. Sure, this novel can be discombobulated at times, mostly near the first half of the book, but like my torn up wheels, as long as it helps me reach my final destination, I’m willing to get a bit sidetracked along the way, especially when the payoff makes me glad I took a slight detour. And it all comes together like a 100 piece orchestra reaching the dramatic crescendo.

As for the insights into the music industry, they were refreshing, completely believable (clearly Mr. Fitzhugh has done his homework), and not overdone, at least not any more outlandish than the rest of the novel, which had me in stitches at times. But I ended up getting rather peeved at Nashville, the music industry, and all the ways artists get ripped off in the name of stuffing some fat cat’s bank account. The starving artist never comes out ahead, no sir. Sure, it’s easy to take this novel tongue-in-cheek, but what really caused the air around me to turn hotter than a sauna is that there’s an element of truth, and possibly even more so than just an element, in what this novel brings to light about overzealous pocket stuffing. I mean, when lawyers are showing more morals than record executives clearly there’s a level of corruption proliferating that would make even Enron and WorldCom blush.

If Bill Fitzhugh ever ended up in his own story, he’d be placed in a straightjacket, handcuffed to a bed, and pumped so full of meds, he’d think the world was painted in rainbows with popsicle sticks. So for those of you who like humor, with eccentric characters and eccentric reads being your modus operandi, then you might want to hop in your Mercedes and head on down the highway, where the tea is always sweet, the shrimp are always fried, and your only source of music is country.

Straitjacketed Humor

16071701Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If I ever visit Key West, I’ll smuggle aboard enough food rations to last me twice as long as my planned stay, refrain from eating at any restaurant within a sixty-mile radius, catch my own fish from my hotel balcony, and cook them from my own grill on said balcony, setting off all smoke detectors in a three-room radius. To that end, I’ll probably increase my life expectancy by six years, and I won’t go to sleep with cockroach-filled nightmares.

If writing zany characters were an occupation unto itself, Carl Hiaasen would have fit the requirements long ago and placed himself firmly within its trenches. This go round we are treated to a hairless capuchin monkey that was fired from Pirates Of The Caribbean and who developed an unhealthy attachment to Johnny Depp, hurls his own feces, and is addicted to Dunhill tobacco. He also subsists on conch fritters and other fried foods, most of which have his cholesterol levels shooting through the roof and have aided in his current hairless ailment; a daughter who sees dollar signs and would sell her soul to the devil himself for a million dollars instead of grieving over her deceased pa; a child sex offender named Plover Chase who exchanged grades in AP English for bedroom antics of a more than questionable nature; a Dragon Queen who likes to fornicate on a Rollie scooter; an assistant medical examiner who likes to have sex on her operating table amid sixty or so stiffs and in the middle of a hurricane; one sodomized surgeon; and a restaurant inspector who counts cockroaches with a homemade roach-vacuuming concoction.

There’s enough satire and madness and mayhem to satisfy the attention span of a gnat with a Medicare scam large enough to interest the FBI, one spec house up in flames faster than a blowtorch applied to rice paper, questionable corpses, scorned ex-lovers, dubious alliances, and the ever lingering environmental issues found in many of his tales…You know, your typical Carl Hiaasen novel.

While I can only speculate on his writing methods, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he sits at his desk chair in a straitjacket pecking at his keyboard with the tip of his nose or dictating his stories into a voice recorder to be later typed by his secretary. And he does it all with a large grin and swag smile, inching up the chaos with each turn of the page. Because that’s exactly what happens here.

While BAD MONKEY certainly held my attention and had more than its share of laugh out loud moments, I couldn’t help but compare this novel to his earlier work, and I felt like he came up a little short. But on the bright side, there’s more than enough fuckwads and shitweasels to occupy an entire wing at an insane asylum. And in the end, that was enough for me to like this tale.

Mexican Hairless Beaver

17911278Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Hey fuckhead,

Yep, you, the one with the track marks running down both arms trying to slide off into oblivion, with the tilted head and the faraway expression, staring at the sun like it’s some four-headed monster ready to steal your dreams, twitching for your next fix like some random dog left out in the rain too long, with a stutter-stepping walk and attitude, veering off from the rest of the universe like a bad dream; you might want to sit this one out, otherwise you might have more than just a fogged-up brain on your hands. You may want to study a medical chart and have your CT scanned and actually study ligaments and tendons and muscles and bones and maybe even pass an anatomy class, although that might be too much to ask, because you’re about to get your ass kicked, and you’ll need to be able to piece yourself back together later, with the doctor’s help of course. And frankly that’s what you’re going to need: loads and loads of help.

The medical industry is encased in a shitstorm the likes of which your coke-snorting ass has never seen, and it’s about to get worse for you and your fellow fuckhead Americans. And if you can stop being a worthless piece of horseshit for more than one fucking minute, you might actually have a prayer at making it in this world, instead of ending up in some premature, unmarked grave all by your lonesome staring at the bottom of a coffin at the age of twenty-two with your eyes wide open.

The good news is you’ll die of lethal injection, probably at the hands of some no-name doctor, when all you did was go and see the man about a head cold. So at least you’ll have that going for you. Because if I really wanted to kill you, I could shove a cork down your throat or jack you full of potassium until your eyes bleed, or I could have one of the Latvian nurses on my floor, who is really nothing more than a worthless piece of shit, who smokes more weed than she does rounds and surfs the Internet like she has a gun held to her head, ignore your ass for the rest of your miserable life, peppering your chart with the standard healthy readings when really you’re secretly dying of stomach cancer.

And don’t forget that I’ve worked for the mob, hell they brought me into their family, not the one where I had to prove that I’m worthy by killing some innocent individual while he was sleeping, or watching TV in the middle of the afternoon, but the one where I was sitting around the dining room table on a Sunday afternoon shooting the shit. I spent my formative years in dojos studying everything from tae kwon do to kempo, so I know over 100 ways to make your ears bleed, so if you don’t get yourself straight and step the fuck off, I’ll plant your ass at the bottom of a cesspool, and I’ll work the next 120 hours without even batting an eyelash.

Yep, I might just be the craziest son of a bitch you ever met. I pop Moxfane tablets like they’re caffeine pills; I take powernaps in a coat closet; and I’ll smear a pint of blood all over myself for the right cause. I have what you might call a rapid-onset addiction to bloodshed, and I killed four men while I was still taped to a chair along with countless other fuckers that I’d rather not mention since I’m in WITSEC, so I really have no qualms about killing an innocent, or in your case, not-so-innocent individual.

And while you may not think you’re a dumbfuck, and that you’re actually being clever by trying to jump my ass while I’m wearing scrubs, there are at least forty different kinds of stupidity, and over the course of our less than five-minute interlude, you exhibited every single one of them, and probably about a dozen others that haven’t even been medically diagnosed yet. So, yep, you’re fucked, and that’s even without your latest fix.

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t go to Sicily. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.


Dr. Pietro Brnwa (Bearclaw), intern

P.S. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get some Mexican hairless beaver before you die.

P.P.S. Don’t be such a fuckhead, fuckhead.

DISCLAIMER – I really liked this book and this voice, so much in fact that I couldn’t write this review any other way.