Sunday, August 1, 2010

Late Breaking News

First you get an idea. The second step is research. (Warning: step two can, and often does, lead to more ideas, putting you right back at step one. It’s a vicious cycle.)

In this case the idea was hiking the Appalachian Trail. I’d been infected with the idea by a thru-hiker who hated brussel sprouts. When, after a day or two, the idea hadn’t evaporated, I sauntered over to the bookshelf and began rummaging about.

A few years back I’d picked up an audio book for a dollar thinking it might come in handy for a boring road trip someday. No such road trip had materialized. I found it, popped it in the stereo, turned up the volume and started washing dishes.

A smooth voice announced, “Bantam, Doubleday Dell Publishing presents, A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson.”

Osmosis being my preferred method for acquiring knowledge, I expected to be a happy camper. I was more than happy.

The first descriptive phrase the author inflicted upon himself, in reference to his life, was “waddlesome sloth.” The second was "cupcake." He had me.

Splashing about in the dishwater quickly turned to spilling dishwater down my front. Unable to give full expression to the hilarity with a mere vocal laugh, my body was taken with spasms of mirth. Bryson requires full body expression.

Laughter, though seemingly innocuous, is nearly as dangerous as ideas are. As I listened, I found myself not only wanting to hike the AT, but believing I could.

It may seem redundant or even ridiculous to recommend a book that was on the New York Times bestseller list a dozen years ago, but let me assure you, there are folks out there who haven’t read it. Folks like me who have to tiptoe real slow and get comfortable, familiar with a thing. Before they try something new, it has to feel old... or be old.

For those slightly more wary than myself, perhaps the time has come. It’s never too late to pick up a good book. Ok, sometimes it’s too late, but only when you’re dead.

[I first listened to an abridgment read by the author, though until quite recently I didn't realize it was abridged. I also have the print version whose copyright is dated 1998. An unabridged audio recording is also available.]


  1. Cool! Next time I wash dishes.....

  2. One of the best and funniest! Good find!

  3. Great, you have done it once again! Incredible post.

  4. Golly, Dan, you're going to make me blush.