A few days ago, I read a post by Reverenmother that started me to thinking about what books and music have influenced me. I have come up with a couple of classics:
The first is a book whose title I have forgotten. When I was in the fifth grade, I found the book in the church library of Second Baptist Church in Lamesa, Texas. I probably checked it out five times that year and devoured it each time. It was ostensibly written by J. Edgar Hoover in the 1950’s as a propaganda/recruitment tool for clean-cut, white-bread, American boys. It told about how the greatest crime-fighting force in the history of mankind to date was the FBI – the G-Men. The book told young men how they could become clean-cut, white-bread, American G-Men. (J. Edgar was real big on being clean-cut.) As I understood it, the closest I could come to being a superhero was to become a G-(wo)Man. It never occurred to me that this did not apply in my case and J. Edgar Hoover would have wanted nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with me.
Joining FBI was my life’s goal until well into college. At that point I discovered the feds have no sense of humor. (That is a really good story that I will tell you about sometime after the Patriot Act has been repealed.) I did some intern work for the police department and decided that was all well and good, but not really about Truth, Justice and The American Way. So, I went to work for adult probation. It has its flaws – one of the chief of which is that it has been bureaucratically renamed Community Supervision and Corrections – but I like it. It fits me well. And I guess I have to thank J. Edgar Hoover for that. Him and the total lack of appreciation for humor among federal law enforcement personnel.
Another book that has contributed greatly to who I am is And So It Goes by Linda Ellerbee. My good friend Kincaid (kudos, Kincaid!) told me about this book when we were in high school. I read it several times then and it hasn’t left my side since. Ellerbee talks about always having a copy of “Catch 22” on her desk when she worked in television news. Today, Ellerbee’s book sits on the bookshelf in my office, where I see it peeping over the shoulder of people who sit in the chair opposite me.
I was reading And So It Goes during lunch a few weeks ago and realized again how the unusual situations and the dark humor she writes about have always appealed to me. I love close encounters with reality - far removed from soccer moms and minivans - in the company of friends and gallows humor. I know I live in a comfortable, WASPish, middle-class world, (I don’t own a minivan, though I do end up riding in them a lot). But I like to look past my world as much as possible and see what is going on elsewhere. I am lucky to have friends and family who are willing to go along with me.
And we laugh a lot.