I have surely missed my calling. I want to be Hank Steuver and write books like his Off Ramp.
When he hires on at the evening newspaper in Albuquerque, all the exalted beats are already taken--the crime beat, the schools beat, the "drunk Indians" beat. So they give him the leftovers. He's free to write whatever strikes his fancy.
He wanders into the odd corners of life and writes stories on storage units, or adult night at the skating rink. Or the fate of bowling. Did you know that professional bowling tried, at one time, to be taken seriously as a sport? When you think of bowlers, what sort of body comes to mind? Not exactly athletic-looking, is it?
Or how about the chapter on funerals? Steuver rides along with the Austin, Texas, fellow who set up a funeral home in a strip mall. His rock-bottom prices drive the competitors batty. The nerve! Caskets made in Mexico? With door hinges! Where's the respect for the dead?
Where's the respect indeed? As Steuver tells it, there are "enough dead people every year in Texas to support 570 funeral homes." Yet, 1300 manage to stay in business. How do they do it? Rampant gouging, no doubt. (But this is a particular soap box of mine, from which I will now step down.)
What Steuver finds is that we are basically stuck with ourselves. But we forget about it by reading about other people's stuckness. Or by tracking them down, reporter's notebook in hand, camera slung over the shoulder, and writing down their stories. So, how many gifts do you expect at your wedding? What makes you shop at Target instead of K-Mart? What's behind the door of that storage unit? Christmas decorations? Broken vacuums? And, "Who knew that a sixty-five-year-old man could figure skate (on roller skates) and look like a beer-gutted swan on a lake of neon?"
Yes, I think I could love covering the off-beat like Steuver's. It has to be better than the crime beat, the schools beat, even the drunk Indians beat.
Finally, all those grown-up skaters go to Trudy's afterwards for margaritas. If I could trust myself to stay upright on a pair of skates, I would use up my roller-drome calories by treating myself to:
Peanut Butter Cashew Sundaes