Sunday, November 26, 2006

Momentum Is Your Friend

My friend Joe "Metal Cowboy" Kurmaskie writes wonderful books that are both funny and wise. His latest book, Momentum Is Your Friend, is the story of Joe bicycling from Portland Oregon to Washington DC with this two sons, second-grader Quinn and five-year-old Enzo, literally in tow. Joe has a reporter's eye for detail, a poet's way with words and a genuine interest in the people he and the boys meet along the road. Over the course of a few thousand miles and a few hundred pages, Joe and the boys take the reader on the ride of a lifetime. I really felt like I'd met the watermelon whiz-kid, the grumpy and grizzled bicycling vet, the midwestern cheerleader in the mysteriously empty town and all the other people too real to be called characters.

But of all the real people in this book, the one we get to know the best is the one telling us this story. This is not a mid-life crisis book but it is a good story, well told, by a man in the midst of his life. With his kids in tow, his wife in grad school and the ashes of his father in a Tupperware bowl tucked somewhere in a pannier, Joe wonders about the things we all wonder about. Am I being a good dad? A good husband? A good son? And can I make it up this hill with this 250 pound contraption? OK, maybe not everyone wonders about that last one.

B. and Roy, a kind-hearted couple in a huge RV voice the concerns of many about Joe and his cute kids, "you wouldn't want anything to happen to them." But Joe explains that this isn't categorically true.

"I want all sorts of things to happen to my children. I want them to smack line drives during clutch moments of baseball games, smell the sweet bite of creosote bushes in the Arizona desert after an August monsoon, eat a pile of messy short ribs dripping in Kansas City's best BBQ sauce, then sleep off their food comas under the whispery shade of a willow tree. I want them to stick up for themselves when it really matters, and someday slow dance with that girl, the one that makes them uncool and cotton-mouthed, at the junior high school mixer. I want them to find themselves at a loss for words from the beauty of the world, and make up fantastical names for constellations under the open sky this summer."

"What I don't want is something horrible happening to them. That's what he really means. It's a small distinction, but, when magnified through the video black magic of Madison Ave. and filtered by the unfounded fears of parents fueled by the nightly news, it's what cheats us all of so much."

Joe and Quinn and Enzo not only survive, they thrive. They remind us all that life is for living and adventure is everywhere if we are not afraid to roll out the door and see what's around the next corner. If momentum is my friend, then I guess that inertia is my enemy. Thanks, Joe for wonderful book that's a kick out the door. I'll see you on the road.

BTW, if you get a chance to see Joe in person go see him. He's a great speaker as well as being a terrific writer and if you buy a book straight from him, he'll sign it. When you buy a book straight from Joe (either in person or via his website at 80% of the profits go to Joe's latest venture, Camp Creative. Of course, Amazon and other bookstore sales are a great help as well but Joe's trying to raise a big chunk of money for Camp Creative (details on his website) and direct sales earn more direct cash.

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