Davy Rothbart is looking for love in all the wrong places. Constantly. He falls helplessly in love with pretty much every girl he meets—and rarely is the feeling reciprocated. Time after time, he hops in a car and tears across half of America with his heart on his sleeve. He’s continually coming up with outrageous schemes, which he always manages to pull off. Well, almost always. But even when things don’t work out, Rothbart finds meaning and humor in every moment. Whether it’s confronting a scammer, sifting through a murder case that’s left a potentially innocent friend in prison, or waking up naked on a park bench in New York City, nothing and no one is off limits. But as much as Rothbart is a tragically lovable, irresistibly brokenhearted hero, it’s his funny, insightful storytelling that’s the star of the book. He is a true original, with a spirit of adventure and a literary voice all his own.
“Davy Rothbart has the humor and purity of heart you want and need in an observer of contemporary American life. Without guile and with a belief in small towns, underdogs, love at first sight, the pull of the road, and the soulfulness of strangers, Rothbart is a kind of new-styled Bill Moyers—genuine, wide-eyed and hopeful.”Dave Eggers
I took advantage of my mom’s deafness in small ways at first. In the car, she’d be driving, and trying to lecture me about something, but I’d have the radio cranked so loud I couldn’t hear her. As long as I kept the bass down, how was she to know that I was nodding along to the Fresh Prince song “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson” and not to her instructions on how to clean out the gutters? She never understood the looks she got from other drivers, who must have been baffled to see a middle-aged mom tooling slowly along in an Aerostar, blasting Def Leppard at rock-concert volume. Funniest, to me, was the time we pulled up alongside a cop and I slipped in my N.W.A tape from the glove box, cued to the song “Fuck tha Police.”
Then there were the stunts I pulled in grade school to impress the kids in my neighborhood. My mom would be washing dishes, her back turned to the kitchen, and I’d sneak up behind her, a few kids in tow, and yell at the top of my lungs, “Hey, BITCH!! Hey, you fuckin’ BITCH!!” Then we’d all run, laughing and screaming out of the room. The whole show lasted ten seconds, but I could’ve sold admission. Kids I’d never even met from a mile down the road used to knock on our door, heads hung low, talking softly as though they’d come to buy switchblades or porno mags. “Can we see you do the thing where you yell ‘Bitch!’ at your mom?”
After I obliged, I’d always invite them to try it themselves, but not even the bravest of them could muster the courage. “That’d just be so wrong,” they’d say. “That’d be like calling Kwame’s brother a retard.”
Our house had an unusual feature—a doorbell in the dining room. The room had originally been a screened porch attached to the back of the house, but the previous owners had filled in the walls and added windows to create a one-room addition. What had once been a doorbell at the back door was now a doorbell in the middle of the house—painted over, so my mom had never noticed it. Our family dog, Prince, was trained to fetch my mom any time someone came to the front door and knocked or rang the doorbell. To the wild entertainment of my brothers and me, we discovered that if we rang the doorbell in the dining room, Prince would start barking furiously and tug my mom by her sleeve to the front door. It was Ding-Dong Ditch from the comfort of our own house! Even my dad got in on the action. We’d watch with barely suppressed glee as my mom opened the door and peeked outside, only to be greeted by an empty front porch. “But there’s nobody here,” she’d say to Prince, with a confused twinge in her voice. On nights we played the game a bunch of times—okay, most nights—she thought the house was under siege by ghosts. She’d sometimes stand there for a full minute, staring out into the misty dark. Read the full essay →
Davy Rothbart is the creator of Found Magazine, a frequent contributor to public radio’s This American Life, and author of the story collection The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. He writes regularly for GQ and Grantland, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Believer. He’s the founder of Washington II Washington, an annual hiking trip for inner-city kids, and is also the co-director of the documentary film Medora, to be released in 2013. He splits his time between Los Angeles, California and his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.