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On Hostess Fruit Pies, Jon Krakauer, and Backstories (That Suck)

The other day (that day being a Thursday), one of my friends told me the story of how he got into writing and journalism. It was an uplifting story involving an older, well-known writer for Newsweek, lavish praise, inspirational guidance and a pep talk from Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes".

I was impressed by this story, and not just because Mike Wallace is 217 years old and apparently still capable of giving "pep talks", but also because-- when someone shares an interesting personal story--I naturally feel like I should reciprocate, if for no other reason than to let them know, "Hey. This guy (imagine me pointing my thumbs at myself) has danced with the devil in the pale moonlight once or twice himself, my friend". But when I tried to remember my own story of how and why I started writing I realized, after scouring my mind and dream journals, something particularly illuminating: my story sucks.

This is it: my junior year roommate in college was the Features Editor of the school paper and one of his columnists quit or transferred or something and so he came up to me while I was engaged in an intense personal quest to win a particularly challenging level of the video game "Crazy Taxi" on my Playstation and said, "Hey Kev, didn't you used to write for your high school paper?" And I said, "Um, sort of."
"Sort of?"
"Well yeah, I did, but it was with my buddy, under the pen name Dante Juventus. Actually, it's pretty fun--"
"Ok, shut up, I don't care. My point is: will you write something for me?"
"About what?"
"Doesn't matter. Just make it 800 words."

So, on a bus to an away soccer game, I wrote a very forgettable column entitled "Guys, Gals and Trincest: The Social Norms of Hookups at a small school" (If you want to read this piece of history, and I assure you, you don't, you can find it at
/2002/11/05/Features/Guys-Gals.And.Trincest-315373.shtml Don't say I didn't warn you.)

And that's pretty much the entire story.

Yes, I know. I told you it was bad.

But it does reveal something (kind of) interesting. I am not one of those people who knew they wanted to be a writer since I was little. The first thing I can remember wanting to be was a punter in the NFL, and only because, as I told my mother, "they don't seem to do a lot". In high school I was 100% sure I would either be an anchor on 'Sportscenter' or a "Super Model Judge" (a profession I'd cleary made up) and in college I had the vague and generally unformed notion that I wanted to "go to law school but not, like, be a lawyer". And if my roommate hadn't been desperate to fill space in his section and I hadn't been lazy enough to be in my room playing video games, then I might still be in the career services office of some law school checking the job postings for "Not, like, Lawyer Jobs".
And that scares me a little bit.

So in an effort to bolster interest in my backstory and make me seem more important, mysterious and physically strong, I've decided to create two brief alternative stories entailing how and why I started writing and will let you the readers decide which one I should start telling people when they accidentally make eye contact with me while waiting in line to renew my registration at the DMV.

Deep breath. Let's get this.

Alternative Backstory #1: The Name Drop Option: So... I was purchasing a bottle of cheap tequilla in a bodega in Manhattan with Jennifer Weiner to go to this little shindig for my good friends Jonathan Lethem and Tom Clancy when I run into then-Fiction editor at The New Yorker Bill Buford. We exchanged high fives and pleasantries and then the next thing you know, me, him, Candace Bushnell and Sedaris pile into my buddy Jon Krakauer's Jeep Wrangler. Delilo is riding shotty, per usual. We're heading to the party and Delilo's like, "Kev, you still clerking for that Super Model Judge?" And I'm like, "I sure am, Donny." And he's like, "That's a waste of your talent. You should write." And I say, "Oh stop it." And then Krakauer pipes in from the front, "No, it's true. And I've got just the right topic for you to start with. It's about an expedition to Mount Everest that goes terribly, terribly wrong. I want to do it myself, but you're probably a much better writer." And I say, "No offense Jon, but that book idea is f**king terrible. Who would buy a book about Everest? But, to be honest, I've been searching my soul and I don't feel that judging whether models are super models or just models is really challenging me, so maybe I will start writing. (Pause to look at my cell) And tell David McCullough to stop texting me. We already got the tequilla."

Alternative Backstory #2: The Short, Vague, Mysterious Option: "All I can really say is that it involves a bottle of Jameson, two out-of-shape unicorns and several packages of Blueberry Hostess Fruit Pies."

My bio is in your hands, friends.

Who's Down With O.P.P.,


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