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Pickle Me This

February 19, 2010

It was me

All right, I’m not going to deny it. That was indeed me spotted walking through the Annex neighbourhood yesterday, Patrick Swayze’s autobiography glued to my hands and my nose stuck inside. Even though it was cold outside, and my hands were going from painful to numb, and even though this was Patrick Swayze’s autobiography after all, and do I really want to get a reputation as a celebrity-bio-reading flâneur?

But you see, yesterday I had the opportunity to go out all by myself for the first time in centuries, and I wasn’t about to squander that reading opportunity, and really, I couldn’t have even if I’d wanted to, because Patrick Swayze’s autobiography was absolutely addicting. I have an infant, and I read it in a day. I got in trouble for reading it at the table. And from the time I opened the book until I got to the last page, Patrick Swayze and his amazing accomplishments were all that I could talk about.

I’d been under the mistaken impression that Patrick had got his start whilst one day sitting in a luncheonette when this guy came in and said that Arthur Murray was auditioning for dance instructors. Turns out otherwise, that Patrick had been set on the path to stardom from a very young age, and that in high school he danced, sang in musicals, played violin, football, kickboxed, was a competitive roller skater, and got a college scholarship for gymnastics. When a football accident and a dangerous gymnastics landing destroyed his knee, he decided to be a professional ballet dancer (as you do). In order to supplement his income, he became a carpenter and taught himself out of a book, and he also was a singer-songwriter. He became a Buddhist. Later, he would go on to act in Broadway shows, in ice-skating shows, act in movies and television, become a pilot and a rancher. And not least of all, he was a husband for thirty five years to a woman who married him when she was just eighteen years old (and I am more than a little bit addicted to memoirs of long marriages. Perhaps for tips? Perhaps for insurance?).

So Patrick Swayze’s life was more interesting than I ever supposed, and though his journey to success took the standard shape (decades of hard work, followed by meteoric rise), that kind of story is also interesting. The book was also setting itself up to be devourable by being structured somewhat like a “Behind the Music” episode: “And so we were happy, but little did we know that tragedy was lurking around the next corner…” It wasn’t well written (Patrick was fond of paragraphs composed entirely of sentences expressing the same idea of different words), but it wasn’t bad either. The prose was hardly the point.

What fun! I turns out that celebrity biographies are not automatically crap. I might venture to qualify that with “celebrity biographies (of celebrities who are over the age of thirty and/or not reality TV stars) are not automatically crap”, but what do I know about that? Nothing. And in spite of this positive experience of celebrity bios, I fully intend to keep it that way.

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