Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category
#34: Playing with Fire by Theoren Fleury:
The emergency room doctor asked me what I was on and I told him I’d been at a party and done some cocaine. He said, “It wasn’t cocaine. You overdosed on crystal meth.” Oh, great. Perfect. Not that cocaine is a health food, but crystal methamphetamine is bad shit. You can find the ingredients under your sink — drain cleaner, battery acid, iodine, paint thinner, lye, acetone and kerosene. Basically, I had ODed on fuckin’ nail polish remover.
Here’s everything you need to know about Theo Fleury:
1. He should be in the hockey Hall of Fame.
2. It’s amazing he’s not dead.
No matter how many drugs he’s done (and in this book there’s mention of “a bag of weed the size of a toddler”), Theo Fleury is a damn good hockey player. He’s only 5’6″ but, when he played for the NHL during most of the 90s, he was the shit. 455 goals, 633 assists and 1,840 penalty minutes, all of which were done while he was battling some serious substance abuse issues and a whole bag of personal crap. Then he got clean, sorted his shit into neat piles and wrote a book about it.
Theo Fleury grew up in a severely dysfunctional family in an area of Saskatchewan where the only way out of poverty was hockey. For him at age 6, it was sometimes the only way to get fed, to go play atom hockey and then go home with a teammate’s family. That reinforcement loop clicked and Fleury dedicated his life to hockey. He was one of the kids who made it out and made it to the top.
Obviously, with a background like that (as well as being a sexual abuse survivor), Fleury had some issues, and they led to substance abuse and then back again. But he also played 16 years of NHL hockey throughout.
Fleury’s co-author, Kristie McClellan-Day, co-authored Bob Probert’s autobiography, and the two books share a similar privileging of the subject’s voice, warts n’ all. Both of them read like McClellan-Day sat down with a tape recorder, asked a bunch of questions, then transcribed the tapes and broke them into chapters. Which is not to take anything away from that process, because the end results really make you feel like the Probert and Fleury are hanging out with you, just merrily yapping away.
And Fleury likes to yap. One of the things I learned from this book is that he and former referee Kerry Fraser are never, ever gonna send each other Christmas cards.
The other thing I learned from both books (Probert had a sort of legendary drug and alcohol problem that culminated in being tasered by cops in Florida) is that according to both players, the NHL basically turns a blind eye to substance abuse in the ranks as long as the player can still score. While that’s not necessarily surprising (I don’t think anyone believes professional sports is squeaky clean) I did find it surprising just how far that eye gets turned. These guys were doing heroic amounts of drugs before games, after games, during team meetings, like, whenever, but because they kept scoring (and in Probert’s case, pounding the crap out of people) they basically kept getting told not to, and then sent back out on the ice. What a fantastic way to help people with substance problems! Not.
Anyway, this book will appeal most to diehard hockey fans, people who hate Kerry Fraser, or people like me, who think Fleury really should be in the hockey Hall of Fame.
Also, in one of the least likely pairings ever, #35, Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game is over here at
#94: Tales from the Sexual Underground by Rick R. Reed:
I wanted to write about people who were not just out, but out there, people who lived their sexual lives in ways most of us could only imagine…and for whom the flavor vanilla had absolutely no appeal. I interviewed porn stars, prostitutes, self-proclaimed sex pigs, and delved into bizarre sexual practices. It was eye-opening, arousing, and a lot of fun (but never, never good clean fun).
Synopsis: Rick R. Reed gets his big bad freak on with sticking a can of hair spray up your ass in the middle of the supermarket, non-con knife play at an anonymous gang-bang, and sucking on a lover’s underwear while penetrating yourself with a carrot. Yeah.
#89: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim:
In August and September one hundred-plus degrees was a normal daytime temperature for Simi Valley. And I was wearing a wig…and a full-length dress with a five-layer petticoat…and tights and boots. I discovered that sometimes, just as you can be in so much pain that eventually you just become numb, and the pain no longer bothers you, you can actually be so hot that everything stops, and you just feel this weird, neutral sense of having no temperature at all. It doesn’t really feel good, but at least you don’t feel hot anymore. Of course, a few minutes after that happens, you usually pass out.
Synopsis: Former child star spills the beans on her show, her show business family and the secret to getting ahead in life.
# 77: The Ice Cave: A Woman’s Adventures from the Mojave to the Antarctic – Lucy Jane Bledsoe:
The crew here at South Pole Station has a somewhat tense relationship with the handful of expeditions that come through each year. There are no spare beds and little extra food. Usually the United States Antarctic Program makes them stay in their own tents but does feed them. According to the Antarctic Treaty, no nation owns any part of the continent, so some people’s proprietary attitudes are a bit controversial, and yet understandable because resources must be so carefully planned out and accounted for. A couple of years ago, several people sky-dived over the Pole. Their parachutes did not open and the workers here had to clean up their corpses.
–”The Breath of Seals”
Synopsis: A collection of unremarkable natural world musings and a kickass essay on Antarctica.
# 76: Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp:
It happened this way: I fell in love and then, because the love was ruining everything I cared about, I had to fall out.
This didn’t happen easily, or simply, but if I had to pinpoint it, I’d say the relationship started to fall apart the night I nearly killed my oldest friend’s two daughters.
Synopsis: A woman chronicles her problems with alcoholism, men and the deaths of her parents.
Really, about as chipper as it sounds.
#75: Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch:
The gentleman on table twenty-three plans to propose and has arranged for us to deliver a Faberge egg at the end of their meal. Proposals are nerve-racking for everyone involved. While terrified lovers contemplate eternity in sickness, poverty, death, or worse, equally anxious servers imagine ruining what might be the high point of these people’s lives together, before the bankruptcy, the Botox, and his affair with the life coach.
Synopsis: Vermont foodie girl in NYC discovers joy of restaurant work, four-star food. Falls in love. Writes good book.
# 63: Role Models by John Waters:
Rigid enjoyment of planning can get you high. Militant time management will enable you to ignore how maladjusted you would be if you had the time to notice it in the first place. Discipline is not anal compulsion; it’s a lifestyle that breeds power. The only insult I’ve ever received in my adult life was when someone asked me, “Do you have a hobby?” A HOBBY?! DO I LOOK LIKE A FUCKING DABBLER?!
Synopsis: Yes, *that* John Waters, who here takes 300 pages to talk about some of the people who inspire him–a Manson family member, Comme Des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo, amateur porn auteurs and an array of spectacularly broken Baltimoreans. But ultimately, he’s most inspired by John Waters.
#62: Weekends at Bellevue: Nine years on the night shift at the psych ER by Julie Holland M.D.:
“Hello, Doctor Holland,” he boomed, smiling beatifically. “I am…God” He was perched on his bed like a guru on a mountaintop, in the midst of a manic episode, flying high on his own neurochemicals. He felt so good, he squirmed with pleasure, yet his manner was composed, a king on a throne. I called my mother that evening as soon as I walked into my new apartment. My white coat–stuffed with reflex hammer, penlight, and pocket guides–clunked to the floor. “You’re not going to believe this. It’s the best-case scenario. I am starting my medical career at the very top.” I paused for dramatic effect. “I am God’s doctor!”
“There’s nowhere to go but down,” my mother deadpanned.
Synopsis: As the attending in charge at Bellevue on weekends for nine years, Julie Holland has some stories to tell. Unfortunately, nearly all of them are about her.
#54: Pickets and Dead Men: Seasons on Rainier by Bree Loewen:
I remembered Glenn telling me about finding two boys who had fallen to their deaths on an icy day a little ways above here, just at the base of the Cleaver. He didn’t have any nets or body bags with him, so he had to fly them out with the cable just hooked to their climbing harnesses. He figured that if he flew the dead boys out one at a time, each hanging from his waist and splayed out with his head and arms and legs dangling down, it would look really bad, especially since, because of where the accident had happened, the helicopter would fly right over Camp Muir and all the climbers there. He decided to hook both of the bodies in at the same time and then he duct-taped them together so they’d stay upright, so it looked like they were holding onto each other.
Synopsis: Bree Loewen survived three seasons as a climbing ranger on Mt. Rainier. Barely, but with good humor.
And she didn’t stab anyone in the throat with a piton, so that’s more than I’d've managed.
#52: Transparent: Love, Family and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers by Cris Beam:
“I can’t,” she said, “It’s right next to me. I’m in the sink.”
“In the sink? The kitchen sink?”
“Girl, shut up!” Christina said. She was chewing something furiously that was making a loud crunching sound. “This place is big!”
She meant the apartment felt too spacious, too quiet, too consuming. The sink was somewhere that could contain her. I pictured her perched there like a bird, with her legs crumpled beneath her, and I stifled a laugh. “Are you eating Doritos?”
Synopsis: Cris Beam took a job at an alternative LGBT school in Los Angeles, and when she left, she kept up with some of the students there. She kept after their stories and wound up becoming part of the tale herself.
My review is up over at Three Dollar Bill Reviews