Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: The Urban Hermit by Sam MacDonald

MacDonald, Sam. The urban hermit : a memoir. St. Martin's Press, 2008.

I originally read Sam MacDonald's The Urban Hermit when it came out in 2008.  Recently, I decided to read it again. It is a memoir of how MacDonald found himself extremely overweight and deep in debt after living the high life with food, drugs, and alcohol. Even his Ivy League education and string of random jobs couldn't help him. What finally did was a strange journey of cutting expenses and food to the point of eating 800 calories a day worth of lentils and tuna fish. He picked up additional jobs, including manual labor with a shipping company and more writing gigs. That journey led MacDonald to writing assignments in Bosnia to cover American troops and then into the midst of a hippie campout.

MacDonald takes full responsibility for his shortcomings and gives a candid exploration of his journey. He's that huge Everyman that those at the kegger party pat on the back but don't want to be. In the end, though, will austerity measures and lentils save him?


As I was re-reading the book, a few references to Kaiserslautern and Ramstein registered with me. They make sense, as MacDonald traveled with the US military to Bosnia to write about the troops there. He stayed at Ramstein Air Base and even visited Kaiserslautern to have a meal. The city didn't particularly stand out to him but the references did to me!

I laughed a bit when I read about the retirees on the Space-Available flights (if there's space on military flights, including cargo planes, various military-affiliated people can hop flights for free or cheap under certain situations). I can totally envision the elderly couples: the husband, all puffed up and excitedly bragging about the countries he's visited while his wife, dressed in floral print and a fanny pack, listens.

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