I’m a neophiliac, addicted to new experiences. I’ll watch a TV show about people who dive for sunken treasure and for days that’s all I can think about. I pass a funeral home and wonder what it would feel like to drain blood from a corpse and replace it with embalming fluid. I keep a list of occupations to try next on a three by five card. Sure, I’ll write about them, but journalism is just a cover story to give my childlike curiosity a patina of respectability. I scan my list of possibilities: “Bounty hunter? Carny?”
I’ve learned that people expect me to have a logical reason for the things I do. I thought it might be a fun adventure, never seems to quite cut it. It sounds irresponsible, less than adult. When a ten year-old says he wants to be an astronaut and a spy, we smile and encourage his belief in life’s limitless possibilities. When a forty year-old says he still wants to be an astronaut and a spy, we worry about them. Settle down and be a miserable drudge like the rest of us, they say.
To some extent, it’s Helen Keller’s fault. At an impressionable age I read one of her quotes and made it part of my firmware. “Security is mostly a superstition,” she wrote. “It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” If a deaf and blind woman could be that gung-ho, I had no excuse. I would let it ride, take door number two, say “yes” first and consider the consequences later.
As a result, I’ve become a magnet for bizarre experiences; my life, a pastiche of incongruous juxtapositions. I’ve been a stripper and a minister. I earned three degrees in rocket science from M.I.T., but threw my education down the toilet to work in film and TV and become a humorist. I was hired—and fired—by the CIA in twenty-four hours. I know what it’s like to be in a gun battle with FBI agents and what it’s like to be threatened by the Russian mafia. I worked on President Clinton’s Transition Team and jogged with the President, only to become a footnote in the Clinton sex scandals. I’ve shot Charlie Sheen in the movies, and I’ve saved Martin Sheen from being shot on television. I’ve been a stunt driver, a hand model, a sperm donor, and a graphic novelist. And, oh yes, I’ve logged my time in a cube farm.
Even my friends and family have a hard time forming a coherent picture of me. As an editor once told me, “You may not be famous for any one thing, but at least you’re obscure in many fields.”