Early Bird

The subtitle is “a memoir of premature retirement”. The premise: Rodney Rothman, former head writer for David Letterman (a fact he doesn’t let you forget) gets burned out from working so hard after the TV show he was working on in LA got canceled (I guess being a writer for a TV show is a lot of hard work) and decides to retire (as an experiment mostly) to Florida. Just to see.

Like a lot I’ve read lately, this had potential to be really funny. It turned out okay.There was really only one part that I found myself laughing out loud. But other than that, it was a mildly interesting, sometimes sweet, sometimes weird picture of life in a retirement community in Florida. I liked some of the observations he made and people he met– the way we call old people “adorable”, and his friend Amy the 93-year-old former stand-up commedian — but my two favorite chapters by far were the one on shuffleboard (he tries to encourage a comeback — “Shuffleboard: the safe sport”) and on the acting class a man he met gave. Rothman went hoping to meet some “aspiring young actresses from the Tampa area” and it turned out to be a class for high schoolers. He was a bit put off, but it got better when he got cajoled into doing an improv scene with one of them. She looked at him and said, “Hey, can I talk to you Principal Jackson?” He totally flips out and goes on for the next page about it. The best part: “Turn to the author photo right now. Do I look like a principal to you? At worst, I look like the young, good-looking English teacher fresh out of Vassar. The kind of young man who could wear a sport coat and mustache and mke it work. That’s what you get for driving five hours to hang out with some chicks. They turn out to be underage murderers of the English language, and then they call you Principal Jackson.”

But in the end, the book is kind of pathetic. I mean, really, he’s 28 years old and hanging out in a retirement community. That kind of screams pathetic. That, and all the people in the retirement community are kind of pathetic. Makes me not want to retire to Florida. What’s the point, if you’re going to turn out pathetic. Besides, Florida will proably get washed out by a hurricane someday.

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