|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||6.78(w) x 9.12(h) x 0.98(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
This book began with a conviction and a premise. Our conviction was that there was a story waiting to be told about the way we Americans spend our leisure time. Our premise was that if we pursued our conviction, we would open up a world of enormous variety and surprising depth. We believe we were right, fortunately, on both counts.
Statistics on how Americans use their time are all over the place and often seemingly contradictory. We are working longer hours, some studies say. We're playing longer hours, others contend. The truth, to the extent it can be isolated, would appear to be that we are doing both, in part by stealing time from sleep and family rituals such as the evening meal and in part by using technology to blur the line between work and play. A cell phone can turn a golf cart into a serviceable office just as effectively as a laptop can transform a commute on the Long Island Railroad into an eBay opportunity.
If the ratio between work and play remains the same, though, a qualitative gap has opened between the two. Once, we defined ourselves by the jobs we did: we were an organization man or a union man, a homemaker or a working woman. Studs Terkel's wonderful 1972 oral history, Working, got to the heart of those jobs and the attitudes behind them as no other book has done. Today, jobs and even careers are transitory. More and more, we divide ourselves into tribes according to our leisure allegiances, and those allegiances can cross all sorts of once unbridgeable divides of race, gender, and class.
Bumper stickers tell the story as clearly as anything: I LOVE MY [fill in the blank]. I'D RATHER BE [fill inthe blank]. The average supermarket parking lot is chock-full of these decal testimonials to an astounding array of avocations, amateur sports, and hobbies. The magazine racks offer proof as well: there is hardly an activity imaginable that doesn't have its own monthly publication, or even two or three.
Most powerful of all the great glue of the webs of association that have grown up around these amateur pursuits is the Internet. If you can't find a home page with dozens of links for a hobby or sport or collection you're interested in taking up, chances are the hobby or sport or collection doesn't exist. Internet-related businesses get all the attention in the press, but the interface between the World Wide Web and leisure time is where the real action occurs.
More than anything else, what's celebrated in these pages are the people who let us into their lives and pulled back the curtain for us on their own passionate pursuits. We had no idea at the outset that we were going to find a man who makes pyramid sculptures out of bananas or a woman whose marble collection is so extensive that she paves her driveway with the excess and invites neighborhood children to take their fill. We had never heard of Jim Dreyer, whose swims across the Great Lakes are the sort of epic adventures out of which myths get built. James Pettus, a one-handed veteran and government driver who lives for his bonsai trees, was completely below our radar screen, as was Robin Tarbell-Thomas, an amateur baker and cook who could cover her walls with the ribbons she has won at lowa state fairs.
We didn't look, we should note, for the merely average. Many people have taken up in-line skating, but very few people have taken it up to the extent that San Francisco lawyer Steve Everett has. Many people have collections of military memorabilia, but no one has a collection of Indochinese military decorations to surpass that of John Sylvester Jr. Talking birds and their owners are all over the place, but very few talking-bird owners are as dedicated and as knowledgeable as Peggy Dickson. Train buffs are legion, but only the very rare buff ever comes into possession of his own steam locomotive or sets out to convert his yard into a miniature railroad as Steve Spreckelmeier has done.
So much of reporting is a matter of getting people to talk about subjects they would rather not talk about and say things they would rather not say. We didn't have that problem in interviewing people for this book. One of the difficulties of having so much commitment and so much expertise in what are often narrow fields is that attentive audiences can be hard to come by. We made ourselves that audience, and for the most part, the words poured forth.
No one sets out to build the definitive collection of precanceled stamps or to eat at every American McDonald's or to travel to every country in the world for frivolous reasons. The commitment of time and emotion is too great. Of necessity, a passionate pursuit is a window into a life's history into the deep roots and complicated forces that propel us to devote so much of our time to something that might seem trivial or narrow to others. We wanted to get to that deeper level, and we thank our subjects for indulging us.
"For me, the pleasure is in the chase, and for a while in the acquisition," the cosmetics executive Leonard Lauder told us about his postcard collection. "Possession is far less exciting. I don't ever really want to have a complete collection. I prefer infinity to completion."
So it is with this book. Our gallery is far from closed. The pleasure for us has been in the chase. Possession in our case is impossible we borrowed these passions, we couldn't own them but like Leonard Lauder, we prefer infinity to completion.
Copyright © 2002 by Susan Sheehan and Howard Means
Table of Contents
|Part 1||Artful Expressions|
|1.||Doug Fishbone: Lots of Bananas||15|
|2.||James Pettus: Essential Natures||21|
|3.||Robin Tarbell-Thomas: To the Fair||27|
|4.||Ann and Sam Ritter: To Fly||35|
|5.||Leonard Lauder: The Beauty of Small Things||42|
|Part 2||Thrill of the Chase|
|6.||Alexandra Stafford: Food of Life||51|
|7.||David Hanschen: On the Road Again||58|
|8.||Barry Popik: First Words||64|
|9.||Cathy Henderson: Buried Treasures||70|
|10.||Henry Sakaida: The Go-Between||75|
|Part 3||Going to Extremes|
|11.||Gig Gwin: Wordly Riches||85|
|12.||Jim Dreyer: Far Shores||91|
|13.||Peter Holden: Macs Without End||101|
|14.||Marietta Phillips: Bossing Around||107|
|15.||Roger Swicegood: Song of Myself||114|
|Part 4||Pleasures Small and Large|
|16.||Cathy Runyan: Got Her Marbles||125|
|17.||Peggy Dickson: Bird Brains||132|
|18.||Harry Kloman: Matters of Fact and Fiction||138|
|19.||Judy Konnerth: Two by Two||145|
|20.||Steve Spreckelmeier: All Steamed Up||152|
|21.||Patricia Corrigan: "Thar She Blows!"||160|
|Part 5||Motion Pictures|
|22.||Lisa Ball: Snow Job||167|
|23.||Steve Everett: Blade Runner||173|
|24.||Mike Gaines: Hot into the Corner||180|
|25.||Jim Murphy: Call of the Wild||187|
|26.||Jerry Traufler: Masterwork||197|
|27.||Walter Pforzheimer: I, Spy||202|
|28.||Claire Miller: Family Ties||209|
|29.||Ted Furey: For God and Man and Old Ireland||218|
|30.||Rose Kramer: Spinning Yarns||226|
|Part 7||The Sporting Life|
|31.||Tom Blake: Tiger! Tiger! Burning Bright||233|
|32.||Robert Strupp: Good Deals||240|
|33.||Kim Eisler: Odds-on Favorite||246|
|34.||Larry Kahn: Tiddly Wonks||251|
|35.||Matt Dodyk: Holing Out||258|
|Part 8||Passionate Pursuits|
|36.||John Sylvester Jr.: The Things We Die for||267|
|37.||Sonia Young: Color Me Purple||274|
|38.||Claudia Perry: Love of the Game||279|
|39.||Daniel Chapin: Route Man||287|
|40.||Don Betty: Crossover Artist||290|