“Hitchhiking with Larry David: A true story from Martha’s Vineyard” by Paul Samuel Dolman, South Beach Publishing, Nashville TN, July 2010, 194 pp. paperback, $16.95. Available at Island bookstores and libraries.
Most everybody around here believes that Larry David is not the Easter bunny. Not warm and fuzzy. For example, as he tells the author, he never picks up hitchhikers. So curb your enthusiasm.
But one day a couple of summers ago, he picked up author Paul Dolman on a Vineyard road, and that event is used as the starting point of this wonderful true story about synchronicity, acceptance, willingness, and relationships.
Specifically, Mr. Dolman offers us what he’s learned about making all the pesky stuff-of-life things work. How — dare we say it? — to be happy. Reading “Hitchhiking with Larry David” makes you want to meet this guy. And you can tonight at 6 pm at the Oak Bluffs Library when Mr. Dolman will chat and answer questions. Mr. Dolman, author of “What Matters Most,” is also executive producer and host of the forthcoming PBS interview series of the same name.
“Hitchhiking” is a layered book, combining his personal lifeline with those of people he rides with and meets on the street. Chapters begin with brief snippets of conversation between Larry David and the hitchhiking author, launching us into the chapter substance. It’s also a funny book,
The substance is this: Mr. Dolman dragged himself back to the Island, his sanctuary, after a two-year relationship ended badly. He is living with his aging parents in their small Edgartown cottage. His relationship with Dad is spot-on and will resonate with many readers. Dad loves him but can’t speak it or show it. Dad’s “default setting is NO,” Mr. Dolman explains. Mom lately has been “shedding her short-term memory” as Mr. Dolman puts it, but in the process has become more present and loving. Happier.
Whether intended or not, her new personality proves one of Mr. Dolman’s themes. Be present, savor the moment, and see the miracles of synchronicity happening around us. Take action.
The message is similar to his previous book, “What Matters Most,” a series of interviews that tests the idea that people we think we know often have more to share if we pay attention enough to ask the right questions and let them speak from their heart. When that occurs, their lives improve and we are inspired to take action in our own lives.
If you’re like me, those answers often seem silly. Too easy. But Mr. Dolman invokes great thinkers from 12th century Persian poets to the late Joseph Campbell to make the point that the answers are simple but they are not easy, and they come when we are brave enough to communicate honestly.
The reader may be tempted to see the book as Jonathan Livingston Seagull meets the Peaceful Warrior and there are similarities. But this book is about this place, our Island. The people he meets via outstretched thumb are real. I know some of them. You’ll probably know more than that. This book resonates.
For example, most assume that hitchhiking is a completely random way to meet people. Mr. Dolman argues that it’s not random. There is a plan. He continually bumps into Mr. David and a Wall Street dropout millionaire and assorted regular people and celebrities at such a rate that they and he come to believe that randomness is an unreasonable answer.
His journeys, up and down South Road, from Edgartown to Aquinnah, are a search for healing, for figuring out how to be happy. The answers come from a variety of sources.
We all know them. We just don’t do them. But to hear from Larry David that what matters most is living intentionally, “Being true to yourself and doing the thing you really have to do…in your one and only life. You have to do that.” Not what I expected to read.
I mean, Larry David is not the Easter Bunny. Is he?
Jack Shea of Oak Bluffs is a regular contributor to The Times.