A couple weeks ago I got an email from a hip friend asking if I’m up for a book event. The answer to such a question will always be YES, just FYI, but especially when the featured guest is Actor/Director/Author Andrew McCarthy.
The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy
Andrew McCarthy is best known for his roles in the iconic 1980’s movies Pretty in Pink, St. Elmos Fire, Mannequin, & other “Brat Pack” movies.
But last week I had a front row seat at the Fort Collins Hilton, where Andrew McCarthy spoke about his latest travel memoir, The Longest Way Home, in which he explores far off lands and his introverted tendency towards escapism.
“We are singular beings, and yet we seek connection.” McCarthy spoke often of fear being the limiting factor preventing people from traveling afar, especially alone. 30% of Americans have passports and only half of them actually use them.
It was strange. First, it was strange to be a few paces away from someone who only ever existed hypothetically as a character in movies and to sense nothing but the pure humanness and realness of a down to earth person. But also, it was strange because it was a blast from the past to remember those roles, and to remember that I was once a more “worldly” person, having been born oversees and having done some “soul-searching” type travel during my backpacking days.
But then that’s what authors and their books do best, they wake us up to ourselves, be it with the potential to experience something new, or to relive and relate.
I asked Andrew if in all his travels he ever encountered prejudice towards Americans, mentioning that as an immigrant, that seems to be the number one reason I hear from Americans for not traveling overseas.
He answered that he’s been warmly received everywhere and that folks tend to differentiate between a people and its government. Also, everyone loves Americans because they tip well.
Later, as he was signing a copy of The Longest Way Home and we got into a much too complicated dialog about how to spell my name, he asked me, “How long have you been here?”
The question caught me so off guard that I must have gone blank in the face, smile fading, and I saw his expression mirror mine… confusion and hesitation.
First off, I had to do sudden math, never a good thing. Secondly, what did he mean by here? Here at the writing conference going on all weekend? Or here in Fort Collins? (12 years). In the U.S.? (Good grief, what year did we come over again in the 80’s?). Or on this planet? (as in how old am I compared to him, who didn’t seem that much older than me, honestly). Never mind that it’s been ages since I’ve had that “I’m from a foreign land” feeling on account of the fact that I’ve been blending into suburban culture with my American husband and un-Polish last name, DeLeon. Nobody EVER asks me where I’m from anymore or how long I’ve been here.
I replied by saying, “Over 20 years,” a good blanket answer, yet inaccurate in every way.
Reading The Longest Way Home, I’m reminded of McCarthy’s acting roots in how fast-paced the writing is, and how cinematic.
McCarthy expresses his emotional state by describing how the body reacts, as if ‘acting’ on the page: “The tingling between my shoulders continued and grew. Soon my entire body felt as if it were vibrating. I felt physically larger, as if I had grown–or was growing. I breathed deep and spread my arms. I tilted my head back and began to sing.”
Can’t you just see it on screen?
After the event and reading the memoir, I’m left with the restlessness to write my own stories and, as I tweeted after the event, I’m ‘suddenly inspired to buy airline tickets to some place far, far away…’
Also, I admit, I went and had a Brat Pack movie marathon last weekend.
It had to be done.