This post about “Life Unbolted,” Patrick Detscher’s new book, can’t really be called a review……more of a “riff.” How do you objectively discuss your good friend’s “baby,” one you knew before a single word hit the page? You don’t, but you do share its arrival with your friends, joyfully. Among people to whom this book will appeal:
Those Who Are Interested in the Realities of the Appalachian Trail
I have known enough people who hiked the Appalachian Trail as well as read enough books (including A Walk in the Woods) to know that choosing a trek along the trail, whether three days or three years, is not what the uninitiated would think. There is the fact of the beauty and the communion with nature. In addition, however, it is dirty, it has a subculture, it is a place where you need a lot more than a decent pair of hiking shoes and a backpack. As an AT hiker, you spend a lot of time dealing with your own waste. Patrick, in his unique view of the world, shares observations such as: Looking down upon these mountains of fecal material [in trail privies] is an experience in itself. Seeing that the top was perfectly pointed led me to wonder, how did the last person who used this achieve such symmetrical perfection……the size and scope …. amazed me.
Reading Life Unbolted prior to an outing on the Appalachian Trail would help me become a much more prepared hiker (but I draw the line at poo symmetry).
The Realities of the New Economy
Much of the impetus for Pat’s choice to “pull the trigger called adventure” and embark on the Appalachian Trail adventure (among other life changes he made in 2009) was the challenges facing the US economy. He had worked for corporate America. After that position ended, he began exploring his interest in environmental policy and the “Entity-Specific Power model” (Chapter 19 – I can’t explain it well!). That led to a run for public office, a dissolution of his marriage, a reunion with a high school love, and a changed spiritual outlook. In Pat’s words, the national economic situation in the spring of 2009 led to an environment in which “a complete lack of work became the dreaded norm. Since the damage was done, I became determined to follow what I feel is some of the finest advice one person can offer to another: make yourself better.” For Patrick, the road to “better” involved wandering. A lot of wandering. Fortunately for us readers, the wandering is documented in this book.
The Realities of What It Takes to Get “Unstuck”
I was listening to a radio interview today with musician Alan Doyle. In the interview, he discussed how when you are in your 40s, there are more divorces than marriages; more funerals than christenings — it’s an “in between” time. I count Patrick’s ex-wife, “Nicola” (not her real name) as a dear friend and admittedly it was shocking and sad for me as a friend of each to see their marriage end. Having seen each of them heal and move on, each in very different ways, I appreciate the insight this book gave me that deepened my understanding of Patrick’s choice to “unbolt” his life, literally, and find his way by “wandering.” As Robin, an important individual to this book, says on page 176, “he’s wired a bit differently from most men I’ve known.” I am not sure any route other than the Appalachian Trail and nights spent in his hammock in the trees over New York’s Central Park would have gotten him to the spiritual center he sought after so many blows.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention running. As a discipline, running gave Patrick an essential outlet (he decided to train to qualify to participate in the New York Millrose Games after a 35-year absence.) Patrick has always been unfailingly supportive of my running, and although he is a speedy sprinter and I am a back-of-the-pack distance-lover, we always enjoyed being at intervals together.
Should you read this book? If you are interested in hiking our national trails, specifically the Appalachian, and are open to unconventional ways of thinking as well as quite candid language, grab it!
If you a prudish about discussions of male and female body parts, I still recommend the book but am glad to give you a page-by-page guide of sections you might want to skip. I respect the fact that these discussions are not for everyone.
There’s no one like Patrick. I don’t agree with all of his ideas about how to change our nation’s use of its natural resources (I actually don’t understand them all). However, I do agree with his friend “Moe,” who said “We often admit faith only after the other man goes first.”
Patrick is one of those people willing to “go first.” As a friend, I have learned not to discount the “out there” thinking and hubris that sometimes come with that mindset. “Life Unbolted” gives you a window into that mindset. As a reader, I found the reading experience a lot like the Appalachian Trail experience must be — each page showed me something different; even revisiting the SAME page sometimes led to a different conclusion.
Life Unbolted is available in paperback and Kindle via Amazon. Click here for ordering information.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.