When I sent an email to author, roadtripper, and blogger, Brad Herzog, telling him we'd like to review his new novel, he wrote back and told me I had good taste. That's when I decided I liked this guy. Turns out he's actually part of the extended Grommet family: His wife, Amy Herzog, works with Psi Bands, a Grommet we'd discovered back in early 2009.
So every summer (this is his 11th in a row), Brad and his wife, together with their two young sons, take off for a few months in an RV. This year, they actually passed right by Daily Grommet headquarters here in Lexington, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, our timing was off and we weren't able to get together, but we did have the opportunity to talk to him about his book, Turn Left at the Trojan Horse -- the story of Brad's epic quest for modern day heroes right here in America. Here's his video introduction to the book, followed by our conversation.
What inspired you to embark on this 31-day journey?
I was invited to my college reunion at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. When you’re asked to revisit where you’ve been -- particularly with middle age bearing down on you -- you tend to assess where you are. So as I envisioned encountering my ultra-successful classmates, I wondered just how heroic my life has been to date. What exactly are the parameters of a heroic life? I tend to find that a road trip is the best way to clear the existential cobwebs, so – since Ithaca was my destination – I decided one way to answer the question was to approximate the homeward journey of Odysseus, fabled King of Ithaca, who was the template for all future heroes. Also, my wife thought I needed to get away for a while.
With all of the stories you uncovered on your quest, do you feel like you answered your biggest question about what it means to live a heroic life here in America?
I suppose I learned that there are all kinds of heroism. It can mean courage, like the sheriff in Siren (Wisconsin) who risked his own life to warn his neighbors about the tornado that was bearing down on them. It can mean sacrifice, like the soldier I encountered at an army base in Sparta (Wisconsin) who spends his days diffusing bombs in Iraq. It can mean dedication, like the teacher I found in a one-room schoolhouse in tiny Troy (Montana). It can mean resilience, like the elderly man in Pandora (Ohio) who has spent the past six decades dutifully recording the local daily weather to the National Weather Service. In the end, though, I found that the hero is in the eye of the beholder. And seeing my kids again clarified that for me.
Speaking of heroes, and continuing with the Greek themes in "Turn Left at the Trojan Horse," which Greek God would you most like to be and why?
Well, in many ways those Olympians were a bunch of jerks -- petty, impetuous, haughty, self-centered and oversexed. So I could have been any of them... But I've always been partial to Hermes -- the messenger of the gods, the bringer of dreams, the patron of travelers and athletes but also harlots and thieves. He always struck me as a bit of a rogue, but gentler and more playful that his male mates on Olympus. Plus, his winged sandals would have been sweet...