Boys to Men
A Review of 9,000 Miles of Fatherhood, Surviving Crooked Cops,Teenage Angst, and Mexican Moonshines on a Journey to the End of the Road, by Kirk Millson
In 2002, a big shakeup at the Salt Lake Tribune proved disastrous for Kirk Millson, its 42-year-old Editorial Writer. The doting husband and father of two was busted down to Copyeditor, a job he’d loathed when he held it years before. It was a bitter pill to swallow, so he tried getting drunk instead of going to work. This was not an appropriate solution, so after a few days, he did what any responsible, self-respecting family man would do. He took a four-month unpaid leave of absence so he could drive around Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and El Salvador. And he decided to take his 13-year-old son, Peter along, because the trip would be good for the morose little bra – young teen. And because Peter was his trump card, to get his wife to agree.
With his wife’s blessing (!), Peter’s school assignments (really, what 13-year-old wouldn’t skip school for four months with his parents’ permission?), and nine thousand dollars, father and son packed up Kirk’s 1974 Dodge Dart, aka the tank. For which I vouch, as a former owner of a 1966 Dart I dubbed my newspaper car, because it was black and white and red all over. They set off on their long journey on a hot day with nothing but miles between them and Christmas, their return date. The trouble started before they even hit the Mexican border. With the Dart making twelve miles a gallon, Kirk knew the budget would be blown, but that didn’t stop him and Pete. Wagons, ho! He crafted a plan to eat and stay at the cheapest places he could find. In Central America!
Horrifyingly and hilariously, Kirk and Peter face cops, robbers, cops who are robbers, drunks looking for fights, hookers, car breakdowns, bus breakdowns, personal meltdowns, and, welcome to the jungle, get lost in the jungle. Each also has to face his studies. Kirk has to relearn Spanish, and Peter has to learn Spanish and bring up his D grades, or they’ll face doubly frightening consequences when they get home.
They do meet fine people in their teachers and complete strangers who go out of their way to help when they’re in a bad spot. And somehow, during this crazy journey, Peter learns the value and virtue of self-discipline, while Kirk learns how to be a truly good father. Peter grows, and grows fit while acing his Algebra studies. And Kirk learns he’s going to have to suck it up and work that copy desk, for the time being.
After a rough but enlightening trip, Kirk and Peter returned home just in time for Christmas, and everyone lived happily ever after. Except for Torie, their mastiff-mutt. But even she hung in there far longer than expected.
You’ll be shocked one minute and giggling uncontrollably the next. Millson’s prose is vivid and salty. He has a winning way with self-deprecation.
The author provided an advance reading copy to me free of charge. I can’t get over the fact that a newspaper man asked someone who owned a newspaper car to read and review his book, but there it is. That bit of irony aside, I don’t know the guy from Adam. But he wrote a great book. Two wings up.
Available at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1462113818