In the mid-1990s, I saw Dave Barry when he came through Albuquerque on a book tour promoting “Dave Barry’s Guide to Guys.”
I had no idea he wrote a humor column for the Miami Herald, or how funny he was. I have been reading his work ever since.
Barry’s latest book, “Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog,” addresses aging.
He writes about turning 70 and the inevitability of death:
“If our lives were movie credits, we’d be way down at the bottom, past the assistant gerbil wrangler. If our lives were Cheez-It bags, we’d be at the stage where you hold the bag up and tilt it into your mouth to get the last crumbs. In other words: The End Is in Sight.” (p. 24)
Wanting the last chapter of his life to be more emotionally satisfying than previous chapters, Barry studies his 10-year-old dog, Lucy.
Although her muzzle is graying and her body is slowing down, Lucy is every bit as happy as she was at 1.
Barry wants to know what Lucy does that enables her to be so joyful.
After careful study and many anecdotes about the Lawn Rangers, Hurricane Irma and a French poodle named Mistral, Barry arrives at Lucy’s seven life lessons, which include making new friends while keeping the old, remembering to have fun, letting go of anger and never lying unless “you have a really good reason, which you probably don’t.” (p. 177)
Barry is the first to admit, he’s no Lucy. Although he’s made a living being funny, Barry is shy.
He doesn’t like meeting new people, but he vows, in an effort to improve his life, he will emulate Lucy by looking new people straight in the eye and “with a welcoming attitude…thrust [his] snout into their groins.” (p. 36)
He hastens to add he’s just kidding about the groin greeting.
Although the primary audience for “Lessons from Lucy” is probably those over 60, I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants — or needs — to laugh.
Barry’s contrasting the way older people take pictures with cell phones with the way younger people do is laugh-out-loud funny for anyone.
Likewise, his description of Brussels sprouts as “the severed heads of Martian fetuses” (p. 2) and his revulsion for scallops, which he discovers have eyes, have little to do with aging.
Barry moves easily from humor to pathos. His 1990 “Dave Barry Turns 40” was filled with funny vignettes about getting older and how to determine if you were grown-up, based on “scientific” studies. Yet, Barry included a chapter addressing his mother’s suicide.
Although there is no suicide in “Lessons from Lucy,” a genuine sadness permeates the book.
Barry writes about funerals he’s attended, friends he’s lost and how lives change as we age, and he acknowledges that neither he nor Lucy will be around much longer.
How do we grapple with our own mortality? I admire humorists who make me think.
I recommend this book. It will make you laugh, and it may make you cry.
(Maureen Cooke has been writing, editing and teaching others to write for the past 30 years. Currently, she’s working on a mystery novel and a memoir. She’s a member of the Corrales Writers’ Group.)