Anyone who knows the hyper-nervous star of Curb Your Enthusiasm and creator of Seinfeld will attest to that. Paul Samuel Dolman was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard when, on South Road, he stuck out his thumb looking for a ride. A car slowed and inside, the driver, the iconic curmudgeon Larry David peered nervously through the lowered passenger’s window and asked, “You’re not a serial killer or something are you?” Paul thought about it and replied: “Even if I am, it’s the Vineyard and I’m on vacation. I’m not working.”
Larry laughed. They shook hands and drove off on a 20-mile trip across the island. They talked the entire way and would almost freakishly bump into each other throughout that entire summer in the least likely of places.
Hitchhiking with Larry David is a remarkable journey of discovery, friendship and understanding life. Paul takes the reader on one man’s summer long journey to find meaning across the Massachusetts summer island playground of billionaires, stars and the occasional US President.
Full disclosure, Paul and I met briefly when I was leaving Nashville 13-years ago, broke and broken-hearted. He bought my prized bicycle in a yard sale on the rooftop of my apartment building’s parking garage (I like to romantically think he still rides it across the Vineyard thus giving me an even deeper connection to the book).
Paul is an interesting and engaging guy; we were both just off disastrous relationship breakups, worked peripherally in the ‘music biz’ and so for several years checked in with each other via e-mail. We finally lost contact for most of the last 5-6 years. I begin each week by picking five old contacts from my past and committing to reach out to see what is new. Probably 30% of my work has come from these moments and I truly enjoy listening to interesting people and re-connecting.
Paul’s number came up two months ago, we talked and he told me about the book in a 30-minute telephone call. I mentioned this magazine. His agent Susan sent along a copy and traveling recently in the USA (not hitchhiking), two weeks ago I sat by hotel fireplaces in brilliantly unconnected Big Sur, California reading the book and laughing hysterically. People would stop by and I would read a passage aloud about his need to escape the “parental asylum” or replay conversations with the woman in his life he refers to as “The Miracle” and remember too many similar moments in my own life.
Some of it is just laugh out loud funny until tears stream down your face. And… some of it is quite painful. Paul has the ability many great writers do of taking you back to business deals gone bad, ethically challenged partners, giving your all and still getting screwed, loving and losing and yet still keeping a sense of perspective and humour, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and getting back in the game. That is why I loved this book. Its gentle humour was a solid kick in the pants to get one out there and reconnect with people rather than letting the jerks of life rule and colour one’s every action.
The book is told in three simultaneous streams.
• the time he spends with Larry David and other famous people;
• time spent in the parental asylum with his family and
• the time discovering who he really is.
The reader sees what can happen if… one just fully shows up.
Paul described it in our interview as: “When you really ask, genuinely care and are present to reach out and hold the space for them to answer, they do.” And in so doing, his book challenges your own ‘other than conscious’ mind to answer as well.
Now before you think this is all new age woo-woo, it is also a ‘pee in your pants funny’ romp. Paul hysterically captures double-taking Larry as they keep bumping into each other across the island often 20-miles away from where their last journey began or end.
It is also quite remarkable to see what Larry David shares of himself in this book; his observations on life, the nature of success, the pursuit of happiness and the magic of life. It is a look behind the curtain and of course is laced with his familiar deadpan sarcasm, but Larry gives a rare, true glimpse of the man. Said Paul, “when I asked him for his blessing for the book, he sent an e-mail back saying: ‘if I’d only know, I’d have been wittier.’”
The book retraces Paul’s journey that summer of 2009, gives us almost Tom Wolfe-like references. OK, not ‘social X-Rays’ or ‘lemon tarts’ but Paul’s characterisations from Homeless Linda, Billionaire Bob, The Miracle and my favourite, the Prisoner of the United States (said as the Obama’s motorcade rumbles by 3 feet away but with him firmly inside the bubble). Yet, true to form, they all are wonderfully present because Paul is and we get a look into their lives and… how it mirrors our own.
During the ride, Larry asks Paul if he’s ever seen Seinfeld or Curb? Paul, terrified, admits to never having watched an episode. This is stunning news to Larry because you have to work very hard to avoid re-runs. As Paul explained in his TV-free world he does not have the time to devote to watching telly but he did live up to their bargain and “watched every episode of Curb on DVD and loved it.”
When I asked him if he’d ever seen Seinfeld he said “no, because that was not in their agreement. I hate the canned laugh track of sitcoms.” And he quickly added, “Larry is OK with that.”
Paul still has ‘The Miracle’ in his life but describes their poignant relationship as, “in the midst of a pause. We have this beautiful connection and chemistry, but haven’t figured out how to keep the software running without crashing. We’re an evolving system and haven’t figured out how to go to the higher level.” Boy do I get that!
So although Paul and my connection had a bit of a pause, I am so very glad to hear the book is doing well and he has this newfound love of life. I asked him how Larry feels about the attention. Paul said, “It’s funny, so many of Larry’s friends have now read the book it has quite a following in LA and on the Vineyard.
Paul sent Larry the print proof galleys with a personal note. Larry wrote a note asking (jokingly) “when will this nightmare ever end, but like you said in the restaurant, it’s too good not to tell. I hope I see you on the South Road.” Larry shares beliefs about money, success, a higher power and when Paul asked him about it Larry replied, “I could not believe the things I told you.”
Paul asked, “How come you never shared it before?
“Because, nobody ever asked me.” said Larry.
When Paul returned to the Vineyard for the summer of 2010 he was on the ground one short evening when he bumped into Larry at the store, Larry had also just arrived the night before from Los Angeles. The synchronicities are such that neither questions it, they just expect it.
I asked Paul what was next and there are possible future projects in the works but for now he is enjoying this moment. Said Paul, “I was writing the Ted Danson section here in Nashville and went into my favourite (mine as well) health foods store and there were Ted and his wife Mary in the checkout line.” Not one to do the celebrity accosting thing, Paul lost it. He tore off his skull cap and thankfully they recognised him since they’d just met weeks earlier on the Vineyard. Paul, Ted and Mary started the “wow, what are you doing here thing…” Now Paul knows as soon as he arrives in LA, at some point he will shortly bump into Larry on the street.
You read this book and it’s eerie how many people enter Paul’s life and in a few short minutes the impact each has on the other. Then you see almost instant applicability to your own life. I called it the Zen appeal of the book and having worked with Mind, Body Spirit charlatans, I’m highly allergic to any book with even a hint of guru spirituality, yet this one grabbed and would not let go.
Said Paul, “‘Hitchhiking’, has elements of transformation where we all change from our well intentioned action. It is an unofficial permission slip for people to be authentic and share the unique song of their soul…”
And… saying yes to whatever shows up is not a half bad way to spend either a summer or a life.
Denis G Campbell is the author of 6 books including 'Billionaire Boys Election Freak Show,' 'The Vagina Wars' & 'Egypt Unsh@ckled.' He is the editor of UK Progressive Magazine and provides commentary to the BBC, itv Al Jazeera English, CNN, MSNBC and others. His weekly 'World View with Denis Campbell' segment can be heard every Thursday on the globally syndicated The David Pakman Show. You can follow him on Twitter via @UKProgressive and on Facebook.
Email this author | All posts by Denis G Campbell