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International Incidents and Other Misadventures with the Metal Cowboy

by Joe Kurmaskie

Pub Date: May 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-4000-4798-6
Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Another series of wayward bicycling adventures from the author of Metal Cowboy (1999), as spirited, searching, and hungry for laughs as ever.

The bike is the message for Kurmaskie, who uses it as a good excuse to get out and about and most of all to get off it to use his own wheels to explore, strike up friendships (“to chat about nothing in particular and feel completely in the present”), and have encounters of all stripes. The adventures Kurmaskie feels are worth recounting here are always peculiar: a run-in with nudists, a fleeting vision of an all-girl bagpipe band that sends him on a quest in Ireland, a pause to listen to a Dumpster-diving philosopher’s deep reflections, a friendly game of ice golf (“as much fun as sex outdoors in the summertime”). Having a few of these nuggets in the pocket of life would not be a bad thing, you feel, so long as the author keeps them in modest perspective. But you’ll want to ask Kurmaskie to lighten up when he starts twanging his ain’t-I-something chord: “I can’t promise you a smooth ride, but if you’re looking for safe and predictable, Disney World’s always open,” for grating instance, or, “these all sure beat the Motel 6 for the storytelling factor.” And while he comes across as an engagingly rumpled guy, the kind who knows the best groundcover for a siesta and appreciates that he smells like ripe cheese in dirty laundry after a day on the road, the author can overdo the quiet-desperation theme, often delivered by his roadmates. “Majority of people out there play it safe,” sighs one. “Punch the clock, pass go, collect their two hundred bucks . . . put it on a loop for twenty more years. Nothin’ terrible ’bout that.” Oh sure, sounds great.

A little affected, but you have to admire Kurmaskie for following the Irish exhortation “on yere bike”—shorthand for “get off your arse and on with your life.”