Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Areas of His Expertise 

Lindsayism has a post up today praising John Hodgman's new book, "The Areas of My Expertise." Hodgman hosts the Little Gray Books lecture series usually at Williamsburg's Galapagos (except the next one is in Brookline, Mass for some reason). I've been to a number of them and some people I know have read at these lectures. They're almost always very, very funny and quirkily informative.

The last LGB lecture I went to was about how to commit the perfect crime. The whole Blottered crew was there. (I'll post some stuff there soon, Krucoff, I promise.) The lecture I remember the best described how a goof-up in setting the jurisdiction of federal courts had created a small area in Yellowstone Park where no court had jurisdiction. The result of this is that you would be immune from prosecution for any crime you commit there. I took a map of this place with me on my fishing trip a couple of months ago but for some reason my fishing companions weren't that interested in checking the place out. Come on, guys, you can trust me! This handgun is just in case we run into a bear!

Why did I start writing about Hodgman? Oh, right. The title of his book reminds me of a story.

About ten years ago a promising young anarcho-capitalist named Brian called to tell me he was moving to NYC to look for work. We'd gone to college together and at some point I must have suggested that he could stay in my parents place if he ever dropped by New York City. I was living up in Cambridge at the time and thought he might want to crash at my parents place at some point. Actually, I didn't really think he'd take me up on it at all. I didn't want to stay with my parents. Why on earth would anarchist Brian?

Well it turns out Brian did want to stay at with my parents. Not just crash. Stay. As in move in. He had an unpaid internship with a famous somewhat libertarian newscaster in Manhattan and no way of paying rent. I told him I'd check this out with my parents but he had already called them. In fact, he was calling me from their place.

Brian stayed through his internship, and then kept staying. He got a job working for my father processing data, and became very good friends with my parents and the official walker of my dog. When I got home from Cambridge that summer, he was still there, almost a year after moving in. He had his own bedroom. In that bedroom he had an extensive file system divided into various categories, each containing clipped articles about a specific topic. He referred to each topic as one of his "Areas of Expertise." When he said it you could see the capital letters forming.

"How many of these areas of expertise do you have," I asked.

"I have 36 Areas of Expertise," he told me. Then he smiled, "I have three areas of broad knowledge, as well. WIthin four months, they will become Areas of Expertise as well."