Crashing: The book

by Brian Clarey

I turned 40 this year, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.

I didn’t automatically start hiking my pants up past my navel or screaming at kids in my yard. My body didn’t immediately break down like some appliance that just hit its warranty expiration date. No new wrinkles. No new worries. No totally unrecognizable face in the mirror in the morning.

Things, I daresay, are actually going pretty well.

After surviving 40 years — some of them extremely volatile — I find I’m settling into my role as an adult. I’m more stable. Predictable. Slower to react but quicker to understand. And I like it just fine.

A lot of big things can happen to a person over the years, some you don’t see coming and others you’ve been preparing for all your life. And others are pure products of events you deliberately set in motion.

They say that you’ve got to make a move, professionally speaking, by the time you’re 40, or just maybe you should realize the possibility that you don’t have a move in you. And even though I’m on the back nine, figuratively speaking, I feel like I’ve got moves like a scatback with pistons for legs and hard-rubber knees.

Right now I’m concentrating on one move in particular: my book.

Yes, I’ve released The Anxious Hipster and Other Barflies I’ve Known, a collection of my work from the past six years, with a lot of help from Cold Type Press and my boss, YES! Weekly Publisher Charles Womack — not to mention all the countless people who have helped me along the way.

It’s a big milestone for me, this first book, one I’ve been thinking about since I was just a little kid, falling in love with the written word. I’ve been writing professionally for more than 15 years, but a book is more… permanent than these weekly dispatches we send out on newsprint every week. More able to be handed over from one reader to the next. More fitting, perhaps, for the best pieces I’ve done over the years to be curated in hardback rather than exiled to the far reaches of the internet or the musty newspaper morgue.

I’m proud of the book, and all the people who helped make it possible. And while putting it together, revisiting my work over the years brought a smile more than once: my interviews with Ron Jeremy and Jimmie “Kid Dy-No-Mite” Walker; my first-person, post-Katrina assessment of the city of New Orleans; my trip to the Cannes Film Festival to show the short film “JoBeth”; the time I taught my kids to swear.

Good times, all of it.

But it’s an odd feeling to hold a book with my own name on it, my own likeness on the cover, my own words etched inside. It’s strange to sign my name to the work, like it’s some big kind of deal — it feels highly narcissistic, but at the same time humbling.

It’s exciting, too, to take a creative risk and see where it lands you.

If you want to buy my book, visit my website at, or stop by the YES!

Weekly office at 5500 Adams Farm Lane in Greensboro, where we will always have copies.

We’ll be adding more retail spots as the weeks go by.

I’ll also be selling them at my readings, most of which will take place in coffee shops and bars, because that’s where I feel my readers are most likely to be. The next one is Wednesday night, 7 p.m. at the Green Bean in downtown Greensboro, where I’ll be reading with GoTriad columnist Vishal Khanna and Wake Forest University Professor Eric Wilson, author of The Mercy of Eternity: A Memoir of Depression and Grace. A portion of the proceeds go to Clara’s House, a Greensboro shelter for battered women and their children.

And I promise this is the last time I will sneak a sales pitch into my column, a practice I’ve always found to be rather vulgar — I’m talking to you, Chuck Norris.

wanna go?

Stories for Clara with Vishal Khanna and Eric Wilson; the Green Bean; 341 S. Elm St., Greensboro; 336.691.9990; 8 p.m.; $5 suggested donation