ReadMORE Book Club Issue #4

Nick Offerman — Paddle Your Own Canoe

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Read‘more’ Book Club. At the beginning of each month I ask the community to vote on a book they’d like to feature, this month’s was a community submission “Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Guide for Delicious Living,” and lets just say I was thrilled to see it on the list.

I am a huge Ron Swanson fan. (Firstly, if you don’t know who Ron Swanson is, please get out from under your rock and go and watch Parks and Recreation, your life will be changed forever. Secondly, you’re not going to get a lot of the references in this article because apparently you’re some kind of hermit or a monk, so read on at your own peril…) For some time I have declared Ron Swanson to be my spirit animal; his love for red meat, breakfast foods, scotch, facial hair, the outdoors and respect for hard work only begins the list of ways in which I admire this fictional character.

Yet, Ron Swanson is just that, a fictional character. Who is this man who brought the much beloved character to life? This, Nick Offerman fella? What good can come from a man with a name like ‘Nick’ anyway? Well, I can tell you, he’s even more awesome than Ron Swanson, in the most tired format ever… here’s five reasons why!

1. Upbringing

Swanson’s… I mean Offerman’s early life does not disappoint. He grew up on a farm in Minooka, Illinois. As a Brit, I have no chance of knowing where in the hell that is, but I’m reliably informed most American’s don’t either. At the time of his upbringing it was literally in the middle of nowhere. Now, Offerman wasn’t quite foreman of the local sawmill by age 11, but as the eldest boy, he was working his ass off on the farm from an early age. That experience bore forth the folksy wisdom he so often recounts and his skill for working with his hands, namely carpentry.

That’s not the full story though, Offerman was also a theatre kid and during school learnt how to walk the boards and how to better deliver a joke or two. His origin story is all the richer for the tales of a country kid navigating the stage and brings a well-roundedness to the ‘character’ of Nick Offerman.

“I learned the word non-conformist in fourth grade and immediately announced that I would grow up to become one.”

- Nick Offerman, Paddle Your Own Canoe

2. Poetry (aka he’s a sensitive little butthole)

Offerman loves a good bit of poetry, which he demonstrates throughout the book. While it may appear the low hanging fruit here is to make a load of ‘no homo’ jokes about Offerman’s sensitive side, wait until you hear the good stuff. I will let the man speak for himself, for he closes the book with this corker of a poem:

“Siddhartha said life is like a river,

The thought of watching it pass me by causes me to shiver.

So I grab life by the balls, I got some advice to deliver.

Get off your caboose. Paddle your own canoe.

Young Teddy Roosevelt was a weak little puss,

But he exercised and became quite an ornery cuss,

’Til he could whip two bears and also Cuba without a fuss.

By god, number 26 paddled his own canoe

You like to smoke some reefer, and you like to dance.

The preacher tells you to keep yer pecker in your pants,

But the preacher’d be kissin’ your nephew given half the chance.

(He can go to hell.)

Then you can spend your Sundays paddlin’ your own canoe.

I mighta mentioned Jesus Christ himself got high in my van.

I told him I wouldn’t go to church, and he shook my hand.

He said, “My son, just lemme run inside and use the can

(number two)

Now lets get some Doritos and paddle your sweet canoe.”

What would Jesus do? Paddle my goddamn canoe

Take the road less traveled says Robert Frost,

Keep your stone rollin’ so it don’t accumulate no moss.

Leave the faint of heart suckin’ on your exhaust.

Live a little life and paddle your own canoe.

Don’t while it away masturbatin’ in the ditches.

Put yer tackle away and hitch up your britches.

Then provision your boat with several pulled-pork sandwiches.

Indulge in savory meatstuffs, paddle your own canoe.”

Nick Offerman, Paddle Your Own Canoe

3. More than a Moustache

Swanson’s most famous feature is perhaps his moustache but the all too real Nick Offerman reveals in the book he’s want to wear a multitude of facial hair styles. In fact, he cites Swanson’s moustache as the minimum requirement! As man who sports a healthy beard most of the time myself, I appreciate Offerman’s seal of approval. Not all facial hairs are created equal however, and he provides helpful diagrams of styles like the “Emasculator” and “Prison Pussy” so that you can avoid them…

4. Tammy II is no Megan

Some of you may not know that Tammy II from Parks and Rec is in fact Offerman’s wife in the ‘real world’. Some of you may also not have connected the dots that she is better known for her role as the busty Karen Walker in ‘Will and Grace’. Offerman covers how he met his bride and their story together and I have to say, it is endearing as hell. While he clearly worships his woman, as any man should, it is not in the same destructive, lustful and crazed fashion a broken Swanson is prone to on the show. Offerman, rather less guardedly, puts his altogether more wholesome love for Megan on full display and that’s more manly to me than the buttoned up restrained fashion we’re used to being told is so. This is not to say Offerman doesn’t provide a generous sprinkle of illicit recounting and advice for others though, and I quoth:

“Finally, the most delicious combination I have found in life is created by bringing your romantic love into your rustic constitutionals. Experiencing all the naturally exquisite features described above [nature], hand in hand with your beloved cannot be topped. Except maybe by encountering the same setting while 69ing each other, that might just be the most truly delicious living”

- Nick Offerman, Paddle Your Own Canoe

5. Let Your Freak Flag Fly

This is the title one of the final chapters in his book but is also a running theme. Although often Offerman is presented to us as the upright gentleman with the smooth voice and luscious facial hair, that is far from the truth. As he puts it himself, growing up on a farm then leaving to go to theatre school was not an ‘ordinary’ move.

“Figure out what you love to do, then figure out how to get paid to do it.”

- Nick Offerman, Paddle Your Own Canoe

He recounts his days as a youth, navigating Chicago with barely a dollar in his pocket to pursue theatre. The misadventures he had with his pot smoking fellows just crazy enough to chase the same dreams. This is where Offerman’s upbringing differs most from the veritable Ron Swanson, but they are the sections of the book with the most character and the one’s that speak to me the most. It’s all about being yourself, letting your kookiest features show themselves and pursuing the kind of life you want to live. Afterall doing so, despite setbacks and difficulties, landed Offerman his role on Parks and Rec, and you can land your dream role too.

Final Verdict

It is with trepidation that I give this book 3.5 stars, (I remind you that’s a full star above average!). While it was enjoyable to listen to Offerman’s stories, and his voice, it was a tad too long and felt lost in places. Also, for a book with “a guide to delicious living” in the title, I expected more of a Swanson/Offerman handbook on how to survive these modern crazy times. The facial hair diagram was a great addition and perhaps needed more gags of that ilk throughout the book to justify the title. This is more of a biography of Offerman than it is a guide to delicious living. Nonetheless, Offerman does offer some pearls of wisdom and it is still a great book that I recommend everyone add to their reading pile!

Did you read the book?

What did you think? Do you agree with what I’ve written here? Comment below or get in touch, I want to hear from you.

To vote on the next book, follow my page on Facebook and tune in on Monday 10th to vote. Alternatively, you can get in touch via my website to recommend your favourite reads or find more ways to get involved.

This article was written by Cameron Readman. If you’d like to know more or receive notifications for future articles, please head over to the Website and subscribe at the bottom of the page!

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