In 1990 my good friend Meghan gave me the book "Dave Barry Talks Back" by the Pulitzer Prize winning author and humorist for the Miami Herald. I still laugh about Barry's text describing a dead beached whale and small town law enforcement's botched attempts to remove it with dynamite.
Some of my favorite Barry columns ran nationally during the 1994 Winter Olympics of Lillehammer (my personal favorite referenced "Mr. Suave" offering a bronze medal winner some lutefisk), and during my Olympic days working at Edelman I spoke with Barry's sports reporter wife to invite her to client events.
So it was great fun to attend the Valentine's Day breakfast and book signing event hosted by the Atlanta Press Club, at which Barry shared selected details from his new book "Insane City." He said the book takes place in Miami, the city he moved to from the United States, the city with the tag line "Come back ... we weren't shooting at you!"
I found it interesting Barry's son is now a Wall Street Journal reporter and recent newlywed whose nuptials may have factored for the new book. Barry said his mother's "tell it like it is" attitude also influenced his upbringing (Example: On a bad day mom might respond to "how's your day going?" with a straightforward reply "just shitty"). Less surprising, Barry's other literary influences varied from writers in The New Yorker to MAD magazine.
During the audience Q&A session I asked Barry two questions:
1. Since another best-selling author (Tom Wolfe) recently wrote about Miami in detail, was there any collaboration or a meeting of the minds?
Answer: No. (This surprised me since Wolfe typically networks with prominent residents while researching local color for his novels.)
2. Given the many Olympic travels Barry experienced, is there a particular Olympic memory that stands out?
Answer: Getting hit by a taxi in Athens!
Barry said during the Athens 2004 Olympics, while dining at a sidewalk cafe with his wife and another sports reporter, his chair was toppled by a Greek taxi driver who was inclined to drive on said sidewalk (a memory affirmed by his Oct. 2004 column). Ouch! He also relayed a preference for the summer versus winter competitions.
I added "Insane City" to my reading list, just a title or two after Wolfe's latest, "Back To Blood." And I'll be looking for Barry in Rio's taxi stands and sidewalk cafes in 2016.
Photo by Nicholas Wolaver; book covers via Amazon.com