Kissing Ass, Taking Names

Written by Jeff Koyen on . Posted in Books, Posts.


It’s second semester of junior year at Pepperdine University. Best buds Mike Marriner and Nathan Gebhard are hanging in their "college apartment" one night, you know, "just chillin’" after "a great evening surf." Nathan’s a business major; Mike’s pre-med. One of them breaks out the stash box—the one with the yin yang set in mother-of-pearl—and packs the three-footer with some righteous hydro.

They take a few pulls, and Mike grabs two bottles of Sam Adams from the fridge. Nathan hits pause on The Big Lebowski and asks: "Hey, brah, what do you want to do with the rest of your life?"

Mike, opening the bottles with his lighter, responds: "Funny you should ask, brah. I’ve been giving that a lot of thought while hanging out in the quad." He pulls out a tattered piece of paper and reads from what would soon become their manifesto:

Everywhere you turn people are trying to tell you what to be and what to do with your life. We call that the noise. Block it. Shed it. Leave it for the conformists. As a generation, we need to get back to focusing on individuality. Self-construction rather than mass production. Define your own road in life instead of traveling down someone else’s. Listen to yourself. Your road is the open road. Find it.

Nathan, duly impressed, passes the bong to his most eloquent friend, and says: "Dude."

The above birth scenario is a fictionalization, but it’s 2003 and Marriner and Gebhard somehow have a book out, consisting of interviews with 30 "people who followed amazing roads [to] discover how they got to where they are now." Subjects include the chairman of Starbucks, the founder of Dell, Nike’s vice president of design, the vice president of worldwide marketing for Motorola and Yahoo’s "Queen Bee of Buzz Marketing."

Roadtrip Nation reeks of get-rich-quick, avoid-getting-a-job hoodwinking by two privileged SoCal dudes. This is a self-help book for would-be corporate tit-suckers under the age of 17. Who else would read about Bill and Ted driving around the country in an effort to "ignite a movement" by "bathing in hotel Jacuzzis" and "wearing the same clothes for several days in a row"?

Don’t let the "road" crap fool you. The Quiksilver-clad authors are teaching teenagers how to network. In the chapter titled "So, Whom Should You Meet?" the boys offer this advice for effective glad-handing: "Your Uncle Bob may be a total bore and has a job you hate, but don’t write him off. The guy may know other people who have walked down roads that may light you up."

Marriner and Gerhard are the moral and economic descendents of the slick-suited, new-media dickwads who convinced portfolio managers that there was no future in the storefront. And this guerilla-marketing book for teens should never, under any circumstances, be read by any child you care about.

Roadtrip Nation
By Mike Marriner and Nathan Gebhard (with Joanne Gordon)
Ballantine, 248 pages, $13.95

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