I was born and raised in Lancaster, Ohio, home to the best county fair in the state, birthplace of William Tecumseh Sherman (sorry, Atlanta) and his brother John (author of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act). My grandfather, who knew both his churches and his bars, used to say that Lancaster had more of both than any town he’d ever seen.
My mother and father met in Normandy, in 1944. She was an officer. He wasn’t. After the war they got married. My dad became a salesman. My mom became a mom. I have two brothers.
I competed in sports that don’t impress girls — swimming, track, cross country. I voted in the great Rabbit v. Trix election, in favor of the Rabbit. I served a term as president of the Fairfield County Teenage Republicans. I’m pretty sure the other members elected me so they’d have more time to make out with each other.
After crushing my mother with the news that I was not going to law school, I became a writer like I’d always wanted. I wrote my first short story at age five. It was supposed to be about Dan’l Boone, but if you were to read it you’d say it’s really more about Fess Parker and Ed Ames. Since then, I’ve written for many magazines and newspapers like The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Science, Outside, Esquire. I spent five years as Glamour magazine’s Jake columnist, then became a contributing editor there. I was also a contributing editor at Wired where I covered biotechnology. Today I write books, mostly, and contribute regularly to the Atlantic as well as Outside and other magazines.
A reporter once asked me why I write what I write. I wanted to say something all vision-y and wound up giving an embarrassingly pretentious answer. I write what I write in hopes you’ll be interested. I am. Things get under my skin and I need to scratch.
I once won an altar boy award. I’d like to say it was because of excellent incensing, or candle lighting, but it was mainly for showing up. I also won an essay contest in the eighth grade. They gave me a $25 U.S. savings bond. I’ve been a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and been recognized by the John Bartlow Martin Award for public interest journalism administered by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. There’s more but it’s unseemly to brag.
Addiction to good movies, mainly old ones, is a monkey on my back. I surf. I drink my own cocktails. I’ve spent several years trying to learn blues harp, so if someday you see me standing on a corner wailing “Hootchie Cootchie Man,” drop a few shekels in the hat, OK?