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Sunday, January 01, 2006


Beth Lisick
Regan Books

Who is this Beth Lisick, author of Everybody Into the Pool and why do I find her so compelling?

I mean, really. What's her deal? By all rights, her life should have peaked during her suburban high school years, what with her academic, athletic and social overachievement. Her 1987 record long jump of 17 feet 10 inches is a record that still stands. She was Homecoming Queen. That should be enough, right? She should have then graduated, taken a series of one-off jobs like selling raffle tickets and handing out bananas dressed as, well, a banana, all the while living not near, but positively in squalid conditions before saddling herself with a child. Upon hearing of this years later, we should be shaking our heads whispering "Oh" through a slight smile, a gesture that reveals that we're relieved that it happened to her instead of to us.

But no. that's not what happened. Well, it is in a way. The part about overachieving is true. Apparently, the plaque commemorating the longest long jump hangs in a high school near San Jose, California. And yes, she was the Homecoming Queen. And yes, her post high school life involved a fair amount of squalor and poverty in San Francisco. So what's the deal? We're supposed to feel bad for the people who didn't fulfill their potential or worse, fulfilled it by the time they were 18, right?

Well, here's the thing as near as I can tell. Lisick is to be envied for her seemingly inherent disregard for fear of the things that most of us spend our lives trying to avoid. The "us" here is privileged white folk. Here's a chick who was raised in a perfectly fine—and by fine I mean typically dysfunctional—family, did well in school and rather than taking her transfer and proceeding to the tried and true track of college-to-job-to-career-to-marriage-to-parenthood, instead sauntered over to the dark side, a hand to mouth, job to job, ghetto lifestyle right down to living with her musician boyfriend in his illegal warehouse in the Mission District among drug dealers and prostitutes. When a mayoral candidate campaigns for something to be done about San Francisco's urban blight, he appears in a photo gesturing to Lisick and boyfriend's front door.

In Everybody Into the Pool, Lisick's life is full of poetry readings (her own), touring with lesbian rock bands, a string of absurd employment ventures (to call them jobs is too broad a use of the word) and a valiant attempt to test her theory that bisexuality is just a matter of open-mindedness. You can't help but like her and pull for her. Oddly, at no point do you worry about her. You know she's going to be just fine. She's got pluck, but not in a dorky, Mary Richards way. She's the real deal. She leads a life the rest of us don't have the balls to.




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