The Man Behind the Minivan


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I’m a book addict. There I said it. Every week I make a pilgrimage to the huge B&N in Union Square to beef up my home library. (Don’t hate me indie booksellers–it’s just an easier subway ride!)  I rarely leave with fewer than four new books, cold hardcovers or paperbacks, e-readers aren’t my thing. First I check the new releases, then make my way to the parenting section. After that I browse fiction, self-help, cookbooks and reference. I also keep a running list of books I jot down from the NY Times Book Review and various web sites. On one sojourn a few weeks ago I hit the B&N with shopping list in hand, including the title Dan Gets a Minivan (Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad) by author Dan Zevin. Little did I know that this would be one of those books, the kind that makes you laugh out loud on the subway and the sort that you read every chance you get until you’ve savored every last morsel.

Later that day, from my pristine new pile of books, I picked up Dan’s to read first. Boom! Within sentences I was hooked. In just the first chapter, “My Cup Holders Runneth Over”, a story of acquiring the minivan in the book’s title, the giggles began. Later that night when I moved on to the next story about a poo picking-up debacle in Prospect Park and his plight to clear his name in the Brooklyn court system from the repercussions of that incident, well, my giggles became gutrreral laughs and I was smitten by this dad/humorist.

Me reading on Wythe Ave.

Then a funny thing happened one evening while I was waiting for my husband on Wythe Ave. I sat on a bench devouring a few more pages of Dan Gets a Minivan and a couple passed by. They got pretty excited when they saw me reading their friend’s book—Dan’s book! They took a photo and said they were going to send it to him. I also got pretty jazzed. I suddenly felt that much closer to this outrageously funny author who I’d come to know by reading his latest memoir on parenting. (He’s also written Entry-Level Life: A Complete Guide to Masquerading as a Member of the Real WorldThe Nearly-wed Handbook: How to Survive the Happiest Day of Your Life and The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grownup.) I guess you could say I was second degree star-struck. Right then I knew I had to contact the author to have a chit-chat—it was our destiny.

When I spoke to Dan for the first time, it felt as if he’d made a career switch from Brooklyn author to suburban real estate broker (a raucously funny one of course). But since all of the stories in Dan Gets a Minivan take place in Brooklyn, it’s hard not to consider him a local author, even though like real people, authors move too. Two years ago Dan packed up his Minivan, posted a sign in its back window “Suburbia or Bust” and blazed a trail with family in tow to Larchmont, the land of driveways and pools. Since that day Dan has become a full-fledged suburbanite. And he’s damn proud of it—just take a look at his blog.

Our conversation began by Dan telling me about a return to Brooklyn the night before to attend a reading in Dumbo at powerhouse Arena. “It felt great to be back, but I feel like I should have had a passport to re-enter that world,” he said of his journey back to the city. “Let’s put it this way, the way I spent my afternoon prior to getting on the train and going back to Hipsterville, was I had to pick up my kids from day camp in the carpool, and the next thing I knew I was in powerhouse Arena listening to a woman with piercings all over her face give a reading of her list from The Official Book of Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n’ Roll Lists, which was ‘Muppets I Would Like to F*ck.’ That’s when I realize that I am not in the carpool lane anymore.”

Dan probably didn’t share that story with the moms at his new suburban playground, but possibly the dad in a chapter from his book titled “Some Friendly Advice to the Aloof Hipster Dad at the Playground” would have gotten a kick out of it. But these are some of the sacrifices you make when you move to the suburbs.

But like I said, Dan was selling the ‘burbs hard and he claims it’s all about the driveway. “I thought the greatest part about the whole thing was going to be having a yard, but I’ve really come around because now I know the greatest part is having a driveway,” he said of his revelation. As we bantered about the foibles of having a car in the city, I recalled how just that morning my whole family had to hustle out the door in the half hour we had from when we woke up to the 8:30 am cutoff time for street cleaning. Dan was starting to convince me.

And then in a moment of weakness he recalled some of the things he actually does miss about Brooklyn. “I miss that creative element. I miss being around so many people that are in creative fields.” He continued, “I have to say that after last night, after going to that reading and seeing old friends, that is what you give up. Which is a huge thing to give up.” Remembering back to the old times Dan told me, “ I remember when I was living in Brooklyn, towards the end, I was getting really cynical and jaded. I felt like every person I’d walk by, I’d overhear a conversation about that person’s independent screenplay they had in development. And here everyone is talking about how they can’t find a good contractor who comes on time.” Really he’s not sure where he fits in, but for now Dan and his family are faring well in the ‘burbs.

When I get around to professing my love for Dan Gets a Minivan, Dan said, “Yea, I’ve been hearing it from so many women especially. It’s so interesting and surprising, women just love it!” I have to explain to him that we women love to hear about a good S.A.H.D.–it’s like parenting erotica. “Maybe it’s that it’s just not that different really, mom, dad, whatever. I call it Parent with Penis. There’s really no big difference really, it’s just that we have the penis.” This is why I admire Dan. If only my husband saw it that way.

If I haven’t convinced you about how great Dan Gets a Minivan is, well then maybe hearing that the book was optioned by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions for a TV series will give you an idea how great the book really is. Dan wouldn’t give me an answer on who he would want to play him in the show, but when I asked if he would possibly want to play himself he reminded me about the essay in the book titled “On No Longer Giving a Shit.” Now that he’s reconsidered his ambitions, he’s quite happy just driving the carpool and jumping on the trampoline (suburban advantage) in the backyard.

Plans for the next book aren’t in the works yet but Dan is still writing essays and recently had a piece published in the Wall Street Journal titled “A Day in Dad’s Traveling Think Tank”. He’s also filming a talk show in his minivan, “Dan Zevin’s Star Vehicle,” for the local public access station, Larchmont Mamaroneck Cable TV, which of course can also be seen on YouTube. In the show Dan gets the opportunity to talk to everyday people like a party clown, a yoga instructor and the checkout girl from the local grocery. Dan and his minivan are going where no man and his minivan have gone before.

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