Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Andrew Blechman's "Leisureville"

Andrew Blechman has been a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the Des Moines Register. His work has also appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, the New York Times, and the International Herald Tribune, among others. His first book, Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird, was widely praised in the media and featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

His latest book is Leisureville—Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias. Here's how he'd like to see it make the journey to the big screen:
I’d love to see Leisureville adapted as another installment of the National Lampoon Vacation series with Chevy Chase. It could be called Permanent Vacation.

Here’s how I see the plot:

After seeing more than half of their neighbors in suburban Chicago hit 55 and take off for a magical retirement community called “Wallyville,” Chevy and his wife finally succumb to peer pressure and make the big move. It appears to be a paradise: 48 golf courses, countless pools, two movie-set-perfect themed downtowns that look like Disney World’s Main Street, and tens of thousands of relaxed retirees zooming around silently on golf carts over specially designed bridges and tunnels. Even the neighborhood looks like something out of Leave It to Beaver with perfectly edged lawns, picket fences, and spotless driveways.

The Griswolds slip into “today’s retirement” gracefully, hitting the links with cocktails, hanging out at a Baby Boomer keg party with Eagle’s music, nude hottub romps – everything you can imagine Boomers doing with time on their hands and no kids to worry about.

Then Rusty shows up in another station wagon, filled with three rambunctious grandchildren. He spends the evening as the kids run around the yard and neighborhood bringing icy stares from Chevy’s new neighbors. Rusty explains that he’s in the middle of a divorce and he’s accepted a security job in Iraq: he needs to leave the kids with his parents for the summer.

The kids have fun until their guest passes (“visas”) run out and the Griswolds are told they must ship them off or be evicted. Chevy tries disguising them as Mexican gardeners and pool cleaners, but finally gives up and is forced to house them in a motel outside the gates each night and pick them up each morning, where they are given a hard time as they pass through “immigration control.”

The Griswolds realize that their neighbors aren’t as friendly as they thought they were, and try to decide what to do with the kids. The climax comes when their neighbors hold a demonstration against them and march on their house. One of the participants has a heart attack and the eldest grandchild performs CPR on him and saves his life. The community is left contemplating its age-segregationist policies and chooses to be more lenient and even make the Griswold grandkids honorary Wallyville residents.

Anybody have Chevy Chase’s email?
Read an excerpt from Leisureville, and learn more about book and author at Andrew Blechman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Pigeons.

The Page 69 Test: Leisureville.

--Marshal Zeringue