Sunday, February 14, 2016

Living the Dream

A Thousand Naked Strangers – Kevin Hazzard – (Scribner)

Like so many people in the post 9/11 United States, writer Kevin Hazzard was confronted with the fact that he felt there was something missing in his life. Seeking to fill the void and contribute something to society, Hazzard left his gig as a newspaper reporter and sought a role as a first responder first seeking his emergency medical technician (EMT) certification and later as a paramedic.

Most first responders tend to be a different breed of cat; anyone who runs toward the danger rather than away from it would have to be. In his memoir about his time as an ambulance jockey, A Thousand Naked Strangers, Hazzard will force you ponder that the folks who answer the bell and respond to life and death emergencies do so after only a hand full of weeks of training. There is something deeply profound to be found when you think about the rag tag band of misfit toys that Hazzard was a part of answering that call.

Hazzard serves up his tales with an economical style, that is long on humor and chock full of the characters he confronted on a daily basis during his time on the frontlines of first response. Hazzard delivers not only the dark humor that is part and parcel of dealing with what EMTs are confronted with on a daily basis, but also delves into the self-doubt, the fear and adrenaline rush that comes with dealing with folks when they are often at their worst moments.

While the details Hazzard presents over a series of short essays, that he pieces together skillfully, often focus on the details of the various calls, it is his descriptive tales of the characters, the homeless man who sluices the blood and other bodily juices out of the back of the ambulance, cleaning up after a particularly messy ride or the folks on the receiving end of his care that are his bread and butter as a writer. Descriptive, detailed and often laugh out loud funny, A Thousand Naked Strangers rings with a real authenticity.


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