South of Normal
Norm Schriever, that dude rocks a typewriter! This is my first and only chance to write a foreword for a book, and I never imagined that it would be the opening line. But what the hell, he is unconventional, and I am a bit weird.
It has been 15 years since I heard Norm’s voice or seen his ugly mug. Who woulda guessed he’d have turned into such a solid young man? Did I say young? Yes, I did. I guess I suffer from the same self-delusion most 40-year-old guys do.
Norm and I were great friends when we were younger. We lost touch after high school, walking our separate paths, but then we had a chance meeting again through an old friend. It’s rare to pick back up at the exact same place you left off, but I’m so happy we did. And so glad to have been surprised by the copy of Norm’s fist book, Pushups in the Prayer Room, that he signed and left for me after his recent visit to my house.
We had a lot to catch up on: I graduated from MIT with a degree in Environmental Engineering, worked an office job for two weeks, then promptly quit. Instead, I packed my dream wagon and traveled the States as a ski bum. I fell in love in Utah (both with the state and a girl), got my heart trampled (only by the girl), and moved on.
Through a weird turn of events, I ended up as an actor. I made about 14 movies and have done over 150 episodes of network television. I’ve been fortunate enough for acting to fund my true passions in life...exploration, adventure, and endeavoring to scratch that ever-present itch of curiosity.
I’ve driven across the U.S. at least twelve times, hiking, biking, and camping. I had a small hut on the beach in Baja for five years, where I learned to surf and speak bad Spanish. I’ve traversed almost every inch of coastal Central America, at night tying a hammock in front of the home of some big-hearted local family who offered to feed me, but in the process taught me about true happiness. I drove from Los Angeles to Denali, climbing and skiing mountains the whole way. With Crocs Shoes and UNICEF, I was welcomed into an Indian reservation in the central highlands of Panama to donate thousands of pairs of shoes to families in need.
I married a woman from Sweden, and that is where we spend our summers with our two children and her huge family. I’ve even learned enough of the language so that my own family will never be able to plot against me!
These days I spend much of my leisure time underwater, free-diving and spearfishing for healthy, wild-caught, sustainably harvested fish for my family to eat. At night I dream about the experiences I’ve had in the habitat of predator and prey.
But the accomplishment I’m most proud of is my role as husband and father, and I’m reminded every day to look at the world through the curious eyes of a child.
So, when I had the chance to read Norm’s writing and learn what he had been up to for the last 15 years, it struck me...struck me that each of us who walks this earth does it with a different agenda, with a different motivation. Some do it to take, some to conquer, some to run, and some do it to give.
And then there are a very few who do it to truly learn. To learn with vigor and enthusiasm, to eat up every experience like it is the best one that exists. Because those who have humbled themselves to the vastness of this world and the brevity of our stay upon it have learned that each moment we share has the power to be the best, the worst, or the most meaningless one we’ve ever had...our choice. But it is, in fact, the pinnacle of our existence because it is the only one that actually exists. Everything else is just a memory or an idea that hasn’t yet seen the light of day.
Norm travels with respect, with love, wide-eyed as if each and every human being is the master of something and with luck they might impart a small piece of that mastery to him. With each human connection, he’s evolved and helped those he’s touched to do the same. Truly, that is how we should all live.
That is why I recommend you read his work, because Norm has learned what I always say, “Those who haven’t failed will never know the limits of their potential because they have been too lazy to strive beyond them.” He is not lazy. He has striven. And he is one of the few who is learning his true potential.
Norm has succeeded and Norm has failed, but most of all he has been courageous enough to face the world head-on. He has allowed it to eat him whole, emerging from the fires forged into a better man. By granting the conch to every human he has met, Norm has become a man who has something valuable to share with the rest of us. Some of us who, after hours and miles of walking through a jungle lost in desperation, have shaken a family awake in the middle of the night in their palapa, asking for food and shelter, and some who couldn’t imagine that act.
I see his work as much more than a fun romp around the darker corners of the world, narrated by a dude whose distinct sense of humor and unique slant on life illuminate its vibrant complexion. I also see it as an inspiration for those who have walked more modest paths, who haven’t ventured as remotely, for people who may have only walked their safe backyards and sidewalks out front...
His writing shows us that in our similarities we are all unique. We have as much to learn as we have to teach, we are strongest in moments of weakness, and we succeed the most when we allow ourselves to fail.
I am so glad that Norm found his way back into my family’s life, and that I have had the opportunity to swap stories with him face to face. I urge him to keep on rockin’ the typewriter, so the rest of the world can learn and share by reading, without having to actually see his face that was destined for radio!
Congratulations are due to Norm for completing his second book, South of Normal. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Actor, adventurer, and longtime friend.
Dylan is from Milford, Connecticut, and has appeared in 14 movies, including Saving Private Ryan and Where The Heart Is, and over 150 network the television episodes, including Numbers. He lives with his beautiful family in Los Angeles.
You can say hi on Twitter @DylanBruno12
Or say hi to Norm