Of Mule and Man
by Mike Farrell
Just because something is green, that doesn’t make it worthwhile. Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H fame recently wrote a biography called Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist, and his publisher, Akashic Books, sent him on the mandatory book signing tour. His instructions were “keep a daily journal,” and the result is this 215-page paperback. I’ve yet to read the biography, but I can say this about the journal: it’s repetitive and uninteresting, and the world would be slightly less close to extinction if it hadn’t been printed.
I like Mr. Farrell, and I liked M*A*S*H even when Alan Alda got preachy. But this book reads like a collection of postcards from your maiden aunt on a tour of Midwestern quilt shops. A typical day’s entry reads roughly like “I drove 350 miles today, stopped at a health food store and ate some great food, got lost going to the hotel and lost going to the book store, and then met some really cool old friends who asked some really interesting questions.” Somehow, he traveled over 8000 miles in a month, talked to hundreds of people, and couldn’t come up with a story worth typing out.
The “Mule” referenced in the title is the nickname he gave his rental. It’s a hybrid and occasionally acts stubbornly, or at least seems to if you’re used to a regular ride. What might be a highlight to the story is the awkward love affair he has with the car. Like any quirky object you have to live with for any length of time, you come to adapt to it and tolerate its quirks. And at 50 miles to the gallon, there are some attractions to this car on a long trip. The love affair almost trumps the story of him getting his oil changed in New York City, which was prompted by a cryptic message on the dashboard and some frantic calls to the rental agency. Remember, these are the GOOD parts.
While Farrell is an excellent actor and a dedicated activist, he’s not a particularity good writer. There are no insightful personality studies, no capture of the magnitude of driving across the continent except to mention a few interesting rock formations, just grumping about the ravings of Rush Limbaugh and a 0.5 % increase in the unemployment rate. Perhaps he delved into his personal philosophy in the biography, but for all the insight into his psyche you’ll get here, he might as well be sleeping next to you on a coach flight to Atlanta. Other than the listing of the organizations that sponsored his signings, there’s really nothing of any interest here. Just move along…