Father's Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son
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Buzz Bissinger’s twins were born three minutes—and a world—apart. Gerry, the older one, is a graduate student at Penn, preparing to become a teacher. His brother Zach has spent his life attending special schools. He’ll never drive a car, or kiss a girl, or live by himself. He is a savant, challenged by serious intellectual deficits but also blessed with rare talents: an astonishing memory, a dazzling knack for navigation, and a reflexive honesty that can make him both socially awkward and surprisingly wise.
Buzz realized that while he had always been an attentive father, he didn’t really understand what it was like to be Zach. So one summer night Buzz and Zach hit the road to revisit all the places they have lived together during Zach’s twenty-four years. Zach revels in his memories, and Buzz hopes this journey into their shared past will bring them closer and reveal to him the mysterious workings of his son’s mind and heart. The trip also becomes Buzz's personal journey, yielding revelations about his own parents, the price of ambition, and its effect on his twins.
As father and son journey from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, they see the best and worst of America and each other. Ultimately, Buzz gains a new and uplifting wisdom, realizing that Zach’s worldview has a sturdy logic of its own: a logic that deserves the greatest respect. And with the help of Zach’s twin, Gerry, Buzz learns an even more vital lesson about Zach: character transcends intellect. We come to see Zach as he truly is: patient, fearless, perceptive, kind—a man of excellent character.
bathroom. The sales clerks are in alignment with the non-atmosphere atmosphere; you ask them a question and they reluctantly nod in roughly the right direction, underscoring that they have nothing to do and that’s the point of their presence. We are there to help them fetch a nonfat double-shot latte with a twist. I ask Zach if he needs anything; as usual, he says no. I suggest a shirt and he agrees, maybe one to look suitable for work since all the lawyers look so suitable. His requirements are
his own as a sartorial touch. It surprises me. It gives me the necessary elixir of hope. Which is when I first get the idea. III We celebrate shopping success by visiting the Barnes & Noble several blocks up Walnut Street. Zach goes directly to the map section. He always goes there. I have never seen him go anyplace else in a bookstore. He picks up a map of Philadelphia, but since he has about a dozen maps of Philadelphia and has memorized virtually every street in the city without
Interstate 605 South then the Santa Monica Freeway. The nearer our destination of the Beverly Hills Hilton, the more Zach recalls. He remembers that I was in Los Angeles from October 25 to November 6 of 1996—about eleven years ago—to interview infamous detective Mark Fuhrman for a piece I wrote for Vanity Fair. —Do you know who he is? —No. —He was a detective on the O. J. Simpson murder case. —Was he nice? I couldn’t possibly answer a question like that. We exit the freeway at La Cienega
yet wishing, in a way I have not wished for in years, that I will wake up tomorrow and there will be no space between them, the imagined no longer imaginary. 17 Picture Perfect I ZACH EMBARKS ON HIS usual morning inspection of the hotel pool. Then to the restaurant for a hearty breakfast he “put on the room bill.” Gerry and I are left alone upstairs. Zach, before he left, told Gerry what resonated with him the most on the trip. It turns out to be Odessa, where he spent the
hated him when he disagreed with me even though he was ultimately right. Frustrated at the pace of my writing, I tried to bait him into fights. He never bit but on several occasions he gently and firmly told me to grow the hell up. The rest of the Houghton team shepherding the book, Executive Director of Publicity Lori Glazer, Senior Publicity Manager Megan Wilson, and Marketing Director Carla Gray, were wholly dedicated, hard-working, and fun in an industry not known much anymore for its joie