Home on the Range
BY Greg Archer
July 17 2009 12:00 AM ET
Think of Wade Rouse as the gay love child of Henry David Thoreau and David Sedaris. But strip the beast of his designer jeans, toss him into the forest with a lover, some critters, and a smorgasbord of curious neighbors -- one of whom is really hungry to show off his man burrito -- and you have the makings of a wicked black comedy. It's all chronicled in Rouse's third book, a savage, often touching memoir dubbed At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream . In it, the author of America's Boy and Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler confesses, among other things, how he and his partner Gary grew so weary of the threesome they were having with the American Dream in 2006 that they dumped the big city -- St. Louis in this case -- and ran screaming into the woods. Here the writer opens up about how living a simpler life gave him a deeper appreciation for Thoreau's epiphanies and also helped him sharpen his mind, his wit, and other creative weapons of mass deconstruction.
Advocate.com:OK. Why did you move to the woods -- really?Wade Rouse: I was insanely unhappy in my job, which I chronicled in my last book, Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler . I had sold out for the job that had a lot of cash and power -- or least I thought it did -- only to find out I had sold out to myself. That coincided with turning 40 and finding these letters that my grandmother had written me. She was one of the early Walden devotees. She used to sit out on the porch in the old log cabin in the Ozarks and read to me from the Bible and Walden . She said the Bible was for her afterlife and Walden was for her "for here" life. So, all these things coalesced. The letters told me not to fall into a particular route [of the world] because once you do, you can't really get yourself off of it. So, [my partner] Gary and I had gone on vacation to Saugatuck, Mich., and we just fell in love with it. We literally leapt off the bridge without parachutes. We sold the house, moved 400 miles [from St. Louis] to the woods. I decided to try and be happy and follow my passion.
From the book, I get the sense that you have some Eva Gabor in Green Acres in you.Very much. I mean, I hate to be stereotypical, but I am very culturally obsessed. I love cable TV. I love Kenneth Cole. I put him on par with Ghandi as far as great contributions to the world. This stuff had really great meaning to me. To move and try to forgo that, even for a very short period of time, was incredibly difficult. We live a quarter of a mile from the country store, and if you watch the video we shot there, it's pretty terrifying. There's ammo, Scotch tape, and all the stuff you need to drag me behind a trailer. It really was culture shock. But it was something I really felt was important to do, because I needed to detox myself. But I also wanted to chronicle that it's not always so great to live off the land and whittle your own wood and boil your own water. It's not that easy and not always that fun. I wanted to detail my shortcomings.
You moved in 2006. So how are things now?I always say I have a really sweet angel on one shoulder and a little devil with a voice like Harvey Fierstein on the other. I mean, Thoreau wanted to forgo fashion for simpler pursuits and I failed miserably. [ Laughs ] I always thought it was about completely reinventing yourself -- you had to completely give up who you were to become a different person and it's really not about that reinvention. It's about becoming the person you always wanted to be -- flaws and all. In the summer, while we now have cable, we barely watch it because it's so beautiful outside. We're walking on the beach, we're sitting on the porch. We've learned to play games again and reconnect with one another -- all the things I used to do growing up in that log cabin in the Ozarks. But then again, it's OK to go to Chicago on a weekend shopping spree and basically [tear up] Michigan Avenue. It's OK to have that in you and yet appreciate what's around you.